TONY STEWART, No. 14 Office Depot Back to School/Old Spice Impala SS, met with members of the media at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed the last lap at Daytona, starting his race team, his season to date and other topics. HOW HAS THE FIRST...
TONY STEWART, No. 14 Office Depot Back to School/Old Spice Impala SS, met with members of the media at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed the last lap at Daytona, starting his race team, his season to date and other topics.
HOW HAS THE FIRST HALF OF THIS SEASON GONE FOR YOUR TEAM?: "I've been excited, obviously. This was a big weekend for us a year ago. I don't think any of us would have predicted that a year from then and today that we would be here leading the point standings and have three wins this season. Very excited about it. It's been a long road -- it's been a long year, but one that's been very gratifying and a lot of fun at the same time with a lot of work. Been very, very happy with that. I know before we even get started that everybody is going to ask about Kyle (Busch) and yes, I have talked to Kyle (Busch) this week and had a very good conversation. We talked for about 30 minutes on the phone and I was very pleased with the conversation that we had. That's all I've got on the Kyle Busch topic and Daytona last week was fun, but we're on the Chicago this week."
DO YOU WANT TO SAY ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT KYLE BUSCH SAID EARLIER TODAY?: "I've already seen the transcripts from it. Like I said a second ago, I talked to Kyle (Busch) on I guess it was Tuesday when I spoke to Kyle (Busch) and had a good conversation with him. That's the conversation I'm going off of. That's all I'm going to talk about Kyle (Busch)."
WITH OTHER DRIVERS DEFENDING YOU FROM DAYTONA, DO YOU STILL FEEL THE SAME WAY?: "We sat in a media center for 40 minutes last week and talked about it. It's the same deal as it was last week after the race was over."
IS THERE ONE THING THIS YEAR THAT HAS GIVEN YOU THE SUCCESS OR MANY THINGS?: "I think it's a collection, in all honesty. There's so many factors and so many variables that are part of the equation to make a team either good or bad. I just think we've had really good chemistry with the people that we have in place, with Bobby Hutchens and Darian Grubb, Ryan Newman and Tony Gibson and our entire staff at Stewart-Haas. I think everybody has come in with a fresh attitude and a very open mind. That's something that a lot of times when you take people from different organizations they come in with a mindset that this is hoe things have to be done and that's one thing that everybody was really good about coming into this season was having an open mind about everything and not saying this is how it has to be done. We all sit and talk about things and we spend a lot of time on Mondays in our competition meetings. The good thing is that everybody will bring ideas that they know, but they know that we're very open about everything as far as open to different ideas and then we all decipher what we think is the best way to go about things. I think that's what has really made us successful this year is the group that we have."
IS THIS CONSIDERED A 'STAGGERING ACCOMPLISHMENT' TO HAVE BOTH CARS IN 'CHASE' CONTENTION AND WILL IT BE A DISAPPOINTMENT IF YOU DON'T CONTEND FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?: "I think if you still go back to the beginning of the season and just saying that if we got both of these cars in the 'Chase' it was going to be a huge accomplishment for a first-year organization. There's cars, if you look at the way the 'Chase' is and you look at guys that have one bad race and it takes them out of the chance to win the championship at the end of the year, but they still make the 'Chase,' it's hard to consider that an unsuccessful year because you have one race that takes you out of a chance to win a championship. I think what we're grading it off of is our consistency each week and if we're still consistent at the end of the year and still just not good enough then we're still going to consider it a good year. We'll just work harder to see if we can make it better for next year. I think we'll have to see what those last 10 races are and see what the scenarios are that go with it to really, accurately evaluate where we're at and whether we're successful or not."
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAVE A LEGITIMATE SHOT AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR?: "I don't know why at this point leading the point standings we wouldn't feel like we would. I don't think there's any other team, if they were leading the points wouldn't feel like they have a shot at it at this point. I feel like we have just as good of a shot as anybody else that's out there right now. I'm really proud of our organization. I'm proud of our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and how we have worked with them this year. It's been a much smoother transition than I thought it would be and really proud of the way everybody is working together. I do feel like we've got a shot."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DO DIFFERENTLY TO PREPARE FOR THE 'CHASE' AND WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?: "I don't think so. I think every week we're going out there and trying to win races every week. I think that preparation, if it's different for the 'Chase' then we should have been doing it before anyway. I'm sure the guys will spend, if they have the time available, they'll spend the extra little time to just make sure for that last 10 week stretch that they take a couple extra minutes on every little detail and make sure that nothing gets overlooked. They're really good about doing that anyway so I really don't see there being a whole lot of difference."
WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND A YEAR AGO AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE DIFFICULT THINGS AND WHAT HASN'T?: "A year ago I was about half scared to death. Obviously I had made a decision at this point that was definitely a life changing decision and a career path decision for sure. It was hard to anticipate what exactly the reality of the changes were going to be and what the rules were going to be. We thought we had an idea of what it was going to be like and it hasn't disappointed us, but it's been smoother than I thought it was going to be. At that time we didn't have a competition director, we hadn't hired a crew chief -- we had a lot of variables that were unknown at that point. Once we got these key people in place, it's made my job a lot easier and been a lot smoother than I thought it would be at this point. Like I said, we've exceeded our expectations to this point. Not that we really set goals and said this is where we want to be at any stage of it, but I think this is much higher than we possibly could have expected it to be at this point in the season."
DO YOU RECALL WHEN YOU MADE THE TRIP TO GOODYEAR EARLIER THIS YEAR AND I'M SURE NOT TOO MANY OTHER DRIVERS HAVE MADE THAT TRIP.: "Actually a lot of them have and in the history of this sport there has been a lot of times when drivers and team owners and crew chiefs have been up to Goodyear. It was shortly after Daytona was when we made that trip because I remember it was about 17 degrees that day so it had to be in February or March. It's good to go up there. A lot of times you don't realize what all goes into what they do and then when you go up there and get a chance to see it, it gives you a better understanding and a better picture or fuller picture of what goes into making a tire. I felt like that was a good, positive trip for us."
IS THERE ONE THING OVER THE LAST YEAR THAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING AND IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENT?: "It's hard to sit here leading the points and say that you would do anything different. It's all been hard, but it's all been fun at the same time. I don't know that I would have changed anything. It was fun going through the process because it was like I said about starting my open-wheel teams and opening my race tracks and hiring people for that, it's just 10 times bigger than that. There's more people, there's more positions that needed filled and obviously the challenges along with going -- you had meetings with people at midnight at the shop when you knew nobody else was going to be there so the rumors didn't get started and stuff leaking out that you were even talking to people. That's just little things that I never had to do with my open-wheel teams and with the race tracks, but at this level you have to do to ensure that you are keeping the security of what's going on in place. I don't know, like I say, it's been such a smooth transition that there hasn't been that one hang up or hiccup that's happened that has put us in a tail spin."
DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY AS A REPEAT WINNER AT THIS RACE TRACK?: "I think every time we come here, we only come to this race track once a year so there's so much in the technology and aerodynamics that change from year to year that it's hard to get a comfort level. You know that you've been fast in the past and that's the only comfort you have is that what you did in the past was good. It's no guarantee and no security that what you're going to do this time or what we're going to do in a half hour is going to work the same way or work at all."
DOES KYLE BUSCH STATING THAT HE THINKS YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN BLACK-FLAGGED CHANGE YOUR OPINION ABOUT YOUR CONVERSATION WITH HIM?: "No, not at all. I talked to him and the conversation that I had with him was a good conversation."
DID HE SAY ANYTHING ABOUT YOU GETTING BLACK-FLAGGED IN THE CONVERSATION?: "No. I'm not biting on your lure and you haven't been around here as long as most of these guys and they know I'm not biting on it so I am damn sure not going to bite on yours. Sorry."
HAS THE CHICAGO AREA BECOME MORE SPECIAL TO YOU RECENTLY?: "There's a lot of places on the schedule that are special to us. This is a time of the year that we really enjoy. We like racing here and we're excited about racing at night again this year and then we get a weekend off to prepare for Indy and that's obviously a huge weekend for us. These three weeks in particular are a three-week stretch that I really look forward to. We don't get very many breaks anyway so the race leading up to a break, you enjoy and the one after one we enjoy too. We've got a lot of great fans in this area. We run a lot of sprint car and midget races in this area and we've got friends from the RC (radio-controlled) car industry that I own that are from this area and Joliet in particular. And a lot of friends and family in this area so it's a big weekend for us."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CAR OF TOMORROW AND THE WAY DRIVERS ARE ADJUSTING TO IT AT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA?: "I think just as time goes on drivers get smarter and Dale Earnhardt was the best at it of learning the side draft. As time has gone on, more drivers have figured that out and got better at it and now it's just an everyday part of what we do at superspeedway races. It was kind of funny because the topic came up earlier this week with a friend of mine and they reminded me that the first TV race between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison crashing on the backstretch was very similar. David Pearson and Richard Petty off of turn four. This isn't something that's new to this sport, it's more frequent because guys are getting better at the aspect of it and instead of having two cars up in a pack, now there's 32 cars in the pack. That's really the only variable that's changed. It's not the car, it's not restrictor plates -- this has been a topic forever and it's just part of it. Obviously nobody wants what happened on the last lap to happen. It doesn't matter who it is, it doesn't matter if you're on the giving end, receiving end -- if you profit from it or lose from it. Nobody wants that to happen, nobody wants to be in that situation because we all respect each other as drivers too much. Like I said, it was happening long before we all got here and it will be here long after we're gone."
-credit: gm racing