JOE GIBBS, TEAM OWNERS, JOE GIBBS RACING: ARE THERE FENCES THAT NEED TO BE MENDED BETWEEN TONY AND HIS TEAM AFTER LAST WEEK'S INCIDENT? "I think what is most important in this whole situation is - rather than a list of 'dos-and-don'ts,' - this...
JOE GIBBS, TEAM OWNERS, JOE GIBBS RACING:
ARE THERE FENCES THAT NEED TO BE MENDED BETWEEN TONY AND HIS TEAM AFTER LAST WEEK'S INCIDENT?
"I think what is most important in this whole situation is - rather than a list of 'dos-and-don'ts,' - this is very important for Tony to say, 'Hey, this is what I need to do.' I think Wednesday was a good example. What meant the most to me was, without any prompting - I hadn't even talked to him, really, and as far as I know hardly anybody had - he drove over on Wednesday to Terre Haute and he said all the things he really needed to say. 'Hey, I'm sorry about it. I know that I've let some people down. I have to mend fences,' and that he was going to get help. I think all those things are important. What's important to me is that it wasn't a list - and it shouldn't be a list given to Tony - this has got to be something that Tony really wants to do. For this to be something that really means something down the road, I thought that was what was important. So, having said that, I think he has a great relationship with the team. I think Zippy (Greg Zipadelli) is probably one of his best friends. Hopefully, I am. I think what we see, too, is the 'total Tony.' You see him all the time, in all these different situations and everything, and so that means a lot to us, too. Having said that, in this situation, this is something that shouldn't have happened. It was a mistake and we've got to make sure it is dealt with the right way. I'd say basically that if everybody here knew every single thing about this, I think they would probably say that what is happening and what is taking place here is probably the best things that could happen in this situation and was handled the right way."
HOW ARE YOU HANDLING THIS INTERNALLY VERSUS HOW YOU'VE HANDLED SITUATIONS LIKE THIS IN FOOTBALL?
"What I think is different about this sport, which is what I love, is the fact that there is a sponsor. In the NFL, it was pretty much if you could get by the league rules you were okay. I think what we have over here, which adds so much to this sport is the sponsor. I love that part of it. As a consequence, when you look back over the history of this sport - since I've been in it for sure - there have been very few instances where you pick up the paper and really read something that is of a serious nature. I love that part of it.
"I represent Home Depot and Tony does, and it's very important for us to do it the right way. You couldn't ask for a better sponsor. Tony will tell you that. I'll tell you that. We've kind of made commitments to those guys and we need to live up to it."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HOME DEPOT FINING TONY?
"I think that was something that Home Depot felt was important and as a consequence, that's kind of what I think is important, too - however they choose to deal with it from their standpoint - I think they've been absolutely fantastic. I'd say Tony would tell you the same thing, so I think we're all in agreement with that. Home Depot didn't bring this on, but yet they've been so supportive and yet, they felt like this was very important that they did some things here to try and correct some of the things and to state what they stand for. We all want to just enhance their program. We don't want to do anything to hurt it."
DO YOU HAVE ANY COMPLAINTS WITH HOW THE MEDIA TREATS YOUR DRIVERS AND YOUR RACE TEAMS?
"No, I do not. As a matter of fact, I think our coverage with what has happened to us and the press - the way they've treated us - has been absolutely fantastic. We think we've got a great relationship with a lot of the guys here. I see Tony spend time joking with people. You get him in the right environment - he'll tell you the same thing - he has a lot of friends in the media. So, no, I think we've been treated great."
COULD YOU SEE THIS INCIDENT COMING WITH TONY LAST WEEKEND?
"I don't think anybody could have guessed - at least that's my opinion. I believe we certainly didn't see anything coming."
COULD THE PHOTOGRAPHER INVOLVED IN LAST WEEK'S INCIDENT HAVE DONE ANYTHING TO HAVE HELPED PREVENT THIS?
"No, I don't. As a matter of fact, I had a conversation with (photographer) Gary [Mook]. I wasn't there and didn't see what happened or anything. But, Gary was very forthright with me. He was great. I think I appreciated the way he handled it because I think a lot of people could have made it worse than what it was. Certainly, he didn't. I think he was very forthright. He said, 'Hey, look. I don't want this blown out of proportion. A lot of people are saying things that didn't happen.' He was great, and yet he had a concern and he told me what it was. I think he handled it as good as somebody could have handled it, myself, and I really appreciate him through this whole thing."
DID YOU PAY THE PHOTOGRAPHER TO 'GO AWAY?'
"Do you think I have to answer that? What people say - I can't prevent what people say. But, anybody that knows me know that is not the case. What we did is we talked, we exchanged business cards because I wanted to be able to get in touch with him and I called him a number of times and am still calling him. I wanted to make sure that I had a way to get in contact with him."
ARE YOU AWARE THERE IS A VIDEOTAPE OF THE INCIDENT AND HAVE YOU SEEN IT?
"No, I haven't. I pretty much talked to Gary and I'm kind of going off what Gary said. I think he was the guy, so I felt like I had a pretty good feeling of what happened by talking to him."
WHAT DOES THE SPONSOR'S PROBATION INVOLVE?
