Continued from part 1 Q: On that last restart with five to go, it looked like the 8 car lagged behind maybe five car lengths. Was that a concern? TONY STEWART: Yeah. Same thing Jeff Gordon did last year. I'm going to go ask NASCAR...
Continued from part 1
Q: On that last restart with five to go, it looked like the 8 car lagged behind maybe five car lengths. Was that a concern?
TONY STEWART: Yeah. Same thing Jeff Gordon did last year. I'm going to go ask NASCAR what we're allowed to do about that. That's two races in a row here almost I got beat because of that. Not real happy about that part of it.
You know, he did what he had to do to get a run on us. I don't blame him for doing it. But it really isn't fair to the guy on the front there, you know, to not go and leave him stuck out there like that.
You can't pass till you get to the line. If the leader takes off, the second place guy doesn't go, everybody behind him can't go either. They're all stuck together and there you are by yourself. It's not really a good deal.
Q: Is this a package you would like to see in Cup again?
TONY STEWART: No, definitely not.
Q: Why is that?
TONY STEWART: It works fine for the Busch Series. It didn't work very good when it was in the Cup Series, I don't think. The earlier topic of last week would be multiplied by 10 with this package.
Q: I didn't know if you were aware that a driver was sent to the back today for aggressive driving in the no bumping zone. Wanted to get your reaction to that, if that's something you guys are now going to watch more carefully tomorrow?
TONY STEWART: I wasn't aware of that. But, you know, NASCAR told us they were going to be paying attention to that, so it wouldn't surprise me that somebody did get sent back.
But, you know, that's why we have them as a sanctioning body. They're making it safer for us. If somebody was hitting too hard or hitting in the wrong spots, then obviously they needed to get put back and understand that's not the place to do it. I'd stand behind them on that.
Q: Last year you won the race after spinning out; it was kind of crazy at the end of the race today. Could you kind of compare the two. Which one was more exciting, less exciting, or about the same?
TONY STEWART: I'd say this one was definitely more exciting in my opinion. It was more an isolated incident that made last year's win so exciting because of the fact that we ended up in the grass, back on the racetrack, had to recover from it.
But, you know, today, I mean, when you got Michael Waltrip on the outside, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in the middle, myself on the bottom, I don't know how you could make a race any more exciting than that.
You know, we were three wide, three deep coming down in the last five laps, that's a pretty exciting finish, I think.
Q: If I'm not mistaken, in the last few laps you, Junior and Michael Waltrip were side by side for three consecutive laps. I believe you barely led each one of those. Which was the last time you remember being involved in something like that?
TONY STEWART: I don't ever remember being part of something like that. I think that's the first time that I got lucky enough to be in that position in the front three wide like that.
But I'm not real excited about having to be in that situation tomorrow (laughter). You know, if that's what it comes down to with five to go, trust me, I'm not backing out of it. You just do what you got to do. I mean, trust me, I was extremely loose at times down there on the bottom. I'm sure Junior was loose. I'm sure Michael was loose and tight up on top with where we were all placed around each other.
The good thing is you have the confidence in those two guys. I mean, I have the utmost confidence in Dale Jr., obviously, and Michael Waltrip. It didn't concern me that we were three wide racing for the lead like that. It actually made that part even more fun knowing you can trust those guys. I was more worried about some of the guys that were behind us.
Q: Could you give us your assessment of Burney Lamar's performance today?
TONY STEWART: I didn't get to see much of him today. The little bit I did get to see was at the right time. He did an awesome job. He had a good shot at winning that race. If a couple of the runs were a little different, he was going to pass us for the lead, or at least make a good bid for it.
Luckily that's the good thing about being a veteran versus a rookie, I pretty much knew where he was going to go before he got there, was able to anticipate it.
For a kid like him to put his self even in that position was pretty remarkable, to get himself up there and get himself in a position where he could go for the win.
Q: You made a lot of changes in the car. Actually the crew did today. I noticed during Cup final practice, you were out there a long time. Were you also working on changes on that car? If so, are you happy with them? If not, can you afford to make a lot of changes tomorrow as well, like you did today?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I mean, today we had to make wholesale it was wholesale changes. It wasn't a little of this and a half a round out of that. It was three rounds, three pounds of air, two spring rubbers at a time. I mean, we changed an entire shock one stop. I mean, it was wholesale changes.
Tomorrow, we can't afford to have wholesale changes. But, you know, if at the beginning of the race our car is as bad as this one was today, we'll have to, because we can't ride around like we did at the beginning of the race tomorrow like we did at the beginning of this race.
But, you know, our car got a lot better in the final session. We did run a lot of laps; I think we ran 45 laps. But, you know, we realize that when we got in the back of the pack there the other night in the qualifier, we just got really, really tight, needed to do something about it. The last two days, we've only had two hours of practice. We needed to take advantage of that. Other guys I think were happier with their cars and parked them, gave us an opportunity to go out there and do what we needed to do to get our car right.
I think it's close enough that if it's not right when we start tomorrow, you know, we'll be able to work through some of the changes. Obviously, some of the stuff we learned today, we'll be able to use tomorrow, too. Hopefully that will help.
Q: You were on the inside. Mike was up there. I think he nosed ahead. Bowyer was on the outside, came on the outside. How did you end up on the outside? That seemed to be the key to you winning the race.
TONY STEWART: That's a good question. I don't even remember where you're talking about and when. Trust me, we were moving around a lot.
Q: Two laps to go.
TONY STEWART: I don't know where I was at. I was just moving around trying to watch what was going on. I was hoping they'd get tied up behind me. A lot of times if you can get two guys tied up, they can't get that run on you. I was hoping the gap that I had would you know, that's the scariest part of it, you know, making sure you don't get too far ahead where they can get a big run on you and go by.
If they get tied up like that, I was hoping they would stay there for two laps and keep pulling each other back enough that I could just stay out there and run my own deal and be by myself. For the last lap at least it pretty much worked out that way.
Did I not help you on that? Is that not what you want?
Q: Not at all.
TONY STEWART: Sorry. Dude, a lot happened in a short amount of time (laughter). If I could look at it on the videotape, I could probably help you out on that.
Q: Earlier this week you made some comments about somebody getting killed here with the bump drafts. Do you feel comfortable now with what NASCAR has done going into tomorrow's race?
TONY STEWART: Yes. You know, do I think it's the solution? No. Do I think it's a good solution for the rest of this week? Absolutely.
I think it was something they thought through, thought of the pros and cons. That's something that, you know, like we mentioned earlier, the whole reason wasn't to, you know, tell them to change something, it was to say, "Hey, this is what's going on out there. We think this is something we think is important enough to come talk to you about. It's in your hands."
They made a decision. Obviously, we didn't see too many wrecks today because of that. Hopefully we won't see any tomorrow because of that.
Q: How much of that is just instinctive reaction? We always ask you what your plan was?
TONY STEWART: Do you think we honestly plan anything out there?
Q: I know you don't.
TONY STEWART: There's no way with 43 cars out there, you can plan any of it. It is strictly react to every situation that happens. You know, the situation that happens one lap may not be the situation you have the next lap.
As much as you would like I was planning on the restart that Junior was going to go with me, we would at least have a pretty fair restart. Instead, I'm out there by myself and here he comes and gets a big run on us.
You know, so much for planning. You just react to it, go from there, analyze I mean, it just is instinct, I guess. You don't have time to sit and say, "Okay here's this option, that option." You just pretty much react to it and go from trial and error. That's why we have so much practice here.
Q: You know you can't plan things during this race, but is there a repercussion from this race that leads into tomorrow's race, for example? The guys on the Earnhardt team, some were saying that Kevin Harvick might have helped Dale Earnhardt, Jr., had he not been protecting the guy who won the race, so tomorrow Kevin might not get any help. Any of that going to fly over to the survival game for foam?
TONY STEWART: I don't think so. It's two totally different races, two totally different scenarios. We got the biggest race of the year tomorrow. I mean, if that's really what happens, I'll be surprised.
But I think you run the race tomorrow off of how you feel like you got to run that race, not what you did today.
Q: Would you make a quick comment on the progress you've seen from JJ Yeley so far?
TONY STEWART: I think he's done an awesome job. The thing that most people don't understand, a lot of people want to compare Denny's career and JJ's career, what they got to understand is that JJ, all he's run is high horsepower, light weight race cars. I really don't even know totally what Denny's background is. I know he's run some light weight stock car stuff.
To come into a heavier car, I mean, learning just to deal with the heavier car is one thing, then to have to learn how to deal with the radios and all this stuff is totally different.
I think his learning curve might be a little slower than Denny's is going to be. Every race that he runs, he's going to get smarter and smarter. He's a smart kid. He didn't go out and win championships in all the races that he run for me by not being smart. He's a very intelligent race car driver. He may not pick it up as quick as Denny does, but I have all the confidence in the world he's going to pick it up.
Q: Was this like a two day battle for you as far as having to qualify your way in yesterday, then literally almost have to put up a whole new setup on the car today?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I mean, trust me, I would have loved to have run more laps before we qualified. That is what hurt us. That's why we were so bad at the beginning of the race. We just didn't really get a chance. By the time we went out and started working on race setup, all the guys that have run the whole first session, the first half of the second session, had already switched over to qualifying trim. We only ran with like four or five cars at a time. Really can't learn a lot in the short amount of time we drove it. We made changes, but we didn't have time to make the big enough changes and wholesale changes to get an idea where we needed to be.
It just led us in a situation where we really had to make really large changes today to get it where it was. But, you know, I felt like I had a good enough feel that I was comfortable with the crazy changes that we were making to make the car do what we needed it to do.
TRACEY JUDD: Tony, thanks a lot. Congratulations.