Indianapolis: IMS - Post-race press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Juan. Couple more questions for Jeff. Q: Jeff, a lot of guys have said this weekend whoever wins this race will leave as the favorite. In your mind is Tony now that guy? JEFF GORDON: ...

Continued from part 1

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Juan. Couple more questions for Jeff.

Q: Jeff, a lot of guys have said this weekend whoever wins this race will leave as the favorite. In your mind is Tony now that guy?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, I picked him as one of the favorites prior to him winning today. You know, they're a strong team. Because of the Chase, you know, anybody is a threat for the championship, especially if they're showing strong runs and winning races at this point in the season.

You know, I still think that we're a little bit more consistent than them, but I think right now they've got a little bit of an edge on us in speed and we've got to find it, we've got to get after that.

You know, the thing is, 10 races in the Chase is a lot longer than people think. Even though you'd rather the championship, in my opinion, be all the races, I understand what it takes in those last 10 to be good. And you've got to have good fortune going your way and you have to have, you know, fast race cars. We've been doing that consistently, so I still feel really good about the championship. But I know we're going to have to beat Tony for it, among other guys.

Q: For a while at the start of the race, it looked like whoever won today was going to be kind of like the last driver standing. The second half of the race, things started to calm down. Were guys just really impatient at the start today? Have you ever seen that here at Indy before?

JEFF GORDON: When you know there's a mandatory caution at Lap 15, then you know you pretty much just drive to 15. I couldn't believe that we had a wreck before 15.

But I didn't see a lot of the wrecks. I don't want to put blame on anybody. I wasn't really around anything and don't know how it happened. I saw Jimmie Johnson's wreck, but that was an unfortunate situation with a tire rub. I'm not sure what happened to get him into that position.

I was surprised we saw some cautions just prior to those mandatory cautions when there's really nothing to gain at that point, when you know you got to come down pit road. I'd have to see the video to be able to comment on it.

Yeah, I was around a fairly typical Brickyard 400 field, you know, guys racing and giving and taking, trying to position themselves for the win at the end.

THE MODERATOR: Jeff, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

JEFF GORDON: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by our race winner of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet. His 31st victory in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, second in a row. It's his second victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his second Brickyard win.

Tony, how does it feel to win another Brickyard?

TONY STEWART: Oh, man, this one I'm going to remember a lot more of it, for sure, afterwards. But, no, it is still like a dream. The first one was great, but there was so much going around it, being the first one. Both races were special. Neither of the wins outweighs the other win. I mean, to race one of my good friends Kasey Kahne for the first one and a very close friend, Kevin Harvick, for this one, I couldn't think of two other guys I'd rather race for the win here than that.

We had the fastest car today. It was consistent all day long. The guys had great pit stops. It was just like Chicago except on the restarts; we were real vulnerable on the restarts. Three times I went down into (Turn)1 and got really tight on a restart for some unknown reason. I kept trying to keep scrubbing the tires, making sure they were cleaned off. For some reason, we'd go down in there and get tight. We were fine after that. But it let Kevin get by us.

I was confident that we could get back to him, and I thought in my mind, I mean, I really believed we could get by him again 'cause we'd done it the run before. But we got up to him and actually dropped back away from him a little bit. I thought, man, this may or may not happen. It was just a matter of trying to get the timing right, get the runs right, get a good run on him to where we could get a run down the straightaway.

The motor was awesome. We could draft up to him and get underneath him going into (Turn) 3. That was my strong point. Kevin got really smart and changed how he was driving Turn 2 and got to where I wasn't getting as big a run as I was before. Had to do something different. I'd been lifting earlier. He had been driving in deeper than I had. Just the differences in setups let us drive our cars different than each other.

I tried to go in hard with him once and see what happened, and I got up to him and he got tight, I guess, in (Turn) 1. We got underneath him. I just squeezed him a little bit, not on purpose, but I got too close to him I guess, ran into him in the short chute. It was a really cool, almost like a slide job, countermove, him getting back underneath me. It was a drag race down the backstretch. Whoever got through Turn 3 was probably going to win the race at that point.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by crew chief Greg Zipadelli and J.D. Gibbs from Joe Gibbs Racing.

Greg, talk about your thoughts and emotions about winning here again today.

GREG ZIPADELLI: It's just awesome, like one step better than Loudon, but I can't wait to go back to Loudon anyway (laughter).

This place is just so special. To be part of our second victory, to know what it means to Tony growing up here, racing here in the past, open wheel cars and things, it was just awesome.

My team did a good job today. Pit stops were good. The car was good. And Tony did a phenomenal job.

THE MODERATOR: J.D., your thoughts? Has to be a big weekend for y'all.

J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, no. I think for us, when you went through it a couple years ago, when Tony won the first time, you kind of realize how many people are here, how many fans he has here, what this means to him personally. I think that was a big deal for our guys. I know it was the first time, and it was this time around. Last time was nerve wracking, but you forget because this time it was nerve wracking, waiting those last few laps.

I think Zippy did a great job. It's rare that you have a really good car all weekend long, be able to capitalize and good smoothly. From what I can tell, the guys did a great job, Zippy and Tony. It ended the way it started, good the whole time through, and wound up with a victory. A big credit to those guys, as much work as they put into it.

THE MODERATOR: As I mentioned, this is their second consecutive win in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, seventh time this race team has posted back to back wins, a strong testament to the strength of this race team.

Q: Anything can happen next week. The way you are running now, do you feel you're getting into your zone at this point in the season? Nobody else seems to be stepping out. You seem to be stepping up.

TONY STEWART: Man, it just seems like a normal year. This time of year, it seems like we get hot. We've even tried to sit down and figure out what we miss in the spring.

But I don't know. I mean, it's like you said, the seventh time I guess we've had back to back wins. It just seems this time of year when the tracks get hot and slippery, and I prayed for a day like today. I wanted it to be hot. I wanted it to be sunny, to where the track would get a little slippery versus yesterday morning where it was like speed runs all day.

This place gets a different personality when it gets slick. It does that in the IndyCar race. It does that in the Brickyard 400, too. It seems like when it starts getting slick, that's when we really excel at this place. When it's got a lot of grip, everybody's fast. It's just a matter of who hits the perfect setup.

Just seems like when it gets slick, the way that Zippy, the setups he gives me, my driving style, they match each other, but it just seems like our cars, we're never really good at the front of a run, but it seems like 15 laps into a run, here we come.

I didn't want a caution. I didn't want that last caution to come out. But I was somewhat glad, I was hoping and cautiously optimistic it was hopefully the last caution, that we would have 20 laps to run. 20 laps at Bristol or Martinsville is nothing. That flies by. 20 laps here is a long, long run.

I was cautiously optimistic that if anything happened, we were going to have time to get back what we lost. Like I said, I went down into one, got tight, we were able to fight our way back.

But, yeah, I mean, I hope you're right. You look at somebody, and somebody I feel bad for right now honestly is Jimmie Johnson. This guy can't buy a break. But for a year and a half, he couldn't do anything wrong, either. Maybe everything that went we couldn't get a break in the first half of the year, maybe it's changing now and maybe we can get on our own run of our own, just like he's done for the last year and a half.

Q: Zippy, you said something in the radio interview after the race that this is the smartest race you've ever seen Tony run. Given his history here, where he's been very high and very low, how do you see the change in Tony?

GREG ZIPADELLI: I'm proud of him. The way the pit stops go, track position here is so much. We've had good race cars here. We didn't do a good job of controlling track position in the past. It's something that we've done a better job over the past couple years, I think. We talked about it before we started the race today. He was patient when people stayed out or people took two and we felt, you know, like we needed four. If we did get a caution late, I wanted to be able to put two on. We had two on the stop before.

It's just the cycle. But, you know, we did a good job. Kept the fenders on the car. Our pit stops were good. The whole team did a great job today.

Q: Tony, your personality and your mood swings makes you

TONY STEWART: Why do you keep bringing that up? Can we all just agree to get over that part and let history be history finally?

Q: You're easy to read. On Friday, a lot of us who went to your availability walked away and were like, He's going to win, because the way you were coming across, you were calm. The stress was gone. Do you ever feel that way, I know I'm going to win this?

TONY STEWART: No, I can't say I know we're going to win. You never know till you get into the race. You never know what's going to happen. Especially after the first half of the year where we had days, like Bristol, after 250 laps, I'm like, If somebody doesn't come up with a miracle here, we're going to win this thing and lead all but 20 laps of this race because nobody has anything for us, then something bad happened.

You never get it in your mind that that's what's going to happen. You know, I think coming honestly, coming from Chicago, knowing we were bringing him and I joked about it, we debated between two cars of what to bring back. I wanted the car that we didn't run. Zippy, that's why he's the crew chief, and I'm the driver. He puts the name on it, I get in the one that has my name on it, that's the one I drive that weekend.

It's just the situation. I think we felt so good after Chicago, breaking the ice for the year, knew that we were going to bring one of two cars that were virtually identical here for this weekend, knowing that history.

I mean, we pay attention to history like you guys do. Knowing it seems like this time of year, once we get that first win, they come right after each other. That made the weekend off more fun. It gave us confidence coming in. It's almost non realistic to even say we had momentum just after one race. But we did. We carried momentum for two solid weeks. Having that week off, we got to carry something a week longer than we normally get to. I think that led into this week.

I mean, being able to get away, have fun for a couple days, do stuff that we wanted to do, versus somebody telling us we have to go do something today, makes a big difference coming in here to where Friday sorry, Mike. Amazing what a week away from each other will do. Hope it's not that way with marriage. If so, have to take off every other week. Maybe that's why I'm 36 and not married, too.

But just getting away from each other, having that week to do fun stuff. I mean, I got to do fun things. When you come off a week like that, you're pumped up. You come to what to me is my biggest race of the year, the moon and the stars aligned, I guess. There were a lot of positive variables.

Q: While everybody seemed to be talking about tire wear, being worried about that yesterday, you said you were one of the few teams that really didn't have a concern with that. When you were hearing everybody worry about that and wondering how the start of the race was going to go, were you feeling like this could be a good week for you because you didn't have the same problems that people were complaining about?

TONY STEWART: It's kind of funny. Some of you we already brought this up with yesterday. I didn't even know people were having tire issues till I got done with my qualifying run, we're done for the day, I did the media bullpen yesterday. That's when people in the media were asking me questions about tire wear. That's the first I knew of anything. I didn't know of anybody having any problems.

Zippy never mentioned tire wear at all during the practice session. But probably the best part about it was after that first run when we came in, he said there wasn't a mark, there wasn't anything wrong with our tires on both of those first two runs. That gives you the confidence. I ran pretty hard those first two runs, but not abusing the tires. I knew if I had to run a hundred percent, I wasn't going to do something that was going to get us in a bind tire wear wise.

Any time you can eliminate a variable from your worry list, that's obviously one more thing you can concentrate on that way.

Q: Two years ago when you won this race, you could hear the tension in your voice when you were talking on the radio. Today even when Harvick passed you, you're doing your 'Here kitty, kitty' thing. Drinking from the water bottle. This place used to be the place where things always seemed to go wrong for you. Are you more relaxed now because you've made your peace with it?

TONY STEWART: Yeah, honestly it was and I think that's why I'll enjoy this one more than the first one. The first one was just like taking the weight of the world off your shoulders. I mean, we talked about it two years ago. When you grow up 45 miles from here, a period of my life when I was driving a wrecker for a living, I was driving down 16th Street and Georgetown Road, thinking, Man, what would it be like to be 150 yards inside that fence, running 200 miles an hour?

I got to do that. Then I got to come here in a stock car, then win it for the first time. That was such a weight off our shoulders.

But it was just the whole day. I mean, everybody knew how much it was like taking a weight off of us. So that's all we did till 9:00 that night, every media thing, it was like, 'Whew.' Today we're just like happy now. That's probably what helped us today, not being wound up, being able to be calm and relaxed, 'cause it wasn't like the untouchable any more. We got it two years ago. Being able to be calm, just race. I mean, it was race the race those last 10 laps. It wasn't like my whole life depends on whether I pass this one car in front of me or not. It wasn't that kind of situation.

I mean, it was like a life or death situation for me two years ago, but this was just I can't say it was a normal week, because it wasn't. It's never a normal race. But when it came to racing Kevin, same guy I drive a Busch car for, 10 laps to go, the starter still gives 10 fingers for 10 laps to go. It was easier to put it in perspective, calm down, do what I needed to do, race the race versus saying my whole life depends on this next these next 15 laps like it was two years ago.

Q: After the race on ESPN you dedicated the victory to your fans who get some heat in the stands week in, week out. What kind of heat do you think they get?

TONY STEWART: I don't know. Cross over the fence there, there's a bunch of them still over there. You go outside this door, you'll have plenty of them to talk to. You can ask them.

Q: I was wondering what you thought.

TONY STEWART: You have to ask those guys. They know better than I do.

I just know at times, it's probably that way with everybody, but I know my fans take heat from other fans probably more than most. That's my fault. You know, days like today are days that when you repay them with a win at the Brickyard, dedicating it to them, that's the payback for those people.

Q: What does it mean to you to win in front of so many?

TONY STEWART: I didn't care if there wasn't anybody in the stands; I just wanted to win the race. I don't care if there's four people or 4 million people here, I'm going to race to win the race.

Every time you take the lead, go out for qualifying, driver introductions, come around that last lap, I mean, all I wanted to do is get to the white flag. I knew I had a big enough lead I could make four big corners and lose a second and not get even close to getting passed. If the caution came out, I wasn't going to get in a situation where I had to do a restart.

You know, I got a chance to see the crowd. I mean, seeing those people cheer that last lap, I mean, there was no way anything was going to happen then. That makes it so special. That's what makes that last lap here so special versus anywhere else you go. I mean, those people know that this is they still know you got to make four good corners, but they're cheering that last lap like this is yours, this is yours, all you got to do is get around one more time. We all celebrate. That's what makes it so much fun for me.

Continued in part 3

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Series NASCAR-CUP