TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BURGER KING CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed racing the All-Star versus the Coke 600, health of short track racing, driving Lewis Hamilton’s car and other topics.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN HOW YOU PUSH FOR QUALIFYING VERSUS THE RACE? “Yes. When you are doing qualifying you only have to make it last one lap where when we are in our race, you want to push it hard, but you can’t run qualifying laps because the tires won’t last if you do that. So, you have to know how hard you can push it for 35 laps or 40 laps versus one lap.”
DO YOU TRY TO LEARN SOMETHING FROM THE ALL-STAR RACE FOR THE COKE 600? “I think it has always been that way. It is no different than running the Shootout at Daytona. What you learn tonight and tomorrow night will help for next week to get ready for the 600. The entire field is going to do that so it gives everybody the same opportunity.”
NEXT WEEK WE WILL SEE A LOT OF LONG RUN, TOMORROW NIGHT IS A LOT OF SHORT RUNS, HOW DOES THAT IMPACT HOW YOU TRY TO TUNE ON THE CAR? “You still have to get balance no matter whether it is a short run or a long run, but, you definitely know next week you are going to get in longer runs where you are going to have to make it last longer. Tomorrow night, you can try to push for speed than you do for performance over a longer run. You know it is going to come down tomorrow night to a 10-lap dash, so you are going to try and make your car fast for those last 10 laps. Where next week we don’t know if we are going to run a whole green flag stint to the checkers. You have to make sure it is balance and be able to be good for a long run too.”
IS THERE A HIGHER LEVEL OF INTENSITY IN THE ALL-STAR BY DRIVERS? “Everybody knows when we are at the 600, we have 600 miles and what you do the first 10 laps isn’t going to matter. I don’t know that it is so much that guys don’t run 100%, they run 100% for the whole race. They keep the big picture in mind, where, tomorrow night it is a shorter distance. You have to get a lot done in a short amount of time so you do have to push a little harder.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR BIRTHDAY TODAY: “I’ve had three cakes during the week, but I’ve been sensible about it and had three small pieces. It is just another day. Everybody goes ‘well it is too bad you have to be at the race track on your birthday’ and I’m kind of looking at it the opposite way, this is what I have grown up loving. I love what I do. I love being with the people that I am around and most of my friends are in the garage area so I can’t think of a better place to spend my birthday.”
I’ve had three cakes during the week ...
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT THE 600? “I don’t know that there is anything difficult about it. You still approach it the same as you do a 500-mile race. You just have to get your car balanced. The hard part is you start with it hot in late afternoon and then you are going to have quite a bit of time for the track to change a bunch from the beginning of the race to the end of the race. That is probably the biggest challenge but it is always a challenge when you run night races when you are going to start late afternoon.”
HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THE GIANT VIDEO SCREEN? “It is massive. The first lap down the backstretch you looked to see what it is going to look. It will be interesting to see what it looks like tomorrow night when we finally get a chance to see it all lit up.”
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO GET READY FOR LEWIS HAMILTON’S CAR? “A lot of I-Racing. We haven’t done it yet but we are working with the people at I-Racing to get a simulator. We’re going to run a lot of laps on that thing before we get there because I know it is going to be different so if I can at least have a visual idea of the timing and what it is going to be from the perspective of what it is going to look like from inside his car, that will be one less thing that we are trying to learn when we get there.”
ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED THAT THEY ARE LIMITING HOW MANY LAPS YOU CAN DO? “Well after listening to Juan (Pablo Montoya) who said my neck is going to be falling out of the thing after three laps anyway, so, it is probably in my best interest that they are limiting the number of laps we can run. (LAUGHS)”
HAVE YOU RUN THE LONG COURSE AT WATKINS GLEN? “I haven’t. I haven’t even been around it period so I’ve seen it on TV during endurance races there, so, that is where having the I-Racing simulator is going to a big asset to get a chance to at least have an idea of how the course runs before we get there and have to try to run a Formula One car around it.”
DOES BRINGING THE NASCAR GUYS IN TO ONE OF YOUR TRACKS ONCE A YEAR HELP THE FANBASE THE REMAINDER OF THE SEASON? “The thing I have noticed about it, especially for our event (Prelude at Eldora), it shows that Bobby Labonte has a late model team. Clint Bowyer has a late model team. We’ve got our World of Outlaws team. Kasey Kahne has his World of Outlaws and USAC teams. There’s a lot more dirt influence in this garage area than what people realize. Kenny Schrader has always gone back and run. Kenny Wallace. There is a lot of these guys that may not get a chance, people probably don’t realize how much we are into dirt racing and how much we are behind it and how much we have invested in this sport.”
IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP TO THE HEALTH OF LOCAL SHORT TRACKS AND NASCAR RACING? “It is just totally different atmospheres. You got people that have to save up for a whole year to come to a NASCAR race. People can afford to go to Saturday night short track race. But it’s doing it every weekend. That’s what keeps the short tracks surviving. It is the same but different.”
HOW IS A RACE FAN DIFFERENT FROM A NASCAR FAN? “(CHUCKLES) A lot of ways. We’ll just leave it at that. A lot of ways.”
YOU HAVE ALWAYS SAID PEOPLE DON’T FORGET HOW TO RACE, ONLY IF YOU AGE OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES AFFECTS HOW YOUR SKILLS APPLY, HOW WILL YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR BODY IS STARTING TO GIVE UP? “I think you just know. I mean I don’t know. None of us know. We only get one chance to do it. But, I think mentally you know. I think your mind tells you that there is just something. It is no different than having a family or anything else, you’ll just know when the time is right. You just kind of know when you are ready. It is when priorities in your life start changing. Its that, its desire, its health. There are a lot of variables that decide when that day really is that you walk away.
“I don’t know, you don’t know until you get into that position. Your heart and mind might be 100% into it, but something happens and you can’t see as good or you don’t feel as good in the car. You don’t know. You might be perfectly healthy and on-top of your game and your mind says you are just tired of doing it. You don’t know what the variables are going to be. You are probably going to have a chance of getting an accurate answer off of guys that have been through it and retired and knowing why they retired.”
DO YOU STILL FEEL AS GOOD AS YOU DID WHEN YOU FIRST CAME IN? “Mentally yes. Physically not so much. But, I probably could take better care of myself.”
-source: team chevy