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June 25, 2017

Rodney Childers

Gene Haas

Tony Stewart

Sonoma, California

THE MODERATOR: If I could have your attention here in the media center, we will now continue on with today's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series post‑race media availability, and we're joined by the team‑winning owners of the No.4 Mobile1 Ford for Stewart‑Haas Racing. We have Tony Stewart and Gene Haas. Tony, you won this race last year. This year you got to win the race as an owner and as a spectator. How was that to watch Kevin take that home to Victory Lane?
TONY STEWART: It was an awesome day. Obviously we got to see a lot of different perspectives. We started off the day with Dale Jr. spinning through Turn 11 there and getting Danica caught up in it, and she had an excellent start to the race there. It was a little disappointing right off the bat, but I think all four of our teams at some point kind of battled some sort of adversity and were able to work through it and get back to where we wanted to be.
But Kevin is one of those guys that when he knows what the scenario is that he's in at the time, he knows how to maximize the potential out of it, and once the 78 car had trouble, I mean, it was just a matter of taking care of his tires and making sure that if a caution came out toward the end that he had been easy on his tires to where he had something to fight with to the end. I thought he just ran a perfect race all day.
Clint was probably the one that‑‑ I don't‑‑ you get to see the TV monitor and see what they're showing, but you don't really hear what they're talking about. But I think Clint probably ran one of the most aggressive, hard races of anybody all day. I mean, to restart after the second stage 33rd and to battle back with no trick strategy or any gimmick to get him back up there, he drove from 33rd to 2nd I thought was really impressive.
And Kurt, a solid day until he said he'd got off in 3A and thought he'd cut a left rear tire down, and he ran five corners there, and it seemed like it was getting away from him, so he thought he had a left rear flat or at least a tire that was going down and decided to come in and pit. You know, still I think got his way back up to 9th there. Wherever we ended up, I can't see it from here.
But anyway, he had a solid day, as well. I mean, I think realistically SHR was going to have four cars solidly in the top 10 today if they didn't have any drama. Pretty good effort for all four teams today.
THE MODERATOR: Gene, this is the third time that Stewart‑Haas Racing has had a one‑two finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. How satisfying of a day was it for you?
GENE HAAS: You know, I think Tony did a good recap of it. I kind of remember last year, that was some real excitement, what, 25 laps to go and Tony decides to pit for no particular reason.
TONY STEWART: Keep in mind, I didn't decide that, that was decided for me.
GENE HAAS: He comes back out and two laps later there was a caution and then you get overtaken by Denny Hamlin on that last turn and I was up there with some people, and I says, he's going to get them back coming around Turn 11, and you did, and that was real excitement.
This was actually very comparatively a very calm race. I think we were worried about really the fuel economy. You never know when the tank runs dry. But I know he had 40 laps to go and the car should be able to do 41 laps, so I think we were one to the good. So I think we were just kind of hoping that no cautions came out, a lot of spins near the end, and actually this race kind of went our way with the way the crew chiefs expected it, and we won it, which usually never happens.

Q. You start the year with a win in the Daytona 500 but haven't won since; how badly did you need this win, especially maybe with some of the‑‑ there's a lot of questions about sponsorship and lineup for y'all next year.
TONY STEWART: You know, I think the important thing is with the way our series is laid down, having two of the drivers get their wins already at this point of the year and solidly in the Chase, that's a very important deal for our company, especially from the sponsorship side. Got great partners, obviously, and to get Mobile1 in Victory Lane this weekend was great. That's big, and our first year with Ford now and we've won two races already this season, so I think that's a really solid effort and shows how good a partnership we have with Ford right now.
You know, it's a big deal. I mean, for two of the four teams right now, they can start worrying about what to do to get ready for the Chase and having the ability to try different things to prepare for that. That's a really important thing for our company right now, and I think we all expected that Kevin would have got it sooner than this, but there's just been some bad luck, some different venues that he's been really, really strong at that we just had some weird and bad luck that have crept in to his program.
And Clint and Buga, to be having the season they've had as a fresh driver and crew chief combination, I think they've had a really good start to their season, as well. I think there's a lot of positive things in the company, and the results haven't obviously always shown that, but at the same time, being able to sit on the pit box and see it a lot more clearly from the pit box than I could from my own car last year, I think there's a lot of things that we're excited about.

Q. After your comments last week, were you pleased that NASCAR let the race play out to the finish there all green at the end?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I definitely am. Last week is last week, and here it's so easy for cars to go off track here, and it happened all day long. A couple cars even spun out but kept going. You know, there was a lot of opportunity that you could have got that debris caution or whatever during the race, but it was nice to see that the race actually got to play out.
It was interesting listening to some of the Gibbs drivers and the gamesmanship they were playing of they pitted and came back out and then immediately started screaming debris on the racetrack. I thought that was real convenient on their part. But it's gamesmanship, and they're smart, knowing how to try to play the game, but I'm glad NASCAR didn't bite on that one today.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by crew chief Rodney Childers. Rodney, fuel mileage was part of the strategy today. You had plenty of fuel left to go in that Mobile1 Ford. Walk through the final part of the race from your perspective. How nervous were you on the pit box?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Well, you're always nervous, but the biggest thing is just tires and knowing what we had. We had one set of stickers laying there and a lot of guys had two laying there. If you would have got a couple cautions there in that last stage, we would have been in trouble. Kevin did a great job. We got our track position there and did a great job saving fuel and everything just happened to work out. These races out here, sometimes it takes a lot of luck to be in the right spot at the right time, but we had a good car all weekend and was fast, and everybody did everything right.

Q. Speaking of the 14 team, other than the driver change, is that group a better team this year just because they've had another year together, and I know you've had the manufacturing change and everything, but can you see them because you were the driver last year, but when you look at it from the outside, does that seem like it's a stronger team this year?
TONY STEWART: I think so from the crew chief side in particular. I mean, it's‑‑ your first year as a crew chief it's got to be nerve‑racking. You're going and making decisions at these facilities for the first time, and I think to get a year under your belt and to have your own notes and to be able to go to these the second time around is a big advantage.
Part of it is it's a little bit of taking a step backwards when you're switching drivers like that, but at the same time, I think it's got to give the crew chief a lot of confidence in his second year. I think that outweighs it.

Q. Mr.Stewart, we're halfway through the season; do you miss‑‑
TONY STEWART: Let's just get this out of the way right now. Mr.Stewart is my father. When he passes away then I take over the torch and carry the title, but it's his distinct honor and pleasure to carry the Mister part, but I'm just his son right now. But thank you.

Q. Tony, could you talk about being in the winner's circle for a second year in a row here at Sonoma, although from a different position?
TONY STEWART: I would like to be here every year. I don't care what capacity you're in, you want to be in Victory Lane. As a driver or as an owner, it's still equally gratifying, and I think it was probably more gratifying today knowing that we had all four cars in a position that could have easily been in the top 10 together, and that to me is even that much more impressive. Danica, if she didn't have any bad luck, she wouldn't have any luck at all, but she had a great start to the day, and even as much stuff that went wrong on their car, she kept digging all day, and I thought she did a great job.
I think when you can get four cars in a position to be in the top 10 in a race, that's even more impressive than one single victory. I think I take more pride in today than I did last year even.

Q. I want to ask about the impact about the way you plan for this type of race with the difference in the tire adhesion this year, with the fact that you have to have more stops, I remember Kurt Busch had a two‑stop win here in 2011, how that impacts and how the stage racing has impacted the way you plan for a road circuit.
RODNEY CHILDERS: I would say the most impressive thing about all of this, and I was thinking about this a few minutes ago, is we got ready to build road course cars. We built chassis over the winter and it wasn't the crew chiefs that all of a sudden decided, hey, we've really got to get on this road course thing, we think that we can win out there. It was the other people at the shop, the aero group and all the other guys that started pushing this thing forward, and it almost took a few weeks to realize, man, these guys are on it. They want to go out there and they want to run good.
So it really comes down to how much hard work went into it at the shop. Those guys worked and worked and worked to build the best cars that we could bring out here, and I think it showed all weekend.
As far as the stage racing part, man, it's tough. You look at it every which way you can look at it, every night this week it's been trying to figure out what's the right thing to do, how many tires do we have laying in the pits, when should we pit, when should we not, do we go after the playoff points in the first stage or do we not, or do we pit early. It's hard, and like I said, sometimes it's luck, too.
But when you have a fast car, it fixes a lot of problems, and that really comes down to everybody at the shop.

Q. Tony, when you see your teams do well, and I know you're busy with Eldora and driving all over the place, do you miss it over here in the Cup Series with us doing this?
TONY STEWART: Why? I'm still here. What am I missing? I'm not missing anything. I'm here. I get the best of both worlds now. I get to go to my track more. I get to race my dirt cars more, and I still get to be a part of this. I don't know how it could really be any better for me. I think I'm in the perfect scenario for myself right now.

Q. Tony, you've won here several times and now you're a winner as an owner. What about this track seems to bring out the best not only in you but in your team?
TONY STEWART: Well, you know, I was in the Mobile1 suite early this morning and I said this is honestly in my opinion one of the most physical tracks we run all year as a driver because normally it's hot and then on top of that you've got a surface which is worn out, which makes it actually fun because it's not just about track position all the time. You have to take care of your tires. You have to be smart. You can't just be an aggressive driver and win at Sonoma. You have to be a smart race car driver and win out here.
You know, and we've got drivers that have that capability of being all that at the same time, and that's what it takes. A track like this is‑‑ it's one that there's a million things that can go wrong and a very small amount of things that can go right and set your day off. When you get a win out here, it makes it really special.

Q. Sitting on the pit box, do you use the radio to your drivers or do you let that stay with the crew chiefs?
TONY STEWART: Unfortunately I listen to it. There's way too many voices going on in my head because I normally have two of the drivers in my head at the same time, so if they're talking at the same time or the spotters are talking at the same time, it drives me crazy. But you know, it gives you a very good perspective of kind of trends that all of us are fighting, you know, as far as the organization as a whole. If you hear three of the drivers complaining about the same thing, then you kind of make notes that that's something that we're definitely going to have to look at that seems to be a trend.
You know, when they're all over the board, then you know that's due to particular driving styles and differences in their driving styles.
But you have to. I mean, that's part of the fun of being on the pit box. I can sit at home and watch it on TV and see the same thing if not more so. So being able to hear the strategy from the crew chief and the driver and kind of watching the monitor and being able to look at the lap times and the chart to see what the trend of the lap times are doing is something that's real important to me and knowing what's going on.

Q. Rodney, I know you don't like seeing competitors having to drop out of the race, but seeing Truex running strong all day and then having some problems towards the end of that race, how much do you think that benefitted your team towards the end there?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Well, you're talking about before or after he said, "Tell Harvick to kiss my ass"? (Laughter.) After he said that, I don't think he was going to win anyway. But we didn't have a very good car that run before. We made some adjustments and the car was a lot better the last run. But yeah, that was all.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on the victory today, and good luck next week at Daytona International Speedway.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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