Chicagoland: Winning team interview, part 1

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS, GREG ZIPADELLI (ZIPPY), CREW CHIEF, and J.D. GIBBS, PRESIDENT, JOE GIBBS RACING WINNERS TALK ABOUT YOUR WIN AND YOUR FEELINGS RIGHT NOW STEWART: "I'm actually more overjoyed than anything. I'm...

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS, GREG ZIPADELLI (ZIPPY), CREW CHIEF, and J.D. GIBBS, PRESIDENT, JOE GIBBS RACING WINNERS

TALK ABOUT YOUR WIN AND YOUR FEELINGS RIGHT NOW

STEWART: "I'm actually more overjoyed than anything. I'm just finally glad that we've got the monkey off our backs at least for one week. This should have been the fourth or fifth time we've been sitting in this (media center) room with you guys after the race is over. But whether it's been fuel mileage or just bad luck, we just haven't been able to close one off. So today was a very textbook day in all reality for us. We started 19th and we worked our way into the top 10 and then we got a caution and Zippy and I had talked about what had happened in the Busch race yesterday and just really got on the same page today as far as some ideas that we wanted to do; not that we don't normally do that, but we both had seen the same things from yesterday's race. New tires weren't as important as having track position so we just needed that at the beginning of the race. We were a little too tight. Zippy made a change and the car really was good the rest of the day from there on. There were just little things that he did to fine-tune it.

"Once we got in the top three, I felt like in my head that we had a shot at winning the race. I knew that with Kevin (Harvick) in front of us and we started running him down. And Jimmie and some of the guys that had been leading the race and were in the top two or three, really weren't making time on us and we were on older tires than they were. So, it makes you feel good as a driver when you see the guys aren't running you down from behind and you're running the guy down in front of you. Today, the difference was pit stops. The guys had awesome pit stops and got us track position when we needed it; especially that last stop. Being able to stay ahead of everybody and have that clean air on restarts. Matt (Kenseth) was really good on restarts on cooler tires. It seemed like we were really a little bit too free for a short stint and a short run, but that's what we kept getting with the cautions coming out. But we just needed a long ru n. Our car was a lot better after about eight or 10 laps. The short runs there really hurt us and gave Matt the opportunity to close in and cool his tires off and make a run at us. But it seemed like once we would get about six or seven laps on the tires the car would start coming into it balance-wise and we could start driving away."

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHT FROM ON TOP OF THE BOX?

ZIPPY: "Obviously for myself and my team, it came at the right time. We get a weekend off and we can enjoy it a little more than you normally do. It's leading up to a couple of good race tracks for us with Indy and Pocono and Watkins Glen coming, we'll take this momentum and head to the second half of the season. I'm proud of everybody back at the shop. This is a brand new car that we didn't even test. I've been wearing them out on building us new cars for the last half of the year and they've done a good job of answering to it. They've put two or three bodies on this thing and they haven't stopped. They've done a lot of work that people don't realize that goes on back home and the preparation and effort that goes on before we even get here. Our motor room with this new RO7 has done a great job and haven't missed a beat. Knock on wood, we haven't had any issues. So I'm proud of everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing for today. It was a team effort. Our pit stops were awesome. Tony did a phenomenal job getting off pit road through traffic and these are the days that you like to have. You just go out and work on the car and have fun. It kind of was a little bit, I don't want to say relaxing, but it wasn't the first 18 races we've had with something going wrong. Everything worked for us today and everybody kept their heads high most of the season and that's what I think finally broke the ice for us."

WERE YOU REALLY FEELING AS CALM ABOUT NOT WINNING YET THIS YEAR AS YOU SHOWED?

STEWART: "From my side, I really felt that way. It's like I tried to explain to you guys, and you guys make more out of it and make us more stressed out than we do about ourselves. We take it one week at a time. You guys are the ones with the stats. From my standpoint, when I've got a car every week that I know at least I'll have the capability of running up front with, you know that you can't have bad luck forever. And there have been times when we've had strings when we couldn't do anything wrong and had all the luck go our way. It just goes in cycles. If it was a situation where we couldn't run up front and there were two or three teams that had stuff figured out and we couldn't compete with them and we were running 20th or 30th every week and couldn't figure out what to do to get in the top five again, then you would be worried about not winning races. But when you lead 250 of 280 laps at Bristol and you gain 15 seconds on the leaders at Sonoma, and you're the fastest car on the race track at the end of the race at Charlotte but you don't win because of fuel mileage; it's those things that carry you to the next week. You say hey, we're not doing a bad job. We just need a little luck to go our way. So from my standpoint, I firmly believe what I've told you guys. I haven't been freaking out about it. I've been happy that we've been in the position that whether it was the car of tomorrow or there was the car we had this weekend but everywhere we've been, we seem to be competitive. We have been better at some of the tracks we struggled at this year than we have in the past. Plus, the tracks have been good at, we've maintained our competitiveness. So I've really felt good about the season even though the win column doesn't show it."

COULD YOU SEE THAT TONY WAS HURTING MORE THAN HE WAS LETTING ON?

ZIPPY: "I have to agree with Tony. When you hear it every week, how come you haven't won? We haven't done a lot of things differently than we have in the past. Today was our day and it took 19 races for us to get there. But I think everybody is doing a good job. Our pit crew has improved. Fuel mileage has hurt us in a few places and we're working hard on that. The problem is, when you run as fast as we have at some of these places, your fuel mileage hurts. And you've got to be careful what you wish for.

"But we've had good race cars and he's driving the hang out of them. That's put us in some predicaments that we could have won. So to me, it's really not that big a deal. We always seem to win; we're winning at the right time right now as far as here and carrying it to the second part, the monkey's off our back so it's just another day really."

DOES THE CHASE FORMAT NOW MAKE IT LESS IMPORTANT IF YOU HAVE A FEW BAD RACES AT THE START OF THE YEAR SO LONG AS YOU WIN AT THE RIGHT TIME?

STEWART: "Yeah, you guys (media) are really good on stats and figures. The first 26 (races) are really relevant except for how many wins you've got. That's the only thing that those first 26 weeks count for and that's getting you the bonus points. Other than that, as long as you're in the top 12, it doesn't matter whether you're first or 12th. As long as you're in there, that's what it takes to get you in the show. And then you need to be good from there. But it's not a life or death situation if you have a bad day as long as after 26 races you're in that top 12 group. If you have one bad race and it puts you 15 points out like it did us last year, then it is bad. It just depends on each individual team's scenario. But we're not sending the space shuttle to outer space with this format. It's pretty easy to figure out. Twelve guys get in and they have the same amount of points and the guy that won the most races gets 10 extra bonus points for every race you win. It's easy to d o the math. It's easy for everybody to follow."

THIS PUTS YOU ON A NICE ROAD GOING TO INDY. ARE YOU GLAD TO HAVE A WEEK OFF?

STEWART: "You have no idea how glad I am to have a week off. I'm taking this momentum on vacation. And I've got a case of Schlitz that I fully intend on getting to the bottom of the cardboard box tonight, even if I have to do it by myself. I don't care. It's going to happen. That's if I don't pass out first (laughter). You guys laugh at me like nobody drinks Schlitz anymore. The good thing is they stock it close to home and it's only about eight bucks a case, cold. And if you've got a couple of roommates and you've got seven in the fridge when you leave, you've got seven in the fridge. You're not supporting everybody else's drinking habits. Mike Arning, my publicist, taught me how to drink responsibly. Thank you, Mike."

COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE SIDE-BY-SIDE DUEL WITH MATT KENSETH; AND WITH CLEAN AIR, COULD HE HAVE DONE THE SAME THING TO YOU THAT YOU DID TO HIM AT THE END?

STEWART: "Yeah, he could have. Very easily. The thing that I noticed watching Matt was the two times that Jimmie (Johnson) and I were first and second, Matt was able to stay with us for six or eight laps and then it seemed like his car would fall off a little bit and I'm sure a lot of that was air.

"But as long as I didn't give him the outside, I think I was in good shape. Jimmie got by us and ran us down on the top and then after he went by, I moved up. I didn't move up as far as he did but I moved up to the middle of the track and found a spot that I really liked and we got faster and got back by. As long as we had that line available to us, we were fine. I ran the bottom to more try to disturb the air on his car because I knew he could stay down so we could stay down too, but the longer we stayed in front of him, the harder it was going to make it for him to have clean air and keep a run on us. It very easily could have been a different outcome if he cleared us on that first restart."

ON YOUR RECORD AT CHICAGOLAND YOU HAVE RUN EVEN WITH JEFF GORDON IN JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING BUT LAPS LED. HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU ON THIS TRACK AND HOW MUCH DID YOU DISCUSSION WITH J.D. GIBBS AFFECT YOUR WIN TODAY?

STEWART: "I think we've always been good here. You look at the past and we've had some weird events. On Friday's we've had two events where we've crashed in practice. The first time Hermie Sadler blew a motor and before the caution came out we crashed in his oil and went to the hospital and I think we missed a day that day. And then a couple of years ago we blew a tire in practice and JJ (Yeley) had to qualify for us. It's one of those places where as long as we get through Friday, we feel like we've got a shot at it. But I don't watch the stats very much. You just take it week to week. Technology in the sport changes so fast. What was good the last time you were here doesn't mean it's going to be good this time around. So you constantly have to work. It's like Greg said where you bring a brand new car that we haven't even ran here, and win with it, so it's just proof that you've got to keep pushing the envelope. It's a place I like. This place is really getting racy as far a s finally being able to move around and change lines and run anywhere from the bottom to the top so it makes it a fun track because of that."

WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT JOE GIBBS FELT IT NECESSARY TO COME OUT HERE YESTERDAY AND WHAT WAS THAT MEETING LIKE?

STEWART: "It was a good meeting. And the good part was that it was fairly short because Joe can get long-winded sometimes. Joe Gibbs' strength is that he knows how to motivate people and how to keep a team atmosphere and attitude. It was a great meeting. The good thing is Denny (Hamlin) and I talked and we had a great conversation. Even today, if you really watch the two of us when we were around each other at the beginning of the race (at Daytona) we were even pointing on the race track to each other trying to help each other find spots we think are going to help each other. When I went to the top and got by him I pointed over the roof like, come up here and try this because he's actually better at running the top than I am. He got back down to the bottom and pointed me back down there saying I think this is going to be better. So, we worked probably better today than we've ever worked as teammates. And Denny is a young guy. And as far as teammates, we're only a year and a h alf into our relationship and out of a half-hour meeting yesterday, it's probably going to make us stronger than ever and today was a good example of that. We worked really well together and will continue to do that."

DID YOU END UP GOING TO ELDORA LAST NIGHT?

STEWART: "Yes. Kasey Kahne and myself both did. We got back at about 12:30 a.m.

DO YOU GET A CHANCE TO CLEAR YOUR HEAD AFTER SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

STEWART: "No, it gives you a chance to work on your ulcer. When you've got a race team that you own there and you've got a big event like the King's Royal and you've got a corporate sponsor like Crown Royal there, you want to make sure that everything goes right. We probably had close to 18,000-20,000 fans there last night that want to see a good race. It's hard to keep a dirt track prepared nice and it's almost impossible to not have dust anymore. For winged Sprint Cars they want it dry and slick and anytime it gets dry you get dust. It's hard to keep the track prepared the way they want it and not let it get locked down with rubber and make it a one-groove race track. As a promoter last night, I'm worried to death because I want every one of those fans there to see a good race and you want Crown Royal to be happy and you want the competitors to be happy. I wouldn't say anything about last night was relaxing. It was stressful but I choose to do that because I love - ev en with the ulcers it gives you, it's well worth the time spent to know that you make that many people happy."

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Hermie Sadler , Kasey Kahne
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing