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July 14, 2015

Tony Stewart

THE MODERATOR:  Good morning, everyone.  Thank you for joining us.  We've been joined by Tony Stewart, driver of the No.14 Bass Pro Shops Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart/Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Stewart has three wins and 14 top fives at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  In addition, Stewart is celebrating 10 years of ownership of Eldora Speedway which hosts the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on July 22nd, and later that week the Columbus, Indiana, native will return home for the Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track at which he has two victories.
Tony, you have a pretty busy month of July with New Hampshire, Eldora and Indianapolis Motor Speedway all on deck.  Obviously Eldora and IMS mean a lot to you personally.  How do you approach the next two weeks?
TONY STEWART:  Everything's coming along pretty well.  The easy thing that makes it work is you have a great staff around you to where it makes it where all the heavy lifting has already been done before you get there.
It's two weeks coming up that I really look forward to, honestly.
THE MODERATOR:  We'll now go to the media questions for today's NASCAR teleconference guest, Tony Stewart.

Q.  Tony, you've got the All‑Star Circuit of Champions Series, you've got Eldora, then the team.  Did you learn anything from those organizations that you can bring over to ownership for the race team and apply it to the NASCAR world?
TONY STEWART:  Definitely.  Mainly just from the standpoint that you're managing people.  You know, I learned from a pretty good car owner to begin with with Joe Gibbs, when I was there with him for 12 years.
To own race teams, a racetrack and now a series, for it all to be successful, it's about having the right people in the right places, just learning how to manage those people.
It is a big learning experience, but I really enjoy it at the same time.

Q.  Being here in Columbus, Indiana, we were wondering if you've had any news about whether your house made it through the storm last night?
TONY STEWART:  I haven't heard anything, so...  Now I'm a little nervous about it.  But I would have got word from somebody if something would have happened.

Q.  I wanted to ask you, as a driver, when you go to tracks, let's say dirt tracks, you probably look at things the track needs.  As an owner, do you look at things differently than you did as a driver because maybe some things that a driver would want aren't feasible?  Were there things as a driver you might have wanted that as an owner aren't feasible?
TONY STEWART:  As a driver, you're thinking about one thing, and that's how to win the race.
But to go and be in the role that I'm in now, I try to think from everybody's angle, whether it's a fan, whether it's a driver, an owner, a sponsor.  You try to think of every angle of everybody that's going to be there, not just being there as a driver.
It definitely changes your perspective, how you look at everything.

Q.  Over the 10 years, obviously as an owner you've got to draw a fan base and keep them going there.  Is there anything you found over the 10 years that you think as an owner is most important as far as getting fans at your track and keeping things rolling?
TONY STEWART:  I think for short tracks especially, a lot of it's just getting the word out there.  You have your diehard fan base, of course, that's going to support all your events.  For our track, we don't host just one type of racecar there.  We have the super dirt models, we have wing sprint cars, we have non‑wing cars.  All those divisions have their diehard fans that won't miss a race when it comes.
I talked to a guy that's a farmer that literally lives a mile‑and‑a‑half straight down the road from Eldora and he's never been to a race.  It's conversations like that.  You realize it's getting the word out and letting people know you have a track around them.
Having an event with the Mud Summer Classic with the Truck Series, that's huge for us to get non‑traditional fans to come to the track and have a good experience.  They hopefully will want to come back and watch what we do there weekly.

Q.  Any chance of owning a track around Columbus?  There's been tracks here in the past.
TONY STEWART:  I think I've got all I can handle.  Something would have to go away for me to add something else now.

Q.  New Hampshire is coming up on the docket for you.  It's a track that you had some success.  It comes at a time of year where you typically have gotten hot.  Coming into this race, though, only one top 10.  What is your mindset coming into this race?  Do you feel it's a race that could spark something for you?
TONY STEWART:  Honestly, we're just kind of trying to get our program back on track.  I don't know that we've circled any track and said anything right now.  It's been a disappointing year up to this point.  It seems like no matter what the package is, we seem to fight the same balance.
So, you know, we're desperately trying to figure out what it's going to take to move the needle, I guess, so to speak.  You know, you hope you get it done at a race like the Brickyard, for sure.  The big thing is trying to figure out what's going on and trying to find out what we got to do to move the needle a little bit.

Q.  In terms of the packages that you're talking about, what effect have these rule changes that you've seen, most recently Kentucky, how did that manifest itself, and what was your take on the outcome of these rule changes?
TONY STEWART:  Well, I think honestly I'm not sure I'm the best judge of it.  We're fighting the handling of our car so bad right now that I'm not sure I'm a real good judge of it.
You know, it was a pretty considerable change package‑wise going into this weekend.  Balance‑wise my car didn't change.  I think there's guys that could tell you a lot more accurately about what the feel of it was better than I could at this point because we weren't close enough to getting our car driving good to really understand it.

Q.  As a car owner, would you find it inconceivable that you could have a driver who missed 11 races this year because of injury, came back, wins two races, but because he's not in the top 30 would be locked out of getting into the Chase?  Does that seem inconceivable to you?
TONY STEWART:  Well, I don't know.  I feel like no matter what I say on this, it's going to put me in a bad spot.
I think Kyle's done an awesome job.  I think he's came back, he's put 100% into it.  But there's rules, there's boundaries.  That's the way it is in life for everything.  I mean, is every situation fair?  Not necessarily.  Are there rules in place?  Do you have to put rules in place?  Absolutely.
I still think he'll get in the top 30.  I don't think we'll even have to worry about it.  He's definitely working hard enough to do that, I know that.
Like I said, I mean, I feel like no matter what I say, it's going to put me in a bad spot or a bad light.
I wouldn't like seeing it, especially as hard as he's worked to get healthy, to go out there and do what he's done.  Do you understand if he doesn't make the Chase, why, why the rules are in place?  Yeah, I absolutely understand that.  I can see it from both sides.

Q.  That's probably the clarity you gave as a guy who has been a track owner, a driver, and a team owner, too.

Q.  Tony, in 2011 you had such a dynamic improvement during the Chase.  Do you see any signs that you could have a similar improvement over the second half of this year or do you see more the improvements being more gradual?
TONY STEWART:  Honestly, you know, when we had the improvements in 2011, it literally was overnight.  I didn't see that coming obviously then.  So, I mean, to tell you whether it's going to be gradual or all at once, that's hard to say, as well.
To me, I don't care how we get there.  I don't care if it takes one week or if it takes six weeks to get there, the main thing is just getting there.
We're going to keep working hard and keep pushing to try to find that.  With the way this format is, I mean, all it takes is one good race for us to get in, top 30 in the points.  If we can find whatever it is that we've been missing, you know, one race can change our whole season.  That's the driving force every week.

Q.  With the Brickyard being such a special place for you, are you excited about going there and racing at home?  Or when you're struggling, is there some dread going there knowing you want to do so well, but you're kind of struggling at this time?
TONY STEWART:  Well, I mean, I don't think it's any secret to anybody that we're struggling.  So, you know, you're always excited to race at home.  I'm always excited to be at the Brickyard.  That's just a place that's special to me.
It's disheartening that we're not running good.  But I guess it would be a ton worse if we were running really well and all of a sudden we got to the Brickyard and didn't run well at the Brickyard.  That would be worst‑case scenario.
I think for us right now, we'll still work as hard as we can to get the best result we can get out of it.

Q.  Tony, I get so many calls from fans every week who say, How is Tony doing?  Are they making it better for him in the car?  You told me to tell people to leave off of Chad Johnston.  Are you still feeling like you're making progress?  Can you also mention how, you said you were struggling with the new package, how you would like to see NASCAR move forward on some of this?
TONY STEWART:  I don't know that I'm really good at giving direction at what NASCAR needs to do right now when we can't get our balance a little better than where we're at.
You know, I still really like working with Chad Johnston.  I don't feel like he's what's holding us back.  There's something about the way this package is that just doesn't suit my driving style.
So, you know, I'm holding him and the team back versus vice versa.  So it's just a matter of me trying to figure it out, figure out how to go forward and get our cars better.

Q.  How much would you have to change to fit with the new package?  How much of a change is it for you?
TONY STEWART:  Honestly, I don't know that because I haven't figured it out.  It's a scenario that when you drive for so long, you're used to one thing, I mean, coming into this year and taking the amount of horsepower they took out was a pretty radical change for the Cup Series.
I think it was more the horsepower reduction than it was anything that I feel like has hurt me this year.  I've grown up driving high‑horsepower cars, high power‑to‑weight ratio cars.  This hasn't been what I'm used to feeling.

Q.  Tony, I know you said you don't feel like you're a good barometer for the rules package because of the way you're running right now.  From an ownership standpoint, you're involved with three other teams there at Stewart‑Haas Racing, in addition to your own.  From an ownership standpoint, do you believe that NASCAR is headed in the right direction with these rules packages?
TONY STEWART:  Yeah, I mean, anything that's going to make the fans happier, you know, put better races on is in all of our best interests.  The part that's hard for the teams is the process, you know, changing this, changing that.  All that cost comes out of our pockets.  It doesn't come out of NASCAR's pocket.  NASCAR decides they want to change something, we're the ones that have to spend the money to do it.  They don't spend a dime to do it.  That's the part that's hard.
I think all of the owners will do whatever's in the best interest of making it better.  I just would like to see NASCAR share some of that expense versus saying, Hey, we got an idea, we want to try this, then the teams have to spend all the money to do it.

Q.  Speaking of expenses, talking about Eldora, first of all, I can't believe you've owned that track for 10 years now.  But you could go there and race when there's a big event and leave and not have to worry about who pays the power bill, who cuts the grass, all that.  You own the track, you have to worry about all that stuff.  What is it about ownership of a track, especially Eldora, what is it that appeals to you about that?
TONY STEWART:  Well, you know, when it came to actually owning Eldora, it didn't even start that way.  It was a phone call from Earl Baltes, and him saying that him and his wife thought that we were the right guy to continue on with Eldora down the road.  When you get an endorsement like that, it's like, I need to figure this out, I need to figure out how to do it.
When it comes to the day‑to‑day side, it's fun for me to pull in.  I can pull in and drive through the campground and see people having a good time.  I'm a race fan, too.  If I go there and the show runs smooth, watch a good race, then you see people when they're leaving, they're smiling, they're talking about what they saw, you know, that makes all that worthwhile.
A lot of it is you got to be passionate about it.  You've got to love what you're doing.  I love dirt track racing.  Always have, always will.  I love Eldora Speedway.  That's what I'm meant to do.  That's what I do on the side.  That's what my energy goes to.

Q.  Tony, I wonder where you feel like the sport has the most momentum right now, where it's making the greatest strides, and where you feel like it has to make the greatest strides?  Where is it the best right now?
TONY STEWART:  Honestly, I don't know.  It's a great question.
You know, I think the fact that we've been focusing so hard to get our program on track, it's kind of hard to see outside the 14 pit stall, to be honest, see what's going on outside.
But, you know, I guess if I had to look and say what I thought was the greatest thing, it's seeing NASCAR as a whole work with the teams and the drivers and be more accommodating as far as having the Drivers Council, the RTA, them working with NASCAR the way they are.  I mean, that's something in the 17 years I've been in the Cup Series I've never seen.
It was all right to walk in the trailer and give them an idea, and that's as far as it always went.  Now you're actually having meetings, working hand‑in‑hand with NASCAR.  I think that's something that I've never seen in this sport, which to me is really exciting as a driver and owner.  I think it's great.
So, you know, as far as the flipside of that, I really don't know what the answer is for that.  But, I mean, I definitely think that seeing NASCAR's involvement on the more personal side, I'd love to see Brian France show up at some of these council meetings and stuff, but I'm sure he's busy.

Q.  Tony, I'm curious, how does your schedule change coming back home with everything you have to do for the Brickyard?
TONY STEWART:  Well, I mean, the first half of the week's already taken with everything that's going on at Eldora.  I get back on Sunday.  I go all the way through Wednesday night, then we're up to Indy on Thursday.
It really doesn't change a lot from that standpoint.  You know, it just makes for a long week.  But, like I said, it's a long week that I look forward to.  It's a lot of stuff that I'm really excited about.
As far as when we start on Friday, it's really scheduling‑wise not much different.

Q.  Would you rather have more time here then?
TONY STEWART:  I always love to have more time at home.  I've been home a total of eight days this year, in Columbus, and that's not enough.

Q.  Tony, I wanted to ask you one thing.  This probably seems a long time ago now.  Back during the media tour you really seemed very upbeat and excited about getting back this season, getting started.  Talking about how it's turned out, I know Daytona is a hit‑or‑miss kind of thing, but when you got to Atlanta and Las Vegas and such, got actually on track, which you didn't do in the off‑season, did it kind of take the wind out of your sails a little bit as far as how you were anticipating and looking forward to the season?
TONY STEWART:  Yeah, it did.  You know, I wish I could say, No, it didn't.  But it did.  I mean, the whole year's been frustrating.  You know, it just seems like everywhere we go, we seem to fight the same balance.  That's the part that's been frustrating for the whole 14 car.
We're trying a ton of things and just can't seem to find anything that moves the needle and seems to make significant change.  Just seems like the further we go into the year, the more frustrating that gets, too.

Q.  When you said that one race could possibly change your season, is that why?  Because being able to get it turned around could change your whole outlook towards the rest of the year?
TONY STEWART:  Oh, yeah, absolutely, absolutely.  There's no doubt in my mind.  I mean, I feel like every weekend, it's the weekend we're going to find it.  It's disheartening, takes the wind out of your sails when you realize you haven't found it that week.
If you do get a day turned around, I'm not talking about a pit strategy or something like that that gives you a win.  That's definitely not what I'm talking about.  It's not strictly about a win.  If we get our car working and win a race because we have our car working well, it definitely can turn the season around.  With this format, it can change everything.
That's your reason not to give up.  That's your reason to keep fighting every week and show up at the track with the same attitude you did the week before.  You can go out there, win the race, get everything going.

Q.  Tony, from past experience, what went into the preparation and execution for a successful run at New Hampshire?
TONY STEWART:  Well, I don't think anything different than anywhere else.  But the thing about Loudon is with the long straightaways and tight corners, even though the corners seem pretty tight, they drive like they're long corners.  It's being able to keep your car tight enough on entry to the corner.
The big thing, when my cars have been the best there, they've rotated through the center of the corner.  You know, that little bit of being able to either carry more momentum or be able to kind of get the extra rotation on your car, square the exit up, that's a big key.  I'd say that's probably what the biggest key is going to be this weekend with the decreased horsepower, is just to be able to get your car to roll through the middle third of the corner.

Q.  Tony, obviously Jeff Gordon announced he's retiring at the end of this year, which seems to be a little bit younger than some other drivers.  On the other end of the scale, you have Mark Martin racing till he was in his early 50s.  When you look at your career and your future, how much longer do you see yourself doing this?
TONY STEWART:  Right now I'm just trying to figure out how to get my car working, to be honest with you.

Q.  The deal with Danica and Dale in Kentucky, did you kind of shrug your shoulders and say it's one of those racing deals and we move on or did you try to get in the middle of the scrum and try to referee it?
TONY STEWART:  I didn't need to get into the middle of anything.  It didn't have anything to do with me.

Q.  I ask you because she's part of your team, the connective tissue there.  Thank you.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you for joining us today, Tony.  We wish you the best of luck this weekend in New Hampshire.
TONY STEWART:  Thank you.
THE MODERATOR:  We thank the media for joining us.

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