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Hauler Chat with Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS California Speedway February 25, 2006 HAULER CHAT WITH TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS: "I'm really cool, calm and collected. You're going to have to work real hard...

Hauler Chat with Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS
California Speedway
February 25, 2006


"I'm really cool, calm and collected. You're going to have to work real hard to tick me off today.

"If you (the media) want to talk about California, we have all the time in the world to talk to you. If you want to talk about last week (Daytona), you can turn around and go somewhere else because I've learned my lesson about talking."

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK ON DOWNFORCE TRACKS? "This is kind of like the first race. We can look at it as the normal schedule, I guess. I like it. I'm enjoying it. I think they made a good call on the schedule."

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO WIN THIS RACE? "The biggest thing is handling. This is a big handling track. Even though it's a two-mile track and horsepower is a big issue, if you can't get it through the corners and can't carry that momentum off, it doesn't matter how much horsepower you have, you're not going to make it up. So handling is the biggest key."

BECAUSE OF THE EMOTIONS SURROUNDING DAYTONA, IS IT SORT OF SEPARATE FROM THE START OF THE SEASON? "Yeah, you've got to remember that our first race of the year is our biggest race of the year. We're through our biggest race now, so everybody is back to the grind. Everybody is back in a normal mode."


IS THIS BACK TO REAL RACING? "This is more like what we race every week versus restrictor plate tracks. This is a package that we not only run on a two-mile track, but we use it a lot on the l.5-mile tracks too. So these are the tracks coming up that we really want to work hard a try to get our cars going good."

DAYTONA WAS A GOOD POINTS DAY FOR YOU. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET OFF TO A GOOD START IN THE SEASON? DOES IT CHANGE ANYTHING? "No, not really from the Chase standpoint -- especially with the way last year shaped up with the Hendrick and Roush teams being so dominant at the early part of the season.

These early races like this teach you very quickly where your program is compared to the competition. If your cars are good, you'll run well here and Vegas and stuff. So if you can get off to a good start here, it's showing that your program is really where it needs to be to start the season off."

SO EVEN IF SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENS LIKE A FLAT TIRE AND YOU FINISH BAD, AS LONG AS YOUR CAR IS RUNNING GOOD, YOU DON'T PANIC "It's not so much that you worry about points as you worry about performance. We're looking at the sheet and our times are really good after three or four laps. It's hard to make me mad today because our cars are driving really good. In all honesty, last week was last week, but as far as the big picture of the season, this week is the week I was most anxious to get to to see where we stack up against the Hendrick and Roush teams this year. Are we where we need to be? Are we competitive right off the bat? Last year when we were here, Zippy and I wanted to hang each other we were so bad out there. We were scratching our heads wondering what to do to make it drive good, and their cars were really good. We feel like we're starting the year off a lot better. Now tomorrow may be a different situation, but if it drives anywhere reasonable like it did today, I'm going to be real excited about the year."

IS DAYTONA IT'S OWN ANIMAL? "You've got to remember that we were there 10 days. We don't get a break. Now we're back to our regular three-day schedule as far as being at one track for three days. It's more the normal routine that you're used to being in instead of that one-time-a-year stretch like that."

BECAUSE EVERYBODY WANTS TO DO SO WELL IN THE EARLY GOING OF THE YEAR, DOES THAT ADD TO THE INTENSITY OF IT ALL? "Oh yeah. With as good as the Hendrick and Roush teams were last year, I think everybody realizes that this is an important week. Everybody wants to know where they stack up and shake up right now. So this is a huge week to find out where your program is and as far as where you want to be and where you need to be."

WOULD YOU GO TO A DRIVER AND TELL HIM WHERE HE DID IT WRONG? "Oh, yeah. Sure. That's what helped me a lot, too. I had Bobby Labonte as an excellent mentor and Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin who are good friends, to talk to. It's kind of the trickle down effect.

Ten years from now I'll be doing the same thing with young guys and those guys will be helping the guys who come behind them. Everybody will find his place. It's not an easy transition to come to this series. I could hole a press conference in the Busch garage right now and maybe five of you would show up for what I was talking about on the Busch side. And look how many of you are here now (approx 25). So even though it's one small step in the food change as far as racing is concerned, it's a huge lifestyle change. Everybody helps everybody. It may take a little while for everybody to find their niche, but everybody ends up finding their niche."


HOW DID THAT GO? "Real good."

AND HE SAYS HE NEEDS THAT KIND OF HELP "It's like I told him. I said I've never had a driver in this garage when I've asked them for some time to bend their ear for 10 minutes and asked some questions, I've never had a driver ever say no, I don't have time for that. All the drivers and all the crew members and teams have always taken the team."

YOU'VE BEEN KNOWN TO MAKE TIME FOR YOUNG DRIVERS IF THEY COME TO YOU FOR HELP "Yeah, because some of them are driving my cars so I like spending that time with them to help them from destroying my race cars."



WERE THERE APOLOGIES EXCHANGED? "What we talk about is between Matt and me."

HAVE DRIVERS STOPPED TALKING TO EACH OTHER AS MUCH AS THEY USED TO BECAUSE SOMETIMES IT TURNS INTO A CONFRONTATION, WHICH IS SOMETHING NASCAR TRIES TO DISCOURAGE? "Well not only that, but just like last week if was very unfair, in my opinion, for Dale Jarrett and Jeff Green to have to go through what they went through in the bus lot. That's our space. That's not the media's space. It was wrong, in my opinion, that someone had a camera filming that. That was between Jeff Green and Dale Jarrett. It had nothing to do with the media and the media shouldn't have even been involved in it. And the media shouldn't have even had a camera in the bus lot after it was over. That's our private space."

WOULD YOU SAY THAT DEI HAS LOST A LITTLE BIT OF AN EDGE IN PLATE RACES? "We just got in the right places at the right times last week."

DO YOU LIKE HAVING A WEEK OFF NEXT WEEK -- SO EARLY IN THE SEASON? "No, not really. I wish we could find a way of spreading the four weekends we have off spread out a little bit more even. On a 36-week schedule when you have 20 straight races and four weekends off in 16 weeks, it doesn't make a lot of sense. It's obvious why we take Mother's Day off and Easter weekend off. Some of them make sense, but it would be nice to take next weekend's weekend off and save that for somewhere in that stretch before the Chase starts and take a week off maybe before that last 10-week start.

WHEN YOU'VE HAD AN ISSUE WITH ANOTHER DRIVER, IS IT GOOD TO TALK DURING THE WEEK TO CLEAR THE AIR? "It depends on the drivers. If you care about what the other driver thinks, absolutely. You definitely feel like it's worthwhile to talk about it. If you don't care about what the other driver thinks, they don't take the effort. That's the think I'm trying to get across here. Everybody works with each other 38 races total. You don't want to have to go to the next week worrying about having a grudge with somebody and having to keep something going on. That's why you talk about it and get it out in the open and everyone explains their side about it. There are a lot of those conversations where you leave and you still don't agree with each other says, but at least you understand where each other stood and why things happen and what the mindset was behind it. Normally there is a way to find a resolution as far as how to deal with it in the future. LOOKING AHEAD, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FOR LAS VEGAS? "I hope we run as well as we're doing here. But I don't think we tested as well as we needed to. But a test is a test. You test to learn things. You're not there to try to go fast."

HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH YOUR CAR FOR THIS WEEKEND? "I'm excited about it. Just listening to Zippy there -- he's a better gauge than the stopwatch is. And if you ask him, he's pretty excited about his car right now too."

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Jeff Green , Mark Martin