TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: ON THE LAST 10 OR 12 LAPS "We were getting a little bit tight there in the center. We could get a real good run on Jeff Burton, especially the first half of three, and just kept trying to...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON THE LAST 10 OR 12 LAPS
"We were getting a little bit tight there in the center. We could get a real good run on Jeff Burton, especially the first half of three, and just kept trying to dive him up there. But, this Home Depot Pontiac was really good all day. We had a run there --- I don't know what happened with the tires - I don't know if I just didn't keep them clean or what happened. But it was the same thing that happened to us at Indy that took us from fourth to 12th. We dropped back all those spots and fought all the way back. The guys kept trying to figure out if anybody else was having problems. Everybody just did their homework and we had a really good day."
"I'm pretty happy with today, to be honest. We got a really good start. The first five laps I think we passed 15 cars. We got going really good and settled into a rhythm and got into the top five and then had our first round of pit stops.
"I got back out and had a caution. As soon as the caution came out I just tried to give my tires a chance to cool down. When we went back to green, I don't know if I just didn't clean them off enough or what happened, but the whole first lap, both corners, the car really was wiggly and all over the place. I'll bet we lost 15 spots there in one lap. I don't know what was going on there, but it did the same thing that it did at Indy when we lost eight spots there in the last four laps. Whatever it is, it is a problem that we're going to have to watch out for in the future. But, to come back from that after losing all those spots, just to keep working our way forward, I think it really shows that the team had a good day. I had a good day in the car. Greg [Zipadelli] kept making good adjustments to the car. We weren't perfect at the end, by any means. But, we were as good as anybody else that took tires, if not better than anybody else that took two tires. We may have just gotten beat by tires today, but if the thing would have gone green we might have won the race. You never know."
DID THE CONTROVERSY FROM INDY HELP SPARK ANYTHING WITH THIS TEAM?
"It probably helped us get a little more focused, if anything. We've all spent a lot of time together, as a team, during the week and I think that has helped us, too. I think it was kind of like hitting a reset button for our whole race team. That, and even before all that happened, our race shop has been working 24 hours straight in some departments for a week, trying to get some areas of our program better than what they were and it's showing up now, too. But, having the last two weeks like we've had, I feel a lot of momentum for our team and that's definitely what we needed for the rest of the year."
KNOWING YOU'VE HAD TWO GOOD WEEKS AND ARE HEADING TO BRISTOL NEXT, IS THAT WHAT YOU NEED TO GET FIRED UP FOR A RUN AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"If I have to have that to get me fired up for the championship, I'm not the right driver to be in this car. I need to be fired up for that championship every race of the season. This week is over. I'm happy about the results. But, when I leave here tonight - other than debriefing tonight and anything that I go over with Greg tomorrow - this week is over and next week is a whole new week, and we start from scratch. It's nice for the morale of the team and keeping them pumped up and keeping us pumped up, from that standpoint. But, in all reality, ever week starts and stops and that's the way we have to approach it as a race team from the performance side.
"Historically, we run good at the tracks coming up. But, there are no guarantees. Every year there is something that has been different. Tires are different, rules packages are different - every year there is always something that is different. Every year you still have to overcome those obstacles and still have to overcome teams that have made their programs better from the previous year. We just have to take it a week at a time right now. Like I said, each week starts on Friday morning and stops on Sunday night."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GET YOUR BEST FINISH AT MICHIGAN IN THE LAST FOUR RACES?
"It's real good, actually. The way we've run here in the past the last couple times has not been anything like the way we ran in '99 or 2000, by any means. But, it seems like today was a good day for us. We kind of feel like we're back on track a little bit. We had a really good car in 'Happy Hour' yesterday and I'm really happy. I feel like we're kind of back on track like we were in '99 and 2000 again. To have a week like we had last week and do what we did this week - that's good."
ON THE KICK-OUT FOR THIS RACE
"It didn't look like the Fords and Dodges dominated as bad as they have here in the past. Whether it was enough or whether it was the right amount or what - I don't know. Like I've said, my job is to drive race cars. I've never gone to a wind tunnel in my life, so I honestly don't know what the numbers say. But, it seems like it was a pretty good mix of cars all day up front. Junior led a lot of laps, Kenseth ran up front, Mark Martin ran up front, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman ran strong - a lot of really good cars - Dale Jarrett there at the end, obviously. But, it seemed like every make had some cars that really ran up front all day. It seems like it's better than it's ever been here, so I'd say NASCAR did a good job."
DID YOU THINK IT WAS YOUR RACE AT THE END OR DID YOU KNOW DALE JARRETT WAS COMING?
"I saw him before the yellow came out and I could tell he was coming. But, it seemed like they were having a hard time getting around Junior and Harvick. I don't think Harvick was really holding anybody up, but he was having a hard time getting around Junior and so was Jarrett.
"I was hoping it would stay green. I think we had a shot at it if it would have stayed green and we were able to get by Jeff Burton there. But, you can say, 'What if,' all day, but he was strong. He was the strongest car at the end and he won the race."
WHAT GOES INTO THE DECISION TO TAKE TWO TIRES OR FOUR TIRES?
"You'd have to ask the crew chief. I say, 'What are we doing,' and he tells me, 'Two,' or, 'Four.' But, I think a lot of it is - early in the run a lot of guys, at times, took two tires and I think what probably goes on for the crew chief is - watch the times and watch the scoring monitor that shows you the lap times that everybody is running. You see how your car performs on two tires versus four tires. Knowing that track position is so important on the superspeedways, you watch that. If the times are good enough that you feel you can stick it out with two, then you'll take two. I think a couple guys took no tires out there. To see the different scenarios play out, it has really changed the complexion of Winston Cup racing. I used to think it was a little better when everybody had to take four, and you could burn the tires off if you ran them too hard at the beginning versus the end. Nowadays you just go out there and you run every lap as hard as you can run it. It takes kind of the chess match out of it, like it used to be. But, it's to Goodyear's credit that they're building tires. We don't have tire problems anymore. The tires don't fall off, but I'm not so sure that tires not falling off is such a good thing."
COULD YOU SENSE WATER COMING OUT OF JEFF BURTON'S ENGINE?
"Sense it? You could see it. It looked like a fountain at the fair.
"I thought he blew up and I pulled down the first time I was behind him and it happened. But, then it happened a couple more times. Then, I saw it happen when Jarrett was behind him, too, so we knew he had a problem. That's probably the reason why we got by him is because his motor laid down there at the end."