Tony Stewart , No. 20 The Home Depot Monte Carlo SS - Winner "Just an awesome day. Greg (Zipadelli) and I had talked before the race about not worrying about leading the most laps, but to lead the right one today. We had a good car at the ...
Tony Stewart , No. 20 The Home Depot Monte Carlo SS - Winner
"Just an awesome day. Greg (Zipadelli) and I had talked before the race about not worrying about leading the most laps, but to lead the right one today. We had a good car at the beginning and if you are able to go to the front, you are not going to not go to the front. We got out there, but we just really concentrated all day on not getting lazy, because we had a good car at the beginning of the race and we didn't want to let these guys get caught up to us by the end of the day. We kept focusing on trying to make the car better all day. I kept trying to give Zippy good information on what we needed to do or what I needed the car to do that it wasn't doing and let him make the adjustments. Like he said, right there relatively close to the end, we were off a little bit and Jimmie got by and got away from us a little bit and it kind of went the other way and we got right again. It was just a matter of getting back to the front at the end."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS PATIENCE AND ATTITUTE?
"The last three races I think we led the most laps here so we obviously have had an awesome car. Being able to hold that 24 car off is what really made me happy today because Jeff (Gordon) is so good especially late in the race like that. Even when I saw him back and forth I thought he's holding something back. This is Ricky Hendrick's birthday today and I know I'm not part of the Hendrick organization but everytime we come to Martinsville we think of the Hendrick family and the tragedy and Scott Lathram and his family. I just want to let everybody know we're thinking about them. What an awesome way to get this first one done."
HOW DOES THIS WIN COMPARE TO YOUR FIRST WIN AT MARTINSVILLE?
"The first win we had here, the guy that ran second was Dale Earnhardt, so that was probably a little more special because of who was behind us. But, as good as we have run here the last two years, this one means a ton because we have been so good here. We were heartbroken in the spring a year ago with the wheel coming off, then in the fall race, just got beat by Jeff (Gordon), who did a better job than us. I mean they were just faster than us at the end. We knew we were going to be a contender this week and with the anticipation of coming here, this is one of the places I couldn't wait to get to because I knew we had a shot at winning this race."
YOU HAVE QUIETLY LED OVER 800 OF THE LAST MORE THAN 1,500 LAPS HERE. TALK ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO SNEAK UP ON THE COMPETITION HERE.
"We don't want to sneak up on people anyway. We want people to know we are one of the teams hopefully they have to try to beat. We are proud of how we have run here. Zippy has done an awesome job. I feel like I can get around here pretty well and this is a track that both of us look forward to. Everybody kind of has that one track where they really, really go well at and even though we didn't win the two races last year, I felt like this was one of the tracks we excelled at so I was looking forward to being here."
TALK ABOUT LIKING RACING PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND HOW ROUGH SHORT TRACK RACING CAN BE, ESPECIALLY TODAY RACING JIMMIE JOHNSON FOR THE WIN.
"Yes, it really is. Jimmie and I have been friends since we both first started in NASCAR together. The sad part about the relationship between Jimmie and I is that our sponsors hate each other and it is kind of funny at the same time. It has kept us from doing things together that we wanted to do. Jimmie and I wanted to run the Paul Revere race at Daytona in the Daytona Prototype Class. He couldn't run with me because of the sponsor conflict. They would let him run with someone else, but not with me.
"He is a good guy and I wasn't going to wreck him. There were a couple of times when I had him in a compromising position and I let him go and let him get going again. I didn't want to win it that way. Trust me, I was roughing him up pretty good, but that is short track racing. If Dale Earnhardt was here, I guarantee you he would have worn both of us out and got by both of us on the way to winning this thing.
"Jimmie understands that and there are a lot of guys who don't. Like you said, it is a very good situation to know that when you are racing with guys like that. I knew as soon as I went by him, that if he could get back to me, he was going to do the very same thing. I wasn't going to have a problem with it. I knew if Jeff could get to me on those last two restarts, I was going to get something from him. That is just short track racing. As long as I don't get spun out and wrecked in the deal and end up 23rd and end up third or fourth because of it, that is just racing. If I am not fast enough to lead the race, then I am going to get passed by somebody who is going to be faster.
"As you said, to have guys who understand that and don't whine, carry on and complain and go on and on definitely makes racing here more fun. But trust me, there aren't a lot of guys like Jimmie. Jimmie is a class act and that is why I like racing with him so much."
DID NASCAR WARN YOU WHEN YOU WERE BANGING ON JIMMIE?
"I didn't hear anything."
TALK ABOUT LAST YEAR STARTING OUT SLOWLY AND NOT HAVING MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO WIN AND THIS YEAR YOU HAVE HAD A FAST CAR IN EVERY RACE AND NOT WON UNTIL TODAY. WHICH IS HARDER TO ACCEPT?
"Probably just the fact of not running well. This year we have had a fast car everywhere we have went and haven't gotten a win until here. But just the fact that we have led and been competitive in all the races from my side. I can't speak for Zippy on that, but from the driver side, just knowing you are competitive and having your program where it needs to be is the toughest battle. It is those days when you aren't running good and you aren't winning races but you don't know what you need to do to get yourself in those situations, is when it gets frustrating. Being in the situation we have been all year and knowing we have had good race cars we know we can't stop working because everyone else is. But last year at this time, we were all scratching our heads and asking what we had to do to get caught up. Trust me, from a driver's stand point, it is a lot better situation than what it was a year ago."
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RACE WHEN YOU GOT CUT OFF, DID YOU THINK TO YOURSELF, OH NO, HERE WE GO AGAIN AT MARTINSVILLE?
"I don't think, to be honest, that we ever think about it that deeply. You are so caught up in the moment. s a race car driver, you are saying, 'OK, this is what it is doing and this is what I need it to do.' You don't think about a year ago. You just think about what you have to do to get it where it needs to be today. If we didn't win the race, yes, I probably would have said that crossed my mind but we just stay focused. That is what makes guys, that win here, win here. Because when things go wrong, you don't give up, you stay focused on what you have to do to get it right so you will have the opportunity to win."
DOES IT ADD SOMETHING TO WIN A RACE WHEN THE COMPETITORS ARE JEFF, JIMMIE, DALE EARNHARDT, JR. AND DRIVERS LIKE THAT?
"They are racing with us every week, they have been there all year. I don't care who it is that is up toward the front near the end. The guys that have gotten here, there is a reason these guys have gotten here. They didn't buy their rides, they just didn't just show up out of the blue. You have to prove yourself. You have to earn the right to be here and if you don't get the job done, you get moved down a level. I don't care who it is. I don't care if is Derrick Cope and Chad Little that I was racing for the win. To win a race, you win the race. You beat whoever was best on that day and there are days that you don't know who it is going to be, you can't take anybody for granted. If you are going for the glory side of it when you have Gordon and Earnhardt and if you are strictly racing the profile and names, sure it is great to beat those guys, but last time I checked, to win the race, you have to beat all 42 drivers out there and I don't think there are 42 drivers with big names like those guys right now."
Continued in part 2