Bristol II: Friday "Wake Up Call" with GM drivers

NEXTEL Wake Up Call with Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon Bristol Motor Speedway Tony Stewart -- ...

NEXTEL Wake Up Call with Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon
Bristol Motor Speedway

Tony Stewart -- #20 The Home Depot Chevrolet

TELL US ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE BEEN DOING OUTSIDE OF THE TRACK LATELY I've been trying to learn how to sleep again. We've been working really hard on the Smoke brand with a company in California that's working to take it to the next level. It's something that you don't see a lot of race car drivers actually doing-starting their own clothing line brand. So, this is something we've been excited about and working hard on. Other than that, spending some days at the river fishing and sitting by bonfires, so we've been relaxing and enjoying some time off.

RE: RECENTLY AT ELDORA We just ran a race last Wednesday there with Dave Blaney and Kasey Kahne. So, had a lot of fun there even though it didn't turn out the way we wanted to for Blaney and I. I ended up breaking a hub and I ended up crashing leading the race and Blaney crashed into me-he was second. Third place guy crashed, so I took out three guys in one fell swoop. Other than it's been going good, excited about some projects that are going on at the end of the season. So, really excited about it.

DOES BEING LOCKED INTO THE CHASE MAKE THIS RACE MORE RELAXED? Yeah, definitely. We don't have to make something happen here so it definitely takes the pressure off. But, this is a very prestigious, particular race to win. Winning the night race has always been a prestigious race. I don't think we'll approach it any different in all reality. It's nice because we won't be worrying about the points. Let's us focus on going on and trying to win the race instead.

YOU'RE DOING ALL THREE SERIES (TRUCK, BUSCH, CUP) AT RICHMOND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YOUR CAREER. WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS? IS THIS KIND OF LIKE A THROWBACK TO THE OLD USAC DAYS WHEN YOU'D RUN ALL THREE OF THOSE? Yeah, I'd say so. I mean, I'm glad somebody thought of it that way. It's going to be a lot of fun for me. It was kind of like the Truck deal came along by itself, the Busch deal came along by itself and the Cup deal was kind of already there anyway. Yeah, as far as deals go, yeah I'm open that night. Can you race? Absolutely. So, it is exactly like that. It wasn't the attitude we went into it with, but it's going to be a lot of fun. Doing that where I can have three nights to race like that.

OUT OF ALL THE GUYS YOU RACE WITH YOU, WHO DO YOU ENJOY CLOSE RACING WITH? I don't know. There's a lot of guys. I like racing with Mark Martin, obviously, he's probably my favorite driver to race with. Dale Jr. is always fun to race with. Kevin Harvick. Obviously my teammate Bobby Labonte-we have a lot of respect for each other. I like racing with him. Having Terry on board-Terry's a guy I've always liked racing with. There's not just one guy. I have so much respect for so many of these guys. I've raced with enough of them for long enough now. There are things that make each one of them great and fun to race with.

RE: COMMENTS ON SOAP OPERA INVOLVED WITH OTHER DRIVERS CONTRACTS I'm not much into soap operas, so I guess I'm lucky to not be involved in that. I've got my contract. I'm happy with it. I was happy with it when I signed it, so I'm happy to be through that stage and not have to be worrying about it. You've got to remember, these guys.there's no retirement plans for race car drivers. There's no pensions or anything like that. We've got to get everything we can get now before we get injured or get too old to do this or don't have the desire to do it anymore. You call it a soap opera, I call it business.

I've already been through that stage last year or two years ago or whenever it was. It's just life. It's just business, it's all it is. And there's nothing wrong with it. If you're an independent contractor working for whoever you work for, where you went and got the best deal you can get, too. Your situation is no different from Kurt or anybody else out there, trying to get the best deal they can.

WHEN YOU WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP, YOU MADE A COMMENT REGARDING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH A.J. FOYT WHERE YOU SAID, 'CHECK THE RECORD BOOKS' AS YOU HAD ONE UP ON HIM. NOW THAT YOU HAVE A WIN AT INDY, HAVE YOU TALKED TO HIM? I actually haven't had a chance to talk to him. He had his bee sting accident. Trust me I wouldn't make that mistake of saying, 'now check the record books' because that's one that I'm going to be on the losing end of that battle. He could say 'that's right-check the record books, I've got four, you've got one.' I won't make that mistake this time.

