TONY STEWART FEATURE Lowe's Motor Speedway October 6, 1999 TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "I told Kenny (in the NASCAR trailer today) that I let my temper get the best of me. I apologized to Kenny and Robert (Yates) and...
TONY STEWART FEATURE Lowe's Motor Speedway October 6, 1999
TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "I told Kenny (in the NASCAR trailer today) that I let my temper get the best of me. I apologized to Kenny and Robert (Yates) and all the guys on the 28 car. I guess I underestimated Kenny. I underestimated what he was thinking. What he told me in the trailer wasn't what I was thinking. When Kenny told me what he was thinking in the car I believed him. We've had a history together. We've been teammates at one time. It's always been a love-hate relationship as far as we always hated seeing each other show up at a race track because we knew that's who we had to beat. I guess I've got enough respect for Kenny now, if he tells me that's what happened and that's what he was thinking, then I believe him."
SO HOW DID YOU AND KENNY END UP AFTER THE MEETING? "It's probably the most calm meeting I've ever had as far as two guys probably wanting to kill each other the weekend before. I felt like the meeting went real well. I think we both respect each other now probably more than we ever have, even before last weekend. Just from the standpoint, I think we both realized we pushed each other to make each other better and that helped us to get to this level. I think we already had a certain level of respect to begin with. I think we're both a little better connected now as far as the way each other is thinking and the respect we have for each other."
SO YOU'RE NOT WORRIED ABOUT REPERCUSSIONS SUNDAY? "If I see him behind me I'm probably going to feel more comfortable with him behind me now than I do with probably four or five other guys out there. I'm not worried about it at all. Like I said, I've raced with him so long, I've never worried about it before last Sunday anyway. If he's behind me for 500 miles Sunday I'm not going to worry about it. I trust him."
AFTER YOU HAD TIME TO COOL OFF LAST SUNDAY, HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR ACTIONS? "I felt stupid. One thing about me, I take everything that happens with auto racing, as far as my career, I take it very seriously. If I didn't care about anything that goes on, you wouldn't see me react at all. I care very passionately about what I do as a race car driver. That's why I got as angry as I did and that's how I acted. I probably got 175 e-mails from people complaining about how bad I was and this and that. Everybody that sits at home and watches it on TV, they need to come out here and do this. I guarantee you it's a higher stress job than what most people have. We're not machines. We're not robots. I can't be a perfect person every time. I'm going to make mistakes. If people can't accept me making mistakes, I can't do anything about it. I'm going to do the best I can to make up for what I've done. I'm sorry for what I did. At the same time, in the heat of battle you're going to do things that aren't right and you're going to do things you regret. There's nothing you can do about it but go on. Hopefully, everybody can let it go and let us go back racing. They need to have some kind of passion in this sport. If there weren't, the races would be boring and nobody would want to watch them to begin with. Our personalities inside the car, whether we're having a good day or a bad day, it's the personalities that make this sport anyway."
IS THE TOUGHEST THING YOU'VE HAD TO DEAL WITH AS A HIGH-PROFILE ROOKIE LIVING LIFE UNDER A MICROSCOPE? "That's the hardest part. If you do one little thing wrong you've got, I shouldn't say a little thing, I did a big thing wrong Sunday, but everybody is so quick to get on their computer and send you an e-mail and tell you how bad you are. How many times this year have I caused any problems. I don't feel like I've caused many problems out here at all this year. But you sure get those people on Monday morning, whether they like you or hate you, and they must hate you evidently, because they spend a lot of time writing you telling you how bad you are over incidents or over things you didn't even do. That's probably the hardest part of it."
HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL WHEN YOU GET THAT KIND OF RESPONSE? "I hate it. How do you think I like looking at a stack of 200 e-mails in front of me and 175 of them say I'm a crybaby or I'm a poor sport or what I got fine-wise or I should have gotten this. If I said I liked it, I sure as heck wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I try to do the right things. I don't know anybody in here that's done the right thing every time. I'm sorry for what I've done and hopefully the people can forgive me for it. If they can't, I don't know what else to do. I'm doing the best I can do, and if that's not good enough I'm sure NASCAR and Joe Gibbs will replace me. It's really hard. There's no school you can go to for this. You don't go to college and learn how to drive race cars. You don't learn how to handle misfortunes. That's just part of life. If people can't let you learn through life, then eventually one day I'll be back flipping hamburgers or something. Until that point comes, I'm going to do the best I can and hope the fans and everybody are big enough people to let me make mistakes. If I didn't feel bad about it, I'd expect them to be mad, but I do feel bad about it. After talking with Kenny and realizing that I had a misperception of what happened on Sunday and what he was thinking, I feel even worse about it. I am sorry for what has happened. It didn't only cost us a bad day, it cost him a bad day. One guy's anger cost two good race cars some valuable points and money."
ARE YOU CONCERNED WITH THE FACT YOU'RE LOOKED UP TO SOME AS A ROLE MODEL A ND THAT YOU LET THEM DOWN LAST WEEK? "Yes. I think parents that have kids and they think about times when they've had bad days and think about how hard it is for them to control the ir emotions, I want them to think about that. I don't have a child, so it 's harder for me to think about that. I don't have a child I'm trying to raise. One day I will, and hopefully the lessons I learned from last weekend and the lessons I learn in the future will help me be prepared for that when it comes up. I can't read everybody's mind. When you talk to 10 people you get 10 different opinions. All I can do is try to do what I think is right. The best thing I do when I go out and do autograph sessions is having the kids come out and seeing the smiles on their faces. I'd much rather have one kid come out there tomorrow than 10 adults come out there and spend $100 on merchandise. I'd rather have one kid come out there and me give him a hat than 10 people come out there and spend a hundred bucks each. You get true emotion from those kids. It's a hard thing to think that their parents are going to push them to not be a fan of mine. I'd much rather have the kids than I would the adults. Guys love Jeff Gordon and guy s hate Jeff Gordon. Being booed on Sunday is the one thing I hope I never have to go through. That would be the one thing that would probably make me quit this sport. I don't think I could handle it like Jeff Gordon does. Whether you like somebody or don't like them, if you don't like them, don't cheer for them when they come up. Just don't boo them. I hope the parents don't let that happen with me. I don't want to have to go through that, I hope."
YOU'VE GAINED A LOT OF RESPECT FROM YOUR FELLOW DRIVERS THIS YEAR. ARE YOU WORRIED YOU LOST SOME OF THAT? "Yeah. I've had a lot of guys come up already and give me some support, but I haven't had everybody do that. I'm a rookie and the majority of them are veterans that have been around this and they've seen it at one time or another. I'm hoping I don't lose any of their respect because of this. If I do, then I understand. Hearing their advice and encouragement this week has been a big help."