TONY STEWART, NO. 14 EL MONTEREY/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed his thoughts on IndyCar and the Dan Wheldon accident, picking a partner to draft with this weekend, racing in Martinsville and more. Full transcript.
YOU GET TO WATCH YOUR WORLD OF OUTLAWS TEAM AT THE TALLADEGA DIRT TRACK TOMORROW NIGHT, ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT IT? “Yes, I’m excited to go watch because I’ve seen all six races that they ran there and four of the six were three-wide for the lead with less than 10 to go. I’m excited to go see it.”
ARE YOU RACING? DID YOU THINK ABOUT IT? “No. Honestly hadn’t been (thinking about it), just have been busy. I just knew I was going to watch anyhow.”
CAN YOU JUST SHARE SOME OF YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT HAPPENED SUNDAY AT LAS VEGAS AND THEN GETTING BACK IN A CAR THIS WEEKEND? “It is definitely a tragedy. It doesn’t affect us getting back in the car. We all know that can happen every week. It’s been a part of racing forever. I don’t know that it’s necessarily why we do what we do; but, we know those risks going into it. It is part of the sport. It always has been and it always will be. You’re never going to make it 100% safe. Safety in both IndyCar racing and stock car racing has come a long way in the last 10 years.”
FIRST PRACTICE OUT THERE WITH THE NEW RULES, ANYTHING DIFFERENT OUT THERE? “I didn’t see anything any different. I think the temperatures, the water pressure, is what you are still focusing on right now. We have a cooler day than what we had here in the spring, so, it’s pretty similar right now because of the temperatures.”
DID YOU WORK WITH GILLILAND IN PRACTICE? “We haven’t yet. We don’t know. I’ve kind of heard the Ford guys are kind of being told they have to stay with Ford guys. So we’re not sure exactly who we are going to run with on Sunday yet.”
ARE YOU HAVING TO SCRAMBLE A LITTLE BIT BECAUSE OF THAT? “I just ran with Bobby Labonte in that first session. I’m not sure who we are going to run with in the second session. We have all day today and tomorrow to figure out who exactly it’s going be with us. We don’t really have to know right now I guess. It’d be nice to know, but, we thought we had a plan and then it sounded like it got dismantled. So, we are going to have to try to come up with something else for Sunday now.”
BECAUSE YOU ARE SO GOOD HERE, DO YOU WAIT FOR PEOPLE TO APPROACH YOU THAT THEY WANTED TO RUN WITH YOU? “Oh no, I definitely want to be more proactive than reactive with it for sure. So if I can go out and pick somebody I want I rather do that than wait for them to come. There is no benefit to waiting on somebody to come to you, you are better off going and trying to get the guy you want.”
HOW DO YOU PICK SOMEBODY? “I think it’s real important to have the similar philosophy on how you want to run this race and where you want to be when. If you got a guy that wants to go up and lead the whole race verses somebody like me that likes to hang around the back the first half of the race, those philosophies aren’t going to match so you go and find somebody that wants to run the race the same way you do.”
SO WHAT’S THE ETIQUETTE, CAN YOU BREAK UP ANOTHER PAIRING SO TO SPEAK? “I don’t know. I don’t think they signed contracts for pairing up so I think everybody is fair game at this point. It’s just who you can get and there’s going to be times in the race where you don’t necessarily get with the guys you want to be with anyway. You’ve always got to do the Peyton Manning; you’ve always got to be ready to call an audible at any point so just wait and see what you can get.”
HAVE YOU HEARD ANY REASON WHAY THE FORD GUYS WOULD ELECT TO DO THAT THIS TIME? “You have the recorder go ask them.” I THOUGHT YOU MIGHT HAVE SOME INSIGHT. “Of course, because I do go around and talk to them all the time. I ask them questions like that a lot.” I DIDN’T KNOW IF IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN BECAUSE OF THE NEW RULES. “I don’t know. I’m going to wait on you to come back with all the insightful answers and tell me so I know.”
HOW DOES THE INDYCAR ACCIDENT EFFECT YOU, I KNOW YOU HATE IT FOR THE SERIES TO SEE THAT HAPPEN. “You know you hate it for everybody involved. Randy Bernard has been getting beat up over it and he shouldn’t. It’s part of racing, its part of what can happen. Everybody is a back chair quarterback going no we should do this or shouldn’t do that. It’s racing; I mean it’s always been racing. I mean auto racing as a whole is safer than it’s ever been. It still boils down to the people that are steering the cars around. It’s not that the cars are unsafe, there’s still people that tell the cars where to go so we’ve got to take responsibility. There is no reason for anybody to point fault anywhere. There’s no fault in it. It’s racing.
“Racing has always been dangerous. That’s why people come to watch races because there is an element of danger involved. You’re never going to get it all out but like we said it’s safer than it’s ever been. It’s a freak thing that happened and it can happen every race. It can happen every race that we run but it’s safer than it’s ever been. I think everybody has got to take a deep breath and let the emotions settle down. Everybody is obviously thinking about Dan and his family, his wife and two children, there’s a lot of great charity stuff coming up to help them out which we are really proud to be a part of but I think everybody has to take a step back from it and realize this is auto racing.
“It’s always been dangerous but everybody still does it. If it was so bad none of us would want to do this but we still love doing this every week and it’s just part of the sport unfortunately. It’s never going to be 100 percent safe.”
A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK ITS NASCAR VS. INDYCAR WHEN IN ALL REALITY ITS MOTORSPORTS. “I think when you see how many people have donated to Dan’s charity deal; I think you’ll realize that nobody does that except the media. I think fans are fans, they will watch racing no matter what. When we’re not racing we watch IndyCar races, if they’re not racing they watch our races. Racing is racing and race fans are race fans. They want to see racing. It’s stupidity to compare back and forth and make it into that situation.”
WHAT I WAS GOING TO SAY IS BECAUSE PEOPLE THINK THAT THEY THINK MAYBE PEOPLE WOULD BE ROUTING FOR INDYCAR TO FAIL … “I don’t think there is anybody doing that.”
DO YOU WORRY FOR THEM, THAT SERIES AT ALL? “I don’t worry about it because I don’t think anybody actually thinks that way. I think it’s ludicrous if somebody does think that. There’s always been IndyCar racing and stock car racing and it’s coexisted for years and it’s always been fine.”
I GUESS WHAT I’M GETTING AT IS THE INSTABILITY OF THEIR SERIES, DO YOU WORRY ABOUT INDYCAR ITSELF? “No, they had 34 cars at Vegas. That’s an incredible field. That’s the biggest field I’ve seen in years. I don’t think so. I think that’s a sign that they’re gaining a little bit and I hope they are. I’m a big fan of IndyCar racing. I always have been and I always will. I prefer to watch them on the ovals verses the road courses. I’ve always been a fan of it.”
DID THAT ACCIDENT MAKE YOU THINK AT ALL ABOUT YOUR ACCIDENT THERE? “No, they were totally separate, totally different circumstances. Still the same facility but you know the track being changed had nothing to do with it. Our accident was totally, it was opposite ends of the spectrum of what happened with their wreck.”
WOULD YOU RACE ANY RACE IN INDYCAR BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T RACED ONE OBVIOUSLY IN A WHILE, YOU’VE NEVER HAD ANY SAFETY CONCERNS HAVE YOU? “No, never. Not once.”
IF YOU HAD NOTHING TO DO WOULD YOU GO RUN ONE OF THOSE? “If the opportunity was right. The hard thing is that series has gotten really competitive. You aren’t just going to go show up and drop in one and be up to speed right away. That’s why it makes it so hard to go do something like that. It would be like trying to go run a top fuel dragster next week. I’ve never done it and its going to take you a while to get used to something like that. The reason we don’t do it isn’t even remotely safety issue-wise it’s just time-wise and it you’re going to do it you want to be competitive doing it. You want to make sure when you show up at a race you’re competitive and ready to go.”
PRIOR TO SUNDAY, HOW DID YOU FEEL LIKE THAT SERIES WAS DOING THIS YEAR UNDER RANDY’S DIRECTION? “I don’t know I was just watching races. I didn’t really think about it. Like we said, we watch the races and qualifying every chance we had so I was enjoying watching the races this year just like always.”
LOOKING AHEAD AT MARTINSVILLE, WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF THAT TRACK FOR YOU? “It’s been everything for us. If you get a good handling car your brakes aren’t really an issue anymore there. We’ve fought handling the last couple of times there and it does make it harder because you’re trying to make up more in the braking zones. It’s just getting your car to do what you want it to do just like any where else but if it’s not right it does bring that brake element back into it.”
DO YOU THINK THE COOLER TEMPERATURE WILL IMPACT HOW MUCH YOU HAVE TO SWAP? “Yeah, that’s why they did that in the first place. We’re supposed to have a little warmer day on Sunday. I think it’s supposed to be 70 or 71. I’m not sure what it is today, it’s in the mid-60’s today. The warmer it gets the more often we’re going to have to swap so it will definitely help out with that.”