RE: BRICKYARD WIN It's definitely real close to the surface. You know, every weekend when I show up at the race track I put it behind me and show up at the race track. So, when I'm home is when I get to savor the victory and when I'm on the road, I'm worried about what I'm doing this weekend.

RE: OTHER DRIVERS COMING INTO NASCAR (PAUL TRACY, JOHNNY HERBERT) It just shows how prestigious this series really has become. It's not just a regional sport in the United States. It's now an internationally sport, so obviously, it's attracting guys from everywhere now so I think it shows highly for NASCAR and what they've been able to do and build this series.

I don't care who's in those cars. I can't see them when they're in there anyway. As long they don't run over me, I don't care who's in them.

Jeff Gordon -- #24 DuPont Chevrolet

RE: YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSTY WALLACE; INCIDENT HERE AT BRISTOL Well, I'm trying to think if Richmond happened before or after that. Before? Okay. He had one coming anyway! I don't understand what making up needed to happen. You know, Rusty and I have had an interesting relationship over the years. When I first came in the sport, it was sort of like his time to be the top guy. And, I don't think he was expecting a young guy coming from Hendrick Motorsports driving the DuPont Chevrolet to come out as strong as we did and become as popular as we did. He and I kind of had a rivalry starting in 1994. And, it carried on for a number of years and I don't know what year it was where we kind of finally broke the ice. And I think Earnhardt had a lot to do with it because Earnhardt and I would talk about all kinds of things and Rusty and Earnhardt were buddies and I think one day he said, 'what's the deal with you two? Why don't you guys make up and stop bickering and fighting? You are always getting into one another.' Because I think Dale could see when we were out on the race track anytime Rusty and I were around one another, we'd started bumping and banging one another for no apparent reason. Eventually we did. I don't know if we necessarily talked about it, we just stopped doing that. Dale played mediator there for a little while and finally got us both to come to our senses and we've both been racing one another clean and good ever since.

TALK ABOUT THE RESPECT YOU HAVE FOR TONY STEWART I do, I have a lot of respect for Tony. You know, knowing his background in racing, knowing what he's accomplished in NASCAR since he's gotten in the Busch Series and here in the Cup Series. You know, when you race out there on the race track you get to know driving styles and talent levels and all of sudden I felt like Tony was one of the most talented drivers out there. And one the best that I've actually ever raced against. He's, as everyone knows, is a racer. And no matter what kind of car he gets in, he knows how to get around the race track really well.

DO YOU GET THE FEELING THAT SINCE RUSTY AND MARK ARE LEAVING, I'M GETTING CLOSER AND CLOSER TO THE POINT WHERE I'M AT THE BEST AND I NEED TO START THINKING ABOUT RETIRING? Well I think the part I respect most about these guys is how long they've been in the sport and how long they've been competitive in the sport. I think that says a lot about their commitment, their abilities and I honest don't think that I'll be able to say that I've been able to.and I hope I am able to say on my own terms, that's the other thing that I respect about those guys is that they are walking away from the sport on their own terms. This is a dangerous sport and injuries can happen. I've always said as long as I'm healthy, as long as I'm competitive and enjoying it, then I want to keep doing it. I can't guarantee all those things are going to be there until I'm 45 and 50 years old and go, okay I'm ready to step away. You know, based on that I really respect those guys. Their ability to stay in it that long, stay healthy and walk away from it on their own terms. I know I've already been faced with questions with all this coming up with, 'okay, when are you going to step away?' And I don't have an answer, but I almost guarantee it won't be to the age where those guys are. These days, you're going to see guys step away at a much younger age.

I think we've seen a trend with what's going on is, 40-50 years go I think some guys got in it as a hobby, some guys got in it as a living. That's how they made their living, on the road constantly and that was a paycheck that got them to the next day, next race and put food on the table, paid the gas bill, things like that. Today, I think that drivers are certainly.in the position I'm in, I could step away at any time and not worry about whether I'm going to make it through next year financially. It's really more of a desire thing and a drive to compete at this level and win races. I'm always going to drive a race car, whether I'm going to want to drive for a championship in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, I don't know. It wears on you, as you all know, it's a hectic schedule. Not to mention all the other commitments and things we have going on, plus I want to play more video games.

