WINNERS: TONY STEWART AND CREW CHIEF, GREG ZIPADELLI: ZIPADELLI: "It's pretty awesome to be going through what we're going through. As good as we've been in the past, we've never been anywhere near this. It's exciting. Obviously anybody who...
WINNERS: TONY STEWART AND CREW CHIEF, GREG ZIPADELLI:
ZIPADELLI: "It's pretty awesome to be going through what we're going through. As good as we've been in the past, we've never been anywhere near this. It's exciting. Obviously anybody who has the opportunity to win five races in the NEXTEL Cup season is blessed. For us to do it and last eight or 10 weeks is really awesome."
CAN YOU TAKE US THOUGH HOW YOU SEEMED TO TURN THE CORNER ALL AT ONCE?
"We had a really good test at Michigan. We learned some stuff. We built a new car that we took to the All-Star race. We wrecked it, but it was really good. We took it to the Michigan test later. We learned a lot with it. We've learned from the bigger tracks. This is the car we had at Sonoma. It's the car we won with here last year that we did over. It's neat that we've been able to do it on the superspeedways, short tracks, and intermediate tracks. That's what's really cool about this."
PEOPLE ARE EYEBALLING YOUR CARS TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S DIFFERENT
"I've heard a lot of that and seen a lot of that in the past couple of weeks. We're going to have to start carving some eyes out. In all honesty, we didn't look around at what other people were doing. We went home and went to work. We relied on my guys back at the shop. We tested. We built a lot of race cars this year to get aero balance and some things we wanted at the bigger race tracks. As long as they're looking at our stuff, they're not working on their own stuff."
IS THERE A SENSE THAT IF YOU KEEP THE CAR ON THE TRACK AND TONY DOESN'T MESS UP, THAT YOU'RE GOING TO WIN A RACE?
"From the outside right now, it looks like that. But it's not really that way. Our stuff has been good. Our driver has been focused. Our pit stops have been great. Every aspect of our race team has been strong. And that's what it takes. There were a lot of other teams that were that way at the beginning of the year. Now we're going back to Michigan and Bristol with a little different tire. There are a lot of things coming up that could change things very easily."
HOW SERIOUS WAS THE ALTERNATOR PROBLEM?
"Anytime you have a problem with anything, it's serious. We've had some alternator problems. We thought we got them fixed. We're asking so much out of them now with all these brake fans and cool boxes and everything that we're overloading them. Last week, the one we had looked good. We put a new one on here just for the race. And I don't know. We missed it a little bit. But we had that second battery in the car and that's what that's there for to give us a little bit of reserve. This is probably one of the worst, if not the worst places, with the amount of fans and things we have on it."
YOU LED FOR 83 OF THE 92 LAPS...WHAT WENT WRONG ON THE OTHER 9 LAPS?
"I don't know what went wrong either. I'm going to have to talk to Zippy about that and put a little heat on him. We had an absolutely flawless day today with the exception of the alternator. I don't know if we had a big problem or not. I know it wasn't reading what it was earlier in the race. I didn't tell him until the caution came out. We had just about every fan turned off I felt like I could safely shut off without hurting the race car. I just told him on the yellow in case maybe there was something I could do to. Other than that we had a pretty flawless day. The only two challenges we had were on re-starts getting in Turn 1. Jeff Gordon got under us once. And Robby (Gordon) was the one I was really concerned with there at the end. He is one of the best at braking when it comes to getting into the corners here. So this is a hard track on restarts to be the leader. You're really a sitting duck. Guys will sit back and lay back and it's probably hard for NASCAR to police it because they haven't done anything to this point. So I'm sure it's because it's really a hard deal for them to be able to see. But guys are really taking advantage of being able to roll the restarts and get a run. They can carry it all the way down the front stretch. That make the restarts very critical for us today. If I could make it through Turn 1, I didn't have any concerns."
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN A ZONE LIKE THIS?
"I'll be honest. I've had zones where I've finished in the top three when I was in Midgets and Sprint Cars where I could go week in and week out and not fall out of the top three. But to win five out of the last seven and be in the top five for the last eight weeks, is a pretty good record. I know Zippy is proud of it. I'm extremely proud of it. For us to win at Daytona, Indy, Sonoma, Watkins Glen, and Loudon -- to win on all those different disciplines really shows how diverse our program is. It's a tribute to Zippy and the guys and the good job they're doing. From a driver's standpoint, you pray that you get good race cars like this to drive every week. But it's not me making the difference. They find the right package to make us go fast."
ON HIS HOMETOWN PARADE TOMORROW
"I'm a little nervous. I'm not sure what's going on other than I'm going to be in the parade. I'm just scared there will be kids throwing darts at me. I don't know what's going to happen. But I'm excited about it. For a town that's only got 38,000 people and they're expecting 50,000 people -- I don't know where they're going to put them. But it's flattering that the town cares enough and knows how much the Brickyard 400 means makes me free very honored."
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU COME OUT OF RICHMOND 400 POINTS AHEAD OF EVERYBODY ELSE?
"Who cares? Nobody else is going to."
HAVE WE SEEN THE END OF FENCE CLIMBING?
"No, this place is not good for fence climbing. The grandstands are there but the flag stand is there. But there were only going to be about three people that would be able to enjoy it with me. So, I looked at it and thought man, I really don't feel like wasting my time going up this fence today. I'm convinced I'm still going to fall off one and crack my head wide-open. Considering I want to go to Knoxville tonight, I was better off just grabbing the flag and doing a couple of burnouts for the fans. I didn't forget about them; it just didn't work into our normal plan."
WITH A SECOND PLACE RUN AT MICHIGAN, YOU MUST BE VERY OPTIMISTIC GOING BACK THERE
"Yeah, I'm really excited. That's where this run really started. It's just one of those string of tracks that that we started to run well at, going. I'm excited to go back there. I can't think of a better place to go back to a second time after the run we had there in the spring."
WHEN YOU HAVE A DOMINATE CAR LIKE YOU HAD TODAY, DOES THAT MAKE IT LESS STRESSFUL RUNNING A ROAD COURSE?
"Absolutely. As much as brakes are a factor -- especially as fast as we run here -- we're harder on the brakes here than we are at Sonoma because we run so fast. There are three really hard braking zones here. At Sonoma, there are only really two. This is one of those places where it's very easy to abuse your tires and the brakes. When you can run the pace you want to and lift when you want to and do the things that you know are taking care of your equipment, it makes for a lot better day. If you can do that on the first half of the race and save your brakes, you've got them at the end. Guys like Robby (Gordon) had to work hard all day and didn't have that luxury of saving brakes. I'm sure that probably hurt him those last two laps staying with us a little bit."
WAS FUEL AN ISSUE AT ALL?
"Not at all. Zippy is pretty good at planning ahead and knowing exactly how many laps we can go and planning ahead for a green-white-checkered. He told me not to worry about it, so I never had to think about it in the car."
DOES WHAT YOU LEARNED AT MICHIGAN TRANSLATE OVER TO ROAD COURSES AS WELL?
ZIPPY: "Some of the things we learned at Sonoma translated back over here. We bought them here. But,not really. Everything is so completely different."
ON RUNNING WITH GOOD ROAD RACE DRIVERS
STEWART: "There are a lot of guys who are better than me. Robby and Boris and Ron Fellows -- you learn a lot running with guys like that. It's kind of a good deal to have these guys here. You can learn a lot just by practicing with them. As much as I'd like to think I'm a pretty decent road racer, I'm getting better, but I can still get better than I am right now."
DID YOU LAY BACK ON THOSE TWO RESTARTS OR WAS YOUR CAR STRONG ENOUGH ANYWAY
"Most of the race, every time we had restarts, guys were close enough that if they really wanted to force the issue they could do something. The second to last restart, we had Boris behind us. He probably laid back two car lengths and just started rolling up. It's hard to see. You can see the distance close up and you think he's really not gaining that much.
"But if he rolls you one or two miles per hour and can get in the gas when you do, by the time he carries it all the way into the straightaway, he's beside you or by you. So yeah, I was very concerned.
"The first time he was rolling up, instead of getting into it when I wanted to, I just slowed down a little bit and made him have to get on the brakes to where I stopped his run. The second time, it was the same thing with Robby. He was hanging back two car lengths. I had enough of a gap between me and the pace car that I actually sped up a little bit to make him have to come up to me or it was going to be blatant that he was laying back too far and got him out of time that way. They were playing the game. I was playing the game as the leader. I was hoping I wouldn't have to do all that stuff because that's definitely a worry. But they're doing what they have to do to try to give themselves an advantage to try and win the race and I did the same thing."
ROBBY GORDON SAID HIS CAR WAS NEARLY AS GOOD AS YOURS
"I would say he had a better car than what he got to show at the end. He probably had to use a lot of it up to get to the front. It's hard to do that. If you had to be in that situation, Robby Gordon is the guy I'd want in my car if I was an owner and had to go to the back like that because he's the one who can do it efficiently without beating the daylights out of his race car. We never ran harder than we had to. We never really had to show exactly how fast that car could go today. We had more left if we needed it."
WITH YOUR FAST QUALFIYING LAP YESTERDAY, HOW CONFIDENT WERE YOU GOING INTO TODAY'S RACE?
"I had a high confidence level -- not that I was going to win the race, but that I had a shot at winning the race. There are so many things that can go wrong. You just never know. I felt like I had a car capable of winning the race if all the variables worked out and we didn't have any problems."
ARE YOU STARTING TO FEEL LOVED WITH ALL THE CHEERING GOING ON?
"I'm feeling a lot of love. I'm enjoying the love too. It's a lot better than dodging grenades. It's definitely a good feeling -- especially when there were four or five kids with Tony Stewart hats and shirts on and that probably means more to me than having four or five adults."