Current NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader Tony Stewart continued testing Tuesday at the Homestead-Miami Speedway 1.5-mile oval. Below is a transcript of a question and answer session held today with the South Florida media. Q: Give us...
Current NASCAR Winston Cup Series points leader Tony Stewart continued testing Tuesday at the Homestead-Miami Speedway 1.5-mile oval. Below is a transcript of a question and answer session held today with the South Florida media.
Q: Give us your thoughts about how testing is going and returning to Homestead-Miami Speedway for Ford Championship Weekend:
Stewart: "I'm looking forward to coming back here. This is a place we've run well at, so for us it's a confidence boost to know that the last race of the year is one we've run well at. We won here the first two years and last year we dominated before we had tire problems. We enjoy coming here but the obvious question is 'Why do we come here to test considering we've been so good here?' We just want to try to make sure we stay as good as we've been."
Q: Talk about your strategy the last two races.
Stewart: "Well, we do go good here. When we get here, we'll be points racing. The last race of the year, you points race. This week in Phoenix we're running at a track I'm very comfortable with. I've run in five different types of cars at Phoenix and won in three different divisions, so hopefully, we'll be in good shape when we get back here next week."
Q: Have you noticed a difference in the track from last year?
Stewart: "The track has lost a little bit of grip, which happens with every track that you go. Some just lose a little bit more than the others. The climate down here probably doesn't help, but there are no problems with the track. With Indy Cars, Cup Cars, Busch Cars and Trucks running here every year, it takes a little bit of grip away from us. It's no different than any other place you go, it's just another season on the racetrack."
Q: Have you learned a lot out of the racecar in the past year or so?
Stewart: "You learn a lot things and how to handle different things. When I joined Busch and Winston Cup, nobody handed me a freshman packet that told me "This is how your life is going to change, this is how you have to deal with things and the obstacles you have to overcome." And not I'm not talking about things from the sanctioning body side, but from the dog-and-pony show side of things- about what is important and things that need to be taken care of."
Q: Have you gotten any advice from (2000 NASCAR Winston Cup champion and teammate) Bobby Labonte about running for a championship?
Stewart: "The only time Bobby's really talked about it was after we had a rough day at Martinsville and lost some points. We talked for a little bit and he told me that it could have been a lot worse. He knows that I've been through this before since I won (USAC and IRL) championships before, but as a team, it's new to us."
Q: You are changing from a Pontiac to a Chevrolet next year. Will that change a lot of things and wipe out most of the notes you have made over the years?
Stewart: "We'll start with what we have, but I think we'll know more when they get the new car in the wind tunnel and find out the downforce numbers and the drag numbers. I can't say you'll throw everything away. I think a lot of it you'll keep, but at the same time, a lot of it will be trial and error."
Q: Have you felt, from what you can tell, any effect from carbon monoxide over the years?
Stewart: "You deal with carbon monoxide in all forms of racing; this isn't the first division to deal with it. NASCAR cares about the people inside the cars, so for them to step back and take a look at it to see what can be done is good. Ask (NASCAR veteran) David Green, who is sitting in the back and has been racing stock cars a lot longer, what it's like to get out of a car at places like Martinsville, Bristol or some of the other short tracks. The air just doesn't seem to move and there's a lot of carbon monoxide in a small area- there's just nowhere for it to go. But it's just like everything else- the technology gets better. The manufacturers who make the cool boxes are finding better filters to help get rid of the carbon monoxide before it gets to where we can breathe the air. But it's being addressed by NASCAR and a lot of other people. But it certainly is not a problem here- the wind blows at 40 miles an hour at six in the morning it seems and you have hurricane winds all day long."
Q: Do you miss running midget and sprint cars?
Stewart: "There are a lot of cars I miss driving, especially since I got grounded this fall. My crew chief (Greg Zipadelli) grounded me from running anything else until the season was over. He felt that staying out of anything that could maybe get me hurt was probably the best thing. I agree with him, but I miss running sprint cars and midgets. The Sunday after the Cup race is over, I'll probably go to Las Vegas to the World of Outlaws banquet since I'm a car owner there. It's hard to balance the time and each year it seems to get worse and worse. You get less time to yourself to run a sprint or a midget car. I do miss running those and anything I can race on dirt I desperately miss because we don't get that chance with Winston Cup cars."