Stewart compares the Shootout and the Daytona 500

Team Chevy Racing press release

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET met with media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed pack racing and tandem racing at Daytona, new crew chief, Steve Addington, how the Budweiser Shootout might compare to the Daytona 500, practice this week, and more.

Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

ARE THE RULES BETWEEN THE PACKAGES IN NATIONWIDE AND SPRINT CUP CLOSE ENOUGH THAT YOU CAN TRANSLATE WHAT HAPPENS ON SATURDAY TO SUNDAY? “I’ll be honest. I’m not exactly sure what’s different from what we ran last year to this year. I know that they’ve implemented a couple of things that they’ve done to the Cup car, but I honestly don’t know exactly what those are yet. But we’ll learn and we’ll adapt to it pretty quick and figure out exactly what we have to do to be good in this Oreo car on Saturday.”

JUST FOLLOWING WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CHASE LAST YEAR AND THEN YOU ALMOST WIN THE SHOOTOUT (SATURDAY NIGHT) AND CARL EDWARDS WINS THE POLE FOR THE DAYTONA 500; ARE WE GOING TO SEE A RIVALRY STARTING HERE BETWEEN YOU AND CARL EDWARDS AND DO YOU THINK NASCAR NEEDS THAT? “I don’t know if it will be a rivalry because of it, mainly because we have so much respect for each other. But I kind of thought that too after we ran second the other night and then Carl got the pole. I thought, man, we’re both picking up right where we left off. I hope it’s that way for both of us. It would be great to start the year off like we finished it last year to have a run like that. But it’ll only be good for NASCAR if both of us can run that strong against each other and be head-to-head each week. I don’t think one or the other of us, just running off and having a great run the first ten races is going to be a good deal.”

NASCAR HAD A GREAT FINISH TO THE 2011 SEASON. HOW DOES THIS CONTINUE THIS YEAR? WHAT’S YOUR SECOND ACT? “I wish I knew (laughs). I wish I knew how to control and be 100 percent in control of what was the first act. So many things change in this sport versus other sports. The competition and technology and everything changes weekly. So you can imagine how much stuff changes over the off-season. I think NASCAR has done a good job. I think the (Budweiser) Shootout was a perfect example of how hard NASCAR is working to try to make sure they come up with great rules packages. We’ve got a new car that’s coming out in 2013 and I think everybody is really, really going to like. I think it’s a cool-looking car. I got to see it first-hand. So I’m excited about that. But I think the racing this year will be just as good as it’s always been; and potentially even better. I think you’ll see a bunch of guys that actually get on a roll this year.”

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN THE PACK RACING WE SAW IN THE SHOOTOUT THE OTHER NIGHT COMPARED TO BACK IN 2006 WHEN YOU WERE WORRIED ABOUT PEOPLE GETTING INJURED OR HURT? “I think a lot of it is that the bumpers didn’t line-up as good then as they do now. So if you do get put in a situation where you do run into somebody it doesn’t just instantly wreck them. And that was kind of the thing that you worried about was just getting run into from behind. We’ve had to push ourselves as drivers over the last couple of years to learn how to do this two-car deal (tandem racing) and you take a step back to going back to pack racing and it’s like wow, it’s just so much easier. You’re not having to hold your breath all the time and not having to clinch the steering wheel so tight all the time. I think mainly the difference between now and ’06 is just you know that the bumpers line up and ’06 was before they repaved the track, too. So we’ve got a lot more grip in the race track which gives us a little more security also.”

INAUDIBLE “There was a lot less of it then, for sure. We’re still going to have a lot more of the pushing style than what we had back in ’06, but back then the track couldn’t handle it. The track was worn out and didn’t have a lot of grip. It had a lot of bumps in it. Now, the track is really smooth. It has a lot more grip to it so it’s a lot easier to do what we’re having to do now versus back then.”

WHAT DOES (CREW CHIEF) STEVE ADDINGTON BRING TO YOUR TEAM? “(He brings) a lot of knowledge. I got to work with Steve a lot at Gibbs, when he was with Kyle (Busch). We didn’t work hand-and-hand with him but we got to be around him a lot and just listening to his comments and team debriefs and just casual conversations in the shop, he’s got a very calm demeanor but he’s a guy that when it comes time to make that big call, he’s the guy that you want on your side to do that. I think he’s ready.”

AFTER GOING THROUGH THE SHOOTOUT, HOW WILL YOU APPROACH THE DUELS COMING UP ON THURSDAY? “I think kind of similarly to what we did basically at the beginning of the Shootout. I think we’ve got a really good car for Sunday, so you want to get the best finishing position you can in the Shootout without beating up the race car. So, we’re going to try to do everything we can to now put ourselves in bad situations. But when it comes to the end of the race tomorrow, we’ll push really hard to see how far up we can get and try to get a good spot, but I guess the biggest variable in the equation is just don’t hurt the car that we’ve got. We’re locked into the race and I think even if we don’t get the starting spot we want, I still think you can come from the back much easier and get to the front. The biggest thing is to just take care of the race car. But the racer in you at the end of the day still wants to go get the best finish you can.”

IS THE DAYTONA 500 GOING TO PLAY OUT SIMILARLY TO THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT IN TERMS OF PACK RACING FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE RACE? AND THEN, HOW LONG CAN YOU TWO-CAR DRAFT AT THE END? KYLE BUSCH SAID AT THE END OF THE SHOOTOUT THAT HE KNEW YOU WERE A SITTING DUCK BECAUSE THE SECOND CAR HAS THE ADVANTAGE. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT? “I do agree. I would say it’s about a three-to-one advantage. The pack racing versus the pushing, I think you’ll see the pack racing for the majority of the day. I think guys are going to want to control their own destiny a little more and you aren’t going to lose the pack if you’re not paired-up with somebody and pushing the whole race. So that, I think, is what you’ll see. At the end I can almost guarantee you that there’s going to be a tandem-style deal, at the very end of the race. How long we can push depends on what kind of air temperature we have and that’s the biggest single variable is how much air can we get in the radiator? So, it’s hard to say right now. If that temperature goes up ten degrees, it could take it from two laps to a lap. But I don’t think guys can do it for near as long as what they were before.”

ARE YOU PRETTY HAPPY WITH THE RULES PACKAGE THAT NASCAR HAS PUT OUT THERE? IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE FOR THEM TO DO THAT MAYBE THEY HAVEN’T DONE OR EXPLORE THAT MIGHT MAKE FOR A BETTER RACE? “I think I’m pretty happy with it for this week. It obviously is going to come down to a two-car deal at the end of the race. But at least for the whole race you’re not going to be watching packs all day. You’re actually going to be watching guys who can drive themselves to the front and it’s going to rotate and circulate. Guys are going to get up there and then get shuffled back. But yeah, for the most part I am pretty happy with it because nobody has come up with a better solution. And trust me; I’ve tried to think of all kinds of ideas. I think NASCAR is smarter than I am. It’s hard to find a package that gets done exactly what they’re wanting to get done here. And a lot of that’s (because) we’ve got a race track that has so much grip in it that we can do things that we normally wouldn’t be able to do if it didn’t have that kind of grip. So, there’s nothing wrong with what we’ve got. Obviously they always want to make it better, but I think they’ve done a really good job in the off-season of trying to find a balance to make it to where we won’t do it as long and where we kind of get away from each other for the majority of the race.”

HAVE YOU THOUGHT MUCH ABOUT THE END OF THE SHOOTOUT SINCE THE RACE? AND IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY IN TERMS OF TRYING TO HOLD OFF KYLE BUSCH? “I’ve got a couple of ideas (laughs) and none of them would be trying to block him. That would have been the last idea I would have had. But that wasn’t anything I even thought of. If you try to block that guy, you’re just going to get wrecked and you’re probably going to wreck both cars. The guy behind there, once he gets pulled out there and gets coming up, if you try to block, you’re just going to drive across his nose and wreck yourself. So it’s just trying to figure out what different scenarios that you can run and I’ve got a couple of ideas in my mind but I don’t want to share them with everybody (laughs), to be honest. I might need them for Sunday.”

YOU TALKED ABOUT THE AIR PRESSURE AND AIR TEMPS. I THINK THAT NASCAR HAS JUST ALLOWED YOU ANOTHER THREE POUNDS. WHEN IT COMES TO THESE RULES, AS A CAR OWNER, DO YOU GO TO NASCAR? HOW MUCH CONCERN TO YOU HAVE ABOUT IT AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN TERMS OF LOBBYING? “I’m not doing any lobbying. That’s (Greg) Zipadelli’s job. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter to me. It’s the same for everybody. The longer that we can two-car-push, the less I like it. So I’m all in favor of them trying to find ways to keep the packs broken up. So I think NASCAR has done a pretty good job of trying to figure out scenarios. Even little things like just coming down pit road and sitting in your pit box, that builds temperatures. So they have to figure out a lot of different variables (for) not only what’s going on on the race track, but simple things like if you get a piece of trash on the nose of the car it could literally cost you to have to come in and pit versus what we’ve had in the past. They’re trying to look at all the variables that could happen in all different scenarios and trying to find a perfect package.”

ON THE OFF-SEASON NOT BEING MUCH OF AN OFF-SEASON, DO YOU NEED A BREAK? DO YOU GET A BREAK? HOW DO YOU ESCAPE? “I’m not sure I really needed a break. I took a little bit of time and took about five or six days and went out of town. But for the most part, I was pretty content. I was happy to see how excited the guys were during the off-season. It was fun to watch and be around Zippy again and definitely wanted to spend time with Steve Addington. So I did the things that I wanted to do. I still went and ran Short Track races and had fun. So, I had a good off-season; it just wasn’t much of a break from everything.”

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT TRYING TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR CAR, HOW MUCH DO YOU PRACTICE TODAY AND FRIDAY AND SATURDAY? ALSO, DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO WORK WITH DANICA PATRICK DURING PRACTICE IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS? “Yeah, when we get finished here, I’m going to go find out what the plan is from Steve Addington and see exactly what he’s got in mind. I’m not sure what that plan is. I know there is going to be guys that aren’t going to practice very much. In my opinion, we wouldn’t run a lot today to get ready for tomorrow’s race. I think you see how tomorrow goes and see what the variables are and figure out if we need to spend more time working on a couple of variables that we thought we could make better. But if they are better today, then I’m not sure if we would spend a ton of time together.”

REGARDING YOUR SHORT TRACK PROGRAM, HAVE YOU COMMITTED TO GOING BACK TO OHSWEKEN SPEEDWAY (CANADA) TO DEFEND YOUR TITLE (WORLD OF OUTLAWS SPRINT CAR FEATURE WIN) THIS YEAR? “Yeah, we have. We got that agreement done I think three weeks ago. So we’re very excited about that. Glen Styers (track owner & sprint car racer), I saw him down here at Volusia this week and got to race with him. He’s excited. I’m excited. We had a good time up there.”

DO YOU FEEL JINXED IN THE DAYTONA 500? DO YOU LOOK AT YOUR RECORD AND SEE THE PARALLELS WITH DALE EARNHARDT, SR.? “I don’t think we feel jinxed. We’ve had some really good cars here and we’ve just missed. I mean, we ran second to Dale Jr. that one year. I don’t remember what year it was, but we had a really, really good car. And I had a pit road speeding penalty coming in on a green flag stop and had to go to the back. And we worked our way back up to the front and I got loose in front of Kurt (Busch) and Kurt didn’t have anywhere to go and it took out both of us from the 500 that year. So we’ve had some good opportunities. We’ve been leading late in these races and so I feel like (with) the law of averages, we’re going to get one eventually. But I mean there have been a lot of them that have slipped away and slipped through our fingers. But we’ve had good luck here; we just haven’t had that good luck during the 500 yet. So we’ll just keep digging.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Eric Gilbert
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing
Tags chevrolet, stewart-haas racing, tony stewart