Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS Takes Second Straight Pepsi 400 Win - Stewart Is Joined By Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli and Joe Gibbs Racing President, JD Gibbs:
LAST YEAR YOU SAID YOUR CAR WAS THE BEST YOU'VE EVER HAD. WAS THIS CAR EQUAL TO THAT ONE?
TONY STEWART: "It was close. It wasn't quite as good to start with. Last year it cooled off a lot more and I think our car tightened up a lot more. But this year, the first three runs of the race we were a little bit loose and needed to tighten the car up. That's where (crew chief) Zippy and the guys did an awesome job. It's hard to do everything you want to do when you've got come in and in one stop just take fuel only and the next stop just take two tires and all that. It got that way at the end. I'm just not sure it was at the point to where I could just go and run and not have to worry about holding guys off. I really had to pay a little more attention to what was going on behind me this year than last year."
HOW WAS IT FROM ON TOP OF THE PIT BOX?
GREG ZIPADELLI: "Like Tony said, we had to make a few adjustments in one stop. We got aggressive with our adjustments the two stops and the rest of the day we didn't do anything with it. It was the same car we had here in February and the same car we had here in July. We did make it a little bit better aero-wise, but we knew everybody else was working on their stuff. Basically it was a very similar set-up and a lot of the same things. It wasn't much cooler last year here in looking at the air temp and track temp than the way it ended tonight."
HOW WAS IT FOR YOU JD?
JD GIBBS: "I will say this. My dad had the best quote of the night. He watched Zak, Zippy's son up there. Zak made the last three calls in the race."
WERE YOU AT ALL WORRIED ABOUT BEING ABLE TO GET AROUND BORIS SAID AND IF THE CAUTION HADN'T COME OUT, WAS THERE ANY QUESTION IN YOUR MIND THAT YOU WOULD HAVE HELD OFF THE BUSCH BROS. BEHIND YOU?
STEWART: "I didn't want to see the caution. Obviously we were in really good position where we were at there. I was really comfortable with the pace that we were running. Nobody could really do anything with us at that point. I felt like we had a better shot of getting around Boris than anybody else - not because Boris is not a great driver, he is a great driver, but he hasn't had a lot of experience up front at a restrictor plate race and knowing what to do and watch for. I knew some things that I could do that he probably wasn't going to be watching for. So I still was concerned and there was no guarantee we could get by him. If he won the race and it was going to be pretty cool if he could win his first pole and first race on the same weekend. I hated to spoil it for him but we just had a car that was too good tonight to not go out and win this race."
HOW DID YOU GET INTO POSITION BEHIND BORIS?
STEWART: "We did get a big run and I think if I remember right that it was a restart that kind of led us up to that. We were behind anyway and we got separated from that pack a little bit. I think we just got a good push that gave us the run when we got there - those guys really weren't paying attention to me, they were paying attention to the two-wide that they were involved in. We got underneath Denny (Hamlin) and got by him and then Casey Mears was stuck in the middle and working on somebody on the outside and I don't even think he even saw us coming because he never even flinched. He could have drove a semi between me and him. He never tried to block or anything. We had such a big run that we just blew by all those guys and the next thing we knew, we were in second."
THERE WERE A LOT OF CHANGES IN THE POINT STANDINGS TONIGHT. DO YOU THINK THAT IS BECAUSE THIS WAS A PLATE RACE, OR IS THAT HOW IT'S GOING TO BE FOR THESE NEXT 9 RACES LEADING UP TO THE START OF THE CHASE?
STEWART: "I'll be honest. I haven't really looked at the point standings and I do that on purpose. It doesn't even really matter where we're at. I don't know how far or close the points are. With the group of guys in the top 10 right now and the group outside the top 10, it's not going to be surprising at all to see them jumping around from week to week. There are a lot of teams who are really running good right now and on any given day you get two or three of those teams that just have an average day, I think you'll see the points jump up and down. It's pretty tight right now. We've been like a yo-yo in the points."
WHY DID YOU DIVE INTO A MOB OF FANS?
STEWART: "I don't know why I do half the stupid stuff I do, I'll be honest. I felt good after the end of the race until I got stupid and went up the flag stand again. I'll be honest. There was no way I was going to let those race fans down tonight because it started here and this was the year after it all started and I was either going to get all the way up or I was going to fall off and fall on my butt. But I wasn't going to stop until I either got all the way up or fell off. One or the other. I wasn't going to let those race fans down. They expected it tonight. You could see it when we came down the front stretch before we even turned around. They were already on their feet by the flag stand. I was not going to let them down. It was every bit as big, if not bigger, than it was last year. Last year I thought I was going to fall off the fence going back down over the fence.
I thought this year I'd be smarter - more experience at it - go down, crawl through the gate and call it a day. I got down there and there was no gate. But there was a mosh pit. So I did learn one thing. I'm too old for binge parties and all that stuff. So I'll be a chaperone for it instead. I don't even think I should be a chaperone, you're right. I'm not really chaperone material."
THIS TIME LAST YEAR, YOU HIT A STREAK THAT CARRIED YOU ALL THE WAY TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP. ARE YOU GETTING THAT SAME FEELING NOW?
STEWART: "Oh, I sure wish I was. Last year at this time, it was two in a row. Where (this year) the last two weeks have been really bad for our team. We haven't had the kind of success we were hoping for. I think the emotion after tonight's win versus last year's win is more of a healing process for the last two weeks at Michigan and Sonoma. I hope it's that way and I hope it's the same momentum. But more than anything, even if we didn't win - if we just stayed in the top five or top 10 and didn't crash or blow up, it was going to be a good night for us. This is the kind of night that leads you to hope that maybe history can repeat itself."
GIVEN TONY'S AND MATT KENSETH'S RECENT HISTORY - ESPECIALLY AT THIS RACE TRACK - WHAT BROUGHT ON THE TALK OF BEING BUDDIES TOWARD THE END OF THE RACE?
ZIPADELLI: "Our cars work good together. Just because what happened in February doesn't mean that we're not friends with them or that Tony's not friend with Matt. They're good people. They race hard. Matt had helped us earlier in the race and said he would help us as long as if the roles were reversed at the end of the night that we would help him. And that's all you can ask. It's hard to get people to work with you and our cars work really well together. So it didn't matter which order they're in. You didn't want to give that up if you have that opportunity to work together."
STEWART: "Yeah, it's a classic case of thinking outside the box. It's easy to sit back and think about something that you wrote or somebody else wrote that happened in February but you've got to be smarter than that. This past Tuesday, Matt and I raced together as teammates in Madison, WI where his father put on a race so it goes back to the same old thing that I always gripe about the media: You guys always want to go back and reflect on something that happened in the past and assume that it's still that way. Matt and I moved on from that even before the Charlotte race where everybody started to bring that up again. We both moved on past that. Are cars were very fast together. I don't know if his car would have led as good as ours did, but his car pushed really, really good tonight. We had talked about it when the roles got reversed there and we were going to go with him. But when Jeff and Matt got kind of jammed up in Turn 2 there, we were able to turn down and get below it. But that is the only reason we left the back of Matt's car. Our plan was to stay with him 'til the end there because he had got us to the lead twice and helped us lead the most laps. We knew that the pit stop was probably the one thing that could change it and if that happened that we were going to follow him the rest of the way."
WHAT KIND OF THREAT WOULD JEFF GORDON AND JIMMIE JOHNSON HAVE BEEN IF THEY DIDN'T HAVE THEIR PROBLEMS AT THE END?
STEWART: "That ain't different when they were here in February. I mean it's pretty much the same deal. I don't know what else to say about guys. My God they're always good here. I don't know what to say about that. They're always fast. If they don't have trouble they're probably going to be up in the top five at the end."
ON THE PASS AROUND BORIS SAID. YOU WENT HIGH AND KYLE BUSCH CAME LOW. WERE YOU REALLY WHERE YOU WANTED TO BE OR WAS THAT A HOLD YOUR BREATH, GET THROUGH IT MOMENT? ON THE LAST LAP WERE YOU AWARE OF THE TIRE CARCASS THAT WAS IN THE GROOVE IN TURN THREE?
STEWART: "I did know the tire was there. As soon as we came off turn two the spotter told me that the tire was laying right in the middle of the track and he said stay on the bottom. So I knew even if they didn't throw the caution I knew where I was going to go when I got there. That was probably the most anxious point of the race for me was when we did go into (turn) three to pass Boris. I thought he would just kind of go to the bottom and run the line that we'd been running. When I went to the outside he kind of went up with me and opened up the bottom and then Kyle (Busch) bailed off and I thought 'Oh no, this could be really bad' because I thought we might go from second all the way back to sixth or seventh there in one corner. I was really happy when we carried enough momentum to still be beside Boris when he had pulled down and blocked Kyle and then Kyle moved up and followed us the rest of the way. Once he moved back up off of (turn) four I knew we were going to be in good shape."
Continued in part 2