TONY STEWART, No. 14 Office Depot /Old Spice Impala SS, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Atlanta, pressures of the Chase, Danica Patrick and other topics. IS THE RACE AT ATLANTA MORE OF A SNAPSHOT...
TONY STEWART, No. 14 Office Depot /Old Spice Impala SS, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Atlanta, pressures of the Chase, Danica Patrick and other topics.
IS THE RACE AT ATLANTA MORE OF A SNAPSHOT OF DRIVERS WHO BELONG IN THE CHASE WITH IT BEING A MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACK?: "I think you'll see the guys that probably will be in the Chase, be in the top-10 here. I think occasionally you'll get a guy -- I remember Dave Blaney the last couple years, this was one of Dave's strong tracks. He would creep into a top-five or top-10 spot. I think this is a good idea and I think this is a good read of the guys that you're going to have in the Chase. I believe it's tricky and it seems like guys that have their programs together normally have it together here. This is a place that we've struggled with the last couple times I've been here, but we've made up for it everywhere else. I think if a guy doesn't get in there necessarily, it's not the death sentence that he's not going to make it. I think you'll have a good idea of who the guys are that are going to be pretty solid."
WHY DO THE DRIVERS LIKE ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY SO MUCH?: "I do like Atlanta, this is one that a number of us really enjoy. We like it because the tires give up. You want it to have grip, but you don't mind if the lap times fall off as long as you feel like you can race side-by-side with each other, which we typically are able to do here, but the surface gives up enough to where during the race you're not going to stay in one groove on the race track the whole entire run. You will move around on the race track. You'll move from the bottom to the top. After a while you may go back from the top to the middle of the race track or a groove down. That's something we like as drivers -- we like having that ability to help determine our own fate by moving around on the race track and knowing that where we're at now may not be where we're going to be 10 laps into the run. This is a driver's race track. The guys that are true drivers are the guys that really run well here and run well consistently."
WHY DO YOU SEE SO MUCH BUMPING ON PIT ROAD AT THIS RACE TRACK?: "I don't know. I don't think the pit boxes here are small by any means -- I don't remember that being the case. Honestly, I'm not sure I have a good answer to that. I don't really remember it being too much of a drama here, but it's just that everybody is getting so competitive on pit stops now that you get two or three guys coming out at a time and I think what happens is that you may have cars two-wide and then you get a third guy that comes out and he doesn't realize that the third lane is the one open and they try to get to that second or first lane and that creates some of the problems. That's just because of good, competitive pit stops and good action on pit road. I don't see it really as a problem."
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH RICK HENDRICK?: "My relationship with Rick (Hendrick), I really enjoy it. Like I said, I said from day one that if it wasn't for Rick Hendrick I would not have made this decision to make this change. He was the guy that kind of gave me the comfort and feeling like everything was going to be alright and that our relationship with his side of our program, that he would make sure that everything was right. With that it gave me the confidence to do what we needed to do and we do, we still talk and we still spend more time talking about things that are non-racing related than we do the racing-related side. Our personalities match, I believe quite a bit. Our sense of humors definitely match so we do spend a lot of time talking to each other and he's learned how to text message so I'll get text messages at midnight and I'll send him one back asking what he's doing up and isn't it past his bedtime. We have a lot of fun -- he's a great guy, he's been a great mentor to me and he's kind of the man behind-the-scenes from the Stewart-Haas side."
HOW MUCH PRESSURE DO YOU THINK IS ON THE DRIVERS THAT ARE ON THE BUBBLE OF MAKING THE CHASE? ARE YOU CURRENTLY RACING WITHOUT PRESSURE ON YOU BEING ALREADY LOCKED INTO THE CHASE?: "I'll start with the second one, I am racing 100 percent pressure free because we have absolutely nothing to lose. We can't be bumped out of the Chase, we can finish 43rd the next two races and it's a non-event. What our goal is for the next two weeks is to try to do what we can to win and get those 10 extra bonus points. That's our focus -- it's an all or nothing for us. We're not going to throw away a car trying to make a stupid mistake to try to get those 10 points, but our goal each weekend the next two weeks is to go out and try to win the race. More than that, you don't want to end up with two 43rd-place finishes, you want to end up with some momentum on your side after these next two weeks. You're still going to race smart. There are a lot of guys that are in that situation that are going to be constantly watching each other and it's not fun to be in that situation. It's hard to race a race where your primary goal is to go win the race, but it's a bigger goal to get yourself in the Chase in two weeks. This week and next week, these guys that are barely in and the guys that are barely out are going to be very conscious and know where these guys are that are ahead of them in the Chase and they're going to dictate their pit strategy off of what these other guys do."
HOW IS THE PLANNING GOING FOR NEXT WEEK'S PRELUDE TO THE DREAM AND IS CARL EDWARDS PLANNING TO PARTICIPATE?: "I don't have the official word from Carl (Edwards), but I'm pretty sure that we are probably going to lose Carl (Edwards) from the list for next week with his foot. Everybody is still on board and we actually ended up adding AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose from the spring list so glad to have those two guys there. I talked to Carl (Edwards) yesterday -- we talked about the situation and the fact that he probably won't be there. He didn't say officially that he would not be there, but we went over a list of back-up drivers for him so there's potential that if he doesn't make it that there will be somebody that will bring a little extra excitement to the race from a different aspect of our sport. Excited about it -- I've been kind of paranoid this year, I am every time we have this event. I get paranoid about the weather. I refuse to let Eddie (Jarvis, business manager) turn The Weather Channel on until Sunday night. When our race is over, then I'm going to look at The Weather Channel and it will be the channel for the week. Until then, I don't even want to know what the weather is, at least so I can focus on what we're doing here. I'm very excited about it and I'm real appreciative that Gillette has come on board and helped us bring back the Pay-Per-View side on HBO and that's going to help us raise a lot of money for these soldiers and their families. Very excited about it. Thanks for bringing it up."
DO YOU THINK DANICA PATRICK IS SERIOUS ABOUT WANTING TO RACE IN NASCAR?: "I know that she's serious about it. She's come over and just talking for things right now. I know that's what she wants so do. She looked me straight in the eye and said this is what I want to do -- it looks like fun, looks like a lot of work, but it looks like fun. I don't think she has some misguided idea that it's going to be easy doing it. She wants to do it the right way, she has the intentions of doing everything right and she's kind of come to us to see our opinion about how she should go about it."
DO YOU THINK SHE IS LOOKING TO RACE IN IRL AND THEN START WITH SOME NATIONWIDE RACES AND THAT IS WHY IT IS EASY FOR HER TO COME TALK TO YOU?: "I think she wants to know how to make the transition more than anything and she's trying to put together her IRL deal and try to figure out how to transition that into NASCAR. I think she's trying to do it the right way. She's not just cutting the cord and all of the sudden jumping in a car that she's unfamiliar with. She wants to stay successful where she's at, but in the meantime try to figure out a way to be able to drive and get some seat time in a car to where she can start learning to where when she does come out that she's got her act together."
DO YOU THINK IT IS NOT A QUESTION OF IF SHE WILL COME TO NASCAR, BUT WHEN AND HOW?: "I think so. I think she really wants to do it, it's just trying to figure out the time frame and what steps should she take to do it right and to show everybody that she wants to do it the right way."
DO YOU THINK SHE WILL DROP BACK AND RUN IN NATIONWIDE?: "Absolutely. You have to learn before you get here. In all three of the national series, even the truck series is competitive. You can't expect, even Juan (Pablo Montoya) and Juan was the exception to the rule and even Juan ran some ARCA races and some Nationwide races before he ran Cup full time. You have to get used to a heavier race car and you have to get used to less down force, smaller tires -- it's a lot of learning and there's a lot of race tracks that you have to get used to. It's sensory overload and that's why you have to pay your dues before you get to this level."
DO YOU THINK SHE WILL RUN A PARTIAL NATIONWIDE SEASON AND IRL NEXT YEAR?: "I don't know when it will be, but I think that's the direction she'll go."
DO YOU THINK SHE WILL TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN?: "Definitely. The great thing is that she asked a lot of very smart questions in the discussions about it. You can tell that she wants to do it the right way, she understands how hard everybody has worked to get to this level here and she doesn't want to be one of those people that just comes in and gets stuff handed to her. She wants to earn her way and work her way up through like everybody else has."
DO YOU WANT TO SEE NASCAR INSTITUTE THE 'PUSH-TO-PASS' TECHNOLOGY LIKE IRL DID?: "I hope not. If I wanted to play a video game, I would go back to the bus."
WHAT WOULD BE THE INTEREST FROM DRIVERS IN NASCAR TO TRY TO RUN THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 IF THE START TIME WAS PUSHED BACK TO 11:00 AM?: "I think you would see John (Andretti) and Robby (Gordon) do it. I don't think you'd see anybody else do it. My belief still is that if you're going to do the (Indianapolis) 500 and do it to win it, you're going to have to go and start the season with that team and run a lot with them just to get acclimated. When you show up at Indy and you go out for the first run of the day, you need to not be learning your race car. You need to be starting work on what you need to be good for 500 mile and that's something that the last two times that I did it, especially the last time with Ganassi, I spent half of my practice time just getting acclimated again and I felt like that got me and my team behind. Just felt like it was a situation where I needed, if I could have run one race before I got there I would have been better off than I was there."
IS THAT IDEA PAST IT"S TIME?: "I think so. Everything as time goes on gets more technical and more technical and that's a good thing. That's why races are better than they've ever been. You look at history of our sports and you look at histories of Indy racing, stock car racing -- we've got the closest finishes we've ever had, the most exciting racing we've ever had in the sport. With that, you can't be off a little bit and halfway through the race figuring it out and saying, 'Ok, now I got it.' By that time you're two laps down and you're probably not going to get back on the lead lap. You have to be on your game when you go there and be good off the truck right away."
HOW INSTRUMENTAL WAS YOUR SPONSORSHIP PACKAGE TO GET YOU UP TO SPEED THIS YEAR?: "It let us focus on the competition side. Once we got the financial side locked in, it gave us the flexibility to let the marketing department do all the fluff and buff side of it to make it all pretty, but it let us worry about making the race cars go fast at that point and get ready to go to Daytona."
HAVE YOU DECIDED THAT YOU ARE NOT GOING TO ADD ANOTHER TEAM FOR NEXT YEAR?: "No, it's too late to do something for next year. We're two weeks before the Chase and we're going to be very focused on hopefully keeping two cars with a chance to possibly win a championship. We just didn't get far enough down to get something done for next year and I'm not sure that's a bad thing. This is a decision where timing is everything for it and when we do it, it doesn't matter when it happens, but when it does we want it to be the right timing and the right situation."
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE OF INDY CAR RACING?: "I haven't followed it as much as I should. Most of their races overlap our races and I don't get a chance to see them. I can't say that I have really seen a lot of the races this year."
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE THE HARDEST TRANSITION FOR DANICA PATRICK TO COME TO NASCAR?: "I don't know. I know that she tested a Nationwide car years and years ago, but I don't know how that went. I don't know how much heavy car experience she has so I think that's why it's important that she gets in anything whether it be an ARCA car or get in some truck races, a lot of Nationwide races. Just right now I think, the more talking to her, the more that she can get in a car, the better off she's going to be right now."
WHY DOES SHE WANT TO RACE IN NASCAR?: "I think you have to ask her that for sure. I just know that she's excited about doing this and making this change. I can pretty much guarantee you that at some point she's going to be over here."
DO YOU THINK SHE WILL TRY TO RACE IN NASCAR AFTER THE IRL SEASON IS OVER?: "I don't know. I honestly don't know that."
WHAT DOES MENTAL TOUGHNESS MEAN TO YOU?: "Mental toughness -- no matter what's going on, you just have to stay focused. There's a lot of outside distractions. In our field, no matter what's going on the race track or what obstacles you have to overcome in a day, you just have to stay focused on what that goal is and what you have to do to overcome it. Every driver out there has to go through a certain level of mental toughness each weekend."
WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE TO BEING ABLE TO BE A CHAMPION IN THIS SPORT?: "If I knew it, I wouldn't tell anybody for sure. That's stuff that you definitely want to keep to yourself. I don't know. It's what we've always done from day one and I think you can develop it, but I think there's a lot of times where we talk about natural talent. It's the same thing and I think a lot of people just have those qualities naturally instilled in them and that's what works for them."
DO YOU HAVE TO BE SMART TO GET TO THIS LEVEL?: "You can't be reckless and make bad decisions and get this far. You can for a little bit, but you can't stay that way and last here very long."
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN HURT IN SOME FREAK, OFF-TRACK INCIDENT?: "I think Kyle's (Petty) the only one that actually ever hurt himself by punching a trailer. I can't say that I've got hurt, everything that I have ever gotten hurt in was racing related and most of it was non-Cup racing. None of it was ever a situation where I couldn't race and do what I was doing in the Cup series. Frisbee accidents and golf cart incidents, those are freak things."
DO YOU PLAY FRISBEE?: "No, I don't play Frisbee."
WHAT WAS ONE OF YOUR NON-SPRINT CUP INCIDENTS?: "I got upside down in a midget, but it wasn't bad, it was more embarrassing. When I was laying upside down I was like, 'Well, that really shouldn't have happened.' It was just a situation where I got into the wall and bounced off and it bounced up on the left-rear (tire) and when it came down the second time, it blew the tire off the bead and then it was almost like a teeter-totter, it stayed up there for a second and then when it rolled, it rolled down the hill. So it wasn't even like, it wasn't even a cool crash. It was a pretty lame crash. It was in Macon, Illinois."
-credit: gm racing