GREG ZIPADELLI , CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS Dover, DE: Greg Zipadelli, crew chief, spoke to the media at Dover International Speedway regarding Ricky Rudd practicing; qualifying and standing by to relieve defending NASCAR...
GREG ZIPADELLI , CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS
Dover, DE: Greg Zipadelli, crew chief, spoke to the media at Dover International Speedway regarding Ricky Rudd practicing; qualifying and standing by to relieve defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS. Stewart sustained an injury to his scapula in two accidents at Charlotte, first in the NASCAR Busch Series race then again in the Coca Cola 600.
Q: On the first practice. What did you learn that will help you on Sunday if you do have to do the driver change?
GZ: "Right now we're anticipating doing the driver change during the first caution, hopefully pretty early. We want to get Tony (Stewart) out of there as soon as we can and let him rest as much as we can. From what I understand and what we've been told is the less he does right now the sooner and faster he's going to heal. Next week is a different story. You've got long straightaways and place to rest. It's not as demanding on you physically so I think next will be a completely different situation. We'll see how he is in practice and things like that. This week it's getting Ricky (Rudd) as comfortable in the car as we can, figure out how to get Tony out without hurting him and get Ricky in as quick as we can. We basically spent the first practice in race trim. Ricky did a good job. We we up kind of where we needed to be. I'm fairly happy with the car. We made one qualifying run there at the end. Tony has to go to the rear so it's not that important for us right now where we're at."
Q: How is Tony feeling? What do you think will be the most difficult part of pulling off the driver change?
GZ: "I think the most difficult part is getting him out of the car. I think he's sore but like any us would be I think he's disappointed. He loves this place. He's had good success here. He didn't say a whole about how he was today. You know it has bother him. It'd bother anybody. It bothers me to have to work with somebody different after eight years. We couldn't have had a better plan come together with Rick being able to do it, fitting in the car, not having to make any adjustments - the pedals, steering wheel - it was actually quite surprising in how easy some of that went. Being gently in getting Tony out of there and doing it as quickly as we can will be our biggest challenge."
Q: Why will Ricky qualify the car instead of Tony?
GZ: "Because we don't want Tony in there. There's no need for Tony to have to get in it and qualify it today. He can start the race without qualifying. He's going to make a couple of laps in practice tomorrow just to make sure that he is comfortable and that he can do it and he'll start the race. We're trying to get Ricky as comfortable (as we can) and spend as much time working together with Ricky this weekend as possible. That's what is important for hopefully a good finish on Sunday."
Q: Do you have any level of doubt in your mind that Tony might not want to get out and change his mind about what you have agreed to?
GZ: "I'm sure he's not going to want to get out but I think he knows as well as myself and everybody that the best thing for him is getting out. I know he's hurting and I think when he gets in that car he's going to hurt more than he does right now. The problem is he can take pain medication right now to help him. He can't do that and get in a race car. There's going to be no Dale Earnhardt at Watkins Glen if that's kind of what you're looking at. He knows right now the situation we're in. The best thing we can do is get Ricky Rudd in there whether we lose a lap or two getting him changed and getting all that situated. It's a long race and letting Ricky finish this race and I'm sure he'll do a good job at that. That's really what is most important right now for this team and to keep us where we need to be for the last 10."
@#Q: Has Tony been cooperative through the whole process since last Monday or has he been resistant to go this route?
GZ: "He's been a true team player. I'm not telling Tony he can't drive this car. He's going to make that decision. He knows how much he hurts. He knows what he can and what his limits are. The biggest thing right now is if you do hit or you do get in a wreck, it's pretty easy to get in someone else's stuff here, you're going to so fast. He has a greater chance of hurting himself more at a race track like this under the circumstances. We talked last Sunday night at about one o'clock. He got home. I was sitting in my living room by myself thinking about who we were going to put in and what we were going to do. We went through a few drivers. We both came up with Ricky Rudd. I called him on Monday on the way to the airport. We were going to Indy to do a tire test. We took J.J. Yeley in place of him to run some laps for us. I talked to Ricky Rudd Sunday night when I got to Indy. He said he was in and things went really smooth as far as that goes. Tony has been very cooperative and supportive. Like I said, him and I talked about it before anybody knew that I was going to call Ricky. It was both of our choices. The three or four people that we had, we felt like he would do us the best job."
Q: How did you arrive at this decision? What made you think of Ricky Rudd?
GZ: "I was sitting in my living room with no TV on drinking a beer wondering about what I was going to do next week. When I went down through the list of who was available, I wanted someone that I would be able to work with for two, three or four weeks if I needed to. I thought that was the most important thing, not changing drivers. That was going to give us our best chance of doing our best. We just thought of him. I don't know. I wasn't going through a book and just said all of the sudden Ricky is not doing anything. I've gotten to be fairly good friends with Ricky over the years talking to him a lot here and there. I just gave him a call. He seemed fairly excited about doing it so we just went from there."
Q: What is the medical view on how long you will need a relief driver and how long will it be before Tony can hang in there for a whole race?
GZ: "They're talking four to eight weeks before he heals, more than eight weeks before he's back to being 100 percent. I think with some of the race tracks coming up it wouldn't surprise me if Tony runs all next week at Pocono. If he feels that he can do it without hurting himself or prolonging the injury, then he can stay in but we're going to be prepared for the next three or four week through Sonoma to have Ricky with is. To me there's probably not a better guy that goes good at Dover, had success at Pocono, Michigan and Sears Point. If we do need to use him then we have a great fill-in."
Q: Is the driver change something you've practiced? How do you get Tony out of the car?
GZ: "We spent some time yesterday at the shop with Ricky getting him in and hooking him up. We concentrated more on that. We really practice that much with Tony. The worst thing we can do is get him in and out of the car more than he needs to. That's where he's going to get sore and put pressure on that area that is bothering. We'll probably do it tomorrow when he gets out at the end of the first practice. Our plan is to have Ricky run most of the first practice and at about 10 minutes left (we'll) get Tony in it and make sure he can go out and run a few laps and is comfortable and can run the speed he needs to. At the end of that practice we'll do a do a dry run of getting him out of there, see where we can grab him and how we can help him. It will go smooth. We got a couple guys - one that is going to go in through the right window, two guys that are going to be on the left to help him out. We feel like we have a good plan. The most important thing is we get him out without hurting him. We get Ricky in and we get everything buttoned and then he can go back out and race and be comfortable. If we loose a lap we've got all day to try to get it back. If we can do it early enough I feel like we'll be able to get it back with no problem."
Q: Why can't NASCAR change the rules so Ricky Rudd can start the race and not put Tony out there hurt and not lose points?
GZ: "Because that yellow rule book that I have says that that's what has to be done. If you want you can go over to the trailer. If you get that changed for me there will probably be a bonus for you. I was in there talking to (John) Darby this morning about it. In years past there was a couple of instances where Terry Labonte got our and got scored for the points. But the way the rules read right now, that's not the way that it is. Tony is going to go to the back and if he can't do it, we're not going to do it. He's not put anybody in harms way probably no more than you put everybody in harms way when you're on the road driving to and from the media center here. I think we'll be fine. The most important thing is they've been consistent and that's the way that it is. I guess it's fair. That's the way it's been for years. There's a lot things you can look at that they could change and make easier but it's Tony Stewart that's turning those points for the Chase. He needs to put in as much effort in as he can to assure himself that."
Q: Have you discovered anything that showed what happened and how to prevent something like this from happening again?
GZ: "I haven't looked at the Busch car. Honestly from what I see and from what I'm told, most of the injury was done Saturday and we finished it off on Sunday with the misfortune that we had. We got a seat from Hendricks earlier in the year. We've just not been able to get everything together but we are working on hopefully four to five weeks that we'll have a carbon seat and the latest and greatest. We'll just have to put a little bit more effort into that and get Tony down there a little bit more. Scheduling things like that have been tough. As soon as he is well enough, we're looking at five weeks or so and will go to Nashville with a new car with that seat in it and just run for a day and try to get him fitted and from that point on try to get it in our cars."
Q: What is your opinion on the pros of cons of Tony racing in the Busch Series? Will that change if he's in the Chase for the Championship?
GZ: "Last year he looked at the schedule. We talked about (Busch) races he was going to run. He got most of them done earlier in the season. This year he spread them out a little bit with about one a month with only about one in the last 10. Actually he may do one or two with me with our equipment, well we were planning on it but this may change. It's experience for him. I think it'd be better if he was in our cars and were able to share that information and have the same people working on it. I don't believe there is anything wrong Kevin and DeLana's (Harvick) equipment of their car. It was just the circumstances he was put in. They have very similar seats. I think what we learned is nobody is invincible. With those seats, which are very safe, there are certain things that can happen. The injury that Tony has is one of the biggest things from using an aluminum seat and the way we had our rib cage and shoulders. We're going to get away from that. We saw how easy it happened. We're going to do our best to get away from that and hopefully eliminate that in the future."