TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 met with members of the media at NASCAR Media Day and discussed his racing organization, upcoming Phoenix race, multi-car teams and other topics. Full transcript:
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
TONY STEWART: Every organization is going to make gains. It's just a matter of who gains more and have you gained enough to make the difference up from where you were the year before
Q. Do you feel confident in your mind your organization is capable of running with anybody out there?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I mean, we've proven it two years in a row. We've done it. We've won seven races in the last two years. We've been able to do that.
Like I say, the hard part every year is it's a question mark because you don't know if what you've done is going to be good enough. You hope that the hard work that everybody has put through during the winter, you see those results right away.
Q. Where are you in terms of organization? Are you thinking of expansion at all at this point?
TONY STEWART: I mean, it's always been on the back of our minds. It's not something that we're pushing for. It's a hard time to try to do that right now, and it has been for two years.
The biggest thing is making sure we got the two organizations we've got, the two teams running well. The hard part is it takes a lot to get the right partnership with sponsors and the right drivers to put a third team together. There's a lot of things that have to happen to make that work.
If it happens, great. If it doesn't, we'll keep working to make the two teams as good as they can be.
Q. What about a guy like Carl Edwards, could bring sponsorship. Would that be something you would consider?
TONY STEWART: You look at every opportunity. It doesn't cost a dime to listen. We all look at the papers. We all look at the opportunities. You assess whether it's the right thing for your organization. If it's the right thing, you go forward. If it's not, you go on to the next opportunity.
Q. How different is it being an owner?
TONY STEWART: I don't know that it's much different from that standpoint. It's just a lot more work. If you have a good day, it's a great day. If you have a bad day, it's a miserable day. It's like the range of emotion goes higher and lower when you have that ownership side attached to it.
The concept of what you're doing is the same every week. I get here Thursday night and start Friday morning. I'm strictly in driver mode. I'm not in an ownership role till after the race is over Sunday, till we leave on Thursday.
Q. Do you have to act differently? For instance, the Australia thing, you apologized for that. If you were a driver...
TONY STEWART: I still would have apologized for it. We haven't done anything different. The partners we have, that's why they're with us. They get that side of me. It's not like all of a sudden they're getting into something they don't know who they're getting involved with.
Q. So you're not more prim and proper?
TONY STEWART: No (laughter). If you haven't polished it in 39 years, it probably isn't going to get polished.
Q. They're totally changing the Phoenix track. That has been one of your favorite places. What do you think?
TONY STEWART: If it makes the racing better for everybody, then it's a positive thing. I mean, I'm an old-school guy. I didn't like it when they changed the dogleg. I hated it when they took the Goodyear bridge down, the walkover bridge over turn four. Those were things about Phoenix that made it unique and made it special. That side has already been changed.
Changes now really aren't going to be different. It's already lost its until original look to me. But if it makes it better and it makes it better for the fans, how can you not be excited about it?
Q. Did they ask you at all?
TONY STEWART: Not really. I mean, like I said, I'm still not happy about the original changes that were made. So I've always just been that old-school guy. And a lot of people in society are the same way, a lot of people don't like change. You see places that we've lost. We've lost Rockingham, Wilkesboro, some of those places. As competitors we didn't like those changes, but it was better for the sport.
Just because it's different doesn't mean it's always going to be better or worse. We just have to wait and see. At least they're trying to do something that they think is going to be better for the sport.
Q. How do you like the changes here now?
TONY STEWART: We're not going to have holes in the track. That's a pretty good improvement over last year.
You know, we always like the fact that it was a handling event and that we had to work on the handling of our cars. Anytime you pave a track, that takes it out of the equation on a track this size. But, again, it doesn't mean it's a bad thing. It could be the greatest thing that's ever happened here for 20 years.
Q. Just for clarification, I asked Ryan about his contract, if he was a free agent at the end of this year. He said, Ask Tony.
TONY STEWART: I don't know, ask Ryan. We both have copies of his contract. We're both happy doing what we're doing. That's part of being a car owner that I haven't had to worry about yet. Apparently now you guys are going to force me into thinking about it.
Q. I'm curious about after this year.
TONY STEWART: I'd have to get the contract out and look at it.
Q. He said when you take him to Burger King, he knows it will be time to talk about it.
TONY STEWART: We go to Burger King all the time and don't talk about it. We go do things a lot of times and don't talk about anything till you guys bring it up.
Q. He said next time when it's a Burger King meal, he'll know.
TONY STEWART: If I make him buy when it's Burger King, he'll know something is up. I don't let him buy when we go there. I mean, that's why I always buy. Burger King buy. You don't get a King Card and don't use it. That's the best thing about having it. But I'm not giving him my King Card. I'm not negotiating that. That's mine. My name stamped in it.
Q. Talk about a guy winning five straight titles.
TONY STEWART: The thing is now we have to talk about the potential of six. But I think there's been too much emphasis on it not being good for the sport, people thinking that it's bad.
I think it's pretty exciting that an organization has been able to be that good for that long. That's a compliment to what they've done. I think too much effort has been spent looking at the negative side of it, which there really isn't, when all the guy has done is gone out there and done what he's supposed to do. He's gone out and done what we're all trying to do.
I think what he's done has been under-appreciated, in my opinion.
Q. Do you think you have another title in you?
TONY STEWART: If I don't, you won't see me driving a racecar anymore. I'm not going to do this unless I feel like I have a shot to win races and championships. I'm not going to hang on and ride out a career. That's not what this is to me.
Q. Does it feel like five years since you won a title?
TONY STEWART: Yeah (laughter). You have to remember, I'm the last guy that did it other than him. It does seem like a long time. It's got to be a good feeling to be on top that long. That's got to be a good feeling.
Q. Does it surprise you that the media pool came out and he's favored to win a sixth straight?
TONY STEWART: You're kidding me. Somebody really went out on a limb to put their name in that hat (laughter).
Q. Make your argument.
TONY STEWART: How do you bet against him right now? When a guy has done it five times, what basis would you have to bet against him? That's the argument. Till somebody can show you there's something else that leads to somebody else doing it, how do you bet against him? You wouldn't do it in any other sport unless something is different that you physically can see. Nobody's seen anything that proves that he's not on track to do it again.
Q. (Question regarding 10 years ago.)
TONY STEWART: It hurt. That's what I remember. I remember it hurt and it hurt for a long time. I had a headache for two days. That headache was multiplied by other feelings that were stacked on top of it.
I don't mind not remembering a lot of what happened 10 years ago. I appreciate why it's being brought up this year, but I'll be the first to admit I don't mind not talking about it, not having to relive it, so...
Q. There was a leadership loss with Dale. A lot say you're the next one to step into that role. Do you ever see yourself coming into that leadership role?
TONY STEWART: I appreciate that compliment from those guys, but I think there's other guys. I don't think I'm the smartest guy out there from that side. I think there's other guys that have a way of understanding what's going to be good for the sport.
I like Jeff Burton. I always thought Jeff Burton was a guy, if I had to go out and pick somebody right away, that's the guy I feel most confident in.
Q. When you look back a few years ago when you were working on this deal to come to Haas, looking back, are you surprised you were able to keep it quiet as long as you were or not? Can you talk about how the steps were you had to take to be discreet before it blew up like it did?
TONY STEWART: The problem is, it's hard to talk about it because it's talking against you guys. We obviously have to do our thing to keep it quiet to maintain what we're doing with the current team we were with, Gibbs, and at the same time as soon as you explore an opportunity, somebody somehow finds out about it. Once that happens, it takes the luxury of doing your due diligence and thinking about what you're doing to now having to be defensive about it, hiding the fact because somebody is going to get their feelings hurt or you're going to get in trouble for it.
It would be much easier if people weren't nosing around a lot. Obviously that's a part of it. That's part of your guys' job. That's what you have to do. It also makes us have to be guarded about what we do during that process.
Q. How has that changed over the time you've been involved in the sport?
TONY STEWART: It's gotten worse.
Q. Some people say communication, you can do a lot more by texting.
TONY STEWART: You have to be very guarded about what you do still. It's easier for us to communicate, but it's also easier for the media to find out what we're communicating about. The media gets smarter. I know there's a lot of times I disagree with that, but there's a lot of ways to get information.
Q. Is there an example maybe you can give earlier in your career where you could do something that you probably couldn't do now because of the crowds in the garage or people in the motorhome lot?
TONY STEWART: Even the garage area, I mean, it's become drama central. Somebody sees something... The problem is too many people now in the effort to get the scoop on something will report on something they think is going to be a factor before they take the time to do the due diligence to make sure it's fact before they go and say something. That's a very real problem for the people like us that are involved because it can put us in a very harmful position before those people find out whether it's truly legitimate in the effort to make sure they get it before somebody else does. The competition in the media is just as tough as the competition for us.
Q. Has that perspective changed more as you've become an owner?
TONY STEWART: It's still the same stuff. I mean, it's what you have to be aware of at the time.
Q. There's no doubt this sport is safer than it was 10 years ago. Do you think it took the death of someone like Dale Earnhardt to address that?
TONY STEWART: No, I don't. The thing that's going to upset me if people don't remember Kenny Irwin, Adam Petty. There were a lot of people that contributed to changes. I just think it took a while to realize that we were in a time frame that people were starting to lose the edge on the safety side and it had to be revisited.
The good thing is now, because of all this, we have a group that's dedicated to the safety aspect of our sport, and NASCAR is taking the initiative. Every year there's a meeting about the progress, what they've found in new studies, what we can do with helmets, safety belts, seats, materials inside the car to make it safer for us, how we build the cars to make them safer.
It's all been positive. But it wasn't because of one guy. There were other guys that we had that were friends in the sport that lost their lives that also contributed to that movement of having to take a hard look at it.
One crash didn't change our sport from the safety side. It was a lot of instances in a short amount of time that forced our sport to have to look at where we were and reevaluate the sport from that side.
Q. One of the drivers said a guy like Dale Earnhardt, how do you replace that?
TONY STEWART: You don't.
Q. The one guy that has the personality and winning is you. Is that a compliment?
TONY STEWART: I think so. I'll take it that way. There are a lot of guys that are colorful and are good representatives of the sport that have good personalities. It's just now finally getting in an age again where drivers feel comfortable showing who they really are, showing they actually have emotions, are scared of it.
Q. Do you like that?
TONY STEWART: Yeah. Why should we not have been able to do that in the past?
Q. In a best-case scenario, how long do you think it could be before Danica is a factor in this sport and do you think it would be good for the sport if she were a real thing?
TONY STEWART: I honestly don't know whether it's good or bad for the sport. I don't see where there's anything negative about it. It can only be good.
There is no timeline. Literally for me there was a day that the switch kicked on and I figured it out. Same thing with Montoya. There was a day that he figured it out. There are some people that have tried that never have figured it out.
That's never something that you can say, This is a time frame when that happens. There will be a day that she does it the right way and that she feels it's right. She's going to go, Aah, I got it. It could be one race. It could be a hundred races. You just don't know. It's different for every person.
There's one thing that I do know, is that she's dedicated to doing it. This isn't just a, Hey, I'm doing this and I'm getting publicity on it. This is a person that is very dedicated and very driven to be successful and will not accept defeat. She will be successful; it's just a matter of when.
Q. Do you think women drivers will continue to join the sport in larger numbers or does it take that first person who is successful at it?
TONY STEWART: There's been females that have been a part of this sport for years. This isn't something new. It's always been accepted. It's always been, you know, from Janet Guthrie to Patty Moise, to Shawna Robinson, there have been a lot of females that have done this and been good at it.
I don't think anybody has ever looked at it from the standpoint that we're waiting for that first person. I think that road was paved a long time ago.
Q. Multi-car teams, there always seems to be a hierarchy. Supposedly they're all getting the same stuff. Because you're a driver, do you make doubly sure that Ryan has everything the same as you do?
TONY STEWART: Yes.
Q. Does that enter your mind?
TONY STEWART: The whole purpose of having multi-car teams is to make sure you're sharing information. If one guy doesn't have something that the other guy has, how can you base that information on apple-to-apple comparisons? It hurts you if you don't give that guy the same opportunity.
In multi-car organizations, it's not that they don't have the equipment that somebody else has. It's the combination of that crew chief and driver, how they communicate and how well they work together and whether that crew chief makes the right calls and whether the driver makes the right decisions behind the wheel. It's not based on differences in equipment.
There's no organization that's going to go out there and give one driver something in the organization that they're not going to give the rest of the drivers. It doesn't make sense to do that. That actually puts you in a situation where you have more to lose than to gain.
Q. Everybody is optimistic at this time of the year. Can you point to specific things that you think are going to make a difference this year?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, but it's not stuff we can tell you guys. That's why you work all winter, is to not give that to everybody else. You try to do things to make your program better. You do the best you can at growing your organization.
At the end of the day, it's a matter of you don't know till you get four or five races into the season of whether what you've done is good enough to be better than what they've done over the winter, if you're grown as much as they've grown or caught up.
Q. Both as a team owner and a track owner, how would you describe the lure of Daytona?
TONY STEWART: The history. There's nothing about the track that's different than a lot of places we go to, it's just the history of it. It's the history of that trophy. It's the history of that event. It's knowing that this is where our sport was started. It didn't start right where we're sitting, it started at the beach. But to see how this sport started and how it's evolved and when this facility was built, it was way ahead of its time. To see how, as time has gone on, technology has changed, how this place still produces some of the greatest races of the season, the fact that it's the most important place of our season, that's what makes this place special.
Q. Would you consider making a move like Chad Knaus made at Texas? You're running really well, Ryan goes out of the race, you feel his pit crew is running better than yours, would you make a swap like that?
TONY STEWART: I think you have to evaluate it at that time. I think you have to see what situation you're in.
There's a lot of times there's firsts. That was a first we've never really seen before. So now the thought process of, Would you consider that? Yeah, you have to consider it now that somebody else has done it. If it would have turned into a disaster, you'd have to think about that. I think the fact that it actually worked, they felt like it worked, that forces you to have to think outside the box and think of something that might be a different opportunity.
Q. Bigger transition: from Sprint Cup driver to NASCAR stock car driver, or Sprint Cup team owner to NASCAR team owner?
TONY STEWART: Definitely Sprint Cup team owner to NASCAR team owner. When you're a driver, it's you in a car that you're trying to figure out. When you're a team owner, World of Outlaw Sprint Cup team, you have to have three guys to work on the car versus the 163 guys that we have with two Sprint Cup teams.
Q. I would love to see you racing on the beach.
TONY STEWART: I think for the hundredth anniversary of NASCAR, that ought to be our Daytona 500.
Q. In your bathing suits.
TONY STEWART: Everybody is wearing Speedos in the cars. Can you imagine if they caught fire? Some of us are kind of hairy guys (laughter).
-source: team chevy