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Toyota/Save Mart 350 Post-Race Transcript

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sunday, June 21, 2009

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An Interview With:
TONY STEWART
MARCOS AMBROSE

THE MODERATOR:  We're now joined in the infield media center by today's second place finisher, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Old Spice Chevrolet, Tony Stewart.  Tell us about your run.

TONY STEWART:
  I'm happy with it compared to where we were yesterday in both the race practices.  We were a little disappointed and discouraged when we left the racetrack.  But man, it just makes me so proud of Darian Grubb and Jeff Meendering, our car chief.  Man, they worked so hard yesterday.  I stayed here until the garage closed with them, and everybody in every department of the race car had to make changes, basically tore everything apart and just    we changed about six major things between yesterday and today.

We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but it seemed like once we got 15, 20 laps into the run, we were one of the fastest cars on the track, and we just kept marching our way forward.  We weren't getting the fuel mileage we wanted, and that changed our strategy a little bit.  Instead of being a two stop race it turned into a three stop race for us.

The best thing about it was that, and the same with Kasey we just got turned loose to where we could just run as hard as we could run, and I'd much rather be in that situation here at Sonoma.  It's so much more fun to attack the racetrack and run hard.

Kasey just never made a mistake at the end.  He did an awesome job those last 20 laps and just never slipped a wheel, never missed a corner and made a mistake.  He made one mistake the whole time in the closing laps there and we were able to get a run on him, but couldn't do anything when we got there.  He was just better than we were.

Q.  How much of a threat was Marcus on some of those restarts?

TONY STEWART:
  You know, he's good at it, and the same with Juan.  Juan gave us fits twice on the restarts.  He's just good at it.  He knows how to get going there, and Marcos was the same way.  The right side was a little bit better on restarts, and the first time there when Juan was on the inside of us, we lost a spot to him but got it back.

Every time the caution kept coming, I was like, man, we're having to climb uphill for this.  That's why I'm proud with the second place run.  It wasn't exactly the place to be, and we made a lot of spots up on the right hand side to get us up there, so that helped us obviously.  To be able to hold Jimmie and Juan and Marcos off like that, I was pretty proud of that.

Q.  The restarts, there was a lot of double file restarts at the end.  You say the right side was better.  What was the left side like and how big of an advantage was that?

TONY STEWART:
  Well, you know, the thing that you have to do if you're the second place guy is you have to make sure that the leader crosses the line first.  You know, it's just a matter of timing, and as long as we could get the timing right, we weren't at such a deficit when we got to the top of the hill.

But Kasey was really good off of 2 anyway.  That's where we struggled a little bit.  That's why it was a little more challenging for us.  If we didn't have good position by the time we got up there, we were in a little bit of a bind getting off the corner.

It just seemed like all day everybody could stay with each other through the left hand or up the hill, and then when you got to that tight it right it seemed like the inside was the place to be.

You've got to give Kasey credit.  I was listening to his interview a second ago about those restarts and he was the one that picked that lane.  We were both in that right hand side and we went right to first and second, and we were second and fourth at the time.  He was smart about knowing which line to pick and knowing that that was going to be the spot to be at.

THE MODERATOR:  Tony, congratulations.  Thank you.

We're now joined by driver of the No. 47 Little Debbie Kingsford Clorox Toyota, Marcos Ambrose.  Tell us about your run.

MARCOS AMBROSE:
  I thought I was at Eldora all day.  It was just really slippery.  Those rear tires just didn't have a lot of forward grip.  It's fast on the roll, but just getting the power to the ground is hard.  We've got a lot of power in these Cup cars, and you've got your work cut out for you.  I was hot, I was mad, I was happy, I was sad all together.

I'm just proud of my team, JTG Dougherty, having trusted me to drive their car, and took a chance putting me in.  No one really knew what I was all about, and I just want to thank them.  I thank Michael Waltrip Racing, too, for giving us great support, just an awesome combination right now, great group of guys.

We had a bad day yesterday.  We were in the hole pretty good.  They just rallied around me and gave me the support I needed, the confidence to go out there today to just get aggressive and get to it and not skip a beat.

Q.  You had great training for this last year at Watkins Glen.  When you look at this, you say the team, but everything that you guys went through in the last couple of days and then the wreck and happy hour, it just kept coming, but you would not be held back.  Is this just your determination and resolve?

MARCOS AMBROSE
:  I even cut myself shaving this morning.  That's how bad this weekend has gone.  We've just got a resilient attitude, never say die attitude, and when you're having a bad day    we made it worse yesterday in happy hour, whatever happened there, and just really proud of my guys for giving me the support that I needed and the car that I needed to do what we did today.

You know, it's just a tough world, the Cup racing scene.  There is no easy lap, there is no easy day.  It's intense, especially those restarts, and just really just never give up.

I knew what to expect, unfortunately, from Watkins Glen last year.  That was a long day, and I think today was just as long if not longer.  I think the car is sort of straight.  Sort of.  Most of the damage is in the front and side.  There's not too much in the back, which is a good sign.

Q.  You came in at the beginning of the race, toward the beginning of the race and you pitted early and seemed to have a different pit cycle or trying to do something different than anybody else.  With the way the cautions played out, in the long run did that help you or did that make you have to really work harder and gain the positions on the track?

MARCOS AMBROSE:
  We'll have to look back and see how it all played out.  I felt like I passed 200 cars, so maybe it didn't (laughter).

Our plan was just to get going, see how far I could get up there, and then if I was getting held up too long, just come in and get out of there.  I was just so worried about when they were all getting wadded up and the tires are down, just so easy to get damage and not really show any speed.  I just complained and whinged on the radio until they said, yeah, come on in, get some tires, let's go, and we just got out of sequence.

We ran a heavy fuel strategy, too.  We ran a lot of fuel today trying to set ourselves up to pass cars, and we didn't have the fuel mileage that many others had.  So we knew we couldn't do it just on stretching fuel mileage, so we had to do it on speed.  So just getting clean air, staying out of all that riff raff I think played    at least got us to lap 70 before we really got back in the pack again, and I think that helped.

Q.  I guess that No. 13 table luck ran out for you.  Before the last restart, you were running about a second and a half to two seconds behind Tony and Kasey.  Was it just lack, again, of the rear tire grip where you couldn't close up on them, or were you hoping they might wreck each other?

MARCOS AMBROSE:
  No, we had four laps of practice, and we just didn't know how our rear tires were going to wear.  We went to a package that we thought was going to look out for the tires, and it proved to probably be worse for the tires because the car was rolling around too much.  So during the pit stops, I knocked around with the track bar, getting it up, one side only, which I can't stand, but I like to do everything together at a road course, left and right, it's all the same.

So unfortunately we were limited in what we could do.  Then I just burnt the rear tires off it.  I couldn't keep the tires underneath me for long enough.  We're going to have to go back home and have a good hard look at what some other guys did.

Following Smoke, I could see his rear end pretty good.  I've got a photographic memory; I'll just go back and draw it on paper and say, hey, I want it just like this.  I think Smoke had the fastest car there on the longer run, just Kasey had track position and he was good on the restarts on that outside lane.

Just proud of my team because we had limited time on Saturday to get ready for it, and those rear tires were shot.  A lot of guys had trouble with forward bite, us less so, but if we were going to win the race, that's our weak spot.

Q.  Can you describe how those final couple of restarts worked for you, and was it fun?

MARCOS AMBROSE:
  Intense.  It's no fun.  I mean, we had like the downhill to go before the white flag, and we were going to finish it, and then the caution comes out for the green white checker.  You know that you can go from 3rd to 33rd with one mistake after putting in all that effort all day.

I think all of us just wanted to bring it home somehow, and you know, I really wanted to attack Smoke.  He deserved second.  I wasn't going to take it off him unless I had a clean pass.  I just couldn't get to his bumper bar in time.  Jimmie was peppering my bumper.  Just bring it home; that's all I was thinking.

You can go so pear shaped on those restarts, just for the result, one lap to go, you're running 3rd to 33rd, I just didn't want to take that chance.  It's very much a pressure environment when it's like that.

Q.  I wanted to ask you, going into this race with Kasey Kahne, he did not have the track record that would say he would be a candidate to win this race with his finishes.  In the little time you've been in this series, have you been able to be around him enough on a road course to be able to see or were you able to gauge what he was able to do today?

MARCOS AMBROSE:
  I can't normally get close enough to Kasey because there's too many girls hanging around (laughter).

You know, he was doing it.  I mean, he was running that car as hard as it would go, and Smoke is one of the best road racers there is.  I'd like to think that I'm half okay, Jimmie Johnson    I mean, he beat us on speed, and he got the pole here last year.  He deserves he's a road race winner now, and he did it on his speed, he didn't do it on fuel mileage or anything else.  He was fast, and he deserves it, absolutely.

Q.  Pretty close to the end there, I think it was the 11 car gave you a pretty narrow racing line looking at the end of the pit lane.  Can you tell me about that experience and was it as hair raising for you as it was for us?

MARCOS AMBROSE:
  Yeah, I saw what was happening, and I thought, I'm going to have a headache because I thought I was going to hit that end of pit lane, and I thought, I'll just hit it.  I got axle hop and somehow when I opened my eyes I was down in the corner.  I turned right and off I went.  I don't know how I got through there.  It was really close.

Q.  Do you like the restarts?  Do you like the double file restarts the way they are right now, three weeks in?

MARCOS AMBROSE: 
Yeah, I do.  I think they're great.  It really shakes it up.  For two laps, three laps, it takes us a while to really clear ourselves out and get back in our groove.  Maybe with 20 or 10 to go, just cut us a break and make it single file.  Take some pressure off.

THE MODERATOR:  Marcos, thanks, and congratulations.

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