TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his win at Pocono, fuel mileage strategy, his owner/driver status, his team, and more. CONGRATULATIONS ON LAST WEEK'S WIN AT POCONO. IT'S GOT TO BE A ...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his win at Pocono, fuel mileage strategy, his owner/driver status, his team, and more.
CONGRATULATIONS ON LAST WEEK'S WIN AT POCONO. IT'S GOT TO BE A MOMENTUM-BUILDER COMING INTO MICHIGAN "Yeah, it is. It's always big the week after a win no matter where it's at and where you're going. So it's nice to come here this week. We got a good start to the day today. We didn't end up exactly where we wanted at the end of the (practice) session on the sheet, but we feel like we can make some changes and make a lot of big gains for qualifying. We're not in panic mode by any means being 18th after practice, so I'm pretty excited about it. I'm excited about race trim, where we started, and feel like we've got a lot to work with this weekend."
THIS RACE TRACK LENDS ITSELF TO LONG GREEN-FLAG RUNS. YOU WON WITH THE FUEL MILEAGE GAME LAST WEEK. IS THERE ANY WAY TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE FOR FUEL MILEAGE STRATEGY? "No, it's hard because you never know what's going to happen. It seems like the bigger the tracks, the more the fuel mileage always comes into play. There is no guarantee that you're going to get in a fuel mileage race so you just go out and you try to get your balance as good as you can, you try to make your car as fast as you can, and then if you get in that situation at the end, you kind of adjust your strategy from there."
YOU'VE TALKED A LOT ABOUT HOW THE PARTS WERE ALREADY IN PLACE FOR THIS TEAM BEFORE YOU GOT THERE. PERSONALLY, HAVE YOU BEEN A PART OF THE GLUE THAT'S BROUGHT THE TEAM TOGETHER? "Well, I don't know about the glue part, but I was the one that had to go find some of those key people at the end of the year. This year it's been going and seeing the guys a couple of days a week and everybody has been busy. So it's not like when I show up it's sometimes it's almost a little bit of a distraction because the guys kind of stop doing what they're doing and they get out of the rhythm for the day. But you go there and you just spend time with your guys and you know that everybody is doing what they're supposed to be doing, so you really don't have to worry about it. It's been kind of nice from that standpoint to just be able to go there and not really have to walk around as an owner and check on everything as much as you're walking through as a driver and thanking those guys for their hard work."
THE LAST OWNER/DRIVER TO LEAD THE POINTS WAS ALAN KULWICKI IN 1992. HE WENT ON TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THAT YEAR. DO YOU RELATE TO ALAN IN ANY WAY AND CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? "Oh, I think we've got just as good a shot as anybody else. I mean you don't get to leading the points by not doing things the right way, especially at this part of the year. You might get lucky the first couple of weeks maybe, and get some things to go your way, but to do it at this part of the season, I mean we've had to do things consistent to get ourselves in this position. So I feel like we've got a shot. I think when Alan was running was when I was in the middle of my stint with USAC, so I really wasn't as in tune with what was going on in NASCAR at that time as I was with what was going on with open-wheel racing-wise. But it's just a different time and a different era, but it's still cool to know how much respect everybody had for Alan because he was an owner/driver and how much respect people have shown us because of the same thing."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE ECONOMIC STATE OF THINGS WITH CHEVROLET RIGHT NOW AND HOW CONFIDENT YOU ARE ABOUT SUPPORT AND JUST WHERE THESE NATIONWIDE AND TRUCK SERIES CUTBACKS ARE HEADING? "Well, we don't know for sure. The hard part is they've got so many great programs they've been a part of for so many years, it's a hard position for them to be in as a corporation to have to make cuts like that. It's going to affect a lot of people we know, but at the same time it's affected a lot of people that have lost their jobs altogether before it's gotten to this. So, we're all fortunate to do what we do every week. We get to participate in a sport that we're all passionate about and unfortunately we're in an economic time where our manufacturers really have to watch what they spend and watch where they spend it, and that's a tough position for them. I wouldn't want to have to be in their positions and deal with some of these race teams that they're having to cut their programs back, knowing that they've worked with some of these teams for a long time. It's a tough position for them to be in. It's tough for all of us. It's not a position that any of us want to be in, but we understand whatever happens with it happens not because they don't want to be a part of your program, but because of the fact that they have no choice but to cut back. The thing about racers and the thing that's always stayed consistent with racers is that they are very resourceful and they always figure out a way to make do with what they have. We'll support the manufacturers and especially General Motors and Chevrolet the best we can and we're all just sitting here keeping our fingers crossed that hopefully the economy turns around soon and the people that lost their jobs get their jobs back first, and then we get the racing programs all back where they used to be."
ON WINNING AT POCONO LAST WEEKEND FROM DEAD LAST, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT GREAT TEAM EFFORT? "Yeah, we had not a picture-perfect day in all reality. Starting last like that, I thought surely at some point in the race we were going to have to have some kind of strategy where we took two (tires) where everybody took four to get some track position, and we never did. Every time we came in we took four tires and just kept picking off cars every run and then the next thing you know, the last pit stop of the day we came in second and came out with the lead. The guys, I think they gained us about eight or 10 spots in the pits during the day, so that's 10 less cars I've got to pass. And to do that, that's probably another 50 laps or so that I would have had to try to pass 10 cars like that. The guys did an awesome job in the pits. We did our part on the race track and everybody had a perfect day. They had great pit stops and great runs on the race track and got in the position we needed to be when that last run came. So it was just one of those days that you couldn't have asked for it to work out better considering the starting scenario of the day."
WHAT DID YOU SEE IN YOUR CREW CHIEF, DARIAN GRUBB, AND HIS STYLE AND ROLE IN THE TEAM'S SUCCESS? "Oh, he's been a huge role. The thing about Darian is Darian is just so even-keeled and even-tempered that it's had to get him off-center from that standpoint, and I think that's been a key factor in keeping me real calm all year. No matter what happens, he just keeps a level head about it and it's kind of one of those situations I think I feed off of him, so when he's calm, I'm calm and it's kind of been that way all season for us. The thing that got us started with Darian was actually Rick Hendrick. Rick came and said hey, I think I've got a guy that would be a perfect fit for you. And that shows you the level of commitment that Rick Hendrick has given Stewart-Haas Racing this year in helping us find key people like Darian and Tony Gibson and Bobby Hutchens. We really rely a lot of Rick and his opinions and input."
GIVEN THE HISTORY AND RELATIVE LACK OF SUCCESS FOR OWNER/DRIVERS, DID YOU CARE ABOUT THAT OR STUDY IT OR WHAT WENT INTO THAT WHEN MAKING ALL THOSE DECISIONS? "I wish I could say I was that smart. You're giving me way too much credit. But realistically, we just sat down and looked at the situation. Where our situation is different than other owner/driver combinations is we didn't have to start from scratch. We had a facility that was there. We had equipment and tools there. It was just a matter of tailoring some people to find the right key people for the right key positions. So that made it less scary. If we had to start from scratch and do our own motor program and our own chassis program, we never would have done this. It would have been way too much of a challenge for me and I couldn't have gotten it right. So the guys like Robby Gordon and Michael Waltrip that are true driver/owners who have built their programs from scratch, those guys are a lot more impressive than what I am because I couldn't have done that, I don't believe. But I had the advantage of having Hendrick resources and great equipment that Gene Haas and Joe Custer have given us that was there before I got there. It was just a matter of trying to tie up the loose ends and put people in place that we thought would make a difference. And it's worked that way."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT IN SELECTING RYAN NEWMAN AS YOUR TEAMMATE? HOW HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING TOGETHER AND IS THERE ANY FRIENDLY RIVALRY BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU? "There is no friendly rivalry. I mean, we're friends. We've already seen each other three times today and talked about how our cars are and how to make them better. That's the relationship that Ryan and I have. We're really good friends, both at the race track and off the race track. I think our relationship off the track makes us better teammates on the race track too. That was a huge component, no matter whether it's your first year, or whether you've been a team owner for 20 years, finding the right combination for crew guys, for teammates, that's a huge factor in the equation. If you have two guys that aren't working well together, the equation doesn't work. Ryan is a very large piece of that puzzle. Every day and every week that goes by, it just convinces me more that we made absolutely 100 percent the perfect decision."
-credit: gm racing