TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS, joined A.J. Foyt in the infield media center at Daytona International Speedway and discussed A. J.'s career, the friendship they share, the performance of Stewart-Haas Racing thus far at ...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS, joined A.J. Foyt in the infield media center at Daytona International Speedway and discussed A. J.'s career, the friendship they share, the performance of Stewart-Haas Racing thus far at Daytona, open wheel racing drivers in NASCAR and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT A.J. FOYT BEING HERE FOR THE DEBUT IN THE NO. 14 CHEVROLET?
TONY STEWART: "Honestly, it has been a huge honor to have A.J. here with us. He has been a great friend for a long time. I have driven for him and George Snider in the Silver Crown Series and when I got my first opportunity to ever drive an Indy Car, it was with this man at a test session in '95. We have had a great friendship, known each other a long time. Nobody gives me a harder time than this man, but, it is all in fun. We have fun. We are glad he is here. This is obviously a huge year for us, starting this new team and having A.J. here to kick it off with us is definitely a highlight for sure. It is the icing on the cake for us."
A.J. FOYT: YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT BEING BACK AT DAYTONA AND BEING WITH TONY. "It gives me a great honor to see Tony run the No. 14. Like I have told him, you are going to have bad days with that damn thing and you are going to have good days with it. All I can say about No. 14 is I have had a lot more better days than I had bad days. He gave me a radio yesterday and I went to holler at him a couple times and found out the button didn't work. It was nice just sitting there and being quiet for a change, instead of raising hell. I thought Tony did a great job yesterday. Racing today is a lot different than it was when I ran down here. You still had to draft and all that, but, it is really hard. I would say it is as hard of harder than when I was here because you just gotta stay in line and watch all of your Ps and Qs. If you screw up, you go from first to about 21st. You really got to concentrate, I think, today probably more than we used to have to because, before, if you had a pretty fast car, you could draft with somebody and get away from the rest of the field. Where right today, the whole field stays bunched up all day long. You really got to be focused."
TONY SAID IN HERE YESTERDAY THAT YOU GAVE HIM AN A-MINUS FOR THE DAY. WHAT DID HE DO TO LOSE THOSE POINTS?
A.J. FOYT: "He run second. Very simple. I thought he was going to win, I was pulling for him. Like I said, I don't think he had nobody really help him."
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE TONY FACES AS A TEAM OWNER, ESPECIALLY THIS EARLY?
A.J. FOYT: "Well, I think the biggest think where he has an advantage over a lot of owners, he is in the driver's seat and that makes the biggest difference. Also, he surrounded hisself with some very good talented people. I know a few of them and the key people that he has, I think, are very very good. That is where Tony has been a lot smarter than a lot of the guys that actually own the cars because with him in the driver's seat, he knows what he wants and he's got some great mechanics behind him. I think you're going to see a win-win operation. I know it is hard, but you are going to see it."
AS FAR AS COST GOES AS FAR AS THE OWNERSHIP THING, BOTTOM LINE WHAT IS THE NUMBER -- FROM EMPLOYEES TO CARS WHAT IS THE NUMBER?
TONY STEWART: "I don't know because I didn't have to start from scratch so, I honestly don't know what that number is. We got to join an existing organization, we obviously added as it went, we added 30 people. But as far as the physical cost to start from scratch and build a team, buy all the machines and equipment that it would take and all the inventory to get started to do it right, I am not sure what that would be. It would be a huge number, that is for sure."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE IN THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE BUSINESS WHEN YOU WERE SO SUCCESSFUL AS AN OWNER OF THE INDY CARS IN THE 70'S AND THE DIFFERENCE IN WHAT TONY FACES NOW?
A.J. FOYT: "There's too many of you writer's here to write what I have to say. All joking aside I guess one thing their motor homes cost more than when I first put my team together. It's like everything, inflation has come up. You've just got to watch your Ps and Qs and what you spend and things like that. It's a little bit different but you go back to the same things. The basics and who you surround yourself with and the people you're with. That's the biggest thing to be a very successful owner and putting a great team together. I mean because I've seen some great people spend mega bucks and they couldn't outrun nothing because they just didn't know how to spend their money. I think that was one thing when I first started, like the first time I won Indy everybody said where did you go eat afterwards. I said the White Castle and they were like 12 cents apiece and I had two of them. (laughter)
"Tony let me say one thing when I was your age at one time I think, I was a little bit lighter. I figured I owe it to myself now. Not really, but I busted my hiney pretty good there. Well at Elkhart Lake I shouldn't forget it. I said I owe it to myself to eat a little bit more ice cream than I used to.
TONY STEWART: "Let me introduce you to David Poole, Monte Dutton is upstairs, the heads of the eating team."
DID YOU EVER THINK IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE FOR YOU AND YOUR WIFE TO COME TO MEET ANYBODY AS STUBBORN AND BULL-HEADED AS YOU AND WHEN YOU MET TONY DID YOU THINK WELL OKAY IT'S HAPPENED? WE KNOW WHY HE HANGS AROUND YOU, WHY DO YOU HANG AROUND HIM?
A.J. FOYT: "Somewhere down the line some genes must have crossed. I don't know. Somebody was talking about yesterday at your age you think you can run with them, I said why kid yourself. I said you don't even know the driver's abilities, what they can do, and they said a lot of these guys at your age now think they can run with them. I said all they are doing is kidding themselves. I said when I said I was stepping out of race cars I stepped out for good and I said you might think you can do something but don't even try it because you're going to look like a complete idiot out there because these guys here they know the moves to put on each other. You can be out of it for two years and you're lost. When people are talking about would you like to come back sure I would like to but I'd like to be 30 years old too. I'm not there no more. Like I said when you hear some of these old retired broke down race drivers like I am well I can do this all they're doing is talking and BSin' ya'll. And you talk about Tony and I, they asked me some question yesterday about how would you fit in with NASCAR today and I said I've been in their trailer a couple of times when I raced and vice versa and Mike Helton walked by and I said hey Mike answer this question. He wanted to know how I would fit if I was as young as Tony and how I would fit in the NASCAR trailer. Mike I think said I would probably have a permanent seat for AJ Foyt and Tony Stewart. I let him answer it."
WHEN YOU WON THE DAYTONA 500 IT WAS OBVIOUSLY A BIG DEAL, WAS IT AS BIG AS IT IS TODAY AND IF TONY WON IT ON SUNDAY WOULD IT BE BIGGER THAN WHEN YOU WON IT?
A.J. FOYT: "No, because I'll have just as much fun if he wins it Sunday. I'd have the same amount of fun. I think any time you win any kind of major race regardless of where it is, it's big. I used to enjoy winning a .5-mile sprint car midget race. I drove a week later after I won Indy, started dead last in a midget race, paid 100 dollars to get in because I went out early and missed the show and the guy bought me a spot and we started last. I drove just as hard as I did the week before at Indy. I think if you're a real racer I don't care what kind of race that you win you're very thrilled. And sure naturally anytime you win a major race like Daytona or LeMans or the 24-hour race here it's a big victory. If a guy tells you he doesn't like to win obviously the guy has never won a race."
WHAT'S THE BACKGROUND ON THE NUMBER 14, WHY WAS THAT SIGNIFICANT?
A.J. FOYT: "To be truthful with you where I come up with I felt the number, I remember Richard Petty for years down here made his debut with the No. 43, his father's number and all that. I guess one year I'd win the championship and the next year I wouldn't so I'd have the No. 1 one year, No. 5 the next year, No. 6 this year and then back to No. 1. The late great Bill Vukovich which was a hell of a race car driver and that's when I was way young, I never raced against him because he deceased before you know lost his life and he always run the No. 14 at Indianapolis. Then I picked No. 14 and I had Mack Reed (run it one year in the Ontario 500 and won with it and I just said after that even when I won the championship I still wanted the No. 14 so I just identified myself with car No. 14 and I've had it ever since."
A.J. ALLUDED TO THE FACT THAT HE WOULD USE IT OTHER THAN THE CHAMPIONSHIP YEARS, YOU HAVE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN BOTH SERIES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT GO BACK TO A SYSTEM WHERE THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONS DOES PICK UP THE NUMBER ONE FOR THE NEXT YEAR OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY WITH THE PRESENT SYSTEM?
