TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 2nd: "I think we had the fastest car today - I think we were proving that with our lap times there at the end. It was just scenarios where we got caught back in the pack, and on...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 2nd:
"I think we had the fastest car today - I think we were proving that with our lap times there at the end. It was just scenarios where we got caught back in the pack, and on those restarts the leaders were able to get away from us. Every restart we'd get a couple more positions and get a little closer to the front. On the last restart Ryan (Newman) and I were able to get so far ahead on the restart with all the lap cars and everything going on that there really wasn't much we could do. We were just in there trying to make as much time as possible. I think we were catching them three or four tenths a lap. We had the fastest car, but not a bad weekend at all. I'm very, very tickled to death about the way our weekend went. We came off the truck, and after everybody made their first run of the day on Friday, we were the quickest car on the sheet, and that makes me feel proud to get the pole. Even prouder with bigger smiles on our faces yesterday in the race warm-ups, we had a really good car and we were very excited about the race today. I think the first two stints of the race showed the tale of the tape - we were bad fast. Jamie (McMurray) and I were just talking, we thought it was going to be a carbon copy of California all over again, hopefully minus the motor blowing up. We were looking forward to racing with Jamie. It's fun racing with this kid. I met him when I don't know if he was a full three-foot tall yet, with some mushroom haircut and I think he was about eight years old, and we were racing go-karts together. We raced in different classes and different divisions, but we used to run around the go-kart tracks together. I think it's been a good 16 or 18 years since we've been around each other again, and getting to race together again in NASCAR Winston Cup is pretty fun and exciting. I'd be happier if I was in Victory Lane, but I've had a pretty doggone good weekend, and I'm pretty happy with it all in all."
WHAT DOES THIS DO FOR YOU AS FAR AS THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE GOES?
"I don't exactly what happened as far as where people finished today. My buddies from Diamond Rio (who sang the National Anthem prior to today's race) say they're the reason that we ran good today, so if you guys will put in your columns that Diamond Rio was a guest of ours and they were the sole reason. They put the magic setup on the car, which Zippy neglected to do this morning, so we appreciate that. Having guys like that here and Joe (Gibbs) and everybody, we just had a great weekend. If we could've gotten a little better track position at the end, I think we would've been fine, but we'll take what we can get."
CLEAN AIR SEEMED TO BE A BIG DEAL TODAY - IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT THAT?
"To be honest, today wasn't the normal aero-push scenario that we normally talk about. The track came right into it. You couldn't have asked for a better racetrack today. It got probably four lanes wide with three legitimate racing lines that you could run. You could run three-wide and really not have a problem. For a track's that is only in its third season, that's pretty uncommon. I think he people in Illinois have a track to be really proud of. This is going to be a place that we're going to put on some really good races in the future. The thing that got everybody so messed up today was if you were one of the first two or three cars, and you could get clear of the lapped cars right away, you could build a heck of a gap between yourself and whoever else you were racing on the lead lap. Any break in momentum, because this is such a fast racetrack, if you have to check up at all, it's speed that you lose going down, and it's speed that you have to gain coming back up, so you lose it on both ends. It's hard to overcome that. If you have to do that on both ends of the racetrack for five laps because of lap traffic, you've lost a lot of track position on the track. We were running four tenths of a second faster than the leader at the end of the race, but we were so far back we just couldn't make up that deficit. That was the obstacle that you had and the scenarios that you had. It wasn't a track that you couldn't pass on. Jimmie (Johnson) and I had a great race, Jamie and I when we were leading in the first couple of seconds, we had a great race up there. I passed a bunch of cars on the high side, and that's not something I thought we would see today. We had a fun race from the standpoint of being able to race guys one on one, and to be able to move around there on the racetrack and actually not sit there and follow the leader all day."
DO YOU THINK YOU'RE OUT OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE?
"I don't know where we are in the points (11th), but I can promise you we're not going to finish 11th in the final points standings. We're going to be in the top-10, and if the last half of the season works out like it typically does, there's no reason we can't get in the top-five still. We'll take everything we can get. If we can get to fifth, we'll take it. If we can get another spot and get to fourth, we'll just keep going until we run out of races. We're at that point of the season where tracks are getting hot and slippery, and that's what we like. These guys can't hold it wide open and they can't sit there on high-grip tracks, and they actually have to drive these things when we start getting fast.
