TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET AND RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY VETERANS DAY TRIBUTE CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed their new sponsorship with Outback, the track changes at Phoenix, the prospect of being the first owner/driver to win a championship since Alan Kulwicki and much more.
RYAN THIS IS VERTERANS DAY, YOU GUYS CARRY THE ARMY ON THE CAR, OUTBACK WORKS VERY CLOSELY WITH THE MILITARY, CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT HAVING THE MILITARY WITH YOU THIS WEEK MEANS ON VETERANS DAY?
NEWMAN: “We’ve got a special paint scheme with the Veterans Day paint scheme and obviously with the announcement with Quicken Loans and their Carrier Classic which I believe is today out on the Pacific, really a cool function they have, like I said from my first statement it’s an honor to represent the Army because you are representing soldiers and your representing personnel. Veterans Day is a big part of that and giving thanks for the people that have sacrificed so much and the things they’ve done, taking time away from their families and their friends to give us the opportunity to do what we love and that is enjoy our freedoms. So Veterans Day is a true holiday and I’m so proud that Stewart-Haas and all our sponsors support it so much and we’ll do our best today and see if we can’t get them a pole.”
TONY I’M CURIOUS IF YOU CAN GIVE US A PEAK INTO YOUR ROLE IN THESE SPONSORSHIP DEALS, DO YOU HELP SOLICIT SPONSORS OR DO YOU MEET WITH THEM, MAKE AN APPEARANCE AND THEN TURN IT OVER TO YOUR PEOPLE, HOW DOES THAT WORK?
STEWART: “Actually we’ve got a marketing staff that starts those meeting. I get involved very late in the process. You know there’s a lot of time you’re soliciting sponsors and things may or may not come out of that but I’m kind of in the later stage of it for sure. That’s what makes me proud about our organization, Joe Gibbs taught me a long time ago you hire the right people in the right positions and let them do their job. Our marketing staff has done a great job of introducing partners to our company and especially like last week with Quicken coming on board, a new company, and having somebody like Outback this week that’s been out of the sport for a while and is back in makes us proud knowing that we have really good people in our organization that can go out and show them the reasons why being a part of Stewart-Haas Racing is so attractive.”
WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK ABOUT PHOENIX’S DECISION TO CHANGE THE TRACK AT THIS TIME OF THE SEASON WITH SO MUCH ON THE LINE AND WILL IT BE A MATTER OF WHO ADAPTS QUICKER TO THIS NEW TRACK THAT COULD PLAY A ROLE IN DECIDING THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
NEWMAN: “I was going to say and I don’t know this but I would speculate that there is probably not enough time to functionally pave the track in the off-season so it had to be done. I know a little bit about paving and it’s tough to do what they did and get the job done when its 110 degrees out here in the summer but I think they did an excellent job of the surface. The restructure work, that’s a matter of opinion but I don’t think it has any negative implications on what happens in the Chase. If this was a brand new race track and we showed up at a brand new race track and it happened to be the second to the last date so be it, there’s going to be a winner and that guy gets the most points.”
STEWART: “You hate to have to come into a situation like this where you don’t know the variables but at the same time it’s the same for everybody. Who adapts to it is going to be a big key obviously. We’ve all had two full days of testing here. Some of us were here for the tire test so we’ve got a lot of laps here before the race weekend started that we don’t normally have at a regular race track. So I think there’s still variables that are yet to be answered about the racing side of it but like Ryan mentioned to go out there and drive around there it’s hard to do what they’ve done in a short amount of time and do it as nice as they’ve done it. I’m not sure, I kind of liked it the way it was. I liked it clear back in the old days with the old gate in the back and the crossover bridge but I’m kind of old school like that anyway. They did do a really nice job with the work they’ve done here. It’s just a matter of us trying to figure out what we have to be good for the weekend now. After this weekend when we come back in the spring we’ll have a lot better idea but it definitely does put a little more emphasis on trying to get it figured out and get caught up. Like we said we’ve got the track time already it’s just trying to figure out I would say pit strategy and race strategy, those are the things we really don’t know what to expect yet so we’ll all watch the Nationwide race pretty intensely tomorrow.”
DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO ADAPT TO THE NEW SURFACE BEFORE SUNDAY’S RACE?
STEWART: “I’d like to think so. You know we’re going to have four hours of practice today. We go to dirt races and we get two to three laps of practice and you line up and qualify so I’d like to think I have the ability to adapt as good as anybody around here. You know it’s about everybody doing it. The crew has to adapt, our set up has to be good to start with but we’ve got four hours of track time today to figure it out. I’m comfortable with coming and driving for sure. Like I said we had all the open tests here to get use to the layout, it’s just a matter of going to work today and trying to figure out what we’ve got to do to be fast all weekend.”
SINCE THE START OF THE CHASE YOUR CONFIDENCE HAS COMPLETELY COME FULL CIRCLE, WE KNOW YOU CAN WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS, HAS THIS BEEN A CSAE OF YOUR TEAM PROVING THEY CAN WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP AS WELL?
STEWART: “I think they’ve believed all along. The great thing is I haven’t seen our organization change anything. I haven’t seen their demeanor, their attitude, any of it change. They were early in the Chase, the guys were kind of the cheerleaders for me and keeping me pumped up. I’m proud of our organization. Like we mentioned earlier I’m proud of our entire organization, our marketing staff, our engineering department, everything about it is coming together right at the right time so it’s easier to have that confidence when every aspect of your company is doing a good job right now.”
WE’VE JUST SEEN A SITUATION WITH KYLE BUSCH WHERE THE SPONSOR HAS TAKEN AWAY THEIR PARTNERSHIP FOR THE LAST TWO RACES THIS SEASON, TONY YOU WENT THROUGH A SITUATION YEARS AGO WITH HOME DEPOT WHERE YOU WERE FINED FOR EMBARASSING A SPONSOR, DOES THIS ALL REMIND YOU HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR YOUR IMAGE TO BE OUT THERE AND NOT EMBARRASS SPONSORS AND HOW IMPORTANT THAT IS TO THIS SPORT THAT THERE IS A LINE THERE AND YOU CAN’T CROSS THAT?
STEWART: “Yeah, our sport is different than a lot of other pro sports because we are directly accountable to our sponsors. It is a balancing act because it’s a very competitive sport. Its 43 teams out there racing each week so you have that intensity, you have that passion, and it’s sometimes hard to put it in your pocket when you need to and let it out later. At the same time, it’s a good reality check for everybody I guess. A lot of times things get kind of off center for a little bit until something happens and it brings it back and this is definitely a situation that reminds all of us of what’s on the line and how important it is to these companies to protect their image and to do a good job and accomplish what their goals are with this program.
“I think the first time when I got in trouble with Home Depot was when I started seeing it. You know the great thing is with as much that has happened this week with Kyle’s side, the sponsors are pretty forgiving too and understanding that this is a passionate sport. As we’ve seen this week there is a line that they will draw and they will tell you when enough is enough.”
MIKE KAPPITT, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER OF OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE: “The only thing I would add is obviously coming into the sport as a sponsor there’s options and we went through a very thoughtful process on who we would decide to team up with and it really came down to trusting a partnership. We felt great with these guys but you have to think about that stuff. You see how sponsors react too. It’s just the nature of the sport I think.”
YOU SAID EARLIER YOU WERE INVOLVED IN NASCAR AND CAME BACK, DID YOU LOOK INTO OTHER KINDS OF RACING INSTEAD OF NASCAR AND DO YOU HAVE ANY CONNECTION WITH THE OUTBACK THAT SPONSORS IN FORMULA 1?
MIKE KAPPITT FROM OUTBACK: “We have franchises in other countries so they might be part of that although I’m not aware of it. My team over there is shaking their head no. As we said we were in NASCAR previously in our history and this was a good time for us to come back into the sport. We feel like we have a great activation plan and a great driver and great team we are part of so it made a lot of sense for us to come back into the sport now.”
ALTHOUGH IT’S A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME THE FIRST OWNER/DRIVER TO WIN A CUP TITLE SINCE ALAN KULWICKI, WHEN YOU KIND OF LOOK AT IT IN THAT PERSPECTIVE WHAT DO YOU THINK?
STEWART: “It’s a cool opportunity. Chances like this don’t come around very often obviously because you don’t have a lot of drivers that are in ownership roles anymore in NASCAR. There’s a part of this that is very historic if it happens. It would be really cool especially since we have guys on our team that were a part of that championship with Alan. You realize the significance of it because of their involvement in it and what it meant to them.”
YOU WERE A YOUNG RACER WHEN HE DID THAT, WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT IT?
STEWART: “I think at that part of my life I just looked at it from a driver’s standpoint and saw him winning a championship. I hadn’t been a part of any ownership side and really couldn’t put my arms around what when was doing from a driver/owner standpoint but when you get in this situation you realize it a lot more.”
I’M JUST CURIOUS IN LIGHT OF EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK WITH KYLE, YOU’RE IN ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING POINTS CHASES THAT WE’VE SEEN AND NOBODY IS REALLY MENTIONING IT THIS WEEK, DOES IT BOTHER YOU?
STEWART: “No, because if I take that trophy home the media is not going to be there anyway so all I care about is having that trophy. I don’t care if anybody talks about it if it happens. All I care about is the accomplishment for our organization. You know the news this week was big news obviously. It’s something we haven’t seen in our sport in a long time. It’s very understandable that it had the attention but it doesn’t bother me the least bit at least from our side. It’s actually made it an easier week for us because we can focus on coming here and worrying about announcing our Outback sponsorship today and actually worrying about the race cars verses all the other stuff that’s a distraction.”
I DON’T KNOW IF WE EXACTLY THINK OF YOU AND CARL (EDWARDS) AS BUDDIES OR ENEMIES, CAN YOU SORT OF CHARACTERIZE THE NATURE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CARL?
STEWART: “Well we never went out if that’s what you’re asking. Carl and I get along fine actually. We don’t go hang out together. It’s hard for drivers to spend a lot of time with each other these days like we used to in the past. Our schedules are so hectic that you get a day off and the buddy you might want to go fishing with like this one on the end may be gone or vice versa. We get along with each other at the race track. We’ve got the dirt racing that we’ve done together at Eldora and stuff that we like. We talk about that stuff a lot. I guess it’s a friendly rivalry if you even want to call it a rivalry. I don’t know what the true definition of rivalry is but he’s a good guy to be in a point battle with for sure. I respect him a lot as a driver and as a person.”
WE’VE HEARD SOME DRIVERS TALK ABOUT CONTROLLING THEIR OWN DESITNY AS WE COME DOWN TO THE FINAL RACES BETWEEN YOU AND CARL, GIVING THE PAST EIGHT WEEKS WHO IS IN CONTROL RIGHT NOW?
STEWART: “I feel like we are to be honest. I think we showed that last week. We’re not racing worrying about where they’re at and what they’re doing each day. We’re worrying about our car, what we’ve got to do to be fast, what we’ve got to do to win races and I think we’ve responded to that with our actions on the race track and what we’ve done. So I would like to say we are right now. We’ve been able to battle back from a couple of really bad races in this Chase to be where we are at.”