TONY STEWART AND (CREW CHIEF) GREG ZIPADELLI, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO: TAKE US THROUGH THAT RUN TODAY: STEWART: "We started 21st and just slowly worked our way up there. The car was pretty tight at the beginning of the race and just kept...
TONY STEWART AND (CREW CHIEF) GREG ZIPADELLI, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO:
TAKE US THROUGH THAT RUN TODAY:
STEWART: "We started 21st and just slowly worked our way up there. The car was pretty tight at the beginning of the race and just kept communicating with Zippy and telling him what I needed the car to do. The guys on the pit crew did an awesome job all day. They had great pit stops. They had fast pit stops all day. We never lost a position on pit lane as far as, well if guys took two (tires) they beat us obviously, but as far as four tires versus four tires, we at least maintained or gained positions all day. It was probably the best day the guys have had on the pit crew all season.
"But we had great pit stops and kept getting great track position and got ourselves in the top five. We were pretty loose on the front of a run, but after about six or eight laps, our car would come in and was really fast. Track position was still huge, but guys like Jimmie (Johnson) were really good today. He could get out front and really just go on. But our car was really good, too. We had a top three or four car pretty much at the last third of the race in my opinion and at the end, Zippy called me and said we couldn't make it on fuel and that we would be about a half-lap shy according to their calculations. It's hard. Obviously the later the day goes, he said I was about half-lap shy and I was probably about 700 yards further when I ran out of fuel. But the pace picks up so much at the end of the race when it starts cooling off that you use more fuel. He basically gave me three options real early in the run. He said we could come in relatively early and take a chance and put right side tires on and go back out and have fuel to go to the end, or we could go all the way to the end and get a splash of fuel, or we could try to stretch it and take a chance and try to just save fuel during the run. I told him we had nothing to lose, let's try to win this thing by fuel mileage. So he backed me up on it and made the call to stay out from there it was just him yelling at me on the radio to save fuel. The bad thing is that he's got a stopwatch so he knows whether I'm slowing down enough or not. He'd click the stop watch and I'd pick it up a little bit during a lap and think that I was going to get away with it and he'd yell at me on the backstretch to slow down, that's not enough. So, it's good on his part because we just work so well together. He can tell when I'm doing what I need to do and when I'm not. It was real good work on Zippy's part to just keep hammering on me to save fuel.
"The hard part is that we had Carl Edwards and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. behind us for position at the time. We pretty much saved fuel until they got to us and then I went back to going hard. He asked me if I'd been saving fuel and I said well not for the past 10 laps. So that was probably with 30 (laps) to go. So after that, it wasn't until probably the last 10 laps that I really fully understood the scenario once the cycle of pit stops started going there late and then I knew how much of a lead we had and then I could really slow my pace down and run part throttle and try to save. But coming off of Turn 2 on the white flag lap, the fuel needle went to zero and it started slowing down so I just kicked it out of gear as fast as I could so the motor didn't slow the car down and I just got down to the bottom of the track and rode it around and got to see the checkered flag for a really long time for once, so that was really kind of cool (laughter)."
TALK ABOUT THAT STRATEGY
ZIPPY: "What else is there to say (laughter)? We really felt like we were within a half to three-quarters of a lap. In listening to everybody else on the radio, they were two to three to four laps short of making it on fuel. For some reason, I don't know because for almost eight years now, that's been us. But we were able to stretch it today. We had good fuel mileage (which) is something we've been working on hard lately in trying to get it better. Either way, our best shot for a top three or four finish, was to stay out. If we pitted and put right-sides on - there were other guys in the back who came in and topped off - so we were going to be fifth, or sixth, or seventh, or eighth with the other people that pitted there. I didn't really feel like we had anything to lose. We were third or fourth at the time and that's kind of where we were going to be. And then we had so much over the people that stayed out - 18 to 19 seconds - that even at worse and one of them had gotten by, we still would have been second. If we had stopped for fuel or put tires on, we still couldn't have finished second if it went green."
AT THE RISK OF BECOMING MASTER OF THE OBVIOUS HERE, IS THIS NOT A GAMBLE YOU MAKE IF YOU'RE RUNNING FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP RIGHT NOW?
STEWART: "Correct (laughter). Do you really want me to talk more about that? I think you can figure that part out. We had nothing to lose. When you're not in the Chase and you know those guys can't take that chance, it opens the door for us to take that chance and gives us that shot to do that today."
WHEN ZIPPY CAME ON THE RADIO AND SAID MAYBE WE CAN TRY TO WIN THIS ON FUEL MILEAGE, HOW DID YOU REACT?
STEWART: "When he told me we were a half-lap shy, I thought surely I can save half-a-lap of fuel, which I never have in the past and I don't know what made me think today I could do it, but I even missed his half-a-lap. I was a little more than that. But we were in that scenario. It's like let's roll the dice and gamble. I would rather take a chance on winning the race versus a sixth or fourth place run. I'd rather at least give myself a shot at being able to give myself a win. Zippy was really instrumental in watching the stopwatch and keeping me at a pace that he thought was reasonable to save enough fuel to get to the end."
WE SAW A LOT OF GUYS IN TROUBLE RUNNING UP HIGH. DID YOU HAVE ANY TROUBLE WITH THAT?
STEWART: "The only thing I'd like to see them work on a little bit is the seams were a little bit tough today and it wasn't because of the transitions in the seam, it was just the material that they use - whether it's a caulking or whatever it is - when it got hot, it got really slippery so you had to be really careful every time you transitioned across those seams. Other than that, it about bit us three or four times. But to be able to run all the way up against the wall or all the way on the bottom of the track, it seemed like as the run went on, you could still run two or three different lines or even more than that, even four lines in (turns) 1 and 2 and it seemed like the later the run got, you were pretty much committed either all way down to the bottom or all the way to the top in (turns) 3 and 4. So it at least gave drivers an option. And drivers like having an option. We don't like being line-committed and having to follow each other and not being able to pass, so having that luxury and being able to move around makes it fun for the drivers."
WHEN YOU RAN OUT OF GAS, DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD A BIG ENOUGH LEAD THAT YOU WOULD BE OKAY AND WEREN'T GOING TO GET PASSED?
STEWART: "Not necessarily because I had slowed my pace down pretty drastically two or three laps before that so I didn't know how much of a lead we had at that time. But once we were out of fuel, whatever was going to happen was going to happen. So I just sat there and rode around. I figured when I got to the start/finish line, I would know where we were at. But he was screaming so loud on the radio, you'd have thought we'd won the Daytona 500. I thought we lost the race. I couldn't hear anything. He was screaming so loud I thought he was cussing on the radio again because we'd lost or something. It wasn't until I got all the way down to Turn 1 that I realized that we'd won the race. We were just all happy because we were finally on the receiving end of winning one this way versus losing them this way."
THREE YEARS AGO THERE WERE A LOT OF RACES DECIDED ON FUEL MILEAGE AND YOU EXPRESSED YOUR DISPLEASURE ABOUT THAT. NOW THAT YOU'VE WON ONE THIS WAY, IS IT AS GRATIFYING?
STEWART: "Not really. I wasn't the fastest car - I wasn't the fastest car that performance-wise deserved to win the race. We won it on strategy today. That's a credit to Zippy. That's not a credit to me. It wasn't in my hands and it's not typically the way race car drivers like to win races. Five years from now when you guys (media) do your homework and you look it up and see oh, he won a race at Kansas. You won't remember that I won it on fuel mileage. Now that I've said that, you'll all have it noted. You don't want to win it that way by any means. But in this business, you take them any way you can get them. Any time you can outsmart them or do something like we had to do today - we had to really work hard to save the fuel and to be disciplined enough to try to make the race car go fast but at the same time save fuel. In that sense it's gratifying, but winning the race when we weren't necessarily the fastest car doesn't exactly make it the biggest win."
WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEKEND, THEY WOULD COME BACK TO THE RACE THIS WEEKEND AND BE SORT OF MENTALLY SCREWED UP. HOW DO YOU OVERCOMPENSATE FOR THAT OR ARE YOU JUST REALLY USED TO DOING IT?
STEWART: "I don't know because I've been screwed up all my life. I've never even been close to average. This past week I've been sick to my stomach because Kasey Kahne and I are much better friends than anybody in the media knows. We were teammates in USAC Midgets together and we hang out a lot at the Winged Sprint Car races because we both own cars and we always have a lot to talk about when it comes to the dirt racing side. You can ask Ray Evernham. I was one of the guys that sat down in Ray Evernham's trailer at Bristol Motor Speedway and sat with him for about 45 minutes and he asked me about Kasey Kahne and I said he was going to be good. I'm a big fan of Kasey's. That was the last guy, aside from my teammate, that I'd want to get caught up in (a wreck). You don't want to be the guy who affects a guys' chances. Both Ray and Kasey said we had a motor problem after that and it wasn't related to the crash and it was going to happen anyway. So it at least made me feel better this weekend knowing that what happened wasn't because of our deal and it was probably going to be more disappointing later on in the race because they would have lost a motor. It still makes you sick to your stomach. You don't want to be the guy that affects one of 10 guys having a chance to win a national championship."
Continued in part 2