TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE/OFFICE DEPOT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed strategy leading into the Chase, the Loudon facility, third team considerations, and more. AS A TRACK OPERATOR, WHAT DOES WHAT YOU SAW AND EXPERIENCED LAST ...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE/OFFICE DEPOT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed strategy leading into the Chase, the Loudon facility, third team considerations, and more.
AS A TRACK OPERATOR, WHAT DOES WHAT YOU SAW AND EXPERIENCED LAST NIGHT MEAN FOR SHORT TRACK RACING IN GENERAL AND FOR THAT PLACE SPECIFICALLY? "We got a chance to go to Thunder Road last night, which was the first time for us. It was cool because you hear so many neat things about it. It's big. It's proof that short track racing is still alive and well and has the possibility to be bigger than it's ever been right now with the economy what it is right now. I know it sounds kind of backwards of what you would think, but it was a sold out crowd and there were people sitting in trees watching. So it was pretty cool. It's a beautiful setting there in Vermont and a really neat race track. It was the first time in a long time I've ran with that courteous of a group of drivers. That's one of those tracks where you have to give and take there and take care of each other. You could easily crash half the field in the first three laps if those guys weren't patient and courteous to each other, and that was probably what impressed me the most."
I'M ASSUMING YOU MET YOUR TEAMMATE JOEY POLEWARCZYK FOR THE FIRST TIME YESTERDAY, HOW DID HE IMPRESS YOU? "Well he won the race and lapped me in the process, so I was real impressed. Obviously the great thing about Joey was that he spent probably 30 minutes before I ever got in the car with me trying to help me understand what the track and what the car was going to be like and what the tires were going to be like and then throughout the remainder of the evening probably spent another hour total with me at different points of the evening talking to me and helping out. For a 20 year old kid he has a lot of poise and composure and it wouldn't surprise me, we'll see him here real soon, I think."
AS THE POINTS LEADER, DO YOU GUYS APPROACH ANY DIFFERENTLY GIVEN THE FACT THAT NEW HAMPSHIRE IS THE FIRST CHASE RACE? "We don't. It's the same question I've been asked for the last six weeks and it's the same answer I've given. You don't change anything. You do what got you here. You're still trying to go out and get those 10 extra bonus points so you're trying to do the same things and you're trying to win each week. Those 10 points are valuable at the beginning of the Chase and you hope you don't have to count on them, but if that one extra win and you win by seven points, you know that the deciding factor was getting a win in the pre-season part of it. So you've got to treat it the same. We're going to treat it the same all the way until the Chase starts. So just go ahead and mark it on your schedules for next week when someone wants to ask that question, it's going to be the same answer next week and all the way through the 26th race. It's a legitimate question, but we won't change anything. We won't change it all the way through the rest of the season."
WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT OR SMARTEST THING YOU EVER LEARNED FROM GREG ZIPADELLI? "Just to try to be patient. Greg's always been really good at trying to help me stay calm and stay patient and not push at the wrong points of the race. If you get frustrated in a segment of the race, he's really good about calming you back down and getting you back centered up and focused on what was going on."
WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT THE LAST FOUR YEARS HERE, EIGHT RACES AND EIGHT DIFFERENT WINNERS, COULD YOU TALK ABOUT WHY IT IS SUCH A CRAP SHOOT? "I can honestly say I've never thought of that. Never have (laughs); I don't know, I honestly don't have a good answer for you. I think every year this track changes a little bit and every year everybody gets a little bit better on what it takes to be good here. This is a unique place and I think that's the reason guys every year kind of hit it or miss it. Obviously weather has played factors at a couple of these races and changed the outcome. Other than that, I really don't know."
SO ITS A PLACE YOU CAN GET A HANDLE ON BUT NOT KEEP A HANDLE ON? "Well, apparently if nobody has repeated in eight races, I would say that you kind of answered your own question. You could be smarter than all of us (laughs)."
HAVING MADE THE SWITCH FROM OPEN-WHEEL TO NASCAR YOURSELF, WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR JUAN PABLO MONTOYA AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT HE'S BEEN ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS SEASON? "I think it's a situation where the type of cars he came from, he didn't have a lot of heavy car experience, I mean physical weight. He always drove lightweight race cars and cars with a lot of downforce. You come here, and that's the initial thing is just learning how to deal with a lot heavier race car. His three years hasn't been any different than any other guys that historically and typically make the Chase each year. Normally by their third year they've got it figured out too. It just shows you that if you've got the talent, it doesn't matter what kind of cars you come from, you're going to figure it out eventually and a talented driver will make it."
WHAT FACTORS WOULD GO INTO YOUR CONSIDERATION OF HAVING A THIRD CAR NEXT YEAR, IF ANY? AND BASED ON YOUR ANSWERS AT SONOMA LAST WEEK, CAN WE CROSS DANICA PATRICK OFF THAT LIST? "I think right now the biggest thing is you've got to make sure you can fund it first. You can build a team, but if you don't have the money to run it, it's not going to work. So, making sure that you've got proper funding is obviously the biggest thing. We'll consider you if we think you've got talent (laughter). You're going to look at anybody at this point. Nobody is excluded from the list. (Ed) Hinton (media member) is our number one draft pick right now in our books; I mean we've been watching him for years and obviously as you guys heard his depth and knowledge of the sport makes him a logical candidate (laughter)."
HAVE YOU HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH BRAD KESELOWSKI ABOUT HIS FUTURE? "We haven't. We haven't talked to anybody at this point. The big thing with last week was just letting everybody know that we're open to discussing it right now. You guys are way ahead of us on this. Sonoma was just to let everybody know that hey, we feel like we're at a point to where we're open to discussions about it. It doesn't cost a dime to listen at this point and we're open to listening to opportunities if it makes sense."
WITH YOUR SUCCESS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE, WHAT IS IT YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THIS FACILITY OVERALL IN THE NORTHEAST AS WELL AS THE TRACK ITSELF? "Well, we never get out of the track, so we don't get to see much outside of here. But the race track is a fun race track. It's got really long straightaway and really tight corners and it's kind of like Martinsville a lot, but just on a mile basis. You have to have your brake package right, but it's the same balance as always. You can break these corners up into even thirds. You're always trying to keep the car tight enough on entry, trying to make it rotate through the center third, and then the last third trying to figure out how to be able to get in the gas wide-open and stay on the gas without the back stepping out. It's a common balance. It's one of those places that when you talk to a crew chief or you're talking to your teammate about it, you can break each end up into even thirds and be able to describe it that way. It's just makes it challenging because of that."
I KNOW YOU GUYS TAKE EACH WEEK, WEEK BY WEEK BUT LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD A LITTLE BIT TO THE BRICKYARD 400, IT APPEARS THE TIRES ARE IN BETTER SHAPE, HOW ANXIOUS ARE YOU TO GET BACK THERE? "Well you always like to go home but we're more worried about this week than we are there right now. We're excited that Goodyear has put a lot of effort into solving the problem from last year. They spent a lot of money and teams have spent a lot of money to try to cure it. I think everybody from NASCAR to the teams to Goodyear have done their part and done the best job they can to try to find the solution so we don't have a race like we had last year."
WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE WITH THE CAR AND HOW TOUGH IS IT TO GO TO A BACK-UP IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS? "I just got loose going in the corner. Goodyear came down and was worried but it wasn't a tire problem. I just got loose and once I got out of the groove I was staying right with it I just needed another 50 feet to finish getting gathered up and sliding up. I just ran out of race track. Like I was talking to Darian (Grubb, crew chief) right before we came over here, the good thing and the comforting part of the situation was that we've got a group of guys that I have the upmost confidence that when we get in a situation like that, that can recover from this and get a back-up car out and get it ready and go out and finish the session and finish competitive. From that stand point you're happy. As a driver you hate having to have those guys do that. You hate putting them in that position. These are long, hard days each day of the race weekend anyway without having to throw bringing the back-up car and all the switching. They have to do through templates now and go through the same procedures they had to go through early first thing this morning. They have to do that all over again now, plus they're going to have to do an engine change before we qualify. The bad part of it and where I feel worse about it is I've made my guys have to do that much extra work coupled with two more long days is going to make it a long weekend for these guys."
CONSIDERING THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE ENGINES AND ALL THAT, WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF GOING OUT IN THE BACK-UP IN THAT SESSION? "Just to make sure that the package we had on the other car worked on this car. I've watched people build chassis forever and you can build them all the same, do the procedures all the same and each car has got a little bit different characteristic. So it was just more to find out exactly you know if we don't get cooperation from the weather tomorrow making sure we've got a good place to start and that we knew exactly where the balance was going to be in race trim. We're going to give up if we get qualifying in today. We feel like it was more important obviously to make sure that we do have a good race car in case we miss those practice sessions tomorrow."
JEFF BURTON SAID THE TRACK HAS GOTTEN GRIPPIER OVER THE YEARS, SO HOW DO YOU COMBAT SOMETHING LIKE THAT FROM THE RACE TEAM SIDE? "You just go faster. You don't combat it, you embrace it. I mean I'll take a grippier track over a slicker track any day. You want it to have more grip. It's still about getting the balance. No matter how slick or how much grip a track has you're still trying to get the balance. You're trying to get both the front and the rear and to have the same amount of grip. It doesn't really matter. You're going to move around in the race to find out how you can change your balance. If you balance isn't good where you're at you'll move around the race track to find a spot where it does help your balance out. So the grip level doesn't really matter."
DO YOU HAVE AS MUCH CONFIDENCE IN THIS BACK UP AS YOU DID IN POCONO? "Sure I do. We were out there running I think our last lap was an .09 with that car so that was pretty good for the amount of laps we had on the tires and felt like that was a pretty good pace at that point. I do feel like it's a car that's very comparable to the one we started with which was very, very good. I'm not sure we're in a situation we were in at Pocono where the second car is better than the first one but I feel like this one is even to the first car."
EARLIER JIMMIE JOHNSON WAS TALKING ABOUT HIS SEASON AND HE MADE A COUPLE OF COMMENTS ABOUT THAT HE AND HIS TEAM HAVE MADE A NUMBER OF MISTAKES THIS YEAR, HOW SCARY IS THAT IF THESE GUYS GET IT TOGETHER THEY'RE GOING TO BE THAT MUCH BETTER? "I look at it this way -- how scary is it for them that a new team is sitting here leading the points (laughter). That's no disrespect to them but we feel like we've got room to gain each week too. This is our first time around with each other through the first half of the season. We're just now getting ready to go back and start working off the notes that we first established at the beginning of the year. I'm not that worried. You have to be worried about him, you have to be worried about everybody that's in the Chase no matter where they are at right now because there's a reason they are there and they have to put 10 weeks together at the end of the year. Obviously history shows you can never count Jimmie and that team out. I'm not sure that it scares all of us but it doesn't scare us because we never underestimated him to begin with."
LAST WEEK GENERAL MOTORS HAD A TALK WITH SOME TEAMS, HAVE THEY HAD THAT TALK WITH YOU GUYS YET ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT IN CUP? "Yeah, Mike (Arning, public relations representative) sent a press release out about that already. Make sure you get him on the email list now."
DID YOU SAY NOW THAT YOU'RE GOING TO CHANGE THE ENGINE IN THE BACK-UP CAR? DOES THAT MEAN YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO GO TO THE REAR OF THE FIELD FOR THE RACE? "No, it does not. You can go to a back-up car as long as you run the same engine and you do it before qualifying you don't have to go to the rear of the field as long as you stay with the same primary engine."
YOU SAID YOU WOULD LIKE SOME DAY TO GO BACK AND DO THE 500 (INDY) AGAIN, NOW THAT YOU'RE A CAR OWNER AS WELL AS A DRIVER IN NASCAR IS THERE ANY CHANCE THAT'S EVER GOING TO HAPPEN? "Probably not, unfortunately. We've answered that eight million times too. The hard part is Indy has gotten so competitive again that I feel like to put together a true effort to win the Indy 500 you have to start the season with that team and run all the races leading up to the Indy 500 with them to realistically have a shot. Unfortunately being a car owner and a driver in this series that doesn't leave the opportunity to be able to run all those race. But I feel like that its gotten so competitive and the field has gotten so tight to where you can't show up there and understand everything about when they're splitting gear ratios 50 to 75 RPM's for three race gears it's hard to know exactly where you need to be and to have the feel that you need to have. This year for example they didn't have as much practice time as they normally would get. You can't just show up there and run five practice days and really feel like you've got a legitimate, honest shot to go out and win the Indy 500 with the class of drivers and teams that they have right now."
-credit: gm racing