NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference August 1, 2005 TONY STEWART AND GREG ZIPADELLI, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET Today's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference featured Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet Monte Carlo and crew chief, ...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference
August 1, 2005
TONY STEWART AND GREG ZIPADELLI, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET
Today's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference featured Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet Monte Carlo and crew chief, Greg Zipadelli. Stewart is currently second in the point standings and has won at Sonoma, Daytona, and Loudon thus far this year as the series moves to Indianapolis for the Allstate 400 August 7.
Q&A's WITH TONY STEWART:
WHAT DOES COMPETING AT INDY MEAN TO YOU AND HOW WOULD IT FEEL TO WIN THERE?
"My obvious answer is the same as last year and the year before and the year before. Any kid that's grown up in Indiana knows what Indianapolis Motor Speedway means. Obviously, we're talking about a different style of car with the Cup cars versus the Indy cars. But it's definitely my biggest race of the year. It always has been and probably always will be. But at the same time, we have to treat it like another race and go through the motions just like another race and not let yourself get too consumed with the emotion of where we're at and what we're doing there. At the same time, it's just a matter of going out and doing the work and hopefully being able to get there at the end of the day and kiss the bricks."
ON THE NEW ATTITUDE, HOW MUCH WILL THAT TRANSFORM OVER TO INDY?
"It's should transfer to Indy too. We had a good test there last week and even though it was a one-day test, we were all joking around and laughing and cutting up and carrying on and that's kind of the way out attitude has been all year. It's not that we're taking things for granted, obviously, but we're just having fun with everything we do - whether it's testing or racing or whatever. I see that being the same attitude that we have this weekend. I don't see that as being any different."
IS THE IMS ADDICTIVE?
"Oh, yeah, definitely. It's just one of those places that consumes you. It's like Daytona is to all the stock car guys who have grown up around stock car racing all their lives. Indy is just one of those special places. There's no other track like it. There is no other track shaped like it. It's just a neat atmosphere. When you have a track like that with so much history, it's hard not to get consumed in it."
HOW DO YOU KEEP THIS WEEKEND FROM GETTING TO BE LIKE A CIRCUS?
"We obviously know that the reason we're doing the teleconference today it to try to lighten our load for the weekend. We'll do everything we can to allow the team and myself to just go about our business and not let the media get to us too much. We're not saying that from a negative standpoint. But from my growing up in Indiana, and everybody knowing how much I want to win there, it creates a lot of attention. That extra attention sometimes creates a lot of problems for us. So today is a step in trying to make my load a little easier for this weekend and help alleviate some of those stresses and strains that can get in the way. For the most part, we'll all just have fun and do the best we can at treating it like any other weekend. Although, deep down, all the guys know how important that weekend is to me."
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO MOVE BACK TO INDIANA?
"Oh, I guess it was a couple of friends of mine. I had one friend who actually lived with me in Charlotte that had gone back for a few days with me to Columbus to just hang out. When we got back to Charlotte he said I was a totally different person when I got on that plane and when I got off that plane. That wasn't something I'd really thought of, and how it did change my attitude about living in the Charlotte area compared to living in Indiana. It wasn't that I didn't like the Charlotte area. It's awesome. There are probably five times more things to do in Charlotte than where I live. But there's just something about living in your hometown and something about being around the same friends you ran around with when you raced Go-karts or three-quarter Midgets or Sprint Cars or something like that. It's just a different atmosphere."
ARE YOU REALLY MORE MELLOW NOW, AND IF SO, WHY?
"Why not? You get tired of being uptight about everything all the time. I could be right about a topic but it's just not even worth fighting sometimes. So a lot of times it's just easier to go through the motions instead of having to stand up for what you think is right on a particular day and then having to defend yourself the next two or three days on Monday and Tuesday, when in all reality you would have had those days off. And then for the next two or three weeks, you have to catch the backlash of it. So that's part of it - just learning what fights are really worth fighting and which ones aren't. I'm living in the exact same house I was living in when I was 10 months old. So just being able to go home and see your friends and kind of get away from the stock car scene for a couple of days is a nice break. It just helps you be a lot mellower that way."
ON LIVING IN INDIANA: WILL IS RELEIVE THE PRESSURE AND UPTIGHT FEELING FOR THIS RACE, AND WHAT WOULD YOU CLIMB IF YOU WIN?
"Well, let's just worry about winning it first and then we'll have to figure that part out. It's just a situation where you've got to stop and hit the reset button once and a while. Being around the stock car community seven days a week takes it's toll on you. The hard thing - especially living in Charlotte - is that I didn't have any friends there when I moved there. All the friends I had were on race teams and they worked during the day. So the only time you had was the evening if you were home. There were a lot of times during the day that you were kind of bored and didn't know what to do and didn't have anybody to do anything with. It's still the same in Indiana, but at least I've got plenty of projects with my race teams up there to mess with and stuff to do with my property there. That part is probably different. It gave me more opportunity to refresh myself to where when I do show up on a Cup weekend, I don't feel like I've been consumed with it for the four or five days before that when I wasn't at the track."
ON DRIVING DOWN GEORGETOWN ROAD AND LOOKING AT IMS, WAS THAT THE TIME YOUR FIXATION OF THE SPEEDWAY BEGAN?
"I would say you're right on the money. That's when it really hit home. At that time I was starting to run USAC Midgets and Sprint Cars. It wasn't that I was an eight year-old kid racing Go-karts that had the dream of one day running Indy. I was a step or two away from it - especially during those times when you hear talk of the IRL coming about. I guess it was a situation where it's one thing to talk about it, but when you can physically look out the window and know that 200 feet over is the front straightaway where cars are running 230 mph on Memorial Day weekend. That's something that was pretty captivating. I guess that's when the reality of it set in. Hey, this is something I'd really like to do one day. I'm at a level now that if things keep going right, maybe one day I could get there."
SOME OF THE IRL COMMUNITY FREAKED OUT ABOUT STOCK CARS COMING TO THE BRICKYARD. WHAT WAS YOUR OPINION THEN?
"I freaked out too, I'll be honest. I guess I was a traditionalist also and didn't want change. But in hindsight, I think that's been one of the most positive things for IMS. To see how many fans come to the Brickyard, it's just like having the fans come for the Indy 500. Instead of just one time a year, it's full twice a year now. It generates excitement. Stock car racing has become so popular that for a premier racing facility like IMS, it's very deserving that these cars are there now. It's something that everybody has welcomed with open arms. But at first, there were a lot of people that thought it was a tradition that shouldn't be broken and felt like the Indy 500 is the only race run there. It's society. Society is always scared of change and it's no different with stock car or Indy car racing or anything else. You've got your traditionalists that have their beliefs. But I think if you went back and talked to those people now, you may not have them all convinced that it was the right thing to do, but I think the majority of them are going to say it was something that has been a very positive change for IMS."
ARE THERE EVER ANY DRAWBACKS TO LIVING JUST A COUPLE HUNDRED MILES AWAY FROM THE CENTER OF THE STOCK CAR UNIVERSE?
"So far, there have been no drawbacks. My airplane is based out of Indiana anyway. So, if Zippy called me on the phone and said he needed me down there as soon as possible, we've figured that from the time I picked up the phone to the time I would arrive at the shop, it would be within three and a half hours. So, we're pretty organized. There is never really a time when we have to be that tight on time anyway. We've never had a problem so far. I moved to Indiana the week after Homestead was over last year in the fall."
HOW HAVE THE PEOPLE OF COLUMBUS REACTED TO YOU BEING BACK AND HAVE YOU MADE ANY DESIGN CHANGES TO YOUR HOME?
"Believe it or not, I haven't (made any changes to the house). It's the house I grew up in. My father added and addition on to it and just never finished it. It's a very modest house. It's an average house for the neighborhood I live in. It's three-bedrooms, two baths, with a family room a dining room and a kitchen. It's got our old race shop in the back. It's not a big huge fancy home. But it's nice. We definitely took some time redecorating it when I got it.
"All my friends are excited that I'm back home. They were all as sad about me moving to Charlotte as I was - even though I knew it was what I needed to do at the time. They understood that. You never want one of your friends to leave town. But they're all excited I'm back. The community itself has been awesome. I've joined the Moose Lodge and Eagles Lodge just to be a part of the community a little more. Through the winter is was pretty busy and hectic. We typically would just stay away from the public. We'd just stay at home a lot and hang out with our friends. But I made the decision that when I moved home, I needed to be out more and let everybody see us and get used to us being there. As time goes on and everybody gets more accustomed to seeing us and people don't freak out when they see us and get that excited. I'm just another member of the community to most of them now. That's the way we want it. I don't want to be treated any different than anybody else. If you didn't know what I looked like, you wouldn't be able to pick me out of a crowd. The nice thing is that the community has welcomed me with open arms back home. It was busy during the off-season. But now that we've been around quite a bit, everybody just treats me like a regular part of the community now."
DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR HOME IN CHARLOTTE?
"I still have a home in Charlotte, yes."
WHO ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE YOU GREW UP WITH AND ARE CLOSE FRIENDS WITH NOW?
"I would, but they don't like being in the media light any more than I do sometimes. That's something we've all been pretty adament about. If somebody comes and does TV interview they won't even come over. They don't want to be a part of it. But it's the same core group of friends I've had for 15 or 20 years now. It's kind of like a fraternity house to a certain degree. Half are single and half are married. We all just hang out and have fun."
CAN YOU HANG OUT THERE AND BE YOURSELF BETTER THERE THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN AMERICA?
"Absolutely. In the off-season, there was a little shock of seeing me a lot was more than they were used to seeing, so it was still celebrity status. But now, everybody has seen me at home enough to where I'm just able to hang out as one of the guys. Everybody will see me and say hi or wave and say good luck, but they don't ask me to sign autographs or talk to somebody on the phone or ask for a picture. We've pretty much gotten all that handled during the off season."
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE HANG OUT PLACE?
"I'm not telling."
OUTSIDE OF THE DAIRY QUEEN THERE?
"I go to the Dairy Queen quite a bit."
WHEN THEY PUT THE CORPORATE NAME WITH THE BRICKYARD NAME, WERE YOU SADDENED BY THAT?
"I'm not saddened, I'm furious by it to be honest. It would be like saying the McDonald's 500 instead of the Daytona 500. I don't understand what they were thinking there. There is one thing in breaking some traditions, but to commercialize everything, I think they could have done it different. I think they could have said the Brickyard 400 presented by whoever it is. But we don't make the rules and I guess it's not our pockets we're worried about filling. So, they're going to do what they're going to do from that standpoint. But I'm very disappointed by it."
IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL ABOUT MOVING INTO YOUR OLD HOUSE AND IT BEING A HAVEN FOR YOU?
"No, not necessarily. The neighbors in front of me and behind me and on both sides of me - you go one direction beside me and three houses down, they're all the same. Two houses the other direction, they're the same. My neighbors are the same. That's part of what helps keep me grounded and maintain the sanity I guess, from a certain standpoint of not being bombarded with people that live next door and want to snoop and see what you're doing. These people don't care. They've seen me since I was a little kid. I'm the same kid that used to play baseball in the back yard and smack a baseball into the Aluminum siding of their house and they'd come out screaming. They're used to having me around. They're happy I'm back. Also, a cool side of it, is when I'm gone they're watching that house like a hawk because they know how much it means to me. We make sure that if the neighbors need something if something happens or if they need us to take care of a dog when we're home, they know we'll do it for them. We have keys to their houses if they need something. When I was home this past week, people are walking and jogging and riding bicycles. There are husbands and wives pushing baby strollers with kids in them. That's the same stuff that was there when I was going up. The cool thing is it's still going on now. It's a very nice neighborhood. I feel very comfortable every time I go home."
DO YOU HAVE TWO DIFFERENT LIVES...AT HOME AND AT THE RACE TRACK?
"That's exactly right. I couldn't say it better than that myself. That's exactly what it's like. That's what the people in Columbus have found out. They realize I do what I do on the weekends. That's my job. But at home, I'm just another one of the guys to them. They're pretty good about just letting me be me when I get home."
DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE RACING IN YOUR HOMETOWN, AND WHY DO YOU THINK OPEN-WHEEL DRIVERS HAVEN'T DONE WELL THERE?
"I don't know. It's just a tough place to win at. I've never won there in an Indy car and never in a stock car. The guy who wins the race there - whether in Indy cars or stock cars - has had their car right on the money. It's very hard to do that with four corners. Normally the wind plays a factor there. I don't know why open-wheel guys haven't had better luck than that. Jeff (Gordon) is the only one who has really had any luck there to begin with. We've run well and led some laps, but we just haven't been able to finish at all.
"It's not one of those situations that if I never win there, my career is not going to be complete because it is home. It's just like when we go to Loudon. That's a very important race to Zippy because it's close to home for him. Everybody has that one track on the schedule that is important to them. I wish I could say I've had a lot of fun there. Normally, it's one of my more miserable weekends of the year but I think it's because we put so much pressure on ourselves to do well. You get one shot a year at it. When it's over, it's over. If you didn't get the result you wanted, you've got to wait 365 days to try it again. There are all kinds of races that way. The Chili Bowl in Oklahoma in January is the same way. There are two or three races on the schedule that are like that, that are very important to you and every time you go there, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform there."
ON JOINING THE KYLE PETTY MOTORCYCLE RIDE LAST WEEK
"It was awesome. I enjoyed it. I was disappointed that I hadn't been able to do it until now. But I've already told Kyle and Patty that I'm going to try to book the whole week off next year - Monday through when the ride shows up in Randleman, NC. The people are awesome. Every rider on the ride was just so appreciative that we were there. It wasn't what I expected at all. I thought it would be autograph after autograph after autograph. But the riders were really cool. When we did stop and get full and there were autograph seekers there, they actually kind of helped us get through some of that to where we could actually enjoy the break and the time when we were off the bikes. But it was an unbelievable ride. The scenery was beautiful. The people were awesome. The ride itself and the scenery is pretty cool, but the people are what make that ride so special. I met so many new friends that I can't wait to see on the next ride, that it's already making me look forward to next year."