Continued from part 1 Q: Tony, that final half lap, how much of that, if you could break it down, would you say was car and how much of that was just personal on your part? Would a lesser driver have backed out of that? TONY STEWART: ...
Continued from part 1
Q: Tony, that final half lap, how much of that, if you could break it down, would you say was car and how much of that was just personal on your part? Would a lesser driver have backed out of that?
TONY STEWART: Well, I don't know. I mean, I've not ever been another driver, so I really can't answer that for sure.
I promise you this: You have to have a car that is driving good to be able to do that with a guy on your bumper like that. I think we had 27 or 28 laps on our tires at that point. To have somebody tucked up under you with that many laps on your tires was pretty impressive.
That's the job that Lance and the crew did, making sure. We kept whittling away at it. Lance made a pretty aggressive change there and caught all the way up to what we were wanting in one change there. It really impressed me that we went from kind of being a ways off to not knowing how much to go.
He made the perfect call in one stop and got it right where it needed to be. If you don't have that balance, I don't care whether you got stickers on. I don't care whether you're on 40 lap tires. If you go down to the corner, your car's not right, I don't care whether you're the best racecar driver in the world, you can only do as much as that car will let you do. That is where it starts.
I think there's a lot of guys that could have wrestled it. It's how far do you go before you finally just run out of talent. I wasn't too far off of it. But luckily I didn't have to go any further than I went before I caught it (laughter).
Q: Tony, on the last lap after you slid up the track, Kyle went to the inside and then stopped. Did you block him at that point? Did he run out of draft? Did he back off?
TONY STEWART: You know, I don't know. 'Cause I thought at the point I got off the bottom, I thought that I had lost the race for sure, and that him and the line would have went underneath me.
I got a chance to watch the replay. When we went off into three, I had to start chasing the back of the car up the track. He just stayed there. I mean, he stayed on the bumper and followed me up the racetrack.
I'm not sure exactly why he ended up going up the racetrack as far as he did. When he had to tug on it to get back down, apparently it broke his momentum enough where we were able to carry the momentum we had.
Our car was really good, even in practice, about rolling the center of the corner and carrying the momentum. I think that's what helped us win the race, was the fact that our car rolled so good through the center of the corner that once he got off of us and tried to get back down to the bottom it broke his momentum and we were able to carry ours.
By that time, the 60 car and a couple I think the 29 was behind him were able to get on the outside. I think that pulled Kyle back the rest of the way when we came down the short chute.
Q: Lance and Rick, can you talk about how this team came together. I assume this car was built fairly recently. Are you going to race it anywhere else?
LANCE McGREW: Mr. H has got to tell me if we're going to race it anywhere else. It definitely did come together quick. I got a walk in visit from Ken Howes on October 24th of last year. He walked in and said, Mr. Hendrick wants to go to Daytona. He wants you to build the best car we've ever built. He wants you to win.
We were in the middle of doing some Cup races with Brad Keselowski. We didn't get a big jump on it. We pretty much worked seven days a week since January 5th, since the holidays, to get it done.
Fortunately enough for us we still have jobs (smiling).
TONY STEWART: You think you do.
RICK HENDRICK: I'm glad you told me that. I told Ken Howes in July that we needed that car (laughter). I'm going to look for him in the morning.
Actually, what we're doing with it, as soon as it leaves, it's going to the dealerships. It's going to the guys that sold the most cars on those sites. It will be shifted to them. Let the fans register for his uniform, and then next plate race it might show up again.
But right now we're going to put it to work in the car business, so...
TONY STEWART: Just so you know, part of where the 80 came from was the 80 franchises with Hendrickcars.com. That's the significance of what the 80 meant to the team and to all the people and all the franchisees.
So every bit of that 80 was all the franchisees that were behind us this weekend. It's pretty cool that Mr. H is going to let the car go on tour, go to some of the dealerships, let those guys enjoy the victory with us, because they were a part of it with us today.
Q: Tony, the last corner, Clint came in and said what Kyle tried last night didn't work. He was surprised he tried it again today and it didn't work. Did you remember that he tried that same thing last night? Would you expect maybe something else?
TONY STEWART: I would've known that, but my car owner duties kicked in last night and I had to go to a sponsor dinner of all things last night. I was dressed up and eating dinner with our sponsors. Ryan and I had a pretty good time last night. We missed the entire truck race because our dinner started when the race started. We kept both trying to sneak out of the room, because they had a TV in the restaurant over in the bar area. We kept trying to sneak around to see what was going on with the truck race, but we didn't see the end of it.
I'd like to go back and watch it. I wish I would have now. If I would have known he pulled the same move on the last lap as he did last night, I would have been watching for it a little bit closer.
Q: Tony, Mr. Hendrick has talked about how much he wanted to put you in a car, what an honor it was. Is the feeling mutual? Are you honored?
TONY STEWART: I'm honored. This has been a great organization in NASCAR racing, no matter whether it been the truck or the Nationwide series or the Cup series. You look at all the races that they've won, it's a huge honor to drive for this organization.
When we talked about me joining Haas Racing at the end of the year and our relationship with Mr. Hendrick and his organization...
KERRY THARP: Rick.
TONY STEWART: Rick, sorry. I got it now (laughter).
This was something that timing is everything, and it been part of making decisions at the right time. I feel like we've been real lucky from that standpoint, that we've made the right decisions.
We had an opportunity to join Mr. Hendrick Rick's operation in '96. Honestly, the timing wasn't right. I mean, it was the perfect opportunity, but the timing wasn't right and I wasn't ready. I just started in the Nationwide Series with Harry Ranier.
I was scared. I had one step on the ladder to go. I didn't want to make that last step too soon and end up falling down the ladder. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make, to not accept that offer. I felt like in the long run it might pay off.
I knew I might never get a chance to have that opportunity again. I think that's why it means so much to me to be here today. This was something since '96 that we had tried to do, and here we are in 2009 in our first race together we win.
It's kind of like a fine bottle of wine that's sat. By the time they pulled the cork out of it finally, we were ready to come here and the timing was right. Lance and their guys, I mean, all the pieces of the puzzle came together at the right time. We went out and won the race today because of that.
Q: Did it surprise you when Edwards and Bowyer got that run off of four? Did that kind of surprise you a little bit?
TONY STEWART: That wasn't near as dramatic as going into three was. I can promise you. I was still in shock, I guess to a certain degree, that I hadn't got passed on the inside. The spotter cleared me. I couldn't believe that he said clear on the exit of four.
With that, you know, you only have a short amount of time that you got to defend your spot. As soon as I saw the 60 car and the 29 on the outside of the 18, that will pull the inside guy back the way that they had lined up on him. It was just a short amount of time.
But it was like the seconds were ticking away, and the distance was ticking away. They got a run on us, but they ran out of time before they got there. I could see them coming down the short stretch, moved up to where I didn't give them just a free lane to just go sailing on by. I was going to do like Kyle: I wasn't going to let them have it easy.
Q: Tony, this may be a silly question. I'm sure you'll tell me. Does it help having a race like this to have to really race this hard, manhandle a car, do it going in? The Daytona 500 will be the first race of the season for you. Like when you play tennis, you might not play as well if you're playing against someone that's not pushing you.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, but I think that started last Saturday at the Shootout. We were all wrestling our cars around Saturday night, too. I think that was a little harder to just kind of get in that mode, since most guys didn't do a lot of testing in the spring.
We didn't do any drafting down here. It wasn't like two weeks later we come back and everything is ready to go and you start. We all kind of started cold turkey, so to speak.
I think that was kind of the one that got us all back in the mode. It never hurts at all to go out. Especially, you know, going into tonight. I mean, I'm going to go back to the bus and I'm going to see the trophy sitting in my motor coach. I'm going to know even though we had a disappointing morning, we finished the day strong. That momentum will carry over to tomorrow, even though we're going to be at a big deficit to start with.
It's that momentum that carries you through the day and keeps you motivated and keeps you pumped up. I guarantee all of our guys that worked hard all day working on the car were paying attention to the race. They're excited we won, too. That just carries the whole team into tomorrow. Carries the team with some momentum that we definitely need right now.
Q: That was one of the greatest displays of driving skill that I have seen on that last lap, saving the car, preserving the win like you did. Given if this was in the Car of Tomorrow on the Cup side, would you have been able to save the car like you did?
TONY STEWART: I'm not so sure those handle quite as good as the Nationwide cars do. But still, NASCAR has really worked on both packages to try to make sure we're not easy flat all the way around, that the cars suck up good.
Any time that you push somebody in a corner like that, it's easy to do it at Talladega because of the surface, it's been repaved. I know there's been a lot of discussions, weighing of the options of whether they should repave this track. I don't think they should.
The bumps in it and the surface being slicker, it makes us all work hard on making sure our cars drive good, making sure that we're in the right positions on the racetrack.
At Talladega, you just go where the empty hole is. It's just a matter of which line pushes harder than the other. A guy can line up on there and push you all the way around the racetrack till his water temperature goes through the roof.
You can't do that here and the guy in front be comfortable. It's hard enough just to get to him, let alone be the guy that has to lead it that way. I don't think with the Cup cars we'd be able to do that.
Q: You both talked about what an honor it is racing for Rick, vice versa. Obviously you want Stewart Haas to be successful for years to come, win a lot of races. Mark Martin talked about getting a taste of Hendrick equipment, making him start to think that maybe that's a place he wanted to go. Now he's at. Is it the same with you? You've gotten a taste of it and you're looking down the future, maybe the door's a little open now to possibly considering a full time move there?
TONY STEWART: You got to remember, I've got Hendrick chassis and Hendrick engines and Hendrick technical support. Even though I'm not in the same building, I feel like I'm a part of the Hendrick organization. That's the relationship we have. That's something I'm really proud of.
This has been a huge opportunity for me to have a chance to be like Rick and to be like Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress and Jack Roush. One day maybe they'll talk about me like they talk about this guy next to me. That's the part that's exciting to me.
I'm not sure that a guy like Mark Martin, I don't know that anybody has really had that opportunity presented to them. I think that's why I'm so excited about it. I would love to have the opportunity to drive for Rick, because obviously in one weekend you see what the reaction is when we get in a car like that.
But, you know, it's nice to have that challenge of trying to build your own program and follow in the footsteps of Rick and some of these other great car owners that have paved the way to try to have that opportunity.
You don't see a lot of new guys that came from the driving side. I mean, Rick came from the driving side. Richard Childress, Richard Petty. You just don't see that much any more. That's something that I'm really excited about, of having that opportunity to be a driver and a car owner down the road.
RICK HENDRICK: I think I want to give him a plug for what he's accomplished, though. He came down here, rebuilt a team. I can tell you he's been in the shop over there, 'cause I know they were a little nervous when they first put their deal together. But he has busted his butt, a lot like Ray, Ray Evernham, what Ray was able to build.
I think Tony is going to go down as one of the great owners in the sport. He's got a good partner with Gene Haas, Haas Automation. They've had the foundation. But he's bringing what they're missing. He and Ryan are jacked up. We've given technology the other way, but we'll get some technology, a lot like the Toyota guys do, so forth and so on, to compete with them.
But I can tell you folks that this guy has been living in a shop, 'cause we get calls, and our guys have been over there just checking out what they've done. But what he has single handedly done with Bobby Hutchens and Darian and Tony Gibson and Ryan Newman, they're going to be a force for us to deal with.
I'm waiting for the day that our guys are going to be complaining, but right now they see that it's going to be a benefit. But he deserves an awful lot of credit to come out of the box and come down here. His talent is unbelievable.
I'll answer that other question. There are not very many folks who would drive a car into three with somebody nailing them in the back sideways and not lift and not wreck. That's all driver. I think Lance will agree to that.
LANCE McGREW: Absolutely.
RICK HENDRICK: That's just talent. Not many folks can do that. He wouldn't have won as many races here doing that. So he's got this place figured out and he knows what to do.
What he's accomplished, you have to see people from where I've been for the last 25 years and watched them come and go. Money doesn't do it; it's dedication and determination. He's gonna be one of the greatest owners in the sport 'cause that's all he wants to do and thinks about. That kind of dedication will get him to where he needs to be.
KERRY THARP: We appreciate y'all being in here. We enjoyed watching you perform and race out there today. Tony, Rick, good luck to both of you tomorrow.
TONY STEWART: Thank you.
RICK HENDRICK: Thank you.