Richmond II: Stewart - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS: ON THE PRESSURE OF THIS WEEKEND AND HIS MINDSET "That's probably the best question I'll be asked all weekend. It strictly boils down to doing what we normally do. If we...


ON THE PRESSURE OF THIS WEEKEND AND HIS MINDSET "That's probably the best question I'll be asked all weekend. It strictly boils down to doing what we normally do. If we go out and take the approach of trying to win the race like we normally do when we come to Richmond, that's the perfect way of doing it. Now obviously if scenarios dictate the need to do something different during the race, that's something that Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief) will decide, not me. So from a driver's standpoint, I'm approaching it like we do any week and that's just going out and trying to win the race."

IS THIS THE BEST PLACE FOR THIS SCENARIO TO HAPPEN FOR YOU? "Yeah, I think so. Our teammate, Denny Hamlin, had an awesome run here in the spring, so that gives us a lot to look forward to for this weekend knowing that our program is obviously in place. It's just a matter of us going out and doing our jobs and doing what we do here every time we come to Richmond and that's going out and try to win the race and if not, get a good top five finish out of it."

DOES IT MAKE IT ANY EASIER KNOWING THAT YOU BASICALLY YOU JUST HAVE TO FIND AND BEAT KASEY KAHNE? "We're not even looking at that. My approach is just going out there and trying to win the race. When it's over with or is Zippy calls me on the radio and says we've got to focus on something different, then that's when we'll do that. But for the most part, we're just going to stick to the plan the way it always is when we get here."

DOES IT HELP WHEN YOU HAVE A TEAMMATE IN THE CHASE? "I'm kind of excited about two of us from Joe Gibbs Racing being in the Chase for once. We've never really had that opportunity in the last couple of years. So, it's nice to have that opportunity and having a guy like Denny (Hamlin) in the Chase here. We're both a lot alike, so I think it's going to help us both this year."

DO YOU THINK IT WILL CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY? "It's never going to change. I've been racing 27 years. I've won three National championships in a year. I've won an Indy Car championship and two Cup championships a National Midget championship before the Triple Crown. Our approach in all of those series was all the same. If you win races, the points take care of themselves. That's always going to be my approach. It's never, ever going to change - if I race for another 50 years, it won't change."

IN THIS PARTICULAR RACE AT RICHMOND, WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED ABOUT THE WAY THE OTHER DRIVERS APPROACH IT? IS THEIR APPROACH ANY DIFFERENT THAN OTHER RACES? "Not really. Sometimes it's a little less give and take. But that's to be expected. There is a lot on the line for this. If you take that into consideration and realize it's not just your average week, and understand it, that's probably what the scenario would be."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE KASEY KAHNE MAKE THE CHASE? "Yeah, Kasey and I are really good friends. I'd love to see him make it. It would be a shame to see him not make it after the season he's had this year. He's done such a great job."

WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON TWEAKING THE CHASE TO GIVE THE WINNER MORE POINTS? "I've got a great idea. Let's just make the Chase 36 weeks long and let everybody be in the Chase then. If they're tweaking it to make sure certain guys get in, there's no point in even having a Chase. That's the frustrating side of it for us. With the theory of everybody talking about making sure certain guys making the Chase, if that's the case, they ought to just give them automatic places in the Chase and be done with it."

YOU'RE NEVER AFRAID TO GO FOR THE WINS. SOME GUYS MIGHT BE. THEY MIGHT POINT RACE IN THIS SITUATION. ARE WINS REWARDED ENOUGH? "Yeah, you get a trophy and you get the most prize money and you get the most points. So yeah, this has been a topic that's been brought up for years. People save up and spend a lot of money to come to a Cup race. If they saw their favorite driver throw it away in the last 10 laps to try to get a bunch of extra points to help win the championship or something because of the points being added so heavy on the front, they're not going to leave with a smile on their face if their driver could have finished second and still had a good day but instead, finished 40th because they crashed out because there is such an incentive to win versus running in the top five. I think you've got to think about that from the fans standpoint. If you've got 43 guys crashing each other out of races to get those extra points, it really doesn't make sense."

ON CRASHING DURING PRACTICE, WHAT HAPPENED? "I just got high in (Turns) 1 and 2. I didn't get way up; I just got the right side in the crumbs. Schrader just came over and talked to me and said it all looked like it was slow motion. We weren't really going that quick. There was just no grip and being in those marbles, I couldn't keep the back end underneath me."

THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN TO YOU THAT OFTEN IN PRACTICE "No, not at all. That car was a really good car. This one (backup) came around right there at the end, which I'm happy about. If I didn't run that last run, I'd be a lot more nervous than I am right now. But that last run was really good. So I'm really happy with this car now. That was a really good car starting off with. It really ran good laps up front. It's hard to say where that one took off versus the other one until here at the end because once you get out there and get some laps and get rubber on the track, it all changes. But I think this car is going to be just as good now."

YOU'RE NOT AS NERVOUS, BUT YOU'RE ONLY 45 POINTS AHEAD OF KASEY KAHNE "It's the same as last week. I'm not worried about it. I'm not counting points. I'm worried about going out and trying to win the race right now. So it's a pretty easy philosophy to figure out and it's what's led to about six or seven national championships so I'm not going to stray off that path."

WHAT FELT GOOD IN THAT LAST RUN? "We got it turning really good. We found something I was feeling but didn't know why it was happening. Zippy and I figured out something to keep it from doing that and it actually make it really turn good in the center. That's the hardest thing here is getting a car that will turn good in the center all day long, so I think we've got something good to work with now.

"We didn't do any qualifying runs so we're going to have to rely on our teammates' notes. That's where the challenge is going to be is getting a good qualifying run and a good pit selection because of it. The good thing is that even if we don't qualify well, I think the car is driving good enough right now and we'll be in good shape. It would have been a lot easier for us if we would have had that extra (happy hour practice) session. If somebody else would have crashed, they'd be in the same boat. I'm not complaining. I like the impound stuff anyway. I think we spend too much time for qualifying practice anyway. I'm happy with my car right now and much happier after that last run. I think we've got something that's going to be good in race trim. We didn't put a big number up but I think we're going to be in good shape."


DID YOU NOTICE ANY STRESS ON ZIPPY AND THE TEAM BECAUSE OF THIS? "It probably just took a little off of him because we just had to stop and re-rack. He's joking around and the guys are joking around. So for a team that's technically in a stressful situation and have a pretty stressful event happen the beginning of the weekend, I think we're taking it in stride right now."

-credit: gm racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing