TONY STEWART Q&A TRANSCRIPT FROM SYDNEY Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart has arrived in Australia for an end of year holiday. He will be combining this holiday with four nights of racing in a sprintcar at Tyrepower Parramatta...
TONY STEWART Q&A TRANSCRIPT FROM SYDNEY
Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart has arrived in Australia for an end of year holiday. He will be combining this holiday with four nights of racing in a sprintcar at Tyrepower Parramatta City Raceway with his first night of racing coming on December 26 in the Valvoline Sprintcar Grand Prix. He will then contest the Hogs Breath International on December 29 followed by the $50,000 to win Scott Darley Memorial Race on January 2nd and 3rd.
After landing in Sydney yesterday morning, Stewart met with several members of the Australian media on the Sydney Harbour in front of two Australian icons, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Question and Answer Transcript
Q: Welcome to Australia, it has been a long time since you've been here. How did this all come about?
A: I got a chance to come over for vacation is how it started and then having Donny Schatz come over be running the sprintcar over here, it was a situation where I could be coming to watch him. So why not come over and what him at the same time?
Q: It has been a long year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Season for you, talk us through the year. I believe it has been a couple of hears since you've had a holiday.
A: Yeah, it was. Having the start of Stewart-Haas Racing during the off-season I spent a lot of time in Charlotte and didn't get much of an off-season, so basically it was like having one gigantic long season that went through two years. It is nice to get a break to be able to come over here and come over here to enjoy myself.
Q: How would you rate your first year as a driver/owner in the top level of NASCAR?
A: I think considering we got both of our cars in the chase i was pretty excited about that. It was something that no other organisation got 100% of their cars in the chase, for Ryan and I to both get in there I thought was pretty good. We won five races. Ryan got two poles for us. For a first year team I thought that was a pretty good season.
Q: You're such a busy man. You're a racecar driver, a race team owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the World of Outlaws and USAC, you are the owner or co-owner of several tracks, how do you keep up with it all?
A: (laughs) It's hard to. Days like today we're doing media stuff and that's part of it. You know that there are a lot of commitments that take up a lot of time. It's all about having good people around you that you can trust, that's half the battle. That's why I'm able to come here on vacation, knowing that I've got a good group of people back in Charlotte that are taking care of the race team while I'm gone.
Q: Sprintcar racing is obviously a huge passion for you. What does it mean to you to get back on the dirt track?
A: I get to race dirt late model three or four times per year and sprintcar two or three races per year so to come over here and run four nights in a two week period is something that I don't normally get a chance to run that many races so close together so I'm excited about it. It's a great opportunity to run with Donny (Schatz) as a team-mate and anytime you're team-mate has won the World of Outlaw title for four straight years and four Knoxville Nationals in a row, it is somebody that you want for a team-mate.
Q: Speaking of team-mates, the Tony Stewart Racing operation in the World of Outlaws recently announced Steve Kinser will be joining the team.
A: Yeah, to have a different team-mate for Donny is pretty exciting. To have the winningest driver in World of Outlaws history as Donny's team-mate is something that we're excited about. I feel as though we've got the two best drivers in the series, there is no better way of upping your odds to win races or championships than to have those two guys behind the wheel.
Q: For those that don't know about sprintcar racing, what is it about the sport that keeps you coming back?
A: Most of the time, we have got more horsepower than what we can use and that is what makes it fun and makes the drivers do their job behind the steering wheel, you can just hold it to the floor and drive around. I mean you have to pedal these cars. Anytime that you're running a car that has 850 horsepower that only ways only 1200 pounds, that's a huge power to weight ratio and makes it hard to control. You just look at them, I mean they don't look like something that just rides around real easy.
Q: Do you like getting back onto the dirt?
A: I love dirt, I always have. You know that's what I did when I came over here in 95, I think I ran 10 or 11 dirt races when I was here. That was definitely the highlight of my trip.
Q: You are used to the big crowds and the big money, I'm still not quite sure why is that your coming to a local speedway in Australia?
A: Why not?
Q: Is it just the love of dirt racing and sprintcar racing?
A: Oh yeah, I get a vacation and I was going to come and watch Donny race on my vacation, so why not race myself? If I'm already going to be here, I might as well race too. I mean it was literally that simple. It's not a difficult equation for me to figure out. At home this (weather) would be 70 or 75 degrees and when I left yesterday it was snowing, I think I'd rather be here. I think if I'm going to be here and there is going to be sprintcar races, I think I'd like to go sprintcar racing. It's pretty easy for me to decide.
Q: How many people are you travelling with?
A: Just the three of us.
Q: You'll all be racing?
A: Two of us, myself and Donny Schatz will be racing.
Q: I've got to ask about Australian racing, have you seen any of the Australian racing, not just sprintcars but more so I guess but our premier class, V8 Supercars?
A: We get a little bit of it over there that we get to watch, it wasn't televised as much this year as it has been in the past but everytime it has come on and I've had a chance o watch I enjoy watching it.
Q: There's no drivers that you can recall, we've had Jamie Whincup who has on two straight championships. There was some talk about him following Marcos Ambrose, obviously you don't know enough about him to know if he can do it or not.
A: nah, no idea.
Q: Do you like the Australian racing?
A: Yeah, it's fun. I mean, what is it - Bathurst that goes up the Mountain, that's one that I'd like to see in person. I've seen it on tv, it looks like a pretty cool event to go watch, looks like it is one of those events that you can't really appreciated it until you go live and see it once.
Q; How would you rate the performance over the past few years of Australian Marcos Ambrose in the NASCAR ranks?
A: Marcos has really done a great job. You can tell he wants to not just be there, but be successful there. And he's done that. He's won Nationwide Series races on the road courses, and he's also gotten better and better on the ovals. Each year, you see him up front more often. He's very motivated, and that's the way you have to be in order to find success.
Q: How do the sprintcars compare to what you are used to with the NASCAR, I guess you're not exactly a stranger to sprintcars?
A: I get to run a sprintcar two or three times per year, so you know this trip I will double what I've got to do all season this year. It's nice being in a car that you know is a third of the weight of our cup cars and has the same horsepower but I get to do it on dirt and have a wing that I can have control of in the car and have the ability to do it adjust it back and forward and go from there, so it's nice to be on a surface that I don't get to race every week.
Q: Tony, you're 37 years old now.
A: 38 unfortunately, I like your number better though.
Q: Here in Australia in our V8 Series most drivers are pensioned off by the time they are your age. You still seem to be very competitive over in America. What are your thoughts about the longevity of racecar drivers?
A: I think it's how good car you take care of your self and passion and desire, you know all pro sports in the United States it seems like the ages are getting younger and younger of when guys are retiring but Mark Martin is a perfect example of our sport that you can go to you are 50 if you want. With that being the case I could race 12 more years and still if I take care of myself and don't have any major injuries that would allow me to still be competitive, I think it is a matter of as long as you still have that passion and desire, the racing itself isn't the gruelling part, it is the schedule that you keep, the media sessions, being at the race track three days per week, test sessions, commercial shoots, photo shoots, all of the things that go into it that don't necessarily pertain to driving a race car, that's the stuff that wears on you. It finally gets a chore and eventually gets it to a point where it is not fun anymore.
Q: As well as owning a team, you own a few race tracks and co-own a few race tracks. Can you tell me a bit about what it is like to own a track like Eldora.
A: I love it. My passion has always been dirt track racing and I love what I do with the NASCAR side of things but I love going back and some of the best times of my life was when I was racing sprintcars and midgets, now I get to drive dirt late models and winged sprintcars every now and again, which I never ever got a chance to do before I came here. The first time I ever ran a winged car was here in 95, it's something I'm passionate about I love being able to carry on the tradition that Earl and Denise Baltes has built and you know hopefully I can make it the next 50 years better than the first 50 years of the speedway.
Q: You've won 80 million dollars in prizemoney over your career, a) why do you still live at home and b) what do you want for Christmas this year?
A: (laughs) I've already got what I wanted for christmas, I got to come here. That's my Christmas present, I still own the house that I grew up in in Indiana and I also own 400 acres outside of town that I'm building a log home on. It's home to me, I didn't get caught up like some of the guys moving to New York or Florida. I'm right at home where I am, and am one of those guys who enjoys being home in my t-shirt and jeans in my tennis shoes, it is who I am and who I've always been and I'm proud of that. It's just what I'm into and what I like.
Q: You've got two and half weeks here, is it just Queensland and Sydney that you'll be travelling round?
A: I'm going with Donny, Donny is the tour guide. I got in the hotel a minute ago and started unpacking and stuff, he said wait a minute we're not staying here. I was like where are we going? He said just pack your bag back up, I don't even know where I'm going today. We checked in and checked out already (within the hour).
Q: Here in the V8 Supercar it is always talk about going it to be like NASCAR. Do you have any thoughts on what is need to take it to the same level as NASCAR?
A: I would have no idea because I haven't been here since 95 and you know when I was here I was strictly running dirt cars at that time. I think the thing that has made NASCAR so popular is marketing, getting corporate sponsors involved has definately been a huge key in helping to grow NASCAR to what it is but at the same time getting the fan interest to what it has, those two keys have contributed to making NASCAR what it is.
Q: I see you're sponsored by Old Spice, can you measure what your driving achievements has done for that brand?
A: I know the numbers that they tell me. It boils down to advertising, it has to make sense to them. There is a budget that they spend with the race teams, they have to recoup that costs and make more to make that program work for them. It's not just an easy deal where you just throw a corporate sponsor on the side of the car, there are a lot of obligations you make for them - photo shoots, promotional shoots. Like I mentioned earlier, things that don't pertain to making the race cars go fast but it's part of what you do.
Q: How does it cost to run a NASCAR team?
Q: How confident are you of you sweeping all four races in Sydney?
A: I would say that it is highly unlikely, if I could win one I would be happy. You've got to remember this is a type of car that I think I've ran a total of about maybe 18 races in my career in these cars. I only get to run them two or three times per year but the good thing is I've got our driver that won the World of Outlaw championship for us as a team mate. I've got the best team-mate you could have to ask advice to and he'll make me better than what I am.
Q: What are you looking forward to most while you are here in Australia?
A: Just having fun, I don't car what we do, just as long we are having fun doing it.