Tony Stewart Daytona 400 Friday Media Visit

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By Team Chevy

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BURGER KING CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed the two-car draft at Daytona, other drivers blocking and other topics.

Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS WEEKEND’S RACE? “It’s nice. With the rain kind of abbreviating the schedule yesterday, we didn’t get a ton of track time, but we really, honestly hadn’t planned on running a whole lot. We just wanted to run and make sure that we got our heights set and didn’t have any vibrations in the transmission or rear end gear or anything. Basically, just wanted to park the car and get ready to race. You can practice all you want, but you’re just not going to get the conditions that you’re going to have tomorrow night. We just wanted to be safe and not do too much damage to the bumpers considering that’s our lifeline for the day tomorrow night with both the front and rear bumpers. So we just took care of it. We’re excited about it. It’s a race that we’ve had a lot of success at and it’s going to be fun running here again like we had in February under the lights with the Shootout and we know how much fun that was. It should be the same tomorrow.”

IS IT POSSIBLE TO RACE OFFENSIVELY AND DEFENSIVELY THE NEXT 10 RACES? “With the points – I’m not sure that tomorrow night you’ll even be thinking about it. It’s strictly getting paired up with a partner that you want to run with the whole night. The hard thing is that there’s going to be times that you’re going to get separated from that person and you may pick up a different person. I don’t think that anybody is really going to be worried about the points tomorrow night as much as just trying to put himself in a position to be in the right spot at the end of the race. It’s always been a chess match at the restrictor plate races, but I’m not sure that’s going to factor – the points side I don’t think will factor. I think there’s going to be situations in these last 10 weeks where guys are going to start thinking about it. I honestly don’t think that tomorrow night will be the place where they will worry about it because there’s just too many other variables involved.”

ARE YOU A FAN OF THE TANDEM RACING STYLE? “It doesn’t matter. There’s pros and cons to it, but there were pros and cons to three-wide and 11 rows deep too. The good thing is paired up we actually have a chance to race other cars and you’re not boxed in and stuck in a line trying to figure out if you’re in the right line or not. It kind of is what it is. It’s just different. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different than what we’ve been doing in the past here.”

DO YOU THINK THE DRAFTING WILL BE SIMILAR TO THE 500 AND HAVE YOU WORKED ON IMPROVING THE COOLING IN THE CARS?: “The racing will be identical I believe. Like you said, typically when we used to come here in July, the surface was worn out and handling was a much bigger issue than it was in February. Now with fresh pavement it’s got a lot of grip in it and it’s not gone away since we came here in February. The race will be the same. The cooling – everybody has worked on it. The hard part when we were here in February is NASCAR hadn’t even decided how much opening we were allowed to have. Now the teams have had some time since we went to Talladega even and everybody has worked on being able to cool it to where you can stay behind each other longer. There are some guys that I’m still convinced can start behind a guy and push a guy a whole race if that’s what they choose to do. I’m not sure I want to be that guy that wants to stare at a bumper all day. We can do it I think and that’s a lot of the race teams have done a really good job. We saw it yesterday in practice, we were seeing how long guys could stay out. Knowing it was warmer than it was when we were here in February. I think a lot of teams – I know we made improvements in our organization in the cooling side and I’m sure everybody else has too.”

WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES FROM THE JULY DAYTONA RACE 10 YEARS AGO WHEN DALE EARNHARDT JR WON? “It was pretty emotional. That was the biggest thing you remember was just how emotional it was for everybody. I think we all looked at it and it was hard that weekend for Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. to be here that weekend even. It was the first time that we all were back and for him to go out and win that race, it wasn’t a way to put a period on the chapter, but it was a way for him – it was a way for him to look at it and say that life’s going to go on now and that’s it’s okay. You never can replace losing a parent and a mentor like that. When he won that race, it was just a way – I think to a certain degree, a way of saying that it was going to be okay.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL THE MOST COMFORTABLE WITH RACE FANS? “I think our autograph sessions are the most comfortable because that’s probably where we get to spend time with them when we’re not at the race track. It’s not that you don’t appreciate the time at the track with them, but you’re always – there’s something always in the back of your mind that you’re worried about trying to get the car a tenth of a second faster or the fact that your car is loose or tight and you’re trying to figure it out in your head what you have to do to make that better. When we’re doing autograph sessions or meet and greets where we get to do Q&As with them and answer their questions – that’s kind of the fun part. You’re not worrying about the race car, you’re not worrying about anything at the track and just worrying about what they have on their mind. You get some fun interaction with them at that point and they know you’re not worrying about the race car, you know you’re not and it’s fun because you can coax them into asking questions that a lot of times they are real reserved. I like getting people to ask questions that they’ve always wanted to know, but just never had the courage to ask it and I can normally draw one of the two of those out at a Q&A or an autograph session. It’s fun to hear what they’ve got to say.”

HAVE YOU SPOKE WITH BRIAN VICKERS AND HAVE ANY OTHER DRIVERS SPOKE WITH YOU ABOUT YOUR POSITION ON BLOCKING? “Of course Bob (Pockrass, SceneDaily.com) – I knew you would be the one asking this question today. Honestly, I did talk to (Brian) Vickers yesterday. We had our drivers meeting that NASCAR asked us all to participate in yesterday and he was one of the first people I saw and we were laughing about it and talking about it. He told me that he wasn’t blocking. I just explained to him that of all people I didn’t want it to be you either. I told him that I had drawn a line in the sand with the guys that were doing it. It’s kind of like – we didn’t even agree to disagree situation because he explained his side and I understood his side and he understood my side. I’ve talked to other drivers too and I didn’t anticipate to get the kind of support that I’m getting with some of these guys. It’s not the whole field saying that by any means – I haven’t talked to everybody. I did talk to two or three different guys yesterday and the two or three guys that I spoke to mentioned and agreed that it’s a problem that’s getting worse, not better. Honestly, whether they agree or disagree – I don’t care. I’ve drawn my line in the sand and the next guy that blocks me, he is going to also suffer the same fate. It doesn’t matter who it is. That’s what it’s going to be.”

ARE YOU CONCERNED BECAUSE YOU FINISHING 30th LAST WEEK? “No, I’ll make sure when I do it next time that the guy doesn’t have the opportunity to come back and wreck me.”

DO YOU FEEL THIS COULD IMPACT YOUR ABILITY TO MAKE THE CHASE? “It might. It very well might. I’m going to stay the course on it. I’m just to the point where I’m fed up with some of the ways some of these guys are racing each other. If we miss the Chase because of it then so be it and that’s not what the team is going to want to hear. That’s not what our sponsors are going to want to hear, but so be it. It is what it is and there’s 42 guys out there and they know how I race and they know what I expect and I don’t race them that way and I don’t block guys and I’m not going to block guys. If they block me then they will suffer the consequences of it.”

WILL YOU DRAFT WITH DAVID GILLILAND IN TOMORROW NIGHT’S RACE? “We did yesterday. That was the only guy I ran with yesterday in practice and that’s our plan for tomorrow night too. It’s kind of odd. The Hendrick cars and the Childress cars are all working together and Ryan (Newman) and I have found two guys that we like working with. We spoke about it last night because Ryan and I sat down for about an hour last night in his motor home and it’s almost uncomfortable because you’re scared to make a mistake with your teammate being in front of you or behind you and getting each other in a bad spot where if something happens, it’s happened to both of you, not just one of you. I think it’s my approach to how to run the race is different than his and he’s found a guy with Denny (Hamlin) like I’ve found with David (Gilliland) and like I found in the past with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. when I had Bobby Labonte as a teammate. It’s not anybody’s way of doing it is right or wrong, it’s just if you find that person that you’re comfortable with and that matches what you’re thought process is of how you want to run the race then it seems to work that much better.”

IS BLOCKING MORE LIKELY AT DAYTONA?: “It’s a different animal here. We’re not going to wipe out half the field because they’re blocking here and actually you don’t really see a lot of blocking with the two-car deal than you did with the single car stuff in the past. I’m mindful that this is a different animal this week than what we had last week and what we’re going to have next week at Kentucky for sure.”

WERE YOU SURPRISED OTHER DRIVERS AGREED WITH YOU? “I wasn’t. I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Everybody knows the problem is that if you have one person that is taking advantage of a situation then it forces everybody else to do the same thing or else you’ve put yourself behind and you’re going to get taken advantage of more. You don’t have that mutual give and take and that’s what more guys are taking more than they’re giving these days. It always used to be self-policed that was handled in the past – the drivers have always controlled it. The guys are having a harder time doing that when NASCAR’s getting involved in the conversations. The problem is and what I see and this may be different than NASCAR’s view on it, but what happens is the drivers used to be able to handle it amongst each other and then NASCAR said you can’t do this and you can’t do that. You can’t go talk about it in a parking lot somewhere, you’re still going to get fined. When you do that, there’s no way for the driver to actually settle it and get it out whether they agree to disagree – they can’t even get that opportunity. What it does it festers so much between one side or the other that it just continues the cycle until NASCAR had to get involved. Then it still doesn’t get resolved really. I just think guys have to – you have to have somebody that’s going to draw the line in the sand somewhere and say this is what we expect. I don’t care if they want to race each other that way, that’s fine. They can race everybody else in the field that way. I don’t race guys that way and I’m not going to race the way they want to just because they think it should be different now. When I came in here I thought I was going to change how things worked too and Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. taught me how to do it, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, my teammate Bobby Labonte taught me and had to grab me and shake me beside a trailer one day and say, ‘Listen, you have to understand.’ Nothing like that happens in this day and age. It’s all so glamorized when two people do something on the race track and it’s made to be such a soap opera that the whole point of why it happened in the first place isn’t getting resolved because of it.”

ARE YOU TAKING MORE OF A ROLE AS A LEADER IN THE GARAGE? “It’s not so much that as much as it’s just when you’ve just finally had enough of something and you learn to choose your battles. You choose to fight the fights that are worth fighting and finally you just get to a point where you’ve had enough of something. On this particular topic with blocking and guys blocking each other on the race track – I’m to that point. Maybe I’m the only one that’s gotten to that point, but I’m not the only one that’s talking about it.”

DO YOU EXPECT MORE AGGRESSIVENESS ON THE TRACK AND MORE CREATIVITY IN THE RACE CARS AS THE CHASE APPROACHES RICHMOND?“How long have we been doing the Chase here? Three, four, five or six years. It’s always been that way. It’s not going to be different this year than it has any other year. Guys that are trying to get in are going to be working hard to get in. Those that are on the edge of possibly getting bumped out are still going to be working hard to stay in. You still aren’t going to win the race and you still aren’t going to make the Chase if your cars wadded up in a ball sitting against the fence because you did something stupid. You’re going to race the race the same way. As far as the crew guys go, if you’re willing to take a chance and lose points because you did something you were not supposed to do, that’s always been the debate with crew chiefs and organizations in the past. Again, that won’t change either. I don’t think you’re going to see guys – obviously Clint Bowyer had the situation last year that cost him a chance at the championship right off the bat. I think NASCAR does the same thing. NASCAR draws the line in the sand and says, ‘Listen, this is what’s acceptable and this is what’s not.’ When guys see what the penalties are like that it makes them think twice about what their next move is.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, daytona international speedway, nascar, nscs, sprint cup, stewart-haas, tony stewart