Stewart talks about his fine, splitting duties with Dillon

Tony Stewart dressed as a fairy talks to the media
Tony Stewart, dressed as a fairy, talks to the media at Talladega Friday while Danica Patrick looks on

Tony Stewart met with the media Friday at Talladega Superspeedway:

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE WHOLE LUGNUT CONTROVERSY, WHICH HAS BEEN RESOLVED WITH THE RULES CHANGE? WHAT WENT INTO YOUR DECISION TO MAKE THE DONATION TO THE AUTISM SOCIETY?

Stewart: "I've been trying to figure out how many more $35,000 rules changes I want to make (laughter). I'm glad that something has been done. Scott Miller is a huge asset to NASCAR right now. And from what I understand, he's the one who spearheaded getting something done.

"You hate to have to pay $35,000 to get somebody's attention to do something, but apparently that's what it took. I've got questions that I'd like to have answers to. I'm still wondering why I'm paying a $35,000 fine for something that got changed three days later. But, it is what it is. I was gone that evening when the announcement came out that I was getting the fine and the Driver Council, we all have a chat that we get in and when I was able to get back on my phone for 90 messages of discussions of what went on with those guys and I realized what they had done at about three in the morning. I didn't want to take their money.

"I appreciated their support and I think they made a huge statement about what the Driver Council is about and the fact that they didn't believe what I did deserved the fine. And with that, that's why they decided to support us and help split the fine with me. I didn't feel comfortable taking the money. And so what we decided as a group was to put the money together and give it to a great charity.

"Artie Kemper (founder of Autism Delaware) is a great friend to everybody in NASCAR and is somebody that we all as a group know personally and we thought that would really make a big difference. So that's why we chose that charity. But we did it collectively, as a group; and that's something I'm really proud of with this Driver Council is how the drivers are united about everything that we're doing.

"This was the first time something had happened where somebody on the Council got a penalty for speaking an opinion and for them to show that kind of support and show that we're all one unit; and that's something that you don't normally see and we haven't seen in this sport. Guys talk amongst each other, but somebody gets in trouble for something where the rest of the drivers, privately, will support it but can't publicly support it. So this was the first time that we've seen public support like that and I think it went a long way." Chevy Racing PR

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BASS PRO SHOPS CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed splitting driver duties with Ty Dillon this weekend at Talladega, the Driver Council, recent issues regarding lugnuts, and more. Full Transcript:

IT SEEMS LIKE THE SAME DRIVERS ARE WINNING AT THE PLATE TRACKS, REPEATEDLY. WHY IS THAT?

“I think it’s the same philosophy as it has been as far as drivers knowing what to do and what to look for as far as how to read what they need with their cars in practice to know how to pass in the race. You look at the guys that are really good at these places it is guys that are good at both Daytona and Talladega and they know how to work the draft. I think it’s kind of a second wave of drivers since Dale Earnhardt has been gone, that have really figured it out. I think Dale (Earnhardt) Junior and I had a pretty good run together when we were doing tandems together. It seemed like we always got hooked-up at the end of the races here. The unfortunate part is that I always got the lower end of the deal finishing second, but he always won. But as far as I was concerned on points, that was a pretty good day for us to finish second here. We were willing to do that a lot here. I think it’s just that guys have figured out how to pass and how to get that momentum and how to get enough momentum to get by without the car stalling out."

ARE YOU GOING TO BE IN TY DILLON’S SEAT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE? WILL YOU BE COMFORTABLE? ARE YOU GOING TO BE RUNNING THE ROOF HATCH?

“I’m assuming we’re running the roof hatch but I don’t plan on going out that way. It’s not a way I’ve ever planned on going out of anything was through the roof. I don’t know. There was one girl I dated that I had to exit in a little different direction than what I needed to (laughter). But that was a different story. It had nothing to do with racing. Honestly, the entire race car has Ty set-up in it (like) seats, belts, headrests, steering wheel. Everything is going to be Ty’s. The reason for that is because I want him to be as comfortable as he can be. I’m going to do what I always do around here at the beginning of the race and just ride around in the back until we get the first caution. So, it’s not going to be very glamorous on my part, but it’s functional to accomplish the goal that we need to and that’s meeting the surgeons halfway in saying they didn’t want us to run this race. We need the points and so we talked them into letting us to at least start the race. I told them it normally doesn’t go more than two or three laps at the beginning of the race before a caution. It might go 82 or 83 laps, who knows? But, we’ll run until it gets there. I don’t think, realistically, Ty is a little bit taller than me, but for the most part everything in the car is fairly similar. That’s why we’re pretty confident that I’m going to be more than comfortable running his seat right now."

IF THE RACE WERE TO GO AS LONG WITHOUT THE FIRST CAUTION LIKE IT DID LAST OCTOBER, WOULD YOU POSSIBLY CHANGE THE PLAN AND WOULD RUN THE ENTIRE RACE?

“I still think the goal is going to be for when the first caution comes out. And if it means we go 80 laps or 100 laps or whatever, it’s not likely that the race will go that long without a caution, but if it does, the level of intensity is pretty sanitary at that point. It’s not really ramping-up yet. So, I don’t feel like there’s any danger in that. It’s later in the race when guys are really having to make things happen; that’s the part of the race when we really need to be out of the car. There will be ample time to get that caution to get us out. The good thing is that Talladega is so big that even if it’s 40 laps from the end of the race when Ty gets in it, he’s going to have enough time to do what he needs to do. Hopefully it will happen sooner than later; and that way he can get into the flow of the race earlier than later and he’ll be fine. Everything that he’s done in our car this year has been awesome. I think he’s done a fantastic job and I think he’ll be fine this weekend as well."

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE WHOLE LUGNUT CONTROVERSY, WHICH HAS BEEN RESOLVED WITH THE RULES CHANGE? WHAT WENT INTO YOUR DECISION TO MAKE THE DONATION TO THE AUTISM SOCIETY?

“I’ve been trying to figure out how many more $35,000 rules changes I want to make (laughter). I’m glad that something has been done. Scott Miller is a huge asset to NASCAR right now. And from what I understand, he’s the one who spearheaded getting something done. You hate to have to pay $35,000 to get somebody’s attention to do something, but apparently that’s what it took. I’ve got questions that I’d like to have answers to. I’m still wondering why I’m paying a $35,000 fine for something that got changed three days later. But, it is what it is. I was gone that evening when the announcement came out that I was getting the fine and the Driver Council, we all have a chat that we get in and when I was able to get back on my phone for 90 messages of discussions of what went on with those guys and I realized what they had done at about three in the morning. I didn’t want to take their money. I appreciated their support and I think they made a huge statement about what the Driver Council is about and the fact that they didn’t believe what I did deserved the fine. And with that, that’s why they decided to support us and help split the fine with me. I didn’t feel comfortable taking the money.

“And so what we decided as a group was to put the money together and give it to a great charity. Artie Kemper (founder of Autism Delaware) is a great friend to everybody in NASCAR and is somebody that we all as a group know personally and we thought that would really make a big difference. So that’s why we chose that charity. But we did it collectively, as a group; and that’s something I’m really proud of with this Driver Council is how the drivers are united about everything that we’re doing. This was the first time something had happened where somebody on the Council got a penalty for speaking an opinion and for them to show that kind of support and show that we’re all one unit; and that’s something that you don’t normally see and we haven’t seen in this sport. Guys talk amongst each other, but somebody gets in trouble for something where the rest of the drivers, privately, will support it but can’t publicly support it. So this was the first time that we’ve seen public support like that and I think it went a long way."

WHAT IS YOUR IN AND OUT OF THE CAR PLAN AS FAR AS PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING GO? HOW IS IT WORKING WITH TY DILLON?
“Ty is very easy to work with. Bristol and Atlanta where I got to kind of be a mentor role there he did an awesome job. Just little things that you see, chime in on the radio and say ‘hey you might think about this’ and you would see him try it. And then you would hear him give the feedback of well it worked or it didn’t work and this is what about it didn’t work. His feedback was really good. I think working with him has been very easy so far. It’s been great from that standpoint.

“Honestly, I don’t know what I have to do. I don’t know if I have to make a lap in practice, if I have to qualify the car. I don’t have to qualify the car, so I’m going to run as little as I have to. The big thing I think is getting Ty out there, especially at the first group of each practice is when you normally see the bigger group. I think it’s real important for him to be in the car at those points to make sure that he is feeling everything he needs to feel balance wise and the feedback that he can give to ‘Buga’ (crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz). I think that is real important. If I have to make a lap we will make it sometime at the end of practice. It will just be for a formality. It will be get in make a full lap and come back in. It won’t be very glamorous today."

DO YOU THINK YOU CAN CALL UP SOMEONE AT NASCAR OUTSIDE OF THE REALM OF WHAT JUST HAPPENED AND GO TELL PEOPLE? WOULD THEY LISTEN?
“I think to a certain degree. I think that is, more importantly, that is why the driver council was started. It is to give us a voice and a collective voice. The hard part, and the scenario that NASCAR doesn’t want to get in and can’t get into, we saw this with CART years ago on the IndyCar side, was everybody is going to have an opinion about what to do; most of the time it’s something that is going to benefit themselves. So, to have a driver council where you have driver’s from all three manufacturers and different teams and organizations having a unified voice and everybody saying the same thing it’s validation to NASCAR that this isn’t about one individual group and what we want to help ourselves. It’s what we think as a group is best for everybody. That is why it’s so important to have this started. NASCAR had done a great job with it.

“To answer your question, I don’t know. I just got Brain France’s number yesterday. I’m happy I’ve got that now. I might call him at midnight to see if I can get ahold of him, just because I’m up at that hour. I just want to see if Brian is up at that hour. He will probably call me back at six in the morning to see if I’m up, which, won’t work very well for me either. We do and we have those conversations, but sometimes I think the sense of urgency and the sense of this really is an issue sometimes gets numbed with everything else that is going on topic wise. That was something with the lugnuts that it was proof that it was getting worse not better. Sometimes you’ve got to shake them.

“Apparently, I shook too hard. It’s just figuring out how to communicate with them and that is getting better. We’ve got a driver council meeting here in Talladega tonight. I’m excited about that. I’m excited to have been a part of it last year and I’m able to be a part of it this year before I move on to see the foundation that is being laid. It’s really a positive thing. There are a lot of drivers that are doing more work than I am with it right now. I’m kind of sitting back and watching what is going on because I’m only going to be on here for another six, eight months or whatever it is until the season is over. I’m really proud and I feel really strong that there is a lot of good leadership in the council right now and that the foundation that is being laid there will carry on for years to come down the road."

DANICA PATRICK: “I just have one thing to chime in to about answering your question. We have seen this in good and bad ways, but I think that the social pressure from articles, fans and social media, whatever the chatter is tends to be a little bit of the pulse of what the story is. And what provokes NASCAR to do something. I think sometimes it works in a good way and that everyone chimes in and says ‘why wouldn’t you just police this’ and I think sometimes opinions aren’t as intelligent and maybe they are just forced into making dramatic fines and penalties because people are raising their voices. Would anything have gotten done if he would have called? I don’t know. I have no idea; I haven’t been in the sport long enough. But, just from my observation is that there is a certain pulse to what happens when everybody finds out and the conversations that happen in the newspapers and on TV and in social media."

HOW WOULD YOU FEEL MAKING THE CHASE IF TY DILLON WINS THIS WEEKEND? ON THE LUGNUT ISSUE, DID YOU FORESEE THINGS GETTING TO THE POINT THAT THEY DID GET TO THE LAST FEW WEEKS, AS FAR AS TEAMS TAKING RISKS OR DID YOU NOT?
“We saw the same things you guys saw. You are seeing more and more cars each week that were having loose wheels. Most of it happened early in races and gave drivers time to get back, but the thing that really was a huge concern to me was if you are a driver that hasn’t made the Chase yet and say you are leading the race with 10 laps to go here at Talladega and you’ve got a loose wheel. What do you do? Do you pit and give up that win or do you take a chance that you might make it to the end and lock yourself in for the season? That is a huge decision. I’m still trying to figure out why as a driver we were put in that position to have to make that decision, because if the wheel comes off it’s a penalty for your crew chief and a fine. If it comes off and goes into the stands it’s on us as a driver. If we crash the car or crash other cars it’s on us as a driver. I don’t understand why we were being put in that position in the first place to have to make that decision. Yeah, we’ve been thinking about it a lot. Standing on the roof at races up until last weekend you are watching cars come down pit road and you are like ‘what happened’ and you hear on the scanner it’s a loose wheel. You didn’t used to hear that. It needed to be brought up and it needed to be discussed.

“The crazy part was I wasn’t the first person that brought it up. I was down the food chain of guys that had already discussed it and talked about it. I talked about it and got my hand slapped. Obviously, it was the way that I talked about it, which I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I said or what the word or the phrase was that got me in trouble. When it comes to something like that that is a safety issue, fine or not I think you’ve got to speak your mind and you’ve got to be honest about it. I hope this doesn’t discourage drivers for standing up for what they believe and what they think is right for everybody, not just their selves."

ON GETTING INTO THE CHASE VIA A TY DILLON WIN AT TALLADEGA:
“I mean I appreciate that. I don’t think I will feel good about it if I were to get a spot that way. I know I wouldn’t feel good about it. I think for me to make the Chase it needs to be because I ran the whole race and won the race. Not started it and somebody else won it for me."

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