TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO - Finished 2nd JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO - Finished 3rd ON THE RACE: GORDON: "Oh, man. We never were good on restarts and new tires or cold tires. Harvick and the No. 31 (Jeff Burton)...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO - Finished 2nd
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO - Finished 3rd
ON THE RACE:
GORDON: "Oh, man. We never were good on restarts and new tires or cold tires. Harvick and the No. 31 (Jeff Burton) were unbelievable on new tires. But on those long runs, we could really catch them. At the beginning of the race, it would take about 20 laps and we would just run them down and pass them and I was having a lot of fun with that. Towards the middle of the race the track tightened up on me and we just lost the handling a little bit. We made some adjustments on that last set of tires and the car came back and we drove back up to second. I was pretty happy with that. With fuel mileage becoming an issue, I knew some guys were going to probably come in and take tires, which they did. We were hoping that track position would pay off for us and it did 'til that last caution. I knew on that last restart we were in trouble with Tony behind me and fresher tires; and then I tried to go around the bottom and he went to the top and drove right around me. So I'm real happy with third place. It's a great way for us to get this Chase started."
STEWART: "It was just a solid day for our team. We had to be real careful starting 32nd and just be patient and work our way through. I felt like both out spotter and crew chief on the radio helped me to be real patient until we got in the top 10 there. Then it was just a matter of getting on the same pit strategy as everybody else. Actually we were on the same strategy the whole time. We never really got off. We thought we were going to have to try to do some two-tire stops to get track position but it worked out. We got far enough ahead to where we could be on the same pit strategy as everybody and just kept working our way up to the front all day. There were no dramas. It was just a solid day for us. The second to last caution, guys were worried about fuel mileage and track mileage. Zippy (crew chief, Greg Zipadelli) called me on the radio and asked me how my car was driving and what I thought about staying out. Honestly, I said, we're not good enough to win the race so there's no point in staying out because we don't have anything to lose. So we came in and took four tires. Both of our teammates and the No. 19 car took two tires ahead of us and once we got through there we started working our way back and got up to third, which was better than where we were. We were fourth before that caution came out. And like Jeff said, I knew Jeff was good. Jeff had a really good car. On four tires, my car was as good as his was on two. And so I knew he was going to make a run on Kevin (Harvick, race winner) on the restart and when he went to the bottom, he left the top open for us. Like I said, we had nothing to lose. So if I lost a spot, big deal. So I went up to the top and it stuck and we got around him for second. So it was a pretty solid day for us."
ON CHANCES OF JIMMIE JOHNSON AND NO. 48 IN CHASE AFTER ADVERSITY TODAY--ON THEIR ABILITY TO REBOUND FROM ADVERSITY AND COME BACK STRONG:
GORDON: "I think that says it all. Sometimes I think they do better when they are angry and get behind. It was a tough day for them, I haven't heard exactly what happened yet, but I did see the car sitting there so I knew they had a bad day. I look for those guys to be on quite a tear in the next five or six races and try to get themselves back in to it. Obviously that isn't how you want to get your Chase started. I am not sure what happened to Kyle (Busch). I knew he had some trouble early as well. I am not sure where he finished. He got behind as well. Both of those guys are capable of really making strong charges from the back. We have seen Jimmie do it before."
ON IMPORTANCE OF LEAVING NEW HAMPSHIRE WITH STRONG FINISH AND MOVING UP IN THE POINTS:
GORDON: "Where are we? Fourth? Cool, I will take that. I think as bad as our run was at Richmond it was pretty important for us to make some kind of statement. You want to be competitive. We were today. It is fun to go up there and take the lead and have a strong car like that. Like I said, we lost the handling on it in the middle of it a little bit, but all I can ask for every single weekend is to have the type of race car and the kind of effort we had here today. If we can do that, we are really going to give these guys a run for their money."
ON WANTING TO PROVE SOMETHING IN FINAL 10 RACES WITH BALANCE IT TAKES TO BE MINDFUL OF GUYS IN THE CHASE:
STEWART: "To be honest, I don't feel like we have to prove anything. I think 26 wins and two championships is proof enough. We just had a bad year this year. It isn't like we have to prove anything to anybody at this point. It is just a matter of will at this point and what we want to do as a race team. We want to go out and win races for ourselves. Not to show anybody anything, but just because that is what we want to do. We want to do it for Home Depot obviously. it is kind of frustrating and now I know what Jeff (Gordon) and Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) and those guys that were outside of the Chase went through last year. It is real frustrating day when you are racing those guys that are in the top-10 in points. You are just so cautious around them and it is hard to race real hard and be around those guys and worry about getting in to them. You just have to show them respect. There is a reason those guys got in the top-10 in points. It means you have to be a little more careful and give a little more, then that is what you have to do. Last year all the guys that would start the race that were outside the top-10 last year showed all the top-10 guys a lot of respect and gave them a lot of room. That is how you have change your approach for these last ten races. You still want to go win races but at the same time, you still have to be mindful that there are 10 guys are racing for a series championship. You try to race hard, but at the same time you have to be respectful and give them the room that they deserve."
ON HAVING A SEPERATE POINTS SYSTEM FOR THE GUYS IN THE CHASE BASED ON THE HIT JOHNSON AND OTHERS TOOK TODAY IN POINTS BATTLE:
STEWART: "I am in favor of it. I think that if you have 10 guys racing each other, they should have their own deal. Just like me getting in between Kevin (Harvick) and Jeff (Gordon). Jeff was the second Chase guy. He should have got a different second point standings, I believe. That is the frustrating part, you know if you get in between guys and you race these guys all years and you work with each other and you are friends with a lot of these guys, you know if you get in between them, you cost them five points. It shouldn't be that way. The 33 guys that didn't make the Chase shouldn't have to feel that way if they have a good day and are able to pass guys.
I am in favor of them having their own point standings, that way it would still have hurt Jimmie (Johnson) today, but it wouldn't have hurt him as bad. Especially, at least from what I understood, when it was somebody else that caused him to have a bad day.
"If I had my way and I could change NASCAR for a day, I would have had the guys that didn't make the Chase from 11th on back run our own 200 mile race, no holes barred on that. Then the top-10 guys in points could have run their own 200-mile race after that. At least that way, they are racing each other for their points. You don't have teams that didn't make the playoffs playing against teams that did make the playoffs in the playoffs. So it is kind of a weird situation. The Chase is exciting, there is nothing wrong with it, it just puts some of us drivers in some awkward positions. This is the first time we have been on this side of the coin obviously and trust me, it was a day that you had a lot of weird things going through your head as far as situations when you are around some of these guys now."
GORDON: "I've thrown it around as well. You do hate that the last 10 races have the same basic point structure where it pays consistency. You've got a 10-race shootout, yet you have a point system that's all about consistency. You have one bad day and that can pretty much take you out of it; where I think if they had a structured points (system) for just the top 10 where if you're the last guy out of the 10, you'd take a hit, but not such a hit that you couldn't make it back. And I'm not saying you can't, Jimmie certainly can and we've seen him do it before, but if there is anybody out there that stays consistent throughout all these races, then there's no way he's going to come back. So I've thrown it around and thought about it and it might not be a bad idea. I don't know about just 10 of us out there (laughs), that could get pretty fun."
STEWART: "Well, I look at it this way: I could have drank some beer on top of the trailer and watched you guys race (laughter) after my Coke, of course, first."
YOU ALWAYS SAY THE WAY TO WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS IS TO WIN RACES. EARLIER THIS WEEK, YOU SAID BY NOT BEING IN THE CHASE, YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT POINTS RACING. DOES THAT MEAN YOU ALWAYS TRY TO WIN, BUT THERE ARE TACTILE CHANCES YOU CAN TAKE WITHOUT THIS HANGING OVER YOU?
STEWART: "Yeah. Today it could very easily have come down to fuel mileage. If it were a situation where we were in the Chase, we wouldn't have been able to take a chance. If we would have had to come in for a one-second gas & go to get two or three gallons to finish the race, that's what we would have had to do. But with our situation today, if we thought we could have saved enough fuel on cautions and green flag lap runs, we could have taken the chase on trying to win the race on fuel mileage. So I guess that's more of the stuff we're talking about. If there's a guy who is leading the race that's not in the Chase and I think I can make a move and if I make a mistake and spin out and crash, it's no big deal now. But if that situation were in the Chase, you've got to run second maybe in that case instead. The theory is still the same. If you win races, you still get the most points. The guy that gets the most points wins the deal. But if you can't win, you've got to get the most points you can. And at least in our situation, we're not worried about points now. We're strictly worried about whatever we can to try to win the race each week."
YOU KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE ON A ROLL. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT KEVIN HARVICK IS DOING NOW AND WHAT HE NEEDS TO DO TO RIDE THIS OUT AND TAKE IT AS FAR AS HE CAN?
