TONY STEWART, DRIVER OF THE NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS, CREW CHIEF, TONY ZIPADELLI, AND JOE GIBBS RACING TEAM OWNER, JOE GIBBS PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWING BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT VICTORY: JOE GIBBS: ON TONY STEWART'S RUN FOR THE WIN...
TONY STEWART, DRIVER OF THE NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS, CREW CHIEF, TONY ZIPADELLI, AND JOE GIBBS RACING TEAM OWNER, JOE GIBBS PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWING BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT VICTORY:
ON TONY STEWART'S RUN FOR THE WIN TONIGHT:
"I thought the team was great. I said it was great to back and win something again. I got kicked around pretty good this year in football. It was fun to be back with the guys.
"I feel like everyone got off to a great start. Everyone was so nervous and everything. We start off the year with a lot of testing and the like. I know the guys have worked extremely hard and got great confidence.
"Tony has lost a lot of weight, he is in great shape. I think he is going to have a great year for us and I know it was fun tonight. It is fun to get started racing again. I miss the NASCAR family it is kind of fun getting around everybody again."
ON HOW MUCH DOES IT MEAN FOR TONY TO WIN THE 500 AND WHAT HE CAN CARRY FORWARD FROM TONIGHT TO NEXT SUNDAY:
"I would say that Tony, I noticed, I was picking up some comments tonight from Dale, Jr., that they were playing a little bit earlier today about winning here and how important it is to win here. We all know that Tony had a burning desire to win the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard. I would say that this is something he really wants.
"As far as what he can carry over, it is so hard to win here. We have been in it since '91 and we were so fortunate to get one with Dale Jarrett. We have had good cars, at different times, we felt like we had cars and had a chance but it is so tough to win the 500. I still think back to that day, my kids were rolling in the grass out there. It I think it was one of the biggest moments for me ever. I still remember everybody standing in the winner's circle. I don't think there was a dry eye in there. It is very hard to win. Winning this race of course is a big deal for us, but winning the 500 is something that is extremely hard to do."
ON FEELINGS OF WATCHING TONY WIN COMPARED TO WATCHING DENNY (HAMLIN) WIN LAST YEAR:
"To be truthful, I always remember Bobby's first win for us, Dale Jarrett like I said. Seeing someone coming on board and winning in their first go around is very emotional last year. Certainly, this is a huge deal, I am not making anything less of that, but when you have a driver that wins his first race for you, that is something special. Knowing everything that went in to Denny's, the way that thing happened for him, that was a bona fide miracle. With the things that had taken place there, to see him driving that car like that.
"Tony's win is certainly a big deal for us. We have so much pride in Tony and all he has done for us. Seeing him, the way he has matured in the sport and the things he has done are a big deal. But I always think the first is pretty special."
ON FEELING GRATIFIED WITH THE TEAM TONIGHT:
"it is kind of like being part of a family. Our group there at Joe Gibbs Racing has grown dramatically but it is still a family for us. I walk through the building, I have had a little chance to take a break from football, and meet everybody and go through the fab shop. Have a chance to wander through the motor room and see all the people that are there, we have a lot of people there who stake their careers, worked there the whole time that Joe Gibbs Racing its inception. It has grown so much. It is fun to walk through the there. It is fun to be back down here and see everybody and the press group. I stopped by the NASCAR trailer and had a chance to say hi to everybody. It is good to be back. NASCAR has a special feeling to it. I look at it like it is part of our family. Something that our family wants to be a part of. We kind of fell in love with it. Hopefully it is going to be something we can do for a while. It is certainly something I would miss. It was fun tonight getting caught up."
ON TONY BEING ON A ROLL WITH CHILI BOWL, A SPRINT CAR AND HERE:
"Don't bring those up will you. The Chili Bowl and those things. (SAID IN JEST, LAUGHS) I flew in to Charlotte one night and he was sitting there at 10:00, I said 'What are you doing?' He said 'I am going to race the Chili Bowl.' I said 'No you are not.' joking with him. (LAUGHS) In any case. I think he is. As you can tell, I think he has worked extremely hard getting ready for this year. We always think we have a chance every race he is in. We hope he is on a roll."
"Thanks for all the prayers. Our family has been going through some stuff there. I can't tell you how many people said, when I walked through the garage tonight, 'Hey, praying for Taylor' (J.D. Gibbs son, Joe's grandson). That is a part, too of what I meant about as far as being a family, I appreciate every single person here. That poor little guy, when you see something like that happen to your family, you don't expect it. God made him and I appreciate every single person here who has put up a prayer for him. Our family sends a big thanks. I know J.D. and everybody really appreciates it."
ZIPADELLI ON PIT STOPS AND CHANGES:
"From my point it was, when you have a break you get to talk with your driver a little bit about your car. We didn't make any changes. We put for tires on it and went back out. A little bit of tape. The biggest thing was who was going to gamble and go on fuel if we didn't get to caution. We were about a half a lap short and kind of just listening to see how many people would gamble. If you come in you know you're done. Somebody's going to make it. So we were kind of hoping that it went green because I think there was more that were going to have to pit than. it got so spread out at that point.
"From where I was it was kind of getting boring after 25 laps. I figured when we put tires on it would be a double foul but it didn't. It seems like Tony's... it's a harder tire. You see a lot of people slipping and sliding. You have to keep your car free enough to where you have speed but tight enough to where you're comfortable in all positions. I think it's a really hard compromise to get. I think depending on where you are on the race track and the cars you have around you kind of dictate that, I think we were fortunate that we had a good balanced car. I think it was free enough to where Tony could drive it. I don't know if other people would have been comfortable. I know we got free a couple of times but elected not to tighten it up because it was good where it was. To me it was kind of a no-brainer to put four tires on it at that time when the caution came out because of the amount of cars slipping and sliding around. We figured some would take two and we would hopefully be in better shape and I think we were."
THE LAST HALF OF THE DAYTONA 500 WILL BE A NIGHT RACE. WILL THAT HELP YOU?
"I definitely believe so. Normally the Saturday night race doesn't help you but for whatever reason, we're staring so much later the last two years. Yeah, I think the whole field that ran tonight has a huge advantage over the guys that didn't make it into the Shootout because of the fact that we got to run at night. To the best of my knowledge I don't think we have any sessions that run into the night the whole week next week. So with that we've got knowledge from last night's second practice and tonight's race as far as the conditions that the race is going to end under. Yeah, I really feel like we learned a lot between last night and today that will help this whole week."
WAS THERE CONTACT BETWEEN YOU AND KYLE BUSCH? IS THAT THE WAY YOU'LL HAVE TO PASS?
"I hope it's not going to be like that. I don't think we touched him. It looked really close, obviously but I don't believe we touched him. I think that the way this tire is if we'd have touched him and sent him up the race track like that I think he would have crashed for sure. I think if you get guys that are that evenly matched you're going to have to. we weren't trying to be real creative at that point, it just worked out that we got ourselves in a scenario there without really trying. It was hard where we got into the period where Kyle was leading and Kurt (Busch) was third and I guess it would be Kasey (Kahne) that was fourth at the time, when you don't have any more cars than that it's hard to really get a good push from behind to try to do anything. It makes it really difficult from that standpoint to pass if you don't have a way of getting a good run. So I think if it gets strung out like that and gets separated with a handful of guys by themselves up front then it's going to be hard to pass."
HOW STRONG WAS THE NO. 38 CAR (DAVID GILLILAND) AND WERE YOU WORRIED HE MIGHT TRY SOMETHING?
"No, not really. David is a pretty talented guy. I think he proved how he got his ride last year before he stepped into the No. 38 car. He was running a real smooth line and the last couple laps I was kind of encouraged because stuff was going on behind him that got him more concerned with what was going on in his mirror than what was going on ahead of him. It gave me the flexibility to kind of. I was watching where he had to go and so I was trying to move around accordingly. If I saw the inside line going and I thought he might be in jeopardy of getting too wide there I would just move down and that would lead him down to where he could protect his spot and stay with us. It was easier just to a certain degree, help him at that point and kind of keep him from getting in a bad spot to where we had to worry about second or third being too wide behind us."
WHAT WAS UNEXPECTED TONIGHT?
"I expected the racing to be a lot closer than it was. Like I said, I don't think anybody predicted that everybody's cars were going to go off as bad as they did. I'm just probably like a lot of you guys are right now. I'm kind of curious why we even had a harder right side tire this time around. That's kind of been Goodyear's trend for the last couple of years to protect themselves from the tires going down. It starts affecting the racing like this. To the best of my knowledge we didn't have a lot of problems last year at the 500 or the (Pepsi) 400 so it caught a lot of us off guard on why we have a lot harder tire on the right side than what we had before. But it's the same car as we all ran last year and it was a lot worst race in my opinion. When you've got four cars that can break away and run away like that, that's not customary for a February race at Daytona by any means. The only variable that changed was the right-side tire this year."
WINNING HERE AS OFTEN AS YOU HAVE, DOES IT FRUSTRATE YOU NOT TO HAVE A 500 WIN?
"No, I'm still just happy every time I get a chance to come to victory lane here at Daytona. Obviously I'd trade all three of these Shootout (wins) and both Pepsi 400s to win one Daytona 500 on Sunday but it doesn't increase that desire. The good thing is that we won the last two Cup races here with tonight and last July. From that standpoint it makes you feel good that you still have a combination that's good. If we went out there tonight and ran terrible I would have felt a lot worse about it. Like I say, it's a great way to start Speedweeks down here and hopefully tonight will give us that momentum and confidence in what we're doing that we're semi on the right track already."
ON WINNING DAYTONA 500:
"The big three to me are obviously the championship, Indy and here. We have two of those three knocked down. The 500 is still missing off that list. There are still four race tracks I haven't won at that I want to win at and the 500 and that pretty much covers the to-do list. At that point it is how much more can we do beyond that, it is not like we are going to stop when we accomplish those goals. I never would have thought we would have won Bud Shootouts but it wasn't a situation where I was running said and said
"Ah, I have already won two of these things, it really doesn't mean that much to me, I will just let Kyle win it tonight.' Daytona 500 is number one priority on that list. I don't care where we run on Thursday. I wouldn't have cared if we finished dead last tonight, dead last on Thursday, as long as we win a week from tomorrow, that is the goal at hand."
"The four tracks are Darlington, California, Las Vegas and I keep forgetting the fourth one, oh yea, Talladega. That is probably the most important one I haven't won at yet."
ON RACING BEING BETTER WITH 10 MORE CARS THURSDAY AND THEN 20 MORE CARS NEXT SUNDAY:
"Typically in the past it does. Like I said, I would never have believed we would have had a four car break away. Really the first three of us were just kind of losing the fourth guy in line. I don't know how it will affect it. I think for sure probably the further back you get in traffic, the worse it is going to make the car drive and the harder it is going to be to maintain a pace after you have 20 laps on your tires. For sure, when you take off on fresh tires, you better make the most of it right away. No matter how many cars there are."
ON A DRIVER'S ABILITY TO DEFEND AGAINST A MOVE LIKE HE MADE TO TAKE THE LEAD FROM KYLE BUSCH:
"Boy, it is hard, when the backend moves out, you have got to follow it with the front whether you want to or not. It is hard to protect the bottom when the backend is deciding it wants to go up the race track, you don't have any choice but to follow it up. The first time he got loose and missed the bottom, l thought he did a pretty good job of just being able to counter that move and being able to come back down. But when he came back down, it got him really loose and like I said, that was probably one of the best saves I have seen here in a long, long time.
"Like we mentioned earlier, there are two kinds of grip, mechanical grip and aero grip. My getting so close to his rear bumper helped get him loose. With a harder right side tire, you are automatically taking away, mechanical grip so that makes the aero side of it even more dependant. As soon as you get behind somebody that close and take the aerodynamics off their back spoiler, now we are having to rely more on the spoilers, as soon as you start taking that downforce away, there is no tire there to lean on to catch it. We were able to move each other around on the race track tonight."
ON NECESSITY OF WINNING THE BUD SHOOTOUT TONIGHT:
"Our intention every time we go on the race track is to win the race. I think we are so focused trying to win the 500, like the decision Zippy made about coming in and getting fuel, I didn't know what the fuel situation was, but, he told me during the break that was what we were going to do most likely. He mentioned it would be a good opportunity to learn more and see what happened when we got our car further in the back. Sacrificing tonight for Sunday was obviously high on my priority list anyway. Didn't mean we didn't care about winning the race tonight, but when you have an opportunity to learn like this, this isn't the biggest race of the year tonight, next Sunday is obviously. Anything we could do to learn like that just utilized the time tonight even that much better and gave us an opportunity to learn as much as possible to get ready for next Sunday."
ON TOUGHEST COMPETITION FOR 500:
"Ricky Rudd is the first guy that comes to mind when you talk about guys. Ricky, Sterling Marlin, looking at both of those guys, practice speeds today, I don't think Ricky has won a 500 to the best of my knowledge, but Sterling has a lot of wins here under his belt so he knows how to win here. Ricky is no slouch. Just because he hasn't won, I definitely consider him a strong contender. I don't really know how to answer that. It is hard to say tonight is tonight and there is going to be a lot of track time between now and next Sunday. I am sure it is going to be the usual cast of characters. I mean, the 48 and 24 will always be good. The way Kyle Busch ran tonight, I would put him at the top of the list. Kurt Busch ran good tonight, David in the 38 ran good. I am not sure with a 21 car field you have all the list of characters, but for sure the guys that ran up front tonight are the guys that we would look to run good next weekend.
"You have to ask him (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief) about the bullet and where we are on the list. I cock the hammer when I put the steering wheel on, I just don't know what size the bullet is in the gun. I feel like we are a contender too. It would be hard to win tonight and not consider yourself some kind of contender for next weekend for sure. I had a car that drove good tonight and that is due to the hard work that Zippy and the guys put in. The last 30 minutes of practice last night, I had those guys sweating and it was 60 degrees, they were wiping sweat off their brows. They really worked hard and put in a good effort last night, not that they don't normally do that, but we really threw some things at it last night to try and make the car faster. It showed up tonight."
-credit: gm racing