Winston Cup Teleconference May 21 TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: ON RUNNING FOR THE $1 MILLION WINSTON NO BULL 5 BONUS THIS WEEKEND "It seems like a jinx for us at Joe Gibbs Racing. Bobby [Labonte] has been in there...
Winston Cup Teleconference
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON RUNNING FOR THE $1 MILLION WINSTON NO BULL 5 BONUS THIS WEEKEND
"It seems like a jinx for us at Joe Gibbs Racing. Bobby [Labonte] has been in there quite a few times and not been able to get one, and I haven't gotten one, yet. But, we're real excited about going to Charlotte this week and being close to home. We typically have always run well, so I'm pretty excited that we have a very, very good shot at winning a million for both myself and Colleen (Colleen Moriarity, Stewart's No Bull 5 fan)."
THIS RACE IS 600 MILES...HOW DO YOU LOOK AT IT?
"In all reality, no different than any other race. It is an extra 100 miles, but that's not that much longer of a distance, physically, to worry about running. It's probably more of a challenge for the engine builders this year than anybody right now."
HOW DOES YOUR QUEST FOR THE WINSTON CUP TITLE AFFECT YOU PERSONALLY, AS OPPOSED TO RUNNING FOR AN IRL TITLE?
"It was probably harder to win the three championships I won in '95 in USAC running three different divisions. It's no different. To a certain degree, I'm actually happy about the position we're in in the point standings right now. We're not in the top three or four in the points right now. We're eighth and it really gives us a great opportunity as a race team to just worry about going out and trying to win races and not worrying about the points right now. We just need to go out and get top fives and try to win each race we go out and run right now. If we can do that, then the points will take care of itself. But, I would much rather be the hunter than the hunted right now. I think it would be a lot more stressful situation for the guys that are in the top two or three in points right now. The pressure is on them to stay there. The pressure is not on us to try to catch them as much as it is for those guys to stay ahead of us."
DOES YOUR RACE STRATEGY CHANGE AT ALL WHEN YOU'RE IN THE HUNT FOR THE TITLE?
"Even though it's the Brickyard 400 in the middle of the summer, when you're leading the point standings, if there is a guy that is 20 places back behind you in the point standings and he is a little bit faster than you, you're not going to take a chance on that guy taking you out of the race versus if you're just racing to win the race. You might race him a little harder and a little longer and take a chance on the possibility of crashing the car, versus sitting there, being careful, watching the point standings and saying, 'Well, he's not going to hurt me in the points and it's a lot easier to lose three points by letting this guy go by than it is to lose 60 points if he crashes us.'"
COMPARE AND CONTRAST DALE EARNHARDT AND DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
"They're very similar. They're both aggressive. They would both race you clean, but they'll race you hard, too."
WERE THEIR PERSONALITIES A LOT DIFFERENT OFF THE TRACK?
"I don't think so. I think they're a lot alike. Junior is a young guy and Earnhardt was a little older, and there are going to be obvious differences there. But, that's about it."
WHY NOT RUN INDY THIS YEAR?
"We're in a good position right now in the season. We've been running really good everywhere we've been this year. I had the back injury after the Darlington crash, have the opportunity to run for a million dollars and help a very nice race fan hopefully win a million dollars, also. We don't want to take a chance on doing anything that could jeopardize any of those chances for any of us. We feel like this is our best opportunity to win a championship. Our performance on the track has been good enough to do that. We just need a little luck on our side. We haven't had that, so why add another event that could be bad luck for us."
ON THE AURA OF THE COKE 600
"For me personally, it's exciting because when I joined the Winston Cup Series in '99, I became a part of the Coca Cola Racing Family. To know that this is a special race that is Coca Cola's, it's really nice to be able to celebrate their accomplishments and their success with them."
DOES IT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE THAT IT'S THE LONGEST RACE?
"No. We have short races, we have long races. This just happens to be the long one."
ON THE CHALLENGE TO ENGINES THIS WEEKEND
"We've had tests all year, but I think you'd have to ask the motor guys more than me. I know it's a challenge this weekend. I know it's a concern, but I don't know why it's a concern, other than it's just another 100 miles on the motor."
IS THIS THE TIME OF YEAR WHEN YOU REALLY START TO THINK ABOUT PICKING UP POINTS?
"I look at it that every week is an opportunity to pick up points. It just seems like the past three years we typically never got off to a really good start, for some reason. This year has been a little bit different. Our performance on the racetrack has been good enough to keep us in the top 10 in the point standings, but we've had some bad luck with the blown motor at Daytona on the second lap, leading the race at Darlington and getting in a crash, having to get pulled out of the car at Bristol, the Talladega wreck. Those have been some bad races for us. But, if you look at the fact that we've had four bad races there out of 10 or 11 so far, and are still in the top 10 in points, I think that's pretty impressive and shows the strength of our team right now."
ARE YOU PREPARED NOW TO MAKE A RUN AT THE TITLE?
"We've been trying that since Daytona in February. I don't know why this the time of year that we really get going. I think a lot of it has to do with the temperature. It seems like when the racetracks gain a lot of temperature in the middle of the summer, that's when we start gaining a lot of strength - when the tracks lose a lot of grip. It's not something that we physically say, 'Well, now we're in a part of the season that we like. This is when we're going to start doing things.' We don't approach our race weekends any different now than we did when we started at Daytona or Rockingham in February. We're still doing the same things we typically do. It just seems like historically in the past, and we're somewhat optimistic and hoping that it goes along with the past, that this is the part of the year where we'll really start getting on a run and get some consistent top fives and hopefully some more wins here pretty soon."
HOW MUCH FUN IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO HAVE A CHANCE TO MAKE A FAN A MILLIONAIRE?
"The hard thing is that it breaks my heart when we haven't been able to accomplish that for someone and been able to help them become a millionaire. It's got its good points and bad points. If we're lucky enough to be successful and make Colleen a millionaire, then it's going to be one of the best feelings in the world. I don't know how you could feel any better than helping someone become a millionaire."
WHAT HAS LED TO THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF OPEN WHEEL DRIVERS THAT ARE SUCCEEDING IN NASCAR?
"I think it was ESPN. When ESPN started televising midget and sprint car races from the Midwest, it was the first time that Winston Cup and Busch Grand National car owners ever had an opportunity to see what open wheel drivers could do. Kenny Schrader was probably the first guy that was able to come from that and that was before the TV era came around. When Jeff Gordon was successful at such an early age in midget and sprint car racing it opened up a lot of eyes to Winston Cup car owners that never had an opportunity to even watch Jeff Gordon run a race car. I think that was probably the biggest thing in helping some of the guys that I've run with in the past in USAC get opportunities now."
DO YOU STILL HAVE A WORKOUT PROGRAM OR DID YOU DROP THAT AFTER INDY LAST YEAR?
"I never did have a workout program. We just had a nutrition program that we were on for the month of May. Being in the race car 21 straight days - I think that is enough of a workout program, to be honest. For the most part, we have kept the nutrition program. I don't do it seven days a week like I was during 'Double Duty' last year. We're just doing in three days a week during race weekends. Everybody knows that my favorite meal is the drive-through at McDonald's, so it's hard to get off of that. But, at least three days a week, I'm eating meals that are prepared by nutritionalist that are very healthy for me. At least we're trying to combat the four days of fast food with three days of nutrition."