TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BURGER KING IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his role as an owner/driver, the heat and how that affects the race, the people he has chosen to join Stewart-Haas Racing, Danica Patrick, and more. YOU'VE WON THIS RACE ...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BURGER KING IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his role as an owner/driver, the heat and how that affects the race, the people he has chosen to join Stewart-Haas Racing, Danica Patrick, and more.
YOU'VE WON THIS RACE TWICE. WHAT'S YOUR OUTLOOK FOR WINNING IT A THIRD TIME? "I'm excited about it. We had a car at the 500 here that drove really, really well. That's a bigger factor at this race than it is even in February. So, I'm excited about it. I've seen the car at the shop and I know the extra effort the guys in the body shop were able to put into it for this race. We're going to have different colors this weekend with Burger King being on board and I'm real excited about that. It's the first of two races that we get to run for them. I'm excited about it. I think we've got a good shot at having a very good finish this weekend."
ON THE HALL OF FAME LIST, IS THERE A LEGEND THAT STANDS OUT FOR YOU? "The race here at Daytona had Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough. That was one of my first memories of NASCAR and one of the most memorable. I was racing go-karts at the time and you felt bad because you knew how hard it was to get there at the end of the race and to see it come down to the last lap like that and neither one of them made it to the end. That's definitely something that sticks out in my mind for sure."
IF YOU HAD A PREFERENCE FOR THE FIRST OR SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON? IF SO, HAS THAT CHANGED NOW THAT YOUR ROLE HAS CHANGED? "No, because we're going to all of them anyway. It doesn't change that fact. Historically, we've always been better the last half of the season; and the second, third and last third of the season in particular. This is the best start we've ever had to a season in the Cup Series. I don't know what's different about it. I don't know what's changed. I just know that I'm happy with the performance up to this point and we just hope that what we've done up to this point, we can have that last ten-week stretch and have a shot at winning the championship."
WHEN YOU BUILT YOUR TEAM, WERE THERE SPECIFIC TALENTS YOU WERE LOOKING FOR IN THE PEOPLE THAT YOU PUT IN KEY POSITIONS? IF YOU HAD TO DO PERFORMANCE REVIEWS, WHERE COULD THESE PEOPLE GET BETTER? "You always think you can do better. I can do better behind the steering wheel. There are always things and variables that you think you can make better and that's what you strive for every week. I've been happy with our performance. I'm not sure exactly what I was looking for. Obviously you look at their credentials on paper and you say this is somebody that I want to meet with. But I think it's more that you just have to sit with them and see how your personalities match and just listen to them talk. You listen to their ideas and thoughts and their passion. If you see their talent on paper is what you want, then at the same time see their passion when you meet with them and talk with them, and you get along with them well, then it seems like a good fit. It's kind of a two-phased deal. It has to make sense on paper first before you meet them and once you meet them, you hope their personalities are a right fit for the organization too."
CAN YOU COMPARE WHAT YOU ARE ACCOMPLISHING NOW AS AN OWNER/DRIVER TO WHAT ALAN KULWICKI DID IN 1972 WHEN HE WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I think it's an unfair comparison. He had to work a lot harder than we did because he had his own engine program. He had to do his own chassis. That's something we have had the advantage of having this year with our alliance with Hendrick Motorsports and knowing that we don't have to worry about the engine package each week. We don't have to worry about the chassis and how they are evolving. We have that luxury that Alan didn't have. I think still, to this day, that's one of the most remarkable accomplishments I've ever seen in this sport after having been in it for a while."
AS A WINNER IN BOTH INDYCAR AND NASCAR, IF DANICA PATRICK CAME TO YOU AND ASKED YOUR ADVICE ABOUT JOINING NASCAR, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL HER? "Nobody knows whether she can do it until she gets out and tries. I don't think she's ever been in anything but an open-wheel type car or Formula 1 type car. I don't know that she's ever driven a heavy race car. The only way to find out is to get in it and do it. If it's something she wants to do, she has to make the commitment to do it. This is not a sport and a series, and especially with the three touring series, you aren't just going to show up once in a while and be good. That's what happened with me in '96 and '97. In '98 when I ran 22 Busch races, I started getting it. But I was in the car just about every week to start learning that feel. And it was hard to bounce back and forth and be good in both.
"Obviously she's gotten where she is because she has a ton of talent. You don't back into winning races and getting to the upper levels of racing by not having talent. Nobody knows for sure what level of talent she's got as far as a stock car until she actually just gets in one. If she's serious about it, I don't know if she needs to get in a Late Model first and run some laps and then try to get back to a radial-tired car. Only time will tell. If she's really serious, it's kind of a crossroad for her. I know it's been a topic of discussion but if it's something she really wants to do, she has to be committed to it. It's not something that you can kind of sneak up on. You've either got to do it or not do it."
BEING AN OWNER/DRIVER AND PUTTING DOWN THE MONEY IN THIS ECONOMY, WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU WENT THROUGH THAT PROCESS? "Well, I didn't start from scratch. I got to join an organization that was already established. They already had the race shop and equipment and it was about just coming in and having to really just fine-tune the people that they there. It is scary because you know that it takes a lot of finances to fund these teams, but at the same time I was with a co-owner that was financially stable to start with. That took a lot of that fear away initially."
DUE TO THE TOUGH ECONOMY, DO YOU HAVE A GREATER APPRECIATION FOR THE PEOPLE THAT ARE COMING TO THE RACES NOW THAN YOU MIGHT HAVE WHEN TIMES WERE JUST ROLLING? "Well, something you probably didn't know is that I used to have to sleep in my car. People used to invite me to stay on their couch when I was running open-wheel cars and Sprint Cars and Midgets. I didn't come from a wealthy family. I've always know the value of a dollar. I've always known the value of people lending a hand-out. So it's not something that once you got to this level that you suddenly forgot about the value of it and what it's meant to everybody. The economy has affected everybody. It's affected us as team owners and as drivers and as a sanctioning body. But whether it's a packed house here this weekend or not, there are still millions and millions of people that are watching this weekend, whether they're here live, or watching from the comfort of their homes and watching it on TV. So, just because there's an empty seat doesn't mean that the sport is failing or that there is a big drama. Everybody knows what the state of the economy is and it's affected everybody and people are having to be smart about how they spend their money. So, the people that it's the hardest on are the promoters that promote these big races. But I've got Sprint Car teams and World of Outlaw teams and I'm a race track owner. I see it every week. It's not something you just see at this level, you see it across the board."
HOW WILL THE NEW DOUBLE-FILE RE-START RULE AFFECT THE RACING THIS WEEKEND AT DAYTONA? "I don't think it will, honestly. As quick as people get shuffled forward and backward here anyway, I don't think it matters. I think last weekend was more critical on which line you were in. But I don't think for Daytona, I don't know that anybody is going to sit there and say well, I'm going to ride third here because I want to restart on the inside. I mean you know don't know if you're going to get a caution. You don't know when it's going to come out. Nobody's going to plan their strategy around a caution and where they're going to re-start with it.
"You're not going to decide. You're just going to try to get to the front and stay at the front. If you can do that, you're a much better racer than I am because I can't think that far ahead. Nobody is going to be able to plan and put themselves in those kinds of situations. You're just going to have to take it as it comes. It's no different than if four guys pass you on one lap, that's where you're at when you restart. So, nobody's going to try to plan that and say well, I'm just going to ride third so if we have a caution and have a restart then we can do something.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A RACE IN THE HEAT LIKE WE'LL HAVE THIS WEEKEND? "Oh, I just stay in the air conditioning as long as I can, honestly. Every time you go out, it's a thousand percent humidity here and 80 or 90 degrees, so it's hot. It's hot for everybody. The best way to stay hydrated is to stay cool to where you're not sweating the fluids out and just keep pounding away at it all week. We've been drinking water and trying to stay hydrated since Monday. That's about the only way you can combat it right now."
AS SOMEBODY WHO HAS DONE THE DOUBLE ON MEMORIAL DAY. IF THE NATIONWIDE RACE IS RAINED OUT TOMORROW, THEY WILL DO A TRIPLE-HEADER ON SATURDAY. KYLE BUSCH IS SUPPOSED TO RUN IN ALL THREE RACES. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT? "It will make for a long day for him, for sure, if that happens. The good thing is he's young and he's pretty fit. If you had a guys that you'd have to put in that situation, that's they guy you'd want to have in it for sure. He's been doing it all year. It's not like this will be the first weekend that he's tried to have a heavy schedule for the weekend. I don't think it'll be easy for him by any means, but at the same time I think he's a guy that can handle it if that situation comes."
-credit: gm racing