Richmond: Tony Stewart press conference

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (3rd): WHAT WOULD IT HAVE TAKEN TO HAVE GOTTEN THE POLE? "A little more grip, but I think that's what everybody would have asked for today. We ran really, really hard in practice. Obviously,...

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (3rd):

WHAT WOULD IT HAVE TAKEN TO HAVE GOTTEN THE POLE?

"A little more grip, but I think that's what everybody would have asked for today. We ran really, really hard in practice. Obviously, when the clouds came, the track conditions changed a little bit. But, it was the same for everybody. Everybody had an even shot at it. The lap I got in practice isn't the lap I had when I qualified."

THIRD IS YOUR BEST QUALIFYING RUN HERE SINCE YOU WON IN 1999...YOU MUST FEEL PRETTY GOOD ABOUT TOMORROW NIGHT...

"Obviously, we don't know what is going to happen, but I'm pretty optimistic based on the way that we tested here, and by our history here. Normally, if we qualify up front here, we stay up front here. I'm somewhat optimistic that we're going to have a good weekend here."

WHAT IS THE KEY TO A LONG RACE RUN HERE?

"You're going to fall off some. You can't get away from that.

"You just try to minimize how much you fall off, but at the same time, at the front of the run you have to make sure that you're running a somewhat decent, acceptable pace. You can't give away so much time at the beginning of a run that you can't catch it up at the back of a run."

SO MANY RACES HAVE COME DOWN TO A SHORT RUN AT THE END AND EVERYTHING YOU'VE DONE UP TO THAT POINT SEEMS TO MEAN VERY LITTLE...HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THAT TYPE OF RACE?

"You just try to prepare for that last 10 percent or 20 percent of the race - whatever is left.

"Other than leading a lap or leading the most laps, there is nothing - other than the halfway money - that means anything. It all comes down to that last segment of the race, after you've made your last pit stop. Everything you're doing up to that last stop is to prepare you for that last segment, when it really counts and when you're running for the win.

"I've made an art out of leading a ton of laps in the middle of a race and still not winning, so we've changed our approach to really focus on that. It's not so much a matter of what you've got to do to stay ahead of everybody in the middle of the race, but what you've got to do to be good at the end of the race instead."

-pontiac-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart