Continued from part 1 Q: When you were watching the race between Tony and Kasey, not knowing what their fuel situation is, what is going through your mind? ZIPADELLI: I mean, I can just look at our picture and tell him what I need him to...
Continued from part 1
Q: When you were watching the race between Tony and Kasey, not knowing what their fuel situation is, what is going through your mind?
ZIPADELLI: I mean, I can just look at our picture and tell him what I need him to do, knowing that normally we get as good a fuel mileage as most or better. Our guys have worked really hard on that in the last year or two. We used to get beat up pretty bad on that. Knowing we were going to be really close, I was assuming everybody else that stayed out was probably in the same situation we were, feeling like we probably were the best.
In all honesty, the best place for us was to run most of that run second. Your fuel is a little bit better. The worst mileage we got was that long run that we led. We were figuring off of that number.
Q: Do you really appreciate this much more because of all the struggles and torment, disappointments you've gone through here with Tony?
ZIPADELLI: I mean, I think absolutely. Any time you go through anything in your life, some adversities, you're able to come back and accomplish what you failed at a bunch of times, it's always very special, especially knowing the effort that everybody put in. This is a brand-new car. On Monday at 11, it was in the wind tunnel. It was a lot better than the car we tested. We came home, the boys swapped everything, motors, all this stuff, made it our primary car. Put it on the truck Wednesday night and sent it up here.
I realize everybody else is putting the same effort in. We did everything we could for that kid today to try to get a victory.
Q: You have probably been in a hundred this year pressure situations. Has there ever been one like that conversation you and Tony had on the radio there with 14 laps to go and the call came back he wanted tires, he was too nervous to make the call, it falls on you?
ZIPADELLI: Well, and don't want -- I'll not get into a lot of details. Sometimes you have to say certain things, do certain things, go around the world to get what you want. That was just one of those things. We had to throw a few things out there, let him think about it and let him understand that we really believed that was the best thing to do rather than just say, "No, we need to stay out." You know what I mean? In that time, I think he gets to think about it a little bit more and understand situations in the past that maybe we didn't do that.
I'll tell you, two years ago we led this entire thing and did exactly what we almost did today. So in the back of my mind, I'm sitting there looking at it a little bit different than he was. So at the time we felt that was the right decision, but you don't know. If everybody but the first three or four came out, we were dead. You had to assume a lot of those guys that pitted earlier were going to stay out and could make it on fuel. It's so hard to pass at these places these days.
Q: Does the fact it takes so long to make a caution lap, have the conversation, get him to your point of view, is that important?
ZIPADELLI: It probably was. It gave him a little bit of time to relax, thinking about it, probably look at both sides of the fence. But I'm sure he was just thinking about his car, what he was going to do, how he was going to do what he needed to do.
Q: Was Tony as primed to win here or any track in particular as you've ever seen him this weekend?
ZIPADELLI: It's the most relaxed I've ever seen him in seven years. But it's the most relaxed I've seen him all season. It's the first time in seven years I've seen him that he can enjoy himself and realize what he's capable of and enjoying his accomplishments.
Q: Over at IRP last night, he seemed very relaxed, as well. Do you think that helped him get his mind off this race a little bit?
ZIPADELLI: I think when he left here, he knew we had a decent car. We were pretty good in practice. Felt with the right adjustments, we were able to put ourself in this position today. I think that was a big peace of mind for him. That last 15 laps, we made a lot of changes and were able to go out and make a 15-lap run right before the end of practice. He went out, and the car was pretty good in one and two. He said he missed three and cost us a ton of time. He came back and said: "Don't worry about it. We got a car I believe we can get to the front." That's what he did.
I think he believed that. A lot of times you say those thing and you hope you can go and do them, but I think with what we've done in the last six, eight weeks, you know, there's no reason in the world we shouldn't believe that.
Q: Have you ever seen anything like this reaction? The only thing I can think of is Earnhardt in '98 when he won. People have been going crazy for two hours now.
ZIPADELLI: You know, no, it's awesome. I tell you, not take anything away from here, but I think you first saw it at Loudon. You see people running out of there. To see that much excitement and the fans I thought was cool. And to see this place, what he calls home, and to see the reaction, the people, like you said, they're still surrounding out there, a hundred deep in every direction, hollering and screaming, hoping he's going to stop and say hello, throw him hats. They're screaming for all kinds of things. It's just awesome. It's a great feeling.
Q: Prior to the caution with 15 to go, did you have something for him? Were you confident that Tony could pass Kasey?
ZIPADELLI: Well, we were truly catching him. Our car was the best after a few laps. We had to start a little free to be good at the end. We were a little too free to have him just sticking air up underneath us at the beginning of that run.
You never know, Kasey, he's a heck of a driver. They've had a great car. They came here and they tested well. He ran some really good laps earlier. I wanted to believe, like Loudon, that if he was patient and kept his head on his shoulders, that he could -- he would find a way, because he has that passion check.
Q: With as well as the team has done now, is there that sense of, "Hey, we can go out there and do it all now," or do you still have that feeling of at any moment now the dream is going to end?
ZIPADELLI: I'll tell you something, this sport is extremely humbling. We could leave Watkins Glen knowing we had a good car and leave there with the worst weekend we've ever had. We've been there before. You just need to take it a step every day. Cross out your goals, go to the next race. Go to Watkins Glen, do the best we can. If we can't win, try to put ourselves in position for a top five, a top 10, whatever comes our way. You just continue to build on it like we have been.
But, yeah, there's no guarantees in this sport, let me tell you. There are a lot of guys already on their way home thinking about what they're going to do while we're celebrating to win in Watkins Glen and at races up-and-coming.
Q: I know years '96 through '98, you were a little busy with your own deal. Could you recall the torment he had when he ran up here in the Indy 500, how he was the guy that was always expected to win and never did? Today is the accumulation of two races he's been chasing.
ZIPADELLI: Kind of like Dale Earnhardt and Daytona for so many years. Believe me, the harder -- the harder and the more emphasis you put on things, sometimes the harder it is for them to come. It's just the way it is. You know, so many things stack up against you rather than in your favor sometimes. Believe me, I was hoping that that wasn't going to be the case. But for six years, it surely was.
But, hey, we did it and we can look at it and say we did it; we accomplished it as a group, a team. I know he'll enjoy this win here the rest of his life. Just proud to be part of that.
MODERATOR: Congratulations, Greg. Feel better.
ZIPADELLI: Thank you. Appreciate it.
MODERATOR: Joining us in the trackside press conference room is the winner, Tony Stewart. We'll jump right into this. You created a lot of memories today for yourself. What is going to be your last memory tonight when you fall asleep.
TONY STEWART: The bad thing is I probably won't remember what that last memory is. I'm sure somebody will have video of it or will be able to tell me about it in the morning.
This is one of those days that I don't want it to end, I don't want to see the sun set. If I could make this day longer, I'd do it in a heartbeat because this is probably -- well, it's definitely the greatest day of my life up to this point professionally, personally. I mean, this is -- I couldn't ask for more. I mean, I don't even know what to say about it.
I know part of it hasn't sunk in yet. But, you know, just I'm sure when I get over there and I'm with my family and friends again, it's all going to hit me. But, you know, since I was a little kid, I've always wanted to just compete at the Brickyard. Then when I realized that, I was like, we ran so well and missed, it was like, "I know I can win at the Brickyard one day."
So finally today was that day.
MODERATOR: Open it up for questions now.
Q: When you were on the retaining wall underneath the stand, more than jubilation or anything, you looked like you were just enormously relieved, satisfied. Was that more the overwhelming emotion than jubilation? What was it you were feeling?
STEWART: It was overwhelming feeling like crap, to be honest (laughter). A lot of times after you've been in there for three and a half hours on a hot day, you don't really feel good when you get out. Not going to say -- I don't know. I guess I was kind of nauseous. I wasn't feeling like I was going to throw up or anything. Just didn't feel good. I already hopped out once and climbed up on a wall. Your body, after it's been sitting for three and a half hours in a hot car like that doesn't want to be climbing up fences and jumping on top of walls and stuff like that.
It just was hot. We had a lot of trouble today with our air conditioner. It was a hot day today. It would not work at all during green flag conditions. The only time it would work was during yellow. It wasn't doing a very good job of keeping us cool. I probably got overheated. When I did get out of the car, I just didn't feel good.
Q: This track had come to appear to be to you what Daytona was to Earnhardt. Is that a correct comparison?
STEWART: I'd say that was a fair statement other than the fact Earnhardt went a lot longer before he got his win than I did. But, you know, when I got the lead that first time, I got a three-second lead, I thought, man, it would be really cool to have Michael Andretti here today to share this with him. I thought I was going to be in that category, a guy that could lead races here, be competitive, but maybe never get a win here. I was willing to share it with him if he was here.
You know, you dream about something for so long, you become consumed by it. You know, the parts of my life, you know, I worked in that area, I drove a tow truck for a guy I raced sprint cars against, would drive down 16th Street Speedway and wonder what it would be like to be 300 feet to the left running 200 mile-an-hour. I got a chance to do that. Finally today got to feel what it feels like, see what the view is of coming down that front straightaway, seeing those checkered flags as the first driver to go under versus the third or fourth driver.
Q: Because of the expectations and the disappointments you've had here, does the appreciation level for what you did make it that much more satisfying to you?
STEWART: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's something that, you know, it's hard to take the emotion out of this race. I mean, we didn't -- you know, normally on Sunday morning we got hospitality appearances, two of three of them. We did a bunch of media on Friday morning before practice just to try to get all of our media obligations out of the way to where it came time to practice, when it came time to be in the car, we knew that post qualifying we'd have to do stuff, post practice we'd have to do stuff. We really tried to make Saturday and Sunday as light a load as possible, just to not let it work me up. Not from the standpoint that you guys do it, but I do it to myself.
You know, running the Busch race, probably the best thing that happened is we got rain delay, got over late, got back late, didn't get into bed till 1, slept till 9:30. I slept like a rock. I slept like a baby. Got a good night's sleep. When I woke up, I wasn't awake so long that hearing all the music and seeing all the people coming in, I didn't see all that till late, so I didn't get as worked up as I normally do.
Continued in part 3