TONY STEWART, No. 20 Old Spice Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finished: 1st Who made the two-tire call on the last pit stop? "The master himself, Dave Rogers (crew chief), he's behind every one of these wins this year. We were about two ...
No. 20 Old Spice Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Who made the two-tire call on the last pit stop?
"The master himself, Dave Rogers (crew chief), he's behind every one of these wins this year. We were about two changes away from getting it right. I give Dave (Rogers) so much credit -- he knows when you tell him that we have a long way to go that he's not afraid to make a big change. That's what won us the race today -- his confidence and his being able to make the call there and pick two tires. He won us the race today."
How much did you have left in that car with Denny Hamlin coming strong in second?
"Nothing for the last 15 or 20 laps. We were still about two changes away from being where we wanted to be, but the important thing was not knowing what was going to happen and what was going to happen when we got to traffic and if we were going to get in a situation where we were going to have a green-white-checkered. I was trying to take care of the right-front tire because we were still too tight, but you could tell that Denny (Hamlin) decided at the same time that it was time for him to make another stab at it. He ran us down quite a bit there, but then we got into traffic and I got through traffic pretty good. To see myself and Denny (Hamlin) and Kyle (Busch) all run one-two-three like that -- it shows what a line-up we have at Joe Gibbs Racing."
How was your run today?
"We had a terrible day (laughter) -- no, we had a good day. Obviously anytime you end up in victory lane it's a good day. It shows the depth of this team today. I was a little too tight all day, but Dave Rogers (crew chief) and for this being a home race for him, it puts a lot of pressure on him and it puts a lot of pressure on all of us because we all want to win for him and his dad. To get in a position there on the last pit stop, we were a top-five car all day and we could lead for a little bit, but we would get too tight and the guys behind us would catch us and go by. But that last stop, that's what won us the race and that was Dave's (Rogers) call halfway through the pit stop -- he calls just a two-tire stop and the plan was for four. That gets us track position and we were able at the beginning of the run to get the lead and the adjustments that he made just on the right side tires with wedge and everything on that last stop was enough to get us close enough to keep us in the lead for the rest of the day. Denny (Hamlin) obviously had a good car and ran us down and if the track position was reversed then he would have won the race. Just being able to stay up front and be able to run my pace and not have to sit there and abuse the right front (tire) was a big key. Just not having to over drive the car and build air pressure in the right front to where we were just going to keep getting tighter and tighter -- that was the key to it, the two tire stop at the end and getting that track position. That's something you have to have a lot of confidence as a crew chief to make that call during a stop like that and that's what Dave (Rogers) possesses and that's why he's won eight races this year."
How difficult was it to pass today?
"Track position was big, but there was a portion of the race there where (David) Reutimann was leading and I think Kyle (Busch) was second and (Clint) Bowyer was third and they were all three just bam-bam-bam, stacked up there and if anybody made a mistake then they were getting passed. I think in that last segment and the later the day goes, the better everybody gets their cars and the harder it is to have an advantage over somebody else. When you can get out there and you can lead like that and you can run your own line and not necessarily be pressured from the back bumper so much, it's easier for you to be able to take care of your car and take care of your tires and it makes the guys behind you -- they try to make that deficit up early in the run when the tires are fresher and the cars feel better. I think everybody's cars halfway through the run start to get tight -- it's just to what degree and whose gets worse than the others. If you could sit there and be out in the lead halfway through a run then you have a good shot of being able to hold them off and that was provided that you didn't abuse your tires doing the same thing that they were trying to do getting tied up. Denny (Hamlin) ran a smart race too I thought, he ran up to us early in the run and I think he got in a spot there where he was having to work really hard to try to close in those last five car lengths. I don't want to speak for him and you guys (media) probably know this already because you talked to him, but it seemed like to me that he just took care of his tires and took a break from the pressure and just kept enough pressure on us to where I couldn't totally relax, but at the same time he took care of his stuff. With about 20 (laps) to go he made another charge and got within about four car lengths of us. You know that when you do that you're creating a lot of brake temperature and with a lot of brake temperature, you're increasing your front tire pressure. It was a matter of at that point when he made that charge up there, I think that's when we started getting into traffic and I felt like our car was really maneuverable in traffic. I really wasn't that good if I moved up, I seemed to get tighter in the center of the corner, but as long as I could move down the race track and had either the lane I wanted to run in or below that then I was in pretty good shape and that seemed like that was what kept us ahead of him and kept him from getting any closer. Then we got into some of those lapped cars and we actually pulled away once we got into more of that traffic and he had probably used up every bit of good that was left in his tires at that point. I felt like that was a smart move on Denny's (Hamlin) part of how to wait until the end and not burn it up the whole run trying to get to us and probably lose third or drop back to third or fourth trying to get at it that early. He rode it out and made the most of it to the end."
DAVE ROGERS, Crew Chief, No. 20 Old Spice Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What was the race like from your perspective?
"Our Old Spice Toyota was pretty good yesterday and the cloud cover came in this morning and we had to have our car in line so early for qualifying that I didn't free it up enough for the weather. We fought tight all day and we were pretty tight. We knew track position was valuable and we planned on doing four tires that last stop and I just kept looking up pit road. That was the advantage of Tony (Stewart) qualifying so well that we get to pit down there towards turn one and I just watched what everyone was doing -- immediately a parking lot erupted and they were all coming, I knew we were going to get buried in traffic and have a bad day so I called the audible and went for two tires and hoped for the best. Tony (Stewart), he always drives a brilliant race when he's in our car, he doesn't push it when he doesn't have to -- he beat those guys through traffic and he gives us a lot of credit for the stop, but I think the driver had a lot to do with it too."
How quickly did you realize that you had to change from four tires to two tires?
"It was a split decision, just a gut decision. We have Tony (Stewart) on a limited schedule and this 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team is definitely trying to eye this owner's championship, but we are trying to accumulate as many wins with these Cup drivers as we can. At that point I wasn't points racing, I was trying to put Tony (Stewart) in a position to where he might have a shot at winning. It was a gut feeling and I think I said it before I even thought about it and when Tony (Stewart) left pit road I just hoped it would work, but I wasn't so sure. I remember the races we lost a whole lot better."
How special is this win for you at your home track and having your dad here with you?
"We had some really special wins this year -- Tony's (Stewart) first win at Talladega, Tony's (Stewart) first win at Darlington and I knew those tracks meant so much to him and to be able to accomplish them was so gratifying. Then you go to Richmond and that's Denny's (Hamlin) home town track and going into those races, you put so much pressure on yourself because you want to do so well for these drivers. These drivers are the bread and butter to our program and anytime you can give them something, it means a lot to yourself. I never thought about winning Loudon (NH). We worked really hard, we weren't that happy with our Milwaukee car so we logged a lot of hours, me and my engineers logged over 50 hours in three days at the shop preparing for this race, but it wasn't because it was Loudon (NH), it was because it was another race that we wanted to win. The last five laps I realized that this was a pretty big one for me and when he crossed the stripe it was very emotional for me. Darlington was big, Talladega was big, but this was probably the biggest. It's big too because Dad was about off the guest list because he's been to a few races and we haven't gotten it done and I thought he was bad luck so we'll bring him back for a few more now."
-credit: toyota motorsports