February 5, 2004: Highlights of Driver Q&A Sessions with the Media at Daytona International Speedway. TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: ON THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP "There probably will be more guys in the battle...
February 5, 2004: Highlights of Driver Q&A Sessions with the Media at Daytona International Speedway.
TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
ON THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP "There probably will be more guys in the battle for the championship by the time we get there instead of normally one or two. It is what it is. It doesn't matter what we think. It might be the greatest thing in the world. Who knows? We'll have to wait and see. At the end of this year we'll see how it really plays out for everybody. It's just hard to say."
"None of us have ever been through this so we really don't know what the strategy will be. We don't know what to expect. You don't know what scenarios you're going to have to be in. But it's probably as simple as this: when you go out there and try to win races, and win every week, the points will take care of themselves."
HOW WAS YOUR OFF-SEASON? "What off-season? I didn't really have an off-season. I have four USAC teams in Indiana. I have a World of Outlaws team in Missouri. I stay pretty busy with those guys."
ARE THERE A CERTAIN HANDFUL OF GUYS THIS SEASON THAT YOU SEE AS THE ONES TO BEAT? "Every year it's getting harder and harder to do that because there are so many teams that pick their programs up. Ten or 15 years ago, there were maybe three or four guys who has a shot at the championship. Now, there are 15 or 16 teams that could win the championship if they have the right year. It's getting harder and harder to pick that select group and say they are the guys you have to race to win the championship. With multi-car teams now, every team has multiple guys capable of winning the championship. It just makes that group grow larger each year."
WHEN YOU'VE WON A CHAMPIONSHIP, DOE THE URGE TO WIN AGAIN GET STRONGER? "Oh, yeah. After your first championship, you definitely are looking forward to the opportunity of winning the second one. The first time, the nerves are involved. The second time, I think you learn from the mistakes you made during your championship run and you try to make the adjustments for the second. It definitely makes the second one a lot more fun."
WHEN THE DRIVERS SWITCH RIDES, OR WHEN A NEW DRIVER COMES INTO THE SEASON, DO YOU EVER MISTAKE THE CAR NUMBER AND THE DRIVER? "I've only had that happen twice to me. Normally, after the first third of the season, there are teams that are making change already. And the before the last third of the season start, teams are making changes again with drivers for the next season. So it seems there are constantly guys that are changing. But it seems like it comes in two different waves."
ON THE SWITCH FROM PONTIAC TO CHEVROLET AFTER WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP "We had some big gains in our engine program this year as far as horsepower. But we sacrificed reliability with it. Look at the races where we were leading and blew up or where we were running in the top three and blew up. If we would have finished those races where we were, we would have been a lot higher in the points. It's just that every year technology changes and you have to push the envelope on your engine program and on your aero program. Going to Chevrolet was an advantage for us. It was a better-balanced car than what we had the year before. We didn't have problems there. We just didn't have the same amount of luck that we had the year before and we had a lot of bad luck."
WILL NOT HAVING JOE GIBBS AROUND MAKE A DIFFERENCE? "We're not going to get that pep talk every Sunday morning. We're going to miss him, that's for sure. Everybody at the shop is going to miss him. At the same time, to have a car owner who is 63 years old that's ready to get out there with all those big football players and work 16 hours a day working on his games is pretty exciting for him. He was like a six-year-old kid opening Christmas gifts on Christmas day when he was telling us about it. We're pretty excited for him.
"With Jimmy Makar and JD (Gibbs), we have a good core of people that know what to do and that know how to run this deal. JD is not going to try to prove himself to everybody. He's just going to keep the team going like it is. That approach shows how good a leader he is really going to be."
DO YOU LIKE THE FORMAT OF THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT AND IS IT A GOOD WAY TO GET THE SEASON STARTED? "Yeah, I think it's a real good way for the drivers. I kind of feel like the drivers who are in the Shootout have a little bit of an advantage because we have one race under our belts before the 125's. Some of the guys who are struggling to make the field only have one chance with the 125's to race their way in. So that's a warm-up session to get the first race under your belt.
"When we come and test, we run by ourselves and don't even see anybody on the track hardly. Now, all of a sudden, we're going to be all in a big bunch."
ON THE CHANGES TO THE SERIES THIS YEAR "Things change every year. There are just more variables than normal this year. But change happens every day. It's really not that odd.
"It's different, but it's not totally different. The racing every week is going to be the same. But the variables are going to be different. The personnel in your program change. A lot of things change each year. There are just more this year."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 "It's our biggest race of the year. Everyone wants to win Daytona. It's our most important race of the year."