TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE/OFFICE DEPOT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed racing at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin, his early success and other topics. YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT PRACTICE AND RACING HERE...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE/OFFICE DEPOT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed racing at Martinsville, Denny Hamlin, his early success and other topics.
YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT PRACTICE AND RACING HERE THIS WEEKEND AT MARTINSVILLE: "Pretty good. Every time we go to a racetrack it's new just trying to figure out what the package is going to be like. We went through a lot of stuff with Darian today and Ryan went to Rockingham earlier this week at the short track there and went and did some testing. We used a little bit of what they learned and used what Darian knows and kind of went from there. I'm pretty excited about it. I felt like toward the end of the session we got the car pretty balanced and tried to do some small things to make it live longer."
WHAT KIND OF TEAMMATE WAS DENNY HAMLIN AND WHY DO YOU THINK THAT DENNY HAS NEVER BEEN ABLE TO DO AS WELL AS HE DID IN HIS ROOKIE SEASON: "I mean, I've always thought he was a great teammate. We came from different backgrounds so we didn't know each other until we got to the Cup car and to the 11 car. Since he got there, we worked really well together. He's real calm and real monotone about everything. He doesn't really get wound up, but he's a lot like us, you get him away from everything and he's a different person. He's a lot of fun to be around. He's very upbeat, but when he's at the racetrack he's very focused and we're a lot alike in those ways. As far as why he hasn't had the success, I'm not sure that he hasn't. I'm not sure it just didn't progress like everybody thought it would. He came out of the box strong and he's just kind of stayed there. He's run well every year that he's been there, he just hasn't had that marquis season yet that you look for."
TALK ABOUT GOING TO TEXAS AND THE ATMOSPHERE THERE: "There's something about the fans at Texas that just make it that much more special. The respect they have for the drivers and the way they treat the drivers there, you just don't get that anywhere else. There are so many things to do around there. It's not like Vegas where you have something to do at every street corner, but there's a lot of things you can do around there and have fun. There's just something about it that makes it special. Eddie Gossage and his staff do a great job and they're very accommodating to us. There are little things that they pay attention to that make the weekend that much more pleasant. It's a fun track too, even though it is another mile and a half, but the way it was designed with the apron being as wide as it is was intended for the Indy cars, so the transition in the corners and off the corners are a little more abrupt than what we have at most of the mile and a half tracks. It makes racing at Texas a little more challenging than some of the mile and a half tracks that we go to and it's not just kind of the same old mile and a half. It's shaped the same, but the way the banking banks in and out is quite a bit different."
WHAT KIND OF SUGGESTIONS WOULD YOU HAVE FOR HARVICK IF HE DECIDED TO EXPAND TO OWN A CUP TEAM: "Shoot, I'm calling him with questions. He's kind of been the guy that I can call at 11pm or midnight after Hendrick and Gibbs and Childress have gone to sleep. Kevin and I talk a lot and I think he would know what to do already. He's done the Truck program and the Nationwide program enough that I don't believe I would have to tell him anything. I think he's a smarter car owner than I am right now."
WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE HIM: "Yeah, we've only raced five weeks so far, but I haven't had a bad experience with it yet."
TALK ABOUT YOUR SUCCESS HERE WHEN YOU WERE RUNNING WELL HERE AND WHAT THE HENDRICK SUCCESS IS ALL ABOUT: "You can have it for sure, it's knowing that feel, it's finding that combination that works and the next time you come back to that track you know what that feel is like and you know what you're looking for in practice for it to be good in the race. During the race, the track changes quite a bit, but you know when you kind of have that rhythm. You have the timing of what it was like, you just know what that feel is in the car that you're looking for, not necessarily to be good in Happy Hour as much as to be good for the race. When you have had a good weekend, the next time you go back it's just easier to try to go back and mimic that feel. That's why when guys hit on something they're normally good for a while until the package changes quite a bit and then once that changes you have to learn a different feel. Normally for a while you can have that and different guys, if you look over the history, have kind of had runs at it, and guys like Jeff Gordon have always had it here. No matter how the package has changed, he's been able to adapt to it quick. It seems like whether it's a three or four or five race period, guys get that feel of it and know what that tire likes, what the chassis combination likes at that time and they kind of have that and know how to adapt to it."
HAS YOUR PACKAGE CHANGED TOO MUCH FOR YOU TO HAVE THAT FEEL: "I think so, I mean, it's a different car so that in itself was a huge package change. Everywhere we've been this year has been a different feel than what I was used to last year at Gibbs as far as the chassis package and setup package that they run, so it's not so much trying to find what I'm used to as much as, given what they have at Hendrick, has been successful for them. So taking the time to say it doesn't necessarily have to feel this way and try to learn this and see how this works for me. Then you go by the stopwatch and if it feels good and if the times stay good then you learn a different feel. You don't get closed minded. To be really good here, you have to be open minded about the fact that just because it felt like a certain feel the previous time you were here it may not be that way this time to be really fast. You have to be open minded."
IF NASCAR OFFICIALS WERE TO COME TO YOU THINKING ABOUT ADDING ANOTHER SHORT TRACK TO THE CIRCUIT WHAT WOULD BE YOUR RESPONSE:
"They haven't built one yet. Everybody that wants to build a mile and a half track are the ones we look at and wonder why they're doing that, especially when Martinsville is as good a race as it is and Richmond and Bristol are as good as they are. You have three of the best tracks on the circuit, but everybody wants to build a mile and a half track and put grandstands down the front of it and not put as many seats as you can here at Martinsville or Richmond or Bristol around it. You can get just as many people around a smaller track and have more room to park them and everything else. I'm all for it. If somebody builds another mile and a half tracks, I think I might hang myself because I don't think we need any more of those. I'm sick of seeing guys build mile and a half tri-ovals. Be creative, be unique. Build something that is your own. Don't copy somebody else's track."
ARE YOU SURPRISED YOU'RE DOING AS WELL AS YOU ARE THIS YEAR AND WHAT'S BEEN THE KEY TO BEING STRONG EARLY: "Yes and no. If you looked at it on paper and said these are the resources, this is the equipment that we have, this is the people that we have on paper, it's supposed to work just fine. Obviously, when you get to the racetrack and you get the personalities involved, there are a lot of things that can be different and you realize how many good teams there really are out here. So from a certain standpoint, yes I have been surprised, but at the same time when we did our homework last year and before we made the decision to make the switch, we looked at it saying we feel that the right resources are in place to do well. I think it was just a question of how long was it going to take to gel and become successful. We haven't got that first win and we haven't got that first top-five, but we've had consistent runs and we're in the top-10 in points, so I think that in itself is an accomplishment."
-credit: gm racing