Continued from part 1 Q. What will it take to win the Bud Shootout? TONY STEWART: I don't know. The key to winning the shootout is to be in the first guy across the finish line. Other than that, I can't help you 'cause, you know, like I've...
Continued from part 1
Q. What will it take to win the Bud Shootout?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. The key to winning the shootout is to be in the first guy across the finish line. Other than that, I can't help you 'cause, you know, like I've always said, it's 190-mile-an-hour chess match. It's never the same game twice. It's always, you know -- you always rerack, and different players get involved in different scenarios. Happens almost every year. I'm not sure there is any one key to really doing that.
Q. Does the night race last year go right out the window as far as having any relationship to the shootout?
TONY STEWART: You know the answer to that. You've been here long enough to know that.
Q. Did you celebrate much with the team after winning the championship?
TONY STEWART: No, not really. I mean, basically just 'cause I didn't have a chance to do it with the team. We had one night in New York where we all got together and we were able to go out and have fun and celebrate. Aside from that, it was back to work full-time again, you know, like I said, with racetrack stuff, stuff with the team, appearances, all that.
You know, like I said, it's turned into a full-fledged 12-month-out-of-the-year job now.
Q. Last year you changed a lot of things. You're working with the team in a different way, getting along better. Do you feel like you're a different person now than you were before? Do you think that has changed you?
TONY STEWART: Didn't we talk about that all year last year?
Q. Yeah, but we're going into another year.
TONY STEWART: You think as soon as the calendar year changed, all of a sudden the moon and the stars were going to go a different direction?
TONY STEWART: Okay, there's your answer.
Q. What are the challenges to a driver at this level, with all the impossible obligations you have, but also the potential opportunities with the personal appearances? Seems likes it would be easy for a driver to become more of a celebrity and lose touch with being a driver, so many things out there grabbing at you.
TONY STEWART: That's why I go run Fort Wayne in a midget, that's why I still run Chili Bowl, and 24-Hour races here. You got to do things like that to keep yourself in that frame of mind. It's getting easier and easier to get consumed by all that. I mean, the percentage of driving the car, that part of the job, is getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller every year.
You know, it's like I said, I've done more work -- the amount of driving that I'll do during Speed Week will be less time I spent doing media alone this year up to this point. That answers it right there almost.
Q. You talk about sprint cars. Are you getting where you can enjoy this more now, the NASCAR racing?
TONY STEWART: Yeah. I think so. I mean, we had fun last year. You know, it's getting busier and busier each year. If we were able to have that much fun last year, I don't see any reason why you can't continue to keep having fun with it.
You get creative and you find ways of reminding yourself why you're here, what brought you here in the first place. Yeah, I think you can make it to where you can have more fun with it.
Q. Do you enjoy working with young drivers?
TONY STEWART: Oh, geez. I'm working with enough kids to make me feel like I'm a senior citizen at this point. You know, we got kids in motorcross. We got kids in go-karts, quarter midgets, all the way through the young guys that drive for my USAC teams, so on and so forth.
Yeah, I mean, at 34, I almost feel like a senior citizen on some days when I'm talking to these eight-year-old kids that still don't even like girls yet. I tell them, that's the best advice I give them, is to stay away from the girls, you're better off hanging around with the race cars instead.
Q. Any reservations about having two rookies in Cup this year at teammates?
TONY STEWART: No, there are reasons they got to this level. There are definitely no reservations. I know JJ really well because he won a championship for me in USAC in the sprint car series. Obviously, obviously Denny did a great job for me last year. It's fun, because everybody can see our personalities are a lot alike. I'm excited about it. There's still the side of me that's still sad that Bobby is not with us this year. But, you know, at the same time it's just another chapter in the book now. It's interesting to see how it's going to unfold now.
Q. In light of Earnhardt's crash here, how confident are you with the safety improvements?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I mean, it just keeps getting better and better. I mean, every year it keeps getting better and better. You know, every year when you know it's getting better and better, obviously the confidence goes along with it, makes you feel better in the car.
Q. Does Earnhardt's crash seem like a long time ago?
TONY STEWART: There's days when it seems like it was yesterday, and there's days that it seems like it was a million years ago, like you said. Just kind of depends on what the scenario is around it that reminds you of it.
Kind of interested to see what the stuff on Speed is going to be this year about the tribute stuff, see what they show and everything. I'm kind of interested, like everybody else, to see what they do.
Q. Do the drivers miss him?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, we miss him every day. There is not a weekend that goes by that we don't think about something that happened in the two years that I got to know him. But, you know, there's Scott who I lost as an IndyCar teammate, there's guys that were in other series that I miss that passed away like Kenny Irwin who I raced with a ton. I miss Kenny more than I miss anybody in that group so far.
There are all kinds of guys that you race with that you miss, you know, and wish they could be here in this time and they're not.
Q. Is there more aggressive driving, with all the safety stuff that's come about? Is there more aggressive driving than when he was still here?
TONY STEWART: There's not more than there was when he was still here. I mean, if you go out and tear your car up, you still can't win the race. So, you know, the series is still the same. You got to take care of your equipment to get there at the end.
That side of it really hasn't changed, I don't believe.
Q. On the importance of a good driver/crew chief relationship
TONY STEWART: It's very important. I mean, that's where, you know, there's some races that I've said, hey, this is what I want. He's trusted my decision. There's days that, you know, I know that he knows the scenarios of what everybody else is doing and I trust his decision.
That's a huge, huge factor at this level. Now with everything being so technical and track position being important, that relationship you have with your crew chief, knowing who to trust, when he can trust me, when I say, Hey, this is what I want, I know this is the right thing to do, you know, when he's on top of the box, analyzing everything, thinking this is not the right thing to do, I think I got a better idea, that trust with each other is very huge at this level now.
Q. Have you made any teammate changes on your team this year?
TONY STEWART: I think we've hired a new jackman, which I don't even know who it is yet, to be honest. Zippy would be the guy to ask that. I'm not sure exactly who all has changed. We had a front tire changer. Joe had shoulder surgery over the winter. I don't know if he's a hundred percent ready to go yet or not. You know, I guess I'll know here by Saturday. When do we run this year, Saturday or Sunday night?
TONY STEWART: Saturday night. I guess Saturday night I'll know when I pull in the pits, see who jumps over the wall, see who is there or not.
Q. Greg Biffle said during the media tour qualifying at Daytona is the most boring thing we do as race drivers. He said (inaudible) cell phone for 40 minutes before he goes out. Do you view qualifying as boring?
TONY STEWART: No, testing is boring -- the most boring thing we do as a driver at Daytona. Yeah, I mean, we spend -- it's kind of funny because we spend two hours a weekend worrying about qualifying and we spend two 45-minute sessions working on race stuff, we spend two laps in the qualifying, we spend three and a half hours in the race. I think we spend way too much time and effort for two laps of qualifying for sure.
Q. What do you do here sitting on pit road waiting to go out to qualify? Talk on the cell phone?
TONY STEWART: I haven't figured out how to get a cell phone inside my helmet yet.
Q. He said he keeps his helmet off.
TONY STEWART: The bad thing is NASCAR makes you put your helmet on before you go on pit lane so we can't do that any more. I normally am looking through the net to see -- hopefully it's a hot day and there are girls in tank tops out there. You guys know me. You ask me an honest question, I'm giving you an honest answer. I'm a single guy, I'm looking for hot chicks on pit lane. That's all I'm doing. If I can't see them, normally there's a crew guy saying, you need to look at 11:00 to your left, check it out.
Q. Far more interesting than talking on your cell phone.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, who would you talk to? I don't even like cell phones. I'm not the best at talking on cell phones anyway. It's not a national pastime of mine like it is most people.
Q. What do you think about the morning of the race?
TONY STEWART: Normally you're thinking about what you want to have for lunch, who you're going to go hang out with that night, and where you're going to go.
Q. What do you think about Rusty Wallace becoming an NASCAR analyst on TV?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. It's hard to say. You know, not taking a jab at Darrel Waltrip but look at how brave he got for a period of time when he turned into a TV announcer. He thought he was Superman and forget a lot of the things he was bashing people for on the racetrack was things he was doing on the racetrack.
I'm sure that Rusty will go through a period of that, too, where it's fun and you get consumed by it. But, you know, Darrel learned about it, got back to reality, I'm sure it will happen with Rusty, too. Rusty will do a good job. Rusty has a good personality, like Darrel does. Rusty is smart like Darrel was. They came from the right era where they were hands-on with the race car. They're probably the right guys to do that job, in my opinion.
Q. What's your opinion of restrictor plate racing? How do you feel like you evolved as a driver over the years?
TONY STEWART: Still a checkers player.
Q. You won, so.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, but it doesn't mean that you got that confidence every week that you can go out and win every week here. It's a chess match and I'm a checkers player. Hopefully I make the right move at the right time.
Q. What role does skill play?
TONY STEWART: The bad thing, I mean, it's 50% what you do and the other 50% is what everybody else does when you do that. That's the only disappointing thing about restrictor plate racing. It's nerve-wracking to run in a big pack like that. The disappointing side of it is it's not about who's got the skill, it's about who moves and me goes with them at the right time. This guy goes with this teammate. If you don't have a teammate that's around you, the odds are stacked against you. It gets to be where that's the only side of it that makes restrictor plate racing not fun because it's not what you do as an individual, it's what you and your teammates can do now.
You can't pry Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon away from each other during a restrictor plate race. That's to their credit. I mean, they're smart, they know that's the way to do it. They've been really successful doing that. You just got to try to get yourselves in that situation and try to use that team play to your advantage.
The rest of my day is going to suck. This is what I was looking forward to because this is where you have the most fun because everything else sucks. You can put that on the record, too.