TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE/OFFICE DEPOT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his busy schedule at Indy, being a team owner and other topics. TALK ABOUT...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE/OFFICE DEPOT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his busy schedule at Indy, being a team owner and other topics.
TALK ABOUT BEING BACK IN YOUR HOME STATE AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY: "I am excited about it. We got a chance to come up here for two days and do the tire test and I think the tires are going to be much much better than we had last year. I don't think that is going to be an issue. We don't know it for sure but based on what we saw at the test, we don't believe there are going to be any issues with tires. So excited to get out there and race."
ARE WE SETTING UP FOR A TONY/JIMMIE (JOHNSON) SHOWDOWN THIS WEEKEND GIVEN YOU TWO HAVE WON THE LAST FOUR RACES? "You never know. I guess by stats, yes. But by all practicality, there is a bunch of guys that are able to be out there and run fast. It is hard to say on Friday before we get on the race track who is going to be good."
WOULD IT BE MORE SPECIAL TO WIN THIS YEAR WITH WHERE YOU ARE SO FAR THIS SEASON? "No. We have that attitude of coming here to win the race but we haven't put any more importance on this race versus any of the other ones. In this series, you have to be on your game every week and you can't sit there and say 'well, we aren't giving it a 100% this week because we are waiting to give it all next week'. The good thing is we had an extra week to get ready and the guys have had a break and they are fresh and ready to go. They know the importance of what it means to me and it means a lot to everybody. Everybody in this series this race has started to realize how important Indianapolis is."
IS THIS AS GOOD AS YOU HAVE EVER FELT COMING IN TO THIS PLACE? "I think there have been a lot of times we have been here and had the confidence and been on a roll to where we felt like we had a good of a shot as ever to win. We've been running well and I feel good this weekend. I feel like this is as good a shot as we have ever had."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE ENOUGH IN THE POINTS THAT YOU COULD TAKE A GO-FOR-BROKE TYPE OF CHANCES IN THIS RACE? "I think it depends on what it is. If it is a fuel mileage deal and we are a half a lap from making it, I think we might be in a situation to take a chance versus if you were in the Chase, I don't think you would have that ability to do that. A big race like this and having the padding in the points that we have with the lead, it may if something like that were to arise, there is a little bit of flexibility where we maybe would take that chance. "
IS THIS A GOOD RACE FOR NASCAR FROM A DRIVER'S PERSPECTIVE? "It is challenging. I mean, the hard this is that it isn't a track that is wide like Chicago and some of the other places we go to. You have to get your car right in the one spot on the race track that matters the most on the bottom. It makes strategy a very big key. But it always comes down to whose team has done the best job and whose got the fastest car. Nobody has backed in to a win here at Indianapolis and that is what I think makes this race so special is because it's always been about the teams and drivers that were fastest."
IF THIS WASN'T INDY BUT ANOTHER TRACK WOULD YOU LIKE THIS STYLE OF RACING? "I don't know that if I were going to build a track I this era that I would build it in this shape. To think about the history of this facility and what all has gone on here, you realize why it is the way it and there is no place like it in the world. It is definitely one of a kind. At least somebody was creative enough to build a one of a kind race track and not build three or four race tracks that are shaped and just move it to a different city and state."
WHAT WAS YOUR LEVEL OF EXCITEMENT WHEN YOU FIRST HEARD NASCAR WAS COMING HERE? "I wasn't excited honestly. I was a die-hard Indy Car guy at that time. I was one of the people that was pretty upset around here about it. Once you saw the test session and once you saw the first race here, you were like 'hey this really makes sense and it is a fit for here.' I'm not ashamed to say I was one of the people that disagreed with the idea of NASCAR coming here in the beginning."
WHY DID YOU DISAGREE? "Just because the Indy 500 was the only thing in my opinion that should have raced here at that time. I didn't think that Moto GP or Formula One or anything else, that wasn't even brought up, but I didn't believe that any of that should be here either. But once NASCAR came here, it was like hey, this is a facility that can host a lot of world-class events and having NASCAR part of that makes a lot of sense now."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR NASCAR TO HAVE ENTERTAINING RACES HERE? "That is a question you need to ask NASCAR. My job is to sit here and try to figure out hiow to win the race this weekend, not to figure out the entertainment side of it. That is the NASCAR side."
GANASSI SAID HE TOLD DANICA PATRICK THAT SHE HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO COME TO NASCAR, DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT ASSESSMENT? "I don't know her situation. I think she is the only one that knows what she wants to do. I feel that way with everybody that considers making a change. I made a significant change exactly one year ago today here and people said I was crazy and now all of a sudden people are saying oh, it wasn't such a bad idea after all. I think no matter who you are and no matter what the idea is or the possibility of a change that you have. You are the only one that knows what you want to do and what changes you want to make. It is nice to have input from other people, but only one person knows what is right for them and that is that person."
WHEN SHE CAME TO YOUR SHOP, DID YOU SPEAK WITH HER? "I was in Atlanta doing the tire test."
WHAT ABOUT THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS HERE? "We have had double-file restarts here every year. The good thing is the leader is going to get to pick which lane. It is going to make it interesting to see exactly which lane the leader picks on whether they are going to choose the inside or the outside on the restarts. You know, if you can get a good jump on the bottom, that is probably where you are going to want to be at. If you can't clear the guy by the time you get to turn one, I would honestly believe you are going to want to be on the outside going in to turn one if you can't clear that guy on the bottom.
"Any time you have a car on the inside of you, the guy on the inside always ends up being a lot freer and looser than they want to be. If you can't get ahead of that guy on the outside going in to the first turn, if you are going to have to be two wide, you are probably going to want to be on the outside I think."
TALK ABOUT THE MOTORSPORTS TRADE SHOW THAT IS GOING TO BE HERE IN INDY THAT YOU ARE A PART OF: "Yes, we are excited about it. The Performance Industry Trade Show was always a huge event here and with them moving to Florida, it has grown really large, but I think it has kind of lost its core group of racers. That is something we want to bring back to Indianapolis. Having it at the Convention Center is going to be huge. Having it December 2nd and 3rd is huge. We are not going to quantity, we are going for quality. We want the die-hyard racers here. It's not the trinket and trash stuff that you see at the fair, this is for die-hard racers only and that is something that this area with the drag race teams, the IRL, I think a lot of the Cup teams will come up for it. This has always been the center and the hub of racing. To have the show back here is going to be huge."
DID YOU ENJOY HAVING A WEEKEND OFF? "It may have been a weekend off but I still went and raced two days so it is not a big deal. We are always psyched and ready to go. We have been busy since Tuesday. We haven't had a week off. We have always got something going on. We don't work three days a week and get four days off, there is always something going on. We're excited when we get done with this media center, I get done with the media for the weekend and I get to worry about driving the race car and that is what I really want to do."
IS THERE A LITTLE LESS PRESSURE FOR YOU HERE NOW WITH THE POSITION YOU ARE IN? "Schedule wise it is hectic. We had an awesome event with Office Depot yesterday with their Back-to-School program and giving backpacks away to the local community. That is what has made my week to this point was being able to do that. We had an event with J.D. Byrider at ORP last night. We had our midget and Silver Crown cars running. We had a commercial shoot Tuesday. Charity event with John Andretti and Mark Dismore Wednesday for Riley Children's Hospital. We had a busy week. It is always busy when we come here, just like it is when we come to Charlotte. It is nice to get to the point in the day when you can just get in the race car and worry about driving.
"I think winning twice here has taken some of that pressure and load off. The good thing is we know we can do it, we have done it. We know what it takes to win this race now. It takes a little bit of that burden off and not having to answer that question of "what would it be like?"
DO YOU WANT TO STACK UP A LOT OF STATS AT THIS RACE? "Every time I come here, I want to win. So, if this is the last time I come here, I want to win. If I come here for the next 20 years, every race that I come to here I am going to want to win. It is not about counting the numbers, every week you want to win. That is what the goal is and that is what you shoot for."
WHAT KIND OF THOUGHT WENT IN TO THE DECISION YOU MADE LAST YEAR? "We looked at all the variables that were involved and that was where we were at. That is where we wanted to be, not only now, but 15 or 20 years from now. That is what led us to the decision that we made. Having the opportunity to be a car owner in this series doesn't come around very often unless a multi-millionaire or a billionaire. The cost that it takes to run these cars. It takes a lot of money each year. To have that opportunity with an existing team that offers us half of their organization is something that doesn't come around very often but we spent a lot of time making sure that even though it was offered to us that it was the right offer and the right opportunity., We felt like the timing was right."
DO YOU THINK WITH YOUR SUCCESS IT MIGHT PROMPT OTHER STRUGGLING TEAMS TO EMULATE IT? "I think so. Obviously we have been very fortunate to have the success that we have had this year. I think it has other drivers thinking hey, what if I can make a change for myself and kind of dictate my own fate a little bit. I don't know if that will happen, but it is definitely got people talking."
IS THIS SOMETHING YOU THOUGHT ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO? "At that time, just running anything, all I wanted to do was be 120 yards over the curb and the retaining wall. I wanted to be going that way, not that way down Georgetown Road. Just having the opportunity to drive anything is what I wanted to do. But I wanted it to be in an Indy car at that time. Then when I chose the path of NASCAR and realized how important it was to the sport to be here it was a little more than just being an Indiana track, it was realizing what it meant to everybody."
IS THIS THE MOST RACING INTENSIVE STATE? "You go to Brownsburg and see 90% of the drag race teams are there. All the Indy Car teams that are based out of Indianapolis, the open wheel teams. This is a very very packed state of the racing community in general. North Carolina is basically NASCAR where Indiana has a lot of different national sanctioning bodies represented here."
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A KID TO GROW UP HERE AND NOT HAVE THE DAY-TO-DAY EXPOSURE OF RACING? "You either grow up with a football, basketball or a steering wheel in your hand in this state. You are going to have one of those three in your hands by the time you graduate high school at some point."
TALK ABOUT THE VICTORY JUNCTION CAMP IN KANSAS: "Obviously the challenges to have the ability to get these kids to camp. Kids on the West Coast, that is a long travel and a long trip for them to come all the way to North Carolina so having the camp in Kansas City is a huge step in bringing kids that didn't really have the option of getting to North Carolina the opportunity to go to camp.
"Adam Petty, Kyle and Patty were my inspiration. When you have a tragedy that is so close to home like this, it is a situation where you want to support these people because you know them personally. When it hits close to home like that, it is hard to not be compassionate about it."
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS OF STARTING THE RACE ON A GREEN TRACK HERE IF WE GET RAIN TOMORROW? "I don't think it will be green. The rubber we get down today, no matter if it rains or not will still be there on Sunday. What we have seen from the test session I think even if we get a shower tomorrow, we aren't going to have a 100% green race track."
HOW MUCH WOULD YOU ENJOY BATTLING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP WITH JEFF GORDON? "I don't care who it is with. There are plenty of guys out there to be battling with, just to have the opportunity to race hard for the end of the year for a championship is what we are hoping for.
"We never really raced with each other. Jeff was racing midgets and sprint cars when I was racing three-quarter midgets then by the time I got my opportunity to race in USAC, he had moved to NASCAR. He had moved to the Cup Series by the time I moved to the Nationwide Series so we really didn't grow up with each other or around each other."
-credit: gm racing