GM Racing Notes & Quotes -- NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference Transcripts; July 15, 2003 NOTE: Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, Tide Pontiac driver Ricky Craven and PPI Motorsports team owner Cal Wells were the featured guests...
GM Racing Notes & Quotes -- NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference Transcripts; July 15, 2003
NOTE: Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, Tide Pontiac driver Ricky Craven and PPI Motorsports team owner Cal Wells were the featured guests on Tuesday's Winston teleconference.
TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
NOTE: Stewart finished 2nd July 13 at Chicagoland Speedway, his fourth top-10 finish in the last six races. He rose to eighth in the Winston Cup point standings, his first time back in the top 10 since April. At New Hampshire International Speedway, site of this weekend's New England 300, Stewart has a victory, five top-five and six top-10 finishes.
TO BORROW A PHRASE FROM YOU, YOUR MOMENTUM HAS BEEN 'BAD-FAST' LATELY. WHY?
"It seems like historically, this is the time of the season where we really get going. Normally it's around the beginning of June when we really get going. This season it's taken a little longer, it seems like. I don't know why that is. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a lot of the race tracks this time of the year get really hot. That's fine, but it's just a lot harder to drive on a slippery race track."
YOU HAD A LITTLE PRIVATE PREVIEW OF HOMESTEAD THE OTHER NIGHT?
"I just pulled up to the gate and told the security guard who I was. It was about 11:30 p.m., and we had been scuba-diving in Key Largo and when you scuba-dive, you have to wait 12 hours before you are allowed to fly. We weren't going to be able to fly until about midnight anyway, so we decided to drive up and take a look at the race track. I told the security guard who I was and he called one of the people from the race track and they let me in. You really couldn't see it very well at night, but they have worked very, very hard on it. It's kind of hard to tell at night through the headlights of a rental car. It looks like it's had a lot of work done in a very short time."
THERE'S A LOT OF TALK RIGHT NOW ABOUT YOUR CONTRACT, WHETHER YOU'RE GOING TO RE-SIGN WITH JOE GIBBS RACING OR SIGN WITH SOMEONE ELSE. IS THIS SOMETHING THAT WE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT AND HOW SOON WILL THIS DECISION BE MADE?
"I don't know. I've been pretty much gone the last two weeks. Last weekend was pretty much the first I heard about it. I guess somebody said something and wrote something about it because it's a boring time. My contract with Joe Gibbs is up at the end of next year, and he just re-signed Zippy and Bobby and I'm sure he's going to talk with me about it soon."
IN YOUR RESPONSE TO THE WHOLE ROBBY GORDON INCIDENT ON SUNDAY, YOU BASICALLY SAID THAT WE WERE GOING TO HAVE TO WORK A LOT HARDER THAN THAT TO BAIT YOU ON TOPICS LIKE THAT. WHAT DID IT TAKE YOU TO GET TO THAT POINT?
"To be perfectly, 100-percent honest, you get burned by the media enough, you learn to let that stuff roll right off your shoulders. That's not against the media. Nine out of 10 people will be fair to you, and one bad egg spoils the basket."
THE TRACK AT CHICAGOLAND WIDENED OUT QUITE A BIT. AS YOU GET CLOSER TO KANSAS CITY, DO YOU EXPECT THAT TO HAPPEN AS WELL?
"I hope so. I was pretty excited about the way that the track shook out at Chicago. I'm very hopeful that the same thing happens at Kansas. At the same time, I'll stick to my guns and say that I wish that the people who designed both Kansas and Chicago had been a little more creative about the design of both tracks. We had a great race at Chicago and I hope we can have the same kind of race at Kansas. It sort of eases the frustration of racing on a cookie-cutter track."
WITH TOYOTA COMING INTO THE TRCUK SERIES NEXT YEAR, EVEN THOUGH THEIR TRUCKS ARE MADE IN THE U.S., HOW DO YOU THINK NASCAR FANS ARE GOING TO REACT TO HAVING A JAPANESE MANUFACTURER IN THE SERIES?
"I have no idea. To be honest with you, I haven't thought about it. Being involved with as many race teams as I am, I really haven't thought about it."
HAVE OTHER TEAMS BEEN CONTACTING YOU, OR IS EVERYONE GETTING OUT AHEAD OF THEMSELVES AND STOKING UP SOMETHING BECAUSE WE'RE IN THE BORING TIME?
"I think it's what you said right there. Like I said, I've been gone for more than two weeks. My phone number hasn't changed, but I haven't gotten any messages."
SLUGGER LABBE SAID THAT IF ALL THE DRIVERS DON'T GET TOGETHER ON THE GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT, NASCAR WOULD STEP IN AND MAKE A RULE AND IT WOULDN'T BE PRETTY. DO YOU THINK YOU ALL ARE GOING TO GET TOGETHER ON IT?
"I don't know. When I joined the series in 1999, I had run the Busch Series for a couple of seasons and learned from Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte and others what the gentlemen's agreement was all about. Most drivers learn it the hard way. New drivers would come into the series and they wouldn't be in the best equipment right off the bat. You kind of had to prove yourself and work your way up to the Winston Cup series. You'd find yourself getting a lap down, and I would be begging people to give me a lap back. In this day and age, there are a lot of new drivers getting very, very good cars, and I was one of them. I was fortunate enough to get into a good car right away. But what I learned in the Busch Series as far as give and take, it can help guys. You may cut a tire down, something that's not your fault or your team's fault, it's just piece of debris, but you cut a tire down and have to pit. You have a car that deserves to be on the lead lap and guys have been pretty good about letting you have your lap back. If a guy's car isn't fast enough to stay on the lead lap, he'll go down a lap again. Everybody's been pretty good about that, but you have new guys coming into the series who either have not learned that or just completely disregard it. It's hard to race like that when we're all competitive as we are. Half the group is racing one way, under a certain etiquette, and the other half is racing on a separate etiquette. It just kind of makes it hard to understand what we're supposed to do and what we're not supposed to do. We don't want NASCAR to have to get involved in it, but there are too many guys out there right now, a small group, that is making this a very big problem right now. If getting Mike [Helton] involved in it is what it will take to get everything back to normal, then I guess I'm not even opposed to it. I don't care what we do, either give laps back or don't give laps back, just make it the same for everybody. We gave Matt Kenseth three laps back at Richmond last year and he won the race. He deserved to win the race because he had the fastest car. I'd rather race for my wins than have to take advantage of it."
YOU TESTED AT NEW HAMPSHIRE ON THE NEW PAVEMENT, BUT YOU WERE THE ONLY DRIVER WHO DIDN'T MEET WITH THE MEDIA WHILE YOU WERE HERE. IS IT PART OF YOUR GENERAL DISTRUST OF THE MEDIA. ALSO, HOW DID THE TEST GO? IS NHIS A TRACK YOU LIKE?
"As far as me being the only driver who didn't meet with the media, we only have two days there. It's not like a typical Winston Cup weekend where we have two hours of practice on Friday before qualifying, then on Saturday we have two 45-minute sessions and we're done for the day. On Sunday, all we have is the race. When we go there to test, the fact is we only have five tests a year, we try to utilize that time as best as possible with the race team. We get to the track at 8 or 9 in the morning and we run until noon. The only break I have for the day is that lunch hour. That's time to sit and eat and at the same time talk about what our plan is for the afternoon. It's not distrust of the media by any means. A lot of times that's the only part of that day where I get a break. I go back to work at 1 p.m. and go until 5 or 6. They're very long and hectic days, and I've always said that tests are not media days, they're practice days. That's why we're doing the teleconference today. It's a more appropriate time to meet with the media than it is when we're working on the race car. As far as the track, it will be interesting to see what happens. If we can get a lot of rubber down on the track, I think it will be a very racy race. It's hard to say with just three Winston Cup guys and Busch guy at the test when we were up there. Historically, it's always been a track that I've always enjoyed going to. I really like the area up there. I'm kind of looking forward to going there. At the same time, I'm scratching my head wondering about how the race is going to be."