TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: ON THE RACE "We knew yesterday during 'Happy Hour' that we had a car that was definitely strong. Normally and traditionally our car comes out really strong in the beginning of the run but we...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON THE RACE
"We knew yesterday during 'Happy Hour' that we had a car that was definitely strong. Normally and traditionally our car comes out really strong in the beginning of the run but we were able to keep that up the whole race. Lap times kind of closed up towards the middle and end of a run but we were still faster. We knew we had a good car all day, we just had to take care of it all day and make sure we didn't do anything to put ourselves in jeopardy. I think the beginning of the race really made me feel good because last year it took me along time to get to the front and guys were pulling out big leads kind of like what it was here. With this track being so flat and the corners being so big and everybody does such a good job developing their aerodynamic packages that's why the cars separate here. It's hard to stay on the bottom of the track, and when you can stay on the bottom of the racetrack you have days like we did today."
SATISFACTION LEVEL OF YOU WINNING THE RACE AND BOBBY CLINCHING THE
"It was great. I kind of forgot that I was winning the race for awhile because with five to go I called to Greg and asked what Bobby's frequency channel on his radio because I didn't know what it was on mine. He said to just worry about it when we take the checkered flag. I'm thankful to Bobby for letting me share a lap with him and to run side by side. It meant a lot to me. I thank it brought back memories for me when Terry won the championship in Atlanta and he and Bobby ran around the track together. It was neat to be apart of that and special to me. Nobody deserved to win the championship today more than Bobby Labonte today. He's a great teammate. It's hard to explain to you how much of a help he is to me and how much of an inspiration he is to me in my career right now. With five races to go in the season he was still coming up to me after practice asking me if my car was all right and if I needed anything. Most guys that are trying to win a championship wouldn't be worrying about what his teammate is doing. That just shows what kind of person Bobby Labonte really is. He's a great person and hopefully I can be like him one day."
MOST WINS AND THE SATISFATION OF THAT
"It's great. We obviously wanted to finish higher in the points than we did last year but if you can't do that then we wanted to win more races and we did that. We doubled it from last year. It's awesome and its do to this guy beside me (Greg Zippadelli). He is a better crew chief every week and the cars are better. I'm still learning every week too. If we grow together like this I think some great things can happen for us in the future."
ON DRIVERS BEING REWARDED WITH THE MOST VICTORIES
"Everybody wants to stir up if the points system is right or wrong. The points system is what it is. You know what it is when you go into it and you know you need to be consistent to win races. In my opinion the guy that goes out there and wins six or seven races but crashes at eight or nine shouldn't be the guy that wins the championship. The guy that's out there each week and knows when to push hard and when to take it easy when he doesn't have the perfect car that day puts on a better show for the fans. If half of the field finishes and the other half crashes just to try and win because it rewards more points, isn't a good show for the fans. I'm pretty happy with how the points system is. NASCAR is not a bunch of idiots. They've done this for fifty years and I think they've done a good job developing the product. I think they've developed a points system that is very appropriate for our sport."
ON HIS STRETCH DURING THE SPRING WHEN HE WASN'T DOING AS WELL
"That's the way this series is. Gary Nelson told us in our first rookie season last year 'you can expect seven or eight bad races a year. That's about average.' That doesn't mean you crash out or DNF, but just a bad race compared to what you would run on a normal basis. We had four DNFs this year Bobby and Dale Earnhardt don't have any. There are just so many things each weekend that we can control. As soon as the race starts there are 42 other variables that we can't control. The biggest thing is we have to go out there this winter like we did last year and do the best we can as a race team to be as prepared as possible and to control as many things that are in our control and then let lady luck take care of some of it. Preparation is a big part of that."
ON NOT FEELING WELL DURING PART OF THE RACE "I'm still not feeling well. I'm probably a little pale yet. I've never been able to deal with heat. I haven't had a problem all weekend with being to hot in the car but we had that long stretch of green flag and the biggest thing with being claustrophobic and not dealing with heat very well, is that if you feel like you're getting hot then in the car you start feeling like you're trapped, then I start to panic. Then Greg has to change modes from trying to go fast to just trying to stay in contention. He did a good job keeping me calm during that period and as soon as we came the last two pit stops I was surprised to see about a pound in a half bag of ice come in the window and it wasn't closed. I had my suit undone so it could go down and that really was a big key to the racecourse. You probably pay a $1.50 for a bag of ice and in my opinion that won us the race because I wasn't going to make it the way I was going. But they got the ice in there and it filled up the whole seat and once they did that I was able to cool down a little bit and was able to calm down."
