Daytona Shootout: Top three transcript, part 1

Budweiser Shootout Press Conference Transcripts Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Denny Hamlin TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO HOW WAS YOUR RUN TODAY: "It was pretty good for the most part. We stayed up toward the ...

Budweiser Shootout Press Conference Transcripts
Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Denny Hamlin


HOW WAS YOUR RUN TODAY: "It was pretty good for the most part. We stayed up toward the front all day. We finally go with our teammate (Hamlin) and once we got there we just tried to keep the two of us together and try to do everything we could to stay up front."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BUMP DRAFTING? IT LOOKED OUT OF CONTROL: "It is out of control. I was watching TV before we came down here and they were talking about the tribute to Dale Earnhardt. Five years from now we're probably going to have to do another tribute to another driver because we're going to kill somebody from Wednesday to Sunday. It could be me or Dale Jr. or anybody out there. This isn't a new topic. It was brought up last year and guys had the right idea. I don't think softening the guys rear bumper in front of you is the answer. I think it's softening the front bumper because it's the guys that are doing the hitting. Trust me, I did my share of bump drafting too. The problem is that it's not that guys are trying to get people out of control; it's just a product of the environment that we're in. To get through a line and to blow through a line, you have to get that guy and stay on his bumper and blow him through that hole. And guys are doing it in the middle of the corner, coming off the corner, and going into the corner. That's how I lost second. I got hit so hard by Ryan (Newman). And Ryan's not trying to move me up out of the way. He's just trying to push us along and keep the line moving. But we're going to hurt somebody really bad next Sunday if we don't find some way of calming this down soon."

WERE YOU TRYING TO PASS DENNY HAMLIN OR PROTECT HIS POSITION OR BASICALLY TRYING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE AS YOU DESCRIBED JUST NOW? "I was trying to safe my life. And then when I did get a chance to actually take a breath, I was trying to just take care of both of our cars. That was the first time in a long time that I can remember two Joe Gibbs Racing cars being together that we could actually work together. We had cars that were very even and it's been a long time since Bobby (Labonte) and I had the opportunity to do that. Denny and I drafted the other night in practice and we were very good up front. So once we got in that position, he was running a very smooth line. I'm very proud of what he did. I did not see any rookie mistakes in him at all during the times I was around him. But at that point in time, we just tried to keep ourselves one and two."

WHY HAS DENNY HAMLIN TAKEN TO THIS SO QUICKLY? "Man, I'm just the driver. I don't know. He's a talented kid. You don't win races and poles if you're not talented. Obviously the infrastructure was there all the time or it's coming together. Denny was the right mix and the right piece to finish the puzzle. It was the same thing with Greg and me. It gives me a lot to look forward to."

THIS IS THE FIRST COMPETITION OF 2006. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN LEARN FROM TODAY? "Yeah, I learned to look at my life insurance policy today or on Monday as soon as I can get the office open."

DENNY WENT INTO THIS RACE WITH THE INTENTION OF MAKING SOME FRIENDS TO WORK WITH HIM NEXT SUNDAY. DID HE ACCOMPLISH THAT? "I hope so. I can't speak for everyone else, but I thought he ran a very solid race. I thought he showed patience. If he didn't earn their respect in that race, I don't know what's going to earn it. I thought they did everything right. He already had my respect coming into this race as a teammate, but he just furthered it even more."

DO THE OFFICIALS NEED TO GET OUT THE BLACK FLAT TO TRY AND CONTROL THE BUMP DRAFTING? "No, it's not the drivers that are the problem. It's the fact that we have quarter-inch steel plates in the front of our cars and reinforced rear bumpers. That's the problem. If my idea is worth anything, and I've been racing for 27 years, but just leave the rear bumpers alone and make the front bumpers soft, where if you run into the back of the guy, you're going to hurt your car. It's going to hurt the nose and take the aero away from it. If we don't, we're going to hurt somebody. There were plenty of opportunities for it tonight. Luckily, thank God, nothing happened and nobody got hurt. But there were plenty of opportunities for something big to happen."

ARE YOU REALLY SERIOUS ABOUT TRYING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE? "Well I'll tell you what, big boy, Wednesday you climb in the car with me for practice and you find out for yourself. Better yet, you can drive the car if you like because I'll be more than happy to take Wednesday off if that's what I've got to go through again on Wednesday. I'm not real anxious to get back in the car for practice if that's how it's going to be."

CAN WE GET NASCAR TO CHANGE THE RULES BEFORE THE DAYTONA 500? "NASCAR is NASCAR. You've got to ask them. They've changed rules mid-stream before. If it's in the safety of competition. The big push is safety. This is not a performance issue. It's not anything to help one make over another. This is hey, we've got to do this before we hurt the guys that are going out there trying to put on a good show for the race fans out there. Trust me, I'm elated with third tonight. This isn't because we didn't win the race or run second or anything like that. It's just to walk out of the car at the end of this. There were three times when I thought I'd totally lost the car. It is absolutely insane. There is no reason they can't do anything now. It's a matter of the time it would take the crews to comply with it. Is there enough time for that? Even if it doesn't happen this week, as long as we can get through this 500 and not have any big issues, there is plenty of time to do something before Talladega. I'd love to see them do something before next weekend. Hopefully they'll do something before Talladega. It's not because you want to do it, it's because that's what you have to do. That's the package we all have. To try to put yourself in position to win the race, you've got to do just like everybody else. I hit Jimmie Johnson so hard, and then a split second later, Mark Martin hit me trying to push us all through. It should have knocked a filling loose out of my teeth. My head hit the headrest. I've never hit the headrest in a stock car unless I've backed it into the fence, that hard. It's not a good deal. Trust me. I'll bet it looks great and fun up there, but it is absolutely out of control."

