Sonoma: Pole sitter Tony Stewart press conference

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (1st): [Stewart's pole winning run is Pontiac's first since April 29, 2001 (Bobby Labonte, California Speedway).] "That wasn't bad. The car has been good the whole day. It's just a matter...

TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX (1st):

[Stewart's pole winning run is Pontiac's first since April 29, 2001 (Bobby Labonte, California Speedway).]

"That wasn't bad. The car has been good the whole day. It's just a matter of me getting used to the new configuration, as far as by the front stretch and the drag strip. The rest of it was all scenery changes and it was hard to find braking points, so it took the majority of the practice to find that. But, the car is just as good as it was last year here."

DID YOU LEAVE ANYTHING OUT THERE?) "We got in [to turn 10] a little bit too hard there and didn't get off as good as I wanted to through 10, but I felt like I carried a lot of speed in.

"We pretty much matched what we did in practice today, so we're really, really happy with the way the heat has come in."

IS THIS WEEKEND A GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO CHIP AWAY AT STERLING MARLIN'S POINTS LEAD?) "This would be a good weekend. I don't think it's any secret to anyone that we've been struggling lately. But the nice thing about here is that horsepower and body styles don't matter a lot here. It's a matter of who gets the mechanical balance and what drivers get used to the racetrack. Hopefully, we can keep on with the way we're going so far this weekend. We'll just have to wait and see what happens the rest of the way."

THIS IS A GOOD TONE FOR THE WEEKEND...) "We hope so. We were pretty good in practice today. We ended up second quick in the session, and I think we were less than 15 thousandths of a second off of Ryan Newman this morning, so we knew we had a pretty good car. It was just a matter of compensating for the sun being out a little longer and the track temperature coming up and just trying to find what we needed to do to hopefully put down a very similar lap to what we ended up with in practice."

HOW DO YOU LOOK AT TODAY'S POLE?) "This is a pick-me-up day, for sure. We've been struggling the last couple weeks. The good thing is, coming here, you don't here anybody talking about aerodynamics. You don't here anybody talking about horsepower. It's a matter of getting the balance right on the race cars and the drivers doing their jobs in the cars. It's nice to come to a place where everything is probably realistically more even than anywhere else o n the circuit, and being able to go out and do what we did today."

ON THE MINDSET THAT GOES INTO RUNNING A ROAD COURSE) "I think quite a bit. You're not analyzing every corner, every time you go through there, but you've got to think about your approaches and how you want to enter and exit the corner. It's a little different style of racing than we do at the ovals, for sure, and your mindset has to be different with it."

ARE YOU ON THE ATTACK?) "I'm always on attack. I'm on attack when I leave here right now. You're always attacking the course. But, on a day like today, it's no different than going to Rockingham or California or Michigan or any place like that. You're always going to attack on your qualifying lap because you know you only have to make the thing be fast for one lap. Now, we've got to switch gears and do like we do every other week - try to make it last for a long run. It's the same theories and same obstacles that we go through every week. It's just instead of having to turn twice to finish your lap, now we've got to turn seven or eight times, or whatever it is, to finish our lap here. There are a lot more opportunities to make mistakes, but there are also a lot more opportunities to gain time."

ON PIT STRATEGY FOR THE RACE) "I don't know, I just drive. You'd have to talk to the crew chief about that, to be honest. I don't know. You can't sit here and plan your strategy right now. There's no way that works because there are too many variables that can alter those plans as the day goes on, depending on when the cautions come out, if guys pit early, if guys pit late - you never know what is going to happen. To say that there is a definite game plan and we're sticking to the game plan right now, it's foolish to say that because you just don't know what can happen in a long race like this."

HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR ROAD COURSE MINDSET?) "Winning the WKA championship in '87 is probably where I got my road racing background, just racing go-karts. I ran for probably seven or eight years in go-karts, racing dirt and pavement and everything else. Really, my only road racing background was in go-karts."

IS IT MORE GRATIFYING TO GET A POLE HERE WHERE IT'S NOT ALL CAR?) "There is no track where it's just the car. I don't want to make it sound that way. But, I would be very surprised if you've heard anybody talk about any certain manufacturer having an advantage here and I don't think you'll hear anybody saying that all weekend. So, it is gratifying, knowing that it comes down to crew chiefs and the drivers, and trying to find the right setups to go fast. It's not about whose manufacturer is the best or who has the most horsepower and this and that. It's a matter of who gets their cars driving the best."

ON TRACK POSITION) "It's real important, it seems like. We had a flat tire here in '99, my rookie year here, on a restart. Rusty Wallace told me about it right before we took the green, luckily, so we came in and changed the tire. But, the rest of the field was taking the green as we were having our pit stop and I had to try to claw my way back through the field. I know how hard it was to do that late in the race, so having the track position early - it's not so-much an advantage, but it gives the drivers a little more of a luxury of taking care of their cars. They're not working hard to get to the front. They're already there, so they don't have to abuse their brakes; they don't have to abuse their tires to try to get to the front. They are already there, so it gives them that advantage of not abusing their equipment early in the day to where, when the end of the day is here and you really need to run hard, then you have something to work with."

ON MOMENTUM) "Momentum is important at any racetrack. When you go to an oval you're talking about thousandths of a second. Here you're talking about tenths of a second. Every corner that you run, there is an opportunity to gain time on somebody or lose time on somebody. But, if you can get in that rhythm and your car is driving good at a place like this with it being as hard as it is to pass, sometimes it is a little bit bigger an advantage than at some of the ovals we go to."

"I honestly believe that I did that in turn 10. I felt like I got in the corner real good, but I got in the center of the corner and the car pushed a little bit and started sliding the nose up the racetrack, so I didn't get back in the gas as early as I wanted to. But, I knew that it was critical to try to keep a lot of momentum through turn 10. I got the first half of the corner right. I just didn't get the second half right. But, evidently what we had done up to that point gained us enough time to where when we lost time there it was enough to keep us up front."

ON RACING OTHER PEOPLE IN THE FIELD) "I pay special attention to who is one car in front of me and who is one car behind me. I never worry about anybody after that. You've got to race each person one at a time. It doesn't matter whether it's the '24' or the '31' or who it is. The guy that starts 43rd could be the guy that we're racing at the end of the day, so you've just got to take it one car at a time and not really pay attention to any of them. You've just got to go out and worry more about your race car than you are their race car."

ON ROBBY GORDON RACING A LAPPED CAR LAST YEAR NEAR THE END OF THE RACE) "That's why he lost the race, too, because he was worrying. He shouldn't have been messing with him to begin with. That's why he lost the race. He gave us the race last year. He didn't wrap it up in a bow or anything nice like that, but that is basically what happened."

ON PACING YOURSELF DURING THE RACE) "Sunday you have to make sure you're not overdriving the race car. You can't run qualifying laps lap after lap or you're going to wear your tires out and you're going to wear the brakes out.

"You have to just kind of settle into a little more conservative pace to where however many laps a projected fuel run is, you have to plan ahead that that is how long you're going to have run on that set of tires. You've got to figure out what it takes to be fast from the start of that run to the end of that run, and be the most consistent through the run versus somebody that is going to go out and run really hard for five laps, but then really fall off the pace and struggle the last two thirds of the run. You just have to kind of settle into a rhythm that is comfortable, that's not abusing the race car."

ON BEING THE CHASER VERSUS THE CHASED) "If we can drive away from them, it would be alright. I hate looking at cars getting bigger in my mirror. I like to see them getting smaller in the mirror - like a great, shrinking machine. It's nice to start up front. Anything in the top five was acceptable to me today. I don't think we've qualified outside the top four since we've been here and I think that has always been a big advantage for us because we don't have to overdrive the car, we don't have to abuse the brakes and the tires. It gives us that luxury of when we do have to race guys that we have something there to work with late in the run."

ON THE CHANGES TO THE RACETRACK) "I used to use that bridge as a gauge. The bridge was gone. I about drove off the race course the first lap hard through there. I was like, 'Where is my bridge at?' So, definitely coming through one was a big change. That was probably the biggest change for us today. We used to be able to run through their flat, and then come up the hill and start your braking and downshifting where today, I couldn't run through there flat. I don't know if anybody else could. If they could, they were a bigger man than I am. But, that was probably the biggest adjustment.

"Then, the scenery on the back side. I'll tell you what, the speedway has something to be proud of. They did a lot of work and moved a lot of earth to take care of these race fans and I hope the race fans here appreciate it because they sure did a nice job. It was a beautiful facility when we've always come here in the past and it's even more beautiful now that you can actually see more of the race course for the fans. I hope everybody enjoys it."

DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE ANY DIFFERENT?) "My mindset is no different. It's still another race. It still pays 175 points to win. You have to treat it that way. You know what the factors are when you come here. You know tire wear and brake wear is a factor - no different that when we go to Martinsville - tire wear and brake wear are a big factor. You use a lot of the same mindset here as you do at Martinsville. We don't really approach it any different.

"Coming to a road course is almost a luxury. It's nice to be able to go somewhere else other than a mile-and-a-half oval. I'm so tired of going to mile-and-a-half ovals already this year. That's all people want to build. I've not seen any new plans for any new racetracks that haven't been a mile-and-a-half, so to come some place where you turn right and do something totally different is really nice. It's a nice break-up of the monotony for us, to a certain degree."

-tmc-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Ryan Newman