T. stewart interview

TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: (ON HIS CHANCES AT DOVER) "Well, they haven't changed anything. There's not a new tire. We don't have restrictor plates, so hopefully all the variables will be the same as the last time we...

TONY STEWART , NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:

(ON HIS CHANCES AT DOVER) "Well, they haven't changed anything. There's not a new tire. We don't have restrictor plates, so hopefully all the variables will be the same as the last time we were there, so we're looking to hopefully have the same kind of weekend that we had earlier this year."

(ON HIS PLANS FOR THIS WEEK) "I'm actually just taking a week off. This was one of those weeks where we didn't have a lot of things going on. I have a lot of friends out in California that I haven't had a chance to see in the last year and a half, so I just took an opportunity to come out and visit everybody for a couple days. Then we'll just head east and get ready for Dover this weekend."

(ON THE RUMORS OF SOME PERSONNEL CHANGES COMING AT JOE GIBBS RACING AT THE END OF THE SEASON) "To be hones, I'm not real sure. I've heard the same things that everybody else has. Everybody has talked about Jimmy Elledge after this weekend. If Mike Mulhern puts something in the paper, normally it's pretty true. I've not been told anything about it, but Mulhern is pretty respected in the motorsports industry and he put that in there, I'm sure there is some truth to it.

"I like Jimmy Elledge. I'm very happy with Greg (Zipadelli) and look forward tot a great future with him, but if there are any changes and Jimmy is coming over to our car, it's like I told Greg the other day, I'd have to change my hair color to blonde like Jimmy has. It's a long season yet, and I haven't been told anything, so I don't really know. But I know that Joe (Gibbs) is a real competitive person. He definitely wants to win this championship. That is their number one focus right now, and our focus, too. We want Bobby (Labonte) to win the points and we want to finish the year strong also."

(DOES DOVER PRESENT ANY PARTICULAR PROBLEMS TO YOU?) "I don't think it presents any problems, to be honest. The way we finished in the spring race, we had a really strong car all day. Like I said, there are no variables that have changed for this weekend, so I don't really see any concerns or problems, per se. We're just going to go do our job that we normally do. We don't have to battle around any different variables this weekend, so hopefully this will be a lot smoother weekend than what we had last week."

(DOES TROUBLE HAPPEN FASTER AT DOVER?) "I don't think it's any worse there than anywhere else. Where the problems normally happen as far as accidents are concerned, it's not normally getting into the corners and through the center of the corner, but coming off the corners. The straightaways have so much banking that a car that crashes into the wall coming off the corners, it's kind of like a 'Home Depot special.' It's a two-for-one at times. You get the outside wall and then you slide down and hit the inside wall. That's where you can get into a lot of trouble as far as catching other drivers in the same accident."

(DO YOU SEE ANY FUTURE IN THE EXPANDED USE OF RESTRICTOR PLATES AFTER LAST WEEKEND?) "I certainly hope not. The thing that I enjoyed when I moved into the Winston Cup Series was not the fact that I was driving a 3,400-pound stock car, but the fact that I was driving a car with 700 hundred-plus horsepower again. Taking all that horsepower away, you might as well be running the Busch Series."

"The thing I didn't really understand is that there giving the Busch cars more horsepower and they're taking away horsepower from the Winston Cup cars. At the rate we're going we're going to end up with one series with 100 cars showing up each week, so I don't really understand the formula yet. I'm hoping that's not the way it ends up because I looked forward to getting into a Winston Cup car that had more horsepower. It's more suited to my driving style than just having a heavy car like that with less horsepower."

