TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE IMPALA SS AND RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the upcoming Prelude to the Dream, tire testing at Indy, last year's Talladega race and Regan Smith, and more. ON UPCOMING 5TH...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OLD SPICE IMPALA SS AND RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the upcoming Prelude to the Dream, tire testing at Indy, last year's Talladega race and Regan Smith, and more.
ON UPCOMING 5TH ANNUAL PRELUDE TO THE DREAM AT ELDORA SPEEDWAY ON June 3 -- 7, 2009
Stewart: "Obviously we're excited. This is an event that we started four years ago that we thought, well we'll see if we can get 14 to 20 drivers to come to. Now we're in year five and we've got about a six to eight-driver waiting list trying to get to the event. So it's been very exciting. We've had drivers from NHRA, the Truck Series, Nationwide Series, Cup drivers that didn't make the list this year. We've invited past drivers back that have participated in the past and then if there were any openings, we went to the list of drivers that have wanted to fill those slots. So it's been real exciting for us. The support from the NASCAR community and the drivers had really been overwhelming. It's probably the one thing that every year absolutely shocks me how much everybody has been behind this. We're currently looking for a sponsor for this year's event. Our goal again is to raise a million dollars. It's so much fun to go out there and know that we get to do something we love to do and have fun with a group of guys that we're racing against every weekend. It's the same, but different for us. We're all at the same track, but 90 percent of these guys never get a chance to run on dirt or only get a chance to do it once a year. Every year we keep saying it's just for fun, but every year more guys keep building brand new cars and keep making deals with different car owners to come, and it's almost gotten as competitive as the Cup Series is now. So they ante has gone up as well as the competition level. The support from HBO has been unbelievable. They have been the key to us raising the money that we've raised. I'm just really proud of the fact that not only has this made it through one or two years, but now we're five years strong into it. The event is bigger and better than ever and this year we get to give back to our soldiers and their families. That's something we thought was a very fitting tie, obviously with (teammate) Ryan's (Newman) affiliation with the U.S. Army. I think this is a way to give back and to show our appreciation to all of them."
Newman: "I've said all year and I've learned more and more each time I've experienced it, in talking to soldiers and going to different places and meeting different people, that it's really an honor to drive the car. It's an honor to have the support of a million people that are fighting for our freedom each and every day. But this a way to think back and give back to the people who have fought for our freedom and the injured and fallen soldiers who have been there and done that and we just want to say thank you and give back to them. I've said all year, it's really amazing, and it's an eye-opening experience to meet these people and hear their stories and see the technology and the safety and the tactical things that they do. This is a fun even for us as drivers, but looking at the big picture, it's great to have the support of the U.S. Army and to be able to give back to the injured and fallen soldiers."
AS THE PROMOTER OF THIS EVENT, HAVE YOU TOLD THE WINNER OF LAST YEAR'S EVENT THE CLASSIC RACING THING OF 'DON'T STINK UP THE SHOW'?
Stewart: "I have not told the winner of last year's event that. You know, that's the thing that's so fun about it. The first couple of years we kind of worried about that and thought you know, there's guys in the back of the field that haven't had the chance to drive dirt late models very much, but every year, you know Kevin Harvick tested five times last year just to run one night at Eldora. And it shows how much and how serious these guys are taking this. Joey Logano, who is coming this year, has already tested once in a car just to get familiar with them. The competition level going here is big. You've got guys like Kenny Schrader, Kenny Wallace, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, myself, Kasey Kahne, and guys who grew up racing on dirt and you can't give an inch with these guys. If you pedal it a little bit, somebody is going to get by and I can promise you they have no intentions of giving it back (laughs) if you give them an inch. So this is a race that's really been so big from our standpoint, the message is so much bigger and it's grown much bigger than just an event for us to go have fun and show the fans at Eldora Speedway dirt track racing."
WHAT DOES IT COST TO BUILD A BRAND NEW CAR? DOES MONEY BUY SPEED IN DIRT LATE MODELS? ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT INSTITUTING A SALARY CAP IN THE FUTURE?
Stewart: "I had to cap the crash clause, I know that (laughs) after Harvick the first year. I think it cost me about $15,000 the first year to fix the car that Harvick crashed. These guys are smart. We all read the racing papers. We all know what's going on in different forms of racing all the time. The first two years we struggled to try to get car owners to bring cars and good quality cars to put the drivers in. The last couple of years, and even more so this year, we've had drivers that are actually calling car owners and calling the top teams and saying, hey, I'd like to do a deal with you to drive your car at this event. And the car owners realize that these guys have talent and they're not just going to go out there and tear our cars up. And that's what keeps making the show better and better. We're getting cars that are actually making the starting field for the Dream that same weekend that are running on Wednesday night. It's fun to watch guys. Clint Bowyer had his own team. Bobby Labonte has his own team. Schrader has his own cars. Kenny Wallace. Our cars. They take this really seriously. If you've got a new car, it's no different than here. You could have a ten year old car and if all the points are the same on it, then it doesn't matter. But as technology changes, these guys are wanting the latest and greatest. They don't want to just show up just to race. They want to know they've got a shot to win, just like they do any other race they go to. You could spend closer to $50 grand to build a new car."
IT'S BEEN SINCE 1998 THAT AN OWNER/DRIVER HAS GONE TO VICTORY LANE. WHAT'S DIFFERENT FOR YOU THAT MAKES THIS WHERE YOU'RE READY TO WIN?
Stewart: "Oh, I've got this guy beside me (Ryan Newman) and that's the first step. Obviously having Ryan is a huge asset. We've worked well together from day one. His depth of knowledge of the car and why things do what they do has been a huge asset to me. It's been a huge asset to the whole organization. Having Bobby Hutchens and Darian Grubb and Tony Gibson and having those key people in place has really been a huge key. Obviously our resources at Hendrick Motorsports, and not having to worry about our own engine package or developing our own chassis package are things that have really shortened the learning curve, for lack of better words, to get us up to speed. We've got the equipment. We need to do our jobs and the results have shown. Both Ryan and I have had good runs this year so far in the first eight races. I think that success has come much quicker than any of us anticipated that it would happen."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO REGAN SMITH SINCE THE LAST RACE AT TALLADEGA
Stewart: "Nobody likes thinking you've won a race and then being told that you didn't win. It's obviously hard news, especially at this level and especially when it's your first win. I saw him shortly after when we both participated in a charity event. Regan, I think, through this whole thing, has been awesome. And the bad thing for him is it's going to get put back in his face this weekend, which is unfortunate. But the great thing is that he did a great job. He put himself in position to win at the end. He made a great move. There are boundaries that we have to stay in and the good thing is that you guys (media) have all been to a driver's meeting at some point through the season this year with the new video board that they show the illustrations. It makes it so clear what we can and can't do and NASCAR has done a really good job since then and they did before that too. I was surprised that there was as much confusion as to what the rule really was. But obviously not everybody understood the way a lot of us understood it. But from his side I thought he showed a lot of veteran poise even though he was a rookie last year, in the way he handled the situation. The part that I guess sucks about it was if nothing else, he should have at least finished second. That's where he was at when he made the move. But the rule is the rule and I think everybody is going to be very conscious of that this weekend because you don't want to go from a chance to run in the two, to all of a sudden you've ended up at the tail end of the lead lap."
ON THE TIRE TEST AT INDY
Newman: "We battled a lot of the weather because we were there for two days and got about 15 laps in total in. On Wednesday we finally got some running in. We just worked through a bunch of different compounds and constructions. Different tires. We didn't really see anything that was ideal. So I think there is some additional testing planned to go back. There was, but there is some additional testing in addition to that in the future. The track was fine and grip was good. The cars drove good. We're just still working on getting the ideal tire for the race track.
MORE ON REGAN SMITH, COULD YOU SAY WITH CERTAINY WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE DONE IN THE SAME SITUATION?
Stewart: "I'm not sure I would until you get there. The move you always try to make is to the inside here, but we didn't leave much room there. There was a lot more room to the outside, but I've pulled to the outside and lost three spots from the point that he pulled out to the start/finish line. So I'm not sure that I would have the perfect scenario. He committed himself to going to the bottom and I saw that and I knew that if I got to the yellow line before he did that there was no way that he could go by. Once he had committed himself there, he had to go through with it at that point."
-credit: gm racing