Phoenix Winner's Notes

TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "The team did a great job today and all weekend really. I've got to thank the guys, especially the guys on the crew. When we got here, we didn't test here and as a rookie it took me a lot ...

TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "The team did a great job today and all weekend really. I've got to thank the guys, especially the guys on the crew. When we got here, we didn't test here and as a rookie it took me a lot longer than I thought it was to get used to this place. I'd had a lot of success here in the midgets and super modifieds and Silver Crown cars, but coming here with a stock car I didn't know what it would be like to drive a car here. The guys were real patient all weekend and Greg (Zipadelli) had a setup that was real comfortable on the car right off the bat and that gave us the flexibility of not worrying about making changes. We worried about letting me go out and make laps.

"To win one race and then to be put in that category with him (Davey Allison) is something. To win two like he did is just unbelievable. I sound like a broken record all the time and I know you guys get tired of hearing this, but due to Joe and Greg and all the guys on the team, I mean, those guys were ready to win races this year from Daytona on. It was just a matter of me catching up to those guys. I didn't have the knowledge and experience that I needed.

"At the start I couldn't get by Kenny Wallace and he couldn't get by me. I was behind Earnhardt and felt I was abusing tires right off the bat. We let Earnhardt go by and Jeff Burton was quick and we let him go by. I'm starting to learn a little more about patience. They're long races and it really doesn't mean a lot (in the beginning getting passed). We just took our time and Greg kept me calm on the radio.

"We really needed a good race here. I told Greg in victory lane that this was a personal victory for me. This is one of those places that I've really enjoyed. We were in a slump a little bit and now with two races to go we'll carry some momentum going into renegotiating my contract with Joe (laughing).

"I think about two-thirds of the way through that first run (he was capable of winning). We started catching a pack of about three or four really good cars and obviously John (Andretti) was a long ways ahead. Running those guys down at the rate we ran them down, we knew we had a good car. We ran out of fuel basically. I came off turn two and the motor went flat. I thought we had broke a motor because it felt like it was a little flat, but it turned out we just ran out of fuel. Luckily, we ran out fuel on this end. I thought that was also a key point, when we were able to run the leaders back down after that. I knew I had a car strong enough to win the race after that.

"I don't know what our problem is at Martinsville, other than the majority of it being my temper. Some of these tracks just suit my style. I'm not sure what style that is. For some reason there are tracks we go to that I really get around well. It's not just me driving the car its the chassis setup, too, so it's just a team effort.

"I've run this race track from one end to the other and a lot of different lines on this race track. I know the characteristics of this place and I know what happens when this track gets slick. You have to move around on the race track to make you car do what you want it to do. I didn't come here with the attitude that it would be easy because of that fact. I felt like if I got comfortable in the race car and we had a car that was running up front, that that could play a factor in the race. It surprised me today what I could do with the race car. The line I ran in one and two I really didn't think I was going to be able to run. It worked today.

"I won two midget races at the Copper Classic and a Silver Crown race at the Copper Classic and ran second in a super modified here and unfortunately I only ran second twice in the IRL car here.

"There wasn't any use in getting ticked off (running out of gas). There was nothing I could do about it. I knew we had a really good car at that point and having the lead we had I knew I was going to lose some spots, but at least we weren't going to go a lap down and that's what I was really concerned about. It was actually a blessing that John Andretti pitted at the same time. He passed me going into three and he ducked down and he gave me a gauge of how fast the pit lane speed was. I had to match it at the beginning of the lane and obviously I couldn't maintain that speed, but at least I knew I wasn't going to break it that first set of time lines. That was a big help having him pit there. My biggest concern then was we really had a tough time getting the car started. That was the part that worried me the most.

"The last three weeks, we're negotiating (with Joe Gibbs). Joe has had a lot to do this summer. He's re-negotiated the head engine builder's contract, Bobby and Jimmy Makar's contract, he got Greg's done and he's working on mine right now. I'm just glad I'm the last one to go here because this win sure didn't hurt us in that aspect. I sure don't want to go into these re-negotiations with three DNFs. This isn't going to hurt us today. I told him, 'The price of poker went up today, big boy.'

"I'm happy. To win two races in my rookie season, why would I want to go anywhere else. If somebody can give me a good reason maybe I'll look at it, but until then I'm staying where I'm at.

"There were some specific things (he was able to take from other starts) and don't ask me what they are because I'm not going to tell you. If I tell you they're all going to know next year if I tell you. The IRL car you learn a lot about arcing into the corner. In the Silver Crown car and the midget, those were the two cars I was probably able to use the most.

"I don't know what we'll need to do next year to win the championship. There are places we need to work on and Martinsville is one of them. There are tracks we have to pick up the pace at. You hear a lot of teams that need to work on their short track program or intermediate track of superspeedways. We've run well at all those three places and the road course on top of that. I'm not sure there's one area we need to concentrate on. The thing is we're not going to lay down this year. Everybody is going to keep working to make the cars better.

"Typically, I have zero patience. I'm not sure I have a whole lot of that still. Bobby Labonte, you look at how he drives a car and how he runs this race, he's very patient. That's been one of the great things about having him as a teammate, his experience and knowledge. He sees me making mistakes and he sees when I get too anxious. He's the first guy to come over and say, 'Hey, you need to take your time a little bit.' Every time he's told me that it's helped. Bobby's been a very valuable asset.

"I'm wore out (from the season). I've told everybody from the last three seasons my body has been aching in dog years. With every birthday I have my body gets seven years older. Staying up until nine o'clock is a major accomplishment anymore. This series takes a toll on it. That's why Joe put a lot of emphasis at the beginning of the year putting a trainer at the shop and working with the guys on the pit crew and myself, just to make sure at the end of the season guys that are starting to wear down both mentally and physically, we're still on top of our game. We're trying to stay sharp and when those guys start fading a little bit we want to be there to be able to capitalize on it. Every little piece that you can gain on these guys shows up tenfold. We've got to keep that way. That's how you win championships. I've learned those lessons in the past. We've got two more to go and Judy (Dominick) won't beat me up too much with the press. She'll make sure I get enough rest to finish up strong."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Bobby Labonte , Kenny Wallace