(ON THE SUPERSTITION OF WEARING A GREEN HELMET, AS HE DID THIS PAST WEEKEND WHEN HE WORE A REPLICA OF THE HELMET THAT WAS WORN BY THE LATE KENNY IRWIN, JR. ANY FEARS WITH THAT?) "I'll never wear a green helmet again, let's put it that way. I am superstitious. There are some things that I'm not superstitious about and there are some things that I am. The last time I wore a helmet with green in it before this past weekend was in Las Vegas in 1996 in an IRL race, and I had the worst accident of my racing career. With the bad luck that we had Sunday with pit stops and getting caught a lap down because of pit stops, I'm not sure you'll ever see me where a helmet with green on it. I thought about that and the gentleman that paints my helmets reminded me of what happened that last time I wore a green helmet. But to me it was more important to do it for Kenny and Kenny's family and Kenny's memory, so I put my superstitions aside for Kenny this past weekend."

(DOES HE THINK RESTRICTOR PLATES ACTUALLY MADE THE RACING SAFER?) "I don't think it made it any safer, to be perfectly honest. I'm kind of in agreement with you guys (the media). I'm not sure I understand it either. My idea and my theory as to what needs to be done to make it safer is if they want to slow us down, have Goodyear build a really hard compound tire. Goodyear has the technology and has engineers that are smart enough to build a hard enough tire that doesn't have the grip to let us run in the corner as hard and let us run through the corner and exit the corner as hard. That's the easiest way to slow the cars down without having to make all the teams spend all the money. I wish we could add up all the money all the teams spent this week just to build a motor to go to Loudon. The numbers would be astronomical right now. We had man-hours that guys lost and had to spend overtime and the money. It was kind of ridiculous for one race. The nice thing that NASCAR does is that they don't jump to a quick conclusion to try to find a quick fix. It may not have been the perfect answer, but at least they did something. I think we all have to applaud them for that. In my opinion it's not the right way to go, but I'm not an official. NASCAR didn't get where it is today by making knee-jerk reactions, so I'd say they did the best they could. We all got through the weekend and nobody got hurt real bad, and we go on."

(ON THE PROPOSED RULE CHANGES FOR TALLADEGA) "I was one of the drivers that went to Daytona to do the test. I was pretty impressed with the list of ideas that NASCAR had, as far as what to put on the cars and what to do to the cars to try to make it to where we punch a bigger hole in the air to make the racing a little better to where you can't just run right behind a guy and not be able to pass."

"All of the changes that are being made are not for the drivers, it's not for the car owners, it's not for NASCAR. It's all done for the fans. I'm really impressed with the way NASCAR conducted that test. Everything that we're doing for Talladega - and the plan is also to run the same equation for the '500' next year - is to put on a better show for the fans in all reality.

"The second things I was really impressed with was that we had three meetings throughout the day with all the drivers and Mike Helton and Gary Nelson. We all sat down and we were all able to give our own ideas on what we thought we could do to help the same situation. NASCAR made the drivers a very big part of what happened. We were able to give our own input, as well as go through the list of changes that they had on their sheet.

"I think it's going to be a little better. It's hard to say right now. I still think you're going to see a big pack of cars, but I think you'll see big packs of cars that will be able to pass each other, so I think it's going to make for a real exciting Talladega race. If I were someone with Talladega tickets, I wouldn't give them up or sell them this time."

(DID HE NOTICE A BIG CHANGE WITH A ONE-INCH PLATE ON DURING THE TEST?) "It was very easy to pull up, and that's the thing that you'll hear a lot of the drivers talk about is the car being able to suck up to the car in front of it. There was a period in there where my car was a little bit too free and we just didn't have it tight enough. It was one of the first runs. We had not had much of an opportunity to run with other cars yet, so we were just a little bit free at the time. I wanted to go to the back of the pack and kind of get some clean air and try to work my way back up through there. I slowed down at the end of the backstretch and didn't get slowed down enough for the whole pack to get by before I got to the corner. So I got on the brakes, the whole field went by and I thought I would have lost the pack. With the normal restrictor plate, I would have lost the draft there. I was probably 200 yards behind those guys and in two laps I caught back up, by myself. So you aren't going to see anybody run away because the cars are able to suck up a lot better. I think it's going to provide a lot better race and a lot better show for everybody."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mike Helton