TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway and discussed the success of his first-year Stewart-Haas Racing organization, strength of the people at SHR, the dominance of Jimmie...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway and discussed the success of his first-year Stewart-Haas Racing organization, strength of the people at SHR, the dominance of Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team, his season in general, status of his WoO and USAC teams and other topics:
TONY, GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOUR FIRST YEAR AS A DRIVER AND OWNER OF STEWART-HAAS RACING: "I am like a proud father. It has been neat to see over the last 13 months how this has all come together and progressed through the season. From that standpoint, I don't think I could be any happier. Obviously, we wanted to win the championship this year and after leading the point standings, we felt like we had a good shot. We just couldn't get that run these last 10 weeks that we wanted. We will do what we can next year to try and pick up on that and improve on it."
COULD YOU SPEAK THE COMMENTS YOU MADE ON THE RADIO REGARDING DALE EARNHARDT, JR. AFTER THE WRECK LAST WEEKEND AT PHOENIX? HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO HIM? "I haven't actually. Everybody knows when we are in the heat of the moment, it doesn't matter who it was, I would have said the same thing. It was being upset because we are running for all the points we can get right now and we took a hit in the points last week because of that incident. It didn't matter who it was. That is heat of the moment."
WHAT GRADE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR ORGANIZATION FIRST YEAR OUT OF THE BOX AND IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT MAKES CHAD (KNAUS) AND JIMMIE (JOHNSON) SO SUCCESSFUL? "If we knew that, we would be doing it ourselves. As far as our team is concerned, I feel like for a first-year team I have to give us an A. If we could have won the championship, you would give yourself and A+, but for a first-year team an A or an A- is appropriate for what had to come together in such a short amount of time. The changes and trying to get people organized and equipment ready and just so many new people working together for the first time. I think we've done fairly well."
WHAT IS IT LIKE WHEN THERE IS A RACE WINNER'S CELEBRATION HERE AT THE END OF THE RACE BUT YOU AREN'T THE CHAMPION AND THERE IS ALL OF THAT GOING ON? "We obviously can't win the championship tomorrow night so our goal is to win the race. So if we can accomplish that, even though Jimmie or Mark are going to have their celebration tomorrow night, if you are that team that can win the race, that is a lot of momentum you carry in to the next season. This is the last chance to build momentum for next year. If you can leave this event tomorrow night winning the race, you carry that win all winter long. You are crowning a season-ending champion but at the same time, there is still an individual race that is being competed for and that is our goal.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE RACE WINNER GETS SLIGHTED AT THIS RACE? "No, not at all. I watched the truck race last night. The interview with Kevin (Harvick) in victory lane was awesome and I thought it was appropriate and thought they did a good job with the champion's celebration also."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN MOST ABOUT DARIAN GRUBB THIS YEAR AND WHAT HAS IMPRESSED YOU THE MOST ABOUT HIM? "He is just a very smart, calculated crew chief. His demeanor is the one thing that I didn't know much about going in to it but, his demeanor through the whole season has been very calm and collected. He just doesn't get wound up. He doesn't get super emotional on the radio and he has a great sense of humor too and that is something that does come out and I think that is where we complement each other. Our personalities are similar from the relaxing standpoint and humor standpoint. I think he has helped me with the calm demeanor on the radio."
WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO DO THANKSGIVING WEEK, THE FIRST WEEK OFF BEFORE YOU FACE GETTING READY FOR NEXT SEASON? "I'm going home. We will have our competition meeting on Monday like we always do every week. Depending on how Monday goes, if I need to be there Tuesday and Wednesday, I will stay. Most likely when we get done with our meeting, I am hoping to be able to go home as soon as possible. But, being a car owner, if I need to be there until Thursday morning, which is what I will do. A lot of it will be dictated on how our meeting goes on Monday."
PURELY ON DRIVING ABILITY OUT ON THE TRACK, WHERE DO YOU RATE JIMMIE (JOHNSON) AND WHAT ARE HIS STRENGTHS VERSUS THE OTHER GUYS? "It doesn't matter, like you said, you have to have the package, it doesn't matter how good of a car, crew chief and crew you have, if you aren't a good driver, you aren't going to make that package work. Jimmie does a great job behind the wheel. He proves it in the Cup Series. When he goes back and runs a Nationwide car, he runs well there. You don't get to this level by not having talent. He has an extremely high amount of talent. He knows what he wants out of his race cars. He knows that feel that he wants. There are guys that are good qualifiers and fall off a little in the race and there are guys that are vice versa. Jimmie is one of those guys who excels at qualifying and the race. I think he is one of the more rounded drivers we have."
AS A CAR OWNER AND DRIVER WHO RENOVATED A TEAM AND TOOK IT TO THE CHASE, YOU HAVE VERY GOOD PERSPECTIVE ON THE RED BULL TEAM AND BRIAN VICKERS. HOW DO YOU VIEW THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS THIS YEAR? "They've done a great job. They've also brought a rookie driver in that's starting on the front row tomorrow. That's proof that their organization is doing a good job. Some of their resources have helped them with that and that's important in our series. I mean that's how you get to that level that they've gotten to is by having good resources and good people and there's not an organization out there that makes the Chase that isn't doing a good job. So they've obviously in a short amount of time done a great job of making adjustments. Their constantly changing personnel and upgrading their people and that's what you have to do."
FANS CAN'T FEEL THE EMOTIONS YOU'VE HAD IN MAKING THE CHASE. CAN YOU SHARE WITH THEM WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT ABOUT BEING IN THE CHASE AND THE EMOTIONS THAT YOU HAD? "It's no different than any other pro sports when you're going through the playoffs. You know that everything you've worked for during the first 26 weeks of the season all comes down to these last 10 weeks. So you know if you have one bad race, that's one-tenth of your opportunity to win a championship. As we've seen over the last two or three years, you can't make that mistake and still have an opportunity to win the championship. So you place your whole season in those 10 weeks when you make the Chase, and if you have a bad week it's hard on you."
WITH THE SUCCESS OF THE NO. 14 AND THE NO. 39 TEAMS THIS YEAR, DO YOU ANTICIPATE ANY PERSONNEL CHANGES WITHIN THE GROUPS ON EITHER TEAM GOING INTO NEXT YEAR? HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO KEEP THOSE SAME PEOPLE TOGETHER TO ENSURE SUCCESS? "I think it's important, but at the same time if you feel like you have to make changes, you have to do that. You hope that you have the right core group of people in place where you're not making those changes, but you can't sacrifice that for not making the changes that are necessary. So you evaluate where you're at and that's where the next couple of weeks will be pretty important as far as analyzing. I already know that there are one or two guys that want to come off the road that have just been doing this a long time and they're ready to be home a little more. So you have to make changes because of that; you have to make changes because you're trying to improve your program. But you try to keep that core group as intact as you can."
JIMMIE JOHNSON MENTIONED THAT IT WAS COOL THAT YOU WON A PRE-CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP AND A CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP AND HE KIND OF WISHES THAT HE HAD A PRE-CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP. DOES HE NEED A NON-CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP TO BE CONSIDERED AMONG THE GREATS? "Oh, gosh no; are you kidding me? What did I get for leading the point standings after 26 weeks? I didn't get anything."
NO, ONE CHAMPIONSHIP UNDER THE OLD FORMAT AND ONE UNDER THE CHASE FORMAT "Oh, okay, I understand what you're saying. Does he need that? Well, he doesn't have that and with the format we have now he doesn't have the opportunity. But no, you don't need that. I feel like this is a tougher format than the old format was. Obviously, just the sheer math of it; you have one bad day out of 10, that's one-tenth of your schedule. Whereas before it would be 1/36th of it. So one bad day didn't affect the outcome as bad as it does now. I feel just the opposite. I feel like the way he's done it in this format is more impressive than winning it in the old format."
DO YOU TAKE SPECIAL PRIDE IN THE FACT THAT YOU DID IT BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER? "I'd rather be in his situation and be running for my fourth in a row (laughs), so, not necessarily. Any time you win a championship it doesn't matter what format it is whether it's a single event championship or a season championship, you cherish them. So I can't say that I value one over the other. They were both special in their own way."
WITH THE RELEASE OF KRAIG KINSER, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN A REPLACEMENT FOR DONNY SCHATZ IN THE WORLD OF OUTLAWS? AND WHAT'S THE STATUS OF YOUR USAC TEAMS FOR 2010? "We're going to scale our USAC program back to two Silver Crown cars and one dirt Sprint Car. We're not going to compete in the pavement Sprint Car races, but we'll only have one team there and we won't have any Midget teams next year. On the Outlaw side, Donny is obviously coming back next year and on Kraig's side, the hard part was we waited to a part of the season that's kind of hard for him, helping him get a ride for next year, which we're doing everything we can to help with that. It was kind of hard for both of us. We saw some improvement early fall that we thought was going to continue and it fell back off at the end of the year. So we're just trying to find someone that we feel like is a better fit. Kraig and Donny ran two different packages, chassis-wise and engine-wise and we're trying to figure out how to bring that together where both guys are running the same chassis and same engine package. So we're trying to find a driver that likes the J&J car like Donny does and somebody that we feel will be an asset to Donny as a teammate and be able to work together with him. So that's what we're working toward."
LOOKING BACK AT YOUR CHASE, AFTER KANSAS IT LOOKED LIKE YOU WERE WELL-POSITIONED TO CHALLENGE JIMMIE JOHNSON FOR THE TITLE. IS THERE ONE RACE OVER THE LAST SIX THAT YOU REALLY FEEL COST YOU, MOMENTUM-WISE? OR WAS IT SIMPLY A CASE OF THE NO. 48 TEAM STEPPING UP THEIR GAME? "Well they've definitely stepped up. You can't take that away from them at all. Obviously the Talladega wreck didn't help us any and last week's wreck didn't help us any. So that's two weeks where we finished 20th or worse and that was a huge hit to us."
-credit: gm racing