TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed future plans for SHR, racing at Phoenix, Chase contenders and other topics. Full transcript:
DO YOU HAVE A RESPONSE TO THE STORY THAT KEVIN HARVICK WILL JOIN STEWART-HAAS RACING IN 2014? “Well, it’s actually Dale, Jr. (SMILES BROADLY). And Marty Smith (ESPN Television personality and website reporter) is actually going to be in the fourth car.
You guys can throw darts, but when we have something to tell you that’s different than what we’ve got going on, we’ll obviously tell you.”
HOW IS YOUR CAR? “Getting there. Working on it. It’s getting closer, but we still have a little ways to go in race trim. I think in qualifying trim, we are making gains on it. We probably need to make a couple more runs to get it really nice.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE AS A DRIVER WHEN YOU HAVE A STRETCH OF TIME WHERE YOU ALMOST CAN DO NO WRONG; WHEN YOU ARE IN THE ZONE? HOW DOES THAT FEEL? “It’s awesome. It is what every driver wants no matter what form of racing you’re in.
When you’re on top of your game, and you have got things going right, it’s just the confidence you’ve got when you come in the pit gate at the beginning of the weekend. It’s nice because it literally is a really balance.
That’s normally when you are probably in-tune with your car the best of any time throughout the year is when you are in those modes. You would trade unborn children for that feeling a lot of times.”
WHO WOULD YOU PICK OF THE TOP-TWO GUYS (JIMMIE JOHNSON AND BRAD KESELOWSKI) FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “I’m still worried about getting myself as far up in the championship as I can. I’m not worried about those two guys.
They’ve got their own deal going on, just like we had our deal going on last year. I think we proved last year, it is hard to pick. It’s way too close to try to pick anybody.
I mean, you still have a 300 lap race here; a 500-mile race next weekend (at Homestead-Miami Speedway), and there are 41 other guys on the race track that can make or break their weekend.
And they can do it to themselves; or their pit crews. There are so many things that can happen. It’s not like trying to pick a winning team in a football, basketball or baseball game. It’s not that easy.”
DO YOU LOOK BACK AT LAST SEASON AND COMPARE IT TO THIS SEASON AND MARVEL AT WHAT THESE TWO ARE DOING? “I haven’t even looked back at it. I don’t know how much I can talk about last year.
I think I talked about it…I’m not sitting here watching those two guys. I’m trying to drive my race car, and worry about what our race weekend is doing. I’m not focused on what they are doing, and I’m not watching what they are doing.
I know where they are at in the point standings. We haven’t quit. We are still trying to get every point we can, and still trying to figure out where we can finish.
We can finish fifth through 10th right now, so that’s what our focus is. It’s not focusing on what those two guys are doing.”
DO YOU THINK THIS TRACK IS GOING TO BE MORE RACEY THAN IT HAS BEEN? “I think so. I think it is getting a little bit wider. Again, the track and facility here did a good job of dragging the tires around like they did last year and I think that helped a bunch.
We did the (Goodyear) tire test a couple of weeks, and it was an ice skating rink for that. It definitely helps get the weekend started off and right. Having more cars on it helps too. Definitely dragging that tire machine around it helped it a bunch.”
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE ON THE TRACK HERE? “The biggest thing, at least from what I’ve seen, guys are fighting loose on entry, then they fight being tight in the center of the corner.
You want to tighten your car up to get it into the corner, but then you are too tight in the center. It seems like everybody’s exit is ok after it’s got some rubber down. It’s just a matter of trying to balance the entry and the center of the corner.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A NASCAR CHAMPION? “Getting more points than everybody else.”
WHAT DID YOU MEAN LAST WEEK THAT KESELOWSKI HAD A DEATH WISH? “I talked about it last week. I’m not going to talk about it again this week.
I’ve got other stuff to worry about, I’m not going to talk about something I said about somebody last week. That’s done and over with.”