TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: TELL US ABOUT THE WIN. "The first segment of the race we were decent, not as good as the 24 and the 7. We got to that first round of pit stops and made some changes, and made the wrong changes.
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
TELL US ABOUT THE WIN.
"The first segment of the race we were decent, not as good as the 24 and the 7. We got to that first round of pit stops and made some changes, and made the wrong changes. We were really loose coming off the corner and it didn't turn very well in the center of the corner, so we had to slow up a little bit. At that point I was a little worried about where we were going to end up, but we stayed in the top 10 and kept good track position and that's half the battle here. When it came time for the last pit stop. The guys made some really big changes and the car responded and it got really fast. There were times in the race that I felt like I was as fast as the 24 car, but I didn't think anybody in the field would be able to run with Robby Gordon in the 7 car. He was the class of the field at the beginning of a run on fresh tires and ran away from us a little bit, but we noticed he only got so far and then he stopped and started coming back to us. At that point we were as quick as the two leaders, it was just a matter of if we could get the right breaks and get to the front. We got that break by getting out in front of Jeff (Gordon) right before Kevin Harvick came out of the pit, ad with Robby racing Kevin like he was, it was giving both Jeff and I an opportunity to catch up. We just waited for the right opportunity and it came off of Turn 7 there when they were side by side, and the yellow came out and we raced him back to the yellow. Normally we don't race back to the yellow in this series, but track position became so important here that every time a yellow came out everybody raced back to it, so I didn't feel bad about racing back to the yellow."
DID YOU LAY BACK WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN?
"I thought Kevin worked him pretty hard to get by, but I wasn't laying back by any means. I needed to be as close as I could in case something did happen. Robby was obviously costing himself a lot of time by racing Kevin and contending as hard as he was. I don't know why he was racing him as hard as he was because he wasn't him. If he would've let him go he could've gotten behind him and run his own race at that point."
DO YOU THINK YOU COULD'VE CAUGHT ROBBY WITHOUT THAT INCIDENT HAPPENING?
"We were catching him a little bit, but catching him without the yellow and everything, I'm not sure we ever would've gotten by him, especially if he would've led us back to the caution flag. With him in front I don't know if we could've gotten by him in seven or eight laps."
WOULD YOU HAVE LET THE "29" CAR BY IF YOU WERE IN ROBBY'S POSITION?
"Yes, I would have. I'd have let him go because he was costing himself time every time he was blocking Harvick. Harvick wasn't for position, he was just trying to get his lap back, and even with 14 or 15 laps to go there was no way Kevin was fast enough to get through the entire field and get up to the lead anyway, so there really wasn't any point in holding him back like that."
WITH GORDON COMING IN AS THREE-TIME DEFENDING CHAMPION, WHAT WAS YOUR
MINDSET COMING INTO THE RACE?
"We didn't feel like he was invincible, we just felt like he was consistent and fast. Last year we passed him and were passing the leader Scott Pruett when Scott took us out, and I was sick at the time. We were plenty quick to beat him last year, we just didn't make it there. I was sick in the car and when we got crashed, that just kind of took the wind out of my sails. I got out and John Andretti got in for us. Our first time here two years ago we cut a tire down and didn't find out about it until we got the one-to-go signal, so we came in just as the field was taking the green and that put us a half a lap down. So I've never felt like I couldn't run with him, but Jeff's definitely set the benchmark. I mean, I watched him today and Jeff Gordon is the best road racer in a stock car I've ever seen. I followed him and followed him and followed him, and that guy did not slip a wheel but once or twice the whole time. I've got a bunch of respect for him in how he runs these road-course races. It's not hard to see why he wins because he takes care of his car all day."
DID YOU DO ANYTHING BETTER TODAY TO GET THE WIN?
"I'm not sure I did anything better. I was just in the right place in the right time, we were fast, and when opportunities presented themselves we were in position to take advantage of them, and that's what we did all day."
SINCE THE PASS YOU MADE OF ROBBY GORDON OCCURRED AT THE NEW TURN 7, DO YOU THINK THE CHANGES IN THE RACETRACK CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR WIN?
"I don't think it really changed much. The opportunities to pass were about the same as it was with the old configuration. You really couldn't pass going downhill, but you could pass going back to Turn 7 where we'd always passed in previous years. I don't think it really changed the way the race went."
DID YOU FEEL THERE WAS ANY PART OF THE TRACK WHERE YOU WERE FASTER THAN THE
"There were parts of the track where I wasn't as good as Jeff and Robby, and there were parts of the track where I was as good or even a little bit better. A lot of it depended on how the car was driving a far as which sections you were good or bad in. There were a couple of corners going uphill, like up to the top of (Turn) 3, and also one spot off of (Turn) 2 that I found late in the race that gave me about 3/10ths of a second a lap. I wish I would've found that earlier in the day, but I'm glad I found it."
COULD YOU ELABORATE ON THE CHANGES ON THAT SECOND PIT STOP THAT MADE YOU
"Nope. We still have Watkins Glen this year."
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU SAY, 'WAIT A MINUTE, WEVE GOT THIS ONE?'
"I'm not sure I ever felt like we really had it. More to pump the team up and more to pump me up, I think with about two laps after we got by Jeff (Gordon) and I was actually starting to run Robby down I said, 'Hey, we're going to win this thing', but there was no guarantee. Just the fact that we were catching him, that gave me encouragement late in the race. But you never know from run to run or from a caution flag period to the next restart how your car's going to drive. I've even had a car change on me during a caution period when we didn't come in and make any mechanical changes, so there's no guarantees, but at that point I felt like I actually had a shot at winning the race."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE MOVE YOU MADE TO TAKE OVER FIRST PLACE?
"I made the right-hander in (Turn) 7 and Robby and Harvick were off to the right , and I just drove the racing line and drove up beside him and got a good enough bite to where when it came time to get to the Esses before the bridge that I had enough momentum that I got by."
WHAT WAS YOUR ROAD-RACING EXPERIENCE PRIOR TO WINSTON CUP?
"I never ran a road course other than go-karts. The only variable I felt like I needed to learn for the road courses in a Cup car was learning how to shift gears. I went to the Bondurant School for three days in '99 and actually came to Sears Point on the Thursday before we ran at Fontana and ran a day in the Russell cars. I would say getting our first win in our fifth road-course race, I would have to say our grade is pretty good."
WHEN YOU MADE THE PASS OF ROBBY GORDON, WAS IT JUST A CRACK OR WAS IT WDE
OPEN FOR YOU TO SHOOT THROUGH?
"It was just wide enough. That's the only way I can put it. There wasn't too much room there by any means and it wasn't a deal where I had to just squeak through, but there was just enough room there to get by."
DOES THIS WIN PUT YOU IN THE UPPER ECHELON OF ROAD-COURSE DRIVERS LIKE
GORDON, RUDD AND RUSTY WALLACE?
"I don't think about it a lot. I guess to a certain degree, maybe yes. This was a big win for me today, and I knew it was a big win just being able to beat Jeff Gordon, he's so good. I guess I really don't think about it, but I know I've won 11 Winston Cup races in 2 years, so I'm pretty happy with that no matter where we fit among road-course drivers."