Michigan II: Stewart - Saturday media visit

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the Chase, hot streaks, NASCAR fines, and more. HOW WAS YOUR FIRST PRACTICE SESSION THIS MORNING? "I spent half the practice session this morning waking up....

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the Chase, hot streaks, NASCAR fines, and more.

HOW WAS YOUR FIRST PRACTICE SESSION THIS MORNING? "I spent half the practice session this morning waking up. That's much earlier than I'm used to being up in the morning. But the track, early in the morning like this, has a lot of grip. I think that second session will really give us all a better idea of how our cars are driving and handling. This morning it was really fast, pace-wise and had a lot of grip. I think we're just trying to find a good base off of what we learned yesterday in the first practice and I feel like we're a lot closer today than we were yesterday. But I think we're really going to put the majority of our stock into this next and last session. That's going to be the most valuable practice session of the weekend to truly have a good read on what kind of car we're going to have for Sunday."

ON NASCAR FINING DRIVERS FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS, SHOULD NASCAR CONTINUE TO DO THAT? "We mentioned the last couple of weeks that there are other pro sports that have the same thing. It's done for a reason. We, as drivers, and people here in the media center are just as guilty at times of being worse on our sport than anybody'; and in a way that's not really justified. I'm not sure that NASCAR as a sanctioning body deserves some of the things that we say as drivers and some of the things that the media says. The sport and the racing right now is more competitive than it's ever been. From NASCAR's side, they've got to do what they have to do to protect the sport. The great thing is that the media is allowed to get to us right after we get out of our cars when the Adrenalin is flowing. There is no other sport like that. There never has been. And that's a great thing and I don't think it's fair to you guys (media) to see that side of it go away. But at the same time, there are a lot of things said in that first five or 10 minutes that 30 minutes to an hour after the race is over I think a lot of times we wish we would have phrased it different or said it different. I think that's what has kind of forced NASCAR to do what they've had to do. They didn't just all of a sudden one day say uh, this is what we're going to do.

"I think we as drivers and members of the media have put them in that position. NASCAR has built over 60-plus years of product that's a good product and is a thriving product. I don't think it's fair for us as drivers or media to tear all that down. None of that happens overnight but I think we all forget everybody in this room and myself included, how good we really have it to do what we do every week and to be able to go the places we do and participate in the sport that we all love."

HOW CLOSE ARE YOU GUYS WITH THE CHASE COMING UP AND WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU STILL NEED TO GAIN? WE'VE SEEN A BUNCH OF GUYS HAVE MINI HOT STREAKS, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? "Well, I think the mini hot streaks are just finding something that works. We're still in a period of transition with this new car. What you find that works right now may work three or four weeks. The engineers are doing such a good job of continuing to find things that these cars like that they're finding bigger chunks quicker. I think that's why we see the spurts from different organizations. Do I feel like we're right where we need to be? Not exactly. Do I feel like we're gaining on it? Yes. I'm excited about the fact that I feel like we're looking up the hill and not looking back at where we're sliding to. So I feel like we're gaining on it. I'm not sure we're exactly where we want to be yet, but right now we're making progress and that's the progress that we want doing into the Chase versus last year this is kind of the part where the wheels started falling off and we're maintaining or sliding backwards. I'm happy with the progress the team has made this year. It's easy to go from having a first year like we had last year that went so well for so long and to have the disappointment this year of not running as well as we'd like for guys to not necessarily give up, but just lose their enthusiasm and lose that drive and that's something that I'm really proud of my guys at our shop at Stewart-Haas and even the engine department at Hendrick and the chassis department there. I feel like they've continued to push way hard. So I feel like we've got a good group of guys that have really got their heads down to the ground and they're focused on what we're trying to do and accomplish."

REGARDING CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM OF NASCAR FROM DRIVERS AND OWNERS, WHAT ARE THE APPROPRIATE TIMES AND FORUMS FOR YOU GUYS TO EXPRESS THAT? DO YOU AS AN OWNER HAVE MORE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS THOSE THOUGHTS AND IDEAS AS YOU DID BEFORE? "There are times and places to express what's on your mind. NASCAR has always had an open-door policy of us going in and venting frustrations to them and I think that's where they get frustrated at times. We come in here (media center) and we give you guys (media) everything that you want and the sound bite that you want that gives you the story that you want. But at the same time it backs NASCAR in a corner when we should go to NASCAR and discuss those issues behind closed doors and give them the opportunity to either address the issue or explain to us why it's being done in the way it is without making it a firestorm for those guys. The appropriate place to do it is go to NASCAR and talk to them behind closed doors like it should be.

"And on a side note, when I say this room is guilty of it, it's not everybody in this room. There are a handful of people who have created the problems just like the drivers have. I don't mean that everybody in the media center has killed the sport by any means because it's not that way. There are a lot of good journalists in here. But there's a group of them that are the bad eggs just like anywhere else and they're the ones that consistently week in and week out focus on anything negative that happens here and that's the people that I was speaking about."

ARE YOU GETTING CLOSE TO FIRMING UP YOUR SPONSORS FOR THE NO. 14 FOR 2011? "Yeah, we're working on it. It's a daily process. It's the normal deal; when we have something signed I guarantee we'll be happy to announce it to everybody. But we're still working on it."

IS IT GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? "Well, I hope so. We're trying. It's not an easy process. It's a day-to-day process. That's all I can say."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A ROAD COURSE IN THE CHASE OR ANY OTHER ADJUSTMENTS TO THE FORMAT? "I would love to see a dirt race at Eldora in the Chase (laughter) which, I've mentioned for 10 years. So, hopefully I won't have to go 11 years before we get one but I'm not going to hold my breath that it's going to happen. It doesn't matter to me. I think that there are races that some of us would like to see in the Chase. I think there are one or two races that some of us would like to see out of the Chase, but NASCAR is pretty smart at knowing which races to have in there and why they need to be in there which is why we have them as the sanctioning body."

ALTHOUGH YOU'RE ONLY IN YOUR SECOND YEAR AS A CAR OWNER, DO YOU GET A SENSE OF SOMEBODY LIKE RICHARD CHILDRESS WHO HAS HAD PEAKS AND VALLEYS OVER THE YEARS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THOSE? HOW CHALLENGING IS THAT? HOW HAS HE BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT? "You're giving me way too much credit. I wish I was that smart to know how to do that. But you're right. He's one guy that hasn't had to go rely on an outside source to bail himself out and keep his organization running. He's been able to figure out how to do it singlehandedly. And with that, I think that makes him one of the strongest car owners in the series. He's just an average guy that loves this sport and has poured his heart and soul into it. Like you said, there have been a lot of valleys and at times there have been peaks and in the middle of that, but even through when times aren't good he fights and he won't give up and that's what you have to do as a car owner at this level. Everything is great when things are going well. When times are tough is what shows you the true character of an organization. I think that's why Richard has been as successful as he has for so long is because he's one of those guys that just will not stop and will not quit. He stays focused and knows how to get the job done."

JACK ROUSH WAS HERE YESTERDAY AND TALKED ABOUT THE PRIDE HE HAD IN THAT HIS TEAM WENT ON WITHOUT A HITCH WHILE HE WAS SIDELINED. AS A TEAM OWNER, GOD FORBID SOMETHING HAPPENED TO YOU, WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR TEAM? DO YOU HAVE PLANS IN PLACE AND HOW DOES EVERYBODY HANDLE THAT? "I've been gone for three weeks racing sprint cars and luckily the team has given me a hall pass to go do that. But it's proof that my organization doesn't have to have me to operate. Yeah, there are provisions in place if something should happen. You have to have that in place. Our team will do the same thing. Our team will continue on whether I'm here or not."

-source: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup