DETROIT, Mich. (May 11, 2000) - When Joe Gibbs added the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix to his stable prior to the 1999 season he obviously went with a theme. He went looking for a pair of young, talented and fiery competitors to headline...
DETROIT, Mich. (May 11, 2000) - When Joe Gibbs added the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix to his stable prior to the 1999 season he obviously went with a theme. He went looking for a pair of young, talented and fiery competitors to headline the team as driver and crew chief, and that's what he got. Driver Tony Stewart took the NASCAR Winston Cup Series by storm last year with three victories and a fourth-place finish in the point standings while crew chief Greg Zipadelli engineered it all.
This year Zipadelli, along with Stewart, has dealt with the frustration of a challenging second season in the series, but has still maintained his focus on the long haul. Right now Zipadelli is preparing for back-to-back events at Lowe's Motor Speedway, as well as preparing to handle next season's expanded Winston Cup schedule.
THOUGHTS FROM GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX
Has he received any "good luck charms" from fans this year?:
"No. I don't know that I'm superstitious enough to believe in that. I haven't received anything from anybody. I think we just have to keep working like we have the last couple weeks. We've had good race cars. We just haven't been able to close the deals. I look back on our season so far with seven top 10s. We're farther ahead than we were last year, but we've got three DNFs. That's what is hurting us right now. We just need to get over that hump and make our own luck. We just need to go out and race hard next week at Charlotte."
On the struggles the team has experienced in qualifying this year:
"Honestly there are a few things that make up why we maybe struggled at some of these racetracks. One is they changed the tires. We don't have the experience as a team to adapt to some of these things as quickly as other. We haven't tested at a lot of those racetracks, but we felt like we would race good at those racetracks, so that is what we look at. Qualifying is only a part of it. If we can race good like we did at California - I mean we started 32nd and we were top five in 60 laps. I'm not sure it's worth wasting a test to go out there. So there are just a few things that add up. I'm sure down the road maybe we'll have problems, but we're going to work hard at our qualifying and put in a little bit more effort. But we don't want to lose track of it and get all wrapped up in qualifying when the race is what's important. That is what pays the money. That is what gives us our points. That's what the big picture is all about."
On how an expanding race schedule affects crew members:
"I don't know if it's getting out of control. It is from my point sitting here looking at a calendar, trying to fit those two races in next year, to fit testing in, to fit in time off for my guys. I think that's probably the biggest problem we 're facing right now. The drivers have an awful lot of appearances to do and crazy schedules. But they've got airplanes, they've got (motor) coaches, they're able to take their families to the racetrack. Now I know that is not like having weekends off. But I've got eight or nine guys that travel with me on Thursday to the racetrack that don't get to see their families until they get home Sunday night. That's the only part that bothers me. We're just going to try to adjust enough time for them to have a day or two off during the week so that they can balance their life. That's what it's going to come down to is being able to give your people the time that they need to balance their life and do the things that normal people do, whether it be just running errands and getting haircuts and things like that, or spending some quality time with your family. If we can get all that juggled out I think it's going to be great to venture off into different part of the country and have more opportunities to go out and try to win races."
Will teams have to hire more crew members to handle the schedule?:
"I think every time they add a race we're going to have to react to it. That means hiring more people, and expenses going up so that our people that travel can have time off. We still need to get the work done in the shop, so I think that is probably what is going to come. Maybe two or three years down the road you may see that the road guys just show up at the racetrack if they keep adding some race, and that's fine. It's expensive to run Winston Cup, but if that's what it takes then that is what we'll have to do to adjust to it."
On the challenge of working with Tony Stewart's emotions in an adverse situation:
"I enjoy challenges like that and that's a good one. But I've enjoyed it. He has helped me mature as a person and maybe as a leader having to adjust to some of those situations. Sometimes I think I could have done a better job. But it's hard to read somebody's mind and be able to react to what you think they might do or say. He's a big person. He'll pay the price and he is willing to accept the consequences the next day. You can't ask for more than that out of a person. Sometimes we wish we could not have to be so emotional about things. But this is sport is kind of emotional. You put in a lot of time and effort. We work really hard and then when you have disappointing days like we had Saturday night and some of the other things that have happened in the past, sometimes it's hard to control your emotions. On the positive side, I think that is what makes Tony such a passionate person for the sport because he has so much emotion. Sometimes people don't want to look past what he just said. But why is he like that? Well, he is a winner. He's a racer. He's got a lot of love and passion for the sport and competitiveness. He's not a good loser. But show me a good loser, and like the old saying, you won't find a good winner. That is what makes him special. He has brought a lot of fun and tough moments. But like I said, that is what the sport is all about."