Homestead: Championship team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 EARLIER TONIGHT MARK MARTIN SAID THAT YOU MIGHT BE THE BEST RACE CAR DRIVER OF THIS ERA. STEWART: "What happened tonight, being in a group of only 14 guys that have won multiple championships here, that's probably going...

Continued from part 1

EARLIER TONIGHT MARK MARTIN SAID THAT YOU MIGHT BE THE BEST RACE CAR DRIVER OF THIS ERA.

STEWART: "What happened tonight, being in a group of only 14 guys that have won multiple championships here, that's probably going to mean more than just winning the championship by itself. To be put in that category is a huge, huge honor. You know, it's like I said earlier, any time a great driver like that or great group of drivers speak highly of you like that, that's probably the greatest honor in auto racing that you can have. For your peers to have that confidence in you and that respect for you. You know, to hear those comments from those two guys-that's better than any trophy I've ever received in my life."

ZIPADELLI: "I don't know what else I could answer. He is the greatest. I love him, like a brother."

STEWART: "Aww. You wouldn't have said that in some of those meetings before we had the big heart to heart. You wouldn't have wanted to be the brother that day."

ZIPADELLI: "But I had to be."

WHEN JIMMIE JOHNSON HAD HIS PROBLEMS, DID THAT RELIEVE SOME OF THE PRESSURE?

STEWART: "The first reaction was that I wanted to make sure he is alright and I felt bad. You hate for it to come down to the last race like that and have something happen and get in an accident and not be able to race for the championship. I wouldn't want any driver to have to go through that. To be honest, I knew where Jimmie was that whole time because before he got in his accident, we were all running right together. So, I was comfortable where he was at, but where I was uncomfortable was where Carl was at.

"He led the most laps and he was doing everything he had to do and could do to win the championship. So, you know, we were between 10th and 14th at that time. We couldn't let our guard down at all. So, it was probably closer at that point as far as point-wise with Carl and myself than it was for Jimmie and myself. So, you concentrate on both of those guys but at the same time I knew that if we got our car where we needed it to be, or got it better than where it was at, then we weren't going to worry about it at all. We just needed to keep doing what we were doing."

DOES THIS MAKE YOU WANT TO STICK AROUND THE SERIES LONGER THAN YOU OTHERWISE HAD PLANNED?

STEWART: "To be in a group where there's only 14 of us in 50 years that have won more than once. So, I'm not greedy. Sure, when we go to Daytona this year, the goal is to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and win another championship. You know, at this point, like I said, it was kind of like the start of the year this year-I was having so much fun with my race team, that I'm not concentrating on that kind of stuff. When it's all said and done and no matter when I quit, whether it is 20 years or five years or whenever it is, what is going to be left from all this is the relationships that were built along the way.

"So, you know, I can't look into the future. I don't know what the rest of my life is going to be like. I don't know how long I'm going to race. I've never even thought of retiring. But, when that day comes, it's just like I said after we won the Brickyard, if I die tomorrow, when I wake up, I've had a great life up to this point.

"I couldn't have asked for more out of this life. I feel like I'm a very, very, very fortunate person, not only on the personal side of my life to have friends that wouldn't care if I drove another lap in a race car the rest of my life, but to have the professional life that I have and like Zippy says, Zippy is like the big brother I never had and I have a guy like J.D. and Joe Gibbs that always have the faith and trust in me to do what we've done and even through the bad times have stuck behind me and supported me. You couldn't ask for more than that, so no matter what happens, no matter how long I race or don't race, the goals and everything that happens from here is just icing on the cake.

"I think I've done more at this point in my life than a lot of the guys have that have been fortunate enough to do and I've been very lucky to be able to do the things we've done. I don't know. I just haven't looked that far ahead into the future, I guess."

DID YOU HEAR THE FANS CALLING FOR YOU TO CLIMB THE FENCE?

STEWART: "Yeah, that's why we climbed the fence, finally. I was looking at the spots on my hand right now from where I pinched them. Yeah, it's pretty cool. Even though we didn't win the race, that's something that has stuck with my race fans. It was pretty neat to hear them chanting that. Man, it's a long day and I didn't realize what I got myself into. I'm going to have to train in the off season-not to be a better race car driver, but to be a better fence climber. There's a lot of coat riders and fence climbers, but this is a different kind of fence climbing than what I'm used to. We're going to have to work harder at this I think."

WHAT GOT YOU THROUGH TOUGH MOMENTS THROUGH THE CHASE OR THIS WEEKEND?

STEWART: "I don't know that we had anythings in particular that were real tense. I mean, I don't even know who it was or what happened. Somebody came darting on the race track in Turn 3. I think it was somebody that was trying to get to the pits and didn't realize they weren't going to make it or something. I don't know what happened. But, obviously the #5 car spinning today-that was a little closer than what I wanted right off the bat. But, for the most part we didn't really have any of that huge close moments that we had in years past. It's pretty much clear I guess."{

RE: YOU'VE WON 12 MILLION DOLLARS THIS SEASON

STEWART: "Let's just clarify one thing. The team has won $12 Million this season. I have not. I will not receive $12 Million at the end of the season. I'm not saying I'm complaining about what you're paying me, J.D., I'm happy with that. Just because your dad had to get a third shift at Denny's to pay my salary. But, you know, it's pretty cool. Trust me, when I started racing at the age of eight, getting a trophy that was bigger than the other kids-I thought that was pretty cool. Now, to get a check like this from Sprint and Nextel and NASCAR, it's a pretty big deal. I wish I could spend all $12 Million of it. I can promise you-you guys think women can spend money? There's all kinds of toys I can buy with $12 Million and I could have it spent in about 24 hours, no problem."

GIBBS: "We like our drivers in debt. They drive harder."

YOUR FIRST INTERVIEW WITH JOE GIBBS RACING

ZIPADELLI: "I remember me and Jimmy sat there for about four or five hours there outside the Cracker Barrel at exit 36. When we left there, a lot of things had changed, but you know, I had talked to him obviously and spent a lot of time next to him. We were fifth and sixth in points at the time, the team I was working for. I got to know him, but we just sat at talked about how I had grew up and where I was from and the next thing I know he calls back and asked if I could meet Joe at Denny's at exit 25 and that was a three-hour meeting."

STEWART: "So, the one common denominator between Zippy getting hired and myself getting hired is that my interview was at Bob Evans. You had one at Denny's and Cracker Barrel. There seems to a pattern here. So, if anybody gets invited to breakfast by Joe, you're probably going to be offered a job."

ZIPADELLI: "That was it. It just worked out. We talked about shocks-that's what I was doing and one thing led to another. I'm just grateful for the opportunity."

"As I worked and grew up, it was obviously my dream. All I've ever wanted to do is race. That's pretty much all I ever have done. This is obviously beyond most dreams. But, this is pretty cool to be here."

THIS IS YOUR THIRD CHAMPIONSHIP. TECHNICALLY YOUR DAD WAS IN CHARGE FOR THE FIRST TWO. DOES THIS ONE FEEL LIKE IT'S YOURS?

GIBBS: "Yeah, actually, my mom is in charge of all three, if you ask her. She's the one that allowed us to start in the first place. So, you know, really what is neat about us with our group is that there's a number of us that have been with us for 14 years. Jimmy Makar, Todd, a bunch of guys. Zippy's been there really since 99, 98. So, we've had a bunch of guys that have been with us a long period of time. So, I don't think he felt like any of them were his or that I feel like any of them are mine.

"We just really feel like we have a good, strong family at JGR. And that's hard to do. And that comes from the crew chiefs to the guys, department heads and Makar and works its way down. I don't care what business you're in-whether it is football or racing or any type of business. It's something I'm proud of. Our guys fight for each other and sacrifice for each other and that's what I'm most proud of."

RE: PLAYING IT SAFE

STEWART: "Especially after watching guys in the Busch race yesterday, knowing that the guys were on the bottom side of another guy had trouble. When Kyle spun, your instincts are to tug on the wheel and to get as far away as possible, but I didn't want to tug on it and get the car loose. So, it was probably better to start the race that way, with the sun being in and out, but you know, it probably wasn't the perfect way to do it but it got my confidence back to have the back of the car back underneath me. That's where the relationship with Greg and me pays off, where he knows that something like that happens and he knows it shakes you up a little bit, he's got to kind of take a step back sometimes to get my confidence back.

"Once we do that we can go forward pretty quick like that, so they really gave me a car right off the bat that was comfortable to drive. You know, gave me that confidence. But all day, if cars were faster, I was letting them go. There wasn't any point in holding guys up and giving them any reason to be aggressive with me. So, everybody that was around me was courteous and I was courteous. It felt like it paid to our benefit at the end of the day, treating guys like we wanted to be treated."

HOW J.D. HAS DONE ON THE JOB

STEWART: "Why don't you come meet me at the trailer later and I can really tell you the truth. But, he's sitting right here so I basically have to say he does a great job. But he does. For somebody like J.D. to step into the position like he did, and this wasn't something that was three year plan that after three years, J.D. was going to get in this position. It happened very quick and for J.D. to be able to step into that role, not only take control over two race teams, but then adding a third team. That's a lot of responsibility. I can tell you, I wouldn't be in a position to be able to handle that. And I don't know too many people that could.

"It takes somebody like J.D. to grow up around like Joe to do that. The greatest thing about it and the most comforting thing about it is I didn't have any concerns right away. Because I felt that if Joe had the confidence in J.D., then there wasn't any reason for us not to have confidence in J.D. And it didn't take long watching him to figure out why he's such a great leader. His dad's calling him right now to ask how much I've racked up on the charge cards already. But, I think he's done a great job in all honesty. I think he's done a better job in that position in a hurry than you could probably ask from anybody."

WHAT WAS BEHIND YOUR POSITION TO STAY OUT?

ZIPADELLI: "Well, we thought we could get five points, and just in case something happened. It was just a little bit of insurance, we had nothing to lose. At that time we didn't have the information that the #07 was going to stay out. We just tried to stay out and get five points-that's all."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Bob Evans