Q and A with team owner Tony Stewart
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BASS PRO SHOPS/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed his outlook for the Daytona 500, his charity involvement, new sponsorship for three races, Danica Patrick, and more. Full Transcript:
ON NEW SPONSORSHIP
“We talked during the Media Tour about having nine races left to sell and we’re proud to announce this week that we’ve got three of those sold to Rush Truck Centers. They’re going to be on the car at Fontana, the spring Martinsville race, and spring Richmond races. We’ve had a relationship with them since 2010 and it’s obviously growing. It’s grown to three primaries this year. Mobil 1 will be the ‘b’ sponsor on the car for all three of those races. So, we still have six races of inventory left, but we’ve got three committed to Rush Truck Centers now.”
ON THE DAYTONA 500 AND HOW HIS CAR IS
“It’s kind of weird on Friday to be sitting here and I won’t see that car again until Sunday. So, we’ve actually run all we’re going to run the car until the 500, which the motor that was in the car today is the race engine, so we basically worked on our chassis set-up and made sure we did our final run on the motor just to make sure there were no vibrations and no leaks and no problems. I don’t know where we ended-up in the second session, if we were still on the top of the board or not, but it seemed like it had really good speed and I’m excited about Sunday now. It’s going to be kind of nice to have a day off from the Cup car and be able to focus strictly on the Nationwide car tomorrow. I’m excited. We’ve made it through the whole week without a scratch on that car and it’s about as ready as it can get for the 500. So I’m excited. I feel like we’ve got a car that’s capable of winning the race. It’s just a matter of whether the driver does a good job behind the steering wheel and puts it’s it the right positions.”
WHERE WAS YOUR FOCUS ON CHASSIS SET-UP THIS MORNING?
“I was actually tight yesterday too. So, we went to free it up to see if we could get it more neutral. I think we ran 28 consecutive laps out there, so we had plenty of heat in the tires during that run. We ran the top of the track; we ran the bottom of the track, so we pretty much know what we’ve got now and have a pretty good handle on it.”
YOU WERE STRONG IN THE UNLIMITED AND IT LOOKS LIKE YOU HAVE A GOOD CAR FOR SUNDAY. DOES THAT MAKE YOU MORE ANXIOUS OR FEELING LIKE MAYBE THIS IS THE YEAR WHEN YOU WIN THIS RACE?
“Well, even with the way the cars run all week, it’s no guarantee. It’s still a chess match. You’ve still got to put yourself in the right position and be there at the end. I’m comfortable, I guess, more than anything right now. I felt good when I got out of the car today. I didn’t feel like we still have work to do to get the car balanced or to get speed out of the car. I feel like we’ve got both of those right now. So, as far as the car is concerned, I’m really happy and content with it. Like I say the weird thing is just knowing that we do have practice tomorrow and we won’t run a lap in that car tomorrow. So, I guess I’m just calm at this point. It’s just a matter of waiting until Sunday and going out and doing our job.”
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU AND YOUR FELLOW DRIVERS SPEND SUCH A LARGE AMOUNT OF YOUR TIME DOING CHARITY WORK; FOR EXAMPLE WITH DARRELL GWYNN?
“Darrell has done this twice a year for a long time now; I don’t know how many consecutive years he’s done it here and at Homestead. You’d never have a hard time getting drivers to go do it. All the drivers are supportive of charities like that. We’re all very supportive of each other’s charities as well. It’s something you’re pretty proud of when you come into this sport and realizing how hectic all of our schedules are, but at the same time, how willing the drivers are to donate the limited about of free time that they do have to really good causes to help generate money.”
IS IT UNUSUAL FOR YOU TO BE CALM BEFORE THIS RACE OR DOES THIS RACE MAKE YOU NERVOUS MOST YEARS?
“Oh, it always makes you nervous because you always want to win the biggest race of the year. But when I say nervous, it’s not like you lose sleep over it. But I guess today when I say I’m calm about it, it’s like I’m really happy with my car. I got out and I looked at (crew chief) Steve Addington and he’s like I’m content if you are and I’m like I honestly don’t know what else to ask for with the car. So, it’s nice from a driver’s side to be able to say I don’t know what else to ask you for. I don’t know what else I need. So, it’s a good scenario. When there’s not a scratch on it, it’s ready to race. Those guys are going to have the whole day tomorrow to just get everything ready and go over everything with a fine-tooth comb and make sure everything is absolutely perfect and ready for Sunday. That’s a position I don’t know that we’ve ever been in. I think we’ve always run final practice and if nothing else, at least run 15 or 20 laps in final practice. To have this year and know that we’re finished and ready to go, it’s nice for those guys to have that opportunity and time to get ready for the race and we’re not going to be doubled-up tomorrow, so we’ll have a pretty relaxing day tomorrow to get ready for Sunday.”
RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING HASN’T ALWAYS BEEN RELAXING TO YOU. CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE CHANGE AND THE NATURE OF PLATE RACING WITH THIS GEN-6 CAR AND IF YOU LIKE IT OR NOT
“I love it. I love actually being able to see through the car in front of me and see what’s going on and not just being cramped up the bumper of the guy up in front of you and trying to make sure you’re in the right spot to try to get an opening of air. It’s a lot more fun, at least from my standpoint as a driver. I like it a lot better than the tandem style that we had. You’ll never hurt my feelings if I never have to physically push another car again in the Cup Series the rest of my life.”
