Q and A with Tony Stewart
CHANGES TO HOMESTEAD
Definitely different. It's probably one of the more radical changes I have seen to a speedway. But, I enjoyed both configurations. I enjoyed it when it was flat, I enjoyed it banked also. It's definitely more exciting for the fans when you're running higher speeds. We're able to run, with the way they designed it, a more progressive banking to make it better for the fans to be able to see us run two wide. (Photo right courtesy CIA Stock Photo)
HAS MOVING BACK TO INDIANA HELPED YOU DEAL WITH THIS CHAMPIONSHIP RUN BETTER?
Yeah, it has all year. That part of it hasn't changed. The hard part is that I haven't been home two days in the past two months. I'm just looking forward to getting through the weekend and spending some time there.
RE: LEARNING FROM 2004 AND THE FIRST YEAR OF THE CHASE
Unfortunately we didn't learn much last year because our Chase was virtually over 30 laps at Loudon, so really weren't even in a position to be a contender in the Chase. Where, this year when the Chase started, we were on top of our game. It's a totally different Chase for us this year.
DIFFERENT THIS YEAR
No, not really. This year, we were just more prepared as far as being on top of our game and being able to go to these tracks and taking what was a good setup for us, versus just kind of being out to lunch last year. Taking those good setups and trying to refine them and make them really good.
MIGHT THIS BE ABOUT THE HAPPIEST STRETCH OF YOUR RACING CAREER SO FAR?
Well, I'd say still that the sprint car days were probably the best. Trust me, it's not even the media, it's being home for a while. Trust me, it's just like anything else-the more money that is involved, the more headaches are involved. It's that way in business, it's that way in racing, it's that way in just about life and general. The reason it was more fun then was because all I had to worry about was making a rent payment and making sure I had gas money and grocery money. That was the most of my responsibilities. Now, it's employees and airplane payments and making sure I pay the bus payment and making sure everyone is taken care of that has to be taken care of. So, there's just a lot more responsibility that is involved with it now.
CAN YOU EMPATHIZE WITH KURT BUSCH'S SITUATION NOW THAT IT'S KNOWN HIS BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT WAS WAY BELOW THE LEGAL LIMIT?
Yeah, I feel bad for him because I know I've put myself in situations, not that like that, but the same but different. Just being in that situation is something that you don't want anybody else to go through. At the same time, the good thing about it is that I think everybody has some perspective on it now. It was a situation that was blown out of proportion. You know, I was listening to Despain's show on Wind Tunnel and the lady called in talking about the cops that had harassed her there, and we've had trouble out there, too. You know, for some reason when we go to Phoenix, that's the only problem that we have. The entire weekend is a pleasure to be there, except for the element out there with the sheriffs out there.
IS IT ALMOST LIKE THEY ENJOY MESSING WITH RACERS?
I don't know, you'll have to ask them that. But I think they just enjoy messing with everybody.
WHAT SPECIFICALLY HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU?
Just things like we go to 38 race tracks a year. You show them your hard card, they know you're a driver and you don't have your motor home parking pass. Well, they know that you're just now getting there, so how are you going to get to your pass if you're just now getting there. But they just...sometimes that logic doesn't get it. They are just so strict there that, if you don't have your pass, you're not getting in. And I've had to sit out there for 30 minutes for somebody to come out and say, hey, this guy is alright, let him in. You still have to argue with them to let you in. It doesn't surprise me that somebody has finally had trouble with those guys.
ONE OF THE THINGS KURT SUPPOSEDLY SAID WAS SOMETHING LIKE, 'YOU OUGHT TO BE DIRECTING TRAFFIC', BUT THAT SEEMS LIKE THAT COULD BE SAID TO ANY DEPUTY AT ANY TRACK
I don't know which deputy that it was.
We never had problems with it until ISC got a hold of it, to be honest. Maybe that's just a coincidence. But, I mean, when were there for Copper Classic, we never had problems. It hasn't been but the last couple of years that we had some problems getting in there.
Let's put it this way-it's the only race track we go to where they actually have police checking your credentials. So, maybe that explains it.
YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO DO THE MATH (FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS) FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS WEEKEND
I haven't done it. I haven't had time. I've been busy doing commercials. I've been going to eat and going to sleep.
I'm not even worried about it at this point.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE SUNDAY'S RACE GO?
I'd rather just lead every lap and be 10 laps ahead of the field if it was in my opinion. I don't think it's quite going to work out that way.
DO YOU WANT TO GO TO THE FRONT OR DO YOU APPROACH IT LIKE A POINTS RACE?
If I knew that, I'd be in Las Vegas right now. I'd be sitting on my but watching TV making millions of dollars.
RE: JIMMIE JOHNSON COULD POTENTIALLY FINISH IN SECOND PLACE FOR THE THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR
Yeah, you feel bad for him but at the same time, but if that's what happens, it's pretty flattering that he's been in that top seat for the past three years and that's pretty impressive.
ARE YOU SURPRISED AT ALL THAT IT IS LIKE THIS GOING INTO THE FINAL RACE?
How do you know at all? Nobody is going to predict or be surprised with anything that is going to happen at this point.
MOST PEOPLE PREDICTED.
The weather man predicts rain today. Do you see rain? There you go about predictions. Next.
RE: PEOPLE IN INDIANA GETTING MORE INTO RACING BECAUSE OF YOUR SEASON, POTENTIAL SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP?
The whole state of Indiana has been pretty involved in racing. There are many race tracks in the area that I don't think the popularity has changed just because I've been there. It's always been popular before I was a race car driver and I don't think it's let up.
RE: HAVING GONE THROUGH TOUGH SITUATIONS LIKE KURT IS GOING THROUGH, COULD IT BE THAT IT WILL BE ONE OF THE BEST THINGS THAT COULD HAPPEN TO HIM?
I don't know if he's looking for sympathy. I don't think that's why this whole thing happened, but who knows what's going to happen. None of us are going to know what's going to happen to Kurt through this. Kurt's a strong kid. I think it will make him a better person in the end and in the meantime I'm trying to worry about winning a championship; I'm not worried about babysitting Kurt right now.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THE CAR THIS WEEK THAT IS ANY DIFFERENT?
Nothing. We're not doing anything different this week. We're still going out and trying to get the maximum points. I mean, how do you do this week versus the other 35 weeks that we've been doing it? The approach is the same.
RE: DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 2002 AND NOW
2002 was three years ago. I'm just happy that that's behind me and I'm moving onto 2005. I give advice daily every day to people that know everything and nothing about racing. Today is no different. You guys have asked that the same three years. I'm about 15 pounds heavier. And I've got highlights in my hair.
HAS THIS TRACK CHANGED?
Yeah, it's lost a little bit of grip. Every new race track does that. It will probably make for better racing, I think. I just noticed the guys that were moving up the race track a little bit more than what we had last year. So, I think it's going to be a good race for everybody.
CLOSE CALLS AT PHOENIX
They're out there trying to win a race too. It's not their responsibility to look out for us. It's our responsibility to look out for us. So, we put ourselves in this position. If we don't want to get close to traffic, we can stay as far back as we want. So, there's no blame, in my opinion, and you can't blame anybody from the competitor standpoint. The guys from the Chase-we were racing close together. That's just what we do. The race car drivers go out there for racing-it's not a babysitting job.
RE: ALL THE ATTENTION AROUND THE KURT BUSCH INCIDENT
This is a perfect example. We went out to Phoenix and did a playground build and put up a brand new playground for a school that needed a new playground. And more time was spent talking about what Kurt Busch had done than anything that anybody had done with the playground. And the interviews I did, there was about two questions asked about the playground and everything else was about the competition. Obviously the good things we do and positive things don't get the ratings as the negative stuff. So, that's the part I've always been disappointed about in the media. The media is focused on the negative things that happened as opposed to the positive things. You know, it's no wonder our society is getting the way it is when all the media is focusing on the negative things. How could our society be positive when everyone just focuses on the negative things?
RE: HOW YOU'VE CHANGED
I am fun loving and I am gracious. But I have my bad days. Let me ask you something? Do you think I've changed? That's what you've got keep in mind-we didn't get into racing to worry about if the media likes us or dislikes us. We got into racing to get into it. I started racing 26 years ago. I didn't get into it worried about the media. What you have to understand about it from a media standpoint is that, our life is not that we get up in the morning, drive an hour to work, sit in a cubicle for the day and then drive home an hour in traffic and then have the weekend off. Our lives are a little bit different. There's different stresses involved and you know, you guys have different access to us than other sports do and sometimes that brings out the bad in people. It's not the media's fault that happens-we're responsible for our own actions. But, I think at the same time we have to learn how to all get along and play together.