"I wouldn't know. You probably need to talk to them. I think it's just kind of what they said. They wanted a fine and I would imagine any kind of situation like that means that, 'Hey, we don't want something like this to happen again.'"
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE HAS BEEN AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF FANS AND THE NUMBER OF MEDIA THAT ARE COVERING NASCAR, SINCE YOU CAME INTO THE SPORT?
"I would say that one of the things I enjoy the most is that in this sport you have a chance to come on race day, get back here, maybe get an autograph, talk to people, maybe talk to certainly a driver, at some point, and if you're lucky, get an autograph.
"In most other sports I've been around, you could get arrested doing that. I kind of like the fact that it is a 'free-for-all,' and I think it's great. I think if you take a normal fan, what he says is, 'Hey, there's my driver.' He thinks that guy belongs to them and they're pulling for him. To get a chance to get an autograph and everything is one of the best things we've got going. I think the media probably enjoys it over here a lot more, too, because you have better access, you can get closer to people and I think it's a real plus."
HOW HAS THIS AFFECTED YOUR TEAM?
"It would probably hard for me to say, but for me, I always go off of Zippy. He is the coach. He is the guy living with them. He is the guy that spends months away from home, and they all do. He's got a real close finger on the pulse of the team. I think they all had a real good meeting this week, sat down and kind of all talked it over. I think it is something that happened that everybody wished hadn't happened. I think they love Tony and so I think it is one of those things - it's kind of like family. I think that's the way they're dealing with it."
DID TONY COME CLOSE TO LOSING HIS JOB?
"I think what I would say about it is that it is something that we wished wouldn't have happened. I think what's important here is that if Tony says, 'Hey, look, there are things I've got to do to keep it from happening.' That is what I'm focused on is what really is best for Tony. What's Tony saying? I think Tony's heart - since this has happened, has been in the right place."
WHEN DID YOU TALK TO TONY AFTER THE INCIDENT?
"I didn't talk to him before he had that press conference and I met him at the airport because he was coming in to talk to Zippy and we were leaving town."
HAS IT BEEN FRUSTRATING FOR YOU TO DEAL WITH TONY IN THE PAST?
"We talk all the time, so as far as talking, we're constantly talking because, when you look at it, we're partners. That is the thing about Home Depot in this - they're partners in it. We share a lot of the revenues and stuff. Really, over here, you don't really have a contract with a driver. You're a partner. You share in the souvenir sales, you share in the winnings, so it's more of a partnership. That's the way I look at it. You're constantly talking about all those things. What can we do to do the best we can for Home Depot? Home Depot signed on to sponsor Tony Stewart when he hadn't won a race. There have been so many great things there, and you hate to have something like this happen that wipes out all the great things."
HAS TONY NEEDED HELP FOR A WHILE?
"I think Tony is the best one to say that and talk about that. I know he's made some comments about that. I think Tony could probably lay out what he is doing. We're comfortable with it."
HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO AFFECT YOUR 'COACHING' ABILITIES?
"Well, I'm not the coach over here. I'm the owner. Look at the jobs the crew chiefs do - that is the coach. They're the technical person. They've got their team. They're kind of making it go. They're here from Thursday to Sunday. I'm not. But, I do think I share in all the responsibilities and the partnership with Home Depot and the fact that I'm in the ownership over here. I kind of look at it like the crew chiefs are the coaches and they're the ones that shoulder a lot of this. But, it's kind of unusual, too, because I don't think an NFL owner, for instance, has sponsors - at least substantially -- the way we deal with them. It's part of my job, too, to make sure Home Depot is getting everything they want out of this, so you kind of look at this and say, 'Hey, I wished this had never happened. It did happen. Now, what are we going to do about it?'
IS TONY IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL?
"I think if you know Tony - I go all the way back to the very first contract we signed. He said, 'Hey, listen. I want to tell you something right now. I could have made a lot of money, ' which he could have, 'the year before racing in Winston Cup.' But he said, 'I'm not ready for Winston Cup. I need to drive another year in Busch. I don't care what you pay me.' I think that says that Tony Stewart, to me, is probably more focused on what he wants to be driving cars at least as much as anybody I've ever met. So, I think for him, this is where he thinks he belongs. I think through this process, I think if he had sensed that this is not where he wanted to be, this would have been a perfect time to say, 'OK, I'm out of here.' I think it is just the opposite."
WHAT WOULD TONY'S VALUE BE ON THE MARKET AS A DRIVER?
"I wouldn't know how to answer that, really. I saw a newspaper in Charlotte rate him No. 2 in all of NASCAR, so I would say that is a pretty hot item. Not making any less because this was serious. But, if you take Tony Stewart, in the total context of what he has done for the sport and what he done for Home Depot, what he has done for me, I think Tony Stewart has done a lot for us."
IS THIS JUST A RESULT OF ALL THE PRESSURE THERE IS NOW?
"No, I think there is a lot of pressure in here on everybody. There is pressure in all sports, so I wouldn't say it's pressure. I think these guys are probably used to it. They grew up in it and have spent their whole life in it."
ON TONY SEEKING HELP FOR HIS ANGER
"I know Tony has been in counseling and doing some stuff for quite a while. I think what he is doing here is this has probably opened up his idea that he probably needs to take another step up on it and do some other things."