TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: YOU WERE GOOD HERE A YEAR AGO. HAVE YOU PICKED UP WHERE YOU LEFT OFF THEN? "I think we're ahead of schedule, to be honest. I really like the tire that we're on this week. I think Goodyear has...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
YOU WERE GOOD HERE A YEAR AGO. HAVE YOU PICKED UP WHERE YOU LEFT OFF THEN?
"I think we're ahead of schedule, to be honest. I really like the tire that we're on this week. I think Goodyear has done an excellent job of making the cars stable again, so it's just a matter of us doing our job like we always do. But our cars have always been better in race trim than they have been in qualifying trim here, so if we can stay in the top 10 I'm pretty optimistic that we're going to have a good day on Sunday."
THIS RACE TYPICALLY FEATURES A LOT OF LONG RUNS. DOES THAT FAVOR YOU?
"It seems like on this style of track the longer runs are better for us. We seem to come on late in a run. The way our setup is we struggle in short runs, but we're really good in the mid-range and top end of the run. I like the long stretches here. It's easier to get in a rhythm and stay in that rhythm."
WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE HERE?
"You still have to do tire management. It's not that it chews the tires off, but you're creating a lot of heat and pressure. The big thing is just to be consistent and be smooth, and if it's not right there is not a ton that you can do to make up for it. You just have to keep communicating with the crew and do everything that you can do to keep it turning all day."
IT SEEMS LIKE MOST OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS CONTENDERS THIS YEAR ALREADY
HAVE A DNF. WILL THAT MAKE IT POSSIBLE TO WIN THE TITLE THE TITLE WITH A
"Not all the heavy hitters were in that Daytona wreck. Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace, for sure - they're two heavy hitters that still finished in the top 10 and top five. Anything can happen. Last year the top two guys in points didn't have any DNFs, so that's a pretty good example of what you've got to do to be up there all year and be there at the end of the season. The first race pays just as many points as the last race does. But at the same time, there were a lot of us that hope to be up front [in the points] that got caught up in it, so there may be two guys that get an advantage from it, but the rest of us are pretty much on a level playing field after that."
JAMES INCE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
DID THE TEAM PICK UP WHERE IT LEFT OFF FROM THE TEST?
"I think so. I think the track conditions are definitely different than when we tested. That's a variable for everybody. But I believe the car is probably better now than it was when we tested, even though the speeds don't reflect that. That goes back to track conditions. "We're really excited about this place. This is a place that Johnny has always gotten around. He's always had a lot of success here. They talk about the Roush cars winning three in a row, but I remember two years where Johnny was the best Roush car and he either got in a wreck or had a motor blow up. We ran sixth here last year. We're pretty optimistic and pretty hopeful that maybe we'll at least be in a position to win his first race Sunday."
HOW ARE THE TIRES HERE?
"So far, Goodyear has done a really, really good job with this tire. To us, it's almost like they took every negative comment they've received for the past five years and they went and fixed the problems. It's pretty awesome. I think the tire will run forever here. We're for sure going to be doing gas runs. I think you might see gas runs with just right side tires in a situation. They've kind of eliminated tires as being one of the variables that we're fighting all the time."
AS A CREW CHIEF, IS IT MORE FUN TO GO INTO A RACE KNOWING YOU HAVE A FEW
"Absolutely. If I didn't go into a race on Sunday believing that I was going to contribute at least 10 spots to what we were doing, I probably wouldn't feel like I was doing my job on pit road. It helps a lot. Last week it was basically, 'run, run, run - put four tires on - run, run, run.' Here, yeah. Naturally, we all take a lot of pride in outsmarting everybody else on pit road."
THIS RACE TYPICALLY FEATURES A LOT OF LONG RUNS. DOES THAT FAVOR YOUR TEAM?
"It's for sure not a disadvantage. Unfortunately, I don't have a track record history here of being able to make a race car go very fast for a short period of time. The fact that we're sitting on the outside of the front row means a lot for us. We always have race cars that are good at the other end of a run instead of early in the run. If it holds true, if we stay doing what we've always done - man, we hope it stays green."
DO YOU HAVE A TRICK UP YOUR SLEEVE IF RAIN BECOMES A FACTOR?
"I don't know. I feel like I've always got a trick for them. A lot of times, they just don't work out. We're just going to play it by ear and make sure we're in position to get all we can get in whatever circumstances we face. "Everybody in this garage area is in the reaction business and whatever the weather brings to us on Sunday we're going to react to. We're just going to make sure we react better than everybody else does."