All-Star: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Tony, for 80 laps, the first green flag lead chase in this race was on the 81st lap. And it seemed all of a sudden this race was on a different track on a different night. The whole thing was different. Matt ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Tony, for 80 laps, the first green flag lead chase in this race was on the 81st lap. And it seemed all of a sudden this race was on a different track on a different night. The whole thing was different. Matt Kenseth said that if there hadn't been double file restarts it might not have changed. But is the process so difficult that you can't lay it. Why did the race change so radically at the end?

TONY STEWART: I think every time the guys had a chance to come in and work on their cars, that obviously made it better. We didn't have preseason testing. Normally we always have a test here.

Plus, you know, the practice yesterday getting ready for today. We get a lot of track time before coming to this event. Today I think guys just had to work on their cars. As the night worked on it got better and better. And I think next week you'll see more excitement sooner.

But, obviously, when this track gets dark and it cools off the longer into the night, the better the grip gets. And as the grip gets better and guys can move around on the racetrack more and have more opportunities to work on their car, the competition and the racing's going to get better.

To have the last 10 lap segment be three wide for the lead coming off turn 4, I don't know how much more exciting it gets than that.

Guys were I don't know why it didn't happen earlier than that. I know we weren't in a position, we didn't have our car driving good enough at that point. But I think that's what made it so exciting for the last segment was that we gave the crews and the crew chiefs 10 minutes to get everything ready versus having the tire strategy and the chess game of two tires, no tires, four tires, where are you going to come out of the pits and have to restart that last segment.

Wherever you were at the end of the second 20 lap segment that's where you were going to start no matter what. So I think that's what gave guys an opportunity and made the racing so good, because you didn't have guys on different lap tires and guys just holding each other up because they got track position.

Q: Tony, it took you 11 seasons to win this race. But it seems like with this race's format, it seems like it's a race you were born to win, for a guy growing up racing Sprint cars and 20, 30 lap features, that sort of thing. Are you surprised or frustrated that it took this long to win the All Star Race?

TONY STEWART: There's a lot of races I still haven't won yet. But it's a hard race to win. There's nobody holds anything back.

I mean, you look at the racing out there tonight, and how many times you see Jimmie Johnson spin out? How many times did Jeff Gordon get spun out? Three wide for the lead with less than 10 laps to go. You don't see that very often.

You know, this is a special race. You know it's different. You know it's going to be more difficult because of that. And we always, in the past last 10 years here, were always good on long runs and always good late in the race.

And this kind of format never fit our package that we had. And tonight it just worked out for us. Like I said, that last 10 minutes, I didn't think 10 minutes, you could do so much in such a short amount of time.

But, man, was that a huge 10 minute period in my life, having the opportunity to come in and turn Darian loose. I think the guy's David Copperfield all of a sudden. I didn't even get out of the car, but I don't feel like I drove the same car the last 10 laps that I drove the first 90 laps.

Q: Tony, congratulations on your first ever win for Stewart Haas Racing. Entering that 10 lap segment, the final segment, did you feel like you had the car that could win? And, if so, what was your strategy to get it done?

TONY STEWART: It was funny, because the first probably minute and a half, two minutes of the break there, Darian and I were talking. And Darian had an idea of something to do. I told him, I said I don't know if I can I wasn't opposed to the idea, but I said I gotta know that I can just go when we take off. And I said this is what I gotta have it do.

And it's probably something we'll try during practice when we come back here next week. But I wasn't for sure. I didn't know exactly what we were going to have.

I just knew we were tight on the entry to the corner and then we were loose back to the gas, and that's a lot to try to ask a crew chief to fix. It's a lot easier if the car's just doing one thing. If it was loose all the way through the corner, tight all the way through the corner, makes it a lot easier for him. Telling him it's doing two different things and ask him to fix that, that's a big request for a driver.

Like I said, that was a big 10 minutes of my life to watch him go through all the changes he made and to watch how the car reacted and how positive it reacted there at the end.

I don't think that I had the confidence to know that we could win it going into that last 10 laps; but like I said, the second to last restart, when we ran the 17 and 18 down, when we were running third behind him, I knew we had a shot at that point.

Q: Tony, what was your first thought when you crossed the finish line to the checkered wave, was it, hey, free at last, I won a race?

TONY STEWART: I never felt like I was bound. Might happen tonight, who knows. But just a figure of speech, guys. I may not be able to leave my house later on. You guys have been doing some weird stuff down here I got a feeling you guys brought it up. If you guys weren't doing it, you wouldn't be saying it.

Now I forgot what the question was. I'm so confused. Oh, my first thought. I was so happy for, like I said, those guys. And I know it probably sounds pretty lame to say. But my first reaction was I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces when we came off of 4 and we had the lead with two to go. I didn't dare say anything on the radio. I didn't say a word. But, man, I wanted to see what the pit box looked like those last two laps.

Q: Tony, that last 10 lap segment was pretty aggressive out there. With that final restart, what were you thinking? Were you worried about kind of getting around the 18 there?

TONY STEWART: I was worried about getting both him and Matt. They both had been up there, since I guess it was the first 25 lap stop, they both got track position, I think taking two tires, and they never lost it. They stayed up there the whole rest of the race, and I knew they were both strong. I knew they were both going to be tough to deal with.

Like I said, I didn't know that we had something for them until we caught those guys. They were running side by side and had each other held up and we were able to just absolutely run them down in half a lap. And at that point I knew we had something for them at that point.

Q: Darian, if you can talk about the value of winning for these crew guys that Tony talked about that hadn't won. You've been with the organization with Johnson's team, the championship team, what kind of step does it help the team take for those guys to understand what it takes to win a race and how can this possibly how much of a step forward is this for this organization?

DARIAN GRUBB: I think it's huge. Just for the last eight months and how much time every one of those guys have put in at the shop and here at the racetrack, and being able to see their faces in Victory Lane. I remember what it was like when I got my first win with Jimmie and actually understanding then what it's all about, when you're sitting there, the cameras are flashing and everything else, and you realize all that work you've put in, all the time you're away from your family, and just makes you appreciate everything so much more.

So I think I saw a lot of that in those guys tonight. And a lot of tears, a lot of joy, a lot of pats on the back and hugs and everything else. I think that's what makes it all worthwhile for us to go out here and do this all the time, knowing all 150 people or so that had an input into that car, all that effort did pay off.

So hopefully next week we'll come back, they'll all be refreshed. They'll basically have that monkey off their back. We don't want to lose the monkey, we want him to hang out with us.

But we're running good every week. We finally got in Victory Lane. They know it's possible now. They saw what Tony can do as a driver and what we can accomplish as a team. So now next week we can come back and do it for 600 miles and the week after and the week after.

TONY STEWART: Something that makes it gratifying for Darian that he's downplaying, is him and Tony Gibson and Bobby Hutchins, spent a lot of time going through everybody that was in the organization before the end of the year and then the people they wanted to bring along.

So like he's saying, it's gratifying for those guys, but it's a group that he's assembled and he should be proud of that. He's handpicked every one of those guys between him and Bobby and Tony, those guys put that package together and put that group of people together personally.

Q: Darian, how many of those people came because Tony was one of the owners of the team

TONY STEWART: That's a great question, Bob. I like that question.

DARIAN GRUBB: I'd say almost everybody that's been knocking on the door. Obviously this offseason and everything has been different than all the rest in the past because of the economy and the people downsizing things. We were one of the lucky ones to actually be out hiring.

The flow was steady. People really wanted to be a part of this because we were starting from ground up. And obviously the excitement was there because Tony was coming in, Ryan was coming in. They knew we had the caliber of drivers it took to win.

And they knew with the equipment that we had coming in, too, they knew we had definite chance to win. They all wanted to be a part of it. Now that flow has not changed at all.

It's a steady flow. Every time we've been running good every week there's more calls coming in saying congratulations, oh, by the way, we'd like to be a part of it, is there something we can do to help, is there any parts and pieces you need, anything like that, technology we're looking for.

So that does make it easy knowing that Tony's on your side and Ryan's on the other side of the fence there at the same shop. People really want to be a part of it.

TONY STEWART: I want to thank Mr. Smith back there in the corner. He gave us a beautiful ring on the Speed stage tonight that not a lot of places do. That's something, from a driver's standpoint, Mr. Smith, thank you for the ring this evening. We appreciate it. You guys did a great job like always.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

-credit: nascar

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson