DAYTONA, FL – Tony Stewart, scored his fourth victory and 13th top-10 finish in 28 points races at Daytona International Speedway with a thrilling move in the final laps to take the win. All of his career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) points wins have come at the Coke Zero 400, which runs every July. It is his 18th victory all-time at Daytona International Speedway, second-most all-time to Dale Earnhardt. The win almost assures the Stewart-Haas driver another spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and a shot to repeat as NSCS champion. With his 47thcareer NSCS victory tonight, he moves up four positions to fifth in the overall point standings through 18 races so far in 2012.
Tony Stewart and Steve Addington Winners Press Conference Transcript:
KERRY THARP: We’re joined now by our race winner of the 54th annual Coke Zero 400, and that driver is Tony Stewart. He drove the No. 14 Mobil1/Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart?Haas Racing. He’s joined by his crew chief Steve Addington. For Tony this is his third win in 2012, so him and Keselowski now are tied for the most wins in the series, and that pays dividends come Chase time with the bonus points. 18 wins now at Daytona overall, 18 wins at Daytona, second all?time behind Dale Earnhardt. 47 wins in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, that is now 14th all?time passing Hall of Fame inductee Buck Baker. Congratulations. Certainly there was a lot of action out there, particularly late in the race, but how did you get to the checkered flag?
TONY STEWART: The guy sitting next to us, honestly. We started at the back there and were a little ?? probably too cautious ?? I was a little too cautious at the beginning, and we came out of the pits after that first green flag stop, and we lost connection with the lead pack there and got with Brad Keselowski and David Ragan and just tried to minimize the damage there as far as the time we were losing.
But got a caution there and got regrouped. Just made sure that when the green came out that time I didn’t wait, and we got going on the outside and gained a lot of spots there and got ourselves in the top 10. Then Steve had a great call there that actually got us the lead with two tires there, I think three stops or two stops from the end or two cautions from the end, and yeah, that was the key. We were able to hold that track position, got the lead on the restart, and we just ?? we were pretty good on the bottom. The biggest challenge was the 17 and 16 car obviously, and when they hooked up, I don’t think there was anybody that could beat them. But we were able to stay in touch with them, and I got a great restart with Kasey Kahne helping me on that last restart there. I’m not sure how he got shuffled back there in 1 and 2, but we just had to try to separate the 17 and 16 there, and once we got them pulled apart, I think Matt tried to reconnect with Greg, and we carried enough momentum to get back around in front of him and get down on that bottom line. I tried to back up to Matt to make sure they didn’t get a huge run on us. They were coming on the outside in 3 and 4 and the last wreck happened there, we were just fortunate enough to be leading still.
KERRY THARP: Steve Addington, certainly the crew played a big role in tonight’s win. Just talk about how things went on pit road and also some of the key changes maybe you guys made during the course of the of the event.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Well, having started last it was kind of tough. I think once we got the caution and got back up there, we were losing touch with the lead pack there when Brad and David Ragan and Tony were sitting there running the lap times, I was getting a little worried. But then I was hoping we would get a caution and we got one and we got up in there. The guys do an awesome job on our pit stops week in and week out. They wrote off a good pit stop, and they ran off about eight laps there, and my engineer was telling us, if we come now, we can do it on one can if it goes green until the end.
So we decided to come and put right sides on then and then top off the fuel. So that put us in the position for the late race caution deal, and we came down and got right sides and one can of fuel and we could make it to the end, and that got us the lead.
Q. Tony, I know you’ve probably tried to explain this before, but one more time, how do you explain to people the fact that you are obviously no fan of this style of racing, yet you happen to be rather good at it? How do you explain that correlation there?
TONY STEWART: I wish I could explain it. You know, it’s hard. I mean, it’s hard, the great thing about it is that 43 cars all have the same shot at winning the race. But that’s also part of what makes it frustrating, too.
We’ve had really good luck at Daytona, obviously, and I wish I could trade a couple of these races in for just one Sunday race in February. You know, it’s just being at the right place at the right time, and when those last two big wrecks happened we were in the right spot. We were ahead of them both times.
Q. Tony, given how strong Kenseth and Biffle were going into that final ?? the restart, how did you feel? Did you feel you still had a good shot to overtake them?
TONY STEWART: I knew I had a good car behind me with Kasey Kahne, obviously, knowing that those two guys were going to be teamed up with each other on the bottom, I was surprised we got as good a restart as we did. Kasey did a great job of getting hooked on the bumper right away, and it seemed like we actually held our own and actually we were better on the outside than those two cars were.
But that was key was being able to keep hooked up, and when we were leading on the bottom before that last caution, two different times those guys got hooked up together, and when they did, they were like a steam train coming on the outside. I’m sure if I would have backed up to Kyle Busch, we would have been pretty fast, too, but I’m not sure if we could have held those two off.
Q. Two questions, Tony: One, close calls tonight, what was the closest call that you had to getting caught up in all of the craziness that was going on? And secondly, I don’t know if you look at it like that, but three wins already this year is a very strong statement towards the championship and just continuing what you did last year, if you could speak to that.
TONY STEWART: I’m not sure, we got pretty fortunate to not have any of those close calls when Kurt Busch had that one problem in 1 and 2. That was the closest to drama that we had, and it really wasn’t that bad. The ones after that seemed to be a lot bigger and caught up a lot more cars.
And for the most part, I guess probably the fact that we were looking at going a lap down because we lost touch with that lead draft was probably the biggest drama we had. But really proud of Steve and really proud of everybody at Stewart?Haas Racing and the Hendrick engine and chassis department, really pleased with the first half the season. I think there was some races that we lost some opportunities on, but I think there were races that we capitalized on that we haven’t been able to in the past. I think on the average, we’re really looking good right now. So proud of the effort with everybody. On the average I feel like we’re making gains.
It’s nice to come into this weekend and leaving here tonight, I’m leaving with a big weight lifted off our shoulders. I think qualifying yesterday was what I was most proud of for the weekend, and even though we lost our time, having those two cars come here and be second and third separated by only eight thousandths of a second it shows how good a job the guys did at our race shop. Really proud of everybody in our organization, and I feel like that we showed some strength today.
Q. Tony, this is the last time that this edition of the Car of Tomorrow or whatever you want to call it will run at Daytona since you’re going to the new cars next year. Can you summarize your thoughts on how this car has performed at Daytona?
TONY STEWART: I guess they’ve been fine. I mean, it’s ?? the hard part is that we’re all running wide open and we’re all in a pack and we can’t get away from each other, so I’m not sure it’s the car that necessarily has done that. But I think every time we come here, the field is more competitive, and it’s proven by how many guys have a shot to win the race, guys that you won’t see up front next week were guys that you saw at some point that were in the top 10 tonight.
It shows how good a job everybody does at the restrictor plate tracks, and it is proof that everybody has a shot to win these things and to run in the top 5 when they get here, it’s just a matter of getting that luck on your side and being at the right place at the right time and having that opportunity.
Q. Tony, just a little bit off the subject, the other day you did a commercial with Darrell Gwynn, and the production people, you came in and spoke your lines. You looked at the lines for about 20 seconds, you pulled it off and you impressed everybody with your ability to do that. I was just wondering your skills as a driver are obvious, but could you kind of explain that? Was it all that experience in doing that?
TONY STEWART: I credit Columbus North High School for all of that. I can read lines. I don’t think I do any better job than anybody else. There was another guy there that memorized his lines. I just came in and read the cards that they had for me.
But I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you are, and after about 17 or 18 years of either racing stock cars or IndyCars, we’ve done it a little bit. So it’s not totally new to us.
Q. This obviously is a little different than after Talladega, so I’m curious, from your seat, is the racing any different here than Talladega, or is today just survive the wrecks and be up front?
TONY STEWART: I think we just survived the wrecks. I mean, you look at where we were at when they happened, they happened right behind us each time. The track position that Steve got us, that was very key. I mean, if we got stuck fourth or fifth on back, we were going to be one of those cars that got caught in the wreck. Fortunately we were ahead of them both times. But looking at the replays of the last two cautions, it’s not any different here.
KERRY THARP: Tony, congratulations on your nomination for the ESPY coming up as Driver of the Year. Maybe just talk about what that means, particularly for your racing organization to be held in such high esteem.
TONY STEWART: It’s an honor just to be nominated. I’m really proud of our group, like I mentioned about this year. I was really proud of what they were able to accomplish the last 10 weeks last year, and any time you get nominated in that category with so many great race car drivers, it’s just an honor to be considered. So very appreciative of that.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations, Tony and Steve, and continued good luck the rest of the year. We’ll see you at New Hampshire.