STEWART: "When we had that last year, and we got five wins in seven weeks or whatever, you went to the race track with your head up high each week. He's in the perfect situation right now to be in as a driver - win the race before the Chase and win the first race once the Chase starts. That team is on an emotional high and that does carry a lot of weight. It relaxes the team. They don't feel like they have to make something happen. They feel like everything is going their way. Jeff (Gordon) has been in this situation a lot of times and he can attest to this. It just seems like sometimes you've got to slow down to go faster. And it seems like when guys try harder, they make more mistakes.
"So, at this point in the deal it seems like when things are going your way, you just kind of go to the track with a smile on your face and you go through the motions. It's not that they're not working hard, but they're not having to pressure themselves to try to make something happen. So they're not making mistakes at the same time."
GORDON: "I agree. Once you get that confidence going and obviously what they're doing with the car is working. Kevin is driving it well. I kind of hope he does more things like he did with Denny (Hamlin) and the No. 31 (Burton) because things like that will lose him the championship if he's not careful. But other than that, it was a flawless day for him and the last two weekends have been fantastic.
Those guys are on a roll and on a high and I'm sure they're going to try to stay on that and it's up to us and the other guys out there (running) for the championship to try to break some of that momentum and I know that when you've got a guy like that who is as strong as he is and a team like that who is as strong as they are, they've already got a step up on you just in their comfort level of how they're setting their cars up and how he's driving it and their communications. So, I feel like I've got to elevate our game as well. We did that today, but obviously we've got to do a little bit more."
IF EVERYBODY IS AS COURTEOUS TO THE 10 CHASE DRIVERS AS YOU, COULD IT ULTIMATELY CHANGE THE COMPLEXION OF THE RACING ITSELF?
STEWART: "Well, yeah, it can. If you're that timid around those 10 guys, you're definitely changing the way you're racing. There are a lot of those guys who aren't going to get to those top 10 guys. There's a reason they're there. They're going to be up front anyway. But it is going to change it. That's why you see so many of those guys in the points hunt - three of the top five guys today were Chase contenders. That's the reason they're up there is because they're fast to begin with. But when you're up there racing with those guys, it makes you timid and it makes you think well, should I just let them go or should I just go ahead and race my race. I know the consideration I got last year from guys and how I appreciated it. Instead of just saying you want to race your own race, you say maybe you should give this guy an extra break here and there. It makes it frustrating to race because you aren't racing your own race that way. You're racing a race in a race so to speak."
IS NHIS A PRETTY TRICKY TRACK AND CAN YOU FEEL PRETTY GOOD ABOUT WHAT YOU DID TODAY?
GORDON: "Well, yeah, until Friday (laughs). I do feel good about what we did today and it's important for us to get off to a good start - especially with what happened to us at Richmond. But next week is another race and you put this one behind you and you focus on that one and anything can happen next week as well. The competition is so tough and so consistent and it gets better every year. And this could be the year when one or two guys maybe don't have any trouble. You just don't know. You've got to go out there and decide when you're going to push harder than you need to. Today, I pushed a little harder than I wanted to because I knew our car wasn't that good on new tires but I knew how good it was on old tires. I didn't want to have to do that, but I guess I could have just chosen who I was racing. Tony was one of them at one time. We touched and rubbed a little bit, but it was no big issue or anything like that. You have to make the right decisions at the right time. Obviously a fast car can help you make those decisions a lot easier. But it's nice to get this one. But then next week you're going to do the same thing. You're going to hold you breath and hope you get though that one. You'll breathe a sigh of relief and do the same thing for the next one."
COMING INTO THE CHASE, WHERE WOULD KEVIN HARVICK RANK ON YOUR PERSONAL LIST OF FAVORITES?
GORDON: "Well, obviously, with the way he's run all year and then the way he ran last week at Richmond; you know every team has their strengths and weaknesses. Right now, the short tracks seem to be their strengths. The funny thing is, the 1.5-mile tracks have been our strengths this year. So I'm looking forward to getting to some of the bigger tracks. But it's anybody's race this year. Tony (Stewart), last year, came in with a lot of momentum and consistency and wins. Kevin has the win from last week and now the win this week, so he's got the potential. But he didn't really have that over the last five or six races, but he's run solidly. He's run solid all year. He was third in the points in the Chase and you've got to definitely respect that and not take that for granted and know that a lot of guys, when the Chase comes, step it up to another level and we already saw them do that today."
-credit: gm racing