RE: PRESSURE TO GET INTO THE CHASE? Well, don't ask me to come in the media center at Richmond! Prior to that race you might see a different Jeff. Now, we've just got to make the best of the three races. This is a race that I really like. We tested well here and I've always said, there's always pressure on every one of the guys out there. It doesn't matter if you're trying to get in the top 35 in points or try to make the race, try to get in the top 10 or leading the points trying to win the championship. It's extreme pressure throughout the field. You might be in a position where you don't know if you have a ride next week, have a sponsor, something like that. There's always pressure on all of us. We all have different ways of dealing with it. I feel like that's one of my.one good thing I've got going for me is I feel like I handle pressure well. And really, the real pressure isn't sitting here, it's when I'm out there. And unfortunately you guys can't get a chance to see what my face looks like or what the intensity level is inside the car.

THE LAST TIME ANYBODY WAS ON A HOT STEAK LIKE TONY STEWART IS ON NOW, IT WAS YOU I will admit that seems like a long time ago. I think I've forgotten. I know what that combination is like. That's why anytime you ask me, I always say, it's not one thing, it's a combination of things, finding a little bit. Whether it be motors, and then as a driver, when that all starts to come together you feel your confidence level rising and the whole team chemistry coming together. And when that happens and all those stars align, you feel like you're untouchable. You feel like you can't do any wrong. In some ways it almost feels easy. And I know that's kind of crazy to say because right now I feel like a win would be like a miracle for me. And yet I've been in a position before where the wins are coming and I feel like, 'we shouldn't have even won this race today, I can't believe how in the world we got to victory lane.' And you have to really keep yourself from getting overconfident to where this is coming too easy. You have to say that you know it's going to stop, you know it's going to stop and you work hard at it and hope that it continues

Tony Stewart
We finally found the toy in the bottom of the cracker jack box. That was it.

Jeff Gordon
I need to start looking at Cracker Jacks!

Tony Stewart
I don't know how to say anything different from what Jeff said. Jeff's right. It's not just one thing. If it was just that easy, there would be more teams finding it. It is just a combination-it's just a little here, a little there. And when you get on that streak, I remember in different divisions that I raced in, it seemed like Jeff said you can't do anything wrong and you go, 'man, how did I win the race today? I shouldn't have won.' It's just those times. When things are going your way, they are going your way. When they're not, they're not. You treasure the time you do have those streaks like that. When you get those down periods, it's those good times you've had that are going to remind you it's going to come back around.

Jeff Gordon
RE: HOW HEARTENING IT WAS FOR YOU TO SEE TONY WIN THE BRICKYARD I was really happy for him. You know, he's a true Hoosier. I'm an adopted Hoosier when we go up there. And I know how many people are up there cheering for him. I think we've all seen his passion for the Brickyard, through the IndyCar races to the Brickyard 400 now. And, you know, he's been so close too there, with cars that have been capable of winning there. Obviously was meant to be and came together there. It's just cool when you see somebody win a race like that and it means that much to them. It kind of reminded me of Dale Earnhardt winning the Daytona 500. Just meant a lot to him. And guys that win a lot, like Tony, every race is not the same. And some races mean more to you than others, even though they are all special. And I know how special that is. And It was obvious how special that was for him.

Tony Stewart
WHERE DOES THIS NIGHT RACE RANK IN RACES YOU WANT TO WIN? Shoot, I don't know. I've still got a big list in a lot of different series. I don't know exactly where it ranks but it's obviously one of those. Both the Daytona races are huge, Brickyard is huge for me. Winning a race at Charlotte is huge because it's close to home. As far as shorttracks are concerned, this is probably the most prestigious short track.

WHAT SORT OF IMPORTANT SHOULD BE PUT ON WINNING IN THE CHASE? RE: OTHER FORMULAS THAT HAVE BEEN PUT FORTH? I think too much has been put on that. I think the guys that do the point structure.I think it's fair for everybody, it's the same for everybody. You never hear a driver or team complain about it. The only time you hear anyone complain about it is when we come to the media center. If it's strictly on wins, everybody would be crashing everybody. If you were second or third and could see the winner, you'd wipe him out on the last lap of the race if you thought you could win the race and get the points. That's why it's a pretty good structure the way it is. It rewards consistency. You know, these people in the stands don't want to see us take out five or six guys coming to the checkered flag where their driver might be leading getting crashed out because some guy needed more points to win the race and so much more emphasis is put on that. Come here and leave here and say, you should have won, because on a typical deal you would have won, you got taken out because everything is put on that win. There's 43 teams out here and only one of them is going to win, so how do you reward everybody for everyone for the day? It's a pretty fair system for what it is.

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Kasey Kahne , Dave Blaney , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports