GM Racing, Chevrolet NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference April 19, 2005 This week's NASCAR NEXTEL Teleconference featured Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Heading to Phoenix, Stewart has four top-10 finishes in...
GM Racing, Chevrolet
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference
April 19, 2005
This week's NASCAR NEXTEL Teleconference featured Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Heading to Phoenix, Stewart has four top-10 finishes in six career starts at Phoenix International Raceway - including a victory there in 1999.
Stewart is one of the drivers who has qualified for the 21st annual NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge on May 21st at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Stewart will also be making his second appearance behind the wheel of the No. 47 Chevrolet All Star Silverado there on May 20 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event.
He is bouncing back from last Sunday's crash at Texas which left him with minor burns on his right elbow and thigh, but he is doing fine and definitely plans to compete in both the Cup and Busch races next weekend at Phoenix.
Q&A's WITH TONY STEWART:
Q: LOOKING BACK TO SUNDAY'S CRASH, WHAT HAPPENED?
TS: "Basically what happened was we went into Turn 1 and the crankshaft broke in two. By the time we got slowed down and got in an area where we could get down off the racing groove, we were already on fire. I got the car stopped as quickly as possible and got out. It wasn't but a couple of seconds after I had my feet on the ground that the safety crew was there and were able to put the fire out and get some liquid on my leg to get it cooled off."
Q: WILL PREPARE ANY DIFFERENTLY AT PHOENIX TO PROTECT YOUR BURNS AS FAR AS SPECIAL CLOTHING OR ANYTHING?
TS: "We're going to have to check with the doctor this week. I'm supposed to go in either late today or early tomorrow depending on when we can get in to see the doctor. But they're supposed to evaluate the burns. There are some second-degree burns and a lot of first degree burns on that side of my leg. None of it is in contact with the seat itself. So there won't be any pressure. The only thing we're going to have to worry about it the sensitivity to heat. So we're going to have to sit down with the doctor and evaluate that. I'm still planning on running both the Busch and Cup races this weekend. But as far as what we'll do to shield the wounds from the heat, I'm not exactly sure what that's going to entail yet."
Q: WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE TO STANTON BARRETT'S POST-BUSCH RACE PRESS RELEASE THAT SAID HE HAD NOWHERE TO GO AND THAT HE DIDN'T LIKE YOUR COMMENTS AFTER THE CRASH?
TS: "Well, I haven't see what he put out, but all you've got to do is look at tape. The guy was already a lap down. For him to say he had nowhere to go, I guess he doesn't know where the brake pedal is. If he can't figure out which direction to point the car (he should) at least figure out how to make it slow down. I know at every race we've run this year in the Busch Series, he's been a lap down and has been in the way every time we've gotten to him. Most of the guys are pretty courteous and know how to get out of the way. But I like Stanton as a person. I've never had a problem with him. Every time I've been on the race track with him this year, he's been a nuisance and been in the way. I'm sorry he feels that way about it, but I'm going off the facts of what I've had to deal with as far as having to deal with him on the race track. And if he doesn't like my comments about it, maybe he needs to go back to doing his other job."
Q: WILL THERE BE TIRE AND SET-UP PROBLEMS AT PHOENIX?
TS: "Oh, I don't think you'll see any problems this weekend with tires. We don't know, obviously, until we get there, but I'm pretty sure that Goodyear has going to have addressed any issues that need to be addressed. What everybody needs to keep in mind is that it's easy for us as drivers to sit here and say that Goodyear isn't doing a good job. Every year, the rules packages are different and the set-ups are different, and how they're putting different loads on tires are different. It's something that Goodyear can't necessarily predict every time. So this is a unique situation this year. I don't think it's something you're going to see happening a lot. But it is obviously a problem that we haven't seen here in the past. But I don't think Phoenix will be one of those track where you'll see a huge problem with tires though."
Q: CAN YOU COMMENT ON WHAT IT IS LIKE FOR A DRIVER TO HANDLE THESE RACES THAT START IN THE AFTERNOON AND END AT NIGHT? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE SUN AND HOW DO TRACK CONDITIONS CHANGE?
TS: "I like night racing anyway. I always have. The good thing about night races is that I get to sleep-in in the morning. But the challenge is the same for everybody as far as how the surface temperature of the race track will cool off. That's the good thing about it. It gives us a challenge that we don't normally have on a day when the sun is out all day and the track normally won't change a lot. So it just adds another variable that makes it more exciting for the fans."
Q: WHAT ABOUT THE SUN IN YOUR EYES?
TS: "Sometimes it makes it a little difficult visibility-wise. But we've all run enough of those races now where we've started in the daytime and ended in the evening. We can put extra tape on our windshield that helps shield the sun for us. So, that's probably the only downside to it. For us as competitors, we realize the advantage that time slot in the day gives us to be able to run in prime time like that. So we're willing to put a little extra on the windshield and deal with the sun for a couple extra laps knowing we're going to be able to run in a better time slot that way."
Q: REGARDING SPRINT CARS, WOULD YOU LIKE TO RUN AT KNOXVILLE AGAIN THIS SEASON?
TS: "Absolutely. I don't know if I'll get the chance to do that this year, but I really enjoyed it last year. I didn't get a chance to run on the old dirt. They brought in new dirt last year and put it on top of the old dirt and now they've gone back and taken that dirt off. But just knowing that I've been able to run a Sprint Car there was something that was a highlight for me."
Q: WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE RACING ON THE NEW DIRT?
TS: "I didn't like the new dirt. I didn't really get a chance to run on the old dirt. I've been there in dirt Late Models on the old dirt in the past and that surface was just a lot better for the racing. When they put the new dirt down, it didn't seem like the shape at the bottom of the race track was the same as it was previously. I didn't feel like the racing was quite as good."
Q: EARLY IN YOUR CUP CAREER, YOU SAID THE ADAPTING TO CUP WAS EASIER THAN ADAPTING TO BUSCH BECAUSE OF THE EXTRA HORSEPOWER. NOW THAT YOU'VE RUN BUSCH MORE OFTEN, HAS YOUR OPINION CHANGED?
TS: "I still think from my aspect it was probably easier to get used to the Cup car just because of the horsepower differences. The Busch cars' straightaway speeds are a little slower so you drive it a lot deeper into the corners than you do with the Cup cars. I still believe it was easier for me to make the transition from the Sprint Cars and Midgets to the Cup Series vs. the Busch Series. Now having the Cup Series experience on my side, it does make it easier to go to the Busch Series and know what to expect once I get there now. So it's kind of a backwards leap if you think about skipping the Busch and going to Cup and then backwards."
Q: HOW MUCH DISCOMFORT ARE YOU HAVING BECAUSE OF THE BURNS?
TS: "I'm not in near as much pain today as I have been yesterday and Sunday. But Sunday, I had a lot of discomfort. They gave me a shot while were at Texas that basically let me sleep the whole flight home and I slept through the night pretty good. But yesterday was an antsy day for me. I couldn't really get comfortable the whole day due to the pain. But today, it seems like the pain has decreased quite a bit."
Q: NOW THAT YOU'VE HAD A COUPLE OF DAYS TO REFLECT ON IT, IS THERE ANY COMMON DENOMINATOR TO THE FACT THAT GIBBS RACING ISN'T ON ITS 'A' GAME?
TS: "No, I wish I did know what it was (laughs). We're just having a period where we're struggling. You look at every one of the race teams out there - even Ferrari in Formula I for example - they're not having a stellar year either. If we knew what the common variable was, we'd know what to do to fix it. But it's just been a little bit of everything this year. We've been off on our aero program some. Obviously we had a motor problem that we haven't had in the past happen this past weekend with the crankshaft breaking. We've had weird things happen that we're not used to. So, I'm not sure what the problem is but hopefully we'll find it soon to where we can get the issues addressed. The main thing is to get ourselves back in the top 10 in points right not and be in a position to when those last 10 races start we'll have all the issues solved by then."
Q: WHY DO YOU THINK THE NO. 16 TEAM HAS BEEN SO STRONG THIS YEAR?
TS: "I'm not sure. Greg Biffle runs a lot of the Busch races and that helps him a little bit. But he's obviously with a team that has a proven past history of being competitive. I don't know what it is this year. I guess it's probably another year of him and his crew chief working together and knowing what they want in the feel of a car. They're just doing a good job this year. I wish I knew exactly what it was that is making them successful, because it would make us successful too. But they're obviously doing a good job."
Q: SEVERAL DRIVERS HAVE SAID THEY DON'T LIKE THE SHORTER SPOILER. DO YOU THINK IT WAS A GOOD IIDEA TO MAKE THAT CHANGE?
TS: "It doesn't really matter to me. To be honest, once a new rule is in place like that I pretty much wash my hands of any emotion or feelings about it because it really doesn't matter what we think. It's done and that's what we have to deal with. So it's just a matter of taking what we've got and trying to make the best of it. I haven't had any huge problems. I guess some guys like it and some guys don't like it. But I haven't had any problems and don't feel like it's hurt anything. For me, its just business as usual."
Q: IS IT HARDER TO GO TO THE OUTSIDE NOW BECAUSE THE CAR IS EASIER TO GET LOOSE?
TS: "Well, you can go to the inside and be just as loose as you can on the outside, so I don't think that matters a lot. It's still a matter of getting the car balanced and as much downforce as it's taking off the back, they can do the same thing to balance it by taking some away from the front. The teams have that ability. There are ways of mounting the bodies differently so you can regain some of that downforce or take some away from the front and make the balance that you want."
Q: YOU'VE HAD SLOW STARTS TO THE SEASON BEFORE. IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR TRACK WHERE YOU FEEL YOUR SEASON WILL TURN AROUND?
TS: "Well, I'm always comfortable. It just seems historically that we normally have a slow start to the season when the tracks are cooler and it seems like the tracks have a lot more grip that way. It seems like when we get into May, June, and July that we really hit our stride and that's when the tracks are starting to get warmer and slicker it's getting harder to get grip on the race track it seems like to the point where we really start gaining momentum. So I always look forward to the month of May coming around. But I don't feel a sense of urgency of trying to get back on track right now. I feel like we're just kind of in a learning process right now. We're not really on par like we've been in the past, but I'm not feeling like we'd better find this soon or we're going to be in big trouble. It's just a matter of doing what we've been doing and keeping the guys pumped up on the race team. Sooner or later we're going to find something. With this caliber of a race team, you don't win a championship by not knowing what you're supposed to do. It's just a matter of saying there's a missing piece of the equation and this team is capable of finding it and then I think we'll be fine."
Q: WITH THE NEW CHASE POINT SYSTEM, DOES THERE BECOME A TIME IN THE SEASON WHERE IT BECOMES URGENT TO BEGIN FINISHING HIGHER? AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK THAT WILL HAPPEN THIS YEAR?
TS: "Well obviously if you're outside of the top 10 in points just two or three races before the break, it's going to be of greater sense of urgency. But we've got a lot of racing to go between now and then. We take it one week at a time. We aren't getting a big sense of urgency right now to worry about it."
Q: DID YOU HAVE ANY DIFFICULTY GETTING OUT OF THE CAR QUICKLY ON SUNDAY WHEN IT WAS ON FIRE? DID THE HANS DEVICE SLOW YOU DOWN?
TS: "No, I was honestly pretty surprised. I hadn't practiced getting out of the car in a hurry and that's the first time I've ever been on fire. I had to stop for a second and try not to panic because my natural instinct was to panic because I was getting burned. You want to move quick to stop the burning. I just slowed down and took the steering wheel off and got the belts undone. I got hung up just a little bit climbing out, but not any more than I would have if I hadn't had it (HANS device) on. I just slowed myself down and twisted my shoulder a little different. To be honest, I felt like I got out pretty easily. The good thing is that this will probably give me a little more confidence if I do get in that situation again - knowing that I'm probably not going to get hung up at all if I just take my time and work slow through it. I can get out pretty easily."
Q: HOW IS ELDORA SPEEDWAY GOING AND DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO DO ANYTHING SPECIAL AROUND THE BRICKYARD 400 AT YOUR TRACK?
TS: "Eldora is going great so far. We got through our first local weekly show last week and everything went without a hitch. We had good car counts, a good crowd count, and everything was fine. As far as big races, I know we have some stuff planned. I don't have the schedule in front of me but I know that we've got some neat races planned."
Q: WHY DO YOU SEEM TO REALLY CONNECT WITH THE CANADIAN FANS? COULD IT BE YOUR UP FRONT AND HONEST ATTITUDE?
TS: "Well, people don't have to guess about what's going on in my mind. I'm usually very open and honest about it. I'm very black and white about how I feel. I've always felt that if somebody asked me an honest question, I should be able to give them an honest answer. I shouldn't have to hold anything back. I know for a fact that's why we have a lot of the race fans that we do have because we get that comment from them a lot that they like that honesty. So, no matter what is done in the future with NASCAR saying what we can and can't do anymore, that's one thing that if it gets to the point where I can't say what I feel, that's probably the day I quit. I don't think we'll have to worry about that anytime soon."
Q: WOULD YOU LIKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO RACE IN CANADA - POSSIBLY IN A BUSCH RACE?
TS: "Absolutely. We had a blast up there. Matt Kenseth, Dave Blaney, Kenny Schrader and myself ran a race up there and we had a great time. The fans were awesome up there and the competitors that we raced with in the CASCAR Series up there had a great time with us and were a lot of fun to be with. So, absolutely, I'd definitely look forward to that."
Q: WITH THE INDY 500 COMING UP SOON, ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE A VISIT TO INDIANA IN THE NEXT MONTH?
TS: "Yeah, especially since I've moved home a lot closer now. If I get a day or two off it's only about a 45-minute drive to the speedway. So I can guarantee you you'll see me during the month of May up there just cruising around. But no helmet bag, no uniforms, no physical in the medial center this year - just walking around and having a good time with everybody."
Q: YOU LED A LOT OF EARLY LAPS AT TEXAS LAST WEEK, DID YOUR CAR LOSE SOMETHING BEFORE THE BLOWN ENGINE?
TS: "I don't think we lost any power at that point. It's a problem that we've had for a long time now. It just seems like if you make these races 50 laps or so, we've got a shot at winning a lot of these things. But it just seems like we very rarely make our car any better with pit stops. It doesn't seem to get much faster. It might make the balance better, but it just doesn't go any quicker. If just seems like every time when you make a pit stop where you give other guys an opportunity to work on their cars, they're able to make their cars better and we don't really get a chance to really catch up on it like they do for some reason. It just seems like what we start the race with is pretty much as fast as we can go."