Continued from part 1 GREEN: Let's check back here in Indianapolis. Over there on the side with Mike King. Q: Mike King, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network and Performance Racing Network. Tony, will there ever be a moment in your ...
Continued from part 1
GREEN: Let's check back here in Indianapolis. Over there on the side with Mike King.
Q: Mike King, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network and Performance Racing Network. Tony, will there ever be a moment in your career that will come close to equaling those final couple of laps when you talked about seeing your dad hanging over the rail in Turn 2 and that rush of emotion there in the closing four or five miles here?
STEWART: I'll be honest, I don't know -- the only two things I can think of, I haven't been married yet and haven't had children, and those are the only things that I can think would be a possible greater experience than what I had here. I started to get nervous because my dad kept hanging over the railing further and further, and I thought he would be eventually over the railing. But to have your family involved and not only have them involved but when you can be on the racetrack and actually physically see them once every lap, that just adds to that experience and adds to that excitement. So I honestly, like I said, other than those two variables of having a family, I don't know what could possibly be a greater moment in my life than what happened there.
Q: Is it hard to drive with tears in your eyes?
STEWART: You get used to it. It's not a bad feeling to have. As long as it's not painful tears, it's a pretty good feeling to have.
Q: You've always been a guy that stacks your plate really full, I think back to your triple crown years and getting to all the races, do you ever worry and your handlers ever worry that you have spread yourself at times too thin, is it going to wear you down to the point it could have an effect?
STEWART: I think we've surpassed that already, I think we've accomplished that goal of spreading ourselves too thin. We desperately pray that cloning thing starts working out. We think we'll be able to do twice as much, and I'll quit all the testing and let the clone do the testing and I'll just do the racing and they can do the media sessions and all that. I'll be honest, we've just kind of grown accustomed to it all now. The weird thing, even when we had the days off, right before Christmas, the day that I wasn't sick, I didn't do anything the whole day and I felt so guilty for not doing something productive during that day or for not having something that I had to do that it's almost like we've adopted that lifestyle of feeling we have to do something every day now. But the things that we're doing are fun. We own Eldora Speedway, we have our USAC teams, we have our World of Outlaws team, RC car companies, our office in Indianapolis. Everything that we have is something that we enjoy doing. So it's hard to sit there and look at it and say, 'Yeah, we are too busy, but what do we take away?' It's impossible to take one thing away from the equation right now because we're having too much fun with it. So I guess, you know, if it becomes a situation where it starts hurting our performance in the race car, then obviously we'll have to make a change at that point. But as long as it's not hurting our performance and we're all having fun doing what we're doing, I guess we can tolerate it.
GREEN: Herb, we have two more questions up here and we'll go back to you in Daytona.
STEWART: Seem to be working in sets of three here. (Laughter)
Q: Tony, a lot of you guys have been able to go from midgets and so forth into stock cars and drive very well over there. But we haven't had a stock car driver come to Indy for a long time. Can you explain why the midget drivers are able to, you know, that come up through the midgets are able to do so well, yet stock car drivers aren't able to vary their careers?
STEWART: I think the thing that I always took away from when I ran in USAC and in particular not only midgets but sprint cars and Silver Crown, you learned how to be versatile was the first thing. You might run Friday, Saturday and Sunday and you might run all three different types of cars, you might run on dirt one night and you may run on pavement the next night, and you might be on a quarter-mile track and you might be on a mile track the next day. But to do it in such a short amount of time and in different types of cars and different surfaces, those were changes that you had to adapt to right away. You didn't have three days like a Cup weekend or three days like an IRL weekend to adapt and get ready. (More Stewart on next page)
I think the thing about in particular the sprint cars and midgets, you dealt with such a lightweight car that you learned as a driver that if it wasn't set up exactly the way you wanted it to, you could learn how to manipulate it and you were able to teach yourself how to find ways of making the car doing what it didn't want to do. Whereas with stock cars being 3,400 pounds, it seems like I've learned the heavier the car gets, the harder to make it do something it doesn't want to do. I think the guys that came up driving lighter weight cars have learned how to help themselves out when they get to stock cars and IndyCars. As far as guys crossing over between the two, I don't know why guys have been able to go from IndyCars to stock cars but not vice versa. It seems like once guys have got into stock car racing in this era, they haven't tried to come the other direction.
