TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TOMORROW? "It's just typical Homestead. We slid around for 45 minutes. But, it's the same thing we did last week when we came here and talked about the same thing. "I...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TOMORROW?
"It's just typical Homestead. We slid around for 45 minutes. But, it's the same thing we did last week when we came here and talked about the same thing.
"I like this track. This is not one of those tracks where horsepower is a big issue. Aerodynamics plays a role, but it still doesn't seem to play as big a role for a mile-and-a-half track as it does everywhere else we go, it seems like. Mechanical balance is still the most important variable here. This is one of those tracks where the driver has to do a lot of work here. Nobody ever has a perfect car here. We won the first two years here and we didn't have a perfect car either race. But, we found things that were able to make us a little better than everybody else those first two years, and we kind of had the same thing going last year until we ran out of time and had some tire issues.
"For the most part, I'm fairly happy with my car. We're going to make some changes for tomorrow - nothing radical at all - three very minor changes - changes that I'm comfortable with, that we've done in the past here getting ready to run a race. We've never had anything dramatic happen with it. It's always stuff that has been always going in the direction that we're wanting to go here after 'Happy Hour.' I'm pretty happy with my car. I think we were fifth on the (practice) sheet after 'Happy Hour' there and ran some lap times I was pretty happy with, so in all reality I'm probably about as relaxed as I've ever been in this situation."
DURING THE RACE TOMORROW, WILL YOU BE CONCERNED WITH WHERE MARK IS AT?
"To be honest, I'm going out to try to win the race tomorrow. I feel like we've got a good car here. Our track record here has been pretty good. I've said all along - you guys started asking questions like that six or seven weeks ago and my answer has been the same every week, so I'm really surprised that that's the first question today. But, it's the same as it's always been. We're trying to race to win the race. That's how we got in this position in the points and that's what we're going to do again in week 36 of 36 - no difference."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS THE WIN AT WATKINS GLEN AFTER WHAT HAPPENED AT INDIANAPOLIS?
"When you look at the big picture, it was just another week. It was a week that we won the race and gained a lot of points and some guys behind us had some problems and we were able to take a big chunk away.
"Everybody is going to theorize about this whole season. All it boils down to is a very simple thing and there is no rocket-science to this. I can get a chalkboard out and put it on there real easy. It's 36 races and whoever does the best job and gets the most points after 36 races is the guy they crown the Winston Cup champion. What an ironic set of circumstances that is, but that's all there is to it. There's no magic to this. There never has been. It's just about going out and gaining as many points in 36 races as possible.
"The week after Indy we were fortunate enough to win. That was one of three wins we had this year, so does that mean the other two weren't important? I don't think that week at Watkins Glen serves any special significance over any other week.
"There were weeks all year this year where we had a good day and guys in front of us had a bad day. Then, it seems like the following week it would be just the opposite. We would have an opportunity to have a good day and they would have a great day and we would have a bad day. It was like a roller coaster ride. But, like I said, what it's all boiled down to is that we're on week 36 of 36 and there are two of us left at this point."
WHY DO YOU FEEL POINTS RACING IS NOT RIGHT?
"Because I take a lot of pride in being the guy that goes out and tries to win every race. I'm not worrying about trying to acquire enough points to just get it done. I'm trying to win races and that's real important to me. It's important to our team. It's important to our sponsor. In my 23-year racing career, that's what it's been all about. I've won a lot of championships and I didn't do it 'points racing.' I did it by winning A-mains and winning races and acquiring points that way. That's how I've won all my championships."
WITH ALL THIS GONE ON THIS SEASON, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'LL BE UNDER MORE OF A MICROSCOPE AFTER WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP?
"I'm not really even concerned about it. I haven't made a thought about it. Maybe we'll see if we can hire Richard Petty to do it for me. He is a great ambassador for our sport. I'm not an ambassador for anything. I'm a simple kid from a small town in Indiana. All I've done for the last 23 years is drive race cars. I don't see any political office in it (a Winston Cup championship). Actually, Richard - didn't he run for political office at one time? If there was ever a better guy to get, why shouldn't I just go try to hire him? He's got a little more time on his hands now he's not driving a car three days a week. I know he's busy with his obligations owning three teams, but maybe we can get him hired to do all the political stuff for me and be the ambassador. I don't even watch the new anymore, so I don't even know what ambassadors do anymore other than spend the government's money traveling across the country on little trips."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THINGS THAT ARE OUT OF YOUR CONTROL TOMORROW?
"I'm not really worried about it, to be honest. Like I said, I'm focused on trying to win the race tomorrow. I feel like we've got a good enough car that, if the changes that we made work like we think they will, we have a good shot at it. There are only one or two cars on the sheet, time-wise over a long run, that seem to be as good or a little bit better than we were, so we feel like we're in a pretty good group right there and feel like, if everything goes the way we're hoping for, that we can win the race and - to be honest with you - just not worry about those other things. Those things can happen any week that we run. They can start that way at Daytona, on through the rest of the season, so why worry about that stuff now?
"That's not how we got to this position, so there's no point in worrying about that now. It's just trying to go out and worry about winning a race tomorrow instead. That seems to be a lot more productive for me."
ON PARTICIPATING IN A FISH TOURNAMENT LAST NIGHT:
"We finished fifth out of 40 boats in that little pond out there. Zippy (Greg Zipadelli) said he was worried about me falling out of the boat. I said, 'Don't worry - if I fall out of one, I'll fall into somebody else's,' so it wasn't a real big deal.
"Actually, I think they auctioned off the boats, of what driver they would fish with. The couple that fished with us - the young lady that fished with us - she was the one that caught e only fish on the boat. She pulled us all through with a fifth-place finish out of 40 boats, so it was pretty fun."
A FINAL COMMENT...:
"The last time I was in this type of position was in '97 with the Indy Racing League and I got to race with a real good buddy of mine - Davey Hamilton - for the championship. I couldn't think of a better guy to race for a championship with this year than Mark. What most people don't realize is that I religiously on Friday morning, before practice, I would go down and ask Mark a lot of questions when I was in the Busch Series because I had no clue as to what I was doing. With all of his commitments on his time and running both a Busch car and a Cup car, Mark was always willing to take the time to talk to somebody like myself. He didn't know me from Adam. He didn't know what I'd driven in the past, but never cared. He always took time out of his schedule to answer any questions I've ever had and even has been that way since I've been in Winston Cup.
"There is a lot of guys you could race with and there is a lot of guys that you'd hope you'd never get into a points battle with because it could get 'hairy' at the end. But, I've got a lot of respect for [Mark] and what he does, more so, away from the race car than what he does in the race car. I respect him a lot for what he does on the racetrack and his professionalism there, but really, the way he is with people and the way he is with his fellow competitors on and off the track - I've gained a lot of respect for him. He is one of my heroes in the Winston Cup Series, so I couldn't think of a better guy to come down to this battle with. But, no matter what happens tomorrow - if Mark pulls this off, I'll be one of the first people to congratulate him and if we get lucky enough to win this thing, it'll be a very nice way to end a very long and probably the most difficult season in my racing career.
"Either way, whatever happens - like I say, if we lose it we're going to lose it to a man that is very willing and deserving of the title. We're going to keep our fingers crossed tonight and go have a good time and relax. Like I say, I'm sure it will come down to the last lap of the race tomorrow and hopefully we'll both have a good day. Whatever happens, happens.
"This is probably one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my life and not only just running for the championship, but just do everything that we've had to go through this year. Whatever happens, like I said, if Mark gets this he is very deserving of it for what he has done for this sport and what he has done for guys like myself - to help and the willingness to give away his personal time to help young guys get going. He is a great person, so I'm just glad I'm in this position with him, instead of with somebody else."