TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: ON YOUR RUN "For the most part, as far as the excitement level, it was pretty uneventful tonight. Normally, you count on getting wrecked here a couple times. We got in the one wreck off of...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON YOUR RUN
"For the most part, as far as the excitement level, it was pretty uneventful tonight. Normally, you count on getting wrecked here a couple times. We got in the one wreck off of turn two there. I don't even remember who was in front of me. I think [Ron] Hornaday was in front of me and somebody else was behind me. I got hit from behind and I hit him, but for the most part that was the most contact we had with anybody all day. It was a pretty painless run as far as that goes.
"As the race went on, we kept getting all those yellows in a short amount of time. Our car never would really come on until 20 or 30 laps into a run. We couldn't stay green that long. But as the race kept going on it seemed like the runs kept getting longer and longer, and it made our car's performance show up a little more every time we were able to stay out with a long run. The guys kept making adjustments on the car. At the beginning of the last run the car really felt good for the first three laps on stickers and then we got really, really bad push. But, I kept noticing that as it went on it just kept getting better and better and coming to us. Probably with about 80 laps to go, that's the best the car was all night and it pretty much stayed there. The balance never really changed. The whole car fell off a little bit as the run went on, but I don't think we lost any more than four or five tenths over those last 80 laps, so we had a pretty good balanced car tonight."
DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE GOOD AT BRISTOL WHEN YOU SAW IT FOR THE FIRST TIME...IT SEEMS LIKE IT WAS BUILT FOR A DRIVER LIKE YOU?
"I don't know. I never saw the designers call me and say, 'We're going to build this racetrack for you and this is going to be perfect for you.' To be honest, the first time I came in here I was amazed. I came here in '96 with Harry Ranier. We came through that gate and got down into the infield, I looked up and never saw a sight like what I saw that day. Each year it kept getting bigger and bigger. This has always been my favorite track. Anytime anybody has ever asked me what my favorite track was, I always say, 'Bristol.' It's just because it's exciting. You can't rest here at all. You can be patient, but you can't rest. You don't ever have an opportunity to rest here. I'm worn out right now and that is proof of it.
"It's one of those place where there are so many variables and so many things that can go wrong during your race that everything has to be absolutely perfect for you to even stay in the top five. If you have a perfect day you might run fifth. It's awesome when you can come away with a win like we did tonight and have the car driving the best that it drove all night in the last run, and finally be able to pull it off for Home Depot and Pontiac."
WHAT WAS THE NATURE OF YOUR BRAKE PROBLEM EARLY IN THE NIGHT?
"I don't even know what the problem was. I know what the symptoms were. The brake pedal would pulsate and when you got on the brakes it made a lot of noise. It happened twice. It happened in 'Happy Hour' yesterday, too, and they couldn't find anything wrong. It happened twice in the race tonight early and finally it just went away. I don't know why it went away, but it just went away and it never came back. I don't know why it fixed itself, how it fixed itself and really what the problem was. It just made a lot of noise."
"It didn't affect the way the car stopped or slowed down. It just was more annoying than anything because of the noise it was making every time you got on the brakes. It was hard to get your mind in a rhythm."
WAS THIS SPRING'S INCIDENT WITH JEFF GORDON ON YOUR MIND AT ALL TONIGHT?
"Why would it be? No. There are 43 guys that start the race every [week] and you're not going to get along with all of them 100 percent of the time. Bristol in the spring was Bristol in the spring. This is the fall race. It's a whole different day. 43 professional drivers started tonight."
ON BEING PATIENT WITHOUT RESTING, AND, DID YOUR FOOT BOTHER YOU AT ALL TONIGHT?
"It's easy to overdrive the car. Even when you're not overdriving the car, you still are working hard steering and braking and everything else. The only time foot bothered me is when I had to use the clutch tonight. It's kind of like what it was like last Friday when we were at Michigan. As the weekend went on, it got better and better. But using the clutch tonight was hard. Using the brakes wasn't hard and if anything, it probably helped me to keep from overusing the brakes. It hurts now, but I've got all week to rest it up again."
HOW TOUGH WAS IT TO NOT GET PHYSICAL WITH DALE JARRETT MIDWAY THROUGH THE RACE WHEN IT LOOKED LIKE YOU HAD THE FASTER CAR?
"I don't like to race that way, to be honest. I don't like when people race me that way. I just never got a big enough run to get by. It's a short track race. There were a lot of guys out there tonight that were following guys that they were faster than and couldn't get by. We just had to be patient. Finally, I put together two really good corners in a row and got up close enough to him to where he realized that I was going to be able to get by, and he let us go. You've just got to be persistent and keep showing him your nose and keep letting him know that you're faster. When we get to another short track down the road, I might not move over right away for him. That's the nature of racing. You learn who is going to do what with you.
"The lapped cars were great the last 100 laps of the race - letting the leaders go on and the guys who had earned an opportunity to race for the win - they let them race for the win. He (DJ) was racing, too, and he was racing for position. He was in the top five. I wouldn't have expected him to just pull over. But, at the same time, a lot of guys work together here and he knew that if he was faster at the end of the run that I would let him go back by."
WHAT IS YOUR LOVE OF THIS PLACE BASED ON?
"I think it's a little bit of everything to be honest. Just the race itself is a lot of fun. You don't worry about who's got the best body. You don't worry about who's got the most horsepower. It's who gets their car driving well and who does the best job behind the steering wheel each night. With a six-year-old Pontiac body, we ran with a brand new Dodge that got two inches of valance -- it wasn't even a factor tonight. It's nice to know that we can throw some of those variables out of the equation for one week and worry about going out and beating guys because you drove better than they did that night and that the crew did a better job of setting the car up that night."
HOW TOUGH IS TO WORK THROUGH NOT BEING GOOD ON A SHORT RUN?
"It's hard to know exactly what it's going to do anyway. Especially at the beginning of the race, we never ran really long enough early in the race to know what it was going to do in a long run. Every opportunity we got to run a long run, it was longer than the run before. Each one of those we were able to run the leader down and pressure for the lead. The two or three longest runs of the day were right there in those last 200 laps. It was just nice to know that we had a car that did drive good midway through a run. It makes you worry a little bit when guys are running away from you early and there are guys behind your pressuring you. But at the same time you know that if you ever get a long run, you'll really know where you stack out, so you just have to be patient and ride it out."
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THOUGHT IF THERE HAD BEEN A LATE CAUTION?
"I'd have been concerned. With 20 laps to go, you're fighting a battle of, 'Do you come in and pit? If you come in and pit, do you take two tires? Four tires?' We knew that our car didn't take off at the beginning of a run like everybody else's did, so it was definitely a concern that late in the race. I didn't want to see a yellow at all once we got in the lead, so we got lucky from that standpoint."
HOW DOES A DRIVER PUT TONIGHT'S DISAPPOINTMENT BEHIND HIM BEFORE NEXT WEEK?
"I've been one of those unhappy guys a lot of times here. It's hard, but there are 43 professional drivers. We all didn't just start racing last year and it's not something that is new to all of us. You know that you've got to take last week and put it behind you and concentrate on next week or else you're not putting 100 percent of your focus in the right place. Even though we won tonight, tomorrow we're going to be thinking about Darlington and what we've got to do to be fast there and hopefully try to repeat."
IS THIS THE BIGGEST WIN OF YOUR CAREER IN WINSTON CUP RACING?
"It's one of the most satisfying. I don't think it's the biggest. I still think the biggest is beating Dale Earnhardt in the 'Shootout' this year. It would have been nice to have beat him here, but still it means a lot just to win here. It's more of a personal triumph for me than anything. I've always liked this place and I've always wanted to win here. I'm just glad we had the opportunity tonight."
COMPARING INDY TO BRISTOL
"Indianapolis is just Indianapolis. When you grow up around the place - it's just like Sterling Marlin. When he comes here, he probably wants to win here more than he wants to win anywhere else. Indy is home. You always want to win and do well at your home track. Knowing the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the event is what makes it so big. Driving an Indy car around there for 200 laps is not my idea of a fun day because I've never had fun driving around there for 200 laps. But having the opportunity to drink the milk in victory lane is something I dearly hope I have an opportunity to do before I quit driving race cars. This is just one of those places where -- the style of racing is what I enjoy here. That's what probably makes it so satisfying to win here is because of the way you have to be aggressive and you have to at the same time be patient and stay out of all the wrecks all day and work lapped traffic. You've got to work lapped traffic here more than you have to work lapped traffic anywhere. It makes it more gratifying when you can do that at a place like this."
WERE YOU WORRIED THAT KEVIN HARVICK WOULD CATCH YOU AT THE END BECAUSE OF LAPPED TRAFFIC?
"We couldn't get Casey Atwood to get out of our way and we couldn't get Jeff Burton didn't want to get out of our way. I'm sure those guys were racing for position, too, and I'm sure their spotter were letting them know if Kevin was coming. I would have been pretty upset if we had lost one because of lapped traffic tonight."
ON KEVIN HARVICK
"The kid is awesome. That's about the easiest way I can describe Kevin Harvick is he is just awesome. Being able to run the Busch race last night - you look at how Steve Park ran early in the race, you look at how Jimmy Spencer ran - running that Busch race didn't hurt any of those guys last night. I wish it is something I could do in the future - run a couple Busch races a year. He [Harvick] is getting a lot of track time, which he needs right now and he is making the most of it. He is performing well. You know that when you beat him - it's just like beating Earnhardt. You know that if you beat him, you earned it because he is going to give 110 percent every lap that he runs. It doesn't matter whether it is lap one or lap 499; he is going to drive it just as hard. If you beat him, you earned it."