Continued from part 1 THIS IS THE FIRST YEAR THAT A PETTY WON'T BE DRIVING THIS RACE, WHAT SIGNIFICANCE DOES THAT PLAY FOR YOU AND WHAT HAS THAT NAME MEANT TO THIS SPORT? Tony -- "I think it's the biggest name." A.J. FOYT: "In stock cars...
Continued from part 1
THIS IS THE FIRST YEAR THAT A PETTY WON'T BE DRIVING THIS RACE, WHAT SIGNIFICANCE DOES THAT PLAY FOR YOU AND WHAT HAS THAT NAME MEANT TO THIS SPORT? Tony -- "I think it's the biggest name."
A.J. FOYT: "In stock cars it's probably the biggest name that's come down the pipe because his daddy was a great race driver. The Petty's have been here since stock car racing probably first started so I think it's probably one of the biggest name in stock car racing."
TONY STEWART: "Obviously it's big to not see a Petty here obviously driving but I don't think it's the last time you'll see a Petty driving here either."
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RYAN EVOLVED?
TONY STEWART: "It easy for Ryan and I because we feed off of each other. We understand each other well and from the day we started talking about him coming over, well before we got his contract done, even before he agreed to come over, we started hanging around with each other more. We both knew we had a lot of common interests, but we didn't realize how many common interests and what the reality of it was until we started hanging out with each other.
"Last night after Ryan got done with his media obligations, he stopped and picked up dinner for his wife and me. I ate dinner with them last night. It is just little things like that that just cultivate that relationship. We don't sit there the whole time and talk about race cars; we spend 80% or 90% of our time talking about stuff away from the race track and the rest of it talkin' about it. I think it makes it easier for us because we have so many common interests because it is not like we have to try to think of somethin' to talk about away from the race car, I mean it is easy for us. Anytime we are around each other, it is just like two buddies hanging out. Just like when we ran together, it was the same thing driving for A.J. I don't think Ryan looks at me a car owner I don't think. I think he looks at me as a teammate and I do the same thing. That is the kind of relationship that we have. We both are very quick that if we think about something that we think is down the right path, we are very quick to let the other one know. I think it just makes us both better and it keeps pushing us to be better. We have got that practical knowledge of being on the race track with Ryan's technical knowledge, his engineering degree, it is just fun. I mean, I am having fun learning from him on that side and I run everything that will go forward without me having to push it, I will drive it at some points. He asks me a lot of questions about that and we just kind of feed off of each other that way."
HOW MUCH OF THE COMPETITION BETWEEN YOU TWO GUYS IS JUST GOOD NATURED AND HOW MUCH IS REAL?
TONY STEWART: "It is all good natured, our man over here was reading off his accomplishments and I was like 'are you listening to this?' That is why we are sitting up here today. That is why we like to give each other a hard time; it is hard to do something that he hasn't done. When you look at all the stuff he has accomplished in his hard, it is hard to get a leg up on him in that category. No matter what, until I can win four Indy 500s, a Daytona 500 and both 24-Hour races, he is always going to have a leg up on me on that. I am not sure I will ever get caught up to it. That is one of the things that has always made me admire what he has been able to do in his career, didn't matter what he got in, he was good at it and always won. That is not a bad guy to set your standards by."
A.J. FOYT: "Talking about Tony, we cut up and I have always teased him 'Well talk to me when you have won a big race, don't to me winning all those little ones.' I would probably run a lot more NASCAR races, but when I was racing over here, it had to be a full FIA International event or I'd a got throwed out of USAC and at that time, I was kinda the number one boy over there in Indy Cars, you know, the midgets and sprints and all that. I didn't want to get suspended at that time you couldn't run two organizations. The only time I could run over here was if it was a full FIA International event. That really limited my time on racin' over here in NASCAR. I enjoyed coming over here when I did race because I was in there field. I was kinda out of their field so it was a big challenge. No, we cut up with each other all the time. Give each other a hard time. I am proud to see him doin' what he is doin' because let's face it, they are going to have to deal with him for a few more years unless he gets too fat."
NOW THAT YOU HAVE TWO EXCELLENT RACES IN THE BOOKS WITH THE CARS, HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR ODDS IN THE 500 AND WHAT WOULD IT BE IF YOU GOT IT?
TONY STEWART: "Oh, it would be huge. It is like I told somebody yesterday, I was like, we got the third down, we got the second down so the natural progressive is we should win the race on Sunday hopefully. I am excited about it. I talked to Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and we have our game plan for today what we are working on and the things that we are trying to do to give us that opportunity. I think we have some room to gain there, but obviously, we've had two great races so far and we had a little bit of luck on our side. Yesterday, I felt like that we showed that it was 100% an honest run and that we did the work on our own and got that spot honestly. I feel like we have just as good a shot as anybody else. I mean, we have a great handling car, there is some small things that we are working on to get it to suck up a little better, but, if we can do that, I feel like we will be just as strong as anybody else out there right now, so I feel like we have a great shot at it. I am trying to improve my grade point average."
WHEN DID YOU FIRST START FOLLOWING A.J.'S CAREER AND WHAT WERE THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE FIRST TIME YOU GUYS MET?
TONY STEWART: "Honestly, and it is still something that sticks in my mind, it was the Indy 500 where he got out of the car and started whacking on the car with his own hammer and climbed in it. I thought man after I hit it that hard with a hammer; I wouldn't have climbed in it and drove it. It hard not to notice that. There wasn't another driver out there in that era and definitely not a driver in this era in Indy Car racing that would do what he did and has done what he has done in his career. I think ever since then, I think that was just one of those moments when I was young that really stood out. I've never seen anybody do that and as the time has gone one and when I drove for him in '94 and some in '96 and '97 in the Silver Crown car, we got to be such closer friends. You kind of go back and you start looking back. Obviously he reminds you of how many races he has won when you talk to him, so that you didn't have to look up. You look at races when he went and ran Indy and then went to Milwaukee and he was the only driver in like the top 16 or 18 that wasn't in a rear engine cars and he was sitting on the pole in a roadster style car.
"It is things that you look back like that and that is what makes you gain more respect for him and know that he's kinda done it on his own the whole time and done it his way and has made it successful. It is just like that as time goes on you realize this guy thinks a lot like the way you think, it has always made us get along good.
A.J. FOYT: Y'all heard he said he had respect for me but he didn't give me no respect."
TONY STEWART: "I honestly don't even remember how long it has been. It was probably, gosh, I mean I worked for him for about 15 seconds in '95 at the Indy 500, the year that (Eddie) Cheever had the big wreck on the first lap. I ran the Night Before the 500 the night before, I got hired to do just an easy, the dead man valve on the fuel tank. So I got to work for him for about 15 seconds, then that job was over. Then the next year I out ran him for qualifying for the 500."
WE HAVE SEEN A NUMBER OF OPEN WHEEL DRIVERS COME IN, ESPECIALLY LAST YEAR, AND JUST STRUGGLE TO A HOLD OF STOCK CAR RACING. WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS LED TO THAT?
A.J. FOYT: "Whoever said they were good open wheel drivers? Top open wheel drivers came over here and did pretty damn good. Look back at Jeff Gordon, he was pretty good in open wheel, Tony Stewart was pretty good in open wheel, Ryan Newman was pretty good in open wheel. So you can name quite a few of them. You are going to have some of them that was never that good in open wheel I feel, you have to call a spade a spade, but your top open wheel guys did pretty decent over here. I probably didn't give you the answer you wanted to know, but I am going to tell you what I think."
WHY DIDN'T THE BUTTON ON A.J'S RADIO WORK?
TONY STEWART: "All you have to do is drive for him once and listen to him on it and you realize why. He demands performance out there, so, if he doesn't think you are in the right spot in the right time, he is going to tell you about it. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I had enough stuff to think about yesterday. We just kind of worked with our spotter and worked with our crew chief. I am sorry, I hate to tell you that."
A.J. FOYT: "I didn't even try. He wasn't complaining about the car. He said the car was working good, it got a little tight. I was listening pretty close, he wasn't crying pretty close."
WHICH IS THE TOUGHER CAR TO DRIVE IN COMPETITION, THE INDY CAR OR CUP CAR?
A.J. FOYT: "Have you ever drove a little bitty sports car? I know you have. Then have you ever drove a Greyhound Bus. To me, that is the difference."
TONY STEWART: "That's pretty close. Definitely the stock car is for sure. You half the tire, twice the weight, half the downforce. Indy Cars drive better, but the strategy is just different in Indy Car racing. I mean you have to plan track position a little more, it is a little more critical in those cars. Getting clean air is a lot harder to find in those cars. You have to plan your momentum where these cars, you really just have to work on the handling where I would say the majority of the cars on the Indy car side handle pretty well, it is just getting the strategy of knowing how to get a run on somebody and how to get by."
IS THE DAY OVER WITH TODAY'S DRIVERS OF BEING ABLE TO GET IN ANY CAR AND DRIVE IT WELL?
A.J. FOYT: "I wouldn't say that. Tony is one of today's drivers and he has ran very well with open wheel and very well with stock cars. I think that is something that you are born with. I don't think that is something you can learn. I think that you are born with a certain amount of ability, I was one of the fortunate ones that could cross back and forth and it really didn't make that much difference to me. Tony has been that way. Jeff Gordon has been that way. Ryan Newman has been that way. There has been quite a few of them. I think that's something you are born with and gifted with, I don't think that is something you can train yourself or make yourself do. I think it has to fall automatic. When it falls automatic, you are going to be very successful."
YOU AND OFFICE DEPOT ARE STARTING A NEW SEASON WITH A SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY, YOU SHOPPING WITH ONE VERY LUCKY FAN, CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THAT?
TONY STEWART: "I have learned to spend money in the last four months. So shopping is not a problem. OfficeDepotRacing.com, if you click on that, they have a great sweepstakes that is going to let a race fan when a $14,000 shopping spree at an Office Depot, get a chance to come to the Coke 600 as a VIP for the weekend. Then get a ride along with me. I will try to do like he would do, try to make them wet themselves in the car. At the Office Depot store, we are going to have fun. I get to drive the shopping cart around. As quick as they can grab stuff, hopefully they can keep up. I'll slow down when we get to the computer aisle because I know they are a little more fragile and delicate. It is going to be pretty fun to give a fan an opportunity like that, it is something pretty neat. I think it is promotion that Office Depot is doing that is going to be really fun for a fan to win. Just go to officedepotracing.com and I think February 28 is the cutoff date to register, so it is something that should be pretty cool when it comes times for May."
IN HONOR OF A.J. FOYT, TONY'S RACE TEAM HAS PLACED A DECAL ON THE LOWER REAR QUARTER OF THE NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET FOR THE DAYTONA 500 THAT SAYS "EVERYONE NEEDS A HERO" AND IT HAS A.J. FOYT'S SIGNATURE LOGO ON THAT QUARTER PANEL.
A.J. FOYT: "What does it pay Tony?"
TONY -- "We put it on the part of the car that normally gets the wheel rounds on it, that is another reason he is not getting a radio that talks cause as soon I get a tire mark on it, he will yell at me."
A.J. FOYT: "It will get rubbed off real quick with tire marks. That's all right. Remember pay-backs are hell."