Atlanta: Stewart - Friday media visit

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT / OLD SPICE IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the Atlanta track and tires, the upcoming Bristol race, being a team owner and more. IT'S A NEW TIRE. HOW DOES IT FEEL? "I think there are parts of it that are...

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT / OLD SPICE IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the Atlanta track and tires, the upcoming Bristol race, being a team owner and more.

IT'S A NEW TIRE. HOW DOES IT FEEL? "I think there are parts of it that are better. I think the track is getting to the point where it's fallen off worse than what the tires are. We don't have a ton of grip but I don't know that there's any solution for that really (laughs). The good thing is that in race trim I think it will be better. But I'm noticing that we don't have quite as much grip as what we've had in the past but I think that's the track changing more than it's the tire right now."

WITH IT BEING SO GRITTY OUT THERE AND THE SPEED, DO YOU THINK THIS IS THE MOST DIFFICULT TRACK TO BUILD A TIRE FOR? "I've got to believe so. It seems like every year the track changes more than what they can anticipate. I don't know that anybody can do it right now. When you see the trucks go out in practice and they're running the top already, that's normally an indication that the track is changing a lot more because those cars seem to be less picky about the tire because of the aero that they carry. So for them to move up, it almost tells you the track has lost a lot more grip too."

IS IT TIME TO REPAVE THIS TRACK? "I hate repaving tracks. As soon as you repave it, it kills the racing and it's one lane and it takes three or four years before we can do anything and it even puts us in a worse position. I'd rather leave it the same. I don't know that you have to have a ton of grip here but you want enough grip that when you get around each other you're not scared to be around each other and that's the only thing that you're really concerned about."

THE NEWS THAT GM MIGHT BE ON THE VERGE OF BANKRUPTCY, IS THAT SOMETHING THAT WORRIES YOU? "I think they're working hard. I think they're doing everything they can do to try to stimulate the economy as much as possible. The biggest thing is that we've got to get people to not be afraid to spend money again. That's the only way that the economy is going to recover is to get people confident that it's all right to spend money. The good news is that GM is doing their part. Chevy is building cars that are affordable and economical and efficient and from a manufacturer's side, that's all you can ask for. And I feel like they've really responded and have done a good job in that aspect. The fallout if we lose any of these manufacturers is going to be tremendous and I think it's at a stage now to where we can't rely on our government to do it all for us. We have to take an active role ourselves and I'm not saying as drivers or as NASCAR, but our whole country together. We've got to get off our wallets and we've got to go back to being Americans again and living our lives they way we're used to. And I know that's easier said than done, but I think every time you turn on the news, you're petrified. I sit there and watch the news and I beg to be able to turn the channel to something else to where I'm not so depressed. It's partially reality but at the same time, the only way to get through it is to resume doing what we do again."

HOW MUCH MORE SPECIAL IS A WIN WHEN IT'S AT YOUR HOME TRACK? "It's just like any other pro teams playing at home. You always want to win at home more than away games. It's no different with our sport. When you have a home race at a home track or whatever one is closest to your home, that one becomes special to you because it's around an area where your friends and family are and you always want to do well because of that."

LAST YEAR THIS TIME IT WAS SNOWING ON RACE WEEKEND; THIS YEAR IT WILL BE ABOUT 70 DEGREES. HOW MUCH IMPACT WILL THE WEATHER HAVE ON SUNDAY'S RACE? "This place is temperature-sensitive just like any place else is. But I can promise you that I'm much happier when it's 70 degrees than I have been worrying about whether it's going to snow or rain. So I'm really happy that at least we've got a weekend when we don't have to worry about it right now."

ARE YOU SURPRISED BY YOUR START TO THE SEASON? "I think from the physical pieces and parts standpoint, we knew we had what we needed. It was just a matter of how long was it going to take for the package to gel. I think we're all pleasantly surprised at how quick that's come. We went from a superspeedway to a 2-mile track and a 1.5-mile track and we've been good at all three, or at least solid at all three. I think that gives us a lot to look forward to and that's definitely keeping the team morale and spirits up. They're excited about our start even though last week our results didn't show for the day, we ran in the top five for a big portion of the day. Looking at the big picture, those are the things that keep these guys excited from week to week."

HOW WILL YOU SPEND THE UPCOMING OFF-WEEKEND? "I'm going to be invisible. I'm leaving town. I don't know what Darian (Grubb) and the guys are going to do. I'm sure they're going to work their tails off like they always do. But I'm going to get away. I need a break right now. It's perfect timing for a break after this weekend."

IS THE BRISTOL TRACK STARTING TO COME AROUND A LITTLE BIT? "I think it was good the first time we were there. Guys were able to run multiple grooves there and we do not have to knock each other out of the way to pass each other and you're not seeing guys having to wreck each other to win races. That's fun. It's fun knowing you actually get a chance to race for it versus having to just have a gap enough that they can't get to you."

AFTER RACING CALIFORNIA AND LAS VEGAS, ARE THERE THINGS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO TEST OR ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH DONE DURING RACE WEEKEND PRACTICE SESSIONS? "You could still test six days a week and not test that seventh day and you'd still have something you'd want to test. So it doesn't matter whether you have zero days or six days in a seven-day week. There are always going to be things that people want to test because that's how you become better. But it's still the same thing. Don't lose sight of why we're not testing. There is a good reason why we're not. And even though every team wishes we could have some testing, there are reasons that we're not and it's beneficial to the teams."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE THRASHING OR THROWING STUFF AT THE CAR BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT TESTING? "I don't feel like we are. Sure there are things we'd like to work through, but it makes you plan your practice a little bit different and you're a little bit more strategic about saying okay, this is the package we're going to start with and depending on how those first couple of runs go, you make a game plan and you shift directions and say well either I'm going to switch a package or I'm going to keep working around this one. You just kind of plan and try to make your hour and a half more efficient on Friday."

ARE YOU ENJOYING THE CAR OWNER THING? "Read the newspaper every week. I've said it every day since we started. I do. I enjoy it a lot. There's a sense of pride every day when you come in the garage and you see that No. 39 (Ryan Newman) and you see the No. 14 car sitting there. You realize the sponsors that you have and the group of guys that you've assembled and the fact that everybody has enough faith in what you're trying to do to want to be a pat of it. That makes you feel good."

WITH YOUR NEW ORGANIZATION, DID YOU REALLY THINK YOU COULD BE COMPETITIVE RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX? "We felt like we could be competitive but I think it was unrealistic to think that we would go three weeks and be that competitive just week in and week out and solid every session. I haven't qualified outside the top 14 all year so far and that in itself should tell you that the sky is falling. I mean I've never qualified that good. From that side, I think it's kind of exceeded my expectations because I've never qualified that well before and I think we expected to have results, but I'm not sure we expected to be this consistent right off the bat.

"Granted, it's only been three weeks and we could fall on our face this week. But for three weeks to go to a superspeedway and 2-mile track and a 1.5-mile track and have good results and good performance each of those weeks it something to be proud of."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE A WIN IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER? "Well, you never know when it's going to come and historically over 10 years at Gibbs, the first third of our season is not normally our strong suit. I think it's going to be hard to predict when it can happen. You hope it's right around the corner but every week everybody else is working on their programs and trying to make them better and we're doing the same. You just hope that you hit it better than they do on a weekend."

IS THERE SOMETHING THAT STICKS OUT THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT GOING INTO THE SEASON AS AN OWNER? "Not yet. Everybody keeps asking me that. But three weeks into it, it hasn't happened yet."

HAVE YOU TOTALLY CLOSED THE DOOR ON RUNNING THE INDY 500? "I'm learning to never totally close the door on anything. You never know what's going to happen. Obviously with this ownership, the sense of responsibility is a lot greater. So the risk versus reward I'm not sure is the same. Who knows? You never know what's going to happen 10 years down the road or five years down the road or 20 years down the road. Right now, it's not looking very likely that it'll happen again. And the start time takes 95% of the equation out to make it unfeasible. The difference is I'm spending more time at the shop and I feel like taking three weeks off in the month of May to try to focus on the Indy 500 and running the three race weekends that we have to run on top of that makes less sense than before because before I had more time to focus on it where now I've got less time because I'm focusing more on the Cup operation."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Ryan Newman