TONY STEWART: "I think the present system is good. I mean obviously the marketing now is different than it used to be where to switch car numbers like that it's big for the sponsors to have to remarket everything with a new number per year. I know when I ran in USAC it was always an honor to have that number but I won with Potter's in '94 and in '95 I ran the No. 9 car so I didn't really run the No. 1. It's nice to have that honor and knowing you have it. Like A.J. said you kind of are identified by your number and hopefully those guys were identified by their helmets and their cars. It's just part of who you are I think."
BEFORE LARRY CURRY WAS ABLE TO GET TONY A RIDE IN '96 HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO PUTTING HIM IN YOUR INDY CAR AND ALSO HOW MUCH PRIDE DO YOU HAVE KIND OF SEEING THE PATH TONY HAS TAKEN TO GET TO WHERE HE IS TODAY?
A.J. FOYT: "Well I'm very, very happy to see because he come up the hard way. It wasn't an easy road for Tony. I'm glad to see him where he is today, I pull for him quite a bit.
"Actually going back to the Indy Car I think Tony would have drove for me and we had a mutual friend that was his agent. We were good friends and I felt like me and him wouldn't get along and that was probably the biggest reason that Tony never drove for me at the Indy Cars. I definitely wanted him to but I was scared and so easily to get along with I probably wouldn't have got along with his agent too well and I'd rather stayed friends with all of them. I would have to say that was probably the only reason I didn't really want Tony to run for me. I did want him to run for me don't get me wrong but I just didn't feel like I could get along with his agent and he was a good friend of mine too so I'd rather just kept the friendship than having to go to war."
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN TONY THAT KIND OF MAKES YOU SMILE A LITTLE BIT AND REMIND YOU OF YOURSELF?
A.J. FOYT: "What I see in Tony is he calls a spade a spade and says it like it is and I think that is kind of what made AJ what he is today because I think so many people sugar coat so damn much stuff and don't really tell the fans the truth. Every time I've ever said something good or bad I meant everything and I really believed into it. That is one thing I really respect Tony for compared to a lot of the drivers over here, they sugar coat it. I don't know maybe it's good today but I think you've got to live with them decisions good or bad. I guess he's, excuse my French, been known to be an asshole. (laughter)."
TONY STEWART: "Don't worry that's not the first time I've heard him call me that."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HIM RACING IN THE INDY 500 AGAIN?
A.J. FOYT: "No I would not want to see him run the Indy 500 because I would have to have a guy run against him unless he drove for me. If he drove for me, I'd love to have him but no not if he's in another car. I'd have to try to beat him and he'd be hard to beat."
YESTERDAY JEFF GORDON WAS ASKED ABOUT YOUR SUCCESS AND IF IT HAD SURPRISED HIM AND HE SAID HE THINKS YOU'RE ONE OF THE BEST THERE IS HERE AT DAYTONA AND HE ALSO SAID WHAT IMPRESSED HIM WAS HOW WELL ORGANIZED YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN, IS THAT A BIG DEAL TO YOU THAT PEOPLE ARE IMPRESSED ABOUT YOUR TEAM?
TONY STEWART: "It's an honor. Jeff's obviously been in this sport for a long time. To have a complement from Jeff like that you know that's something he means and it's something we're proud of. We worked really hard to get everything ready not just for Daytona but you'll see the same effort next week when we go to California too. We went into all this with our eyes wide open and the part of not really being over excited about it that's because we just didn't know what to expect. You know everybody asked before in all the media sessions before we even got on the race track what we expected and we don't know what to expect. I know what the preparation has been like but you never know how it's going to shake out until you get it on the race track and we've been I shouldn't say pleasantly surprised but we've been happy with what's been happening obviously. If we can just get Ryan (Newman) some of that luck now with the motor and a car now in two days, that's a little bit hard already but if we can get him a little bit of luck and get him running like we are. He was running good yesterday, I mean to start from the back and all those green-flag lap runs to get all the way up to third there at the end before the problem he's running good too and that's something that when we came down here we want to be organized. There's no point in coming down here if you're not going to do it right and that's something that when Darian (Grubb) came on board and Tony Gibson and especially Bobby Hutchens came over they know that we're not doing this just to do it we're doing it with the intentions of winning races and winning championships and it starts here. You come out and you come here organized and you come here with the right people like A.J. (Foyt) said. You get the right people to do the right jobs and they know how it's supposed to be when it gets here. I don't have to tell them how it has to be they know how it's supposed to be when they get here and that's why we hired those people."
Continued in part 2