Richmond II: Stewart-Haas Racing press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Do non-Chase drivers have a different racing responsibility during the race, like if you knew that two guys were going for the lead, are you a little more gracious with their space, with their real estate, than you ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Do non-Chase drivers have a different racing responsibility during the race, like if you knew that two guys were going for the lead, are you a little more gracious with their space, with their real estate, than you would normally be with regular Chase guys?

TONY STEWART: "It's not the non-Chase drivers' responsibility to look out for us. It's our responsibility to look out for us. If we're not in it at the end of tomorrow night - everybody has their different personalities and everybody has their different style of racing but ultimately it comes down to the guys that are driving their own cars. We know what's at stake but when you're in the Chase you know what's up for grabs the last ten weeks and you know that if you put yourself in a bad position, what you have to lose is normally a lot bigger than what you have to gain by putting yourself in a bad spot. I don't believe that it's guys that are not in the Chase, I don't believe that it's their responsibility, because there are a lot of those guys that are still fighting for their jobs and still trying to keep themselves in the top 35 in points, that have bonuses if they finish, you know, at certain spots in the point standings at the end of the year whether they are in the Chase or not. So it's not really their responsibility as much as it is the drivers that are in the cars that are in the Chase."

Q: I'd like a comment from both of you, at some point, 1.5-mile tracks became the track of vogue and the racing was really good there and now going into the Chase this year, those tracks seem to be the ones where both of you guys have a tough time getting your arms around them; can I get a comment from both of you on the 1.5-mile tracks?

DARIAN GRUBB: "From a Hendrick Motorsports' standpoint, it's just another evolution of the Chevrolet with the Impala SS and going to the racetrack and finding a package that works. It's just another engineering project and everything that we have taken on that we may have been a little behind on the start to be able to get those things going but hopefully we are heading in the right direction. We've done a lot of testing, and you know, the majority of the Chase races, we are pushing really hard to make sure we get those packages figured out. And obviously Jimmie's performance from last week shows the 48 has it figured out, but there's still issues. The 24 wasn't that great, and the other car wasn't that great either. We are still in discovery phase and hopefully can get a win now going forward."

Q: What do you have to go through in the process to get your arms around it?

DARIAN GRUBB: "I think it's just a property of the car. We figured out a lot of the short track things earlier. It was a little bit easier process we think because we got so much more of a head start on it. But then last year, middle of the season you're trying to race two different styles of cars trying to keep up with all of the changes week-to-week and change parts and pieces in the haulers and stuff -- it's a big project, much less trying to get yourself ahead. So playing the catch-up game now but I think we are making headway.

Q: Can you talk about why it's been difficult for the drivers to really get their arms around those tracks?

TONY STEWART: "I don't think it's the drivers that have had such a hard time figuring the tracks out. It's a learning process of learning a new style of car that is a very technical race car. I mean, when you're dealing with bump stops and bump rubbers and shims and everything else, the packers that you're using in these front shocks, it's very easy to get a car unbalanced, I believe. So you know, that's why it makes it so critical right now to - when you get the car in that window, that window seems to be smaller to keep the car adjustable during the race. You know, if it it's not close to start with, you're not going to get it the rest of the way there. You very easily -- just like last week, we had a car that was decent during two-thirds of the race, and during the last third of the race we tried to make it better and ultimately ended up making it really, really bad trying to make it better. So it's a car that is very sensitive to change and what you can and can't do with it. And I don't know that it's so much been a handle for the drivers as much as it's been a challenge for entire organizations to figure out what that car likes and dislikes and what we can do as drivers, what the crew chiefs and engineers can do to make that window of balance be a little bit bigger and wider where we can keep the cars nicer during the race."

Q: Could you talk a little about from driving go-karts on and driving that record, and can you talk about who your racing heroes and role models were? I think we know one of them, and could you also talk about, are there people out there somewhere in the NASCAR series now that you see and you look at them sort of like A.J. Foyt spotted Tony Stewart; in other words, that kid is going to be really good.

TONY STEWART: "Obviously Foyt has always been my No.q hero. Steve Kinser was, in World of Outlaw Racing; Rick Mears was in IndyCar Racing. But you know, you see guys every day. There's so many young guys that are running different types of cars right now that there's not just one or two guys now that stand out anymore. You literally look at Indiana and you see a couple of kids and you look somewhere else and you see a couple more. There's a lot of young talent out there that's good talent. So you know, that's the good thing about the future of auto racing is we are not going to lack in the talent category with guys coming up."

Q: A lot of people looking into the Chase will look at Kyle (Busch) and Carl (Edwards) as the favorites, possibly Jimmie with his run lately; why should somebody consider looking at you as the title contender, or even any of the other guys?

TONY STEWART: Well, we are in it, first of all. You have to be in it to win it. So just making the Chase in itself is an accomplishment. You are not a weak team if you've made the Chase. But you know, those three teams and drivers that you've mentioned, obviously their track record speaks for itself this year, so that's why people are putting those guys ahead of everybody else right now."

Q: For many years of experience, I expect that you're going to take the Chase one race as a time -

TONY STEWART: "That would be a great guess."

Q: We've seen drivers like Jeff Gordon struggle this year with the new car and the Chevrolet. How will switching back to Chevrolet and this new car - what is that going to take? Do you think that you're going to have to struggle with that, or how much will Darian help you adjust to switching back to Chevrolet?