TONY, YOU DIDN'T HAVE THE SEASON YOU WANTED LAST YEAR, HAS DANICA'S PERFORMANCE THIS WEEK AND THE SUCCESS OF YOUR THREE CARS ENERGIZED YOU?
"I don't know that Daytona energizes you. It is once you go to two or three 1.5-mile tracks that you get excited about what you've got. Daytona is Daytona. It is kind of a separate entity than the rest of the season. This week has been an awesome week. We didn't end up with the finish we wanted in the Unlimited the other night, but still had a strong run. Showed strength in the race. Sunday (qualifying) was a dream for a car owner to have your three cars in the top-five spots on the grid. Danica and I got through unscathed. Ryan (Newman) had a problem yesterday (in the Duel races). We know what it was. We know what to do to solve it to keep that from happening again. He's in a backup car, and he seems to like his backup car so far. As far as the 10 days that you are down here, it is kind of a mini season of it's own just getting through the 500. Up to this point, it's been really, really good. Obviously, being here today talking about a new sponsor for three races - that's been the icing on the cake so far."
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD MEAN FOR THIS SPORT IF DANICA WERE TO WIN ON SUNDAY? AND IF YOU TWO ARE RUNNING ONE AND TWO, WILL THAT THOUGHT CROSS YOUR MIND AT ALL?
"No, it will not. And you guys will know more what it means than we will. We just try to figure out how to win races. I mean, it was huge obviously. You are asking me before it happens, and I got to see how big it was after she got on the pole what it meant, and how big it was news-wise. I'm just guessing knowing how big it was after qualifying, if she were to win the race, it would be huge."
DO YOU THINK DANICA HAS BEEN HANDICAPPED JUST WORRYING ABOUT NOT WRECKING THE CAR, AND NOT REALLY DOING A WHOLE LOT OF DRAFTING AS FAR AS PREPARATION FOR THIS RACE? THE NATIONWIDE RACE WILL BE A TANDEM RACE, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE FROM THAT RACE TO SUNDAY?
"No, not at all. It's two totally different forms of drafting. Two different styles. So tomorrow won't do anything. As far as handicapping, I don't know that it has handicapped her at all. It is a 500 mile race, she is going to learn a lot during the race as well as what she learned yesterday. Yesterday her car was tight. She just didn't have the car to get up there. She had speed today in practice. Her car is really fast too, so I mean, she's got the car she needs. It's just a matter of being in the right positions. Yesterday it was hard to be in the right position. I think the 500 miles will be a trial and error process for everybody including her to learn what we need to do for those last 100 miles to get in position to try and win."
DANICA SAID SHE WILL GET AFTER IT ON SUNDAY. WILL YOU RUN YOUR OWN RACE, OR WILL YOU WANT TO GO WITH HER AND GET IN THE DRAFT WITH HER TO GIVE HER SOME SUPPORT?
"You obviously want to work with your teammates. Nobody has mentioned Ryan Newman. I don't know if you guys know, but he's my teammate too. He drives the No. 39 car for Stewart-Haas. Been there for five years now. Just to let you know that we do actually have another teammate too that runs for us. Yea, we'll do anything we can to work with our teammates. For 400 miles...working with your teammates for the first 100 miles isn't going to accomplish anything. You aren't helping anything, but you aren't hurting anything. You have to try stuff that you want to try when you want to try it, and learn the things you need to learn for those last 100 miles. Other than that. In a perfect scenario, you are helping a teammate, or a teammate is helping you at the end. That's what you would like to have. But, there's going to be times and scenarios during the day - pit stops - there's going to be a lot of things that happen that don't lead you to necessarily being around your teammate all the time. You can't just stop what you are doing because you have a teammate somewhere else in every scenario."
YOU'VE BEEN IN THE POSITION WHERE YOU'VE SWEPT EVERYTHING COMING INTO THE 500 AND EVERYBODY SAID 'OH HE'S THE FAVORITE', AND YOU KNOW THAT DOESN'T TRANSLATE TO ANYTHING. NOW KEVIN (HARVICK) IS SORT OF IN THAT POSITION, AND HE'S BUILDING STEAM AS THE GUY TO BEAT. NO. 1 IS HE THE GUY TO BEAT? NO. 2 WHY CAN YOU RUN WELL AND WIN EVERYTHING AND THEN NOT PULL IT OFF ON THE BIG DAY AND THE ONE THAT COUNTS?
"You don't have the whole field in either of the two races leading up to it is part of that reason. It is a 20-car or 22-car shootout on Saturday night. You have half the field, which is about the same amount of cars, 22 or 23 cars, on Thursday. Sometimes the scenarios just don't work out. Sometimes you have bad luck that didn't creep up in the first two races. There is just a number of things that can happen on Sunday's race that don't happen, or hadn't happened up to that point in the other two races. I think it is actually a good position for Kevin this week. It doesn't seem to be as easy to come from the back to the front as it has been in the past. I think having that experience, and the laps that he has led up front, he's learned a lot that can be really, really valuable at the end if he's in that scenario again. That is good knowledge to have going into Sunday's race."