TONY STEWART met with member of the media at Chicagoland Speedway and discussed last year’s title run, his strategy toward this year’s Chase and other topics. Full Transcript:
THIS IS WHERE IT ALL STARTED A YEAR AGO TALK ABOUT COMING TO CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY AND YOUR THOUGHTS NOW AS YOU GET READY TO DEFEND YOUR TITLE:
“It’s definitely exciting obviously it hasn’t been that long ago, 365 days ago was where it started like you mentioned. It seems like yesterday almost, it’s nice to be back. I’m glad we got the rain we got last night so it’s gone today. Our first practice went really well so just take it a day at a time still like we did last year and see if we can get some results.”
YOU HAVE WON TWO TITLES IN THE CHASE TWO DIFFERENT WAYS. IN 2005 YOU DIDN’T WIN A RACE AND STILL WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP, LAST YEAR YOU WON FIVE OF 10 RACES IS THERE AN APPROACH THAT YOU THINK NOW THAT YOU HAVE TO TAKE OR YOU JUST KIND OF LET THINGS FALL AS THEY MAY?
“It is such a guess. There isn’t really a set way of doing anything anymore. I think probably the one thing that everybody is probably more focused on after last year is the fact that every single point is going to be a big deal. Whether it’s leading a lap to get a point you know if you might stay out on a caution just to lead a lap and if you are not running well you might…if you get in a crash you can get that thing fixed and you are going to fight for every spot you can get just to get that one extra point. We all know what the value of it is, but as far as the approach each week you do the same thing the last 10 weeks that you do the first 26 weeks that gets you here.”
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DID LAST FALL?
“I mean it was a cool run. The hard part though is that was a year ago. I’ve got worry about what I’ve got to do to do it again this year. I can’t spend that much time thinking about what we did last year. That is why we did all the stuff at the end of the year to talk about what we did last year. It was an awesome run obviously, but it’s not something that I would have lost everything. I would have lost my house everything because I would have bet totally against what happened. I didn’t have the confidence that was even feasible for our team. It just shows you can sit here today and feel confident and it not work or you can be feeling like you’re going to run dead last and win five races you just don’t know.”
YOU PROBABLY KNOW MORE ABOUT THE CHASE THAN ANYONE. YOU ARE THE ONLY GUY THAT HAS WON IT BEFORE THE CHASE AND IN IT. YOU ARE THE ONLY GUY THAT HAS WON IT WITHOUT WINNING A SINGLE RACE AND YOU ARE THE GUY THAT HAS WON IT WITH THE MOST RACES. ALL THAT HAVING BEEN SAID YOU BEAT A GUY BY A TIE BREAKER WHO WAS CONSISTENT AND YOU WON HALF THE RACES. DO YOU THINK THE CHASE COULD BE WON WINLESS OR DO YOU THINK IT HAS CHANGED SO MUCH THAT A WIN IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY?
“I don’t know how you could predict it. How do you honestly and accurately predict that? You just said it yourself it’s been won so many different ways you answered your own question. There is no formula. There is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on what the 11 other guys that you are racing with do each week. It strictly is dictated by that. There isn’t a set formula. There is no blueprint there is no certain way of doing it. It’s just who can put together the 10 best weeks and there is no set way of doing it. There is no logical answer I guess. There is no answer. Anybody that plays in the World Series of Poker can’t tell you how many hands you have to win to win the tournament. You’ve got to play it one week at a time.”
WHILE NASCAR MIGHT BE DIFFICULT TO PREDICT COULD YOU TELL ME WHO’S GOING TO WIN THE FORMULA 1 DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP?
“If I could do that bud I would be sitting on my ass in a leather chair in Las Vegas and I wouldn’t be sitting here in the media center in Chicago. I would be making a lot more money sitting in the air conditioning getting free drinks from cocktail waitresses that are hot. So no I can’t do that. I wish I had that ability. I wish I could do that with all forms of auto racing, but I can’t unfortunately. That’s what makes this sport cool is because it’s really hard to predict.”
WHAT ABOUT THIS TRACK AND THE GROOVES AND THE BUMPS AND IT’S AGING AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TRACK AND WHAT YOU FACE THIS WEEKEND IN THIS RACE?
“That first hour and a half everybody started on the bottom and it didn’t take long to where we were using the entire race track in (turns) three and four and I think they are two-thirds to three-quarters of the way up in (turns) one and two. That is what is fun about this track is that it will move around and you might move to a certain spot at the beginning of a run you might move to another spot for the middle of the run and you may stay there at the end of the run or you may move back down to another spot. It’s kind of fun because you’ve got the seams you can play with. You can stay in a particular lane and depending on how your car is driving you have that ability as a driver to move around and help yourself out. That makes it fun for us. This place is so fast and so round and momentum driven. There is literally no straightaway on this race track there is not a straight part on it. You are constantly trying to get yourself in clean air, but the good thing is this track is wide enough groove wise that you can do that. You can move around and find that spot.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE FROM A DRIVER’S PERSPECTIVE TO REPRESENT MULTIPLE SPONSORS THROUGHOUT A SEASON FROM SOMEBODY WHO USED TO HAVE A SINGLE SPONSOR FOR 36 RACES A YEAR? IS IT MORE DIFFICULT WHEN YOU HAVE TO REPRESENT SO MANY BRANDS? IS IT BETTER FOR NASCAR MAYBE TO HAVE THAT CONTINUITY THAT YOU HAD ONCE AND PROBABLY WON’T HAVE AS MUCH NEXT YEAR?
“I don’t know if it’s better for NASCAR they would have a lot better idea from that stand point. The stand point I know is it is a lot more work, but it sure beats the alternative of not having a car sold for the whole season. As long as you’ve got something on there every week and it’s helping fund the program and let you do what you need to do and create the resources that you need to have. Yeah, it’s a little more work, but like I say it sure beats the alternative right now.”
HOW ARE THINGS COMING FOR NEXT YEAR?
“We are working like normal.”
LEE (SPENCER) WROTE THAT YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE BASS PRO SHOPS POSSIBLY REPLACE OFFICE DEPOT. CAN YOU CONFIRM OR DENY THAT OR COMMENT ON THAT?
“I never comment on anything Lee writes. I have made a pretty good habit of that in the last couple of years.”
WE HEAR SO MUCH ABOUT A PERSON WINNING A RACE AND FALLING INTO A GROOVE. IS WINNING THIS RACE A MENTAL ADVANTAGE TO YOU OR ANY DRIVER OUT HERE?
“I think it definitely gets you off to a good start. I think it helps for sure. It sets the tone, but last year we won here we went to Loudon and won and then we went to Dover and we ran 24th. It’s not something that fixes things that are wrong, but it’s always nice to get off to a good start. If you crash in this race and run 40th you feel like you are climbing Mt. Everest after that. You know very well that everybody could have a bad race, but if you start off with a bad race here it really makes you feel like it’s going to be a long road to recover from. If you have a good race you are just one step closer to your goal. I wouldn’t say it gives you that invincible feeling that just because you win here you are going to win the championship, but it’s nice to leave here with just a little bit of momentum knowing that you have nine more of them to go. It’s nice leaving here with some momentum on your side.”
THIS IS ONE OF THE LAST WEEKENDS WHERE YOU HAVE SATURDAY QUALIFYING. I WAS CURIOUS IF YOU HAD A PREFERENCE ON WHAT THE SCHEDULE IS ON A RACE WEEKEND? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT PREPARING FOR SATURDAY QUALIFYING HAVING NO PRACTICE AFTER QUALIFYING COMPARED TO MOST WEEKS WHERE YOU WILL HAVE FRIDAY QUALIFYING AND THEN PRACTICE SATURDAY?
“I like this schedule. I think it goes both ways. I think the teams liked it the other way. I think some of the other drivers liked it the other way. I like it this way. I like getting all the practice done and having it done by five o’clock on Friday and then all we have to do tomorrow is qualify. It at least gives you a day if you want to go downtown Chicago and enjoy an afternoon you have the ability to do that. If you want to go run a dirt sprint car somewhere you can go do that too. I like it from that stand point. I don’t guess it’s a big deal either way but I kind of like it this way I guess.”
DO YOU HAVE A SPRINT RACE YOU ARE GOING TO RUN TOMORROW NIGHT?
“I don’t have one tomorrow night unfortunately. I haven’t had one for a couple of weeks now. I have got three to four scheduled for the rest of the year so we are still not done yet.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH POTENTIAL KYLE LARSON HAS AND WHAT PROMOTED YOU TO PUT HIM IN ONE OF YOUR SPRINT CARS AT ELDORA IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS?
“I went to the 4-crown last year and I had heard about Kyle (Larson), but I hadn’t seen him very much. I went back and Loudon is kind of a long hike to back to Eldora and I missed qualifying and had to start at the back of the heat races and the back of the semi. I didn’t make the feature. I went back the next night and watched the 4-crown and watched Kyle (Larson) drive for three different teams and win all three divisions and he had never been to Eldora before. It was just something that caught the whole open wheel crowd by storm. This year I didn’t know if he had a ride for the sprint car portion of it with the Outlaws on Friday. I thought since I probably won’t be able to get back and I never put anybody in my car other than Donny Schatz or Steve (Kinser), but I thought it would be a cool opportunity because last year I wished I would have let him drive it on Friday and see if he could have won all four divisions. That is how it actually started. He is going to drive our silver crown car Saturday night. He has got a midget and sprint car ride for Saturday night with the USAC portion. The way the K&N schedule worked out he is not going to be able to get back on Friday night so he is still only going to get to run three of the four divisions. We had Levi Jones who had to have surgery on his neck and he’s out for the rest of the year. We got Chris Windom to drive the USAC sprint car the rest of the year and it gave us an opportunity to get Kyle (Larson) in the silver crown car there. I’m excited. I’m happy to have him in one of our cars finally. I’ve spent some time with the kid, I really like him and I think he’s going to be really good.”