Homestead: 2002 Champion's press conference, part II

Champion's press conference Part 2 of 2. DO YOU NEED TO RELAX, HOW DO YOU RELAX AT THIS POINT AND CAN YOU RELAX? "Yes, we need to relax. I don't think any of us have a clue on what we're supposed to do to relax in this day and age. It's a ...

Champion's press conference

Part 2 of 2.

DO YOU NEED TO RELAX, HOW DO YOU RELAX AT THIS POINT AND CAN YOU RELAX?

"Yes, we need to relax. I don't think any of us have a clue on what we're supposed to do to relax in this day and age. It's a 24/7, seven-day-a-week job nowadays. We've both got to practice here tomorrow. We don't even get a chance to enjoy our championship. I'm going to go to bed in probably an hour and a half, take a shower so I can be here on time because I can promise you - championship or no championship - if I'm not in the garage area and suited up by nine o'clock, (Greg) will be the first person up my butt about being late to get in the car tomorrow. But, it just never stops and it's worse on (Greg) and the guys on the crew than it is on myself. These guys have been cutting bodies off the cars to get new bodies put on for next year.

"I'd like to see what regular civilian life is like for a couple days in a row, and see what happens. I don't know if I can adapt to it anymore. I've been out of the water too long. I've lost my gills, I guess."

GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

HOW ABOUT YOU?

GREG ZIPADELLI: "A lot of what Tony said is true. There isn't a lot of time for just kicking back and relaxing. But, just to be able to spend some weekends at home in the next two months or so with family will be very rewarding for me. We won't have to come to the racetrack, but we'll be able to spend a bunch of hours at the shop and to me that is the fun part of year - preparing and working and getting back to going to work every day and spending time with the people that help us build and prepare the cars week in and week out."

THE MAJOR CHANGE YOU MADE DURING THE RACE...HOW DIFFICULT WAS THAT TO DO?

"It was easy to do because if we didn't make it and we didn't do it quick enough we were going to be in trouble. When to do it - when we had the opportunity. We probably weren't as aggressive earlier on the changes that we needed to be or I didn't get the vibes that we were as loose as Tony's was leading me to believe, so I think it was just a little bit of a lack of communication and I didn't ask enough about it or the racetrack changed a lot. Something happened because we had a pretty decent car. We were running pretty strong in the top 10 the first third of the race or so, but all of a sudden it just went to pot. We had to make a lot of changes just to get it to where it was drivable again and then we caught some breaks when we needed them."

DID YOU GET CONSERVATIVE OR CONSIDER GETTING CONSERVATIVE AT ANY POINT THIS WEEKEND?

"I think up until yesterday after 'Happy Hour,' we didn't have a very conservative approach. We came here to qualify well, which we did. We came here to practice hard and hopefully feel like we had a shot at winning. In practice yesterday, we did. But, we were missing a little something. We sat and talked and took a fairly smart approach on the changes we made. Then, we were probably a little conservative and I think that is why we ended up where we did today. We were tight and I knew why we were, but we thought that would be on the safe side. And why we went loose partway through the race still puzzles me a little bit. But, we did what we had to do and that was the big picture.

"When I got off the tool box, there was nobody more disappointed than I was because I really thought we could come in here and we could win. We thought that the last two or three weeks. But, I guess, just the way our season has gone - nothing has come easy, but it's come with a lot of rewards and a lot of hard work and a lot of people putting effort, so I guess there is no reason that I should have thought today would have come easy."

STEWART: "I kind of thought the same way, in all reality. You look at the stat sheet, we've got six DNFs. I think we spotted enough the first half of the season. To have a bad day and struggle through a day and end up14th at Rockingham and 18th today - we didn't have the day we wanted to have, but I don't think there is any shame in the day we had today. We did what we had to do to accomplish the goal that we tried to accomplish.

"Sure, we left the trailer last night, I thought I could win the race. I came here to the media center, I told you guys I thought I could win the race. Boy, was I wrong. Don't ask me for predictions next year because I guess I'm not the guy to do that. But, we thought we were doing just the normal stuff. It was a normal weekend up to about the 10th lap and then I was like, 'Whoa, we got issues.' Like Zippy was saying, I don't think it was lack of communication. It was just more reservedness on my part, thinking that with a green racetrack that once we got some rubber down that things were going to be like they were yesterday when we quit 'Happy Hour.'

"But, I probably put us behind the '8-ball' more than it was a lack of communication. I just thought that it was going to come to us, so I didn't get too concerned too early."

WAS THERE A POINT WHEN YOU WERE 22ND AND MARTIN WAS 6TH THAT YOU MAY HAVE STARTED THINKING MORE ABOUT MARTIN THAT WHAT YOU WERE DOING? ANY FEAR OF SELF-DESTRUCTING?

"No. I knew he hadn't led a lap yet. I knew he hadn't led the most laps, so I knew that was giving us some cushion. I never fell any farther back than 22nd, so there wasn't any point in self-destructing, we were still right on target. What made me feel better was when we started on the lap-down line, and we drove away I would come off the corner and start counting...Nemechek, the #88...but I never saw Mark. I got the straightaway and never saw Mark come off of four, so I knew he wasn't strong enough to win this thing. If he got up there and got five bonus points we still weren't going to have to finish any better than 24th or something. And once we got back on the lead lap, I was hungry to get some more spots. Our goal today was to get the most points. Not only to win this thing but to win it by more than 25 points (so that Martin didn't have to think about the penalty."

"Mark Martin was the one guy that I went to as a rookie Busch driver for advice. And he always took time for me. This big Winston Cup driver... and I was a nobody in a part-time Busch schedule. He gave me plenty of good tips and answered questions that I had and I had a lot of them. When I had my battle for the IRL championship in '97, it was with a buddy of mine, Davey Hamilton. Knowing that I was racing him for it, knowing that one of the two of us was going to get it was a good feeling. It was somebody that I was friends with. And I felt hat way about Mark. No matter what happened today, if we weren't fortunate enough to get it done, it was going to someone that I really liked and someone that I have a lot of respect and admiration for, and someone who is very deserving of it. Some guys go their whole career wand don't ever win a championship. I hope that doesn't happen to Mark. He is very deserving to win the championship, and I think before it's all said and done, he'll get his. They'll get him a championship."

HAVING WON 3 SUPER BOWLS AND NOW 2 NASCAR CHAMPIONSHIPS, HOW DO YOU RANK THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS?

JOE GIBBS: "I think my wife said it best: It's like when you have a baby. They're all great. I have a lot less to do in this job. These two guys here (Zippy and Stewart) are the ones that deserve it. One of the things about this sport, is that in the NFL the most we go is 21 weeks. And this is a 36-race, Thursday to Sunday. So many different types of distractions...My hats off to the guys. They have a unique way of working together, great chemistry. I get a big kick seeing all the people get in on the championship."

DO YOU THINK YOU'LL FEEL MORE SECURE AND MORE RELAXED, NOW THAT YOU'VE WON A TITLE?

STEWART: "I'll enjoy my winter a little more, but we start over tomorrow. We start 2003 tomorrow. There is not going to be a lot of time to reflect on it. I don't think it's going to change a lot. It's not going to change me in any way. It just shows you that it can be done and it's probably going to make us work even harder to try to do it again. I won one championship in '94 and my goal was set for '95 - to win in all three. I can't win but one a year here, but winning one makes you want to win another one already."

ON CHAMPIONSHIPS:

GIBBS: "The thing that has always amazed me about championship runs in pro sports, at least the two I've been in, is how hard they are and how different they are, and one year doesn't buy you the next. Bobby (Labonte) is a perfect example. We win the championship in 2000 and this year we're back in the pack. I love that about pro sports. The guys are right. This year won't buy us anything next year. You've got to earn it every single year. What always impresses me is how dramatically different every year is. I'll give you an example - Bobby finished every lap, but nine (in 2000). If somebody had done that this year they would have won by 600 points. This year was so different. This team had to overcome a lot of tough things. I still remember - I've got to tell you, I was about as low as I've ever been when I thought we had one of the great cars at Daytona - I thought Tony was going to have a chance to win that race and we all did. To blow that thing up on the second lap - I still remember Tony. He turned around in that hauler and I was expecting him to really be upset. I remember he turned around and he was kind of calm and he says, 'We're still going to win this thing.' That attitude this year - we've overcome a lot. It's been a tough year. But, it's been a tough year for almost everybody in Winston Cup this year. It's been one of those years and I think that makes it a lot of fun.

"I'm not glad it's over. I think somebody said it one time and I think it's right - 'the thrill is getting there.' It's not as much having won it. It's all the things you go through to get there in a championship. That is what you remember."

CAN YOU PUT YOUR WINSTON CUP TITLE IN PERSPECTIVE?

STEWART: "I guess if I had to retype my resume tomorrow, I'd put it No. 1. They've all been hard to acquire. None of them were easy. They all had their own unique set of circumstances and obstacles and challenges to accomplish the goals. To say that the Winston Cup championship isn't my greatest accomplishment in racing right now, I think I'd look pretty stupid if I didn't say that and my heart tells me that it is.

"To race with this caliber of race drivers - we say it week in and week out - every week, 43 of the best stock car racers in the country are racing against each other with cars that are under such strict rules that they're very, very competitive with each other and it's hard to get a distinct advantage over anybody else. It's not like Formula One where one manufacturer finds something that helps them for the whole season or the IRL where one team really gets on a roll and just wins three or four races in a row. It's hard to do in this sport.

"With the caliber of teams and car owners and crew chiefs and drivers that are out here, it really makes you respect this championship. It doesn't take away from any of the other ones, but this is one that, with all the pressures that go along with it - that's an obstacle to itself and that is something we didn't have with all the other ones. We didn't have a lot of pressure. It was just go out, race, drive the race car, debrief with your team or go to the car wash and blow the mud off and you go to the race the next day. This deal is quite a bit different. You do a lot more work here. For the amount of work that is required and asked of us, to be able to accomplish this goal is what makes this one probably the most special one so far."

-pontiac-

Champion's press conference, part I

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin