Daytona II: Winning team interview

Stewart Wins Pepsi 400 at Daytona, Earnhardt Jr. Takes third place Post Race Press Conference Notes TONY STEWART, GREG ZIPADELLI, AND JOE GIBBS, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: STEWART (ON THE WIN): "Let's cover the flag stand...

Stewart Wins Pepsi 400 at Daytona, Earnhardt Jr. Takes third place

Post Race Press Conference Notes

TONY STEWART, GREG ZIPADELLI, AND JOE GIBBS, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

STEWART (ON THE WIN):

"Let's cover the flag stand thing first. I'm way too old and too fat to be doing that. But once I started, I was committed and I wasn't going to let the fans down. But I think I'm officially - well it's unofficial until it's verified I guess - but I think I'm unofficially the first guy that's gone all the way to the top and over and onto the flag stand. So (Helio) Castroneves has some work to do now. When did I have that dream? I don't know. It was probably one of my nightmares that had that mixed in with it. If you guys could see some of the crazy dreams I've had, you'd have plenty to write about for the next 10 years and never have to go to another race."

ZIPADELLI:

"We've run well at plate races. We've got a lot of top fives. But for someone like myself growing up in New England racing small race tracks and dreaming about being able to come here and go to victory lane for a real points race. The Dual 150's and a couple of Shootout races that we've won were cool. But this is awesome."

GIBBS:

"I'm proud of our guys. Zippy represents the whole race team. Tony told me the motor and car and everything was great. It's rare that you get a car like that. We really appreciate all the hard work by everybody back at the shop. I'm just proud to be a small part of it. It's a thrill to be here at Daytona. Love it. Theirs is nobody else we wanted in the car other than Tony there at the end. He did great and the whole team did and we're proud of the Home Depot group. We're proud and it's a big night for us."

STEWART (HOW DID IT FEEL TO HAVE A CAR THAT STRONG?)

"I didn't know it going into the race that we were going to be this good. Everybody was pointing at us last night saying we were the team to beat. I didn't see it in practice. Zippy and I never even really talked about how strong we felt like we were. It's so hard to tell in a practice session when you're not in a pack of more than 12 to 15 cars at a time. The one thing that was different that Zippy pointed out is I never complained about the car yesterday morning in practice. Normally in July, we're all fighting grip and being loose or tight or drifting up the race track. We really never had a complaint with the race car. We just kept working on trying to make it faster. Normally I'm screaming and yelling and telling him it's the biggest piece of junk that I've ever driven when we come here. I never complained once about it. We were a little tight yesterday and a little tight tonight actually. But you know you've got a car that's close when you make the changes that we made and the car was responding to it. You know you've got a car that's balanced on a night like tonight when you can make the small adjustments and feel the response."

ZIPADELLI (HOW CAN THE NO. 20 BE SO GOOD AND THE NO. 18 AND NO. 11 BE SO POOR ON THE SAME TRACK?)

"Well, the No.18 (Labonte) didn't have an opportunity by losing a motor a couple of laps in and he didn't have an opportunity tonight being in one of those first wrecks. We all work very closely together and have the same tools to work with. The No. 11 (Leffler) car ended up okay. They started extremely loose and salvaged a decent finish out of it. We all came here with the same things to work with. I've got Tony and you couldn't ask for any more than that. We qualified well and that's a big part of running up front tonight. We were able to dictate and stick to our strategy."

STEWART (ON HAVING A STRONG CAR WHILE FIGHTING YOUR WAY BACK LATE IN THE RACE)

"A lot of times when you're leading, you're put in a position when you've got to pay more attention to what's going on behind me than in front of you. Tonight I did some thing different than what I did in February. After February, there was only one thing that came to mind about doing anything different and I did it tonight and it worked (but I'm not going to talk about it here). Hopefully that's something we can tuck in our pocked. That car doesn't have a scratch on it. Dale Jr. was trying to put one on it after the race was over. That's because he was excited for us. If it's up to me, that car won't even go to Talladega in the fall. It's going to go back to the shop and put a cover on it and put it on the stands and give it a bath and give it a little fresh up and bring it back in February. With a car like that, you want to protect that combination."

STEWART (IS THIS TEAM IN A ZONE NOW WITH TWO WINS IN A ROW?)

"It's two o'clock in the morning and I'm zoned out right now. We've got a lot of momentum, but I don't know if we're in the zone by any means. It's a pretty cool compliment to Zippy and Joe and all the guys on the team to win in Sonoma and then come here six days later and win at a superspeedway at night. That's a pretty cool feeling, but at the same time we're all pretty realistic that we've got to go to Chicago next week and that's a topic that brings back two big names and that's Roush and Hendrick. We've got momentum on our side and momentum goes a long way in this series."

"With the way we ran at Michigan, hopefully we can take some of those things to Chicago next week and have a similar run and if not, still have a strong run. We've had three great weeks even with running second in Michigan and we just have to keep building on that momentum and hope we don't have any disasters in the next nine weeks and we can stay up there in the points and try to win a championship."

JUST WONDERING, IF YOU KIND OF HAD AN INKLING OR AT WHAT POINT DID YOU THINK THAT THIS WAS GOING TO BE YOUR NIGHT FINALLY? IS THIS THE TRACK WHERE YOU CAN NEVER COUNT ON ANYTHING EVEN AS DOMINANT AS YOU WERE?

"I woke up today and just vibrated off the bed and thought "that's odd, this might be our night." I don't know, I mean, you don't just wake up and think things like that. I didn't know when I got in my car that this was going to be our night. I didn't know if it would even be tonight; I thought it was going to be tomorrow morning. No, you don't just wake up all of a sudden and think "this is my day." If it were that easy I'd be a bookie in Las Vegas making millions of dollars betting on these races instead of driving in them. If there ever was a feeling like that I promise you I would start betting on races."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS TEAM IS IN THE MODE THAT IT WAS WHEN YOU WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP WHEN YOU WON IN 2002?

"I feel like we're in a better position and better mode than we were then. Even in 2002 when we won I was running us all through some turmoil at the same time so this year we're all having fun and we're all getting along. We're probably getting along as good if not better than we were in '99 when we didn't have a care in the world. At that time there wasn't any pressure on us, we were just out there having fun as a young race team and I think we've been able to over the off-season kind of recapture that. To not put pressure on ourselves and go out and race. If we have a bad day, it's a bad day. There's a lot of guys out there having bad days. Seems like the worst thing that can happen is to let it get to you and get you down and that's something that Zippy has worked really hard on-with all the guys and me as well. Now the morale of the team is up even when we have a bad day. It doesn't mean we accept losing better, but we don't let it dictate the rest of our week or the following weeks after that. We just shrug it off and say "okay, now we have to work on next week and try to find something to make us better than the week before." I just feel like we have a really strong group of guys. We've had the same core group of people for so long, I mean, it's hard to have a combination like that. There's not very many teams out there that are still like that. You take a team like Jeff Gordon's team. You have new guys coming in and out of there. I'm really proud of the group of people that Zippy's assembled and there's always new people getting added to it but you don't see a lot of people going away from us and that's something I think is making us a stronger team every year."

(FOR GREG) DID YOU HAVE A MOMENT WHEN TONY WENT FOUR WIDE WITH ABOUT 16 TO GO?

"I had a feeling that he wasn't going to waste much time. That's one thing that Tony's good at; he just goes for the opportunity. There was an opening, he had a run. The longer you run, you get laps on your tires and everyone gets in single file or side by side racing. It's a lot harder to pass. So that was cool."

TONY, YOU SAID THIS PLACE OWED YOU; YOU WANTED TO WIN IN FEBRUARY INSTEAD OF TONIGHT. DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY?

"No, I said it doesn't owe me. But if it were to, I would have loved to have taken it in February. The last two years we've led enough laps to outright win the Daytona 500 so if there were ever a situation where you felt like it owed you I guess the one request that I would have is that we get it in February. No racetrack ever owes you anything. I've heard that from drivers; Michael Andretti was one that straightened a lot of people out. He said that all those years that he led laps at Indy 500s and didn't win; it's a place that you have to earn victories. They're not given to you. This was a nice way to come back, and this gives us some momentum."

COMMENT ON THE MOVE WHEN YOU WENT FOUR WIDE.

"When I made my move it was two wide at the time and then I made it three wide. Then I heard the spotter go "four wide." We weren't there very long; that's not a position I wanted to be in. For the duration of time we were there three wide wasn't very long and it was even a shorter amount of time we were four wide. Jamie McMurray gave me the push from behind and gave me enough of a run that when we got out there I got four wide and I could clear it."

THAT FOUR WIDE MOVE, DID IT COME NATURALLY? IT WAS PRETTY SPECTACULAR.

"I didn't know that it would be four wide but with the head of steam I had and the push that I got we were able to get through without an issue."

DID YOU EVER HAVE A CAR IN YOUR CUP CAREER WHERE NO ONE HAS PASSED YOU UNDER GREEN WHEN YOU WERE IN THE LEAD?

"The only time I can remember was my first win in Richmond when we led 333 laps of the 400. We were a young team and we didn't have the best of pit stops at the time; when we got back out after pits we were fourth or fifth but we came back and never got passed once we got in the lead. That's why tonight was great-I'm taking this car back to the shop and saving it for February. This is the same car from Daytona and Talledega."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR-CUP