IF YOU HAD A LONG GREEN-FLAG RUN AT THE END INSTEAD OF ALL OF THOSE YELLOWS, COULD YOU HAVE RUN UP ON RYAN?
"Yea, we would've hot a shot at it, for sure. Like I said, our car was so fast there at the end of the race. We just need to get through lap traffic, we needed to get clear and race the guys that we were actually racing for position and not race guys that were a lap or two down on the inside that were holding everybody up."
COMPARE HOW YOU THINK THE TRACK DEVELOPED THIS YEAR AND WHAT YOU THINK WE CAN EXPECT FOR NEXT YEAR.
"I think this was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for all of us as drivers. As far as I was concerned, the track was in perfect condition today. I don't think you could've asked for a better racetrack as far as being wide enough to race two and three wide. If you couldn't get by a guy, it wasn't because he was holding you up, it was just because you couldn't drive by the guy. You could go anywhere on the race track. I ran up to the gray area and clear down to the white line on the apron. I mean, I ran everywhere in between three or four different times at each different spot. So you had the flexibility if you wanted to move. For drivers you can't ask for more than that. When you have to sit there and follow like we had to do last year, and definitely like we did the first year, that's what makes it frustrating as drivers. But when you have the ability to dictate your own fate by moving around on the racetrack, or changing your lines and changing your entries, that's what drivers like. They like to race each other by having places on the racetrack to move around and create your own opportunities to make passes."
THERE WAS A LOT OF DIFFERENT PIT STRATEGIES OUT THERE TODAY. ANYTHING YOU MIGHT HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
"It's hard to say from where I sit. From the pit box you can sit there and evaluate it and say, 'If this would've happened, or if that would've happened things would've been different, but from inside the car it's hard to say because you don't know what everybody is on. You just know where you are track position-wise. I've talked to Goodyear engineers, I've talked to NASCAR officials, and I'd love to see it get back to where when the yellow came out, everybody came and got tires and went back and raced again. Two tires, no tires, all of that garbage, I think it's hurting what we're doing here. But if you can win on fuel mileage, hey, win 'em. They still pay the same and still pay the same amount of points. They'll still give you the trophies and all of the neat stuff after the race is over. You take them anyway you can get them, but I'd like to see it get back to the way it used to be. I don't know if we'll ever get back to there - it may be an era that's long gone."
TALK ABOUT YOUR BATTLE WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON TOWARDS THE END OF THE RACE.
"There's guys that it doesn't take long to learn who you respect, and you learn guys that you see in front of you that you go, 'Please give a caution or something where I don't have to race this guy.' I like racing with Jimmie. He's a fierce competitor. I knew he wasn't just going to lay over and let me go by. I was hoping he would, but I didn't think the odds were going to be very good. I knew that no matter what happened we were going to race each other hard, but we raced each other clean. He's got good car control, and I know that we can race door to door like that at the speeds that we run and not have any problems. It's fun racing with guys like that. I just wish everybody like we raced together today. It would make things a lot more fun."
YOU'RE GOING FROM A TRACK THAT SEEMS TO HAVE COME INTO ITS OWN IN ITS THIRD YEAR, TO A TRACK WHERE YOU'VE TESTED AND IT'S A NEW SURFACE AT NEW HAMPSHIRE WHICH HISTORICALLY HAS HAD SOME PROBLEMS. ARE YOU LOOKING FOR THAT POT OF GOLD THERE TOO?
"Sure, and I'd like to hit the lottery too, but the odds of that are slim and none. I mean, we don't know what's going to happen when we get there. There's going to be a Modified race before we get there, and I think they run Busch North this upcoming week too. So you never know what's going to happen until you get there and really get running and get into the race. I mean yesterday when we ran Happy Hour, I don't think we ran two-wide at all during Happy Hour, but we could run three-wide today in the race. Hopefully the track will mature in a short amount of time, but if it doesn't we'll race it by what ever circumstances are given to us when we get there."