NASCAR Sprint Cup AMP Energy 500 An interview with: TONY STEWART GREG ZIPADELLI J.D. GIBBS JOE GIBBS THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the winning team in today's race. We will start with J.D. Gibbs. Your thoughts on today's victory? J.D.
NASCAR Sprint Cup AMP Energy 500
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the winning team in today's race.
We will start with J.D. Gibbs. Your thoughts on today's victory?
J.D. GIBBS: You know, it's kind of two different days for us. We have Denny's run first, have the tire go, hits the wall. That was scary. Get him to Birmingham, have the doctors check him out. He had a little headache, his foot was hurting. You go from that, come back over here, watching at the end of the race, Kyle got caught up in the accident there. Then Tony to go where he was, to not have a win all year, that was a big deal for us. The way we won it, you go, Man, we were so close. Then you realize you can't go below the yellow line. We've been caught a few times at the other end of that. Zippy knew right away you can't do that from past experience.
THE MODERATOR: Joe Gibbs, could you give us your thought on today's day?
JOE GIBBS: J.D. said it right. You got three cars, tough things happen to two of them. The thing I kind of focused on right after the race was, you know, it's been with Zippy and Tony, all of us together with Home Depot, it's 33 wins. That's awesome. I mean, it just doesn't happen that often in sports that you get to enjoy those kinds of wins. This one took us a while to get this one.
Zippy has done a great job managing, handling the team, keeping everyone together. Obviously went through a lot this year with all the things that have happened to the race team. I really appreciate them and their attitude. They kept a great attitude all year.
THE MODERATOR: Greg, take us through your day.
GREG ZIPADELLI: It was a great day for us. I'm just proud of everybody in our group, all three teams, everybody that chipped in to help us on Friday to overcome what happened to us in Happy Hour. I mean, that's first and foremost, we spent a lot of time on this brand new car to bring back here. Got tore up in Happy Hour. And everybody from all three teams helped each other fix our car, the 11 car. Very appreciative of that. Everybody did a good job, obviously.
We had a good car all day. We've had a lot of good cars here in the past and haven't been able to get that victory. This is one of those places that if you were going to pick five or six racetracks to win at in your career, this is one of them. For us to finally get our first win after all those second and top fives we've had, it's cool.
It's been tough this year, up and down, keeping everybody just focused and trying to not get frustrated over the things that are going to happen or that we went through. My guys, they've done a good job all year of trying to stay focused doing their job, you know, trying to prepare good racecars. Hopefully this will give us a little momentum for the last few races, we can get ourselves back in the top five where I think we belong.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q: Six races left, I'm sure you're going to be out there gunning for more victories. This pretty much is kind of the end of an era with you and Tony. Could you just kind of address what it's like to go out with a victory with him, all the times you shared, good and bad?
GREG ZIPADELLI: It's all been good. There have been a few off days, but for the most part it's good. If I had my choice, I wish he was staying where he was at and we were going to continue on.
But things are changing. I'm proud of everybody. That we got a win here, know that we're not going to go winless for a whole season, you know, all those little things that wear on you. The longer you go, the more you wonder about it. You wonder, can we do this, will we do this?
Proud of everybody. Excited we're going to racetracks we've won at. The rest of the year, I think we've won at least one. Going to Charlotte next week. Had a decent test. Probably should have won that race in the spring. So we're definitely looking forward to the end of the season.
Q: Joe and J.D., could you answer that, please?
JOE GIBBS: For me, I really focused on the fact of keeping everybody together for 10 years, particularly in this sport, any sport. We kept Zippy, Tony, the whole team, Home Depot, they reupped with us. So my focus is when you've got a great sponsor like that, you want them to get what they came into the sport for. To keep everybody together for 10 years, it's been an awesome deal. Really appreciate it.
Goes back to everybody at the shop, front office, everybody working all the way through the organization. To keep everything together for 10 years, it's a big deal.
J.D. GIBBS: I think when you look back, it's 10 years, it's been closer to 13 years, open wheel, over to here, Nationwide, Busch at the time. It's just a special bond you get, you know, over all that time. So you got your ups and downs like any relationship. But I think to have that, to finish today with a victory, is a big deal for us.
Q: Zippy, obviously the ending with Smith going below the yellow line, there's all kind of talk from the people who preceded you in the press room about Truck Series, anything goes on the final lap, word going around this morning that if you could see the flag stand, you could go. First of all, if there's all this scuttlebutt, why was it not brought up in the drivers meeting? How can you go into a race not knowing what the rules are on the last lap?
GREG ZIPADELLI: Obviously somebody knew what the rules were. I mean, they went below the yellow line and then got penalized. I think it's been pretty clear for six or seven years now if you advance your position below the yellow line, you're going to lose your position.
I swear to you, we were the first car penalized in the July race in Daytona, I think 2002, 2001 or 2002. We finished sixth. They put us all the way back to last car on the lead lap. It was on the last lap. We actually kind of got forced below there, went down there to kind the not cause a big wreck. They told us if you do that...
Honestly, if I go get my handout they handed to me today said that on the bottom of it. I don't know that chafe changed anything. I truly believe this is the way it's been for five, six, seven years here. It's pretty clear cut.
Q: You said a few moments ago you want to try to get a top five out of this for the season. Why are you discounting possibly going for the championship?
GREG ZIPADELLI: I'm not. I'm just realistic. When we were 11th last week, We got to head in the right direction. We're seventh, so let's try to get ourselves in the top five. Let's try adding get ourselves with a couple races to go where we can mathematically have a chance for the championship.
And we adjust our goals as we go. We've never not starting at Daytona in February think that we couldn't or just weren't going to try to do it. Honestly, we need to work on getting ourselves in the top five, then go race those guys. You know, after the last few weeks that we've had, I'm just being realistic and we'll continue to move as the year goes.
I would hope a win gets everybody going. After the year we've had, I hope it gives everybody a shot in the arm, not only us but everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. They've all worked hard on these restrictor plate cars, just like they do the cars we got going to Charlotte.
You know, we've all struggled as a group, for some reason, first three races, you know, so this is good for us. I think Denny showed he had a good car today. Kyle was up there most of the day. We all run good at Charlotte. You know, we just need to go as a group and run good there.
Q: Greg, as soon as the race was over, you said, Where is my official? Can you take us through that conversation a little bit.
GREG ZIPADELLI: Well, I just wanted to make sure he I'm quite certain whether I asked or not, they saw the same thing I did. I just, you know, for my peace of mind, I wanted to hear him call up there and ask if they had changed the rule or is everything as it still stood. As I was asking him that, I heard in my radio, 20 to Victory Lane. So, you know, before I even asked them to call up there, they made the call.
Q: Zippy, why were you fighting so hard to keep the primary car on Friday? Obviously it worked out well for you. Can you tell us a little bit about your concerns about the front end and why you fought so hard to fix that car.
GREG ZIPADELLI: Well, it was a brand new car we built for here. It was basically a twin of the car we had here in the spring, led all those laps. Felt like we were capable of winning. And we knew that car. We had practiced it. We had drafted with it. The tune up, the gearbox on these cars are so finicky, we had tried a few things. The car responded to it. I didn't feel that we had any damage to the car that would hurt it in the way it would drive and suck up. The important thing, the hood, the front fascia, was all intact. We only had a little work on the right front fender and the rest of it was all in the back. I felt like that was our best shot. We had our best motor in it. We put all our effort in that car.
Q: Greg, obviously there are several issues with right side tires, not only during this race today but throughout the other two races this weekend. Other drivers have been concerned. What was your take as a crew chief? Did you notice anything on your car that could have possibly led to a tire problem later on?
GREG ZIPADELLI: No, our tires looked great all day. But so did everybody else's that came off and had some cuts in them. We had those in the spring. We were leading the race and cut a right front tire. We just didn't hit the wall really hard. It just got us behind. We got in that later wreck. We lost a tire in the spring and don't really have any explanation for why it happened.
If there was something if there was debris on the racetrack that was cutting them, I don't really know. I don't think anybody really has a great explanation. It wasn't a wear. It certainly didn't seem like a heat issue. But a lot of them lost air.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome the winner of today's race, Tony Stewart. Take us through the race today, Tony, your victory here at Talladega.
TONY STEWART: Well, I mean, obviously, the lap that everybody wants to know about is that last one really I think. We got a good restart there. Just made sure that we didn't get out too far to where, you know, we didn't get a big gap where they could get a run on us. Coming off of two on the last lap, Regan got right to the bumper and, man, gave us a great push down the backstretch. I thought if I could keep him glued to the bumper like that, that we had a shot. Just cruising on, the two of us getting away from everybody.
When he came up in the center, I thought this is bad news. We were going to get that gap in there we didn't want. So I saw the run coming. You know, I made a counter move early enough to get him committed to one direction, then I got back down to the line quick.
Man, I mean, it's a tough position to be in when you're the first guy. It's a tough position when you're the second guy. But, you know, we were able to finally get that first win here at Talladega. There's only three of them left we haven't won at now. 33 in 10 years for this group sitting up here. It's something that we're all very proud of.
THE MODERATOR: We'll release Greg Zipadelli, J.D. and Joe Gibbs. We'll take questions for Tony.
Q: Tony, I watched you race a long time on dirt, asphalt, whatever it is with wheels on it, but how big is this and to do it the way you're doing it?
TONY STEWART: Obviously, the last 12 months, you know, we've struggled trying to figure out what we've been missing and what we need to get in Victory Lane. It's just been one of those years that we've just had bad luck all season. We should have won Charlotte. We should have been in a position to win Bristol. There were four or five shots we had at winning races this year and something happens at some point in the race that is just bad luck and stuff that's never happened.
Man, to finally get that first one of the year, but to do it here at Talladega, people don't understand what that means to win here. Winning the Nationwide race this year was huge to me. Now winning the Cup race, somebody is going to lose their vocal cords outside how happy they are.
But, man, it's just an awesome feeling to finally win here. I talked to Red Farmer on the phone. The funny part about talking to Red, he was talking, he thought he was talking to the guy that handed me the phone. I said, How is that? Will that work? He said, Tell Tony... I said, You are talking to him. He said, What? He can't hear a dag gone thing. Even he was as excited as we were. Man, it's just finally we got ourselves into Victory Lane here.
Q: Can you address the detractors that think since you're leaving, you're a lame duck, this just wasn't going to happen in the Chase?
TONY STEWART: Well, I mean, it's no secret we've been a little bit off all year. But there's been opportunities, like we mentioned earlier, that we've had opportunities to win, and something's happened. It was nice today. I mean, you look at all the things that happened on the racetrack, and we weren't a part of it. We finally had one of those days where everything went right for us. You know, we were able to finish it off.
Man, I mean, there's been a lot of nights going home at night going, Man, what do I have to do? How long is this slump going to be? What do we have to do to get out of it? At least for the next six days, I get to say that I'm out of it.
Just happy for the results today and happy we got a little luck on our side.
Q: We've all known about the yellow line rule since you at Daytona in 2002. Today Regan was talking about something that he understood based on the truck race yesterday and all that there was word going around the garage that if you went below the line after you could see the flagman that anything goes. Did you hear any such thing? Can you give us your interpretation of the whole matter as it unfolded.
TONY STEWART: All I'm gonna say about that is they never said that in the drivers meeting. So I don't know that it was ever understood anywhere. I sat in the drivers meeting like everybody else did. I know that somebody's got a copy of it. So if you hear that in the drivers meeting, then, you know, I guess we'll all stand corrected. But that's not the way I understood it.
Q: Earlier Jimmie Johnson said really the only offensive tool you have left with this new car on these tracks is to hit somebody, meet up with him, push him forward. Is your assessment of that the same thing?
TONY STEWART: Pretty much. I mean, with the way the bumpers match up, I mean, it keeps us from jacking each other up like we had the problems with with the old cars with the slanted noses and the tails being higher than the noses or the front bumpers are flat and the rear bumpers are flat and they're the same height. It lets you be able to get on a guy's bumper like that, push him around here.
When they repaved this track about three years ago, you aren't going to find two and a half miles of asphalt that's as smooth as this is. They don't pave the highways this smooth. So that's what allows us to be able to do that, is 'cause we have a surface that's know nice that, you know, handling is not an issue. It's a matter of just when you can get those two cars locked together like that, the car in the back doesn't have any air resistance on it at all, it's like shifting another gear when you can get to the back bumper of somebody.
I was happy when Regan got to the bumper of me on the backstretch, like Nemechek did the start before. I was hoping he would stay on it all the way till we got to the line. That's why it did worry you, too, at the same time, when they get off that bumper, get that far ahead, that lets that group behind you catch up.
Q: (Question about the yellow line.)
TONY STEWART: I've lost Daytona 500s, I've lost races here at Talladega because somebody blocked. That's the name of the game. Today's race wasn't any different than the last 19 races I've run here. There's always been people blocking.
The nice thing is I was actually on the right end of it this time. Trust me, I've got no regrets about what I did. I did exactly what I needed to do to win the race, and it worked out.
Q: With eight to go, you went into turn one, you said, This is not good. What was going through your head about what you just mentioned, I lost these races a lot this way?
TONY STEWART: I knew when Nemechek got behind us like that, I knew we could get away. But the thing is when you get that second car to the bumper like that, that car isn't getting any air to the radiator. That temperature gauge just climbing. Can stay on there as long as you want, but there's going to be a point where he's going to get the water temperature so high that the motor lays down and it's pushing water out of the vent tube.
I knew that we were going to get so far ahead that it was going to let that whole line of cars, we were going to be sitting ducks up there, and that's what happened. It got to where I think it was Elliott Sadler got to the high side of Nemechek in one and two, we were able to get up and block and get a push from Elliott and protect our spot there.
But that's what I knew was not going to be a good situation. There's nothing you can do as the front guy. You can't just mash on the brakes and slow down because you got a guy pushing you. If you want to get wrecked, you can mash on the brakes. But, you know, I was better off just riding it out. Then at that point you just got to watch the mirror because you know the train's coming.
Q: You're seventh in the points now, six races to go, 203 out. Last week most of us were saying you probably don't have a shot at it. Do you view these remaining races as you have a shot at the championship or is it just one race at a time?
TONY STEWART: We're not even halfway through the Chase. Anything can happen still. The thing I've learned with this is until they say mathematically you're out, you still got a shot.
So you never know what's going to happen from week to week. This race obviously is one of those that you know big things can happen more so than at the other tracks. You know, we got to take it one week at a time right now.
Q: Any ambiguity at all in that rule?
TONY STEWART: Any what? I'm from Southern Indiana. Use smaller words (laughter).
Q: Anything in the rules that could define it better because Regan said he would have asked a question in the drivers meeting, but he didn't feel he was a veteran, shouldn't be doing that, held back for a second. Is there anything in it that is unclear, anything that should be clearer about it?
TONY STEWART: I mean, I've sat in those meetings since they had the yellow line rule. The first thing that David always says is, This is your warning. The drivers meeting is your warning about staying above the yellow line and racing above the yellow line. Always preceded by aggressive driving zones. They always say that starts with the drop of the green flag to the end of the checkered flag with emphasis in the corners and the tri ovals.
It's been the same speech since they came up with that rule. They've never wavered off of it. You know, pretty self explanatory, I think.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, congratulations.
TONY STEWART: Thank you.