Continued from part 1 Q: First of all, as one of the car owners, are you involved in the solicitation I mean, the sales pitches to a lot of these companies? And if so, how much different is it now as opposed to seven, eight months...
Continued from part 1
Q: First of all, as one of the car owners, are you involved in the solicitation I mean, the sales pitches to a lot of these companies? And if so, how much different is it now as opposed to seven, eight months ago when you were making them? How has the environment changed?
TONY STEWART: I'm not a huge part of the initial sales pitches, but once we've got feedback from companies that we've approached and have that interest, that's kind of where I get involved. But the thing that I've seen is that it seems like it's not all companies are still looking to advertise. All these companies are not just going to stop advertising all of a sudden because the economy is bad. There's a lot of them that are looking at it as a unique opportunity to take advantage of getting ahead of their competition. There's still money out there for the teams that's available. It's just the amount of it has changed, and I think the direction of seeing single sponsorships for a car for the season, I think there is going to be less and less of those, and it's more tailoring partnerships with companies to work with each other to make these sponsorships work. That seems to be the biggest thing that we've seen over the last half of the season is just how companies are doing these multiple sponsorships with each other to utilize each other and make it even that much more a bit more efficient for them, I guess, to utilize their dollars a little wiser.
Q: You all in the past have talked about races you'd like to win and goals you've set for yourself. What kind of goals do you have left as a driver, and how long do you see yourself running full time in Sprint Cup?
TONY STEWART: Obviously I have no idea. I haven't really set an end date of when I want to stop driving. Obviously races you haven't won, those are always the ones to me right now that are important. Obviously the Daytona 500 is at the top of that list. But I think we've been lucky enough to win at all but three of the tracks we run at, and that's Vegas and California I'm trying to think what the fourth one is. It goes back to too many concussions, I guess. We've been lucky enough to win at most of the tracks we go to, but those tracks we haven't won, Darlington and Vegas and California, those three, those are the places we'd love to get that win at.
Q: Between the race team at Eldora and your other business interests, how many people total depend on you for a paycheck every week?
TONY STEWART: I know between the full time people that we have or what we had before we started the Cup team, it was 46 employees that I had that were full time people at the racetracks, and the rest of my organizations. Now it's close to almost 200, so it's grown quite a bit in a short amount of time.
Q: Are you worried that this tire testing ban is going to lead to tire wars like we saw two years ago when teams were buying from Michelin and Bridgestone and Hoosier and crisscrossing the country? Wouldn't it be simpler if we tested at the tracks we knew we were going to race at and be cheaper and easier?
TONY STEWART: I still think NASCAR's new policy, I still think that's going to save teams money. Ryan has went and tested twice, I've only tested once. I think if we could test at the tracks we were able to race at, I think guys would be tested all the time. You wouldn't have a week that goes by that you wouldn't have two or three guys from each organization testing each week. But I think it's going to help the teams save money.
Even last year when we would go to places like VIR, I think BFGoodrich had a tire there, Hoosier had a tire, Goodyear obviously, so I don't think you're ever going to eliminate that side of it, but I think that's the balance that NASCAR is having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what's the right thing to do that's not going to just absolutely devastate one company or another and keep them all involved that way.
Q: Looking forward to the '09 season in the off season, was there any part of it, like, rejuvenation for you, or with all the challenges you've had, is it just another chapter in the Tony Stewart story?
TONY STEWART: It seems like it's been another chapter, but I've been more excited this off season, I think, than I've ever been, other than coming into my rookie year. It's just been so different that it's been kind of a any time that you do something different, you're always excited about it, and it's not necessarily that we needed something new. But with that, it seems like we've really enjoyed the off season. It's having something different other than just trying to get away for a couple weeks and trying to relax. That's always been the focus every off season, and this year it's been, hey, get to the shop and see what's going on today, and that's something that I've really enjoyed. It's not something that even at Homestead if you would have asked me if I would have thought that's the way it was going to be, I wouldn't have predicted this, but I've really enjoyed the off season. I've enjoyed being at the shop. I mean, it's gone by really quick. It's a surprise to me that we're already this far into January. It feels like it should be the middle of December to me right now, and I think that's because I've really enjoyed what's going on.
Everything outside of the Cup shop, the race teams, the racetracks, that's all I've still been just as involved in that, but now with the extra time that I would have off, I've been busy with the race team, and I've really enjoyed that side of it. It's something that has really surprised me even.
Q: As a fellow team owner, have you followed the Dakar Rally at all, and I'm not saying you have any interest in doing it, but what Robby Gordon has accomplished there impressed you?
TONY STEWART: What's the status?
Q: There's one race to go, one stage, he's 87 minutes behind but he's third.
TONY STEWART: Can he win it still? How long are the stages? I don't know. Does he have a shot at it?
Q: 220 K, but they're not going to do anything outrageous.
TONY STEWART: I think it's cool. Robby is one of those guys that Robby is good at being able to shift his focus and multitask and do his own programs and be successful doing it. I haven't been following it honestly. I've been a little distracted from that. But I think it's cool that when he tried it when he did it two years ago, I guess, he had some really good stages, won a stage and wound up having a problem that took him out. To hear where he's at right now, I think it's pretty cool. I think it's neat to see somebody like Robby that really works hard at not just the Cup stuff by his IndyCar programs when he goes and runs IndyCars and obviously his off road ventures. It's neat to see him have that kind of success.
Q: Does he maybe not get the credit he deserves because of what he's able to accomplish?
TONY STEWART: I've said for a long time that he's one of the most naturally talented drivers that I've ever raced with. He just has that ability to get in a car and know how to get 100 percent out of it. You know, it hasn't always worked out for him, but to watch especially on the off road stuff, you watch him in a truck or any kind of an off road vehicle, and it's just unbelievable what he can do with it. I'm not sure that I'm ready to try something like that. I think I'd have to he's invited me to go pre run the Baja with him, and that's something that I really want to do one day, but I'm almost scared to pre run it with him because then I think I'm responsible for reading the map, and I can't read a newspaper in a car without getting sick, so I can only imagine skipping a line and saying, "right at the next tree," and it ends up being a brick building and us crashing.
I think it's neat. I think it shows his talent to go from a 3400 pound stock car to running through a dessert that you don't know and being able to accomplish what he does. I think it's pretty amazing.
Q: You mentioned DW starting that engine program not being such a good idea. Are there other things that you've learned from these drivers who have become driver owners and made mistakes that you can incorporate into your effort?
TONY STEWART: Absolutely, and the main reason is a lot of them have come up to us and said, this is where we made a mistake, and that's something that's always impressed me about the teams in NASCAR. Even though you compete against each other there's a lot of camaraderie and people that come up even when it was just a rumor that we were going to be a part of Haas' organization, Richard Childress was one of the first guys even before it was announced we were doing it, said if you do this and if there's anything we can do to help, let us know. That's something that has been a big safety blanket to a certain degree knowing you can pick up the phone and call Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, Richard Childress at any time. I don't know how much help Roush will be to me, but knowing there are other guys out there that have made this change and done it successfully and they've had to make their own mistakes, which I'm sure we'll do, too, but having those guys that are willing to say, hey, these are things to watch out for and these are mistakes that we made and help us not make some of those, that's something that's very valuable to us.
Q: If Joe Gibbs was an example for you in terms of how to hire people, getting the right people in, you talk about Robby Gordon, what kind of example is he to you as an owner in terms of, I guess, love of the sport, determination, that kind of thing?
TONY STEWART: Well, he's proof that you can still be an independent car owner and still be successful. I mean, he hasn't had the success that he's won it, obviously, but it's still proof that you can still exist, as an independent car owner and still go out and compete. I mean, he got himself back in the top 35 in points, and that's a huge accomplishment in this series with multicar teams like there are. For him to do that as an independent car owner I think has been a big inspiration of knowing that it's not such a big scary thing to know that you're going up against the Hendricks and Childresses and Roushes and all these other guys that have been around a long time and not have an opportunity to be competitive.
I think him being out here every week is proof that you can still be competitive to a certain degree.
Q: I've got a two parter. You're talking about car owners. Has any particular car owner had a major influence on you and the way you approach this season? And also, the Shootout invitation came pretty late. Are you guys going to be able to handle that okay?
TONY STEWART: We are. You know, we had heard that there was a possibility that we might get invited to run that event, so we kind of started working weeks ago to make provisions that if that happened that we would be ready. So we had a third car being built already to get ready for the Shootout.
That kind of got us caught up a little bit. We're still a little behind in getting that car prepared, but we'll be ready when it comes time to come down here, and very thankful that we got that invitation.
Q: Any one car owner that
TONY STEWART: Actually two car owners. Obviously being around Joe Gibbs and J.D. Gibbs for the last 12 years, we've learned a lot from those guys. Great family, they've been great friends to me. They still feel like family to me. But between the Gibbs family and Rick Hendrick, it's been two great organizations that obviously we worked really closely obviously and were part of the Gibbs operation, and now we're working really closely with Rick and his group. It's nice to be able to take the best that you see from different organizations and be able to apply them to your team.
But the great thing is just like Richard Childress, those guys I can pick up the phone at 10:00 o'clock at night, and if I've got a question, I've always had that invitation from all those guys to be able to call, and Rick has always been very good from day one about the fact that we were going to be using Hendrick engines and chassis about being very helpful with what we're doing and what we're trying to accomplish, and Joe and J.D., even though we left their operation, they've been very good about giving us as much support as they can, too.
HERB BRANHAM: Tony, thank you very much. Good luck in the 500.