Indianapolis: IMS - Post-race press conference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: Last time you won here it was like Indiana-palooza, like the whole state of Indiana celebrated that day. I'm sure they're happy again today. Your whole life wasn't those last 15 laps, as you said. Will winning here...

Continued from part 2

Q: Last time you won here it was like Indiana-palooza, like the whole state of Indiana celebrated that day. I'm sure they're happy again today. Your whole life wasn't those last 15 laps, as you said. Will winning here ever become, as Zippy said in jest at Chicago, just another week for you? Will it ever become business at usual for you?

TONY STEWART: Will getting up in the morning, going to the buffet, seeing pancakes, bacon, waffles and sausage ever be normal to you? Pretty much it is. I say that with the utmost respect. He knows what I'm talking about. I think you know what I mean.

See, I've known some of you guys long enough to know how to say it in a way that you won't a hundred percent understand (laughter).

Q: Your father told me at the beginning of the day he told people that you were going to win, he felt it.

TONY STEWART: He's getting old and senile. He says a lot of things that just don't make sense some days.

Q: Seeing you drive the pace car in, kiss the bricks with the team, your niece and nephew in the car, says something about your family. Last year your dad was up in the suite area. Talk about the family, your dad thinking you were going to win, that pace lap with your niece and nephew.

TONY STEWART: It just adds to this place being a special place. My best friends are here. My family is here. People that I don't get to see very often are all at one place at one time together to watch me do what I do best, to do what I'm passionate about.

When you're passionate about something, you want your family to be around it, involved. You want your friends to be a part of it, see you do it. Having the suite over there, I mean, I could see my dad. I could see my dad on the third floor this year. It's like, 'Good grief, this guy is going to haunt me for 160 laps again.'

I'll be perfectly honest, I remember when I made a mistake last year, he was trying to get me to calm down. I just was fearful the first time I made a mistake in that corner what was going to happen when I came around, the sign he was going to give me to calm down. I tried every time I made a mistake not to even look up there.

It's just neat. It's not me. It's more than me. It's me. It's Zippy. It's J.D. It's Home Depot. It's the team. It's my family. When they can be a part of it, and you can see as the day goes on how emotional they get. I can look up there and see how nervous he is by what he's doing, how he's acting up there. You can tell. I can tell also when I was a kid when I was going to get my butt beat. You just learn things like that.

But that's what makes it so special is when your family can be a part of it. There's not many places where you can actually pick individuals out in a crowd at a racetrack. That suite area over there is pretty neat and special.

Q: Twenty years from now your niece and nephew will have a picture coming in and kissing the bricks with you.

TONY STEWART: If I live that long, it would be awesome to talk to them about it.

Q: You said you come in more relaxed this time. That enables you to slip out to Eldora Friday night. What was that like? Tough at the end?

TONY STEWART: I got to see the crowd really good as I was sliding down the frontstretch wall facing them head on. Zippy and J.D., especially with the Carl Edwards thing this week, everybody keeps bringing up the issue of should we all be allowed to do this. The only way you're going to keep race car drivers from getting hurt are to lock them in a rubber room, transport them in a rubber room to the car, let us get out of that and get into the car. That's the only way you're going to keep us safe a hundred percent of the time.

Somebody asked me what I thought about that. I said, 'Did anybody get hurt in car accidents last weekend in the United States?' There were more people that got hurt in car accidents than got hurt in race cars last weekend. Does that mean we shouldn't drive a car?

J.D. GIBBS: I will say that's the first I heard of that, you flying up head first.

TONY STEWART: It was OK. If there was anything wrong, I would have called you.

J.D. GIBBS: I carry the same weight my dad did, which is none (laughter).

TONY STEWART: Yeah, you do. I got to get my paycheck from you.

No, you got to remember, I'm the person that perfected this thing: It's a lot easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

J.D. GIBBS: It's Zippy's responsibility. I just work here.

TONY STEWART: It was fun. Got to go over there. I won the World of Outlaw late model race. My goal Friday was just to make the A Main, which was the total opposite of what we wanted to do here. Went out, almost broke the track record, we were two hundredths off a second off the track record there, won our heat. Pulled what I thought was a really beautiful slide job for the lead with 10 to go in a 50 lap main. At the end, didn't end up being clear somehow. Got turned nose first in the wall, watched the whole front end of the car get folded up. But everything was good. I didn't get hurt, so you can sleep good now.

But that's fun. I mean, that's stuff I do. You know, when I first started, Joe and J.D. and even Zippy were really nervous about it every week. And I understood their side of it. You get one chance to live this lifetime. I've just always been a guy that's raced any time I could race. I had a chance to race last night. I learned to meet these two guys and the team halfway on stuff. There's races I want to go run and I don't go run because I know I have a big weekend coming up. I ran Friday night knowing I had last night to get rested up, get ready for today. I could have ran last night, but I chose not to do that because I respect these guys and respect what this race means to me.

GREG ZIPADELLI: So it was the race more than us?

TONY STEWART: No. It wasn't the race more than you guys. I think if you look at how many Cup drivers that normally run the Busch Series that took nights off last night, I think that will put an impression on how much this race means to everybody. You look at the guys that typically go run a Busch Grand National race on Saturday that didn't run this weekend, that tells the story right there, in my opinion.

Q: Six of the last nine winners here went on to win the championship, including the last two. You were one of them.

TONY STEWART: I remember that. I was here for the whole thing. Thanks for pointing that out.

Q: Are you now the favorite for the title?

TONY STEWART: I don't know.

Q: On Friday you said you weren't.

TONY STEWART: It's hard. There's still a lot of racing to go. There's no guarantees. But it's neat knowing that the last two guys that have won this race have won the championship. Am I going to be upset about that fact? Absolutely not. Am I going to be excited about it? You betcha. But does that mean it's a shoo in? I wouldn't mortgage my house on it yet. I might with one race to go, depending on what the points standings look like. Might not have to take as good odds, but I might take that bet.

Q: Two years ago the old man in the extra you hat greeted you when you crossed the finish line. Is he still there today?

TONY STEWART: Oh, yeah. He's talking with Glen, who I ran the Sprint cars for. He lived just north of Columbus. Days like today are when you remember the guys that helped you get to these places. It's the Roy Barkers, Ralph Potters, Bobby, Steve Lewis, all the guys that get you here, and everybody that spent all night working on the race car so you could go run for less money than what it cost to run the car the next day.

That was part of it's for those guys, for the race fans. This is the payoff at the end of the rainbow. This is what makes those guys feel good that they spent that money and stayed up fixing cars that I crashed the night before so we could race them the next night.

I can promise you the way I drove this race today is one he would be very proud of. Lessons I learned from him helped today.

Q: Off topic subject. Indiana State is in the works to bring together a motorsport minor. Knowing you didn't attend college...

TONY STEWART: I spent a lot of time at ISU. I just wasn't enrolled in college. But I spent a lot more time up there than Indiana State even knows.

Q: Knowing this is a culmination of a business school, school of technology, would that have been an incentive for you to attend school? Having taken classes in that school of business, knowing you have become a product as a driver, would that have assisted you in becoming a better businessman than what you are?

TONY STEWART: I promise you, it would have made me a heck of a lot better businessman than I am because I am not a businessman. I had to hire someone that knew what they were doing. That was the downfall of not going to college. I had to make a decision, and I had to decide whether I was going to pursue a racing career, a driving career, or whether I was going to go to school and learn a trade.

It's kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket. I don't recommend everybody to go out and say, 'I'm not going to go to school.' You better have, like we talked, good odds in your favor that it's going to work.

Like I said, I spent a lot of time there. I watched kids that dedicated their time, most of their time, some of their time to studying. I spent the time when they were away from class.

Yeah, I mean, Indiana State is an awesome school. I know a lot of people and have a lot of friends that graduated from Indiana State, and they have good jobs. Having that to where they can be involved in racing like this now, I mean, I'd love for my buddies to have some of my buddies, I don't know if I'd want all my buddies working for me, be without friends after a while, but I think it's a neat place. I think it's something that would be good for the sport for sure. It definitely makes you say, Hey, this makes sense if you want to be involved in racing, do it from the business side.

Q: You talked earlier about the passion. Is it your passion, is that the reason the fans follow you so intently?

TONY STEWART: That's the reason the fans that pull for us pull for us. There's 43 guys every weekend. People pull for some, boo others. There's a reason that each person pulls and boos for whichever ones they pull for and boo for.

My fans like us because we call a spade a spade. We wear our emotions on our shoulders. Never have to wonder where you stand with us. We're not going to give the vanilla answer. We are going to be us. The people that appreciate that are Tony Stewart fans. The people that want the corporate image, clean-cut, short hair, no beard, they pull for somebody else. It is that way. That's the beautiful thing about America: you have the right to choose who you want. Today I don't think we were lacking too many people up there. I was pretty happy with the number of people that supported us.

Q: You mentioned how important it was to get away, have some fun. On the Tony Stewart scale of fun, does any of that stuff remotely compare to the fun you have on a day like today?

TONY STEWART: No, absolutely not. I mean, this is what my life has revolved around for the last 20 years of my life, is running a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Not to say that what I did on the off weekend wasn't fun. But still in the back of my mind, even on that off weekend, I knew what was coming up. I was getting ready for this even on the off weekend. I wish I could say it was as much fun because if I could go outside and have this much fun every day, I'd never be upset about anything.

Q: After the race when you spoke with ESPN you didn't say that your fans take a lot of heat, you said they take a lot of bullshit. Last time a profanity was used on TV with Dale Earnhardt, he was fined, all that. Are you at all concerned?

TONY STEWART: A little late to be concerned about it now, isn't it? It pretty much is what it is.

Whatever happens, they still can't take this trophy away from me today. Whatever happens happens.

Q: Upgrade from Schlitz last night?

TONY STEWART: No. It was a full on manhunt to find it. I don't want anybody from ESPN talking about how irresponsible I am, even though it's legal to do everything I did. Heaven forbid you actually have fun in life.

Q: In '98 when Earnhardt won the Daytona 500, there was a caution flag at the end of the race. Some people said Earnhardt might not have won the race if it went to the end. I say Bobby Labonte would have had to beat him into the dog track to beat him. Today, second time, 10 laps to go, you get out of turn one, next to Kevin Harvick. Any way on God's green earth you would have given him some room or whatever euphemism you want to come up with? What would it have taken for you to let off the throttle one eighth of one percent in that situation?

TONY STEWART: As much as you probably won't believe this, it wouldn't have meant anything if I would have crashed him to win the race. He wouldn't do that to me. I think, I mean, the last couple years we've had a couple instances with a couple guys that everybody questioned my tactics. Those people I don't have problems with any more. The people that I raced around today raced me with respect, I raced them with respect.

I work really hard because if I'm going to preach about give and take, I want to be somebody it's stupid for me to not do the same thing. If I want people to race me with respect, I'm going to race people with respect. Like I said, I didn't mean to get into Kevin. That wasn't my intention. I didn't have to do that. That could have screwed me up, could have cut a tire down more than it would have accomplished to get into him. There was no logical reason to get into him. That was a mistake on my part.

But would with 10 laps to go crash somebody just to win the Brickyard 400? No, it's not worth it. When you have those people that follow you up there say, Why did he do it that way, it means nothing at that point. Doesn't mean anything to him. Doesn't mean anything to him. Wouldn't mean anything to me to do it that way. It's not the right way. If I would have done it the wrong way, it would have ruined winning it.

Q: Greg, you were talking about the tires not being a factor. It was a really wild, weekend with the rain, three hour practice. People were fried after practice. Stress on the teams through the weekend. Not a lot of racing at the beginning of the weekend. Can you talk about that. Your team always seems to survive without worrying about stuff like that.

GREG ZIPADELLI: Yeah, it's whenever you sit around for 10, 12 hours and don't accomplish anything, I think that's worse than working hard and steady for eight hours. You know what I mean? Mentally you're working, we were prepared to do a lot of things. Everything we prepared, we didn't accomplish.

Saturday morning we had to kind of change our game plan. We thought it was going to be an impound race. You have to change your thought process a little bit.

The tires I don't think were as big an issue as it was made out to be. Last two years we have seen the same exact thing. We've been here to tire test last year twice. We could only run six to 10 laps. By the end of the day, you could run a full run and everything was fine.

Q: Tony, you won here twice in the fendered cars.

TONY STEWART: Don't do this to me here. We've dodged this for a long time today. Go ahead.

Q: Two years ago we thought you might have had a shot in an A.J. Foyt car. What are your thoughts?

TONY STEWART: Why do you want to make J.D. mad after I just won a big race?

Q: Is that part of your consideration with J.D.? Is that something you are discussing?

TONY STEWART: We need Indy to work with us on that one 'cause there's no way that we can get just hear me out here with the time change being changed two hours, no way you can finish Indy and get down in time to start the 600. My obligation is to this race team and Home Depot, all the guys at our shop.

I've learned to never say never. I told the people at Chevy, I'm not going to say I'm never going to be back here in an IndyCar. There's a lot of things that have to happen for that to happen. It's not just as easy as saying, Yeah, I want to do it. There's just way too many variables that play into making something like that happen. It's not just: 'Hey, call up Chip Ganassi or Roger Penske and say, I want to drive a car for you. OK, we've got a car, show up.'

There's so many details. We learned that over two years of trying it, there's a lot of things that absolutely time wise and logistics wise have to be absolutely perfect. The way it's set up now, it's not feasible to do it now.

Down the road, anything can happen. I'm not going to say that I won't be back here in an IndyCar one day. I got business to finish with these guys and goals with these guys that I want to accomplish before I come back to do that. This is where I'm at right now.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys. Enjoy it. See you next week.

-credit: ims

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Series NASCAR-CUP