TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed 399 Sprint Cup starts, Kasey Kahne joining Hendrick Motorsports and other topics. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON 399 CAREER STARTS AND ...
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed 399 Sprint Cup starts, Kasey Kahne joining Hendrick Motorsports and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON 399 CAREER STARTS AND RACING AT TEXAS?: "This is a pretty cool place to have your 400th start. It's been a good week, obviously, having Ryan (Newman) in victory lane and having our 400th start this weekend, being quickest after practice. That is something that definitely has the weekend off to a good start. It's nice. This is a place that I think we, as drivers, all respect coming to. Eddie Gossage (president, Texas Motor Speedway) and all his people really work really hard to not only make it fun for the fans, but make it fun for us too. They go out of their way to accommodate all of us."
WHAT DID RYAN NEWMAN'S WIN LAST WEEK MEAN TO YOU?: "It was awesome. Obviously, with the 14 car last year we had a great season. At the end of the year, it was great to get both of the cars in the Chase and have us both running good, but the one thing we missed was getting Ryan (Newman) that first win last year. To get him that first win for the organization this early in the year, that totally made it for the organization. There's an attitude in the shop that hasn't been there period.
"Finally, now that we've got both cars that have won, it's a great feeling. It's more than just being an owner, it's having a teammate like Ryan that's a friend away from the track too. I know how much it meant to him and I know how much it meant to everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing to finally get that first win."
WHAT WOULD NEED TO HAPPEN FOR KASEY KAHNE TO JOIN STEWART-HAAS RACING FOR 2011?: "I think you guys need to talk to Kasey (Kahne) because we don't know anything about it. I found out on Tuesday or Wednesday I guess, just like you guys all did. You guys know as much if not more than I do right now. The hard part is that I don't have the answers to everybody's questions because nobody has talked to me about it. It's all a lot of speculation right now, but there's no way I can comment on speculation and make it even make sense. I think the best thing to do is ask Kasey. Obviously, he's got his deal done so I'm sure he kind of has a better idea of what's going on than we do at this point."
HOW HAS THE RUBBER FROM THE ARCA CARS CHANGED THE RACE TRACK AND WOULD IT HELP TO HAVE THE RAIN WASH AWAY THAT RUBBER?: "It won't be an issue for the Cup guys because the ARCA race is tonight and then the Nationwide Series races tomorrow. Before we would ever race on it, it would already have the Nationwide cars will get that rubber cleaned off by the time and even us, we'll probably have it cleaned off in 10 laps tomorrow in the first Happy Hour session, if we get to run it. It won't even be remotely an issue."
HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THE RESULTS ON SUNDAY PERTAINING TO THE SPOILER?: "I think everybody has to keep in mind, it's just like when we came out with the COT car initially in the first place, it's an adjustment phase. Just because one team figures it out first doesn't mean that they're going to stay there. It just means that they figured it out quicker than everybody else did. I would say by looking at practice today, you're not going to get somebody that's just going to go off and take off. This series and sport has been too competitive for too long and there's been enough time that all the teams have been to a wind tunnel and had time to run the simulation programs and kind of figure out what it should do.
"I think if somebody does dominate, it's just because they got their balance right, no different than we would any other week. I don't think it's a sign that team is going to be dominant for a long time."
WOULD YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE ADDING A THIRD TEAM?: "We would definitely, with the right opportunity, the focus is obviously to keep Ryan's (Newman) car and our car going well right now, but if the right opportunity, the right team and the right sponsor, right driver came along then we would definitely be interested in a third team. We have said that all along."
HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH KASEY KAHNE?: "I think it's a great opportunity for him. Only Kasey (Kahne) knows what he wants. That's why you guys really need to talk to him to find out what he's really thinking about. I think it's a great opportunity for him. I know what I've learned in just a short amount of time being in the Hendrick system and getting to work with Hendrick Motorsports. I've always liked him, I was the one that sat with him with Ray Evernham and talked to Ray in the infield at Bristol about him years ago. I think it's a huge opportunity for him."
IS THE NEW ATTITUDE IN THE SHOP JUST THE 39 TEAM?: "No, the whole organization. It's nice when you get one car in victory lane, but you want to have both cars and both teams be successful. No matter if you have two teams or four teams, if you have four teams then you want all four teams to win races. Just Ryan (Newman) getting that first win, it was the entire shop. There was just a buzz around there that we had finally met another level of our goals getting both cars in victory lane finally."
COULD YOU SENSE THAT IT WEARED ON RYAN NEWMAN NOT TO HAVE WON LAST SEASON?: "There were times when Bobby (Labonte) was winning at Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) and I was struggling and you start going, what's going on? I'm sure to a certain degree when we won five races total last year and he hadn't, I'm sure it did weigh.
"There were a lot of factors that he knew were out of his control and that weren't his fault that kept him out of victory lane. I don't think it was as big a weight as everybody thinks. We all know the realism of it, we sit in the meetings on Monday, we evaluate what happens in the races and a lot, two-thirds to three-quarters of his season last year were opportunities that were missed on pit road that kept him from having a shot at winning races. It wasn't for a lack of performance from him or his team, they just would have something that would go wrong and keep them out of victory lane. It's nice, I could see it this weekend in the competition meeting. I've talked to him three times since last weekend and he's the same guy, but you can just tell that there's a sense of relief off of his shoulders."
HOW DO YOU AND CREW CHIEF DARIAN GRUBB PLAN LATE RACE STRATEGY?: "You just have to evaluate it from where you're at that point. I think a lot of it depends on how your car is driving. Every track is going to be different. A place like Atlanta where it's really wide and you have a lot of opportunity to pass because there's a lot of room -- you have to take those four tires. You can't really take that chance of taking two.
"A place like Phoenix where it's a little narrower, you have to evaluate the situation. You can't even evaluate it first thing off the start of the race, you have to wait until the end and see where your car is, how your balance is, see how your track position is and then you have to make that decision from there."
WHEN YOU MADE YOUR FIRST CUP START IN 1999, DID YOU ENVISION THAT YOU WOULD WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS AND CONTEND FOR RACE WINS WEEKLY?: "No, I was just happy to be here. I think it's hard, you dream of it, but I'm not sure that when you start that you say this is what's going to happen and you can predict that's what's going to happen. There's so many talented drivers and teams in this series, you can't start in this series and expect to have those kind of results. I think if you are, you're being kind of foolish and being more ambitious than realistic. We've been really lucky to be with really good people for 12 years now in this series and that's what's got us where we are."
DID LAST WEEK'S WIN HELP YOU TO LURE OTHER SPONSORS TO THE TEAM?: "You hope so, that's what you hope happens out of it. To us I guess, we look at it that we brought a new sponsor in last year and it was pretty cool that at Phoenix last fall we announced the Tornados sponsorship and Haas Automation as always been behind us 100 percent and U.S. Army has been the same. It just happened to be the Tornados race that weekend. It was cool for their second race on the car to get a win and now we want to get one for Army and get one for Haas Automation on the car too. It's pretty neat when the people from the Army called right away and they were just as excited as if their name was on the side of the car as the primary that weekend."
WHAT IS YOUR BEST MEMORY OF THE 399 STARTS?: "I think still one of them has to be winning the first Brickyard 400 in '05. That was still the biggest race of my career, but also that very first win at Richmond, battling with Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Bobby Labonte all day. That was a race with that group of guys that we were racing with all day and to lead 300 or 400 laps that was a day that I will always remember."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE RACING AGAINST DALE EARNHARDT AND ANY SPECIAL MEMORIES YOU HAVE?: "You just always knew that if he was behind you that it wasn't going to be easy keeping him behind you. There was a reason that he got the nickname of being the Intimidator. That was an obvious thing, but it really was that way. When you looked in the mirror, you were intimidated by him. Not so much that you were intimidated, but you knew that it wasn't always going to be your average racing with someone else. If he got to you and if he didn't get by you in a couple corners then he was going to lean on you a little bit. You might wreck, you might keep going, but he was going to make it interesting. That's what made him so special. The first Bud Shootout we won, we outran him there and that was as much as I ever wanted to see that black 3 in my mirror. That was way too much stress. It was more mental stress than it was physical stress in the car. My mind was wore out after winning that race because he had such a large bag of tricks at Daytona and Talladega that just watching what he was doing and trying to figure out what he was thinking or trying to setup just made you exhausted. Driving the car was easy, it was just trying to mentally figure out and try to stay up to pace with what his thought process was at the time and know how to anticipate what his next move was going to be to beat him."
-source: gm racing