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July 17, 2016

Tony Stewart

Loudon, New Hampshire

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's second‑place finisher in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series New Hampshire 301, and that is none other than Tony Stewart, driver of the No.14 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart‑Haas Racing. Tony, you're on a streak now; you're heating up in the summer, and it looked like it was quite the battle there in the final few laps here.
TONY STEWART: I'd say the last three restarts were pretty intense. You know, this track has always kind of had a history of one lane prevailing over the others, and everybody‑‑ you've got two lanes wide of cars that are trying to get to one lane every restart.
It seemed like it took a couple laps after the restarts for the track to rubber back in, and I think it was the best tire that Goodyear has brought here that I can remember in the 18 years I've been here. You could race all over the racetrack today, and it didn't seem like the aero situation was near as bad as what it has been in the past, so I was really happy with Goodyear brought.
But it was a fun race. We took a chance at the beginning and the plan was to take two on the first stop, and it really bit us. We got back to about 22nd, I think, and from then on it was just kind of fighting our way back. Nobody really took two until, I don't know, late in the race there were guys‑‑ I guess when Denny stayed out and a bunch of guys in front of us took two tires, and the 22 and 78 and us I think were the ones on four or something like that. We were able to start picking our way through there, and that was really good.
It was just the last three restarts were tough. You needed to be on that outside line and hope that the guy on the inside didn't push you up. The restarts are always, always interesting here, but if you could get through them and get through the chaos, you've got a shot at it.

Q. The run in Sonoma, how much difference did that make as far as what you guys have been able to do? Had you went out there and had an okay run, do you think you guys would be picking up steam like you seem to be now?
TONY STEWART: I still think we'd be picking up. You look at how we ran at Pocono until I crashed and then Michigan the following week, we picked up, and then weekend off or whatever, and then Sonoma. You know, I don't think Sonoma necessarily was an indication of why we ran good here, but it gave us a lot of confidence. It gave me a lot of confidence. It gave Mike confidence, really picked the morale of the team up. It was kind of‑‑ everybody was kind of on edge because everybody wants this last year to be good and we want to run good in this last year, so for Mike and I to get caught up with each other, we've really had to work hard at it, and I think he's done a great job, but I think Sonoma really helped kind of relax everybody and gets us in the mode of racing again and not really worrying about what we were looking like out there and why aren't were performing. But I feel like it started before Sonoma.
This weekend probably what I'm most proud of is we really weren't that strong, I don't think, off the truck. I mean, we were okay, but there were guys that were three tenths faster than we were all day on Friday and even yesterday they were a solid two tenths faster than we were, and to be able to work through things‑‑ Mike spent the whole‑‑ while I went to Eldora last night for Kings Royal, Mike was working all night, so my phone would vibrate in my pocket, and it's 11:00 at night and he's got a question still that he wants feedback on, and that's the stuff I like about him.
I mean, he's a workaholic, and I guarantee you he watched the entire race last night. The night before the race he watches every previous race there and just kind of watches what happens.
For a guy that's not been the head guy on the pit box for very long, he's got a lot of savvy about what's going on there. I feel like things are kind of gelling around us, and I feel like everybody is just kind of got that one‑‑ now everybody is just working, and I felt like from where we were on Friday to where we ended up today, it was a lot of momentum and a lot of gain through the weekend.

Q. I was just wondering, when you're kind of mired back there in 22nd and then all of a sudden there's some restarts and you're picking up some spots and then there's some attrition in front of you and you're fighting for a win, how does that change the mindset late in the race and how do you kind of go, okay, I'm going to go win this thing now?
TONY STEWART: To be honest, I don't think my mindset, even from the time that we took the two tires and restarted sixth and fell back to 22nd or whatever it was, and then the rest of it, I really don't think our mindset changed. You just kind of have to‑‑ this is one of those places that you get caught up racing each other, but you've still got to really race the racetrack more than anything, I believe. There were a couple times that we were racing around guys and we would catch them and then just got too tight when we got right up to them, and there were times that I thought I pulled some veteran moves and just kind of backed off of them and didn't really try to get up to them and watched them race each other, and then when you see them start missing the bottom or getting loose on the exit, then I went up there and tried to push them and make them make mistakes, and it was working.
That old age thing comes into play once in a while.

Q. You've had a lot of success here at New Hampshire. You have one race left, the Chase in September. How much confidence do you have after today that you can win that race and move onto the next round?
TONY STEWART: Well, a lot of things happened, but for sure I feel like we've got something to build on for when we come back. Both Mike and I feel like we've got some things to gain on. I hope everybody feels like what they've got is good enough, but I feel like we have room to gain from it, and he's the kind of guy that won't stop until he figures it out.
It's a solid weekend, but it's the spring race, and when you come back here in the Chase the whole atmosphere is different. We'll come back and do the best we can with it.

Q. On Eldora, the past couple years it's kind of been a nice distraction for you. Will it again feel like a nice distraction?
TONY STEWART: I think any distraction is a nice distraction from now until Friday morning. But it's a big weekend, obviously. I'm not going to downplay it because it's one of the most important weekends of the year for me being at home and racing in front of friends and family for the last time there. It'll be an emotional weekend for sure, but I've got a plan on how I'm going to approach the weekend, and I'm just going to stick to that plan and go about our work.

Q. If Gordon races next weekend, some of the spotlight might be off you. Would you welcome that even if it comes under those kind of circumstances?
TONY STEWART: Absolutely because I don't need spotlight on me anyway. I show up to race; I'm not the profile guy. That was Rusty Wallace and Jeff and some of these other guys. Rusty thrived on it, Jeff just deserved it. I've never cared about that. I just want to race. I'm a race car driver. I'm a racer. I don't care about all the hoopla. I just want to go race, and I want to have a good weekend and run well.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Indy has meant to you over the course of your career, whether it was racing in IndyCars, racing in Cup? Just what that place in particular means to you as a driver?
TONY STEWART: Well, it's home. I mean, any time‑‑ my home track versus somebody else's home track that might not have the history that Indianapolis has, it's a big deal for us, just because of the facility, what it is and what the tradition and history of it is. You know, it means a lot. Some of the greatest race car drivers in the world, whether it was IndyCar, Formula1, MotoGP, NASCAR, they've ran and won at the Brickyard, so that in itself makes it special.
I grew up my whole life in Indiana. I didn't move to Indiana. I didn't move to Indiana. I didn't move away from Indiana. I'm the only NASCAR driver in the Cup Series that's from Indiana that still lives in Indiana, and I'm proud of where I was born. I'm proud to be back. I still live in the town I was raised in.
I take a lot of pride in that. I think the state of Indiana takes a lot of pride in that, and that's why it makes it a big weekend.
I'm representing a lot of people around me, and I'm proud to do that.

Q. With Dale Earnhardt's situation right now, how serious do you think NASCAR takes and you guys as a team and the other drivers take the concussions and the protocol, things like that, with obviously the future‑‑ forget about racing, but when you're living your life afterwards there, the ramifications that can come from certain things like that?
TONY STEWART: You mean there's life after racing?

Q. Well, you might find out, right?
TONY STEWART: No, I'm still racing, I'm just not driving a Cup car next year. My dad is 78 and he's still racing, and I promise you I've got more talent behind the wheel than he does. I've watched him race, and if he can still race at 78, I might be able to make it to 78, too. I've got a long way before I think about that.
It's probably‑‑ I think from a driver's perspective it's one of the greatest things that the garage area is proud of is how much work and effort and money that NASCAR spends on safety. I think Dale has been one of the guys on the concussion side that's really been a leader in that side, and you hate to see this happen to anybody, but like was said earlier, it takes a pretty strong guy to say, hey, something is not right, and to say I need to get something looked at.
I mean, the era that I grew up as a race car driver, I didn't know I had broke my back four times. This last time‑‑ I thought it was the second time I broke my back. This is the fourth time I've broke my back in career. Two of them I didn't even know about.
The era that I came in, you had to race to make a living. You had to race to pay your bills. If you could get up and you could drive yourself to the racetrack, and there were days that my hand was broken, we taped my hand to the steering wheel. That's just the era that I grew up in.
That was our job. That's how we lived. I mean, that's how you paid rent. If you didn't race, you may not make enough money to get to the next two races, so you had to do that.
I think since the NFL and since the concussion thing has become such a big topic, and it's just awareness more than anything, and I think that's the great thing about Dale is that he's really brought a lot of awareness to‑‑ it just doesn't happen in the NFL, it happens in our sport, as well. His father was very responsible for a bunch of safety improvements, and Dale Jr. is responsible for the same things. I'm proud of him. I'm proud of our sanctioning body. I think they do an awesome job of not just on the concussion side but across the board. There's so many things that you guys never see that we as drivers see that they do that really impresses you, and it's not‑‑ it doesn't make them more money. It doesn't make the show better. It's stuff that they do for us in trying to make us as safe as possible, and they don't have to do that, but they do, and they take a lot of initiative to do it, and they deserve a lot of credit for the hard work.

Q. I know your focus is on your team and what you guys need to do to improve, and you had your win, Brad won two coming into this race, but the Toyotas were strong again today, really strong at one point. Do you guys feel like you're close to them, or do you feel like you've got another level to get to before you can run with them?
TONY STEWART: I think there's been a couple races here recently where we've kind of fought the same issues across the board with the four cars in our organization. You know, you look at two years ago, I mean, Chevy was the most dominant car on the racetrack, and last year it was kind of a coin toss between Chevys and Toyotas. I think the Toyota side has found something, but I still believe that the history of Chevrolet and you look at the manufacturer's championships that Chevrolet has, we have a history of figuring these things out, and I can promise you, I know the people at Chevrolet, they don't like getting beat at anything. They don't want to get beat leaving the racetrack. They take it serious, and I promise you, we'll put the full court press on for them to get it right.
THE MODERATOR: What do you have on your plate leading up to Eldora to get the facility ready and get everything ready to go?
TONY STEWART: We had our Kings Royal last night with the 410 winged sprint cars, and all three nights were great, and the crowd was unbelievable last night. It absolutely baffled me how good the crowd was, and the racing was great last night. It's the normal thing.
I mean, this is what's different between pavement racing, and if these guys had to run a race on Wednesday, they don't have to do anything to the racetrack. We have to do everything to our racetrack to get ready.
Like I do every year, I'm flying from here straight to Eldora, and I'll be there from tonight through Wednesday night. A lot of the stuff that we do for the racetrack side, at least from my role, is done in the middle of the night. When everybody else is either finishing at the bar or coming home from the bar, I'm still working. We'll do what we have to. I've got a great staff there. I have Roger Slack and Larry Boos, and we've got a great track crew that is as dedicated as any to get this thing done and to get it done right, so we'll go back there and we'll kick butt and get after it and get ready for Tuesday and Wednesday.
THE MODERATOR: We look forward to Wednesday night, and we look forward to seeing you next week at Indianapolis.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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