Tony Stewart -- ...
-- #20 The Home Depot Chevrolet
Pole Position winner
We ran basically the same lap that we ran in practice. I could just tell that I got through the center of the corner better. I was able to still get in the gas at the same point and carry that momentum off the corner and more straightaway speed at the end of the straightaway. It was just a solid lap. We spend the first hour of practice in race trim, knowing that the weather might be bad tomorrow. We may lose some track time. So, we spend the first hour doing that and switched over to qualifying trim and we knew then what we know now. We could have spent another on them because we went out on our first run and it put us on third on the time sheet and our next run we put our second set of tires on and that put us on top of the board. So, I was really happy with it. We stopped one more time, cooled it and put the car back on the scales to make sure it was where we wanted it. Went back out and it moved it up again, so I was hoping when I saw Ricky-he's such a good gauge because he's such a good driver when he's on, and his car is driving really good-and when he gained that amount of time, I was hoping we would gain, too and that's basically what we did. We almost picked up the same amount of time that he did, so it's about going out there and trying to be smooth for a lap and anywhere in the top 5 is going to be satisfying for us. We just had a good day the whole way around so far.
WHAT WILL DO YOU WELL IN THE RACE: LONG RUNS OR SHORT RUNS?
I really don't know yet. We didn't get a chance to do long runs. Today we were bouncing around, trying different packages just to see if we could hit on something that we'd want to start with tomorrow. We felt like the package we had in the spring was a good package. Historically, when we're on long runs, we like long runs here, because it feels like about 15-20 laps in we can start driving away from everybody, so if I'd guess I'd say long runs are probably going to pay for us.
RE: LAST WEEKEND IN CHARLOTTE
We could look back on last weekend, but there's nothing we can do about last weekend. The biggest thing was keeping my team pumped up when we left the race track. When I went in the media center last week, that was the last place I wanted to be and all I wanted to do was have to answer questions about what happened during the night. It was pretty self-explanatory, so from that side, nobody wanted to have to go in there and talk about that that night. It just wasn't a pleasant evening for anybody. For us, I think we've been really good this year when we've had adversity like that, being able to take the negative and find the positive in it. Before we even left, we were in a better frame of mind or even mindset as a team on Charlotte on Saturday night than when we were at Dover and ran 18th with the problems we had there-we had our heads down (at Dover). So, I think that's the stuff that helps you win championships. There's no guarantee that we're going to do it, but we can't do it if we have a bad frame of mind going into this week. All the guys on the team are pumped up and excited and we're having a good weekend right off the bat because of that.
TALK ABOUT KEEPING THE TEAM PUMPED UP
I think it's just maturing and knowing that once we drop the checkered flag, the day was what it was, the race was what it was and there was nothing we could do to change it, so all we could control at that point was our emotions about it, so keeping everybody excited was the most productive way to leave the race track for us.
YOUR ROLE AS CHEERLEADER-IS THAT KIND OF A NEW ROLE FOR YOU?
Oh, yeah. Wouldn't you all agree that if we didn't know any better we'd think the world was coming to an end and the sky was falling? I would say, yeah, it's definitely a different role for me, but it's not something that I said, hey, this is something that I've got to do, it's just that's just what feels right. A lot of things have changed this year and we've talked about it all year. It's just the same thing carried over and over and it's carried on this season. I'm at a point where I'm comfortable enough with myself now where I can look at the big picture and lead by the example that Joe Gibbs has given Zippy and I and what Zippy has done for the past six years and be able to do my part and it's not like I'm doing it myself. I'm one of many people who are doing it. When I'm not dragging the team down, I think it helps all of us. When the one person who is dragging everybody back gets on the same page and does his part, it makes a huge difference.
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU TO BE IN THAT POSITION?
Oh, it definitely surprises me to be in that position. It's just like a snowball-it makes me proud that I could have done that and it makes my team proud that I've been able to do that. It's not something where we say-hey, this is what we need to do each week, it's just something that's happening. And the fact that it's happened naturally is what we're most proud of. It's like I've said all year-to see some of the things that this team has gone through this year, in years past we would have probably would have been grenading internally. And everybody probably everybody wouldn't have seen it, but it would have affected performance. Now this year, all it's done is motivate us more. And today is an example of that. We went out in practice and our first qualifying run was on old tires and we were third quick on the board. The second run we go to the top of the chart. Our third run, we're on top of the chart and move the number up. That's an example of what can happen when we all have that mindset coming to the race track.
RE: TRACK POSITION, QUALIFYING POSITION
I don't think so. So much can happen here. You take our spring race, where I think we started in the top 10 which I think was a good starting spot and led something like 247 laps but all it takes is one thing and that's what happened in the spring. It's nice to start with good track position right off the bat. There are 43 guys who want to be leading the race and if you start there and the guys that you start with are guys that are like Rusty (Wallace), who has led so many laps here. Rusty is a smart guy; if there's a guy who's quicker than him, he's going to race him hard for a little while and if he continues to be fast, he's going to let him go by because he's knows it's more important to worry about the last 100 laps of the race. So, the guys that we're racing in at the front won't be in as much of a hurry than midpack or the back of the pack, worrying about trying not to get a lap down. Those guys will be pressuring hard. We're at least in a group that will probably be able to concentrate more on making our cars better than beating and banging on everybody trying to get a position. Track position-wise we won't have to worry about getting a lap down, hopefully.