TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed the final short track race, tandem drafting at Talladega, playing by the book and other topics.
TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE FINAL SHORT TRACK RACE OF THE SEASON: “I am excited about it, we are hoping that we are going to get to do like the truck guys are here in a little bit and get on track obviously so, we are running a little different package than what we are used to so we are really anxious to get on track today, hopefully this weather, looks like there is a little bit of a cell coming through hopefully if it hits they will be able to get it dry long enough for us to get on track.”
YOU RUN A DIFFERENT PACKAGE A LOT, WHY ARE YOU HOPEFUL THIS CHANGE TODAY WILL MAKE SUCH A DIFFERENCE? “Well, we have struggled here the last two or three races, so we definitely needed to look outside the box of where we were at and try to come up with something different and were are actually relying on our teammate and starting where Ryan (Newman) typically does here. Ryan’s driving style and mine are different so we are real anxious to get on track to find out what I am going to need different than what Ryan likes to start with his package in general and hope that it is going to be better, it is quite a bit different than what we actually run, so that is why it is so important for us to get on track today, just to get an idea of what we are working with and what we are going to have to do to adapt his set-up to the way I drive a car.”
INAUDIBLE: “We are using his set-up for a starting point, every driver’s driving style is different, the way they break, the way get in the gas, so we are going to have to make changes to accommodate what I like off of that set-up.”
WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST NASCAR DO TO CHANGE THE RULES FOR DAYTONA TO CHANGE THE TWO CAR TANDEM DRAFTING? “Well, I think they are a smarter group to ask than us, they have been doing this for sixty plus years, everybody has an idea, but the thing is every time someone comes up with an idea there is an opposite reaction to how it affects something else. It is a hard balancing act and I have the faith in NASCAR that they are going to figure out what’s the right thing to do but, it is a tough situation to have to go through. It is starting to get way to political on the race track now and that is not the scenario you want to be in as a driver to try to decide a championship.”
INAUDIBLE: “I don’t know we have to ask them for them to come ask us. If I thought I had a great idea, I would go to NASCAR, I think we are all in this together and everybody wants it to be better. It is not about whose idea is it and who comes up with it, we just want the end result. I have the faith that they are working on it hard, looking at everything they can do and they have a lot of pretty smart people that have been there for a long time that have figured out how to make it right, so if we can come up with a great idea I would love to take it to them, I just don’t have that idea. There is a lot more drivers in this garage area that are smarter than me, that can probably figure it out before me.”
DO YOU THINK IT IS MORE POLITICAL DUE TO THE TWO CAR DRAFTING, IS IT MORE APPARENT BECAUSE THERE ARE TWO PEOPLE WORKING TOGETHER DURING THE RACE? “Yeah, I think so. When you have multi-car teams and you saw a distinct deal last weekend with manufactures running with each other, it is becoming more apparent of what is going on. You can talk to everybody you want to talk to and everybody is going to say no they are not doing this or yes they are doing this, but all you have to do is pause your TV with the field in there and look and see and it pretty much tells the story of what is going on. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how it’s evolving that way because of the two car draft.”
IN WHAT WAYS IS THE POLITICAL DRAFTING DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS WHEN YOU CAME IN THE SPORT IN 99’, 2000? “When I started, the political games were the teams when they went to restrictor plate tracks they tried to not show their hand until race day and then NASCAR got chassis dynos and things they could pull after the race and figure out exactly what was going on, so that gave NASCAR a more accurate assessment of what the situation really was, this is something NASCAR really can’t control once the cars go on the race track and what the driver’s are doing and how they are pairing up and is it because of manufactures, is it because of individual organization, so it is hard for NASCAR as a sanctioning body to control that and have everybody just racing.”
IF NASCAR WANTED TO STOP THE TANDEM DRAFT, IF THEY STOPPED ALLOWING DRIVERS TO TALK TO EACH OTHER WHICH CREATES THIS POLITICAL CONVERSATION THING, WOULD THAT SOLVE IT OR CREATE MORE TROUBLE? “I don’t know that it would create more trouble necessarily, but guys before they even got to the racetrack on Friday, knew who they were going to be running with but I would say 90% of the field knew who they were going to be drafting with once they got there so, I don’t think that is necessarily the answer. The answer is make it to where you can’t push each other and if you can physically keep the cars from pushing each other like it used to be then that eliminates the problem. You are not going to keep guys from running with whoever they want to run with on the race track but if you can keep the cars from actually making contact with each other and physically pushing each other that is the logical way to solve it.”
SOME GUYS IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE WANT TO DO EVERYTHING STRICTLY BY THE BOOK, AND SOME GUYS SAY IT’S WHATEVER YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH. WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THAT? “I think the racing has always been about taking the rules that’s you’re given and pushing the envelope and pushing it to the limit, but don’t, in my opinion, don’t go over it. NASCAR has done a good job in making sure the penalties reflect the crime. I think if you’re willing to take the risk, I mean if you’re willing to put yourself and your team and your organization in that position, if you get away with it great; (but) I just don’t see the risk and the reward being even. You give up an awful lot if you get caught trying to fudge something that’s this much better that can take you out of a chance to win a championship.”
ON THE CHAD KNAUS/JIMMIE JOHNSON TALK AT TALLADEGA “I don’t know (laughs); I just now found out about it getting ready to watch Truck practice. I saw it scrolling across the bottom of the page and asked (crew chief) Darian (Grubb) about it. I don’t know. I’d like to hear it; it would be an interesting transmission to have heard.”
WHEN YOU ARE PICKING PARTNERS, ARE YOU MORE CONCERNED ABOUT A GUY WHO IS REALLY GOOD IN THE DRAFT THAT YOU CAN DEPEND ON? OR IS IT JUST A GUT INSTINCT? HOW DO YOU PICK WHO YOU WANT TO RACE WITH? “In the past, we ran with David Gilliland a lot and I think a lot of that was you know Ryan’s (Newman) approach to how to run the plate races versus what I like to do have been polar opposite. He likes to get to the front and try to stay at the front all day. I’m a guy who has always liked to get to the back, take care of it, try to stay out of a bad situation at a point when it really doesn’t matter in the race; and then late in the race make that charge. I did the opposite this past weekend (at Talladega). We tried to stay up front as much as we could. But that’s why Ryan and I didn’t work together.
“So in answering your question in looking for somebody to run with, you look at who’s really available. I mean you knew the four Hendrick cars were going to get together. You know the Childress cars are going to get together. You try to find somebody you think is available and then try to find somebody who has the same mindset that you have about how you want to run the race, and then somebody that you feel comfortable with at the same time. So it’s kind of a, I guess the first thing is finding somebody that wants to run the race the same way I do first and then out of that group, sorting out who you are comfortable with.”
AT THE END OF THE RACE, LIKE WHAT HAPPENED TO JEFF GORDON, DO YOU HAVE SOME LOYALTY TO A GUY WHO HAS BEEN WITH YOU ALL DAY? “Yeah. We had Paul Menard offer to run with us when we were running with the No. 20 (Joey Logano) car and logic says ok, look; Joey’s car is torn up but we ran good with Joey and it’s like you know, then if we do that, we’re hanging Joey out, which, Joey didn’t deserve that. So when Paul asked me I said, ‘We’ve kind of been running with the No. 20 car and I’m comfortable where I’m at right now.’ He said, ‘Ok, if anything changes let me know.’ Fair enough.
“Same thing with Jeff later on. At that point I was with the No. 27 car (Paul Menard) and Jeff came on the radio and asked and I said, “I’ve kind of been running with the No. 27 car here.’ So to me, it was more the loyalty at that point. I mean obviously, I’d love to have ran with Jeff, obviously because of our association with Hendrick, but when you’ve run that long with somebody during the day, you hate to just dump them off with a two-lap restart and leave them by themselves. And to pick somebody else out; maybe there are some guys who are comfortable doing that, but I’m just not comfortable doing that.”
HOMESTEAD IS A ROUSH TRACK WITH MATT KENSETH AND CAR EDWARDS AS PROBABLY HAVING A SLIGHT EDGE. DO YOU LOOK AT THAT AS HAVING TO HAVE ENOUGH POINTS TO FIGURE THAT THEY MIGHT FINISH 1-2 OR IN THE TOP FIVE, OR DO YOU FIGURE HOMESTEAD IS JUST AS GOOD FOR YOU? “I think it’s an equal opportunity. I mean you know, I feel like our 1.5-mile stuff has been pretty good this year and we’ve gained on it a lot I think. So I’m looking forward to going back there, honestly. But I guess I still look at it from the standpoint that we’ve got four weeks to get it done and we’ve just got to be spot-on for four weeks. Even if we win the next four races, if they ran second, I think they could still probably win the thing, mathematically. So it’s not really so much in our hands. It takes the pressure off of us. We can just go out and try to win the races and it’s more in their hands in having the pressure in trying to figure out what to do and where to finish and all that. But they have been very good there in the last couple of years and it’s something you know going into it. But I’ve been to tracks where we were great the last time and then come back a year later and not be able to hit it at all. So anything can change.”
EVERYONE WHO HAS COME INTO THIS MEDIA CENTER TODAY HAS NOT BEEN AS CONCERNED ABOUT WHO IS IN 1ST, 2ND, OR 3RD; OR WHO HAD HOW MANY POINTS; BUT MOST ALL OF THEM HAVE BEEN MORE CONCERNED ABOUT WHERE TONY STEWART STANDS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? IS THERE ANYONE LEFT, MATHEMATICALLY, THAT HAS A CHANCE TO WIN, THAT YOU’RE LOOKING AT EVERY WEEK? “I’ve said it from day one. I’m only focused about one car out there right now, and that’s the No. 14 car (his). Obviously we want Ryan (Newman, teammate) to do well, but Ryan; we’ve messed him up last week (Talladega) and that hurt his chances. But right now I’m focused on my car and my car only. I’m not spending the energy and the time worrying about everybody else. If I’ve got that much time, my car had better be perfect; if I’ve got that much time to concentrate on everybody else. So, I think in the last 31 years of racing, I’ve always worried about what we’re doing and controlling the variables that we can control. But it’s nice to know they’re asking about us and wanting to know where we’re at. That’s a pretty good compliment, I think.”
IF YOU WERE GOING TO A NASCAR-THEMED HALLOWEEN PARTY, WHAT WOULD YOUR COSTUME BE AND WHY? “This may take a second (laughter). I’m not going to go as one of the Busch brothers (laughter); not ‘cause I don’t like ‘em, just ‘cause I’m not sure that’s it’s a popular….um….I’d probably pick one of the beer sponsor drivers (laughs)! At least I’d have something that would match my can. That’s the only thing I could think of right off hand. I’ve never been to a Halloween party yet that we haven’t enjoyed adult beverages during the evening, so at least it would match. That’s the only thing I can think of.”