Phoenix II: Stewart-Haas Racing - Saturday media visit

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE/OFFICE DEPOT IMPALA SS AND RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Tornados sponsorship beginning in 2010, the success of the team, and more. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO PUT TOGETHER...

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE/OFFICE DEPOT IMPALA SS AND RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Tornados sponsorship beginning in 2010, the success of the team, and more.

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO PUT TOGETHER SPONSORS, EVEN IF JUST FOR A FEW RACES, TO KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING FOR THE RACE TEAM?

STEWART: "It's important for us as a team. But at the same time, it's important for Tornados. This is a time in our sport where it's hard to find sponsors that have the availability to sponsor a car for the whole season. So making a package that works for them also is something that's important in our sport. So it works for both sides. This is something that if it doesn't work for them, it doesn't work for us either."

YOU'VE BROUGHT MANY SPONSORS TO THE SPORT. WHAT ARE YOU DOING AT A TIME WHEN EVERYBODY ELSE SAYS THEY CAN'T BRING IN NEW SPONSORS AND ARE LOSING SPONSORS. WHAT'S YOUR SECRET?

STEWART: "I honestly don't know. This is a time when you don't see a lot of new groups coming into the sport. When we made the decision to start this venture last year and Ryan came on board, I think everybody kind of rallied around that and I think that's what's attracted a lot of these corporations to be a part of our family is the fact that we were looked at from day one as the underdog. And I think everybody sees now how hard we're working at it and the commitment that we have people have wanted to join because of that."

THIS TIME LAST YEAR YOU WERE STILL PUTTING STEWART-HAAS RACING TOGETHER. CAN YOU REFLECT BACK A YEAR LATER ON THE SUCCESS? IS THERE ANY SENSE OF DISAPPOINTMENT ON HOW THE YEAR WILL END FOR YOU BASED ON WHERE YOU WERE 13 WEEKS AGO?

STEWART: "I think it's hard to be disappointed no matter where we end up. Just by getting two cars in the Chase and winning the races we've won this year exceeded more than what any of you guys (media) could have anticipated and we could have anticipated we were able to do. We knew on paper that it was possible, but the reality of it was going there and competing against great race teams every week. So to be able to accomplish this goal has been an awesome year for us. It's still no different than it was when everybody talked to us after Richmond about losing a 200-point lead of whatever it was. We knew that when we took the point lead. We knew that's what the situation was. We're not disappointed because of that. It just shows that we still have work to do. We were able to exceed our expectations for the year, but at the same time we won't stop at that. We'll keep pushing to be better and to try to be where the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) team and the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) team and the No. 5 (Mark Martin) team and all these great race teams that we're competing against and that we're racing for points. Those are the guys that we want to try to figure out just like they do of how to be better and how to win more races and try to put ourselves in position to win next year."

NEWMAN: "We didn't know. People ask about our expectations and our goals and we had some goals and we didn't know what the expectations were going to be. To echo Tony's thoughts, it's not that we would ever be disappointed, I don't think because of all the things that we've achieved, it's just that we may not be totally satisfied and that's just because we're not standing at the lead table in Las Vegas this year so that's pretty much it. We've done a lot of great things as an organization. We've done a lot of great things as drivers to get to where we are, and for me personally to make the big change and obviously Tony as well, didn't have any idea what to expect, just knew that I wanted to go out there and have fun, and if we had fun, we were going to be successful one way or another."

HAS THE LACK OF TESTING HAMPERED YOUR PROGRESS? FOR 2011, WHAT AREAS DO YOU STILL THINK NEED IMPROVEMENT?

STEWART: "When you're working with a new group of people, the testing would help. But I can't say that I really feel like its hurt us a lot this year; not as much as we would have thought it would have. But as far as areas we need to focus on, obviously we have an engine package at Hendrick that they worry about; we don't really have to worry about. That's a variable in our equation that we don't have to concentrate on this winter because they'll do that for us. But we'll try to make our cars lighter and try to make our bodies better and we'll try to make sure that we're utilizing our resources with our seven-post shake rig and making sure that we're trying to find every little thing that we can during the off-season to make sure that when we show up in February that we're as prepared as we can be."

HOW WAS THE TRACK HANDLING YESTERDAY AND HOW DO YOU EXPECT IT TO HANDLE TOMORROW?

STEWART: "The track didn't handle; our cars did though. This is a place that I've spent a lot of time at. We've spent a lot of time here in open wheel cars, Indy cars, Midgets, Silver Crown cars and it really didn't change a lot yesterday, honestly. The temperature was pretty cool and we got some overcast skies during practice which helped keep it from getting a lot warmer. So, I thought it stayed pretty consistent, which it normally doesn't. It's a very temperature-sensitive track and that's something that I like with it. It didn't seem like it changed a lot with temperature yesterday because we got the cloud cover that kind of helped keep the surface temp down."

NEWMAN: "Along the same lines, I think every time we come back here it seems like it loses just a small percentage of grip and that's a good thing because the driver has to drive and hustle the car a little bit more and a little bit differently and still be smooth. I think that as Tony said, it didn't change a whole lot with the weather conditions, but I don't know that it's going to be the exact same today or tomorrow. Depending on how our practice sessions go, time-wise, and what the sun is like during the race, there may be bigger transitions tomorrow than there were yesterday or today."

ONE OF THE UNKNOWNS AS A NEW TEAM WAS THE RELIANCE ON HENDRICK FOR CHASSIS AND TECHNOLOGY AND MOTORS. WERE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW WELL THE FLOW OF INFORMATION WORKED BACK AND FORTH?

STEWART: "It has been consistent from day one. As soon as we made the commitment that this was what we were going to do. And as soon as Darian Grubb came aboard, I think that was the biggest key in making sure that it was a smoother transition. Darian knows the system and the people involved and I think that with that came the trust from their side of knowing they had somebody that they could trust that's been there for a long time and is passionate about Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing. So I think that made that transition easier and helped make it smooth. But it's been constant from day one. That's something that I think they've kind of been surprised at what we've been able to help them with too and given a different set of input. Ryan and I didn't come from Hendrick Motorsports so we are totally unbiased and have something else to compare to versus what they've been doing for years in and out. I think it's been good from their standpoint that they've had two drivers that are different from their system that are now involved in it."

WERE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW WELL IT'S WORKED?

STEWART: "Not really. That was part of what weighed into my decision to do what we're doing here and that's knowing that we have a good engine package and good chassis package that's proven. The key to that is making sure that the information is going both directions. It's not one-way information from them to us or jus us to them, it's making sure that we keep that constant flow of information and that's what is helping all of us."

DENNY HAMLIN HAS BEEN EXPRESSING FRUSTRATION OVER ONE DRIVER OR A HANDFUL OF DRIVERS GOING TO NASCAR BEFORE TALLADEGA AND HE THINKS THEY ENCOURAGED THEM ON THE BUMP-DRAFTING RULE. HE THINKS MAYBE YOU HAVE TO EARN THE RIGHT TO BE RESPECTED AND HEARD BY NASCAR. DID YOU EVER HAVE TO PROVE YOURSELF BEFORE THEY TOOK YOUR OPINIONS INTO CONSIDERATION?

NEWMAN: "I've been on both sides of that because whether it's two years ago or three years ago or now, I think that some of that comes with experience at the race track and some of it comes with your knowledge and how well you are respected in the garage area and who you're speaking on behalf of, if you're speaking on behalf of yourself, or your team, or your organization, so you're going to have both of those things. You're going to be listened to and ignored and different times. Yeah, it's the way to my knowledge that NASCAR has been for a very long time.

"Dale Earnhardt Sr. was the one who always comes to mind as far as who they listened to the most in respect to having driving influence. So I think whether he goes to complain or he goes to speak, it's two different things and that's just one driver. There are many drivers in the garage area who go into that truck each and every weekend to talk about things."

STEWART: "Yeah, I think it's a situation where you've got to remember over the past 60 years now, they've always had drivers who have wanted to put their two cents worth in. It's not so much that they don't listen, but they've heard it all before. And that's their job as the sanctioning body is to sort it all out. A lot of times when drivers go in there, there's emotion involved in it and that's the wrong time to go in and talk about things and I think that's what made Dale Sr. so good about going in and talking. He was able to take the emotion out of it and just lay the facts out on the table. But it's a situation where I think the longer you're in the series, and the more experience you have, the more I think that you're opinion (matters); but they listen to everybody's opinions and ideas. But at the same time, they have to maintain control over everything. They can't let us take control of it, and that's a good thing. They have to do that. But it's a situation where you have to be able to see it for more than just the one side you're going in as. When they look at a comment from a driver, they have to look at it from a lot of different angles and how it affects just that one angle of it and that's something I think can at times be frustrating for drivers because they don't see that. But that's the reality of it is that NASCAR does a really good job of being able to just look at it from a lot of different angles and say well, it may impact from this angle but it may be detrimental from this angle. So they have to weigh out all those options every time somebody goes in (the trailer)."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Hendrick Motorsports