Daytona: Pole winner interview

TONY STEWART, No. 20 Armor All Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Qualified: 1st You had a great lap here in qualifying. Did you expect it in single car runs? "We backed up what we ran yesterday. The winds are a little higher today than what we...

TONY STEWART, No. 20 Armor All Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Qualified: 1st

You had a great lap here in qualifying. Did you expect it in single car runs?

"We backed up what we ran yesterday. The winds are a little higher today than what we practiced in yesterday so to back it up I thought was a really good run for these guys."

How is this car in drafting? You were top-five in times but that didn't seem to matter, did it?

"I think we are pretty good here, but we will wait and see. I'm pretty excited about starting this race tomorrow. I think this car is going to be pretty fast."

How hard was it for you to turn that fast lap today?

"It was a lot of work today. I had to leave pit road in first gear and try not to screw up shifting into second gear. I ran it up to turn one and shifted into third gear and then shifted to fourth off of turn two. It was rough -- I didn't know if I was going to be able to hold it wide open or not. I just rode it around there for two laps and held my breath. I didn't know I could hold my breath for two minutes -- it was pretty hairy out there. It was pretty uneventful in all reality. This is a day that is more about the guys on the Armor All team and Dave Rogers (crew chief), the guys at JGR and Toyota. It's not at all about what the drivers do -- we have the least amount of input of what happens in the cars out there. Literally, the toughest part of our job is shifting three times and the rest of it is the hard work that the crew guys do. Like I said, Dave Rogers and everyone on the Armor All team did a great job -- they worked hard through the winter and our Busch guys work just as hard on these cars as they do the Cup cars. I'm just proud of Dave and the guys. From my standpoint the day was pretty uneventful, but its exciting to be a part of it for those guys and to be with them when they have a good day like today."

How much does the time in Saturday's race help you for Sunday?

"I don't think it will in all honesty. The cars are so different now -- you used to be able to learn a little from the Busch race to the Cup race, but now the cars are so different that I honestly don't believe that it's going to matter. When I drove the Nationwide car yesterday, it just felt like an old pair of shoes and we really have our hands full with the Cup cars. I really don't think its going to be much help. If more rubber on the track helps change the way the cars drive, then it might help us a little bit, but I don't think you're going to notice it as much as you will the Cup cars on Sunday."

Do you come here with more confidence in Toyotas than you would have last summer?

"For the Nationwide car, I think we expected it -- we saw what they were able to do last year. They had a full year under their belt to get here. I didn't really know what to expect in all honesty, obviously the motors were really good in the Nationwide series last year. They had a really good test, but I didn't come to the Busch test, I mean the Nationwide test. I hope they don't dock me points or money for all this because I'll be like Michael Waltrip last year in the Cup series. They worked hard and obviously the motors were good last year so we felt that we would be in good shape on this side."

Where does the move you made to win the Busch race a couple years ago rank for great moves in your career?

"I don't know if it was a great move -- it probably looked more impressive than it was skill. A lot of it was luck because a lot of things could have gone wrong in that instance. So many guys could have hit us that had nowhere to go. I was more impressed after I looked at it on a replay at the guys that didn't run over me. They made better moves than I did just getting back on the race track missing me. As far as big moments that you didn't think would happen and come back and have a good result -- it was definitely high on the list."

Are you more concerned with the tires this year versus last year?

"From a driver's standpoint, you are probably more conscious of the old days as far as being careful on your tires and thinking in your mind that you have to make them last 40 laps on Sunday. I don't think we really thought about that last year -- last year you just tried to get your car balanced well and this year your thinking about tire wear and abusing your tires early in the run. It makes you think about track position being more critical than ever and if you don't have track position, then trying to get yourself in cleaner air to help your car so you're not in a situation where you're wearing the tires out quicker than you need to be."

How difficult do you think the cars will be to drive early in the race on Sunday with the higher air temperatures?

"Even with the start time being later than what we practiced today, the temperatures are supposed to be up for the next two days from what I understand so I think the track is going to soak up more heat than it has all week. It's never going to start as cool as it started each day. I think it will be even more of a handful. Obviously it will cool down in the evening a little and that will help it, but its going to be the highest track temps that we've seen all week at the start of the race. It's going to make the first third of the race pretty interesting. It's not going to be hot, but its going to be the warmest conditions that we've had. When you talk about surface temperature -- it's going to be the hottest that its been. It will definitely be a factor."

What did Joe Gibbs discuss in the meeting he had with all three teams?

"He's still a coach. It was a good meeting and it was the first time that the three of us have sat down before a race that we were all going to be in together. I think the results at the end of the race showed the outcome of all that. That's why he's been successful in everything he's done -- he knows how to motivate people and he knows how to get people to think in the right direction and work with each other. The end of the race was a very good example of what that meeting was all about."

Do you expect a big difference in the Nationwide race between the Chevrolet and Toyota?

"I think it shows how good the JGR program is in the Nationwide series. Races are always different than practice and like we saw in the qualifying races and the Shootout on Saturday, these races still aren't won on individual performances, they're won by group efforts. If there were Kias in the field and enough of them lined up together they could probably pass anything else out there if it was by itself. I take that back, I don't think a Kia could pass anything. If enough guys line up from each manufacturer, you can go fast. It's no different in this series than it is the Cup side. You're still going to have to rely on other people to win the race -- you can't win restrictor plate races by yourself anymore, you have to have help."

-credit: toyota motorsports

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Drivers Michael Waltrip
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing