TONY STEWART, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 2nd Daytona 500 Starting Position: 6th How did you feel about your finish today? "I'm happy, but obviously if the caution hadn't come out then we think the ...
TONY STEWART, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 2nd Daytona 500 Starting Position: 6th
How did you feel about your finish today? "I'm happy, but obviously if the caution hadn't come out then we think the outcome might have been different. The important thing was to keep Joe Gibbs Racing one-two no matter what the order was. That's what I told Denny (Hamlin) during that red flag period -- that one of the two of us has to win this race, if he had a run then he had to go. I told him not to try to help me and put himself in a bad spot. He got a run that he couldn't stop and if he would have tried to go with me, then we both probably would have ended up fourth and fifth. I thought he did a great job and I'm really happy with our guys. We just kind of took it easy at the beginning and after the midway caution, we just went ahead and tried to work our way forward and got there. Handling is at an all-time premium this year so everybody is going to take what they learned today and try to make their cars better for Sunday."
Can you talk about the run that Denny (Hamlin) got on you in the closing laps? "It would have knocked the teeth out of my head (if he had hit me), I think. You know, Jeff (Gordon) tried to get a run up high. By the time I saw him move up there was too much of a gap for me to be able to really do much with it. I could have moved up, but he was going to end up going down anyway. That's what he did. It was just bad timing for me. That's kind of the nature of the beast here. You look at every start and restart, it was hard for the guys up front to stay there because guys were getting runs from behind and able to get a second line going."
Is this setting up to be a Gibbs/Hendrick showdown for the Daytona 500? "I think there are a lot of good cars also that are in that mix. But, I mean, if you look back, it kind of is the normal list of suspects up there. For you guys (media) I'm going to say, yeah, just because it makes a great story line for you guys. I know I can help you guys out a little bit today. Yeah, it's going to be the epic battle. It could be the battle of a lifetime, of the century. May not be another battle of this proportion for the rest of my life, career, or for this century. We'll start there. It probably will be, but I think you just can't limit it to those two teams. We got John Andretti in the field. As long as he's in the race, he's a contender. There's a lot of good cars. You look at Matt Kenseth's run today. He had a good run until he got shuffled. Like I said, I mean, if it helps us to make a better headline for tomorrow, yeah, it's going to be the battle of a lifetime."
Do you know what's making the cars slip around so much on the track? "Well, if we knew that we'd fix it. You keep in mind, these cars were designed and built to not drive as good as the cars we used to run. I can't say it's a surprise that they don't handle as good, because that's what they were built for. But, you know, it's still our jobs as teams and drivers to try to figure out how to make them drive as good as we can. You know, it makes you definitely -- I mean, track position is very important. You need to be as close to the front as you can get to get the cleaner air. It helps your car drive quite a bit better. If you get in the back there, get behind a bunch of cars, it's a handful for sure. You definitely want -- I think Dale Jr. said it best -- you definitely want to try to take full advantage of when you have fresh tires at the beginning of a run to try to get as many spots as you can early."
DALE JARRETT, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 9th Daytona 500 Starting Position: 20th
What does it feel like to know you will start your final Daytona 500? "This day, as much as people say is about Dale Jarrett, is about UPS and Michael Waltrip Racing. That's who I wanted to get into the Daytona 500. They let me piggyback along. I've been so fortunate to have such a great sponsor in UPS for so many years, I wanted them to be a part of this. Certainly I wanted to be a part of the 50th running of the Daytona 500. Now that we have the hard part over with, we have to go to work on this baby and tune it up a little bit to see what we can do on Sunday."
Was Michael Waltrip falling back to help you a part of the plan? "I just wanted to make sure in that first part of the race that my tires were going to be okay. I didn't think we were going to have any problems. I just wanted to take care and make sure that we were okay there and then after that restart I knew it was time to go. Michael came back there and gave me the pushes that I needed to get some of those places. The car drove extremely well and that was the key to this."
Could you get in the Daytona 500 without Michael Waltrip's help? "No. It made my job easier knowing that I had someone back there. But, no, my car was good enough to drive up there and do what I needed to do. I told the guys early on when they asked about my car. I knew my car was really good. I was just free enough that I knew I shouldn't be hurt in the right front tire, and that I could run around the top when I needed to do that. But, he got lost there a couple of times from me a nd I was still okay. My car was good enough to do what I needed to do. Kind of like an insurance policy basically, and we all have that. So it was nice to have that there. Again, we were good enough to make it even without that."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&Ms Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 11th Daytona 500 Starting Position: 24th
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 12th Daytona 500 Starting Position: 42nd
What happened at the start of the race when you were penalized for jumping the start? "Michael (Waltrip) told me before the race he was going to be a little soft on the original start. I didn't anticipate him not -- I didn't anticipate him being in a coma when they dropped the green. My spotter said; 'Green, green, green.' I took off. Michael was still sitting there. Before I realized it, it's like; 'Oh, dang, here comes the start/finish line.' Then I thought; 'Well, maybe they didn't see that.' What do you think the chances of that were? I knew as quick as it happened; 'Oh, I'm in trouble.' We came down, did the pass-through, and then run around there by ourselves for 15 laps or whatever before we got a yellow. It ended up working out okay -- just disappointing, pretty disappointed in myself. You're not supposed to beat the leader back at the start/finish line. It's only been like that for like a hundred years and everybody knows it but I managed to do it anyway."
How aware are you of all these different scenarios regarding making the Daytona 500? "You go out there and you know kind of the format or what you think you need to do. Trust me, all the guys at Michael Waltrip Racing weren't going to not let me know what we were supposed to be doing at any given time. We knew the No. 44 (Dale Jarrett) car needed to finish ahead of me. It's irrelevant where you start, to me, at this point, as long as we get three cars in the field. That's what our goal was. So, yeah, I hated it for Boris (Said). He got me in last year, so I definitely feel like I owed him one. I feel like we let him down there. Yeah, all these guys wanting you to do -- you do what you can when you can. You run as fast as you can and try not to knock the fenders off of it. That's what I was concentrating on doing the rest of the race. One part of the deal was we got the No. 44 car in. At the end of the day, as long as we got three cars in, that's kind of all that matters."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 13th Daytona 500 Starting Position: 2nd
How does it feel to know that you were able to help your teammate Dale Jarrett, make the Daytona 500? "It was a good time out there. I just concentrated on our main goal. We needed to practice for a few laps to make sure we knew what we were doing. We did, obviously. Dale (Jarrett) just had an awesome car. He did a great job. He could have made it without us, but there was no sense in taking that chance."
DAVE BLANEY, No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 21st Daytona 500 Starting Position: 34th
What happened that took you out of the race? "The battery went dead on the pit stop and it took a minute to find it and change over. It was running fine. Something just let go in it. Our cars have been really fast down here. Maybe we should've just rode around. I tried to take the lead, but nobody went with me. That's fine because our car is plenty fast. We just needed to run all day to see what the car is going to do. I think we'll be fine on Sunday."
Did you have any indication of the battery going away? "I didn't think the battery was an issue. Once we got it switched, we ran a couple laps before it completely came apart. We haven't had any trouble at Bill Davis Racing with the engines. We have a ton of power down here. I thought we had one of the fastest cars down here. If it's going to happen, it's good that it happened today, and not Sunday."
How good does it feel to know that you're qualified for the Daytona 500? "This feels about as good as that skydive the other day -- not quite. This feels like a win. We had so much adversity to overcome and we had a lot of friends out there that helped us, but most importantly it was all the hard work from Red Bull and Toyota. We had to overcome the ignition box in qualifying, the spin at the beginning of this race, the right-rear coming apart, and pitting to get new tires, but it all worked out."
What happened that caused you to spin early in the race? "That was my second spin today. I got spun off of turn four in Nationwide practice this morning -- it's a good thing that I had that practice. I was thinking; 'Oh no, not again'. I was afraid that was going to happen, it was three-wide and it was kind of early, but I really didn't have a choice. The No. 15 (Paul Menard) went to the outside and I went to block him and when I did that it put us three-wide, and I didn't have much of an option there. I don't know if Boris (Said) got tight or just misjudged it, but he got into us and spun, but I was able to keep it off the wall and then came back to make the race."
What did you learn that you need to change on the car for Sunday? "We definitely learned a lot. We have a good car, but we need to be better. We're going to go try to win the race and that's our goal. We need to find a little more in this car. It was a little loose all day, but we just need to find more grip overall."
Do you feel like this year you're playing with a full deck? You have competitive equipment -- compared to last year when you guys really were behind the eight ball? "The deck was definitely stacked against us. We were kind of joking through the off-season and going over how last season went. We talked about it. If Red Bull tried to pick a harder way to start a race team, I don't know if they could have. You know, starting from scratch, not buying the team, starting late in the season in '06. They didn't really start hiring employees until almost '07 for their first season, and then building cars and going with a brand-new manufacturer. But, their vision was long -term. I knew that when I came to Red Bull that it wasn't about '07, it was about what the future holds. That's the reason they partnered with Toyota and they invested in their own team, so they could do it their own way. We paid the price last year. It was painful. It was dreadfully painful to miss the races we did, not going to the 500, going through all the adversity we did. It built a really strong team. We learned a lot from it. We've gained some strong people in the company along the way."
Can you compare making the Daytona 500 today to jumping out of the airplane the other day? "I'll be honest with you, I think that my heart rate was higher. My stress level was definitely higher today from the time I woke up until the end of that race, until the very last lap, than at any point in time prior to me jumping out of an airplane at 13,000 feet. Solo on top of that. It wasn't tandem. But, jumping out of the airplane was obviously awesome. Red Bull has been such a great -- I get to do so many great things. Jumping with the Red Bull Air Force guys. The guys I've jumped with have 25,000 jumps. I felt like I was in good hands. But I'm not going to lie to you. You jump out and you see the ground coming at 100, 200 miles an hour at 13,000 feet, it's definitely an eye opener. But to elaborate more on your question there, it didn't hold a candle to trying to make the Daytona 500 in one of these races, not even comparable."
J.J. YELEY, No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry, Hall of Fame Racing Gatorade Duel 1 Finish: 25th Daytona 500 Starting Position: 37th
What are your feelings after falling short in making the Daytona 500? "This pretty much (stinks). This is unfortunate for the Red Bull team. They deserve to have two cars in the race. It's good that Brian (Vickers) got in for the guys back at the shop, but my guys deserve better than that. We just couldn't get the car right. We were just so tight the whole time, and we never had that in practice. That caught us a little off-guard. I ran my (behind) off trying to get back to the front to have a chance. It's only one of 36 races, though. It's not the best way to start, but we started a lot better than we did last year. This will take a weekend to get over, for sure. "
JACQUES VILLENEUVE, No. 27 Bill Davis Racing Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 23rd Daytona 500 Starting Position: DNQ
What happened that took you out of the race? "The car was just a little too loose and I got sideways quite a few times. I knew one of those times it was going to catch me up. These cars aren't bad when you have a perfect set-up in the car, but when you start sliding they're a handful, mostly in the traffic. My car was quite quick, it was just a little too loose and I got caught out there. The car's move around a lot, but that's not really too much of a problem."
-credit: toyota motorsports