ON THE YEAR
"I'd say we've grown this year. I think Greg and I have grown relationship wise this year. I've learned a lot about Winston Cup Racing on and off the track. There's a lot to be learned in this series when you haven't grown-up around it all your life. Greg grew up in it and I grew up in the Midwest in sprint cars and midget all my life and didn't know anything about Busch or Winston Cup Racing. One I got in Busch a couple years I thought I had a pretty good idea what it was like and realized over night that I didn't know near as much as I thought I knew and not near enough of what I needed to know. You just learn as you go. I've taken my share of hard knocks this year at times and the fortunate thing is that I've learned from them. As long as every time I make a mistake I learn from it I don't feel near as bad. I wish I didn't make the mistakes but I'm so far from perfect that it's hard not making mistakes. We both have made ourselves better. I think Greg is more comfortable being a Winston Cup crew chief and I'm more comfortable being a Winston Cup driver. The way we work with the guys on the team and the way we work on race weekend it's starting to show again."
IS THERE A DIFFERENT MINDSET YOU GO IN KNOWING YOU HAVE THE BEST CAR IN THE
"There are no guarantees. But I think everybody on our team was smiling this morning. I think everyone was relaxed. I had a really good night sleep last night. A lot better than I have in a long time. I was in a good mood when I woke up. I've learned that I'm a key element as far as the attitudes of the team and when I go in they're joking with the guys and laughing with them it trickles through the system. Those guys were all pumped up today and I was pumped up today. Like I said the first run to me was what was going to set the tone for the race. We were able to go from 13th to 3rd before that first caution and I felt really confident at that point about winning this race. We weren't sure how the track was going to change throughout the day but I felt that our car was balanced well enough in the beginning and Greg does such a good job at making sure our car is adjustable with however the track changes. We didn't have to make any major changes to the car all day so I was pretty relaxed and confident all day. I didn't know I was going to win but I knew I had a good shot at it if we didn't make any mistakes."
ON THINGS THAT HE SEES ON THE 18 CAR THAT HE WISHES THEY COULD DO
"From a drivers standpoint I don't know everything I need to know yet. But that's what we're here for. Places like Rockingham, we tested well there and even ran well in the race but I haven't learned how to run high there and Bobby has and that's why he was able to win the spring race there. There are 36 races on the schedule next year and it's impossible to think that you're going to be able to go out there in a year or two and be able to figure out everything you need to know to be competitive for all those races. There are a lot of them we have hit it right on. This track is one of them and Dover is one of them. When we come here we're confident we're going to be right. That's a good starting spot. That's two crossed off the list. There are 20 others that we need to try to get that.
ON TRACK CONSISTENCY
"It was pretty slick all day. When the clouds came over it would get a little more grip. The nice thing about this track is that it's smooth. There are only a couple of bumps on this track and that's pretty impressive since this place sees a lot of sunshine all year long. The downside of that, the surface is unique. It doesn't have a lot of grip by itself."
ON SEEING BOBBY'S TEAM CELEBRATING AND THE MOTIVATION IT BRINGS
"I think that what most people understand is that we're going to be celebrating right beside those guys. It's not like their going to be celebrating and we're not. We're all one-race team. We all are apart of that championship just like Bobby is apart of our six wins. That's is just how we tailored our race teams. Bobby is a phone call away. When we get back there we will all be celebrating together because we're a team."
ON WINNING THE MOST RACES
There's a lot of satisfaction there. I'm really happy. Ever since last year I've been honored to be in this series. Let alone to be a driver and win races and be in the top 10 in points. To be able to get six wins today and know that nobody else can get more than five is a great feeling for us. We didn't win the championship but we won a battle that is pretty satisfying. Especially with how tough this series is."
ON RIDING ALONG SIDE OF BOBBY FOR THE LAST LAP
"We both just motioned each other on and I thought he was going to knock the door of my car because he was so happy. It's hard to explain how simple things can mean so much but to be able to share that with him - that's a moment I will never forget. To ride around with the 2000 Winston Cup Champion was an honor. I am just thankful to Bobby to let me share that with him."
ON WHAT HE SAID TO BOBBY OVER THE RADIO
" I said 'good job champ, you deserve it." Then I clicked back over to my guys and the next thing I know he clicked over to my frequency. That's just the kind of relationship we have with each other. He makes me feel apart of what he does and I make him feel apart of what I do."