TONY STEWART: "I promise you, that will be an easy switch for me. That's the least of my concerns. I mean, that's a proven variable that's been consistent for more years than I've been a part of this sport, and will continue to be after I've left the sport. So that's one variable you don't have to worry about, Chevy's package. You look at the history books and it's easy to figure out that's going to be the smallest part of the equation is that change. So that's the one that we have a lot of confidence in right off the bat. So there are a lot of other things we have to work on other than that."

Q: Has assembling a team and everything that's gone into that, has that affected your focus or ability to compete on the track this year, do you think?

TONY STEWART: "Not at all. I mean, that's why this morning is important, for both Darian and myself, we both have jobs to do outside of what we're doing next year for the remainder of this year. So once we both leave this press conference, we'll shift gears and be back to what we're really here for this week, and that's Darian working for Hendrick Motorsports and myself working for Joe Gibbs Racing the remainder of the year. It was important to be here today to inform you guys of what's going on officially, and once we get that done, it's going back to what we have to do and what we're passionate about for rest of the year before we get a chance to do this job together next year."

Q: Joey Logano gets his first start here this weekend; are you as interested as us to see how he will do, and what are your thoughts on him?

TONY STEWART: I'm excited about it. I'm excited for Joey, and he deserves this opportunity. I hope he has fun this weekend because that's what his first race in the Cup car should be. I hope you guys won't smoother him so bad that he can't enjoy it. This is something that first - your first time in a Cup car at a Cup race, you only get to do one time. So, I'm excited for him. I hope that it's everything he wants it to be this weekend. You know, I'm excited for him because he's obviously going to take my car next year. So I'm as excited for him as he is for him going into this weekend, because I know it's a huge step in him getting ready for next year. And as close as I am to the Gibbs family and to Zippy and all the guys on the team, it's important for us to get him in a car right now. So I think he will be great this weekend and I hope it's just a nice, smooth weekend for him this weekend."

Q: I know you and Kasey Kahne are good friends and have similar backgrounds and things like that; he's a bit of a long shot to make this Chase. Would it surprise you to see Kasey race his way in, and what is it about him that you think this is overcome - that he could overcome the depths that he has?

TONY STEWART: "The kid is one of the best competitors that I've ever been around. If anybody can race their way in, it's him. And at this point, you learn that nothing surprises you in this series after a while. You become immune to the shocks of this. But anything can happen tomorrow night. And we're not locked in, and we only have to finish 36th or better, and we know that that could be turned, and the confidence that we have that we're going to make it can be turned upside down in a matter of one corner. So you know, nothing will surprise me right now. It's all a matter of math right now, and pretty much everybody in this room is good in that category and they know they are sitting next to somebody that is - and it's one of those things that you guys know before we get out of the cars what the scenarios are and what has to happen in those last five laps for somebody to race their way in and kind of what the picture is painted before it's over."

Q: Kyle (Busch) has done a lot of impressive things this year; what's the one thing that's impressed you the most about him?

TONY STEWART: "I think how well he's handled everything. It's easy when you get on a roll like that that people look at you, and success brings a lot of mixed feelings and fans, and I think he's probably handled that better than you could ask for anyone in his position to handle that."

Q: Have you thought about how it's going to be different working with this kind of driver versus Casey Mears and Jimmie Johnson? How will it be different?

DARIAN GRUBB: "I don't think it will be any different at all. I've been outside the lines talking to Tony away from the racetrack and stuff and the attitude and stuff is just completely different. He's just a genuine, normal guy, as you are outside the racetrack. He's just a guy you can sit and talk to and joke with and carry on. My wife and I hung out with him and just - it was just a good time. So I think we are going to be able to get along just fine, and he's a race car driver and a race car driver's driver, so everybody respects him. I respect that very much and I'm very excited about going into next year with that."

Q: You have both yourself and Ryan Newman coming in from teams you've been with pretty much the majority of your career, how much of an adjustment is that to come in fresh on a new team, obviously in your situation, you own the team, but for Ryan to come into a brand new team, what are the steps to take getting acclimated to that team to start successful next year?

TONY STEWART: "It's just coming and spending time with the guys that you're going to be working with. None of us just started as (Sprint) Cup drivers so we've all come through different steps and worked with different people along the way. This is just another change in that equation. It just happens to be in the same series that we've been a part of for quite a while now. So from that side, it's just getting to know the people that you're working with. This series to me, the majority of the success in this series is due to people, not due to fancy race cars and trick pit strategies and this and that. At the end of the day, the consistency and the results boil down to the people that you have. When you make a change like, this it's getting to know the people that you're with and being comfortable with them every week and having that trust in them that you know that they are doing the right job."

Q: There are obviously a lot of crew chiefs out there with more experience atop the pit box; what is it about Darian -- that he only has a year and a few races atop the pit box that made you want to hire him?

TONY STEWART: "You look at the stats that he's accumulated over that short amount of time and just the confidence that he brings. He's not a guy sitting up here that, you know, doesn't have the confidence that he can go it out and do the job. When we sat down with him, we saw that and obviously the stats on paper were what we were confident with, his association with Hendrick Motorsports and knowing we were going to be dealing with Hendrick motors and Hendrick chassis, we feel confident that's the right equation and having somebody like Darian that's very familiar with that system right off the bat brings even more comfort and security to the program and spending time with him, just seeing the confidence in his eyes and his voice when you talk to him, you know that he's the right guy."

MIKE ARNING: "Thank you very much for your time. We certainly appreciate it."

-credit: shr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Ryan Newman , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Rick Mears , Kasey Kahne , Steve Kinser , Joey Logano , A.J. Foyt
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing , Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing