TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: ON HOW HE FEELS AFTER RUNNING BOTH THE INDY 500 AND THE COKE 600 "Are there any dirt tracks we can run at tonight - catch the 'A' main somewhere? If there was, I'll tell you what, I'd go...
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON HOW HE FEELS AFTER RUNNING BOTH THE INDY 500 AND THE COKE 600
"Are there any dirt tracks we can run at tonight - catch the 'A' main somewhere? If there was, I'll tell you what, I'd go right now, to be honest. I'm pretty pumped up right now. The doctor asked how I felt at the end, as far as sharpness. I was like, 'I was the fastest car on the racetrack the last 30 laps.' I told him that I felt great in the car. My legs gave me some trouble at Indianapolis. Al [Shuford] worked on them really hard all the way on the flight coming back down to Charlotte. We never really got it all out, but he got it out enough to where I could go out and do my job. To be honest, the rest of it worked out while I was in the car. The soreness worked out real easy, and let me focus and concentrate a little harder midway through the race."
HOW MUCH DID THE EXTRA PHYSICAL TRAINING PAID OFF AT THE END OF THE NIGHT THIS TIME?
"I wish I would have eaten two years ago what I normally eat just to see what would have happened. I made a big mistake by worrying too much about what I was drinking and not worrying at all about what I was eating."
"I wouldn't change the way we've done the last three weeks, that's for sure. I got out of the car on my own, stood there on my own, walked to the trailer on my own, changed clothes on my own and walked over here (infield media center) on my own. For somebody that has run a full 1,100 miles - not 1,090 - I think I feel pretty good right now, to be honest. I think we did a good job doing what we did."
YOU'RE GAINING ON THIS DEAL...
"I made a pretty big mistake today taking downforce off the car at Indy. The second to last pit stop we made probably hurt us as far as track position, and then I stalled it on the last stop. It's easy to see why Chip Ganassi's team won the Indy 500 last year. They have a very, very professional and well-organized team. The thing that hurt me the most today was that I didn't run at all in traffic the whole time we were up there. Today, running in traffic, my car was all over the place the first half of the race. We finally got some downforce in the car and it was fast. It got us to the front and we were running just as fast of laps times as when [Mark] Dismore and Greg Ray and any of those other guys led today. We had a car that was capable of winning. I made the decision to take the downforce out if we could stay in the front and do it during a pit stop. That's kind of what our plan was. We knew if we got in a shootout at the end and had to pull out all the stops, that's what we were going to do. But when we did pit, a lot of guys stayed out and that put us in the back. With all that turbulence back there it unhooked my car. On that last stop we didn't get any tires put on the car. We just put fuel in it and made a wing adjustment. The wing adjustment was too much, so I had to start dialing things in the car. But they made every change on the car that I asked them to all day. We had a good race car. It was just a matter of it taking half the race to figure out how to pass. Those cars are so down on power that if you got bogged down at all, two guys went by you every time that you had to lift out of the gas. It made timing a very important issue up there."
WHAT ARE YOUR EMOTIONS RIGHT NOW?
"I'm really happy. I just don't know what to do right now. The best part of this deal is not finishing sixth and finishing third. The thing that makes me most proud right now is I ran 600 laps and we raised $240,000 tonight [for Victory Junction Gang Camp]. That gave both of these races a purpose, rather than being something selfish that I wanted to do for my personal goals and my personal dreams. We were able to do something very productive tonight and help a lot of good kids that deserve this. It made me feel really good about this. That is probably what I'm most proud of about today.
"I'm going to donate $60,000, Target Chip Ganassi Racing is going to donate $60,000, Joe Gibbs Racing is going to donate $60,000 and Home Depot is going to donate $60,000, plus I've had friends call me and say that they are going to send a couple hundred dollars. Three or four different people have called saying that, so I'm not sure that is a locked-in number yet. I think it's going to be more than that before it is all said and done."
