Daytona II: Winning team interview, part 2

Continued from part 1 WHEN YOU PASSED JEFF GORDON EARLY IN THE RACE FOR ONE OF YOUR FIRST LEADS IN THE RACE, THE FANS WERE ON THEIR FEET AND WERE FOR MOST OF THE RACE. TALK ABOUT THE LOVE AFFAIR YOU HAVE WITH THE FANS: STEWART: "I'm a very ...

Continued from part 1

WHEN YOU PASSED JEFF GORDON EARLY IN THE RACE FOR ONE OF YOUR FIRST LEADS IN THE RACE, THE FANS WERE ON THEIR FEET AND WERE FOR MOST OF THE RACE. TALK ABOUT THE LOVE AFFAIR YOU HAVE WITH THE FANS:

STEWART: "I'm a very passionate person. I'm not sure I'd even call it a love affair. I think we're dating at this point, me and the fans at Daytona. No, it's cool. When you can have fun with the race fans like, it was just like Tuesday. We went up with Matt (Kenseth) Tuesday and had a great time with the fans. I think last year kind of set a standard for us when we come to Daytona now. Those people respected that so much because it started here and after tonight I think every time we come here we're going to have a huge fan base of people that come to this race and respect the fact of what we've done in the last two years here. It's cool and the thing is you can see them stand up. That is momentum personally for you when you're inside that car when you see that many people stand up and cheer when you do something good it's momentum for you the rest of the night. You know you have a lot of people pulling for you and it makes you feel great."

ON THE COMMENTS ABOUT BUMP DRAFTING AND AGGRESSIVE DRIVING IN FEBRUARY. IS IT ACCURATE THAT TONIGHT WAS A MUCH CLEANER AND LESS AGGRESSIVE RACE?

STEWART: "I definitely think so but I wouldn't say that we're all saints now. I think a lot of it was circumstances too with the track being as hot as it is. When it's cool everybody can hold the throttle wide open. When you're the fourth, fifth, sixth car in line sometimes you've got to crack the throttle because it's slick out there. I think a lot of it was dictated by how good guys' cars were handling but nobody got that big run. Nobody got that big push to where they could go up there and give you that big hard hit. Even if they could I think with the fact that NASCAR softened the bumpers up kept everybody conscious of not hitting too hard. Its three races in a row now where we haven't had a huge drama other than what I created in February here. The last three races on the plate tracks NASCAR has obviously done the right thing with their decision to change the bumper rules. I think everybody is just more conscious of it and realized that it was getting a little bit more out of control than what we all wanted it to so I think we're all conscious about it."

DID YOU IMPRESS YOURSELF HERE THIS WEEKEND?

STEWART: "I'm just happy I survived. I'll be honest. I don't even know who the driver was yesterday but in the Busch race we were in the back and I saw this skinny kid get out of his car because he was too hot. I was like 'This fat kid, me, I just outstanded this what appears to be a good that's in pretty good shape get out and abandon his car on pit lane.' I was pretty happy with that. I thought maybe I'm not in as bad of shape as I thought I was. I can guarantee that there were guys that got out of their car today that felt better than I did. It's still showed me this weekend that I need to be in better condition. Last year was a cool summer. We had very cool conditions all year last year. We didn't have a lot of hot days. This weekend was a very testing weekend for me. Thursday with an IROC practice, two Busch and two Cup practices and then the IROC race. I was flat wore out after that was over. I was sick to my stomach. Yesterday I didn't feel real great in the car. Tonight I felt great in the car. The better the car drives the less energy you've got to use and tonight was one of those nights where the car drove good enough where I didn't have to use a lot of energy.

ON THE IROC WIN:

STEWART: "I was really, really happy with the road course win Thursday night. To go out there and beat guys like Max Papis, Max Angelelli and Scott Sharp who are great road course drivers. That's what the IROC Series is all about is testing your skills against their skills. I said before the race started that I thought the race here at Daytona on the road course was going to be the most fair and even race for all the drivers. The only guy that really didn't have any variable that accommodated anything we did Thursday night was Steve Kinser. For all of us stock car drivers we're used to driving that type of car. For the road course drivers they were used techniques that you use on a road course and I felt like that kind of evened out the competition a little bit more."

DO YOU STILL HATE PLATE RACING OR IS IT GROWING ON YOU A LITTLE BIT?

STEWART: "I still hate plate racing."

DO YOU HATE IT AS MUCH NOW AS YOU DID BEFORE YOU SEEMED TO HAVE MASTERED IT?

STEWART: "I never have liked it and I never will like it. I still don't like it. I shouldn't say that I hate it. I dislike anything where you have to rely on somebody else. To me what you and your team do should be what it's all about. If Kyle Busch would have went with Boris Said, Boris Said may have own the race tonight but he went up and went with me and we won the race. I don't like having to have a guy behind you or in front of you dictate what you do and where you go. That's really the one reason why I dislike it. Every year it's getting better and better as far as the beating and banging especially the last three races it's getting better. It's still very nerve racking when you can't plan your moves unless you know what the guy behind you or in front of you is going to do."

WILL YOU MAKE TONY STOP CLIMBING FENCES BECAUSE OF THE DANGER FACTOR?

GIBBS: "As long as he keeps his helmet on, we're good. Keep the grey matter."

STEWART: "I told you guys at the media center at Indianapolis, that is why I would not go any higher on the fence because I swore that I would probably fall off, I already had my helmet off and I'd go into a coma and forget that I won the Brickyard 400 and the best day of my life would have been erased from my mind. See, David, I'm not totally stupid, I leave my helmet on when I go up."

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE FOR YOU IN WINNING WITH ALL THE DELAYS WE HAD HERE LAST YEAR COMPARED TO THIS YEAR GOING SO SMOOTHLY?

STEWART: "It pays the same; it's not dictated by time. It didn't matter to me. I think the important thing last year was that we had 180,000 people that had planned their weekend around coming to this event and the important thing last year was to just get this race in and to let those fans stay to those schedules that they had planned for their holiday weekends. It didn't really matter to me.

I'm nocturnal anyway. Until I was about 15 years old I though the sun started straight up and went to the west. I had no clue that it started in the east and came up. So as soon as the sun goes down you get into my best hours of the day."

DID THIS RACE MAKE YOU WANT TO DO MORE FOR YOUR TEAM, COMING OFF YOUR INJURY AND A FEW LESS-SUCCESFUL RACES?

STEWART: "Not necessarily, I mean, I'll be honest. I've never worked for a group of guys that were more dedicated to what they do and why they do it. I've been on teams that ego was such a huge part of it. That is the least of concerns on this race team and even through the bad week at Dover those guys were laughing, cutting up with me. They tied my shoestrings to the pit box during the race while the race was going on. We're like a huge family. That's what makes nights like this that much more impressive. This is not a race where a driver can go out and just win it. You have to have a good car, you have to have a fast car that's prepared well and it's not any different than any other week but these restrictor-plate races. some of these other tracks you can go out there with a car that isn't necessarily a winning car and you can win a race if things go right. You can't do that here. These guys have worked so hard and they have the best attitude of any race team I have ever seen in my life. When things go bad, we're always there picking each other up and Zippy and I keep the guys having a good time and I think in the last year and a half we've really hit a stride and a momentum that I don't think any other team has accomplished. And it doesn't t mean we're guaranteed success by it but it does make going to the race track a heck of a lot more fun each week I think for all of us. If I had to trade a championship this year to keep this group of guys around and take a second- or third-place finish, I would do that in a heartbeat, to keep this core group of guys here because that's how much they mean to me."

TALK ABOUT THE COMFORT LEVEL YOU HAVE WITH TONY'S ABILITIES:

ZIPADELLI: "He's obviously one of, I think, the greatest drivers that any of us are ever going to see. There's a lot of good drivers out there but it's getting to be so competitive that you need that attitude, your guys need to have that attitude. It's truly become I think, a little more of a team sport than it was years ago because everything was so competitive. Your driver's got to be 110%, your car's got to be 110%, your pit crew does, you know what I mean? Before, you only raced four or five guys. Eight years ago when we came into the series we raced six or seven guys. There's 15 teams out there that you're racing every week. A lot of weeks there's 20 or 25 teams that are capable of, that's how close these teams are today. The cars have gotten so much closer, everybody just needs to do their job and he's obviously, with his change of heart, as far as realizing and appreciating the team and the guys more in the last few years has obviously made my job a lot more enjoyable. That was one of the more stressful things in the first five years of my job was trying to keep the guys together, trying to keep everybody focused and understanding that when he got upset, not to take it personally but a lot of times it was hard not to."

-gm racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP