TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed today’s announcement of Danica Patrick’s schedule and car number, his mindset for the last three races of the season, battling for the championship and other topics.

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

ON TODAY’S ANNOUNCMENT WITH DANICA PATRICK. “Yeah, it’s definitely nice. Everybody wanted to know where she was going to be racing, what the number was on the car and that’s what today was all about. Just being able to give everybody in the media and the fans an idea of where they are going to see her next year, that was a pretty big step.”

YOU TWO SEEM TO GET ALONG REALLY WELL AND THE CHEMISTRY IS OBVIOUS, THAT HELPS A LOT I’M SURE. “Yeah, she’s a lot of fun. She’s got a great personality and she’s very dedicated to being good so she’s the kind of person that you want as a teammate. She works hard at it and she has fun doing it. I think she’s a perfect fit for us.”

EDDIE (GOSSAGE) HAS THIS LITTLE FIGHT MOTIF GOING ON WITH YOU AND CARL (EDWARDS), CARL WASN’T EXACTLY ENAMERED WITH THE IDEA, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? “I think that’s why Eddie Gossage is one of the best promoters in the United States and probably will be before it’s all said and done. I thought it was funny personally. I was just glad I was the guy that got to wear the black hat.”

DO YOU THINK THAT IDEA CAME FROM SOME OF YOUR COMMENTS? “There’s no doubt it did. It shows you how good of a promoter Eddie is. I guarantee by Monday morning he already had that idea done.”

SUNDAY NIGHT, HE DIDN’T WAIT UNTIL MONDAY MORNING. “That’s what I’m saying, by Monday morning he was done already. He already knew what he was going to do.”

WERE YOU THROWING DOWN A GAUNTLET WITH THOSE COMMENTS? “No, I just stated a fact that we’re ready for this. We’re ready for these three weeks. After a race like we had last Sunday, I’m ready to go for these weeks. If anybody counts us out they’re making a mistake.”

HOW HAS YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THE CHASE CHANGED IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS WITH THE SUCCESS YOU’VE HAD? “Obviously going into Martinsville being fourth in the points we felt good that we were still in the hunt like we were. I think after the way we ran last Sunday and the way that we were more so not so much how we ran but how we rebounded from a really slow start of the day and were able to overcome it and have a dramatic finish like that at the end. I mean that’s the stuff that puts you in that position at the end and you have that with three weeks to go you’ve got something going on.”

HOW MUCH OF A FACTOR DOES THE PIT CREW, AND CREW CHIEF MAKING CHANGES THROUGH THE RACE HAVE, YOU TALKED ABOUT HOW THAT’S CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE WON? “Exactly, it’s easy to get flustered and kind of get frayed on the ends and Darian (Grubb, crew chief) did an awesome job. The big thing was just saying hey what we’re doing isn’t working, the direction we’re going with our changes isn’t working, we’ve got to make a big swing at it. He didn’t go crazy with it but he made educated decisions and that’s what got us there at the end. He had two really good pit calls that got us the track position to once we got up there to do something with what he had changed.”

HOW DID YOU KEEP YOUR TEMPER LAST WEEK? “I made a mistake and put the No. 43 in a bad spot but the thing I did was when I made that mistake I didn’t pick the gas up and go ahead and take the spot. I kind of let him get the back in any spot that he had. He didn’t deserve to lose it because I made a mistake and pushed him out of the way. I think we raced everybody with respect.”

EVEN WITH DENNY HAMLIN, YOU WERE ON THE RADIO TELLING HIM YOU’RE JUST GONNA HAVE TO…. “I wouldn’t normally race him that way. I would have more respect for the leader than that if I was getting lapped and if that were the spring race I probably would have let him go like you should but Denny also knew why we were doing what we were doing and I think it just shows the respect that we have for each other. If you don’t put guys in bad positions they don’t put you back in it the other way.”

HAS EVERYTHING THAT’S HAPPENED WITH THE NO. 10 CAR AND THE ANNOUNCEMENTS THAT YOU’VE MADE THIS WEEK, DOES THAT TAKE SOME OF THE PRESSURE OFF GOING INTO THE FINAL THREE RACES? “I think a little bit. It’s been a busy week make no mistakes about it. I guess I still think in the bigger picture than just what I’m doing. It’s an exciting day for Danica. It’s an exciting day for GoDaddy and this is something we’ve been looking forward to this day. We’ve been looking forward to the day we can pull the cover off of this car and we can sit there together in a press conference and talk about how excited we are doing this together. I’ve looked forward to this. It’s not a distraction, but it is nice to get it done here and do it at Texas where we like anyway. Get it behind us and now we can go back to work.”

IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TO GO GET MONEY IN THIS SPORT RIGHT NOW, ESPECIALLY NEW MONEY LIKE YOU GUYS DID, HOW MUCH ARE YOU HAVING TO GIVE OF YOURSELF IN ORDER TO LAND THESE SPONSORSHIPS? “We’ve got a great staff at SHR and we’ve got a great marketing department and I feel like they are the reason we’ve been able to be successful on this side. I think they’ve thought of ways thinking outside the box of how to make these partnerships with these sponsors work and work for them in a way they haven’t had these opportunities in the past with these other teams in the series. To bring somebody new into the sport, that’s a really, really big feather in our cap from an organization standpoint. I take a lot of pride in that.”

ITS EASY TO LOOK AT VICTORY LANE LAST WEEK AND SAY HE WAS FIRED UP, HE SAID SOMETHING BECAUSE HE WAS SO FIRED UP, BUT YOU MEANT IT SO WOULD YOU SAY IT SITTING RIGHT HERE LIKE A CALM SITUATION TOO? “Absolutely. The feeling hasn’t changed. It wasn’t the adrenaline that was saying that. I’ve been racing 31 years and we’ve been a part of a lot of championship battles and I know what that feeling is when you feel that stuff is going right and that you’ve got that shot again. Like I said he’s making a mistake if he’s counting us out and if he thinks it’s just a mind game deal I really don’t care what he does. I’m going to control my destiny and my car, I don’t care what he does with his car. I’m going to take care of business with ours.”

THERE SEEMS TO BE SO MUCH FOCUS ON YOU AND CARL FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID TODAY HE HOPED THAT SOMETHING WOULD HAPPEN AND HE COULD GET BACK IN IT SO YOU CAN’T COUNT HIM OUT EITHER. “No, you never do. I guess I’m looking at it from the standpoint of looking up. I’m not looking behind and I’m not worried about anybody else. I’m not worried about Carl I’m not worried about anybody, I’m worried about what we’re doing with our car. I think practice this morning showed that.”

SHOULD YOU LOOK AT IT DIFFERENT WITH ONLY THREE RACES LEFT? “Why would you?” I DON’T KNOW I’M WONDERING. “No, you don’t change what gets you there.” MAYBE MORE WILLING TO GAMBLE OR SOEMTHING LIKE THAT. “Listen, I’m going to tell you this just like I told everybody else and make sure everybody still understands it, we still do this one day at a time. We’re not looking to Sunday, I’m looking to qualifying here in a minute. Once that’s over I’m going to get ready for race practice tomorrow. We still carry the same approach we’ve told everybody for weeks and months now. It’s not changing and there is a reason I do it that way and it works. So we won’t change it until 50 laps to go, you might have to do something different at Homestead late in the race but you don’t change that formula. If you are doing something that gets you to the front of this deal you darn sure don’t change that until it’s over so we’re not going to change anything.”

HOW WAS PRACTICE OUT THERE AND WHAT WERE YOU WORKING ON? “Like I said, we kinda of feel like we’re in the Matt Kenseth mode. I’m kind of happy. If we qualify like we practiced there and get an upfront starting spot, that’s normally a good sign for us. I’m not a good qualifier so if we qualify well we normally race well behind it. I’m excited about it. I thought we were decent in race trim. I think we learned some stuff going from race trim to qualifying trim that was a parallel as far as the balance was concerned. I think we found what might fix that so I’m pretty excited about it right now.”

DANICA SAID FOR A LONG TIME THAT YOU WERE THE PERSON SHE WOULD ASK HER NASCAR QUESTIONS TO THAT SHE HAD, DID YOU FEEL LIKE SORT OF THE LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE IN LEADING HER OVER HERE? “Not necessarily. Trust me there are a lot of people that have a lot of respect for her and what she’s doing and knowing how hard it is with all the attention she gets to be able to focus and do what she’s doing. Like we mentioned, I’ve been where she is, I know what those cars feel like so for her to ask a question about something that’s going on or a feel it’s easier for me to understand why she’s asking that question verses just the question itself. I don’t know that it made us feel like we were in the lead in that category but I think that’s what’s going to make it fun and make it a natural fit for us because we do have that comparison and that parallel with each other.”

HOW MUCH HARDER IS THE CHANGE SHE’S GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE COMPARED TO WHEN YOU MADE BECAUSE OF TESTING? “Yeah, but Juan (Pablo Montoya) didn’t get to do them either and Juan made it work. Just some people make it and some people don’t. Like Sam (Hornish), Sam’s a great open-wheel racer and for some reason and he’s getting better in the stock car the longer he goes but it’s an easier transition for some than it is for others. You’ve seen guys like Dario Franchitti and Jacques Villeneuve that never figured it out and these are guys that have won the Indy 500, won championships and are accomplished race car drivers. There’s no blue print, there’s nothing that says you’re going to figure it out but we feel like with our group we’re giving her the best opportunity we can for her to figure everything out. What we’ve seen so far from her in a stock car, she’s already starting to pick things up. She’s a sponge when it comes to information. She gathers everything in and then figures out how to separate it, cipher it and go on. I think she has the mindset that some of those guys that tried to make it didn’t have.”

IS THERE A COMMON THREAD THAT CONNECTS THE ONES THAT GET IT FAST AND THE ONES THAT DON’T? “I wish because then it would be easy to know right off the bat which guys are capable of doing it and which ones aren’t but unfortunately it’s not that easy.”

YOU’VE GOT THREE CHASE WINS, YOU’RE ONLY EIGHT POINTS DOWN, YOU’VE GOT MOMENTUM BUT CARL IS LEADING THE POINTS, IT’S HIS CHAMPIONSHIP TO LOSE? “How many points do you get if you win the race verses second? SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT SOMETHING LIKE THAT. “How many points are we behind?” WELL YOU’VE GOT TO BEAT HIM OBVIOUSLY. “Okay, so.” SO IF HE LOSES THE CHAMPIONSHIP HAVING THE LEAD RIGHT NOW I’D SAY IT’S HIS TO LOSE. “No.” YOU DON’T THINK? “How many points is it from first place to second place in the race?” ABOUT SEVEN. “I think its three. So he’s eight points ahead so if we win all three races and he runs second we’ve taken it from him. He didn’t lose it. We took it from him. Now if it was a bigger gap than that and all he had to do was finish right behind us then I would agree with you that it was his to lose but we still have the opportunity to take it from him.” HE’S HAD TWO BAD RACES, TWO LUCKY FINISHES … “I feel like I got him back in the corners.” YOU DO? “Yeah, I do. Like I said these are three tracks that I like. I feel like we run really well here, Texas is one I really look forward to coming back to. Phoenix we were really good at the test and Homestead is a track that I like. We haven’t won there since they redid it but I like the style that we have to race there and I like where we have to run on the race track. So its three tracks that I like and I feel like we can control our destiny. If we were more points out and we couldn’t gain them by winning the race and him running second then I would feel like it’s his to lose but we can still go up there and take it from him. We don’t have to worry about what he does all we have to do is control our destiny and we can still win this thing.” CAN YOU WIN ALL THREE? “I didn’t think I could win three of them in the Chase let alone the rest of them. I would love to be able to say yeah, I can win all three of them but there’s no give me’s in this deal and there’s no guarantees and there’s a lot of variables that are out of our control but we’re going to control the ones that we have control of and let the rest of it fall in place.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN GET IN CARL’S HEAD A LITTLE BIT, IT APPEARS THIS WEEK YOU KIND OF HAVE? “I don’t know. He’s growing facial hair we’ve never seen him have and he’s saying stuff I’ve never heard him say so I don’t know what’s going on with him this week.”

YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT HAVING HIM BACKED INTO THE CORNER, IF YOU’RE ABLE TO MAKE SOMEONE FEEL THAT WAY BECAUSE IS THAT PARTIALLY BECAUSE YOU KNOW HOW TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP, YOU’VE DONE IT BEFORE AND BECAUSE YOU’RE MORE CONFIDENT AND YOU FEEL YOU KNOW THE GAME? “I know what to expect. I know what is going on. I’ve been in that situation so it’s not a new experience for me and it’s definitely not a scenario I’m uncomfortable with. That’s why I’ve been walking around for a whole week with a smile on my face because I’m very comfortable with where we are at and very confident with what we have going on these next three weeks.”

HE KNOWS HOW TO LOSE CHAMPIONSHIPS, HE LOST TWO, IN FACT HE LOST 2005 TO YOU, DO YOU REMEMBER THE LAST FEW RACES OF 2005 BECAUSE HE REMEMBERS THEM? “I can’t remember what I did two days ago let alone back to 2005. I honestly don’t. You’ve got to lose some to win them and we’ve lost our share of them in the past too but I think that’s what also makes it easier to win them when you know what you’ve got to do to overcome those.”

WHAT KIND OF RACING ARE YOU EXPECTING AT PHOENIX NEXT WEEK WITH THE NEW TRACK? “Nobody knows. Your guess is going to be as good as mine is right now. I think we’ll have a little better idea hopefully on Friday in practice we’ll get some cars around each other and see what we’ve got.”

THIS CAR (NO. 10) IS RUNNING 10 RACES, WOULD THERE BE THE OPTION OF PUTTING ANTOHER DRIVER IN THERE TO KEEP THE POINTS UP? “Yes, we would definitely like to run the car the whole season. If we can get another sponsor to take care of the rest of the races I would love to run this car full-time next year and have that opportunity to work with that crew and the crew chief and get them ready for the whole season in 2013 also.”

I CAN’T IMAGINE A BASEBALL GENERAL MANAGER DOING ALL THE DEALS, TRADES, AND THEN GOING DOWN AND PITCHING THE GAME WHICH IS ESSENTIALLY WHAT YOU ARE DOING. “Piece of cake.” DOES IT EVER GET GRINDING? “Not for me. I’m a single guy, I don’t have a wife and children to go home to. I don’t have to delegate my time to a family. These race teams and my race tracks and everything we are doing kind of is that family. I like staying busy in that capacity. I wouldn’t know what else to do. This is the only way I’ve done it for a long time now and I don’t know if I could change it now.” DO YOU SLEEP? “Not very well. I don’t need to sleep though.”

BEFORE THE CHASE YOU SAID WE DON’T EVEN DESERVE TO BE IN THE CHASE, THEN ALL OF THE SUDDEN YOU GET IN AND WIN THREE RACES AND ARE ON FIRE KNOCKING ON THE DOOR OF ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP, WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT TO? “I wish I knew. I’d love to know because I would make sure we didn’t get ourselves in that position again. A lot of it is when you look at our season the first half to two-thirds of it we just had weird things happen that we’ve never had happen before that would get us behind and get us backed in a corner and we couldn’t get our way worked out of it by the end of the race. Maybe it’s just something simple as getting all that bad luck out of the way early in the year and it seems like the last seven weeks have kind of been back to normal scenarios and not having these weird things happen that cost us races early in the year.”

NEXT YEAR YOU ARE GOING TO A THREE-CAR TEAM, YOU’VE SEEN RCR GO TO FOUR CARS THEN BACK TO THREE, ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT STRUGGLING AT ALL WITH A THREE-CAR TEAM? “No, I’m not really. When we sat down originally Gene Hass’ vision was to build us to a four-car team and I sat down and we hired Ryan Newman and Tony Gibson and Darian Grubb and Bobby Hutchens and said listen we’re going to get these two cars up where they need to be before we add a third car. Having six opportunities to get these two cars in the Chase and accomplishing that five to six times now and having the opportunity to run for a championship this year is proof that we’ve got our program where it needs to be where we can accommodate that third team. We won’t expand it to a fourth team until we make sure these three cars go really well first. Timing is everything but its making sure that when you make that commitment to go to that next step that you have all your ducks in a row and I feel like we’re in that scenario now.”

WHEN YOU STARTED STEWART-HASS RACING I IMAGINE YOU SET GOALS FOR YOURSELF, ARE YOU AHEAD OF THOSE GOALS? “I think you just be realistic and have to evaluate it as you go. I would call it goals as much as it would be a wish list. You set where you would like to be. I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect. It’s hard to. It’s hard when you go into a new venture that you’ve never been a part of before you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. Just like Danica next year, she may have in her head that a top-15 is the only way she’s going to feel happy or a top-20 is going to be a good day. My opinion of it is different. I want her to get the laps and get the experience. You sit down at the end of the day and you evaluate what’s going on and I feel like we’ve done a lot of things that people didn’t feel like we could do in three years and we’re pretty proud of that.”

DANICA WAS TALKING ABOUT HOW YOU GUYS HAVE THIS REPORT, WAS IT ALWAYS LIKE THAT WAY? “Oddly enough it’s been like that from day one that we met. Like I said you can see by watching her, she’s very relaxed, she’s got a great personality and a good sense of humor. I think that’s what will make her, Ryan and I a good combination together. We’re going to have a lot of fun next year. Ryan and I have fun like that already but it’s nice to have another teammate that fits that mold and has that personality that matches ours.”

CAN SHE GIVE AS GOOD AS SHE GETS? “She’s pretty good at it, yeah. She’s gets her good share of shots in so you can’t turn your back on her because she’s going to get you if you do.”

TALK ABOUT TEXAS, A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY THIS TRACK IS GOING TO SHOW WHO THE REALLY GOOD TEAMS ARE, WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS TRACK IS ALL ABOUT THIS WEEKEND AS WE HEAD INTO THIS FUN.? “It’s always been about showcasing teams. You don’t run well here with a poor organization. You’re not going to back into a good finish here. Even when there’s been late-race pit strategies that have played out it’s always been strong teams that have come to the top, this is a place that is going to showcase what these organizations are all about.” THAT’S WHY YOU FEEL SO CONFIDENT RIGHT NOW? “Like I said this is a track that we’ve always ran well at. If I’m in the top-three on the speed chart at the end of qualifying practice that’s normally a pretty good sign.”

WITH YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL NOW, OBVIOUSLY YOU CAN’T TAKE A REALLY BAD RACE AND TRY TO MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF IT, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN MAKE UP SOMETHING HERE NO MATTER WHAT? “I don’t think I’m looking at it from that standpoint as much as it’s I feel like we’ve got the two or three tracks I was worried about in the Chase behind us now. We’ve got Dover out of the way, we’ve got Talladega that we didn’t know what could happen and Martinsville was one I was concerned about too. We’ve got those three tracks out of the way and these three tracks we have left are places that I feel confident that we’ve had really good race cars in the past so it makes you a little more relaxed about it. You don’t feel like you’ve got to make something happen. You feel like you should be in decent shape going into it.”

ON DANICA’S SCHEDULE. “Part of it is timing when it comes up in the season. This is in my opinion our fastest 1.5-mile track that we go to. She’s going to go to places that tires are going to give up, she’s going to go to tracks that you have to move around the race track a lot and then you’re going to come here and you’re going to rip around here all day so we picked a variety of tracks that we knew would be a challenge from different standpoints. But those are the things that you’re going to run through the whole season that lead up to a championship. It was strategic in the standpoint of the timing of the schedule and where it was at.”