Daytona: Winning team press conference, part 1

Camping World 300 Post-Race Transcripts February 14, 2009 An interview with: TONY STEWART LANCE McGREW RICK HENDRICK KERRY THARP: We're going to roll into our winning race team of today's Camping World 300 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series...

Camping World 300 Post-Race Transcripts
February 14, 2009

An interview with:
TONY STEWART
LANCE McGREW
RICK HENDRICK

KERRY THARP: We're going to roll into our winning race team of today's Camping World 300 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series here at Daytona. Our race winner is Tony Stewart. He drives the No. 80 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet. Crew chief Lance McGrew and team owner Rick Hendrick.

Tony, right now you're having a good week, good weekend leading into tomorrow's race. You have to feel good about the victory today.

TONY STEWART: Yeah, I was ecstatic about it. The first time I've got to drive for Mr. Hendrick, Lance, all the guys at Hendrickcars.com. Just an unbelievable run today.

We never really got to run with a huge pack yesterday, or the last two days in practice. Wasn't quite sure exactly what we were going to have today. We had a great start to the race, got ourselves in the top pack there, were able to stay in the lead draft.

We were a little bit free, but we were really good about third back. We got up and led some laps before that first caution, and came out and Lance did a great job all day of making changes to the car to where toward the end we finally got it snugged up enough to where I could do what I needed to do.

I thought I made the worst call/move of the year. Was going to get that award for coming into the pits with 28 to go. It actually ended up saving us at the end. We got good track position. Got ourselves back up to third, got track position, and restarted second.

Fortunate we were able to get through the pack like that. Because we had a good car, we could run through the middle in times that guys couldn't go through the middle three wide. Just the car drove good and had all the guys at Hendrick Motorsports in the engine department.

The thing was so good, it would just roll the corner. I could roll through there by myself and not have to have the push when we were three wide and make ground. Thanks to those guys for giving us a great engine package to let us run up there like that.

KERRY THARP: Lance, talk about the strategy that played such a role there late in the lace.

LANCE McGREW: He kind of let the cat out of the bag. I was looking like a real hero till the end of the race. Everybody thought I made that call to come down pit road, but...

TONY STEWART: You did.

LANCE McGREW: The car was really good all day. Just a little free out front. We just kept snugging it up, snugging it up until he was happy. When you get a guy like that in your racecar, you get a perfect car, even in this case it wasn't even perfect and he still won with it. So a good day.

KERRY THARP: Mr. Hendrick, talk about the win today and how it was having Tony drive for you out there this afternoon.

RICK HENDRICK: It was a real special, special win. We've talked about doing things. I guess in '96 I called him. He said he wasn't ready yet. You know, real proud of what they've done with their team. We were going to launch this weekend, the site with Hendrickcars.com. All of our stores were advertising it.

We figured out yesterday that if we didn't make the field, we spent a lot of money, didn't have any points (laughter).

But it was really special. You know, after watching him win this race so many times on Saturday, it was good to have him in our car doing it.

Lance, you know, he and Ricky started the Busch team, and you, know, won with Brian. It's been a long time since we won a Saturday race in Daytona. It was a real special feeling. It couldn't have been a more picture perfect deal with the automotive group.

To plan a promotion in this kind of economy, it doesn't work.  You spend a
lot of money for nothing.  So, thank you, Tony.  You saved us.
It was a great race.  I didn't have any idea we were going to win it there
at the end.  I thought we might get wrecked.  But it was a good one.

KERRY THARP: Questions now for either Lance, Tony or Mr. Hendrick.

RICK HENDRICK: Could you not call me Mr. Hendrick? I'm almost 60, but 'Rick' would be great (laughter).

Q: Tony, we can't see what you see or feel what you feel. Sometimes we have to ask. I hate that. But tell me how those Goodyears were sticking up in three and four that last lap.

TONY STEWART: Well, not very good, but good enough. Kyle got through our bumper right after we got off of two down the backstretch. I thought we were going to be able to pull away from the field further than that.

Normally, you get two cars hooked up like that, seen it at Talladega, get the bumpers locked, they drive away from everybody. Didn't get as big a gap as I thought we would.

I was surprised that we were able to chase it as far as we did. He never turned loose of us. He drove halfway up the racetrack still glued to my bumper, instead of staying on the line trying to go around us.

I wasn't going to lift, though, because I knew if I lifted I was going to get wrecked for sure. I definitely needed all the real estate that I had there. Trust me, I would have loved to have had just a little bit more grip there at the end.

Q: Tony, when you made the decision to go in for tires, what were you thinking about?

TONY STEWART: I looked behind us. Lance had told me to stay out. Said that the 5 and the 88 were going to stay out. Those were our teammates. I should have stayed. But I looked in the mirror.

I've been caught out so many times in the past, especially last year, that we just had such rotten luck all year. So many times we planned on staying out, the whole field would come and get tires, and we would get swallowed back in the pack. I saw a bunch of cars.

I mean, there were only about three or four cars that I saw behind me that kind of stayed up enough on the racetrack that I thought that I knew they were going to stay out. The rest of them stayed down on the line like they were coming, or they were seriously considering it.

I just, for some reason, felt like I just didn't want to get caught out and not get tires and then the thing go to the end.

I got really, really lucky there, because I had a big possibility of screwing us up there. But even before the caution came out we got ourselves up to third. When Lance had made the changes there at the end, the stop before that, it got us right where we needed to be. That let us drive through the field to get up and get that track position back.

I'm not sure if the caution would have come out, you know, five or eight laps earlier, if the outcome might have been different. But the way it came out with seven laps or six laps to go on the restart there, it gave our tires time to cool down a little bit and let us have enough grip to at least have it for that small amount of time to get to the end.

Q: Tony, can you talk about the emotions that you had today just from the lows of this morning to winning the race. Hard to separate yourself when you got in the car today from the frustrations from what happened?

TONY STEWART: You know, I know it probably doesn't make sense, but I've done this for 29 years now. This is my 29th year racing. I think I ran so many different types of cars, that after practice was over and Darian and I kind of got the game plan of what was going to happen, what we had to do to finish getting our car ready, what we had to do to get Ryan's car ready.

When I went back to the bus and put this uniform on, when you see Hendrick on it, you switch gears real quick in your mind and you realize that, Hey, you got a job to do. You put what happened in the morning behind you. You focus on the task at hand.

Going out there and seeing Mr. Hendrick come to the car, Lance and their guys, I mean, they were pumped up. They knew what this morning was like. It was very disappointing this morning. I was so frustrated I almost couldn't see straight.

But seeing how good a job the guys did, I guess almost the positive to the negative is I was so proud that we had guys from Hendrick Motorsports come down, Richard Childress came down and personally told me that if we needed a car, if we were in a bind on chassis, we could use one of theirs.

The amount of guys that came over and said, Hey, we don't know what we can do, but if we can help, let us know. That made me extremely proud of how many guys in the garage were willing to come up and lend a hand and their support.

If they don't like you they won't offer that hand. It made me feel real fortunate that we have a bunch of friends in this garage area that wanted to help out.

I'm really proud of our guys, too. They never got down. I mean, as soon as it happened, they were working hard to get the backup car out, get everything switched over to get it exactly where the primary car was at the end of practice yesterday.

To get back on the racetrack in a timely manner like we were, I was really proud of Darian and our guys. I know it was a little different situation for Ryan and the U.S. Army car. I mean, they didn't have the luxury of just bringing the backup car down as quick as we did.

But I think we found something this morning with both cars. I was struggling getting my car to suck up in the draft. We finally found something that helped that. Ryan's car yesterday wasn't handling quite as nice as he wanted, but it would suck up real good.

We kind of found a common balance between the two. His car was driving good today and sucking up good, and mine did the same thing.

I feel comfortable because of our package that we have that we're going to be able to duplicate that in both cars for tomorrow, too.

Q: In that last lap position where you were leading the race, we keep asking people, Do you want to have the lead at the white flag. You got Kyle Busch coming. You're the only one that doesn't have any moves to make except countermoves.

TONY STEWART: That's what you think (laughter).

Q: As the leader, what do you have in your arsenal?

TONY STEWART: You just watch. I mean, you know, the thing when you're leading is you spend 90% of the lap looking at what's going on behind you in the mirror. I know that's hard to image running 190 miles an hour that you're watching the mirror.

You have to be conscious of what the guys behind you are doing. You can see how they're trying to set themselves up to make the pass to try to win the race. They have to be careful not to try something that's going to get them in a position to get passed, but at the same time get themselves backed away from you.

So you have to try to not let yourself run out too far ahead and get such a gap that all of a sudden you lose that push and your car slows down, and then they get a push from behind and get a big advantage and a big run on you.

You spend the majority of that lap just watching behind you. It's a chess match at that point. It's move, countermove, move, countermove. The last two and a half miles seems like it takes forever. It's because it does. There's a lot that happens in that last, you know, 50 second lap.

Q: On that exact topic, that last portion of the race, was there anything about the way Kyle raced you and was on your bumper that you would consider over the line, or do you respect that as hard nosed, aggressive stuff?

TONY STEWART: It's definitely aggressive, for sure (smiling). If I would have lost it and crashed because of it, I guarantee you I'd be upset about it. Because he never turned loose of us going in there.

You know, we saw Jason Leffler get a five lap penalty for aggressive driving. Pushing a guy off in the corner isn't exactly obviously the best thing to do. The thing that Kyle did that I want to make sure everybody understands, Kyle didn't wreck me. He didn't try to wreck me.

What Kyle did was try to get me in a position where my car got loose, and I had to try to race it up the racetrack to give him the bottom. And that happened. In doing so, he had to run up the racetrack, too. It wasn't like he just ran us up into the fence. He didn't do that.

Kyle's the type of guy that if you beat him, in a race like this, if you can win the race, you know you did everything a hundred percent right. Because if you don't do it a hundred percent right, he's going to find a way around you.

It doesn't mean I did something special that nobody else could do. It means I got everything out of myself today, and the guys did a great job of getting a hundred percent out of the car.

He's not gonna give it to you, and I wouldn't expect him to. You want to earn those wins. When you can do it that way and you can manhandle your racecar up around the racetrack like that, that's what makes winning these races so special, is knowing you didn't get it handed to you. You know you had to work for it.

Q: With all the pressure and attention on tomorrow's race, Rick, where do you rank a win on Saturday? At what point do you stop enjoying this race and start worrying about tomorrow?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, I hadn't even thought about tomorrow for the last I don't know how long we've been in Victory Lane. You know, when you've been doing it for 25 years, when you look at the wins, you'd like to see some of the greatest drivers that ever drove the sport in the sport drive your cars. That's something that I've been really excited about, to have Tony get in the car.

Again, it's been a long time. I watched a lot of Saturday races. Been a while since we've been in Victory Lane on a Saturday race. So, you know, I take 'em one at a time. I'll start worrying about tomorrow probably in the morning. But all the cars are real competitive. I think it's gonna be a heck of a race tomorrow, based on the 150s and the Clash, the Shootout, whatever you call it now.

I think this is again, the emotions from having Tony in the car, Lance being the crew chief, all the dealerships putting so much behind this and at this point in time with the economy like it is, it was just a script. If I could say I want this to happen. It couldn't get any better than this. It just couldn't.

Q: Tony, have you met with Goodyear yet? Do you stand by what you said this morning in the interview?

TONY STEWART: I don't say it if I don't mean it. Surely after 11 years you guys have figured that out.

You know, the thing is, this morning is over. There's nothing we can do about it. Nothing will change. It hasn't since I've been a part of this sport when it comes to that topic. The important thing is that, you know, we found a way to put that behind us by winning the Nationwide race for Mr. Hendrick and Hendrickcars.com and Lance.

This was the perfect thing to try to get it out of my mind and to get me focused a hundred percent on what we can do to try to win the race tomorrow again now.

Q: Did you talk to Goodyear?

TONY STEWART: No, I didn't. And I won't. I've met with them before. It doesn't do any good. I would rather spend my time productively hanging out with this group and going out and winning races.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler
Teams Hendrick Motorsports