Stewart discusses Talladega and signing a major partner

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TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media today at Talladega Superspeedway following an announcement that Bass Pro Shops would join Stewart-Haas Racing and the No. 14 Chevrolet as primary sponsor in 2013 for 18 races including the Daytona 500. Stewart discussed the addition of Bass Pro Shops, racing at Talladega and other topics.

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

CAN WE HEAR EITHER A HUNTING OR FISHING STORY GIVEN TODAY’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF BASS PRO SHOPS JOINING YOUR TEAM NEXT SEASON? “I can tell one quick one. I was very fortunate that after one of the Texas races Johnny (Morris) had bought a trip through the charity for a day and invited me to go with him. We got to go to a hatchery and watch how the Texas area is working on conservation and bringing up new bass. That was part of our day but we actually got to fish and I was on the back of the boat, Johnny was in the middle. For those people who don’t know how to worm fish basically you are fishing off the bottom so you really aren’t watching your lure. I was working a top water lure so you can see everything that is going on. Johnny is fishing over here (on one side of the boat). Mine is over here (on the other side of the boat). He is watching mine the whole time. We probably caught 60 bass that day I would say. A 12 pound largemouth hits this top water lure and I thought we were going to have to catch two fish because I had one on the hook and Johnny was almost in the water. That is still to this day my favorite story with Johnny fishing. It is still the largest bass I have ever caught.”

JOHNNY MORRIS: “I missed it three times in a row with a net. I wanted to get this fish bad or worse than he did. I was so nervous. He has got more steady nerves than I do. Every time I would try to net this bass I would just goose it. Finally we got it but it was a cool time.”

GUYS LIKE YOU AND CLINT BOWYER WHO ARE SITTING JUST OFF THAT TOP THREE THERE MIGHT YOU AND MAYBE CLINT BE SITTING IN ABOUT AS GOOD OF A POSITION TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE POTENTIAL GAME CHANGERS AS ANYBODY THIS WEEKEND?

TONY STEWART: “Well I think everybody that is in the Chase has an opportunity to gain or lose from it. There is certainly an opportunity to gain if the three guys in front of us would have problems or four guys in front of us would have problems. At the same time that same opportunity that could help us could also be what hurts us and takes us out of the opportunity to get caught up and give us a chance to get caught up in the Chase. It’s definitely a scenario that could go either way at this point.”

HAVING WON THE LAST PLATE RACE DOES THAT TRANSLATE NOT AT ALL FROM DAYTONA TO HERE OR MAYBE A LITTLE BIT?

TONY STEWART: “You’ve got to remember this is a chess match and I’m a checkers player (laughs). I wish I could say it does. Luckily it’s the same car that we ran at Daytona and it had good speed there. It is still no guarantee that is the unfortunate part. It is just so hard. We had to fight against the No. 16 and No. 17 working together and were fortunate enough to be in the right spot when the caution came out. It’s very much a guessing game at this point. At least in the back of our minds we are going into this weekend that we do have a fast race car that we know can get up there and get to the front.”

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON THIS WITH BASS PRO SHOPS AND HOW RELIEVED TO HAVE THIS RIGHT NOW?

TONY STEWART: “We worked on it then we went to Johnny (Morris) and knew that there might be the possibility that Office Depot might be leaving but at the same time we know that the U.S. Army had already made their decision that they were leaving. We gave him different options. The one thing about Johnny is he is very loyal. We weren’t trying to steal him away from anybody but we just threw it out there that if he ever decided to make a change that we had opportunities now that we really hadn’t had in the past to do something. When Office Depot made their announcement then it was very clear that we had an opportunity on our car as well. That is when we went to him and we worked on it I would say all the way pretty much through Richmond until we made a decision.”

DO YOU FEEL SO MUCH SAFER NOW HERE AT TALLADEGA IN THE SAFETY ASPECT OF THIS TRACK AND THIS CAR?

TONY STEWART: “Well definitely the track has done its part taking away areas of grass and has paved those areas so now it gives us a better opportunity to get slowed down. Definitely the cars are much safer than what they were 10-15 years ago. It definitely gives you a little bit of that sense of security. The hard thing is you still know in the back of your mind that you can be caught up in a big wreck. It’s nice having that safety aspect in the back of your mind, but I don’t think anybody in the garage will tell you that they are 100 percent as safe as we would like them to be. I don’t think you are ever going to get in that scenario. I don’t think there is ever going to be a case where you are like I can’t get hurt in a race car. You trust the guys you are around and you know that is why they call them accidents because it truly is an accident.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING WILL WE SEE ANY BASS PRO SHOP AT EARNHARDT GANASSI RACING NEXT YEAR? WHY IS THE NASCAR DEMOGRAPHIC IMPORTANT TO BASS PRO SHOPS?

JOHNNY MORRIS: “I think we do plan to continue on with Richard’s grandsons and have involvement there as much as we can and maybe some more with Jamie (McMurray). We have this Bass Pro racing team that we call it. We hope to continue on with them.

“A lot of NASCAR fans like to hunt and fish. We came to realize that the first time we sponsored Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s car in the All-Star race. It was amazing in a 30 day period they sold over 10 million dollars’ worth of caps, t-shirts and diecast cars. That just spoke to us obviously the popularity of Dale (Earnhardt) Sr., the popularity of NASCAR and how many of those fans wanted to buy a souvenir that had Bass Pro on it to say hey we like to hunt and fish and like the outdoors too. We follow the ratings and sometimes we look at those and sometimes we just say hey we want to go do this.”

THERE IS THIS LEGEND THAT THIS PLACE IS CURSED WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THAT LEGEND?

TONY STEWART: “I still don’t believe it (laughs). I haven’t seen anything that gives evidence that it is. I don’t know much about it and I’ve never seen anything that makes you think it really is.”

IF YOU NEEDED TO COULD YOU GO FORWARD WITH 2013 WITH THE SPONSORSHIP YOU HAVE NOW? HOW CRITICAL IS IT GOING TO BE TO FILL THE REST OF THE SPACE YOU HAVE ON BOTH YOUR NO. 14 CAR AND RYAN NEWMAN’S NO. 39 CAR?

TONY STEWART: “Well it’s important that we fill it, but I’ve got a great partner with Gene Hass. Obviously he is all in with this program. He is not going to let it not succeed. Hass Automation could fill in if we needed to, but it’s our hope that we can find somebody that can carry those last nine races for us and be a good partner with Bass Pro Shops and Mobil 1 and really tie this all together and complete it. We do have Hass Automation as a safety net so to speak if we really needed it. My goal as his (Gene Hass) business partner is to not have to all back on him and have to utilize his resource that way.”

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO RESTOCK YOUR SPONSORSHIP INVENTORY SO QUICKLY AFTER THE U.S. ARMY AND OFFICE DEPOT ANNOUNCEMENTS?

TONY STEWART: “The National Enquirer helped a bunch (laughs) jump our popularity through the roof. That was a biggie. No, it’s just great partners and great relationships in all honesty. Tuesday we had a great announcement of doubling Quicken Loans inventory on Ryan’s (Newman) car. I just feel like our marketing staff and our organization really has the mindset that we call them partners we don’t call them sponsors. They are partners of ours. They are partners for the reason of the whole idea is to make it good for both sides. It doesn’t work if it works for one side and doesn’t work for the other. I think that is something that we have been able to convey to potential sponsors to existing sponsors. I think that is why it works. We had misfortune with unfortunately losing U.S. Army and Office Depot, but I think our reputation as a company has helped us to be able to acquire the inventory back this quick.”

DID YOU TAKE NOTICE OF THE WAY BRAD (KESELOWSKI) WON HERE IN THE SPRING BREAKING AWAY FROM KYLE (BUSCH) ON THAT LAST LAP? DO YOU THINK THAT MIGHT FACTOR IN TO HOW GUYS RACE THE FINAL LAP HERE THIS WEEKEND?

TONY STEWART: “I just hope I’m in that position on the last lap. The hard thing is I don’t know that there are ever two scenarios that are exactly the same. I’m not sure that what works for one guy is exactly going to work for another guy. That whole last lap you have to analyze ever hundred feet what you are doing and what your plan is. I don’t think anybody sits there and starts that last lap saying ‘this is what I’m going to do and this is what I’m going to have to do.’ At the end of it you are pretty much calling and audible the whole way around trying to figure out and assess what they are doing as a part of what you are going to have to do.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE LIABILITY IS OF ESTABLISHING SOME SORT OF KNOCK OUT ROUND DURING THE CHASE?

TONY STEWART: “I have no idea. I don’t know if it’s being discussed or if it’s just an idea that is being tossed around. The great think is NASCAR did a really good job I think of establishing the Chase format. If they ever decide to adjust that and tweak it a little bit. They don’t just make rash decisions when it comes to something like that. I feel like that they would put a lot of time and effort into making that decision. From a competitor stand point it doesn’t matter to us what system they use as long as we know it going into it. You still just do the best you can. I don’t think it matters to us as long as it’s good for the sport.”

CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THIS ECONOMY WHAT GOES INTO YOUR DECISIONS WHEN YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT COMING ONTO NASCAR AND THAT KIND OF THING?

JOHNNY MORRIS: “I go back, it’s long term. If you want to take this many and invest it in something short term like newspaper ads, circulate more catalogs you could get more immediate pay back maybe than having a decal on a racecar. But as far as long term health of the company and the popularity of brands it’s amazing for us. We depend a lot on our own brands we sell a lot of commodity items we go head to head with Wal-Mart, with all the other merchants out there on every name brand item. Our own brands we make a healthy margin, but we also save our customers money. It’s having that long term look. A lot of sophisticated folks in our marketing department they do analyze numbers and ratings from TV all those things are available. We also do a lot of focus groups with our customers and just intuitively looking at the trucks that come into our parking lot and the t-shirts that our customers are wearing and so forth. Its many factors out there that causes us to feel good about getting a solid return on this investment.”

CAN YOU SAY HOW LONG THE DEAL IS FOR? HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO DECIDE ON THIS DI DID YOU KNOW THAT DAY YOU WERE GOING TO DO IT?

JOHNNY MORRIS: “If I did I didn’t let him know that day. It didn’t take us too long to shake hands and that is kind of how this came about a lot was a hand shake. Just something that we have had, Tony said a shared dream and I really feel that is the case. It’s something that we have both had just a dream maybe to do. I have had the privilege to get to know Tony’s mom and dad, his farm manager go spend time with him. We talk about all these things and you ask well what the economic impact is? Tony wakes up every day with a passion to be the best race driver in the world that has ever been. I think that is contagious to people in our company who also have a lot of pride. How do you put a price tag on this? To have inspiration as our folks wake up every day how can we take the best care of the customers and how can we be number one in our field in the outdoor industry. My feeling too is Tony, from myself to everybody in the company, just our admiration for you our regard for you and the opportunity to do this we are really on cloud nine and we are so looking forward to this.”

CAN YOU SAY HOW LONG IT IS?

JOHNNY MORRIS: “We just horse trade a little bit at a time (laughs). We might know how long it is, but we don’t want all of our bankers to know just yet.”

IS THERE ANY REMORSE AT ALL THAT IT’S A ZERO SUM GAME HERE THAT YOU ARE BENEFITING AT THE EXPENSE OF ANOTHER TEAM THAT IS LOSING A SPONSOR?

TONY STEWART: “Yeah, you always feel bad especially when it’s somebody like Jamie McMurray and Chip (Ganassi). Those are two guys that I think the world of. I raced with Jamie in go-karts when we were both little. It is sad on that side. There is still a business side to this as well. Like I mentioned earlier I didn’t go to Johnny (Morris) trying to steal a sponsor from somebody. We just let it be known to him that if there was ever an opportunity we had an opportunity available on our side. If he ever decided that he wanted to make a change we wanted him to know that we were available if that were ever the case. Chip is somebody that I think will bounce back from this very quickly. I have the upmost confidence that in that. He is great with his sponsors and Jamie is a very easy sell in my opinion. He is a great driver, he is a great personality and I don’t think it will be long you will see them come up with something very quick to replace it.”

JOHNNY MORRIS: “I share that. I think the future for them is pretty bright too.”

Source: Team Chevy Racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Interview
Tags bass pro, chevrolet, haas, stewart, talladega