Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet SS, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed the first practice session, blocking and other topics.
HOW WAS YOUR PRACTICE? “Not very good so far. We are just struggling to make the car do what we want it to do.”
IS THE PLAN STILL TO TEACH JOEY LOGANO A LESSON OR HAVE THINGS CALMED DOWN? “That is two weeks ago. I’m on Martinsville this weekend. We are trying to figure out what we have to do to make our race cars go fast this week.”
I don’t like it at Daytona and Talladega either, but it’s the position we are put in there. What happened at California is a different deal. The people that are trying to compare the two are people that honestly I’ve read who has written it. It’s disappointing that they don’t understand the sport any better than that, but there is a huge difference between the two.
I don’t like blocking. I never have, I never will. It’s our jobs as drivers to go out there and try to pass people. That is what racing is about. We didn’t have blocking 10 years ago. I don’t know where all of a sudden it became a common deal or some people think it’s alright to do now and think it’s common practice. I don’t believe in it. I don’t believe it should be common practice.”
AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS IT’S A NECESSARY EVIL? “We don’t have a choice. We can’t even get away from each other there. It’s not so much that you are trying to block as much as you are trying to make that guy that you are trying to get in front of push you.
We don’t have the luxury of running on our own there. You have to have somebody pushing you. So if there is a line coming you want that faster line to pick you up and push you. The last half of a lap at Talladega is different than a restart with 15 to go at California.”
WHY DO YOU THINK BLOCKING HAS INCREASED? “I don’t know. I hope you guys can tell me. I don’t understand it either. I have never agreed with it. I don’t like it. For some reason it’s getting increasingly worse. I don’t know why that is, but it is.”
HAVE YOU AND JOEY (LOGANO) TALKED AT ALL OR IS HE NOT EVEN A BLIP ON YOUR RADAR AT THIS POINT? “No, he’s not. I’ve got three race cars and we are in Martinsville, Virginia this week. I’ve got a lot of stuff to do other than worry about something that happened two weeks ago.
I can’t change it. I can’t do anything about what happened two weeks ago. All I can do is worry about our Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet, our GoDaddy Chevrolet and our Quicken Loans Chevrolet. That is the three things that I can control right now.
That is what I have to focus on. I can’t waste time worrying about what happened two weeks ago. I gave everybody more than ample time to ask me all the questions they wanted two weeks ago about what happened two weeks ago. It’s time to move on from here.”
WHAT LESSON DO YOU THINK THAT JOEY (LOGANO) LEARNED FROM THE MESSAGE THAT YOU SENT HIM TWO WEEKS AGO? “We won’t know that until we see how he reacts in that same situation the next time.”
IS IT MORE THAN ONE PERSON BLOCKING THAT HAS BROUGHT THIS TO THE FOREFRONT? “Yeah and it’s not one person each week that is consistently doing it, but it’s different scenarios here and there. It started at Sonoma, people were blocking into turn 11.
Then it was turn 11 and turn 7, now it’s Martinsville. People will sit there and block down the straightaway to get to the bottom so they don’t get hung out. It’s just something that is getting worse. Somebody has got to tell us ‘yeah that is what we are supposed to do or no we are not supposed to do it.’
People are kind of split on it. Joey (Logano) thinks that is alright. That is his opinion on it. I don’t think it’s right. Obviously, there are drivers that are divided. At some point it would be nice to kind of know what the etiquette is. The drivers have always set the etiquette, but when we are all divided on it, it’s kind of confusing to know what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t be doing.”
DO YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD SET THE ETIQUETTE? “I don’t know. NASCAR’s position has always been let the drivers handle it. I don’t think NASCAR should have to be put in that position. It’s like they tell us in the drivers meeting each week we are the best drivers in the world, in the country driving these things.
We should be able to handle it on our own. As drivers get younger and younger and come in they come in with their own set of ideas. I just know how it would have been 12 or 14 years ago if I would have tried to do that on a restart I know what would have happened. The opinions are divided now.”
MARK MARTIN SAID OVER TIME NASCAR HAS BECOME A SELF POLICING SPORT FOR THAT VERY REASON BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO TEACH THE YOUNGER DRIVERS WHAT ETIQUETTE IS: “I agree and that is the way it was when I came in. If you did something wrong around a veteran driver they taught you quickly how you made a mistake and what you did wrong and that is not acceptable. I don’t know if it’s the pressure of the sport now.
I don’t know what it is that has made it get to why we are in this scenario. NASCAR has got enough stuff that they have to worry about. They shouldn’t have to be put in that position of having to make that call. It’s bad enough that they have to make that call at Daytona and Talladega and it shouldn’t have to be their responsibility there either.
Unfortunately it is and it’s frustrating as a driver because you want to do the right thing. I fessed up and I owned up to what I did at Talladega. It’s the last lap of the race.
I could have just sat there and just stayed in my line and watched 20 cars go blowing by me or I could sit there and try to pick up the faster line and make that line push me. I made a mistake in doing that, but I think it’s ridiculous to compare Talladega last fall to what happened 15 laps to go at the end of the race on a restart.
“If that is the case and that is acceptable why wouldn’t drivers just do it the whole race and protect their spot the whole race? Track position is important why would you ever give up the spot whether it’s 15 laps to go or 150 laps to go.
That is where we as drivers have to figure out what is acceptable and what is not. We kind of all have to get on the same page on it or you are going to have more scenarios and more situations where drivers are disagreeing.
There are a lot of guys disagreeing about a lot of things lately. Nothing gets sorted out because there is no way of sorting it out. Everybody wants to call each other on the phone and it’s his words versus their words and nothing ever gets sorted out. They just go onto the next week and they agree to disagree and nothing seems to make it any different.”
PEOPLE KIND OF LISTEN TO YOU, AND YOU KIND OF MADE A POINT LAST WEEK: “I don’t know, I heard what Kyle Petty said last week and I wonder if what I am saying is even right anymore. It’s just there are so many people who have so many different opinions about it.
Some people who said I was wrong and some people said I was right. You don’t even know what to believe anymore. It’s hard to know.”
WERE YOU EVER SELF-POLICED? DID ANYONE TRY AND TEACH YOU A LESSON WHEN YOU WERE A YOUNG BUCK? “Yeah, I learned from Rusty Wallace and Dale Sr., Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton, and drivers raced each other with respect.
Your job was to go out and do a better job than anybody and none of those guys ever blocked 15 years ago. I never was in a scenario where I blocked any of those guys 15 years ago when we were doing this.”
DO YOU EVER NEED TO DEFEND YOURSELF IN THOSE SITUATIONS? “No, not at all. Why should I? Everybody is saying well, this is their opinion and this is their opinion. This is my opinion and I don’t think I would have won three championships by making bad decisions for 15 years.
I don’t have a ton of enemies in the garage area. There are bigger feuds going on than what happened two weeks ago. And it’s not even a feud. I disagreed with him and what he did and he has a different side to it and he is entitled to that.
So I don’t think I made it this far by making that many bad decisions and I don’t just race NASCAR, I race in different series all across the country in over 100 races this year and there is stuff that goes on here that doesn’t go on at any race track across the country.
And if you tried that, you would be wrecked so fast. It’s just amazing about how some of its happening here and it seems like it’s just jump on the train one way or another with people.”
DID YOU EXPECT TO GET A CALL FROM HIM THIS WEEK? “No, I went on vacation. I went on vacation there in Georgia and it was actually very nice because where I went, I didn’t even have satellite for TV. I didn’t have TV, I didn’t have cell phone, and I wasn’t looking for it because I didn’t care.
I was ready to go on my vacation and when California was over, California was over and phone calls don’t mean anything to me anymore. If a guy is calling to say he is sorry for something, then that is one thing, but I am not going to sit there and argue with somebody on the phone if their opinion is different than mine.”
JOEY (LOGANO) CAME IN WITH A LOT OF HYPE AND 15 YEARS AGO YOU WERE PRECEDED WITH A BIG REPUTATION FOR RACING. IS THERE A LOT MORE PRESSURE TO SOMEONE THAT COMES IN LIKE THAT THAN SOMEONE WHO COMES IN THE BACK DOOR? “I don’t know. I think it’s a hard scenario for him this year because of switching teams and a lot of things that are going on.
So I think there is a little extra pressure on him right now and he has to understand he is in a position where he can run good and he is messing with guys that run up front all the time and there are common denominators in some of these equations here and you don’t have to be a genius to figure out what it is.”
HAVE YOU TALKED TO DENNY HAMLIN AT ALL SINCE THE ACCIDENT AND YOU GUYS SEEM TO BE ON THE SAME PAGE TOGETHER AS FAR AS REALLY… “I don’t know, we haven’t talked about that and you know…..that didn’t matter. What matters is getting him healthy and getting him back to the track.
It’s a miserable position to be in because I can tell you he is in a lot of pain and most of all, no driver wants to sit out and watch someone else drive your race car and you don’t like sitting on the side and watching - period.
When you know you should be out there and it could directly affect your whole season and everything you are trying to work for your whole season can be ruined in an incident like that.
And I look at that and I don’t blame Joey for that. They were racing and that is why they call accidents, accidents. What happened to Denny, the accident itself was just part of racing.
Nobody would do that to anybody intentionally whether you like them, dislike them, hate them…..it doesn’t matter. No driver would intentionally put another driver in that scenario. So it’s tough being on the sideline. I had it in ’96 when I got hurt in an IndyCar crash and it’s a miserable position to be in.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT IN OTHER FORMS OF RACING THAT THE SELF-POLICING IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT BECAUSE YOU ARE RELYING ON EACH OTHER TO SET THE TONE. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? “In other forms of racing they just go down and slug it out and then they normally end up eating dinner with each other at a fast food joint.
You know a sit down deal later in the evening. That is the way racing is across the country and it gets settled but the problem here is that NASCAR has to keep some law and order here.
“They don’t want us doing that, and we understand why, and we don’t disagree with why they don’t want us to. At the same time, it creates another set of problems where you are relying on a phone call and two guys sitting down to settle something and their opinions don’t change.
A lot of times the emotion just sits there and keeps building and there is no way…a phone call kind of makes you madder than you were to start with.
“So it just makes it a tough situation but it’s hard for NASCAR and it’s a tough position to be in and I think for a long time they have done a good job of handling feuds and disagreements and for the most part it’s been a happy little world here. So I don’t think it’s terrible by any means but the drivers just need to get on the same page.”
HAVE YOU TALKED TO NASCAR AND TOLD THEM THAT THEY NEED TO REGULATE IT MORE? “It’s not my job to. They know what is going on out there. They see it. If they wanted to know, they would have come and asked us. If they want to know, we would be glad to talk to them about it.”
ARE YOU GOING TO CHANGE YOUR VIEW AT ALL, YOU ARE ONE OF THE VETERANS “I said that a minute ago. I am not going to change and I have never wavered in all the years that we have talked about blocking, I have never wavered from it and it has never changed.
So I don’t like it and I never have and never will. If you do a better job of getting off the corner or on a restart than anybody then you did your job. And for somebody, who didn’t do their job to just sit there and block you and run you down the racetrack because they didn’t do their job right is not acceptable. That is not what racing is about.”