Phoenix Tony Stewart's Pre-Race Thoughts

Tony Stewart on Phoenix and Tomorrow Phoenix International Raceway November 6, 1999 TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "I've won two midget races here, a Silver Crown race, run second in a super modified, run second in a...

Tony Stewart on Phoenix and Tomorrow Phoenix International Raceway November 6, 1999

TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "I've won two midget races here, a Silver Crown race, run second in a super modified, run second in a Silver Crown race before. I mean every year we've come out here we've run well. We either really ran well or we broke. I think I started running out here in about 1994. It's neat to be able to come here with a Winston Cup car and say I ran a midget on the same track. There's no other place that I can say that I've done that."

WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW?

"I'm excited about it. I was really happy qualifying 11th considering the first session was 55 minutes and the second session was 40 minutes. In all that time I probably got in about 15 laps for qualifying. To qualify 11th I was really happy with that. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. I know the characteristics of this track and knowing how to run a Cup car around here and take care of the tires and everything, it's stuff I'll have to learn tomorrow, but at least starting up front will hopefully let us stay there. I'm optimistic about it. I think I'll know more after these two practice sessions what kind of confidence level I'm going to have. I'm optimistic we're going to have a pretty good day tomorrow."

WHAT'S IT TAKE TO GET AROUND THIS PLACE?

"The balance of this track is tricky. It's hard to get both ends right. Normally if you're right on one end you've got something wrong with the other end. That's because the turns are so different. Making sure you keep the thing turning all day is probably the biggest thing. That's the way it was with all the other cars I've run here, making sure the car turned all day. If you can do that, you're going to have a pretty good day."

WHAT'S SUPRISED YOU ABOUT YOUR ROOKIE SEASON OTHER THAN YOUR SUCCESS?

"There are a lot of things. The demand on my time as the season wore on got progressively more hectic, difficult, demanding. The fans have been unbelievable this year. It's unbelievable what the fans will do to get an autograph sometimes. That type of dedication, you don't see that in any other sport. Little things. There are a lot of little things fans do that make big impressions. The drivers in the garage area have been surprise. There's been a lot of drivers that have been good to me this year, guys that I figured I wouldn't even get close to. Having their friendship this year has meant a lot. The relationships I've built with some of the officials, people in the media and people you see every week, that's been kind of nice. This is a giant family and you hear people talk about it all the time. It's hard when you're a new guy when you come in and be accepted into the family. They've really made me fee welcome. They've really made me feel a part of the family."

GIVE AN EXAMPLE OF A RABID FAN AND WHAT HE'S DONE TO GET AN AUTOGRAPH.

"I've done some charity golf tournaments and I was at one at nine o'clock in the morning and a guy walked halfway across the golf course just to get me to sign a postcard. I wouldn't have gotten up at nine o'clock in the morning if somebody was going to pay me to get a postcard signed. The dedication the fans have is just unbelievable. We've been to other places where fans will stay in line for four or five hours just to get an autograph. I wouldn't stand in line for four or five hours to ride a roller coaster, let alone get an autograph on a postcard, but fans will do that. They're dedicated to that. It just amazes me, the dedication."

HAS THE ADJUSTMENT TO THAT LIMELIGHT BEEN A BIG ADJUSTMENT FOR YOU?

"The hardest thing is I'm not trying to be a big superstar of anything. I just like being one of the guys. That's been the hardest part because I can't do it anymore. I can't go out and hang out with the guys without somebody oohing and aahing. It's neat to a certain degree. I like the people being interested in what I'm doing, but I wish they wouldn't act like I'm an icon or something. I'm just a regular person. I'm no different than I used to be. It's just that the people around me have changed. That's the biggest thing that I think is funny. Everybody says that drivers change when they get to this level. I don't think that's the case. I think everybody around them changes. It's kind of ironic to see it happening after you hear about it. I've heard about it for years and it's kind of neat to see it from a different perspective and see what's really going on."

HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN ENJOYABLE? IS IT EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE?

"Everything and more. This is the most fun I've probably had in four or five years. In the last three or four years I've won three championships in one year, I won an IRL championship and that was all great, but this is the most fun I've had in a long time. There really wasn't a lot of pressure this year, just from the standpoint that nobody expected us to go out and win. I was expected to win in the IRL. I was expected to win in midgets and sprint cars. This year was a more relaxed attitude going into the season. We said, 'Hey, we're taking this year to learn.' It will be interesting to see what will happen next year after we get this rookie season out of the way."

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart