Continued from part 1 Q: Tony, have you guys decided which car this one is going to replace at the old Haas CNC -- the 66 or the 70? Can you talk about what having No.14 is going to mean to you? TONY STEWART: "It's everything to me. We're...
Continued from part 1
Q: Tony, have you guys decided which car this one is going to replace at the old Haas CNC -- the 66 or the 70? Can you talk about what having No.14 is going to mean to you?
TONY STEWART: "It's everything to me. We're going to have both the 4 and the 14. And 4 was my first-ever go kart number that I started with, and obviously unless you don't follow auto racing but about once a year, everybody knows that A.J. Foyt has always been my all time hero. And when this opportunity came about, it was about a five-minute tug of war between, 'Do I want my first number back or do I want A.J.'s number?' And it was pretty easy to decide that I wanted the number that my all-time hero had.
"And we obviously wanted him to be here today but he's in Canada with the IRL race. But if I had to guess I would say he's pretty happy and pretty proud that we were able to do this and share the number with me."
Q: Do you know which car is going to be which?
TONY STEWART: "I know which one is going to be which. Do you want to know?" (Laughter) I'm getting the 14 and the second car will be the 4 car. But like I say, it was a hard decision to decide which one of those two numbers I wanted. But I'm going to be really happy to run A.J.'s number next year and see if we can have the same success that he's had in it."
Q: Tony, have you decided who will drive the 4? And are you getting closer to finding the guy who fits the profile?
TONY STEWART: "I'm hoping to get that done, too, obviously the sooner rather than later. It's in our best interests to get the second driver as soon as possible so we can help go out and hitch our potential sponsors for the second team, too, knowing who their driver is going to be. So that's something that's very important to us. I hope to be able to do that sooner than later also."
Q: What was A.J. Foyt's reaction to you using the No. 14?
TONY STEWART: "I haven't talked to A.J. and part of the reason is when I came back off vacation, I accidentally left my cell phone in the resort we were at. So it's being FedEx-ed to North Carolina right now. I'll have it first thing in the morning. My intention is to call him tomorrow while he's up in Canada. But I spoke with somebody last night that had spoken to him about it and he's pretty excited about it."
Q: Can you tell us what Indy means to you and the struggles you've had here and the emotions. Since things are moving along for you, what's your frame of mind right now?
TONY STEWART: "A kid in a candy store, right now, in all honesty. And literally that's the way I feel. Obviously once we got the first win in 2005 and then being able to win a second win last year, it takes so much pressure off coming into this weekend. Obviously today's probably the most excitement and most pressure that we'll have because Mike (Arning, publicist) made me actually wear pants. He wouldn't let me wear blue jeans today. So I think that's something I probably haven't done in two-and-a-half, three years so I'm slightly uncomfortable with that. When we get done with this part, I get to change clothes and do something fun.
"But it takes a lot of the stress of winning this race off and like I tried to say in the press conference earlier in the week, it doesn't lessen the desire to win here, though. But if anything, the fact that you've won twice now, it takes that emotional pressure off and lets you go back to just strictly worry about what you should worry about when you come to a big event like this. And that's doing the things that you have to do to win the race again.
"So having those experiences of what we did to win twice already, I think, will help for this weekend and makes it easier to focus on working on the car versus the emotional side of what would it feel like to win and what would it feel like to win again. So we've got both of those out of the way."
Q: Tony, as a prospective team owner and driver, how will you divide your time now between now and Homestead?
@TONY STEWART: "Just the few days that I had written in the schedule as free days are not free days anymore. But they're going to be spent at Stewart-Haas Racing now. And I'm very comfortable with that. There's a lot of work that has to be done. It's going to be a very long rest of the season, obviously, to get ready for next year. But I'm very comfortable with that. And any point that we feel like we just need a day to get a break, we'll do that. But nothing is going to change with what I'm doing right now with the Home Depot team and Joe Gibbs Racing, and that's the way it should be done.
"I still have obligations there and have every intention of doing the best I can to win every race for the rest of the season and trying to win a championship. So that's first on the agenda. But any spare time, obviously, that I have and we'll be at Haas Racing as much as we can be there to get ready. You can't start in December and expect to be ready to go in February with the high quality teams out there. So this is the early phase of the steps of progress that it's going to take to get everything ready to go to Daytona in February. So the work starts now."
Q: Tony, is it fair to say that now that Ryan Newman is parting ways with Penske, that he's a leading candidate for that second car?
TONY STEWART: "We're looking at everybody right now. It's kind of like when we talked at Talladega about what I was going to do with my future. We're still weighing all the options. We're talking to everybody and trying to figure out which guy we think is going to be the best fit for our program and which guy wants to be part of our program."
Q: Obviously there are a lot of demands on race day from the owners. How do you balance that?
TONY STEWART: "I think obviously Office Depot and Old Spice have been really good about understanding the demands on race day but at the same time, we understand what we need to do for them as businesses.
"So it may be a little busier on race day but I don't think it's going to be a lot busier than what we're currently doing. I think if it makes doing these appearances in the morning a little more fun when you sit there in a car saying 'I know what this car is doing and this car is doing. If doesn't work out we'll fire the crew chief today.' But you can't always tell them that. You understand from the driver's side and owner's side. We know this with our open wheel programs, the World of Outlaws and USAC teams, there are more obligations when you're a driver and a car owner at the same time. So we're willing to do that."
Q: Tony, if Joe Gibbs Racing was to stay a Chevrolet team, would we be here today?
TONY STEWART: "Well, I would say yes, in all reality. It wasn't all surrounding the manufacturer switch, but it was a big factor in it. I'm not sure it was all the factor. I mean this was a huge opportunity that Haas Automation gave me to be an owner in this Sprint Cup Series, and that really was what was the biggest variable in making the switch and having the opportunity to know that even if tomorrow something happened and my driving career had to end, I could still be part of the series and still compete at this level even if it's only from the car owner side. So I think that was the bigger factor."
Q: (Question about point system, specifically how the champions provisional will work for next year.)
TONY STEWART: "I haven't talked to Mike (Helton, President of NASCAR) today. It's a big agenda for me to go to Mike and find out what the point system and provisional systems are going to be for next year. If it works out to where I can obviously take the past champion's provision the first five weeks, then getting the 66 car back in the top-35 in points is priority. Obviously whoever the second driver is, we would like to ensure that they're going to be in the first five races because of keeping that car in the top-35 this year. So that's a huge priority right now with the race team for the rest of the year.
"And I've had my first team meeting there at the shop and those guys are very excited and have made me feel comfortable knowing that is a very huge priority to those guys for next year, too. So that obviously is important and if we can, if the situation works out that way then everything is taken care of."
Q: Tony, in the comments you made in your announcements, have you talked to Joe Gibbs? Did he give you any pointers, have you sought any advice from him about what you're getting into as a team owner?
TONY STEWART: "He's definitely offered that. I will definitely take him up on it. Obviously, Joe (Gibbs) and I have a great relationship. My USAC teams and World of Outlaw teams, we basically patterned how we run those multi-car teams there after what Joe has done with the Cup side. He told me that he wanted to schedule a meeting for about four months after the season starts next year. That's the only thing he had locked in stone. He goes 'I want to have a meeting and want to know what you think about being a car owner now. I want to see how much you're pulling your hair out and see how much your hair color has changed by then.' But that's the great thing about Joe. Not only Joe Gibbs but Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress, there's been a lot of car owners who said if you need any help, call me. And that's something that's really impressed me since this process has started, is knowing that operations and organizations that we're going to be competing against full time next year, those guys have come and said, 'Hey, if you need help call us. We'll help.' So having that kind of support from these other car owners is something that really means a lot to me."
Q: As a follow-up, do you consider yourself a good delegator?
TONY STEWART: "I would like to think so. I mean that's one thing I've learned from Joe Gibbs is you hire the right people to do the right jobs and you don't sit over the top and hover over the top of them. You let them do their jobs and let them do their work, and I think that's one thing that I'm looking forward to doing. And obviously being a car owner and driver on a weekend, when it comes to driving and being in the car, I have to be a driver. I can't sit there and worry about those other positions and those other jobs and worry about whether those people are doing their jobs. There has to be people in place making sure it's all being done.
"That's where my part right now getting set for next year is making sure that we have exactly the right key, core group of people at the top of the organization at the race shop to make sure that all the people that are going to be working on these cars are in the right positions and the right people are in the right jobs, so that I don't have to be over the top of them and delegate the work to them and let them do what they need to do."
Q: Tony, how far down the line are you in determining to whom you might delegate managers, who might be the president of the company, crew chiefs and all those types of things? Are you interviewing people now?
TONY STEWART: "Yeah, we're still evaluating who is there right now, obviously. I mean, when we had that first team meeting, I think everybody, I think a lot of the guys there were really nervous when they came in expecting us to totally clean house and start fresh. And that's not necessarily our intentions. We know there are good people in the organization right now. It's making sure that we keep the key people that are there and then just add to it and make it better. So we have the intention of adding a lot more personnel than are already in place there now. And that's a huge priority. The sooner we can get those key positions filled at the top and especially at this time of the year, the sooner we can get all the personnel lined up for next year. So it's a huge priority right now."
Q: Tony, I don't admit to knowing all the details, but it's my understanding that the other half of Stewart-Haas Racing is serving prison time. Does that give you any pause as you enter into this deal. Alex and George, did that give you pause as sponsor?
TONY STEWART: "The other half of the organization is Haas Automation. And Haas Automation is still in California and still working every day.
"Obviously Gene is a partner. We've looked at the situation. Obviously there was no way we would not look at the situation. There was a mistake in the company, from what we understand, and the admirable thing about the whole thing is that Gene (Haas) took responsibility for it. And you don't ever want to see anybody in that position. But at the same time to see somebody that saw a flaw in it and that a mistake was made and for him to take full responsibility for it, I think is something that's pretty admirable.
"There's nothing positive about that, but at the same time there's a lot more cases that are out and are more negative than the situation that Gene is in there."
Q: Tony, just wondering what other conversations you had with other driver/owners or former driver/owners. Have any of them tried to talk you out of this?
TONY STEWART: "No, actually Robby Gordon said I'm going to have fun with this. So you look at guys like Robby and Mike Waltrip, they're the last guys to be making big jumps like this. But Robby, obviously, with a single car team, probably has the hardest road of all. Only having one set of information each week.
"But at the Prelude (to the Dream charity race), he looked at me and said 'You're going to have a lot of fun with this.' And I think that's taken a big weightb^0x0013 is lifting a big weight off my shoulders telling me that and knowing that that's kind of the way I felt all along is that we're going to have a lot of fun with this."
Q: You mentioned 60 percent and 40 percent with the sponsors. How many races will each sponsor run?
TONY STEWART: "I didn't bring my calculator. I think it's 20 and 16, if I remember right. Am I wrong in that? If my memory serves me right, it's 20 races, plus or minus one or two."
Q: Tony, you actually have to hire a second driver and a crew chief. Putting together a team beyond that, what are the positions you're looking for first and what are the characteristics you're looking for people to fill those?
TONY STEWART: "Obviously team managers. Your floor managers, your managers of your parts rooms, the parts that make these race teams efficient. We're really in a hurry to find the right people and finding these guys, they're the guys that hire the mechanics. They're the guys that hire the fabricators. Having the right engine tuner. Having the right group of guys for the pit stop. When you're a driver and you work for the same organization for 10 years, that makes it hard to evaluate and assess people and decide which are the right people. So it kind of takes me out of the fold.
"To find the right guy for the job, that's part of the responsibility of being a car owner is knowing that you're not always necessarily the right guy who should decide who should be in the position and when."
MIKE ARNING: "Thank you for coming."