Talladega: Stewart Friday media visit



CAN YOU FILL US IN ABOUT YOUR MEETING THIS MORNING WITH NASCAR OFFICIALS? "I saw 6:00 a.m. this morning for the first time in a long time. They assured me that the debris cautions aren't things that aren't out there. They say that there are things that are there. And to be honest, the group that I spoke with this morning is a group of peers that I trust. If they tell me that the stuff is out there, I believe them. It's hard sometimes when you don't see it and there are a lot of times we don't see it and I questioned that. But I think they're approach was logical. Instead of doing it in the way I did it - I should have went to them instead of just saying it out in public.

"But that's a frustration that's been building up for weeks with me was these debris cautions. But honestly, I feel confident. They've told me that this doesn't happen. It's a group of people that I trust and until there is evidence to show me that what they are saying is not true, I'm going to believe them. That is why I didn't go to the media center last week (after Phoenix race). I was so frustrated that I knew if I went to the media center after the race..I was happy with my run. I was ecstatic with having a second place run. I had a great battle with Jeff (Gordon). I still hate losing. Second isn't what I wanted, but considering the week we had the week before, a second place run and leading the most laps was a great night for us.

"My frustration was the caution flags the first half of the race. But that was enough for me to not want to.. We try to learn from our mistakes before. I've went to the media center and been furious before and said things that I didn't want to say. And Tuesday night I was sick and still ended up saying things that I didn't want to say; or shouldn't have said, and got in trouble for. The meeting the morning was a good meeting. It's a little tender for me to sit down right now (laughter), but I'm semi-confident that by the time practice starts that the medication I've got will numb it up enough that I can go out there and do my job this afternoon."

WERE YOU SPEAKING FOR YOURSELF OR ON BEHALF OF A LOT OF OTHER DRIVERS AND HOW THEY FEEL ABOUT DEBRIS CAUTIONS? "I don't try to speak for anybody else but myself. It's been a huge topic. Just walking in here today and the conversations I've had with the group of people who have stopped me on the say in from the door to here, have shown how big a topic this has been. The group of guys I met with this morning are guys that I really have a lot of respect for. Unless you're out there when they go pick that stuff up..the smallest things - I know this from running Indy cars - can cause a punctured a tire. Sometimes the smaller things are worse than the bigger things are in a lot of cases. But we all know that what we're involved with is an entertainment industry.

"They were very honest about saying yeah, there are times they would love to find debris to have a caution. But they assured me that they don't just throw a caution with no debris out there. I have the trust in those guys and until there is something that proves them wrong on that, I believe what they told me this morning."

WHO WAS IN THE MEETING? "I'm not sure I'm allowed to disclose that. It's not that I don't want to tell you, I just don't want to get in trouble. We're really not supposed to discuss what's said behind those closed doors. I'm probably already going out a little further than I'm supposed to on that."

WHAT DO YOU REGRET THE MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID? DO YOU FEEL THAT NASCAR IS MORE UPSET ABOUT THE PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING ANALOGY THAN THE DEBRIS CAUTIONS PART? "They didn't say anything about professional wrestling this morning. I'm not sure that was a big topic at 6 a.m. I think it was more that some of the individuals felt like it was a personal attack on them and like I said, that group of people I spoke with this morning are a group I really have a lot of respect for. And not knowing that was the group involved, I did feel really bad about that part of it. It's a group that I've always had a lot of respect for and have always went in confidence with if I've had questions in the past. I just kind of felt bad for saying that.

"The other thing, I do know for a fact that it's at the bottom of the entry list that it is mandatory to go to the media center. It's not your choice to go. And in my contract, it does say that I'm obligated to go to the media center. So the fact that I made the comment that it's your privilege to have us...nope, you guys (the media) have 100 percent right, so I was 100 percent wrong on that one."

DO YOU REGRET MOST EVERYTHING YOU SAID? "Well, pretty damn close (laughter). You know me. If I think I'm right about something, I'm going to say I'm right. And when I'm wrong, I'm going to say I'm wrong. I think over eight years I've pretty much established that if I think I'm wrong about something, I say I'm wrong. And I was wrong about what I said about the media and that it was a privilege to have us come in here. It's a privilege to have us come in five minutes after we're done and we're still ticked off about something that happened on the race track versus a cool down period. But that was a topic that was covered probably four or five years ago. I think that is what makes our sport good is that you guys to get that access and that's what's making us all popular."

WHEN YOU SPOKE ONE WEEK ABOUT RETIRING AND THEN QUESTIONED THE DEBRIS CAUTIONS AND SAID NO RACES WERE BEING RUN FAIRLY THIS YEAR, DO YOU THINK YOU DAMAGED THE INTEGRITY OF THE SPORT IN A PUBLIC ARENA? "I'm hoping after my meeting this morning that it doesn't hurt it. Am I confident that I probably did hurt it, I'm sure I did. Everybody in this building has made a living off of this sport. I've made a living off of this sport. It's a lot of work and obligation. This is not a free ride for anybody here. Everybody gets up and works more than an eight hour day. Everybody puts up with stuff that we shouldn't have to put up with, but it is part of our jobs. Yeah, I'm sure I did hurt the integrity of it - and unfairly, after talking with those guys this morning. But the one thing I've always been praised about in this room - and it's also been used against me, but if I feel something, I've always told you guys. Tuesday's radio show is not why I didn't go to the media center. I wasn't saving something to talk about on Tuesday. I had a 100.5-degree fever and I tried to get out of doing the radio show on Tuesday because I was sick. Mike (Arning, pr director) felt like it was very important that I did get on there and at least talk about why we didn't come (to the media center) on Saturday (post race, Phoenix). That's where I'm a lot of times my own worst enemy. You can't fix 'stupid' a lot of times. I'm getting better about not saying stupid things at the wrong times, but I haven't totally cured it yet. But we're getting better though."

IS THERE A CHANCE THAT THERE IS VALIDITY IN QUESTIONING THE DEBRIS CAUTIONS? "There have been a lot of times when the cautions have come out and I haven't seen it (debris) and other competitors haven't seen it - nobody has seen it. But in talking to the officials I spoke to this morning, they assured me that every time they call a caution for debris on the race track, there is legitimate debris out there. And until there is something that proves them wrong, that group of people I'm going to believe. I've always trusted them and believed them in the past. And I'm not looking for something that's going to prove them wrong. I have the faith and trust in them that if they call a caution, there's something out there. And I guess in a big way, it's a weight lifted off my shoulders that we had that meeting this morning and that I do have that confidence in that group in saying that it's not the way that I thought it was."

IN ANOTHER PART OF YOUR POINT ON THE RADIO SHOW TUESDAY NIGHT WAS THAT YOU THOUGHT THEIR RELUCTANCE TO THROW CAUTIONS DURING PRACTICE WITH OIL AND QUICK DRY ON THE TRACK. DID YOU ADDRESS ANY OF THAT IN YOUR MEETING? "I did bring it up. For anybody that was at Phoenix Saturday, when we went on the race track, there was more stuff on the race track then than there was during the race when cautions have come out. But they didn't discuss it and they never brought it back up and we never really went over that part of it. I don't know why it was so bad Saturday when we went out for practice there. I guess it would have been better to have it then, obviously, than to start the race with it that way."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup