NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference August 1, 2005 TONY STEWART AND GREG ZIPADELLI, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET Today's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference featured Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet Monte Carlo and crew chief, ...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference
August 1, 2005
TONY STEWART AND GREG ZIPADELLI, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET
Today's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference featured Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet Monte Carlo and crew chief, Greg Zipadelli. Stewart is currently second in the point standings and has won at Sonoma, Daytona, and Loudon thus far this year as the series moves to Indianapolis for the Allstate 400 August 7.
Q&A'S WITH GREG ZIPADELLI
WHAT'S YOUR SECRET TO THE LONG DRIVER/CREW CHIEF RELATIONSHIP WITH TONY STEWART?
"There's no secret. It's just been hard work and honest. We just do what we're supposed to do. We're friends. But first and foremost, I think we work at racing and at our jobs. We have similar upbringings with starting racing with a lot of short tracks and having to do a lot of it on our own and working to where we're at today."
WITH THE EXCEPTION OF JEFF GORDON, WHY DON'T THE OPEN WHEEL DO WELL AT IMS, AND WHAT IS THE PRESSURE OF GOING THERE WHEN IT'S TONY STEWART'S HOMETOWN TRACK?
"It's important to everybody. It's a very prestigious race in NEXTEL Cup to run good and hopefully win. Maybe some day we can add that to our resume. He grew up dreaming about racing at that place. For me, it's a little different. It's an awesome place to go and to be part of and want to win. But it's a little different for him than for me. It's an awesome place. It's fun. There are other race tracks. For me, when I go home to Loudon there are a ton of people there that I grew up racing with. It puts that extra pressure on you to want to do well. We're excited about going. We've got a brand new car we're taking up there. Hopefully this will be the year for us.
"These stock cars are so much different than the open wheel cars. These race teams are so good that we're racing against. It's just such a team effort today. Everything has to be right. I don't know that one person or element is going to carry it anymore today."
WHAT DO YOU DO TO TRY TO TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF OF TONY STEWART BECAUSE THIS IS INDIANAPOLIS, AND WILL THE MOVE HOME HELP HIM THIS TIME?
"I think just being more relaxed will be a big deal. He's having fun this year - not that we haven't in the past. It's just a little bit different. He showed up at the race track really focused on winning and learning to control some of the things that used to aggrivate him or be a distraction to him. Hopefully we can take the same approach to Indy this year. I don't know. I'm sure it'll be a little more than Loudon or Daytona or any of those other race tracks because we are going to his home town and knowing how much he wants to win there and some of the things he's said in the past as far as what it would mean to him. We're just going to try to make light of the weekend and have fun and do the best we can. Hopefully I can tell him that we need to try to put ourselves in position to win and that's all you can ask."
ON THE DETAILS OF THE MEETING THAT CHANGED THE OVERALL ATTITUDE OF TONY AND THE ENTIRE TEAM
"I don't want to get into a lot of detail about what we do here or what happened here. But it was late last season. I get to listen and see both sides - from Tony to my guys and they're morale and things like that. We got together. I called him down from Indy to sit with the guys and to talk to him. They just basically explained to him on how some of the things he did and the ways that he acted affected their lives. If you don't stop to think about it sometimes, it's hard to understand how every truck driver going down the road is affected by something you did at the race track, do you know what I mean? But we're a family and I think those guys have to share some of that stuff with him that they've experienced. That kind of opened his eyes to how big this family is and what they go through when he has a bad day."
ON APPROACHING INDY WITH TONY BEING MORE RELAXED THIS WEEK COMPARED TO PRIOR YEARS
"I don't know that going into Indy has been any horrible week. I think going into other places like Daytona or Watkins Glen or anyplace has sometimes been trying. At Indy, I know the pressure was there. We've had some good cars there and done some dumb things there in the past. That's what we need to work on this year and just do what we've been doing for the past six or eight weeks and just go out and run and do the best we can and put ourselves in position to try and win and lead laps. Hopefully we can do the same thing there. I don't know if there is any one key thing or not. You just know he's going to be at wit's end with people and with our guys and everything else because of the pressure and stress that he feels. It's hard for me to understand. I've got enough pressure on me as far as just going and performing every week. It doesn't matter to me what track it's at. My job is to perform and give him a car that he's capable at winning in. For me, I don't know that there is any more stress or pressure in going to Indy as there is at Loudon or going back to Michigan in a couple of weeks. It's more just something you have to deal with."
BECAUSE IT'S INDY, HOW DO YOU EASE THE SITUATION ON RACE WEEKEND?
"You've just got to go with the flow and adjust as you go. Usually my main concern is trying to keep my guys upbeat and focused on what we're doing and making sure we don't make mistakes of any sort that cost us a chance at winning. Somebody said something to me the other day about Tony saying that he would give up a championship for winning Indy. That's a pretty big statement. For me personally, I want to win Indy for him and be part of it. But winning the championship again is the most important thing in my career - outside my family life. We did it one year, but making that statement that we can do it again and again is a whole lot more than just saying you did it once."
WITH THE BIZARRE PROBLEMS YOU'VE HAD AT WATKINS GLEN, HAVE YOU EVER HAD A ROUTINE WEEKEND THERE?
"No (laughs). Even if you go back two years ago when we won there, it was coming off the big ordeal we'd had at Indy the week before, you know what I mean? So two years ago, we probably should have won it but our fuel mileage wasn't good enough. That was a very frustrating day as well. We ended up I think 11th or 12th in a car that was more than capable of winning. It's the way things fell. We got ourselves behind and weren't able to make it up. So, I don't know. But I'll take this year - going up and running good in two weeks and trying to win another one without any major ordeals."
DO YOU FEEL A MYSTIQUE WHEN YOU ENTER IMS?
"Yes and no. I'm one of those guys who if you had a list of races that you'd want to win at, Indy is right up there. Daytona was very high on my personal list. Going into Daytona and being able to win there was a really cool deal for me. I know Indy would be also. But I just go to every race and treat them like they're the same. With the driver we have and the race team we have, if we do our job there isn't a race track we can't win at. Tony does great on any track. That's something we have to look forward to every week when we unload. That's how I look at it. We get paid to do a job and that's to go out and try to win and if not, do the best we can and represent our company and employees in the best way we can. I try not to get to wrapped up personally in one place being more important. The bottom line is we need to win races for our sponsor and try to put ourselves in position to win a championship at the end of the year for them."
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO TONY WHEN HE WANTED TO MOVE BACK TO INDIANA?
"Oh, I think he's about two hours away if we call there when he comes down to the Concord airport is not that far. Tony is one of those drivers that has never really spent a lot of time at the shop or been very involved in our cars or what goes on. So I don't think it really made a huge impact on our race team. To my guys at the shop who like to see him walking around here every now and then and sign the pictures they buy and the racing collectibles for their family, it's a cool thing for them. But as far as the race team, we see him all weekend and get to go do things with him and test with him. So that part of it didn't really change. The biggest thing is he's hanging out with people he grew up with, and he's back in the house he grew up in, and he's very comfortable in that element and that's probably the most important thing. He's relaxed during the week. He doesn't get bothered by a lot of people and just gets to hang out with people who were friends with him before he got to where he is today. That's important. Sometimes you don't know if people want to be friends with you because of who you are. I think it's just a big comfort for him. He's more relaxed and seems to be enjoying himself. If it works for him, that's what's important. He's got to be fun and relaxed as a person and that's something I've always tried to encourage him to be. That's first and foremost. The racing part of it...when we're dead and gone, it's great to say we won a bunch of championships, but to me it's personally more important that my family looks back and says I was a good guy, a family guy, and was there for my friends. I think he's realizing some of that now and that's why he's back with those people he's comfortable with and has fun with."
DID THE MEETING AFTER HOMESTEAD BRING THE TEAM SO CLOSE TOGETHER - WORKING AS ONE BECAUSE EVERYBODY REMEMBERS WHY THEY WENT RACING?
"Oh, I think we always have. And I say that because of all the adversity we've gone through. All my guys have hung in there. They've been there through the good and the bad days and all our wins for the most part. Ninety percent of my team are the same people that started with me seven years ago when we put this thing together. So they've been through it all. But most of the guys were all grassroots racers. They all raced before you could get paid for it and we used to spend our own money to get in to help people. We'd work a job during the day and work four or five hours at night. That's their passion. They still have a great passion for the sport. Tony, just taking the time to listen to those guys and respond to some of their frustrations, really made the biggest impression on them. In return, these guys will work extra hard for me and Tony anytime. But when you so something that's a little personal - more than just a thank you or a pat on the back, it usually goes a long way."
HAS THIS TEAM COME INTO IT'S OWN RIGHT NOW?
"I guess we are. I think the next couple of weeks will tell a lot. We've got a long ways to go. The part I'm most excited about is that we've been running good at race tracks with cars not as good as we have coming up, which doesn't mean anything. We kind of feel like we've gotten a little bit of a handle on what we wanted and this race team has been working hard at building new cars for us for the second half of the season. Aero-wise, they're better than what we've had. They're lighter. Everybody is paying a little bit more attention to detail. To me, that's exciting to know we're getting as good or better stuff that we had the beginning part of the year. Our driver, our crew, our pit crew has been doing great. Everybody's been on fire. Hopefully we won't peak too soon and we can kind of carry this through the end of the year and have a legitimate shot at winning this championship."