TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: NOTE: Sunday's victory was Stewart's first since Watkins Glen last August and the 16th of his NASCAR Winston Cup career. The 32-year-old Indiana native climbed three spots in the ...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
NOTE: Sunday's victory was Stewart's first since Watkins Glen last August and the 16th of his NASCAR Winston Cup career. The 32-year-old Indiana native climbed three spots in the point standings to 13th, 540 behind leader Matt Kenseth.
"WERE YOU CONCERNED ON THAT LAST RESTART? "I think we had a good car. I knew at the end of the race we had a good car, it was just a matter of getting a good shift from second to third gear on the restart and just running my line. I got a smooth shift and got into Turn 1 all right."
GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
DOES THIS MEAN YOUR LUCK IS CHANGING? "I think things just haven't gone our way this year. We've made some mistakes and lost our focus a few times this year. That's all just part of the sport. Everything has to be 100 percent, every lap, in order to win. It's gotten that competitive. I was a little nervous at one point because we had to give up track position because of our fuel mileage, and I felt that if everything went our way, we'd get back up front. We did it."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS QUICK PIT WORK TODAY? "I think it won us the race, to be honest. I felt like the crew won the race today, not me. I just did my part driving. They got me in position on that stop where we went back to green. I was able to run my pace, and not abuse the front tires chasing down the leader. I could run the way I wanted to run and lift the way I wanted to lift and do everything my way instead of trying to push hard and run those guys down. When it came time to come in and make our green-flag stop there for fuel, they had a great stop again, got us our ahead of Sterling and Mark and the biggest thing was just getting right back into my rhythm. They had two really good stops right there at the end of the race that I feel won us the race."
WITH THE WAY YOUR LUCK HAS GONE IN RECENT RACES, WERE YOU WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN? "Zippy called me before the last restart there and asked me, 'what are you doing?' I kind of thought to myself, 'what do you mean, what am I doing? I'm driving the car around under caution.' So that's what I said to him. He said, 'we're just checking. We're all standing here with butterflies. What about you?' I said, 'nope, I'm in good shape right now.' I figured something was going to happen, because that's been the story line for us all year. In all reality, it probably made it easier for me on that last restart. I stayed focused, just concentrated on doing what I had to do behind the wheel. In the back of my mind, I thought, 'well, surely something's going to happen here, so don't get too excited,' It probably kept me more calm and made it a little easier to stay focused."
WERE YOU CONFIDENT ON THAT LAST PIT STOP THAT EVERYONE WAS GOING TO CYCLE THROUGH AND YOU'D WIND UP BACK FRONT? "When Sterling came in as early as he did, I knew what their strategy was. You know what they were trying to do was, if a yellow came out after he came in, he'd already made his stop, everyone else was going to some in for their fuel and he was going to be leading the race on track position. I thought that Zippy was going to stretch it out more. I really didn't know exactly what he had in mind and I didn't ask. My job was to just try and click off the lap times I was running. Every lap we stayed out , I thought that's less fuel we have to put in, but at the same time, the more guys that pit, if there is a caution it just puts us that much further back. When we came in as early as we did--I don't know how many laps it was after that, but it wasn't too long--I was hoping that in that time frame we'd build up enough of a lead because we were able to run in clear air. I thought if we could run some good laps and get back out before the caution comes out, we could beat them. That's what happened. We just ran a real strong pace there, a little harder than I really wanted to run, but I knew we needed to get that out there to be able to get in and get back out before Sterling came around. When I saw Mark come out behind us it made me feel a little better, and I didn't know exactly where Sterling was, but I couldn't see him so I was assuming we had beat him out. But I didn't know for sure."
HOW MANY MORE LAPS DID YOU HAVE IN MIND (BEFORE PITTING)? "I honestly don't know. I was just worried about the lap times. I knew Zippy had a plan and was watching what everybody else was doing and was going to base his strategy on what everybody else was doing. I was more concerned with running the lap times I was running and hoping I was building up a margin there to when we came back out we'd be ahead."
DOES THE UNIQUE SHAPE OF POCONO CHALLENGE YOU AS A DRIVER? "It's a three-turn road course. You're shifting like you do on a road course and it has three unique corners. It doesn't have the big banked corners and two and three grooves like you MORE STWEART: typically see. The only turn that had that was Turn 1 at the end of the straightaway. It just makes you focus and concentrate really hard. The Tunnel Turn is line-sensitive. You can't go down in there and miss your marks and expect to run a good corner through there. It's a very technical track. It makes you really focus on all three corners, and the hardest thing is getting that car to drive well in all three. That's normally the challenge. It seems like I always get two of the three fairly easy and it seems like the third corner is the one you have trouble with. It doesn't matter which one it is on the track, it just seems like one of the three is always off a little bit. That's the challenging part about this speedway."
YOU CLOSED THE DEAL AND WON THE RACE. "It's been a long time coming. We've been running well. We've had better cars than we've ever had, better engines, the best bodies we've ever had on our cars. It's just a matter of everything falling into place, finally. When you go out and lead the laps that we led at Charlotte, run as hard as we did at Dover last week, The Winston, California. You look at all those places and we were doing our job, but we didn't have the luck on our side. We knew in our hearts and minds that it was just a matter of time before it finally turned back around in our favor."
HOW MUCH DID THE RECENT PRACTICE SESSION HERE HELP, ESPECIALLY SINCE HAPPY HOUR WAS RAINED OUT YESTERDAY? "It was pretty valuable. It makes me look like a genius on days like today when we capitalize on it. Zippy asked me where I wanted to test earlier this year, and that's something he normally doesn't do. He just picks the tracks he wants to go to and he has to use. This is a track where we've always been in the top 10 or five with it, but we never really had a car that stood out, that we thought we could win the race. I kind of adopted Zippy's philosophy. If we run that well here, why run a test? We were trying to take a track where we were a top-10 or top-five car and make it a track where we can win a race, and that's what happened for us this weekend. That makes it very valuable. Unfortunately, we had rain that week too, so we didn't get two full days in. If you put all the time together, I think we got one day of productive testing out of two days, but I think it showed we made some pretty big strides with it."
WHAT'S THE MOST BIZARRE THING THAT'S HAPPENED THIS YEAR IN TERMS OF BAD LUCK? "You can pick just one thing? It's been just little things here and little things there. It's not been anything huge. I think all you guys expected me to flip out this year with the way things have gone, but we're running good. We're doing MORE STEWART: everything right. We just haven't had the luck to go with it. Having last year over with and out of the way and the stress of that being gone, it's helped put things in perspective. If we were running 25th to 30th or something and blowing motors and having something happen it would be harder to deal with. Zippy's putting great setups on the cars, the guys are building good cars, good bodies, good motors. All the ingredients have been there to win races all year, it's a matter of having everything go our way. When you have a year like we had last year, we needed a lot of luck at the end of the year to help get us up to where we were. That's what happened, we had good luck. My grandfather's turning out to be a genius. He said everything makes a full circle, and it has. It went from everything being really good at the end of the year to things starting off to kind of going south for us. Now, hopefully, it's coming back the other side of that circle and we're finishing that cycle. There's nothing you can do about it. I think I've probably dealt with it better than Zippy has this year. I'm the one inside the trailer at the end of the day trying to find the positives in every negative this year. It's kept us with an open frame of mind to say, 'hey we're doing everything we need to do, it's just a matter of getting luck on our side.' With that in mind, it has let us stay focused for the next week and not dwell on the past week."
ON THE FINAL PIT STOP, DID EVERYONE ELSE COMING IN FORCE YOU TO STOP WHEN YOU DID? "We talked about doing it as early as we could. We wanted to wait for a few of the cars to come in and I felt like where we were, we were in the best position to build our lead. Our car was better than anyone's at that time and we had taken off. We were building a lead a couple of tenths a lap. When I felt like we got to the point where I could dictate the two or three people we were racing, that's when we elected to come down pit road and we did. The 12 and 6 had to follow us at that point. The guys who did it were all 10th or so, other than Sterling, he kind of rolled the dice early. There were going for what they could and we had to get ourselves a big lead, so we could get on pit road, do our stop, get out and come back, kind of like it happened. It's fun when it all works the way you want it to. Most of the time this year, it hasn't worked out that way."
WHY DID YOU BUMP THE PACE CAR AT THE END OF THE RACE? "I hadn't done it all day, and I think from the time I led my first Winston Cup race under caution I've always made a point to touch the pace car. Buster is a pretty good guy. As much as we're all around each other, it's like a giant family down here, so I always go up and give him a little nudge and he'll wave in the window. I hadn't done it all day, and I thought well, maybe if I don't do it I won't jinx myself. We did it at Dover and look what happened. I didn't touch him all day, but it's kind of like spraying Joe [Gibbs] at the end of the day. I think Joe had made it through one race this year with a dry head. It's just tradition. Every chance I get to lead a race, if we lead it under caution--I tried to get him loose. I tried to work him around, because I knew there wasn't anything else going to happen. I could kill the engine and pretty much coast to the finish line, but I started kind of trying to get him on the left rear and see if I could get him wiggling around a little bit, mess with him. The guys called me on the radio and said, 'be easy on the race car!' So I got busted. It was having fun. As stressful as what we do is, if you can't have some fun at some point during the race, and do something to make yourself laugh, you'll drive yourself crazy."