TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: DO YOU LIKE THIS KIND OF RACING? "I still like short track racing the best, but this is more a strategy race than it is a 'get up on the wheel, stand up in the seat' kind of race. You...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
DO YOU LIKE THIS KIND OF RACING? "I still like short track racing the best, but this is more a strategy race than it is a 'get up on the wheel, stand up in the seat' kind of race. You obviously don't wrestle the car around here for 500 laps like you do at Bristol or Richmond."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A GOOD 'RACE MIND?' "I think a lot of it is trial and error. That's the hard part. That's the good thing about the amount of practice that we get here is that it gives you a lot of time to try everything that you can possibly come up with in your head to do on race day. The thing that still is an unknown variable is that even though you try everything, it's more about whether the people behind you are going to go with you when you move. That's the part of the plan that's tricky."
HOW DO YOU FIGURE OUT WHO TO WORK WITH ON RACE DAY? "As much as we run with each other, everybody knows going into race day whose cars are pretty strong and whose aren't. If you're a pretty strong car they know that you're going to be able to take them to the front if they help you. It's kind of a team deal, but you're not necessarily teammates. Everybody is working for the same goal and that is to get to the front. In the packs that we run, if you can find somebody that will help you get there, you're going to work with them and you're going to help them as much as they're going to help you. You kind of look for partners all day long."
DOES IT HELP THAT YOU'VE WON HERE BEFORE? "I think it makes it a little bit better. The more comfortable you are around the drivers you're running with, the more you're going to feel comfortable going with them when it comes time to be there at the end of the race, and they're looking for a partner that can hopefully take them to the front. Winning the 'Shootout' here has probably helped a lot, and we ran second at Talladega the last two times we've been there. Hopefully, that experience will give a lot of these other drivers the confidence in us to get us in a situation where we can try to get up front at the end of the day."
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH CLOSE CALLS ON THE TRACK? "You have to keep in mind that it's 36 races. Most of the time when something happens the guy didn't even know that he did it. As close as we run with each other all the time, it's easy to cut a guy off on accident, or make a move that the guy didn't expect. It's just really a situation where you kind of just turn the other cheek and go on to the next week, and keep in mind that you're points racing each week."
HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT YOU CAN MAKE A RUN AT THE WINSTON CUP TITLE THIS YEAR? "We've got a really good team. Home Depot is still with us this year. All the guys on the crew are still the same guys. We've even added some people this year, so I'm pretty excited about it. I've probably been more excited about this year than I have any other year, as far as feeling like we have the capability of running up front consistently and hopefully running for a title. But, we need to be realistic that it's 36 points races and anything can happen in any one of those races, and one bad week can take you out of the championship."
CAN THIS ONLY BE SUCCESSFUL IF YOU WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "I don't think you have to judge a season that way, to be honest. You look at how many talented race teams and drivers there are here, I feel really fortunate to have finished where I have the last three years in the points. If you put together the perfect season, then you can be the champion and it just makes winning the championship that much more special for you."
IS THIS A WIN OR BUST SEASON FOR YOU? "Why would it be a bust year? Not at all. With so many talented guys and teams here, if you don't win the championship you can't say it's a bad year. You can't say that you haven't accomplished your goals. Accomplishing your goals in this series, I think realistically if you aim your sights at the top five in the points, that's pretty realistic. You can count on three or four teams that are really going to have good seasons. If you can put together that perfect year, then you can beat those guys, but it takes 36 very consistent weeks to be able to do that. To say that you're going to go through 36 weeks and not have a mishap is pretty unrealistic. You just try to keep in perspective each week."
ON ELIMINATING DISTRACTIONS "Just like our race team sits down at the end of the year and says, 'What can we do better, what areas can we improve on,' I do the same thing. If I don't improve, it doesn't matter how much the race team improves. We're not going to be any better than the weakest person. If they improve and I don't improve, then we're not going to be any better. As much effort as they put into trying to make our program better, I do the same."
HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE YOUR RIVALRY WITH JEFF GORDON? "I don't have one. It's not a rivalry. I probably admire Jeff more than I admire anybody in this series by the way he handles everything. He's kind of the guy I look up to to model how I want to make my season work."
ARE THERE RIVALRIES IN NASCAR? "With 43 guys, it's hard to create an individual rivalry between two guys. A lot of times the media tries to portray a rivalry more than there really is. You've got to remember that we race 38 weekends. We're with each other 38 weekends a year. It's just like a big, giant family. It's like the Waltons on steroids. You've got so many people involved that eventually you're going to disagree with somebody along the line. But the next week, you kind of hit a reset button and start all over. That same person that you had a problem with the week before may be the guy that helps you or that you help the next week."