TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS: About your new radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio: "We're excited about this. This is something that we've been working on for eight or nine months now. Everybody knows I like to talk,...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS:
About your new radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio: "We're excited about this. This is something that we've been working on for eight or nine months now. Everybody knows I like to talk, typically. This is a natural deal for us and they said I could talk about anything I want whenever I want. There was no second guessing whether or not I wanted to do this. This is a great partnership for us; obviously this is gonna be a lot of fun. This is probably the first time that there's a forum where we can just sit down, Matt and I, not really feel like we're doing a formal interview but feel like we're just sitting around a table just talking. Talking about what happened during the week, what controversial topics are going on that week. It's going to be fun stuff to do this and Paul Brooks at NASCAR was really a big part of helping us get this done so I want to thank Paul and everybody at NASCAR for helping out with this. The meeting we had in New York a couple weeks ago - everybody at Sirius has really made us feel welcome, not only as a partner but as a part of their family. I'm really excited about getting going this fall; we're going to do a couple shows this fall to get the cobwebs out and learn from our mistakes before we get going hard core in January. I'm really looking forward to it."
It will be kind of like 1999 when you were the rookie; trying to keep you out of trouble. "But really, when you look at it, I was just talking about our meeting we had - we were sitting around and we started, zingers back and forth. And Scott Greenstein, the president of the entertainment division said 'this is exactly what we're hoping the show to be. You guys having fun and having people like Celine Dion and Garth Brooks, Kid Rock; anyone from the entertainment industry plus the racing side of things. A.J. Foyt, in maybe the month of May. For us to have fun, but also, if our moms are listening, they may not agree with our opinions on stuff but they're not going to be embarrassed the next day. Well, mine may be, but she's still on my payroll so I'm not going to care if she's embarrassed or not, we're going to have fun with it no matter what.
"With my background in racing not only through the Nextel Cup side, so many aspects of my career we can cover and talk about, I won't sound like an idiot because I've been a part of all of it at some time or another. So we'll be able to talk about whatever that topic is in racing that weekend. Matt will be able to talk about the new hair car products out on the market. One other neat thing about it too is that it's not going to be about, say, Matt Kenseth comes on the show and he's had five top-10s in the last six races. It will be more about what Matt does away from the track, what Matt has as far as the fun side of things. Motorcycles, but more importantly, whatever Katie's doing that week. It's going to be fun. This is something we think you guys will like - I think it's going to be more behind the scenes. All the TV channels do such a great job of keeping the stats and everybody knows about what's going on during the weekends but this will be about what you didn't get a chance to see and what you don't see on camera. Everything is going to be fun.
"There's going to be some great website content where fans can log on to the website. It's kicking off at www.tonystewart.com. You can link on and then subscribe. To me it's a big honor to be a part of the Sirius family just because I'm such a big fan. Plus you don't have to pay for the subscription."
How do you feel about becoming a member of the media? "I've got big shoulders, always have always will. It's going to be fun. Now owning a race track, I've hit motorsports from just about every angle. From a driver, a fan, a crew member, a car owner, a promoter and now, a media member. I don't know what's left. I haven't driven an ambulance or a wrecker and I think I can skip that part of it anyway. I think we've pretty much covered every aspect of it now."
Will your radio duties migrate to race commentary, possibly to Busch or Truck series? "I don't know. I've done some of that in the past with ESPN with Thursday Night Thunder races and I've done some Busch races but with the race teams that I have and the race track it's probably going to keep me from doing a lot of that stuff in the evenings. This is something that I know every Tuesday night I'm going to have time for. No matter if there's a race at Eldora or there's a USAC race or an NST race somewhere. I don't know if I'll do any TV stuff or not but this is something I was more excited about than the TV commentator stuff."
Why did you pick Matt Yoakum as your co-host? "He was all we had left. He was the last guy left available. Seriously, the great thing is Matt and I have worked together a lot through the TV stuff so we're really good friends so it's kind of a natural deal for us to get together like this."
What's the track like? "What's that got to do with satellite radio? It is what it is. With the track being fresh like that they had to make a tire that was going to live. They've definitely done that. We're not going to run out of tire. We just have a lot less grip right now."
Do you have a strategy? "You just gotta play it by ear. I don't think any of us have really made long runs since this has been repaved. I think for the most part we've got to sit here try to figure out what we have to do to make long runs. Nobody really ran more than eight or 10 laps at a time, I mean, Kasey Kahne had the longest run and I think it was eight or nine laps this morning. I think it's a big question mark for all of is right now."
You like less grip better than blown tires? "We never had trouble. We cut a tire last year but don't blow tires historically anyway. But if it makes it safer for everybody it's a better deal. Track position is probably going to be everything because I don't see guys being able to pass very easily. When you take mechanical grip away from the cars you instantly make the aero grip more important. We're putting ourselves in a position where track position is going to be absolutely everything."
So it's like a hot, slick race track? "Not really. When the car loses grip it loses grip all at once. It's not like a hot, slick track where you lose a little bit of grip and you can slide around and still keep control of the car. You'll have some grip and when it loses grip it loses a lot of grip because the tires is so hard. It just can't grip the track. So it's making it pretty difficult right now."
Do you think this will be wild as usual or cautious because of tires? "I don't think it's going to be a case where everyone is extra cautious; I really don't know. We won't really know until tomorrow. My guess is that it's really going to be hard to get close enough to cause problems with each other. I think everybody will kind of just settle in."
Is this tire too hard? "Yeah, it's too hard for the cars to feel comfortable to drive. If they go soft then it wears the tires of 'and we're down to the cords and blowing tires it's too soft. At least from this side we're on the safe side and know that we've got a tire that none of us have to worry about running out of before the end of a run. This is the hardest tire I've ever ran on any kind of car. It's a tough situation for Goodyear too. They're trying to give us something that we can all be competitive on but something that's safe too. The good thing is they're looking out for the safety of us first. It's up to us to make the best of what we've got now."
You got a 100 million dollars for the deal with Sirius? "I got 99 million. I'm just kidding. I didn't get close to that. To me, this is such a great learning experience and a great opportunity to work with Sirius that the experience itself is the value of it. You can't really measure it at this point. It's going to be fun; to have some of the special guests that we're going to have on the show and to be able to talk to the fans and see what the fans have on their minds and to be able to talk about it live is an aspect that I'm really excited about. I think it's really going to bring a lot of fun to it. I mean, everybody knows me. It's not going to be some vanilla cookie-cutter show. It's going to be a show that's going to have some arguing going back and forth occasionally and we're going to speak our mind. If people don't like it there's always another channel to turn to. I think that this is going to be one of those shows that people have really looked forward to for a long time. It's not the same thing that you can get anywhere else. It's going to be very unique and because of that I think it's going to draw a big audience."
You've said that your opinion doesn't matter because you're a driver. Does that still apply? "That's the great thing about it - we'll be able to talk about whatever we want. Even on topics that I'm not necessarily the big input on. We'll still be able to talk about those topics and from Matt's side he'll have input from it and from the fans' side we'll get to talk about it too. There will be weeks where we have crew chiefs and NASCAR officials on and to hear their sides of the story. It's going to be fun to talk about this stuff live on radio where we really haven't had this kind of forum here in the past. We don't have to worry about F.C.C. fines or this and that. we really have an open line to talk about anything we want. It's a pretty remarkable format to be under."
What does it mean to be a NASCAR star in the U.S.A.? "For us it's the highest level of racing so to be one of 43 drivers that starts a race every week and there's over a million drivers in the U.S. that want to be in one of these 43 cars, it's a huge honor to be here."
What do you prefer, open-wheel or NASCAR? "I like NASCAR better just from the standpoint that we're able to run so close to each other. With IndyCars you're a little more aero-dependant and line dependant. The competition level is so high here between teams. It's not so much just the drivers but there's so many good quality teams in this series that in a week there's 10 or 12 guys that can win at this level where in the IRL and CART right now there's really only three or four guys that you can count on as being the favorites to win."
Have you ever raced in Europe? "I'm barely able to speak English so I don't know if I would survive a race in Europe. I'm still trying to perfect the English language let alone trying to speak a foreign language."
In 1999 and in 2002, you raced in both the Indy 500 and the NASCAR race the same day. How do you do it? "Easy, you get yourself in debt to where you have to race that much. No, it's just fun. To me, being a full-time driver in the Cup series and growing up in the state of Indiana where the Indianapolis 500 is, that's always been a lifelong dream of mine to win at Indianapolis. The first year Home Depot sponsored both the Indy car and the stock car and the second year it was a partnership with Home Depot and Target. Chip Ganassi helped us the second year. We had a lot of help. We had a trained that went with us to make sure we would be fit to run both races. We ran the 500-mile race and we had about an hour break in between during the flight to relax and get ready and shift the gears in your mind back to stock-car racing. Obviously missing the drivers meeting we always had to start the tail so you had a couple of laps by yourself to ready yourself for what is going to happen. A 600-mile race is a long day so if you've got a good enough car to win then starting at the tail was no issue."
You met George Bush. What did you say to him? "Anything I wanted, which was great. It was cool. George Bush is really a neat guy. He's really down to earth. The one thing that was probably my biggest memory is that no matter where we went or what was going on I felt like I was in the safest place on earth. Knowing I was with him because whatever happened I was going to be right there with him and you know he's going to be safe. It's just neat. Somebody that has that much power and that much influence over so many countries and of course the United States. It's just neat to be with someone who has that much responsibility but really seems down to earth at the same time."
You referred to media questions as not so intelligent sometimes. "I'm sure I'll probably ask questions that aren't so intelligent also. The good thing is I'll be able to do like I've done with promoters and sanctioning bodies and I'll be able to look at it from a perspective that I haven't seen before. I'm sure I'll get a greater appreciation from the media side."
A lot of tough questions you want to ask? "I'm sure they'll come to me as we go. Right now I'm still in driver mode today but by the time we get going with the radio show I'm sure week to week there's going to be things that pop up and always remind me of the topics that I want to talk about next week."
Who do you want to interview? "Everybody! I want to get as many people as we can get. I think it's going to be fun to have the diversity of guests that we have so it's going to be really cool."
Who's your favorite to win the Indy 500 right now? "I think the competition this year is probably as tight as it's been for a long time. Obviously the Ganassi team and Penske team are probably the two teams to watch right now. For the most part, there are still quality cars - you look at the practice speeds and for the limited amount of track time we had it's pretty competitive so far. I still think it will be a good race in all honesty."
Do you think it has lost a bit of its luster? "I don't know. I think the split has probably hurt more than anything. I think I'm probably more excited this month of May listening to the fact that the two sides are talking with each other and hopefully after May is over with we'll be able to hear an announcement that maybe we'll be able to get these two sides back together again."
Do you think it might happen? "I don't know. I'm really on the outside looking in. I not really involved that close to it anymore. It's something I hope happens for sure because I think it will be stronger and better getting both sides back together."
What about Sprint cars? The great thing about owning those race teams is that it's a nice opportunity for me to help guys that are coming after me. I didn't get where I am by doing it all myself. I had guys give me a break and give me a chance to drive good cars. It's nice to be able to go and help some young guys do the same thing now. At the same time it keeps me close to the sport and it keeps me involved with the series that have helped me get where I am. Down the road, there's a seat available. If I got an off night and I want to go drive a race car I can go do that whenever I want."
Have you ever thought of getting you feet wet in other series? "No, I think with the two different USAC teams I've got and the winged sprint car team that's plenty with owning a race track."
Even if you're not racing anymore? "It's so busy with the racetrack and those teams that it really doesn't leave much time. When I quit driving I don't want to be busy seven days a week anymore. I want to be in a position where I can just sit here and do what I want to do. If I want to go race on a Friday night I can go race, if I want to go on vacation for a week I can do that without having to be obligated every week like we are with the Cup and Truck and Busch series."
How hands-on can you be with your teams right now? "Not as much as I would like, obviously, doing what we're doing now. This helps me pay the bills for that. The good thing is I've got really good people in the right places running the organizations. We've got great team managers on both sides and great crew chiefs so if you do that, the rest of it takes care of itself, it seems like."
How many teams do you own? "On the Outlaw side three and on the USAC side five or six."
For the 600, is this going off in to the unknown with the new track, fuel cells, etc.? "I don't think so. We've already been testing here and we've had practice here today. I think a lot's still a question mark as far as how it's going to be to race with people because none of us really ran around each other a lot."
Will smaller fuel cells change the pit strategy for a 600-mile race? Yeah, it's going to seem like it never ends because even if you do get a green-flag run it's going to be half as long or less. It's just one of those deals where the pit crews are going to be worn out; they're definitely going to earn their money.
About Mark Martin: "I honestly think that the one thing people bring up first is that he left here and didn't win a championship but I think everybody will overlook all that when they think of Mark Martin right off the bat. I think that's the third or fourth thought that will come across their minds as far as what he's done for this sport is be a mentor to so many drivers. How he's really helped establish the etiquette of this sport is something I'll really remember him for. He's always been a very competitive driver but he's a driver that everybody respects. Just because he's very fair about how he races everybody. He's very patient and he's best at teaching other drivers about it. Just the leadership he's shown is what everybody respects, I think. You look at what he's done not only in not only in Cup but in the Busch Series when he was running two races every weekend. He's won a ton of races and a ton of big races so I think he's somebody that everybody will remember for a very, very long time."
About the radio show again: "I think it's just going to be fun. We've got a great opportunity to do a show where we can talk about dirt track racing, NASCAR racing, Trucks, sports car racing, whatever's going on that week. The good thing is I've pretty much ran in every one of those series so I can talk intelligently about it and we really got an open forum to talk about whatever we want. If it's something we don't like we can talk about it. With phone calls from the listeners and the guests that we have we'll be able to talk about what's on their minds; add a lot of different angles to the show. It should be good."