BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS: IS IT FRUSTRATING TO RUN BEHIND CARS IN THIS RACE? IT SEEMS SO HARD TO PASS. "You know, when you're car is good, you can pass. It can get frustrating though. It's...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS:
IS IT FRUSTRATING TO RUN BEHIND CARS IN THIS RACE? IT SEEMS SO HARD TO PASS.
"You know, when you're car is good, you can pass. It can get frustrating though. It's frustrating here because you can get underneath somebody and a lot of times, can't clear them. It gets you in compromising positions at times. It's a fun race track when you're car is driving good. Every year this track gets better and better as far as the groove widening out. It gets higher toward the outside wall and it gets lower toward the inside to where you can move around. It seems like every year guys are able to pass a little easier than the year before."
DO YOU RACE OTHER GUYS BASED ON HOW THEY RACE YOU? DO YOU RACE DIFFERENT GUYS DIFFERENTLY?
"Yes. You have to. I still to this day say that the worst thing that happened to the Cup Series is when Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte quit running the Busch Series regularly. You learned a lot about patience and you learned a lot about give and take. That's the thing. There are so many young guys that are coming up through the Truck Series, the Busch Series and ARCA and USAC. They don't spend enough time in the Busch Series and the Truck series and they don't learn anything about patience because there's none of the veterans running there for them to learn from. Then they get to the Cup Series and they get in really good cars and they're running up front and they don't have to learn about give and take. Used to be 10 years ago, you got in a car and you struggled in the back like everybody else that had to come up through there that way. I was in probably the front of the lucky group of guys who got into good cars.
But running in the Busch Series with guys like Mark Martin, you learned about patience and you learned about give and take. There is an etiquette that's involved out there. There are 43 of us out there. You hear commentators say that we shouldn't give and take. Well, you've got to work with each other. Anybody that says that 43 guys in a 500-mile race don't have to work together is crazy. If we didn't all work with each other, it'd be total chaos out there.
"Just getting these guys to learn some give and take and patience and knowing that when somebody is quicker, let them go in the first half of the race because you're really not accomplishing anything at that point. That's the hardest thing to teach them right now."
WHAT CHALLENGES WILL JUAN PABLO MONTOYA FACE IN THE NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES?
"I don't know. It's different for every guy. When he gets here he'll learn what his strengths and weaknesses are in these cars."
HOW EXCITED ARE YOU TO GO BACK TO INDIANAPOLIS AS THE DEFENDING WINNER? HOW GOOD WITH THAT FEEL?
"About as good as it was when everybody asked me what it was going to be like to win the race. That feeling hasn't changed, so I don't know why everybody thinks it might be different than that. Obviously when it's the biggest race of your life and you get a chance to go back as the defending champion, it's pretty cool too. It was cool to win it last year. Am I excited to go back? Yes. Absolutely."
HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS RACE CONSIDERING THAT THIS IS THE FIRST TRACK IN THE CHASE?
"Any of the races that are in the last 10 are important, obviously. You want to be as good at those 10 races and at those 10 tracks as you can."
WHAT KIND OF ADJUSTMENT IS THERE BETWEEN DRIVING A NEXTEL CUP CAR AND A MODIFIED TOUR CAR?
"I don't know. I've to gain some speed, I know that. I think what we've kind of learned is that anytime the power to weight ratio is really far apart, it seems like I struggle more than in the cars where the power to weight ratio is a lot closer. With the weight of the car and having as little horsepower as we have and because they typically run so fast without the restrictor plates on them, it's a challenge and a different driving style than I'm used to normally having to run with. I'm loving it though. I absolutely love running a Modified. This will be the first tour race that I've gotten to run, so I'm really excited about that and getting to run with Stefanik and those guys. It's exciting, but I've got a lot of work to do. I start 21st I think, so I've got my work cut out for me. The good thing is they get 100 straight laps to figure it out, where I don't think we got but about 15 laps of practice between yesterday and the race. Tomorrow's warm-up in the morning will be real important to us to go out and get some laps, and then we'll go from there."
DID YOU HAVE FUN PRACTICING THE CAR AND QUALIFYING IT?
"I didn't have fun qualifying it, but every time I've been in the car it's been fun. It's nice to get in something different once in awhile."
CARL EDWARDS MENTIONED THAT THE HARDEST THING FOR HIM DRIVING A MODIFIED WAS LEARNING TO DRIVE PAST THE "1". DID YOU FIND THAT PART OF THE CHALLENGE WITH THESE CARS?
"No. Like I said, I've driven these cars before. I won an SK (Modified) race at Thompson (Conn.) from the back. It's not something that's totally unusual to me. Just having these cars with the restrictor plate on them is the new challenge for me this week."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ABLE TO DONATE SUCH A SIZEABLE AMOUNT OF MONEY TO THE VICTORY JUNCTION GANG CAMP?
"The feeling that you have inside is almost better than a win. Knowing that you're helping kids to go to a camp that they would never have the opportunity to go to if it weren't for Kyle, Pattie and Adam (Petty). It's tough to really explain it. I think the best way for people to fully understand what it feels like is to go to Randleman (N.C.). Go to the camp and go there even if it's just for an hour. Go there when the kids are there. After you're there for 20 minutes, you'll understand exactly the things that I can't put into words. You'll understand all of it. I challenge everybody to go to Randleman and go to the Victory Junction Gang Camp. When you see those kids having fun, you'll understand. And the kids that they're hanging around with that week are the kids that have the same illness that they have. It's not a situation where they're there with different kids that have different diseases. They have a lot to talk about because they have a lot in common already. It's a pretty neat place for kids. When they're having a good day, it's a terrible day to us in our standards. It's a very grounding experience. It's something that I think everybody needs to take a day out of their life and go visit."