SHOULD THIS BE ADDRESSED AMONG THE DRIVERS WHEN YOU MEET IN THE MEETING BEFORE THE RACE? "We can sit and talk about it, but we're going to do what we've got to do to win the race. We can say we're going to slow down and not do this, but I guarantee by lap 2 somebody is pushing somebody. It needs to come from NASCAR. We're in control of the cars, obviously, but our job as drivers is to do what we can do to win the race. So this is an issue that NASCAR needs to address. They make the rules. They control the guidelines on how the cars are built. They're a smart enough organization. I guarantee you this is not the first time this topic has been brought up to them and I'm sure it won't be the last. "

HAVE YOU COACHED DENNY HAMLIN AND THE REST OF THE TEAM? "He had a great car. When we got behind him there was absolutely nothing we could do with him when he got in the lead. But still, the best car doesn't win the race if the guy behind the steering wheel doesn't do a good job. He's had that talent all along. He drove a smart race and did an awesome job. I thought he did it all right."

Finished 2nd:

"We had a pretty good car. We started in the back and it was a little difficult to pass. We really couldn't find a way at all to get up toward the front. We got in that mess on the back straightaway. Somebody got run into and spun around. We barely made it through there. During the break, we straightened up the car as best as we could. The car was pretty fast after that, still. With the field thinned out a little bit, we were able to restart the second half in 12th. We got a good start and got up to about 7th and put ourselves in position to see the lead and try to work our way toward it. Those last laps were real hairy and exciting for me. That's about as wild as we can possibly be. If you didn't that that was wild enough, I don't know what we need to do. But it was a lot of fun racing with Tony side-by-side and beating and banging. He's a real safe driver. We always help each other and stuff in the 500's and Talladega races if we can. We were just all-out racing each other and that was fun to be able to do that for a change. At one point I almost totally forgot there was somebody out in front of us. I was real glad to get second. Denny had an awesome car. The Joe Gibbs operation has done a great job of improving Tony over last year and their other cars as well. Denny used his head. I'm sure he had a lot of coaching along the way and had a lot of help from Tony and myself and a lot of other people. When you're in that catbird seat like he was, it's definitely a lot easier task to win the race from that position when the guys are beating and racing real hard like they were from second on back. He just did a nice job of not making any mistakes and not really getting too wound up when Johnson got on the outside of me one time. That was a real character move on Denny's part to just calm down and stay in position to wait for a push behind him and that's what he did. That's the kind of things you've got to do. But I'm proud of my team. They worked real hard to give me a good car. It's the back-up car to the 500 and it's a real good piece as well. It's brand new. The first laps it saw was when we brought it here for Bud Shootout practice. It hadn't been tested or anything. I'm about as proud as I can be for not winning the race."

TONY STEWART SAID WE WERE PROBABLY GOING TO KILL SOMEBODY OUT THERE. ALSO IT SEEMED LIKE OLD TIMES WITH MICHAEL WALTRIP OUT THERE. "Yeah, Michael gave me some help at times. We talked about it prior to the race. He had a great car in practice and obviously he expects me to run well. Aside from being on different teams, we are still great friends and want to work with each other if the opportunity arises. And it did on occasion. He's got to do what he's got to do for his own team. He did some moves that countered some of mine. It was a lot of fun racing with him. Again, he doesn't really put me in any compromising position. And that's what you like to race against. You like to race against people who know what not to do and what to do when you're racing close.

"If I had my way, we wouldn't be running this package and we wouldn't be running like this, but I don't have my way and it's not my decision. I get paid a lot of money to get in that car. It's not a 500-mile race. That'll totally have a different outlook and perspective from a driver's standpoint and you won't see that type of action from the entire field. You'll see it from some guys because that's just their mentality throughout. But that's just only a select few. When you have a 70-lap race, it's a sprint. Guys are going to race like that. I'm going to race like that. It's the way you have to approach it. If you want a shot at victory, you can't afford to give up spots easily or anything like that. You've got to race every lap as hard as you can go. Tony's got a point. It was dangerous in a couple of spots. It's hard to explain because you have to get real technical about it and most of you haven't drove race cars.

"But when I'm on the race track and I'm on the bottom and there are guys on the outside of me, I don't run as fast as I would by myself. Me and the car on the outside of me are fighting for the same air. When you get two cars together, it raises the ceiling of the air going over them. That slows them down. I've got three guys, two car-lengths apiece behind me. They all of a sudden can run up on me real easily because I'm choking my car for air. So if this guy gets behind me and he's pushing through the corner. The guy catches him and pushes him and so on. I'm starting to get turned sideways. The guy behind me starts lifting, but the other two don't know that's going on and they're still driving through the corner and we're all going through there crashing. It happened a lot of times tonight. I don't know how you fix it. I don't think you'll see it a lot except for in the Shootout. You'll have a couple of guys that don't understand what's happening and they don't know any better and they'll just drive right through it. For the most part, the drivers won't race that hard and risk crashing every lap. But the Shootout you can. Those cars are pretty safe. I don't want to try them out. You've got a lot of young guys in there that haven't been in the sport that long and they're climbing in these cars with all this safety equipment and they don't remember when they didn't have headrests and things like that. So to them, there's no way you could ever get hurt. That's what I thought when I first got in a race car was how could you get hurt? It has a little bit to do with the package. It has a lot to do with drivers driving like that and we're all guilty. It will not be like that in the 500. Everybody will be a lot more calm."

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing