Watkins Glen: Winning team interview, part 1



THE MODERATOR: Tony Stewart should be here momentarily but we've got our winning crew chief with us right now, Greg Zipadelli. Greg, congratulations, a great effort by the 20 team today. Take us through it.

GREG ZIPADELLI: Thank you. You know, we just for some reason were fortunate enough to love this place and run good here and we unloaded yesterday the same car we had at Sonoma, and it really was good on Friday. It was excellent yesterday. Keeping track position was obviously going to be the key, and obviously we gave that up when we spun. Everybody kept their heads up and stayed focused knowing there was enough time to put ourselves back in position to hopefully win this race and you know, good Lord willing, it worked out today.

For the first time in a long time, fuel mileage wasn't an issue for us but the guys in front of us at the time were really in trouble as far as if we don't get all of those cautions. For us we felt like we had a good opportunity to capitalize on the win here, whether it was racing it or you know, obviously fuel mileage. But it didn't come down to the fuel mileage with all of the cautions we had.

When Jeff spun it gave us the opportunity for the lead and that's how he got track position or how he got the lead when we spun, so we kind of got it back. Normally it doesn't go full circle that quick but fortunately today it did.

Q: You have the low of him spinning in turn one and then the high of Jeff spinning and Tony taking the lead. What did you say to Tony when he spun and what did you say when Jeff spun?

GREG ZIPADELLI: You know, we don't talk about those things a lot. This team has been together so long, we all know what we need to do and what's expected of us. You know, when Tony spun it was, don't worry about it. We have a long way to go, we'll do what we can do and salvage a good day if we can't get backup there, but we are going to do it and stick together to be proud of each other for whatever we do accomplish today. When the No. 24 spun, there's a little bit of excitement because we regained the lead but you don't want to see that happen to anyone.

You know, it happened to us earlier, it's kind of funny that's how he got the lead and we got it back. We tried to stay as emotional as we can throughout the day and we're here to do one thing, that's win and if we can't win, finish as good as we can and collect as many points that we need to for the end of the year.


GREG ZIPADELLI: We've had a good car since we've been here. Jeff obviously had a pretty good car this afternoon, and you know, getting into turn one when we spun it, it kind of put us behind a little bit. We were off a little bit for some reason all week and Tony just couldn't use the brake or drive in as deep. We're going to have to work on that for him next year but every other place on the racetrack we looked to be as good as anybody, you had to guard that I believe a little bit today.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Tony, for winning today. This is your 32nd NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win, that's tide for 19th all time by Dale Jarrett, congratulations on that. This is your third victory this year and, man, they have come big, congratulations on that. It's your fourth time you've won that, fourth time here at the Glen. A great race, with you guys were very dominate, had a lot of things happening give and take, etc. Your thoughts, take us through the race.

TONY STEWART: You know, we got to third right away. And you know, I told the guys, Jeff (Gordon) and Denny (Hamlin) kind of got away a little bit from us and I told him I was just taking care of my car and we were not in any big hurry and didn't really have to be in any big hurry at that point in the race so just was trying to take care of the brakes and fuel is always a big issue here so trying to save fuel from the start of the race on and not really being in fuel conversation mode but just not hammering down 100%.

We were running a comfortable pace and not running behind those two guys when we were getting the brakes hot for some reason early so just settled into third there and got comfortable and got into second and ended up getting the lead thereafter the first caution there and you know, still just kind of ran our pace and were able to open up a pretty good lead and just kind of maintain it.

So you know, everything was going according to plan there, and halfway through the race there, I get the lead back again from Jeff, and I think the No. 10 car was in front of us at the time, we were actually running second to them and they came in to pit and finish their cycle and we were kind of in the same situation again, and then I go down in Turn 1 and I do the big wheel-hop deal.

So you know, it took us from first to 19th, I think they said and took about two laps to get back in my rhythm. You know, you just had to kind of shake it off and know that we had half the race left to come back to the front and just had to try to be patient and not burn the brakes off and you know, not knock the fenders off. I got into Robby Gordon once and wheel-hopped it and didn't knock him out of the way or anything but I made sure that when we came off of 1, I let him have the spot back and I wasn't going to take it by running over him.

So we just tried to be patient and work our way through the crowd there and sure enough, with the 30 laps to go, we're back in the top-5 there and fighting the guys that we're going to be fighting for the win. You know, we just kept picking them off one at a time and that's the leadership of Greg and all of the guys on this Home Depot team. You make a mistake like that and I know it was disappointing for those guys but they are still behind us 100% and every time we passed a car coming back by, they are rooting me on. So that kind of supports what helps you get through disappointment like that.

You know all we can do at the end of the race there with Jeff leading was just try to keep as much pressure on him as we could there. By far, I think we had the two best cars all day between Jeff and I and you know, whichever one of us was in the lead, I think the other one wasn't going to get around unless they made a mistake and we were fortunate enough to get a break that cost us the lead to get us back in the lead. So I feel bad for Jeff because he didn't have the luxury of having all of those laps to get those positions back like we did. But, you know, I just, that's fate from upstairs that gives you a day like today when you make a mistake and you get it back the same way you lost it.

Q: Talk about all the success you've had at Watkins Glen?

TONY STEWART: We've been fortunate. This is a track I like obviously with four wins here. The day we got here, I remember the first time was still when NASCAR and Goodyear were till working with the rain tires, and Zippy wouldn't even trust me enough to let me go out and practice in the rain that year. I think we got about four laps before qualifying and we qualified fourth that year. It's a place that I've become comfortable with right off the bat and we've always, we always have been fast here and we haven't necessarily always won obviously, but we've always been fast here. We've always been a contender if we didn't have a problem. It's definitely one of the tracks on the circuit that we look forward to coming to four out of nine races we've run, we're almost batting .500 here.

Q: How do you explain all of the unforced errors, seemed like nobody was immune and so tough, is that a product of the cars?

TONY STEWART: I don't know. I mean, you know, obviously Jeff's situation, we were putting a lot of pressure on him. You know, we, that was our only shot at getting by him was to keep the pressure on him and hope that he made a mistake. Trust me, I was probably the most shocked person to see it happen. Jeff has won four championships and 70-some odd races now. He's the last guy you expect to have a problem like that.

But you know, I think it shows the strength of how good our car was that we were able to stay probably closer to him longer than anybody had been able to stay to him all day and kept him from getting in a spot where he could take it easy and be more comfortable. You know, I'm proud of our guys for giving me a car that was that good.

Talking to Kenny Wallace, nobody was immune to it today. Everybody at one time or another seemed to wheel-hop into Turn one. Turn one is tricky here. You go downhill into it, there's a couple of bumps that can make it real easy to wheel hop whether it's due to the brake balance or whether it's where you downshift from third to second, if you're not careful, it's real easy to wheel-hop, and I've wheel-hopped it twice in practice and that's why we were not able to get into Turn 1 as good. But I was not getting in quite as deep as everybody else but really getting on the gas a lot earlier than everybody else so really averaged out. So was not too concerned about it other than on the restarts when guys were right behind us. It just seemed like today was one of those days that, you know, the competition up front was so close, it wasn't unheard of to see somebody do that, racing for the lead.

Q: Can you talk about the battle with Denny there when you guys were behind Gordon and it seemed like both of you were running through the grass at any time; did you think you had damaged your car?

TONY STEWART: We picked up a lot of grass. Having your teammate up there, he'll run a constant speed where I can weave back and forth and it sucks the grass out of there. To be honest I never saw the corner, and I had Carl on the inside of me and Denny up in front of me, it's a flat corner so I never even saw the turn. When Denny turned, I was like, I still never saw pavement. I was like, well, this is going to be interesting. He went off, I went off and Carl back there kept from running over both of us somehow. That's kind of a neat trio, you trust the guys you're going to be around obviously. But it wasn't exactly what we had in mind. It got the water temperature up to 245 which is warmer than I wanted it, but luckily we had a teammate there that during the caution, we could get the grass out and the temperature came right back down.

Q: Winning is the ultimate, but when you have pressure on the four-time champion, how does that magnify the feeling?

TONY STEWART: You know, I think it shows the significance of how important those ten points are. It wasn't, you know, you want to win here anyway. This is a big race to win obviously with it being the own one of two road courses. But you know, running second here to myself or Carl didn't mean anything. It was all about winning today because we want those extra ten points, those ten bonus points right now.

So if you're solidly in the Top-10 right now, I mean, second, you might as well kiss your aunt with hairy mustache; not something you really cared about. Don't act lie you guys don't have an aunt like that, either (laughs). Everybody does.

Q: Do you think you have the best car? If Gordon doesn't spin, do you still win the race?

TONY STEWART: I'll be honest, I think our car was just a tick better than Jeff's. But, you know, it was a situation that whoever was leading, it was going to be extremely hard for the other guy to get by. If we're leading, it's going to be hard for Jeff to get by, and if Jeff doesn't make that mistake, we run second to him. You know, I could run, there were parts of the track where I could gain time on him; there were parts of the practice where he would gain time on us.

We could gain a little ground, but you were going to have to be a bunch faster to get by him. He was really good in braking and I think eventually that's what got him was we just finally, you know, pressured him so much in the braking zones that hopefully, you know, we got his brake temps up to where either the fronts gave up a little bit to where it made the backs grab harder or whatever the case is, but whatever the case was, the end result worked out for us. Whenever was leading with ten to go was probably going to win the race most likely.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Kenny Wallace , Robby Gordon