TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed racing at Talladega with two-car drafts, radio communication and other topics.
I’m surprised they trust me enough to give me full throttle.
HOW WAS FIRST PRACTICE? “They gave me full throttle, they gave me full throttle today, I’m excited about it. It is pretty cool. I’m surprised they trust me enough to give me full throttle. (LAUGHS) It is everything it was at Daytona so far. There is absolutely nothing that was different so far.”
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TWO-CAR DRAFT? “The same as they were at Daytona. My feelings are the same as they were the whole 10 days we were at Daytona, it hasn’t changed. I wish I could tell you something different, but it is the same, it is not any different.”
ARE YOU OPEN TO HAVE MORE GUYS ON YOUR RADIO AND HAVING THEM AVAILABLE OR HAS YOUR MINDSET CHANGED? “I think I am open to having more channels. I think it was a better feeling if you were the guy behind of knowing that you could hear what was going on with them. The sharing of the spotters wasn’t a bad thing. I’m open to having more frequencies and more driver’s channels.”
DOES IT FEEL ODD OR DIFFERENT TO TALK TO ANOTHER COMPETITOR, PAUL MENARD SAID HE FLIPPED OVER TO YOUR CHANNEL AND WAS A LITTLE TIMID TO SOMEONE NOT A TEAMMATE? “I didn’t even know he was coming so it was different at first until you realize after you had the first surprise of the first guy coming, then anybody else that come on really wasn’t a surprise anymore. At least it didn’t seem a surprise. It was like ‘Wow, I’m glad he’s got it’. I think you are going to see a lot of that. I think you are going to see guys flipping all over the place. We will be as busy wearing the radio dial out trying to find different drier’s channels than we are driving the car.”
CLINT SAID IF THERE IS A CAUTION LAST 10 LAPS IT IS GOING TO BE HILARIOUS ON THE RADIOS: “Oh my gosh, yeah. It’ll be really busy, I’ll guarantee it. I think it will be busy even if there is not a caution. There are guys going to be flipping around at the last minute.”
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE FIRST SEVEN RACES FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM? “We’ve been running well, we just haven’t put a whole day together. That is the disappointing part of it. But the good part is that we’ve had really good cars. I feel like our mile-and-a-half and two-mile program is really good. I feel like we are struggling on the short track stuff. Feel like both cars in the organization are doing a really good job right now.”
HOW LONG DOES THE FRUSTRATION AND DISAPPOINTMENT LAST? “Until you have something good happen. Until you get it done. Until you get it right.”
HAVE YOU HAD ENOUGH GOOD YET? “No. Have we won a race yet? Then we haven’t got it.”
YOU ARE DOING A CHARITY EVENT WITH NEW HAMPSHIRE, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? “Yes, I’m pretty excited. It is a deal that Dick Berggren put together. Myself, Dick and one of the local radio personalities are going to have a pretty neat dinner Loudon weekend on Thursday night. The proceeds go to Speedway Children’s Charities. Dr. Dick was the master-mind behind. It will be fun. You know that Dick is going to have some really good stories to tell everybody and he’s forgot more about racing than all of us in this group know. It will be cool. It is fun having guys that have been around as long as Dick has that can go there and tell people the way it is now, the way it was five years ago and the way it was way back then.
“Dick came to me and said to me ‘Hey, would you go do a dinner with me to help Speedway Children’s Charities’ and I said yes. It was that easy. It wasn’t ‘Ah we need to think about how we need to give back more’. You have a guy like Dick that says ‘Hey could you come do a dinner and this is what I am wanting to do’ and it was ‘Yeah, if we have it open, I’m in’. “
IS THIS TYPE OF RACING MORE MENTALLY DRAINING THAT SOME OTHERS? “It is still more mentally draining to deal with you guys (the media) than it is to drive the cars here.”
WHAT DID YOU TELL THE JOURNALISM STUDENTS AT ALABAMA THIS WEEK? “I gave them the list of the hit-list media and I’m sure they will be interviewing you guys soon. (SMILES). Not that you guys didn’t know that already.”
IN THE TWO-CAR TRAIN, HOW MUCH ARE YOU AT THE MERCY OF SOMEONE SIDE-DRAFTING YOU AND DISCONNECTING YOU? “We learned at Daytona that you could do that a lot easier than you thought. So, you can do that. You can separate cars by side-drafting them.”
ARE YOU MORE IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN FATE HERE? “Yes, because you aren’t stuck in the middle. We are still talking about the same stuff we talked about seven weeks ago, nothing has changed. It is exactly the same as it was there. We aren’t in the middle of a 33-car pack where you are stuck in the middle and can’t go anywhere. Nothing has changed guys. It’s the same thing this week.”
“I’ve been doing this for 31 years, I didn’t always have good luck.
DO YOU THINK THE ANXIETY HERE AT TALLADEGA WILL BE A LITTLE BIT LESS BECAUSE OF THE FACT YOU ARE NOT IN A BIG PACK? “It’s not any different. We’re literally doing exactly the same things we did at Daytona. There is nothing different because it is Talladega versus Daytona. The only difference is, it’s not the biggest race of the year. That is really the only thing that is any different.”
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY THOSE LAST TWO LAPS AT DAYTONA? “Yes, we don’t know how we didn’t get together, just like we said the week after, we just couldn’t get together. We never got the bumpers locked up and by the time we did get going, so many of the cars had gotten by us, we weren’t a factor anymore in a two lap shoot-out like that.”
DO YOU ALREADY KNOW WHERE YOU NEED TO BE TO MAKE THE MOVE OUT THERE? “Just get me to that point and I’ll figure it out when I get there. I don’t know yet though. You honestly don’t know because there is still the variable of what cars are around you and what are they doing. That is going to play a big factor in it.”
WITH YOUR STRETCH THIS SEASON OF SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES TO WIN, IN YOUR CAREER, HAVE YOU HAD A STRETCH LIKE THIS. “I’ve been doing this for 31 years, I didn’t always have good luck.”
WHEN YOU WIN A RACE, WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE? IS YOUR ADRENALINE PUMPING? IS YOUR HEART RACING? “Your adrenaline is pumping the whole race. That’s why guys an hour after the race is done are just tired; you are over it for the day. Especially at a place like this where you don’t know on the last lap that you’ve got it won until you get there. So, that anticipation is building and building and the reason it is so suspenseful is because you don’t know until you get to the line whether you’ve got it or don’t have it. There’s times when you win races and you’ve had a comfortable lead the last 30 laps and your heart rate is down because you aren’t being pressured. Here you don’t have that luxury. You are pressured all the way to the line and you don’t know until you get there whether you’ve got it. You know how far you are away from it, so, you know the anticipation keeps building. You remember (every detail) of the finish. You don’t remember anything about the early part of the race, you remember the end that got you there; that won you the race. It may only be a 100 foot section, but you remember all 100 feet of what it was in that move that got you to the line.”