TONY STEWART, No. 20 Old Spice Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Qualified: 1st Can you talk about your qualifying laps and your thoughts about tomorrow's race? "It was four times scarier than the lap at Daytona qualifying. I told Dave Rogers...
TONY STEWART, No. 20 Old Spice Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Qualified: 1st
Can you talk about your qualifying laps and your thoughts about tomorrow's race?
"It was four times scarier than the lap at Daytona qualifying. I told Dave Rogers (crew chief) that I was scared to hold it wide open, but I was able to do that and luckily we got on the pole. I'm just kidding, it was easy -- you guys all know and you've done this long enough to know that the wrong guys is in here talking about it right now. It should be Dave Rogers or the crew guys. The hardest thing we have to do as drivers here today is shift three times and that's literally the hardest thing we have to do. It's more a testimony of the hard work that the crews have done and the hard work that they've put behind. Even though I haven't been in the car every week, if you look every week that Joe Gibbs Racing's effort with the Toyotas this season in the Nationwide races -- they have been the car to beat whether it's the 18 car or the 20 car. Week in and week out they have been the team to beat. As an organization, I'm really proud of these guys and this year I've enjoyed running in the series more and more. The last few years, it's been with Kevin Harvick Inc. and coming back and running more races with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) this year - it's even that much more fun being with our own guys and guys we see week in and week out. I felt like a traitor the last couple years driving for Kevin and Delana (Harvick) and not driving for our own organization so this year I don't feel as guilty."
Why is there such a difference in the fun you have in the Nationwide car versus the Sprint Cup cars?
"Because the Nationwide cars actually handle good and they're built to handle good. They're designed to handle good and at least for 50 percent of the weekend you get to drive a car that feels like a race car instead of a car that feels like a dump truck. That's what is nice about it in all reality. It doesn't mean that my particular brand because I think everybody, with the exception of Carl Edwards who thinks we're all speaking out of turn anyway when it comes to the Car of Tomorrow (COT). These things are at least fun to drive because they still have down force and they still have grip and still feel like race cars. We're all still trying to figure out what the COT cars want to feel good and to make them drive good around the race track. It's nice to go back to a car on Saturday that we've had histories with and actually feels good again. It's nice, every race we've had this year, the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have been fast in this series. It's nice when you show up for a weekend and you know you're going to be running the Nationwide series and you know you're getting in the cars that have been the cars to beat in this series up to this point."
How much will the depth of an organization affect your decision on where you end up?
"You have to look at that. I've had a 10 year history with JGR and won two championships and won over 30 races on the Cup side. You don't just throw all of that out of the equation -- you weigh that in very heavily. We went through a situation like this the last time we had contract negotiations and I actually took a lesser deal to stay where I was at because of the history and our performance with this organization."
Will it matter if the team you go to has a successful Nationwide program and truck program?
"I don't think it matters right now because I don't run full time in the trucks or the Nationwide series and I haven't run a truck for a couple of years now. I don't think that part of it really matters as much as the Sprint Cup side, which is the main focus."
Do you think a Nationwide-regular could win this race?
"In a way I guess that's compliment to those of us that come from the Sprint Cup side. The guys that have come to the Nationwide series level have talent because you don't get to that level without having talent. It's not like you just buy a license and then you're a Nationwide driver and you don't have talent and you can go race every weekend. NASCAR still has to approve you and you have to run short tracks before you run intermediate tracks and before you run superspeedways. It could be done and there's guys that have talent in the right situations. We get the luxury of racing twice a week and that helps us on a weekend. We got Nationwide practice before we got into the Sprint Cup cars today and that got us another hour and 20 minutes of practice before the race tomorrow. Is it unimaginable that someone who is not a regular could win? Somebody that is not a Cup series driver could win this race just as easy as a Cup driver can, it's just a matter of being in the right position and knowing how to put yourself in the right position at the right time. It doesn't matter whether you're a Sprint Cup driver or a Nationwide driver, if you do that, you can win the race."
Do you think you will ever get used to the COTs or is it just so offensive to your senses as a driver that you won't be able to get used to it?
"I don't know that it's offensive, body odor is offensive and that's why I have Old Spice as a sponsor and that's how you fix that side of it. Anytime you come up with a new package and this wasn't a simple deal like cutting an inch off the spoiler, or whatever we did a couple years ago to the car. This is a totally different car package and with that comes a learning curve. Will we ever get to the point where we all as drivers like it? I don't know. This year is going to be a big learning year from that standpoint. In the back of our minds we keep telling ourselves that this car was designed to not drive as good as the cars that we were in, but you work hard your whole career to get to a national level like this and you want to drive cars that drive well and respond well and feel like they showcase your talents. I'm not saying that they're not doing that because guys are taking cars every week that don't necessarily feel good to them and they drive them to the front. But not all of us can be wrong on this topic. If I were the only guy sitting here saying that we didn't like the way the cars are driving, that would be one thing, but I'm not. The only guy that I've heard so far that is ecstatic about them is Carl Edwards and if I'd won as many races as he has so far then I would probably be a little happier about them too. I think at this level you work hard as a driver and you guys don't get to see it because you're at this level like I am now and we don't get to see the people that are working 40-hour-a-week jobs and spending every dime they have racing on the weekends. They aspire to be where we're at and we want these cars to feel more like race cars. We feel like we're driving utility vehicles right now. But not in the Nationwide Series, we feel like we're driving Formula One cars here."
Are you ready to win here after all of the second-place finishes?
"I'm really consistent. It's all about consistency. You don't have to be great -- you just have to be consistent. So much of this, especially at this track, is based on partners and who you are around. On the Sprint Cup side, Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. won a lot of races where I ran second. You can run in the top two, but you've got to work hard to get yourself in that position."
What was your reaction to Danica Patrick's win last week?
"I'm glad somebody has asked that because I haven't even had a chance to publicly congratulate her (Danica Patrick). I think she did a great job. It was nice to see the emotional side that was something other than frustration, because you can tell how bad she's wanted to win there. I've done a couple speaking engagements or autograph sessions with her and I think she's a neat lady and I think she's somebody that has obviously dedicated her whole life to being successful in auto racing in a sport that has been male dominated. I think it was long overdue. I don't think anybody ever doubted if she would ever win a race, it was just a matter of when is she going to win a race. It seems like once you get that first win, the second and third ones are a lot easier to come by. Hopefully that holds true to her career now and hopefully another win for her is just around the corner. It was nice to see her finally get that first win and get that monkey off her back."
-credit: toyota motorsports