TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Texas Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick, his views of the Talladega race and crash as an owner and driver, and more. KERRY THARP: We'll pick up on our...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/OLD SPICE IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Texas Motor Speedway, Danica Patrick, his views of the Talladega race and crash as an owner and driver, and more.
KERRY THARP: We'll pick up on our Chase driver press conferences here this afternoon, conclusion of the first Sprint Cup Series practice.
Pleased to be joined in the media center by Tony Stewart. He drives the No. 14 Office Depot Old Spice Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. Tony is currently fifth in points, has four wins on the season, won once here before at Texas Motor Speedway. As we hit the stretch run of this Chase, Tony, talk about your outlook for racing here this weekend at Texas.
TONY STEWART: Well, I'm excited about it. It's one of my favorite tracks. It's a stop that I like on the schedule. All three of the last three here are tracks that I look forward to. That's a real big positive. I'm excited about this weekend.
We kind of got off to a slow start this morning in race trim. I think we started getting a direction of what it's going to want for tomorrow. We were I think 11th or 12th or something in qualifying, qualifying speed practice. Pretty excited about that, too.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Tony.
Q. Tony, I know you and Ryan through your association this year with the U.S. Army have really become close to a lot of military people, soldiers. I know he took it hard this morning. How has it affected you? Did you know anyone, because of your association with your team, that was directly involved with what happened?
TONY STEWART: No, I didn't know anybody, unfortunately. The bad part is, I mean, we focus more on the negatives that happen in society than we do the positives. But, you know, obviously it was something that nobody would have dreamed would have happened, but it did. You know, you're thinking about all the families and people that are involved and wish them the best.
Q. Tony, regarding practice earlier, your times looked pretty good on the charts there. Was the wind a factor? It looks like the weather is going to be pretty stable through the course of the weekend. Looks like great conditions for racing. Was the wind a factor?
TONY STEWART: No. I mean, it's been pretty constant, stable. It's not been gusty. That's what normally will bother cars more than anything. If it's at least constant and solid through the whole session, you know to look for it. It's not something that you're going to get picked up by a gust. So with no gusts, it really wasn't a big issue.
Q. Tony, obviously there's been some talk about Danica joining the NASCAR series. Just kind of what type of impact might she have of coming over here?
TONY STEWART: The same ones I mentioned two months ago when somebody asked me that. Go back and look at the notes. That could be why he's back in the corner of the room, right?
Q. Tony, Ryan was in earlier. He told us he had been working with NASCAR or talking to NASCAR about what happened last Sunday. As his car owner and teammate, have you had any input into why are we getting up in the air type of discussions the last two or three days?
TONY STEWART: No. Trust me, he's the engineer. He's the smarter one of the two of us. You know, I know he spent some time over there with them talking to them. I'm not smart enough to know how to fix it. NASCAR has a great staff. If there was an easy solution, they would have figured it out by now. The good thing is that you have drivers that are willing to go over, like Ryan did this week, and spend time with the sanctioning body and try to help at least explain the situation from his firsthand experience.
You know, that's the only way to make things better, is just stay in communication with NASCAR over it.
Q. Just talking about Ryan's wreck, from the perspective of a team owner, does it affect you more than, say, when a teammate has a situation like that happen? Is there an extra maybe concern on your part, knowing he's there because it's your team?
TONY STEWART: Well, if he wasn't driving for me, he'd be driving for somebody else. At the end of the day, it's about him being a person. The harder part is that he's a good friend of mine on top of that. He was before we were teammates. We will be if for some reason we're not teammates in the future.
You know, he's a person. Like I said, he's a friend. Anytime something like that happens, doesn't matter whether they're a friend of yours or not, when you got a fellow competitor out there, that's the first thing you're worried about, their safety.
Q. Tony, obviously you know television picked up your comments Sunday about trying to stay awake. From where you were sitting during that race, was that a boring race or was it an exciting race?
TONY STEWART: It's not the perfect race, I wouldn't say. I mean, you know, the thing is, the hard part is, we got you guys saying they're boring, so when you guys say that, all you do is keep reinforcing to everybody that it's boring. You know, it's like Tony Glover told me this morning, they won a race I don't know how many years ago, there were only three cars on the lead lap.
The races are exciting. It's like everybody wants the perfect race every time. You can't do that. I mean, the drivers think about how they can be smart all day. You know, it's a situation where the race is so long that you can fight your guts out to try to get to the front in the first hundred miles, but what have you accomplished?
You haven't accomplished anything, absolutely nothing. There's nothing you've accomplished till those last 10 or 15 laps. That's when you got to start working your way to the front if you're not already up there. You got a race that's 188 laps long, the only thing that matters is the last 10 or 15. Anything that happens leading up to that point, the teams, the drivers are smart, they've figured out it doesn't matter where you're at. As long as you're on that lead lap with 10 or 15 to go, in the lead draft, that's all that matters.
The hardest thing is we got this room in particular that keeps telling people that it's a boring race. So we leave, and then we listen to the fans complain because it's something that they read in the magazine or read in a paper, you know, that everybody keeps trying to reinforce to them that it's a boring race.
It wasn't a boring race. There's cars that are all nose-to-tail. But I don't know what else everybody wants. I mean, it's a strategic race. That's all there is to it. It's not a situation where you can do anything on your own. It never has been.
You know, I don't know what everybody's really wants out of the situation. I mean, everybody wants to decide whether it's a boring race or not a boring race. Unless you got a different opinion about it, you guys make your living off this sport, I make my living off this sport, and we're all trying to make the best out of it.
Q. Tony, last week Johnson rode around in the back all day, ends up finishing sixth, while the guys that still had a chance to win it all did not finish so well, even though they ran well. Does that type of day break another competitor's will in the big picture, just tear their heart out?
TONY STEWART: I don't think so. I mean, the thing that you always know going into a race at Talladega is that it's a wild card race. I mean, you guys have all wrote about it, all spoke about it. That's what happens when you go. You don't know what's gonna happen. You know, 98% or 99% of the day is out of your control. It's all scenarios and situations that are going on around you, not necessarily what you do with your car.
You know, like I said, I mean, you sit there and you ride around for 173 to 178 laps, and then you race the last 10 or 15. You hope when the problem happens, you know, the big wreck happens, you hope that you can get through it. If you get through it, a lot of times you've kept yourself in a situation where you can get that top five. So it doesn't really do anything because of what somebody else does; you feel so bad because you don't have any more control over your own destiny.
Q. Tony, from a car owner perspective, team owner perspective, even perhaps a driver perspective, with the economy the way it's been, it's eventually going to rebound, the money is going to come back, is there something that NASCAR maybe should consider in shortening some of these races, aside from maybe the Daytona 500, a couple of the premiere races, to save the teams some money, shorten the fans' attention span to bring up the ratings and make it more interesting?
TONY STEWART: I don't know what the solution is. I mean, obviously I'm a driver more than anything. I don't see what the fans are doing during the race. I mean, I heard there was a point in the race where a lot of the fans went walking around the souvenir area and stuff in the middle of the race because they know we're all logging laps, logging miles at that point.
You know, my opinion probably wouldn't be a popular opinion, and some would agree from the logistical side, but some on the practical side, emotional side wouldn't agree, thus it puts me in a bad spot. So it really doesn't matter what my opinion is.
Q. I know your Nationwide racing is pretty limited. I was wondering if you could share your thoughts on the new car, what impact you think it will have on that series.
TONY STEWART: I have no idea, honestly. You know, my plan next year is to run the race at Daytona, and that's all the Nationwide stuff I'm going to run next year. I really haven't thought about it. I haven't really paid attention to it too much, you know, because I'm only going to run that one race.
Q. Speaking of Nationwide, you are involved in one team somewhat with Morgan Shepherd. He hasn't been here the last few years to this track. Why are you involved in his program? What is it about him that inspires you?
TONY STEWART: What inspires us is that he's so dedicated to what he's doing. He spends every dime he has to come and support NASCAR and support the Nationwide Series. A lot of times, he's his own crew chief. His own family is part of his crew. He's learned how to do a lot with very, very little. You know, it was a situation where Kevin and myself saw the effort he was making, wanted to try to help. It grew larger than what I anticipated doing actually.
You know, it's hard not to fall in love with Morgan, what he's doing. He's one of the most positive people I've ever been around. I mean, it doesn't matter how bad your day is, when Morgan comes around, is talking to you, you kind of forget about how bad your day is and you realize that, you know, you're helping somebody that truly deserves the help. You know, I'd love to see a good sponsor come along that can help him and help support him, help him get the people that he needs. I mean, he's got the talent; he's got the desire, drive, the will to do it. He just needs the support right now. If Kevin and I helping him out this year can help generate some excitement, get some people to come onboard and help out, it would be awesome.
-credit: gm racing