TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed racing under the lights at Bristol, the importance of track position, Mark Martin's 1000th NASCAR start, and more. YOUR...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed racing under the lights at Bristol, the importance of track position, Mark Martin's 1000th NASCAR start, and more.
YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING HERE UNDER THE LIGHTS TOMORROW NIGHT. "I'm excited about it. This is one of my favorite races of the year. It's always been the fans favorite too. That's what makes this place so special and makes it fun for us as drivers. Saturday night short-track races is what we all love. We're not going to change anything, we're not going to try a different approach, we're not going to do anything trick and fancy, we're going to do everything we've been doing. Just looking forward to trying to win the race tomorrow."
HOW CAN A PERSON AS CONSISTENT AS YOU ARE BE INCONSISTENT AS YOU ARE AT THIS TRACK? "This is one of those places that you've got to have everything kind of go your way. If you have one hiccup in a day it's hard to recover from it. We've only won one race here and you're right we've kind of been all over the board here. We've been feast or famine so it's one of those tracks to us. It's like if you have one problem in the first half of the day it's hard to recover from it. That's why we spent the majority of the time in race trim. We only did two qualifying runs and trying to make sure we do get this car consistent for this weekend."
YOU'VE HAD ALMOST THREE HOURS OF PRACTICE OUT THERE, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AND WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING FROM YOUR CAR TOMORROW NIGHT? "I was a little frustrated with it at the end of the first hour and half of practice. Just didn't ever feel like we had a good base. I felt like especially the last 20 minutes I think we kind of got back into race trim and switched back over and finished the session in race trim. I felt like the second session we started off a lot better and were able to just keep working off of that. I feel like we are somewhat balanced now. I feel like we've got a set-up that should be good for all night, I hope. It's a little bit tight in the center but I don't think anybody is going to tell you they're happy with their car in the center of the corners but I feel like the entry and exits are really good and I don't feel like I'm way off in the center of the corner. So I feel like my car is going to probably be a long-run car after looking at the times and how the times fall off. Hopefully we'll get some long runs tomorrow night."
WE HEAR A LOT AT THE BIGGER TRACKS ABOUT TRACK POSITION, IS IT JUST AS IMPORTANT HERE EVEN THOUGH THIS ISN'T AS FAST AS SOME OF THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS? "Yeah, what you've got to keep in mind is every time the competition gets closer it makes it harder and harder to start further back and pass those cars. If you're a half second faster than the 20 cars in front of you you're probably going to be able to work your way through. If you're half of a tenth of a second it's a lot harder to make up those spots. So with the sport and the competition level going up every week and getting closer it does make it harder. It makes it to where that track position becomes more important. The thing about Bristol is you still have to have a good handling race car at the end of the day. You can get good track position but if you don't have a good car you're not going to be able to hold on to it."
HOW MUCH FALL OFF IS THERE WITH THE TIRES FROM THE START OF THE RUN? "We've seen about four to five tenths so far and there are some teams that are a little bit better than that and there's a lot of teams that are a lot worse than that. As far as the runs we've done we've seen three or four tenths fall off."
WHY IS IT THAT YOU THINK 160,000 PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO THIS TRACK AND ESPECIALLY THE NIGHT RACE? "Get off your chair and go outside and look. That's an easy answer. That's one you can answer yourself. You've just got to look at this place. There's nowhere else you can go in the country and see a race track and facility like this where you can pack that many people around such a small race track. I mean this is an awesome site whether there's a person in the grandstands or not. It's just an awesome facility. For 160,000 people to be this close to the action like they are that's an answer that speaks for itself."
REGARDING THE BRIAN VICKERS / KYLE BUSCH ISSUE, YOU USED TO GET FRUSTRATED IF OTHER DRIVERS DIDN'T FOLLOW THE BASIC PHILOSOPHY OF RACING. DO YOU GET LESS FRUSTRATED OR IS THERE LESS OF THAT KIND OF RACING NOW OR DO YOU THINK PEOPLE HAVE FALLEN INTO THE PHILOSOPHY OR DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY'RE GOING THROUGH? "I think there is less patience across the board than what there was 10 years ago when I started as far as give and take. But I think some of that's the competition you know that on a restart you have to get everything you can get. For the most part, once you get through the restarts of it I think everybody falls back in line to what's acceptable with each other. It's still self-policing. It's been self-policing for 60 years here in NASCAR. When guys don't agree on it they talk about it or they settle it on the race track and eventually it sorts itself out."
IF YOU GO INTO THE CHASE AND SUDDENLY YOU'RE NOT LEADING THE POINTS, IF MARK MARTIN GETS IN AND HE'S GOT MORE WINS THAN YOU, WILL THAT AFFECT HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT WHAT YOU GUYS NEED TO DO? "No, not at all. Everybody understands the system. So we know that if the Chase were to start tomorrow, we start behind. So it's not a situation where you try to make up for it. That's when you get yourself in trouble. It's no different than gambling when you get off your game and you try to do something to get yourself back to square, that's when you get in trouble. So we've just got to keep doing what we've been doing. That's what got us here. It may not start us there, but for 13 weeks now in a row we've been leading this thing because we've been consistent and up front up every week and that's what it's going to take for 10 weeks too."
YOU GO INTO EVERY SEASON EXPECTING TO DO WELL. HAS THIS SEASON BEEN AT ALL SURPRISING TO YOU? ARE YOU IMPRESSED WITH WHAT YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO DO? "Some of the guys in the media have been more surprising than anything. Some of the questions I've been asked this year have absolutely blown me away more than anything we've done at the race shop or at the race track. But no, I mean none of us expected it to be this good this soon. You can look at a transcript for the last 25 weeks and it'll tell you that. It's the same answer."
MARK MARTIN IS MAKING HIS 1000TH NASCAR START THIS WEEKEND. WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT HIM TO STILL BE WINNING AT THE AGE OF 50? "He's as good now as he was when he started. I mean he's just never tapered off. His level of performance has always been there. It's impressive. You think of how long that is and 1,000 starts, that's a lot. It's not like baseball where you play 100 games a year and in 10 years you rack up 1,000 games. At 30 some-odd races a year, to rack up a thousand starts, man that's a huge milestone. So that's pretty impressive."
-credit: gm racing