"It just makes you feel proud. Doing what I did was for my reasons. I wanted run Indianapolis. It wasn't because somebody else wanted me to run Indianapolis. I did it because I wanted to do it.
"I read a couple letters that the fans wrote into Winston Cup Scene last week and read about how selfish I was and that I was putting the other drivers at risk, and that I wasn't taking care of Joe Gibbs Racing and it hurt when I read those letters the other day. I have to be honest. It really took a lot away from what I was going to do today. I didn't feel good about going back to Indianapolis last night. My girlfriend, Krista, and I - we both read it, looked at each other and shook our heads. I thought, 'Man, do all these people really think that?' But to do what we did today, after finishing all 600 laps and thinking about all the money we've raised, I think it's all worthwhile. I think it was worth it.
"The letters said that I was all over the place last time I did this and that I was putting the other drivers at risk. I don't think any of those other drivers that I ran with today felt like I put them at risk, except for Dale Jarrett at the start, and that is just because I was flat squirrelly at the start. I just made a mistake. I didn't expect the track to be that slick at the beginning. I made sure that when we got in a different situation later in the day and I was behind him that I cut him a break a couple times to kind of make up for it.
"But it made it hard - reading those letters made it hard to do what we did. We worked for three weeks for this one day. Sure, Indianapolis didn't end up exactly the way that I wanted, but finished better than I did the last time I was up there. It's not my career-best finish, but I knew that I made mistakes. The team did a great job, so I was happy with the results up there. I couldn't have asked them to do anything else. To come down here today - all the Home Depot guys on our team, between Greg Zipadelli and the guys on the pit stops - we worked all night trying to get the car balanced. We were not even a contender at the beginning of the race. We were threat to go a lap down on two different occasions, so my hat is off to the guys. They were the ones that kept working and kept getting us good track position. Greg and I kept communicating all night. They kept throwing drink bottles in for me to drink on all night. We just kept picking off one at a time and at the end of the night, the results were where we wanted to be. I don't know what else I could have done today. I could have finished a little higher, but I think I had a pretty good day all in all."
HOW MUCH DID IT HURT YOU TO HAVE TO START LAST TONIGHT?
"I'm kind of happy I did [start last] because as squirrelly as I was at the beginning of the race and as far off as we were at the beginning of the race, at least we were out of everybody's way at the start for the most part. It probably would have helped us if we were up a little bit further in those situations where we were a threat to go a lap down. But we were probably going to have rougher time if we were up there where we were supposed to start, so I don't think it was too bad."
WHEN WILL YOU DECIDE ABOUT DOING THIS AGAIN NEXT YEAR?
"I don't know. I'm going to string you guys out on that one for a while. Let's put it this way: I didn't do it until two weeks before the speedway (IMS) opened, so we've got a long time to worry about that. I've got a long time to prepare if I'm going to do it again."
ON THE RESURGENCE OF JOE GIBBS RACING
"We've done a lot of testing and we've tried a lot of things that we've never tried before, and some of it has helped. I'm not sure what the reason is. I just know we're doing better. We're not scared to try new things and I think with this tire you have to try things that are a little bit off par and a little bit different. Some other guys have already done that and been successful with it. It's not trying to re-invent the wheel, but you just kind of get stuck in a rhythm and get stuck with a certain way of setting the car up for different tracks. Now this tire has forced you to drive different, to set the car up different for that. I'm not sure we've got it yet, but I think we're getting a little better handle on it right now."
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THOSE PEOPLE THAT SAID YOU WERE SELFISH?
"That is people that are talking about a topic that they really don't anything about. How does anybody but Al [Shuford] and the doctor know whether I'm physically fit enough to do that?"
WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF THE ENTIRE DAY?
"Honestly, when they stuck the needle in my arm [during the flight to Charlotte]. I figured I was going to pass out during that part. I told them, 'I'm not scared of hitting the wall at 200 miles an hour, but I'm scared of a needle.' And this thing wasn't any little 'pin-needle.' I thought they used it on a horse or something. It was huge. Believe me - I tried to do my best politician act trying to lobby against it. But I told [Al Shuford], if he says, 'Jump,' I say, 'How high and how much hang-time do you want?' He said, 'We're going to do it,' and I'm glad we did. It paid off."
ON THE PROBLEM YOU HAD WITH YOUR FOOT DURING THE INDY 500
"I don't know what it was. My muscles were knotted up. I could push my right foot forward, but I couldn't pull it off the accelerator, so I'd get down to the end of the straightaway and my mind was telling my foot to lift and my foot was like, 'We're not going to do this.' I had to figure out what to do to get my foot off the throttle when I needed to. That was the big problem during the red flag and it was causing problems in the race car then. Luckily when I was having the most problems with that was when I was leading. I was running three of the corners wide-open and just barely cracking the throttle in the other corner, so it actually didn't hurt me too bad.
"Due to our restrictions on how many people we could put in the helicopter, Al was already on his way to the airport. We were talking by walkie-talkie to the other doctor that was there at the speedway with me still. Al was telling him what to do to try to get those knots to release. We weren't very successful with that, but I think we only had 45 laps to go at that point, so the little bit of a break we had actually helped a little bit."
COULD YOU HAVE STARTED YOUR CHARGE IN THE '600' ANY EARLIER?
"We were pretty far off at the beginning of the race. We just kept tweaking. This race, you start in the daytime when it's hot and then it goes to night, the track cools down and you start chasing the race car all over again. We went from being extremely loose at the beginning to getting it fairly reasonable to getting it too tight and trying to free it up, got it too loose and then went too tight and then came back again.
"We chased it all night. I'm really proud of the guys. We never gave up. We never got frustrated. As far as the team was concerned, we were very calm and collected all night. We got the setup right at the right time. I just wish we could have gotten it a run or two before that could have gotten us some more track position to where when that last run came we could have been a little closer to the front at the beginning of it."
ON KEVIN HARVICK JOKING ABOUT THE IDEA OF RUNNING THE INDY 500 NEXT YEAR.
"I'll be the first one to help him. I'll get him a ride. I can get him a ride up there - trust me. I've got some pull in Indianapolis. I don't hardly have any pull in Charlotte. When I get away from Charlotte I've got some pull, but I don't have very much pull here."
AL SHUFORD, CERTIFIED PHYSICAL TRAINER, JOE GIBBS RACING:
WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU DO WITH TONY DURING THESE LAST THREE WEEKS?
"Let me just say that what we did for Tony, in summary, Tony did for himself. We didn't use any smoke and mirrors. We did nothing special out of the way. The biggest thing we had to do was get him up at a normal schedule. I get up pretty early, he didn't like getting up very early. But what our whole plan was was to set him on a schedule, looking at the race day start time of 11 o'clock, thinking 'get up, eat, hospitality, meetings media,' so that race day was just like a routine for him. That's all we did. We tweaked his diet just a little bit. But again, we did nothing special. All the credit goes to him. If a guy doesn't want to do it, he is not going to do it. That goes for any sport. All the credit goes to him. So what did we do? We did nothing special. We just gave him the choices and he took advantage of them."
JOE GIBBS, OWNER, JOE GIBBS RACING:
ON HIS TEAMS' PERFORMANCES TODAY
"Of course, I feel for Bobby. He had a great car. Tony did everything he could do, starting in the back of the field. He just fought his guts out. I think both teams did for us. Bobby was 17th on that last restart there and came all the way back to fifth. I couldn't be prouder of our teams.
"Tony - that is one of the more phenomenal things I've seen in motorsports. I thought Bobby just fought his absolute guts out, so I'm proud of both our guys."
"It was a phenomenal effort by Tony. We had great poise all night. He didn't act like he was tired. He just raced his guts out and to me, had great concentration all night. It's a shame for Bobby. But I told Bobby that sometimes when you don't win a race, you have the greatest appreciation for somebody. That's the way I felt tonight about him. I thought this was one of his greatest efforts."