Probably you're a better stat man than I am, probably the Allisons were the last guys to go from stock cars to IndyCars, and I don't even know what their performance was in them. But it's just two totally different driving styles. I think Bill Elliott actually tested a car at Michigan and went out and in five laps was running 220s or 230s in turbocharged cars. So I think if guys actually decided they wanted to make that crossover, I don't think they would have a real hard time doing it. You just never have seen anybody make that step and make that decision to try to do that.
Q: Vince Welch, 6-1, 190, Ball State University. (Laughter)
STEWART: Are you a forward, power forward or laundry boy? (Laughter)
STEWART: Very good.
Q: What appeals to you that makes you drive in events like Fort Wayne or the Chili Bowl or Turkey Night, what is it about that that appeals to you personally and as a challenge to you as a driver about events of that nature?
STEWART: I just keep reminding myself that I am too lazy to work a real job. If I can make money driving a race car, that's one more day I don't have to sit in a cubicle. I'm fearful of small spaces. (More Stewart on next page)
I enjoy it, it's not a matter of speed; it's strictly the competition. When we were running Fort Wayne, I don't even know the size of the track, it's probably a tenth-mile and we're running, I think I broke the track record the second day and ran a 7.32-second lap, but it's just fun to compete more than anything. It doesn't matter how fast it is, just trying to be better than the next guy and to go back to cars that you don't run full time anymore and race against guys that do run them full time, that's your challenge. Your challenge is to get caught back up and as technology changes and midgets and sprint cars like it does in IndyCars and stock car racing, when you're not around it every week you get a little further and further behind. But when you can show up and go out there and in two nights when you haven't ran a car all year and go out there and beat the guys that do it every week, that's a sense of pride that you leave there with as well as just another two nights that you get to go out and do what you love doing more than anything else in life.
GREEN: Herb, let's go back down to Daytona.
BRANHAM: We have three from down here.
Q: Dwight Drum of Zupster.com. Tony, you own the sprint car team, do you feel you delegate as well as you drive?
STEWART: I'm pretty good at letting them do their own thing. They pretty much treat me like we do Joe Gibbs. They don't let me touch the race cars very much; they pretty much tell me how much money they need to pay the bills. So I don't know, I think when I started getting into the ownership side was after I actually started with Joe. I think what I have learned from Joe is if you hire the right people to do the right jobs, you really have done your job at that point. The best thing to do at that point is just pretty much let them do what they do best. So, you know, I've tried to adopt a lot of the attitudes that Joe has with the race teams and that's something that I feel like I really owe Joe a lot for is just teaching me how to be a car owner. So I enjoy that side of it, I enjoy being able to give back to the series that have helped me get where I am. It allows me to stay involved in those series and as time goes on, there's -- when the time comes that I step away from the steering wheel side of it, I've already set myself up to already stay involved in the sport that way.
Q: David Poole, Charlotte Observer. Tony, the comparison is being made between you and other drivers because you started to win championships. Do you ever think that anybody will ever come close to the role that Earnhardt had when he was around and in your situation, you've got sort of the same, down the same lines where there are fans who are on your side and there are fans which pull for anybody but Tony Stewart, which is what Earnhardt had his whole life. Do you see any comparisons there?
STEWART: Yeah, but we're not the only guy. Fifty percent of the fans pull for Jeff Gordon, and 50 percent pull for anybody but him. When you get to that level, I think it's an honor to have 50 percent of the fans pulling for you and the other 50 percent wanting one of the other 42 drivers, you've got a pretty good percentage going there. Who knows what the future is going to be like. It's kind of funny, I mean we've kind of been down the same path that Darrell Waltrip went down, we went down the same path that Earnhardt has went down. We've been to the part where everybody hated us and to the part where 50 percent like us and 50 percent hate us. So I kind of feel like we're in a really good spot right now. If you get to where everybody likes you, it takes some of that, I don't know, anticipation or something away from it to where it's just not as exciting as if you've got half of them that don't like you and half of them that love you.
Q: My question is how close are you following what's going on here at Daytona, how are you able to pull away from it or find yourself following it? Finally, we're here in the deadline media room watching you on TV, have you started your workout program yet? (Laughter)
STEWART: You notice I'm slouching over the table so you can't see too much. I've started, and I have to say enjoy doing it, obviously the time I got and the time I was in Fort Wayne and I've been at Louisville, Kentucky, at a major pool tournament the last couple days, and we've not been home to work out. But it's something I'm actually enjoying. We had one of the trainers from Joe Gibbs Racing come to Columbus there and see my equipment and get me set up on a program. So I enjoy doing it. I'm excited about it. I don't feel like I'm going to be Mr. Olympia by February or something, but we're at least making steps in the right direction. So weight is going down instead of up. I hate to tell David Poole that because he's going it fire me -- we have our eating team down there, I'm afraid I'm going to get fired from that role. But it's part of life, I guess. As you get older, your body changes and no more being able to do what I want and lay on the couch and sleep in until noon anymore, I have to get up like everybody else and work at it right now.
GREEN: Herb, we have two more questions up here, any more questions from down there and we'll wrap up from Daytona?
BRANHAM: Right now we have two, two only.
GREEN: Let's go ahead take the two more questions from Daytona and then we'll wrap up here in Indianapolis.
Q: Tony, Mark Totus from Florida Today. You talked a lot about racing at Fort Wayne and the Chili Bowl and the different places and racing against a whole lot of guys that are really, really good racers and can hold their own in those series. What separates you from them? Is it one break that you got that they didn't? Can you talk a little bit about that? Thank you.
STEWART: I think there's probably thousands of drivers that can be in the same situation I'm in; and I think what happened with me is I've been very, very fortunate my whole career to be surrounded by great people. You know, Mark Dismore was a great, great friend of mine, still is a great friend of mine that helped me get my first midget ride. That was the first big break that I needed to move up the ladder. So, you know, that carried me on to where we are today obviously. But, you know, there's guys that just -- everything that happened in my career seemed to be I was in the right place at the right time. You know, after Jeff Gordon did so well on 'Thursday Night Thunder' with the midget series on ESPN, a couple years after he went to stock car racing, we were coming into that. So it just seemed like I've always been able to be in the right place at the right time, had the right opportunities. But trust me, I don't feel like we're in an elite group of people. I think there's thousands of drivers across the country that have the talent, they just -- there's always only going to be 43 guys that make the race on Sunday and there's, you know, increasing numbers of race car drivers that get into auto racing each year, but there's only going to be so many opportunities available. So it's getting harder and harder each year to get those opportunities.
You look at scenarios like what we have with Joe Gibbs Racing, we have a kid under contract, Joey Ligano that isn't even old enough to drive and doesn't even have a driver's license; his mom has to drive him to the race shop, and the kid's got great talent. Trust me, I would rather drive with Joey on the street than with people who have driver's licenses. You look at how tough it is and how car owners are like any other professional sport, they're looking at kids before they graduate high school now to drive the race cars.
So it's getting increasingly harder and harder. And guys that are established and are 25, 30, 35 years old, probably aren't even going to get opportunities because they're now too old to be considered for new rides. So this day and age it's just getting harder and harder to get those opportunities. But there's definitely talented drivers out there. When I go to Fort Wayne, when I go to dirt late-model races, I race with these guys every week and they're some of the toughest in the country, and they're guys definitely capable of being where we are. They just aren't where we are at the right place at the right time.
GREEN: Herb, anything else from Daytona?
BRANHAM: Yes, a couple more.
Q: Dustin Long, Landmark. One was ask for somebody else if you've been paying attention to testing down here. What I wanted to ask you, you mentioned earlier that a driver can't carry a race team because it's so technical, the cars are so technical now. How challenging is it for a driver to accept that? And what were you able to do early last season when you guys weren't as dominant and still searching for the right connection?
STEWART: I won't forget the Daytona question this time. You know, I guess from a driver standpoint, it's disheartening a little bit to know you can't make the difference, but it definitely teaches you a team atmosphere. It teaches you what football teams and basketball and baseball teams know, that you're one of many components that make a team. So from that aspect, I guess that's what made it easier this year of making it through the tough times of knowing we weren't where we were; but knowing that if you keep the entire race team pumped up, it was easier to get through those tough times to where when things started getting better, the team wasn't beat down so much they couldn't rebound from it. So you kind of learn to put yourself in a different role, and I think that's what makes great leaders in our sport from the driver's side. Not saying that I'm one of those by any means, but, you know, you look at guys like Dale Earnhardt, who even if his car wasn't right, he could keep his race team pumped up and motivated and he could get everything out of it. But even when they would get in slumps, they were never really totally out of things. So I guess from that side of it, you just learn the team atmosphere and you learn to accept that and learn to not try to totally rely on yourself to make the difference, you rely on those people that work closely around you.
On the Daytona side, like I said, I was down in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Derby City Classic pool tournament, and we carried a laptop around and plugged in every now and then to see where everybody is at. So we are paying attention. Just because we're not down there doesn't mean we don't care about what's going on down there. We care very much what's going on and don't want to lose touch with what's happening. So we're definitely going to be watching all day today; and even while we're in Tulsa tomorrow, we'll have the whole day to be able to watch and see what's going on down there. So I'm hoping that we can stay in the top 10 down there and have good runs and a good test.
GREEN: We're going to finish with two more questions up here, and then we will move outside for the photo op.
Q: Erik Waxler, WTHR. Tony, is your dream Super Bowl the Colts/Redskins and where would your allegiance lie?
STEWART: There's somebody that's always got to put me between a rock and a hard place, but I have no problem answering this question. I told Joe if it's Colts and Redskins, sorry, Joe, I'm wearing blue and white, so you'll have to get over it. I'm a pretty diehard Indiana guy, and everybody knows that and Joe knows that. I hope it gets to that. I hope Joe has a good enough season to get to the Super Bowl. As long as it's one of those two teams that wins it, I'll be fine. If it comes down to those two particular teams, I'm going to have to stand on the Indiana side, for sure.
GREEN: Just to close out, to finish off the comment I made at the very beginning, a lot of the historians were saying that your win again in August may have been one of the most, if not the most memorable day here in history at the Speedway. When you drove out the gates that night, do you allow yourself to think about something like that, that you probably have written a special chapter in history here at the Speedway?
STEWART: I didn't think about it that day, it wasn't until a couple days after that I had heard some of the historians who after living around here for so long, I've got to know some of those guys and to hear that comment was something that meant, you know, you couldn't put a price on that. To think that that's one of the most special moments in the long history of this facility, that just makes what was a great day even greater. So I don't know how we could make that one day in my life any more special than it was than all those variables combined.
GREEN: Thank you, Tony, very much. A couple of notes, media notes and we'll go outside for the photo op. Especially for our media in Daytona, we will have a transcript up on the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard Web site very soon. Also, if you're tuning in, one of the affiliates tuning in on satellite, you may see bars for a short bit before the photo op comes back up. So hang tight. We will have the photo op up on the satellite fairly quickly. Again from Daytona, thank you very much and again your attendance here in Indianapolis, we appreciate it.