Continued from part 3 Q: Now that it's all over, can you see an old guy in a straw hat smiling down at you? STEWART: Yeah, there's only -- Tim and I are probably the only two who know who he's talking about. It's Glen Neibel, who I won the...
Continued from part 3
Q: Now that it's all over, can you see an old guy in a straw hat smiling down at you?
STEWART: Yeah, there's only -- Tim and I are probably the only two who know who he's talking about. It's Glen Neibel, who I won the sprint and Silver Crown championships in '95 with, and passed away from cancer in '99. When I won (NASCAR) Rookie of the Year, he passed away the week after we went to the banquet. Said once he saw me get my presentation and everything, do my speech at New York, that he asked them to take him off his food and everything. He pretty much waited till that point and then gave up.
He's one of those guys, stuff that he taught me is stuff that I used a lot today. Watching guys, being around guys on the racetrack today, man, if Neibel could work with these guys, I wouldn't be able to pass anybody. But because of what I learned from him, I was able to pass a lot of guys when I shouldn't have been able to, probably.
I guarantee not only is he smiling, he's probably crying up there with the rest of us.
Q: The reaction you got after the race, up to what was going on out here, must have been incredibly gratifying. The other way to ask it is, sometimes when you anticipate something your whole life, it finally happens, you go, "It wasn't quite what I thought it was."
STEWART: I can promise you that's not what's going on today by any means. Like I said, I just wish -- I mean, first time I've ever been there taking pictures and said, "Go ahead and take your time." I don't care how long you guys want to talk to me. We can talk all night. I don't want to talk all night because I got serious business to get to here in a while (laughter).
When you have something like this so big happen in your life, you really just don't want that day to end. I mean, there's so much pressure that I put on myself to do good here, just because of the history of the place and being so close and growing up around it, it's hard for people that haven't grown up in Indiana and haven't grown up around racing to understand what it really means to a driver from Indiana.
I'm going to bust on Jeff a little bit. I'm the first Indiana-born driver to win the Brickyard 400. That's an award and an honor that I'm proud to have finally.
Q: You mentioned earlier in the last restart, racing against Kasey, you might be the crazy one. You ran some crazy lines in those last few laps. Knowing all the problems that people had with tires, you ran in the absolute dirtiest part of the racetrack. Were you worried at all that you were going to do some Dukes of Hazzard move?
STEWART: I didn't want to jump any ravines or anything. But, you know, it was one of those situations when I was behind Kasey, I could actually pull up. When we were in the lead, we could actually pull away from him down the straightaways. He was so good through the corners, I felt like the risk was worth the reward if I could get a gap there. The last thing I wanted was for him to get there.
But I was real cautious and conscious of what I was running into. I mean, there were chunks down there that I wouldn't run through. I was running through some dirty parts of the track.
But, you know, obviously I couldn't see everything that was out there. I was trying to be mindful of what was going on also. But I spent a lot of time in the mirror and probably ran through stuff I shouldn't have. I guess it was one of those things I was thinking I just need to try to break the draft and felt like they tried to keep it pretty clean all day.
Q: You talked about the 20 engineers. Do you any interaction with Todd, who came over from Team Rahal?
STEWART: I think so. I don't know him by name. I think I know who you're talking about. He goes to a lot of the tests with us.
The coolest thing is I learned a lot about a guy, I don't know Adam's last name. The guy that goes with us every week, Zippy's right-hand guy, an engineer. The cool thing I found out about him, I found out, when we were talking about the prelude to the dream, the dream race, he goes, I made the (indiscernible) at the dream one night. And immediately it was like a connection that him and I had. I was like, "Wow, you actually raced?" He said, "Yeah, I just quit racing a couple years ago." Somebody that's got a passion for racing like me and finally an engineer that has practical knowledge, not only just computer knowledge and book knowledge.
Q: You're in the points lead now. Do you consider yourself a favorite for the rest of the season?
STEWART: Do you consider me a favorite? If you do, then I do. You never know. You never know what can happen. There's a reason we've got here, so hopefully we can just keep it going.
I had to be a smart-ass sometime during this deal (laughter). Just took me a little longer than I anticipated. It will get harsher as it goes.
Q: One of the things that stands out about your personality is you're very loyal. Do you think there's a guy up at Vision Racing right now that's really beaming?
STEWART: I know where he's at right now. He's actually waiting on me. Yeah, I guarantee it. I mean, having Larry (Curry) here today is really cool. He was the guy that brought me to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and gave me my opportunity. That's something, being able to celebrate with him tonight. He told me about a year and a half ago, he goes, "I just want to be in Victory Lane with you one time." He never got down there today. I don't know where he was at. Wherever he was at, I guarantee when I get there, he's going to have a tear in his eye when we finally get together.
Q: At the end of the race, they were screaming your name from the stands. How does that feel? In the paper this morning, there was a huge story about how they didn't accept stock car racing when it first came. Have you changed in accepting it? How do you feel about them shouting your name here in Indiana?
STEWART: Just for the record, I changed after I watched the first event here. I mean, it was cool. I thought it was awesome. I was hoping there would be more passing than there was. But knowing how IndyCar racing was here, too, it's really not that different than IndyCar races. I thought it was pretty cool to finally have NASCAR here.
Hearing those people out there, I mean, I think a lot of those fans have been here since I came here in '96. Even though I'm not here in an IndyCar now, those people know how much this place means to me. They have to because that's all you write about the two weeks before I get here. Everybody knows when they get here how much it means. To have these people stay and be as excited about as I am about finally winning the race, it's neat to be able to share that victory with him.
Q: Can you begin to look at the Chase and the characters that are going to be involved, maybe one that won't be involved, Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
STEWART: Yeah, I mean, you always want your buddies to be in there with you. But at the same time, I mean, you got to race the guys that are in there, no matter who they are.
Yeah, I guess starting this week now after the new of winning the race wears off, we'll dial in on the Chase. But this time of year, my mind's consumed with what's going on here at the Brickyard. Once we get over this weekend, then -- how many weeks are we still the Chase starts? Four, five? It's close enough that everybody always -- this is the time when everybody's really trying to figure out who is going to fill that last spot and get in the Chase.
You know, it's kind of a momentum shift to a certain degree and a mindset shift more than anything, of now we got through the Brickyard, I got through here, didn't do anything stupid, so I get to relax this week and have fun next weekend when we get to Watkins Glen.
Q: We're talking about the NEXTEL championship now. What goals do you have now? Your dad said after the race that he wants the 500.
STEWART: He's never put any pressure on me in my whole career (laughter). I told him, I said, "Can I just enjoy this one for now?" He goes, "Yeah, but I want you to get the Indy 500 next." I'm like: "Dude, it's not mail order. You don't just call in, give them your credit card number and they bring you the trophy."
I guess that's why I got to where I am, too, because my dad's that competitive, too. If you guys got to actually spend some time, you'd realize why I get as angry as I usually do. He's worse than me.
I'll tell one story on him, just as an FYI thing. He went to Columbus, where we grew up, ran a TQ Midget race a month ago. I got reports on the phone because I had about eight people call me and said, "You're not going to believe what your dad did tonight." You cannot tell me he possibly won this race. They said: "No. He got in two wrecks, and the second one he took his gloves off, threw them at somebody, threw the steering wheel at somebody else." I said, "Now everybody understands where I get it and how hard I've had to work to overcome it." You have to give me some credit. You at least know where it actually started, and I'm actually working to overcome that now.
Like I said, when I got the lead, it wasn't that emotional of a thing. When I saw him on that railing, it's unbelievable that you can run as fast as you can in a race car and you can see things and pick up emotion. And to see the emotion on his face and to see how excited he was with his hands and fists in the air, I mean, that's when I got tears in my eyes. Hey, I've been in this position before. Two laps later the tears went away, and it was back to business. Every year that I got the lead, I've got to see him do that. Thought, man, I just want to finish it off one time.
I'm going to calm him down for a couple weeks and we'll worry about the 500 later.
Q: You said in an interview earlier this week you didn't want to be greedy, you didn't want four or five, just one. Now is it time to be greedy, though?
STEWART: No. Not for me. I stick to what I say. I don't feel greedy about it at all. I mean, I wish everybody could have the feelings that I have right now. I wish everybody could experience this because for somebody that appreciates it like I do, I mean, it's the coolest feeling in the world. I mean, I hope Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., guys that are buddies of mine, I hope they all get a chance to feel what I feel today and be that excited about winning a race that's this prestigious.
Q: Where was your dad?
STEWART: Right on the rail. I mean, I thought he was going to fall over once, he was leaning so far over. Our suite is just over the retaining wall level, the first level of suites. It's right in sight line. I didn't realize it was him till about halfway through the race. He made it unmistakable who he was when I got the lead.
Q: You have a modest collection of things that meant something to you during your career. Will you find a way to acquire this car to keep it?
STEWART: I'm going to get in trouble for this, probably. Sue Nardelli said she bought it for Bob Nardelli. I told Zippy, "If you sell this car to Bob, I'm going to kick you in the nuts." Straight up, word for word, that's what I told him. "If that car goes out of the shop and I found out it's Bob's, I'm kicking you square in the nuts." I said it word for word just like that.
He said it's -- where did he say it was going? He said, "It's going somewhere else to race." I said, "When it's done, it's mine."
I'm actually trying to get another IndyCar that I ran, so I've got two of the five cars I think I ran in Indy 500s, and got the double-duty cars that we ran in '99, both the IndyCar and stock car.
We were talking about it the other day. It was actually funny because Kenny Schrader came up to me today and said he had bought something really cool, then he mentioned A.J. Foyt's name. He was talking about the first Champ Car race that A.J. Foyt won. I thought, "Man, he bought the car." He goes, "No, I bought the trophy." Kenny knew that I'm the only person in the whole garage area that would probably appreciate that, how jealous I was that he had the first Champ Car trophy that A.J. Foyt ever won.
Kenny and I have talked about it. He thinks it's great that I'm buying up everything I've driven that has significant meaning. Every year that goes by that you don't get it, it gets harder to come by, and the price goes up. This is one of those cars that means more to me than anything. Like I said, I was telling the photographers this, I said my dog is going to be really mad tonight, she's 6 pounds and sleeps right by my knees. She's going to have to move over because I'm sleeping with that trophy in the bed tonight. I'm serious as a heart attack. I'll wake up, I may have stab marks in my back from the edges, but I'm sleeping with it tonight. I'm scared somebody will get in my room and get it. That's how serious I am about it. I mean, it means that much to me.
MODERATOR: Tony, on behalf of all the employees of Allstate and the Indianapolis 500, congratulations.
STEWART: Thank you, appreciate it.