Pocono II: Stewart - Friday media visit

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway to discuss racing at Pocono Raceway, defending his win at Watkins Glen next weekend, the state of the sport, and more. YOU'VE DONE A LOT OF COOL THINGS...

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway to discuss racing at Pocono Raceway, defending his win at Watkins Glen next weekend, the state of the sport, and more.

YOU'VE DONE A LOT OF COOL THINGS IN YOUR LIFE, BUT YOU WERE UP SHOOTING HOOPS AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY THE OTHER DAY. HOW DID THAT GO? "That was really cool. We had a winner's circle appearance for Watkins Glen this week. I got to go to Syracuse University and shoot hoops with the coach, so that was pretty cool. It was a lot of fun. It's pretty intimidating when you go to somebody else's venue and you're in their house and then get in a competition with them. I'm happy to say that we tied four out of five on the free throw side, so I held my own as an Indiana kid. Hopefully now when I go back to Indiana I won't get thrown out for not being good at basketball."

WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR HERE AT POCONO? "We're gaining on it; we aren't all the way there yet though. I'm proud of my guys; the morale of the team is up. They're doing a really good job at staying focused. They've all got direction now and nobody is off running on tangents trying to do something off of what everybody else is doing. Our guys are real focused now but we still have a way to go."

TALKING ABOUT NEXT WEEKEND'S RACE AT WATKINS GLEN. DO YOU THINK THAT WILL BE AS PHYSICAL AS SONOMA WAS EARLIER THIS YEAR? "It doesn't normally tend to be. A lot of that is because we don't have corners where you relatively have such high speeds and then go down to such low speeds. The Glen, just the overall speed of the track is a lot greater. I don't think you'll see near as much contact as what we saw at Sonoma. At Sonoma it just seems to get worse every time we go there. It seems like at The Glen you're running a lot faster and the guys don't want to put themselves in that position."

RYAN SAID TODAY THAT HE WAS FINED BY NASCAR. AS HIS TEAM OWNER, DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT OR IS THIS SOMETHING THAT WAS GIVEN DIRECTLY TO RYAN. YOU'VE BEEN CRITICAL OF NASCAR IN THE PAST, BUT DID NOT GET FINED. DO YOU THINK THEY WERE RIGHT IN DOING THIS? IN KEEPING IT QUIET? "Honestly, I don't know what's right and what's wrong on this topic. What everyone has to remember is that NASCAR's done a good job of building this sport over 60 years, and between everyone in this room and in the garage we have all done our part to try to break this sport down over the last 4-5 years. We're all to blame. As drivers, we're just as much to blame as anybody else.

"At the same time, I'm going to blame you guys and you guys have to take some of the responsibility for it. When you finally tell someone that the racing is bad enough, long enough, you're going to convince people that it really is. The result of that is not having as many people in the grandstand because of that.

"We all have to take the blame for it, and with that in my opinion, that is what put NASCAR in the position they're in right now. We all have to take the responsibility for it. The facts show that the racing is better than it's ever been. It's more competitive than it has ever been. Everybody has gotten so spoiled over the last 10-15 years that we've all lost sight of what we've really got here. Everybody sitting here and listening to this right now makes a living off this sport, myself included, and we're all shooting ourselves in the foot because we're convincing some of these people that this stuff is bad. It may not always be perfect, every scenario may not always be perfect but every time we write something bad about it, or talk about it from our standpoint, all we do is break this sport down and it doesn't deserve that. We're all making a pretty good living, and we're lucky to have our jobs doing what we do. In my opinion, I think what NASCAR is doing is very appropriate.

"I didn't know. I'm sorry I didn't answer the question. I did not know. I think it was just between them and Ryan."

YOU'VE BEEN FINISHING WELL, BUT YOU HAVEN'T BEEN TYPICAL TONY STEWART FINISHING AT THE FRONT AT ALL TIMES. IS THIS GOING TO HELP YOU GUYS LONG TERM AS A TEAM TO HAVE TO WORK THROUGH A ROUGH PATCH AND GO BACK TO RACING AT THE TOP ALL THE TIME? "I don't know. The big thing is when people that aren't use to running bad start to run bad; it's easy to start losing confidence and losing focus and losing direction and just getting discouraged. As a team owner now I have to worry about watching the whole organization go through that. That's what I was mentioning earlier. I'm really proud of all of our guys and the fact that they are staying encouraged, they're keeping their heads up, they're staying focused on what they need to do and they're working hard. There are guys that are staying late every day that don't have to stay late at work. They're sacrificing time with their families to help make our program better. As a car owner, that's all you can ask for. To have that dedication from your guys and whether you're winning races or not, to just know that you have that part of the equation on your side, gives you hope that the rest of it will get better."

YOU GUYS ARE TRYING TO PURSUE A NEW SPONSOR FOR OLD SPICE. HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU ABLE TO GET IN THAT SEARCH GIVEN THE TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES WHILE ALSO TRYING TO WIN RACES AND MAKE THE CHASE. "Keep in mind, every race team has a marketing staff and that marketing staff is who is out trying to get the leads on sponsors and once they get so far down the road with each sponsor that's when I get involved. Every major race team has a marketing staff that is out there beating those doors down before it gets to my level."

OUT OF YOUR LAST 10 STARTS HERE, YOU HAVE NINE TOP-10 FINISHES. COULD YOU GIVE US A LITTLE INSIGHT WHY YOU THINK YOU'VE RUN SO WELL HERE THESE LAST FIVE YEARS? "It just seems to be one of those tracks where at the end of the day we end up with a decent run. We're not spectacular. We've never been spectacular here at any point, but we always just seem to be the guy that nobody sees all day until the end of the day and we kind of come into a good run and end up with a good finish out of it. I wish I had an answer as to how why it is that way, but I'm just kind of glad that it is that way."

HOW DO YOU GAIN MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE CHASE? "You just have to keep running well. That's an easy deal. You have to keep going and doing what you're doing each week. It would be nice to go out and rip off three or four wins before the Chase starts, but if you're not doing that--I mean, not having the bonus points is not necessarily going to kill you, but you just have to be really good and consistent in the Chase and if you can do that for ten straight weeks, you can have a shot at it no matter how many bonus points you had to start it. We just have to do a good job of having everything sorted out and having the feel that we're looking for in the racecar before the Chase starts and not sit there scratching our head wondering what we're missing. We need to find that piece of the equation before the Chase starts to have a shot at it."

AS AN OWNER, WHAT POINTS DO YOU AGREE ARE GOOD WAYS TO CUT COSTS AND SAVE MONEY? "Well it was a good meeting. I'll be honest; I was really overwhelmed when I walked in there. That was probably one of the coolest things I've ever got to do in my NASCAR career was sit in there with car owners and the different levels and years and knowledge of racing--that was very flattering just to be in that group. I thought there were some really good ideas in there, I thought there were some ideas that will take a long time to sort details out, but I think that collectively the owners did a really good job at trying to look at all the aspects that we could in a short amount of time to figure out something that we can go to NASCAR with and try to make things better for everybody involved. It wasn't just about saving money for the car owners; it was trying to figure out how we can do things to make it better for the fans, and to make the sport better. Hopefully some of those ideas are something that will be attractive to NASCAR too."

-source: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup