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July 29, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined in the media center by our runner-up in today's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, that's Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge.
Outstanding performance out there today. Take us through the race.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: At the start, I was just happy to run in the top five. That was the idea, stay in the top five, try to make the car better every stop. And we kept working on it. We really did a little bit of tire pressure, but we put a hell of a lot of (indiscernible) in the car today and couldn't get it greed up. The only time it was free is in the last stop when it was on the green.
I was lucky, I lost the right front tire coming into the pits, I was coming down the pit lane, it blew up. That's why I came up behind Jeff and Junior. It was pretty loose. When we got behind the pace car after that, it actually draw pretty good. Just way too tight in one and three. Just couldn't let the car roll.
Tony was rolling through there so much faster than me, we just couldn't do anything.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Juan.
Q. Did you just run out of time and laps? Could you have caught Tony, do you think?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: You know, he told me, If everybody pits, we're going to stay out. I say, Yeah. He said, It's the only shot of winning the race. I said, Yeah, but to be honest, the 20's too fast. Even if he pits, he's still going to come out and beat us.
You know, they stayed out. But, you know, I don't think anybody had anything for Tony today.
Q. Also you said on Friday there were some things you remembered from the Indy 500 that you were going to try in practice. Obviously you qualified well, ran well.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, a little bit. Mainly just the race line, you know, where you get on the gas and stuff to pass people. It's exciting, you know. I'll tell you, I'm happy. This is the first actual race I get to people and I could pass them. Normally I get to like 12th and you start try to get runs on people and you can't. Today, it was awesome. I could really go at it, so it felt good (laughter).
JEFF GORDON: Not bad for a rookie (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by our third-place finisher, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet.
Jeff, your thoughts only today's race.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, we had a pretty good race. I mean, we had to come from 21st. You know, wasn't sure how good our car was going to be in traffic. In there early on, we really motored on up through there. I really thought we had something for them. We just got a little bit too tight. We tried freeing it up. One time we took four tires and that just got us so far behind, we played catch-up for the rest of the day.
Had a good race. I was happy to get to third. You know, Tony was the guy to beat. I mean, I don't think anybody had anything for him. Juan, you know, was definitely strong there at the end. You know, I think we made the most of our effort. Just shows another great team effort to come here in a big race without a crew chief and finish third. I'm pretty happy.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, again, for both Juan and Jeff.
Q. Juan Pablo, you were pretty close to Dale Jr. there when his engine let go. How much of a moment was that for you?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Nothing. You know, down the straight, you see smoke, get out of the way, get out of the gas. What surprised me is how long it took the yellow to come out. I got out of the gas and just waited. You know, he blow up like on start/finish line. Until he got to turn one that the yellow didn't come out. That surprised me just a bit.
Q. You have a lot of laps now on an oval and stock car. Given the lack of practice here, how much of today was your experience on the track in 2000 and how much is your learning on the ovals?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Uhm, the track, you know, to learn is pretty simple. I found it pretty simple, even when I came here the first time. It is a very different oval, but it's a mixture between an oval and a road course, the short chutes. You know, I like it.
It's funny because I was telling me crew chief, most of the times where we have problems is just past the center of a normal oval. Here just past the center, you're out of the corner. So it worked pretty good.
Q. Juan Pablo, how are you looking at the rest of the season right now? Is the Chase still a possibility coming off a finish like this?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I tell you the truth, if you could get this kind of finish the next two races, then you have a chance. You know, if we get to next weekend, you have an average weekend, then you out.
You know, it doesn't mean we're going to give up. I think we're going to go more forward to try to get wins than try to get into the Chase.
Q. Juan, both you and Reed had really good weekends. Ran well all day, good finishes. Does this say something about where the team is now or is this just this race?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Now, you look at New Hampshire, we had really fast cars. Both his and myself, we had problems with the (indiscernible) stops and the car was just dragging. You know, until then I was running like fifth or sixth all the time.
I think we're getting there. It shows where the team is going. It shows that the potential is there. But it's a little bit like my season, you know, we're going to go to places where we're going to still suck and we're going to have places where we're going to do really well.
Q. Juan Pablo, when Tony and Kevin were battling about 10 laps to go, you were able to move up a little. Did anybody radio and say maybe there was a chance?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Just keep going, they're going to keep hitting each other (laughter).
My hope was more than Kevin that Tony would damage a fender. The on way to beat Tony was that. He was just too fast.
Q. Jeff, Tony from Indiana winning here, you might know as well as anyone, what is it like to grow up around here and to win at this track?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, he knows a lot better than I do because he was born and raised and raced his whole life around Indiana. I came here as a kid, did a little bit of quarter midget racing, then moved here when I was like 15.
You know, I know what it meant to me to come here and race here because, you know, it was a dream as a kid to race at Indianapolis, and I know it's been that for a long time for Tony. You know, I know we wanted that Indy 500, now he's got two Brickyard 400s. I know it mean the world to him.
I think it shows their whole effort steps up to another level when they come here. Tony's game is heightened. You know, it showed today. I mean, they were really strong and he was aggressive and made some aggressive moves and won the race.
Q. You've continued to run well and Kyle Busch has seemed to be kind of hit-and-miss lately, but the other Hendrick drivers have struggled lately. Do you think it's something internally or do you think it's more competition that's just getting better as the season goes on?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, Jimmie's situation, he's just had some bad luck. He's been fast. He's been real fast. You know, I still think, you know, he's a major threat for this championship. Obviously they have to think about things a little bit different now they've had some bad finishes that, you know, have knocked them back in the points to where, you know, we're up there focusing on trying to get bonus points and trying to, you know, get ourselves really prepared for the Chase, which is a good position to be in. Now it puts him in a little bit different position.
But they're strong. I think the 25 car is still fresh and new. You know, they've had some great runs and they've had some not-so-great runs. You know, I think that just experience and working together and being at Hendrick is going to pay off for them in the long run.
Kyle, you know, those guys are strong right now, as well as our team. Our team's just real consistent, you know, consistently top fives, top 10s.
But, you know, we've got to get into the winner circle some more here before this Chase starts to kind of stop some of the momentum of that 20 team.
Q. Jeff, you were dominant here in '04 and won. You were very dominant here in 2000. At any point when Tony had the car that was able to kind of get out there and push the issue, did it kind of remind you a little bit of the dominance you guys had in those two years?
JEFF GORDON: When somebody else is out there leading, I'm not thinking about how they're feeling compared to the way I was feeling (laughter). I'm just trying to figure out how we can, you know, adjust and catch 'em and do something to get ahead of 'em. That's all I was thinking about.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Same.
Q. Jeff, you've watched Juan Pablo. Could you talk about how you see him developing as a driver.
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, it's obvious of how talented he is. I mean, I think you look at everything he's ever driven, he's fast and he's had success. You know, so I guess I have expectations of him being able to showcase his talent when he came here, and he has.
I think when their team steps up and gives him the car, he steps up and shows what he can do. I think, you know, they've still got a little bit of work to do to be more consistent with those good cars. But when he has them, like in Atlanta, he impressed the heck out of me. Here he impressed me today.
We expected him to do that at the road courses. You know, it's places like Martinsville and Bristol, some of these tough racetracks that are the ones that you've got to watch, and those are the ones you're going to be impressed the most with.
He's, you know, done a fantastic job. But I expected him to. You know, I guess it's not a big surprise.
Q. Jeff, what is the Dupont team doing to set up for the Chase?
JEFF GORDON: Trying to win (laughter).
You know, I wish our qualifying effort here would be better. We've stunk here in qualifying the last several races, and I don't know where we're missing out. You know, really not many of the Hendrick cars were strong in qualifying, and we've got to fix that. That gets us behind.
But, you know, we just look at the schedule, look at the tracks that are coming up. We've got some Car of Tomorrow races that we're preparing for, like Watkins Glen. Excited about our efforts there. I thought we had one of the best cars today that we've had in a while for the race. Hopefully we'll take something from that and learn something from it and move forward.
Hopefully we can take this car to Pocono. But, I mean, bonus points is what it's all about for us. That means we have to be risky. You know, we can afford to lose some points by taking some bigger risks and possibly getting those bonus points and wins and that momentum that we really need.
The one thing I'm excited about is, you know, we've got a very strong consistent team and we don't have a crew chief right now. I think when Steve comes back, it's only going to heighten us and make us stronger for what we've had to go through for six weeks without him.
Q. Jeff, I asked Juan a while ago if he ran out of laps. He said absolutely not as far as catching Tony. TV was touting you in the late laps as having some of the fast laps, but said you were going to run out of laps. Do you in any way feel like you ran out of laps on this thing?
JEFF GORDON: No, I was just happy to finish third because I was getting ready to get passed by the 5 car who had fresher tires. I got real loose in that last restart and my car just did not come to life very good. I think that caution really hurt us 'cause I felt pretty good when we came out under that green flag pit stop. My car was balanced well and I was happy. I don't think even at that point I ever had anything for Tony.
But when Juan got behind me, I tried to settle in and I saw the 41 coming. You know, I thought he was going to get me, too. Then I had like a couple laps where I was really fast, but I couldn't maintain it. You use the good in the tire, you put heat in 'em and they just go away in one or two laps.
I had one lap there, Great lap, keep doing that. The next lap was probably 6/10ths slower (laughter). No, I definitely didn't. Nobody had anything for Tony today.
Q. Juan, just past halfway point in your first full season in Cup, how would you grade yourself? How do you think you are at this point in comparison to where you thought you would be?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think from where I thought I was going to be, I think I've got to say we're way ahead. Where do I want to be? I think we're still behind. I think not only myself but the whole team.
I think this is a big boost for the team like the win in Sonoma, Reed's win last week in the Busch Series. It really shows what the team can do.
But, you know, we just got to be able to do what Hendrick does. You know, they show up every week and they're always up there. The only way, first of all, to get into the Chase, and secondly to be able to win a championship, you've got to be good week in and week out.
Q. Do you feel like you've changed at all as a driver?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Changed as a driver, no. I'm the same guy, you know. I think the same thing in Formula One at the end. In the beginning, you're really hot-headed, then you learn to play it smarter. This year, you know, what's really nice about this year is the give-and-take. You just learn to race smart. That's really nice.
Q. The last time I saw you two at a press conference, you had just swapped rides. Did you think at that point it might be more likely that you, Jeff, would join Juan in Formula One than Juan would join you in NASCAR?
JEFF GORDON: I certainly thought that after he drove my car, he'd never want to come drive (laughter).
I can honestly say that after driving his car, I got the bug. You know, I mean, that car was just phenomenal. It was so much fun. One of the greatest thrills of my life behind the wheel of a car was driving that F1 car.
I knew it was never realistic for me to go and be in F1. I mean, I didn't grow up a road racer. I take winning very serious and I want to be competitive. I could probably have gone over there and driven around in the back, you know, but that's not what I want to do. Obviously, I've got one of the best teams over here.
But, I mean, I guess if I was going to, you know, swing one way or the other, he asked me, you know, What marker are you using for the brakes? I think they had like 100, 200, 300. I said, you know, the first one, the 300, way before that. He's like, Really? I remember he went down in there, locked that front tire up all the way into turn one the first time. He was like, You weren't kidding.
I didn't think you'd want to do that.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It was fun.
JEFF GORDON: Glad you enjoyed it.
Q. Juan, do you feel like you have anything left to prove to yourself or anybody else in terms of your ability to compete for wins in this series, on ovals or road courses?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Something that's very nice in the position that I am right now, I manage to achieve a lot of things in life already. I don't have the pressure of performing to keep a job. You know, a lot of young guys got to do that.
I think guys like Jeff and myself, we see -- when you see a good opportunity to win, you're going to take it and you're going to work hard for it. But you learn to be a lot smarter, you know, take the chances when you have to, and when you don't have to, you don't.
That's really nice. There's no pressure. Like working for Chip is really nice because he's a guy that believes a hundred percent in me and it just gives you a lot of confidence.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Juan. Couple more questions for Jeff.
Q. Jeff, a lot of guys have said this weekend whoever wins this race will leave as the favorite. In your mind is Tony now that guy?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, I picked him as one of the favorites prior to him winning today. You know, they're a strong team. Because of the Chase, you know, anybody is a threat for the championship, especially if they're showing strong runs and winning races at this point in the season.
You know, I still think that we're a little bit more consistent than them, but I think right now they've got a little bit of an edge on us in speed and we've got to find it, we've got to get after that.
You know, the thing is, 10 races in the Chase is a lot longer than people think. Even though you'd rather the championship, in my opinion, be all the races, I understand what it takes in those last 10 to be good. And you've got to have good fortune going your way and you have to have, you know, fast race cars. We've been doing that consistently, so I still feel really good about the championship. But I know we're going to have to beat Tony for it, among other guys.
Q. For a while at the start of the race it looked like whoever won today was going to be kind of like the last driver standing. The second half of the race, things started to calm down. Were guys just really impatient at the start today? Have you ever seen that here at Indy before?
JEFF GORDON: When you know there's a mandatory caution at lap 15, then you know you pretty much just drive to 15. I couldn't believe that we had a wreck before 15.
But I didn't see a lot of the wrecks. I don't want to put blame on anybody. I wasn't really around anything and don't know how it happened. I saw Jimmie Johnson's wreck, but that was an unfortunate situation with a tire rub. I'm not sure what happened to get him into that position.
I was surprised we saw some cautions just prior to those mandatory cautions when there's really nothing to gain at that point, when you know you got to come down pit road. I'd have to see the video to be able to comment on it.
Yeah, I was around a fairly typical Brickyard 400 field, you know, guys racing and giving and taking, trying to position themselves for the win at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
JEFF GORDON: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by our race winner of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet. His 31st victory in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, second in a row. It's his second victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his second Brickyard win.
Tony, how does it feel to win another Brickyard?
TONY STEWART: Oh, man, this one I'm going to remember a lot more of it, for sure, afterwards. But, no, it is still like a dream. The first one was great, but there was so much going around it, being the first one. Both races were special. Neither of the wins outweighs the other win. I mean, to race one of my good friends Kasey Kahne for the first one and a very close friend, Kevin Harvick, for this one, I couldn't think of two other guys I'd rather race for the win here than that.
We had the fastest car today. It was consistent all day long. The guys had great pit stops. It was just like Chicago except on the restarts we were real vulnerable on the restarts. Three times I went down into one and got really tight on a restart for some unknown reason. I kept trying to keep scrubbing the tires, making sure they were cleaned off. For some reason, we'd go down in there and get tight. We were fine after that. But it let Kevin get by us.
I was confident that we could get back to him and I thought in my mind, I mean, I really believed we could get by him again 'cause we'd done it the run before. But we got up to him and actually dropped back away from him a little bit. I thought, man, this may or may not happen. It was just a matter of trying to get the timing right, get the runs right, get a good run on him to where we could get a run down the straightaway.
The motor was awesome. We could draft up to him and get underneath him going into three. That was my strong point. Kevin got really smart and changed how he was driving turn two and got to where I wasn't getting as big a run as I was before. Had to do something different. I'd been lifting earlier. He had been driving in deeper than I had. Just the differences in setups let us drive our cars different than each other.
I tried to go in hard with him once and see what happened, and I got up to him and he got tight, I guess, in one. We got underneath him. I just squeezed him a little bit, not on purpose, but I got too close to him I guess, ran into him in the short chute. It was a really cool, almost like a slide job, countermove, him getting back underneath me. It was a drag race down the backstretch. Whoever got through turn three was probably going to win the race at that point.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by crew chief Greg Zipadelli and J.D. Gibbs from Joe Gibbs Racing.
Greg, talk about your thoughts and emotions about winning here again today.
GREG ZIPADELLI: It's just awesome, like one step better than Loudon, but I can't wait to go back to Loudon anyway (laughter).
This place is just so special. To be part of our second victory, to know what it means to Tony growing up here, racing here in the past, open-wheel cars and things, it was just awesome.
My team did a good job today. Pit stops were good. The car was good. And Tony did a phenomenal job.
THE MODERATOR: J.D., your thoughts? Has to be a big weekend for y'all.
J.D. GIBBS: Yeah, no. I think for us, when you went through it a couple years ago, when Tony won the first time, you kind of realize how many people are here, how many fans he has here, what this means to him personally. I think that was a big deal for our guys. I know it was the first time and it was this time around. Last time was nerve-wracking, but you forget because this time it was nerve-wracking, waiting those last few laps.
I think Zippy did a great job. It's rare that you have a really good car all weekend long, be able to capitalize and good smoothly. From what I can tell, the guys did a great job, Zippy and Tony. It ended the way it started, good the whole time through, and wound up with a victory. A big credit to those guys, as much work as they put into it.
THE MODERATOR: As I mentioned, this is their second consecutive win in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, seventh time this race team has posted back-to-back wins, a strong testament to the strength of this race team.
Q. Anything can happen next week. The way you are running now, do you feel you're getting into your zone at this point in the season? Nobody else seems to be stepping out. You seem to be stepping up.
TONY STEWART: Man, it just seems like a normal year. This time of year, it seems like we get hot. We've even tried to sit down and figure out what we miss in the spring.
But I don't know. I mean, it's like you said, the seventh time I guess we've had back-to-back wins. It just seems this time of year when the tracks get hot and slippery, and I prayed for a day like today. I wanted it to be hot. I wanted it to be sunny, to where the track would get a little slippery versus yesterday morning where it was like speed runs all day.
This place gets a different personality when it gets slick. It does that in the IndyCar race. It does that in the Brickyard 400, too. It seems like when it starts getting slick, that's when we really excel at this place. When it's got a lot of grip, everybody's fast. It's just a matter of who hits the perfect setup.
Just seems like when it gets slick, the way that Zippy, the setups he gives me, my driving style, they match each other, but it just seems like our cars, we're never really good at the front of a run, but it seems like 15 laps into a run, here we come.
I didn't want a caution. I didn't want that last caution to come out. But I was somewhat glad, I was hoping and cautiously optimistic it was hopefully the last caution, that we would have 20 laps to run. 20 laps at Bristol or Martinsville is nothing. That flies by. 20 laps here is a long, long run.
I was cautiously optimistic that if anything happened, we were going to have time to get back what we lost. Like I said, I went down into one, got tight, we were able to fight our way back.
But, yeah, I mean, I hope you're right. You look at somebody, and somebody I feel bad for right now honestly is Jimmie Johnson. This guy can't buy a break. But for a year and a half, he couldn't do anything wrong either. Maybe everything that went -- we couldn't get a break in the first half of the year, maybe it's changing now and maybe we can get on our own run of our own, just like he's done for the last year and a half.
Q. Zippy, you said something in the radio interview after the race that this is the smartest race you've ever seen Tony run. Given his history here, where he's been very high and very low, how do you see the change in Tony?
GREG ZIPADELLI: I'm proud of him. The way the pit stops go, track position here is so much. We've had good race cars here. We didn't do a good job of controlling track position in the past. It's something that we've done a better job over the past couple years, I think. We talked about it before we started the race today. He was patient when people stayed out or people took two and we felt, you know, like we needed four. If we did get a caution late, I wanted to be able to put two on. We had two on the stop before.
It's just the cycle. But, you know, we did a good job. Kept the fenders on the car. Our pit stops were good. The whole team did a great job today.
Q. Tony, your personality and your mood swings makes you --
TONY STEWART: Why do you keep bringing that up? Can we all just agree to get over that part and let history be history finally?
Q. You're easy to read. On Friday a lot of us who went to your availability walked away and were like, He's going to win, because the way you were coming across, you were calm. The stress was gone. Do you ever feel that way, I know I'm going to win this?
TONY STEWART: No, I can't say I know we're going to win. You never know till you get into the race. You never know what's going to happen. Especially after the first half of the year where we had days, like Bristol, after 250 laps, I'm like, If somebody doesn't come up with a miracle here, we're going to win this thing and lead all but 20 laps of this race because nobody has anything for us, then something bad happened.
You never get it in your mind that that's what's going to happen. You know, I think coming -- honestly, coming from Chicago, knowing we were bringing -- him and I joked about it, we debated between two cars of what to bring back. I wanted the car that we didn't run. Zippy, that's why he's the crew chief and I'm the driver. He puts the name on it, I get in the one that has my name on it, that's the one I drive that weekend.
It's just the situation. I think we felt so good after Chicago, breaking the ice for the year, knew that we were going to bring one of two cars that were virtually identical here for this weekend, knowing that history.
I mean, we pay attention to history like you guys do. Knowing it seems like this time of year, once we get that first win, they come right after each other. That made the weekend off more fun. It gave us confidence coming in. It's almost non-realistic to even say we had momentum just after one race. But we did. We carried momentum for two solid weeks. Having that week off, we got to carry something a week longer than we normally get to. I think that led into this week.
I mean, being able to get away, have fun for a couple days, do stuff that we wanted to do, versus somebody telling us we have to go do something today, makes a big difference coming in here to where Friday -- sorry, Mike. Amazing what a week away from each other will do. Hope it's not that way with marriage. If so, have to take off every other week. Maybe that's why I'm 36 and not married, too.
But just getting away from each other, having that week to do fun stuff. I mean, I got to do fun things. When you come off a week like that, you're pumped up. You come to what to me is my biggest race of the year, the moon and the stars aligned, I guess. There were a lot of positive variables.
Q. While everybody seemed to be talking about tire wear, being worried about that yesterday, you said you were one of the few teams that really didn't have a concern with that. When you were hearing everybody worry about that and wondering how the start of the race was going to go, were you feeling like this could be a good week for you because you didn't have the same problems that people were complaining about?
TONY STEWART: It's kind of funny. Some of you we already brought this up with yesterday. I didn't even know people were having tire issues till I got done with my qualifying run, we're done for the day, I did the media bullpen yesterday. That's when people in the media were asking me questions about tire wear. That's the first I knew of anything. I didn't know of anybody having any problems.
Zippy never mentioned tire wear at all during the practice session. But probably the best part about it was after that first run when we came in, he said there wasn't a mark, there wasn't anything wrong with our tires on both of those first two runs. That gives you the confidence. I ran pretty hard those first two runs, but not abusing the tires. I knew if I had to run a hundred percent, I wasn't going to do something that was going to get us in a bind tire wear-wise.
Any time you can eliminate a variable from your worry list, that's obviously one more thing you can concentrate on that way.
Q. Two years ago when you won this race, you could hear the tension in your voice when you were talking on the radio. Today even when Harvick passed you, you're doing your Here kitty, kitty thing. Drinking from the water bottle. This place used to be the place where things always seemed to go wrong for you. Are you more relaxed now because you've made your peace with it?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, honestly it was -- and I think that's why I'll enjoy this one more than the first one. The first one was just like taking the weight of the world off your shoulders. I mean, we talked about it two years ago. When you grow up 45 miles from here, a period of my life when I was driving a wrecker for a living, I was driving down 16th Street and Georgetown Road, thinking, Man, what would it be like to be 150 yards inside that fence, running 200 miles an hour?
I got to do that. Then I got to come here in a stock car, then win it for the first time. That was such a weight off our shoulders.
But it was just the whole day. I mean, everybody knew how much it was like taking a weight off of us. So that's all we did till 9:00 that night, every media thing, it was like whew. Today we're just like happy now. That's probably what helped us today, not being wound up, being able to be calm and relaxed, 'cause it wasn't like the untouchable any more. We got it two years ago. Being able to be calm, just race. I mean, it was race the race those last 10 laps. It wasn't like my whole life depends on whether I pass this one car in front of me or not. It wasn't that kind of situation.
I mean, it was like a life-or-death situation for me two years ago, but this was just -- I can't say it was a normal week, because it wasn't. It's never a normal race. But when it came to racing Kevin, same guy I drive a Busch car for, 10 laps to go, the starter still gives 10 fingers for 10 laps to go. It was easier to put it in perspective, calm down, do what I needed to do, race the race versus saying my whole life depends on this next -- these next 15 laps like it was two years ago.
Q. After the race on ESPN you dedicated the victory to your fans who get some heat in the stands week in, week out. What kind of heat do you think they get?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. Cross over the fence there, there's a bunch of them still over there. You go outside this door, you'll have plenty of them to talk to. You can ask them.
Q. I was wondering what you thought.
TONY STEWART: You have to ask those guys. They know better than I do.
I just know at times, it's probably that way with everybody, but I know my fans take heat from other fans probably more than most. That's my fault. You know, days like today are days that when you repay them with a win at the Brickyard, dedicating it to them, that's the payback for those people.
Q. What does it mean to you to win in front of so many?
TONY STEWART: I didn't care if there wasn't anybody in the stands, I just wanted to win the race. I don't care if there's four people or four million people here, I'm going to race to win the race.
Every time you take the lead, go out for qualifying, driver introductions, come around that last lap, I mean, all I wanted to do is get to the white flag. I knew I had a big enough lead I could make four big corners and lose a second and not get even close to getting passed. If the caution came out, I wasn't going to get in a situation where I had to do a restart.
You know, I got a chance to see the crowd. I mean, seeing those people cheer that last lap, I mean, there was no way anything was going to happen then. That makes it so special. That's what makes that last lap here so special versus anywhere else you go. I mean, those people know that this is -- they still know you got to make four good corners, but they're cheering that last lap like this is yours, this is yours, all you got to do is get around one more time. We all celebrate. That's what makes it so much fun for me.
Q. Last time you won here it was like Indiana Palooza, like the whole state of Indiana celebrated that day. I'm sure they're happy again today. Your whole life wasn't those last 15 laps, as you said. Will winning here ever become, as Zippy said in jest at Chicago, just another week for you? Will it ever become business at usual for you?
TONY STEWART: Will getting up in the morning, going to the buffet, seeing pancakes, bacon, waffles and sausage ever be normal to you? Pretty much it is. I say that with the utmost respect. He knows what I'm talking about. I think you know what I mean.
See, I've known some of you guys long enough to know how to say it in a way that you won't a hundred percent understand (laughter).
Q. Your father told me at the beginning of the day he told people that you were going to win, he felt it.
TONY STEWART: He's getting old and senile. He says a lot of things that just don't make sense some days.
Q. Seeing you drive the pace car in, kiss the bricks with the team, your niece and nephew in the car, says something about your family. Last year your dad was up in the suite area. Talk about the family, your dad thinking you were going to win, that pace lap with your niece and nephew.
TONY STEWART: It just adds to this place being a special place. My best friends are here. My family is here. People that I don't get to see very often are all at one place at one time together to watch me do what I do best, to do what I'm passionate about.
When you're passionate about something, you want your family to be around it, involved. You want your friends to be a part of it, see you do it. Having the suite over there, I mean, I could see my dad. I could see my dad on the third floor this year. It's like, good grief, this guy is going to haunt me for 160 laps again.
I'll be perfectly honest, I remember when I made a mistake last year, he was trying to get me to calm down. I just was fearful the first time I made a mistake in that corner what was going to happen when I came around, the sign he was going to give me to calm down. I tried every time I made a mistake not to even look up there.
It's just neat. It's not me. It's more than me. It's me. It's Zippy. It's J.D. It's Home Depot. It's the team. It's my family. When they can be a part of it, and you can see as the day goes on how emotional they get. I can look up there and see how nervous he is by what he's doing, how he's acting up there. You can tell. I can tell also when I was a kid when I was going to get my butt beat. You just learn things like that.
But that's what makes it so special is when your family can be a part of it. There's not many places where you can actually pick individuals out in a crowd at a racetrack. That suite area over there is pretty neat and special.
Q. 20 years from now your niece and nephew will have a picture coming in and kissing the bricks with you.
TONY STEWART: If I live that long, it would be awesome to talk to them about it.
Q. You said you come in more relaxed this time. That enables you to slip out to El Dora Friday night. What was that like? Tough at the end?
TONY STEWART: I got to see the crowd really good as I was sliding down the frontstretch wall facing them head-on. Zippy and J.D., especially with the Carl Edwards thing this week, everybody keeps bringing up the issue of should we all be allowed to do this. The only way you're going to keep race car drivers from getting hurt are to lock them in a rubber room, transport them in a rubber room to the car, let us get out of that and get into the car. That's the only way you're going to keep us safe a hundred percent of the time.
Somebody asked me what I thought about that. I said, Did anybody get hurt in car accidents last weekend in the United States? There were more people that got hurt in car accidents than got hurt in race cars last weekend. Does that mean we shouldn't drive a car?
J.D. GIBBS: I will say that's the first I heard of that, you flying up head first.
TONY STEWART: It was okay. If there was anything wrong, I would have called you.
J.D. GIBBS: I carry the same weight my dad did, which is none (laughter).
TONY STEWART: Yeah, you do. I got to get my paycheck from you.
No, you got to remember, I'm the person that perfected this thing: It's a lot easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
J.D. GIBBS: It's Zippy's responsibility. I just work here.
TONY STEWART: It was fun. Got to go over there. I won the World of Outlaw late model race. My goal Friday was just to make the A Main, which was the total opposite of what we wanted to do here. Went out, almost broke the track record, we were two-hundredths off a second off the track record there, won our heat. Pulled what I thought was a really beautiful slide job for the lead with 10 to go in a 50-lap main. At the end, didn't end up being clear somehow. Got turned nose first in the wall, watched the whole front end of the car get folded up. But everything was good. I didn't get hurt, so you can sleep good now.
But that's fun. I mean, that's stuff I do. You know, when I first started, Joe and J.D. and even Zippy were really nervous about it every week. And I understood their side of it. You get one chance to live this lifetime. I've just always been a guy that's raced any time I could race. I had a chance to race last night. I learned to meet these two guys and the team halfway on stuff. There's races I want to go run and I don't go run because I know I have a big weekend coming up. I ran Friday night knowing I had last night to get rested up, get ready for today. I could have ran last night, but I chose not to do that because I respect these guys and respect what this race means to me.
GREG ZIPADELLI: So it was the race more than us?
TONY STEWART: No. It wasn't the race more than you guys. I think if you look at how many Cup drivers that normally run the Busch Series that took nights off last night, I think that will put an impression on how much this race means to everybody. You look at the guys that typically go run a Busch Grand National race on Saturday that didn't run this weekend, that tells the story right there, in my opinion.
Q. Six of the last nine winners here went on to win the championship, including the last two. You were one of them.
TONY STEWART: I remember that. I was here for the whole thing. Thanks for pointing that out.
Q. Are you now the favorite for the title?
TONY STEWART: I don't know.
Q. On Friday you said you weren't.
TONY STEWART: It's hard. There's still a lot of racing to go. There's no guarantees. But it's neat knowing that the last two guys that have won this race have won the championship. Am I going to be upset about that fact? Absolutely not. Am I going to be excited about it? Ubetcha. But does that mean it's a shoo-in? I wouldn't mortgage my house on it - yet. I might with one race to go, depending on what the points standings look like. Might not have to take as good odds, but I might take that bet.
Q. Two years ago the old man in the extra you hat greeted you when you crossed the finish line. Is he still there today?
TONY STEWART: Oh, yeah. He's talking with Glen, who I ran the Sprint cars for. He lived just north of Columbus. Days like today are when you remember the guys that helped you get to these places. It's the Roy Barkers, Ralph Potters, Bobby, Steve Lewis, all the guys that get you here, and everybody that spent all night working on the race car so you could go run for less money than what it cost to run the car the next day.
That was part of -- it's for those guys, for the race fans. This is the payoff at the end of the rainbow. This is what makes those guys feel good that they spent that money and stayed up fixing cars that I crashed the night before so we could race them the next night.
I can promise you the way I drove this race today is one he would be very proud of. Lessons I learned from him helped today.
Q. Off-topic subject. Indiana State is in the works to bring together a motorsport minor. Knowing you didn't attend college...
TONY STEWART: I spent a lot of time at ISU. I just wasn't enrolled in college. But I spent a lot more time up there than Indiana State even knows.
Q. Knowing this is a culmination of a business school, school of technology, would that have been an incentive for you to attend school? Having taken classes in that school of business, knowing you have become a product as a driver, would that have assisted you in becoming a better businessman than what you are?
TONY STEWART: I promise you, it would have made me a heck of a lot better businessman than I am because I am not a businessman. I had to hire someone that knew what they were doing. That was the downfall of not going to college. I had to make a decision and I had to decide whether I was going to pursue a racing career, a driving career, or whether I was going to go to school and learn a trade.
It's kind of like putting all your eggs in one basket. I don't recommend everybody to go out and say, I'm not going to go to school. You better have, like we talked, good odds in your favor that it's going to work.
Like I said, I spent a lot of time there. I watched kids that dedicated their time, most of their time, some of their time to studying. I spent the time when they were away from class.
Yeah, I mean, Indiana State is an awesome school. I know a lot of people and have a lot of friends that graduated from Indiana State and they have good jobs. Having that to where they can be involved in racing like this now, I mean, I'd love for my buddies to have -- some of my buddies, I don't know if I'd want all my buddies working for me, be without friends after a while, but I think it's a neat place. I think it's something that would be good for the sport for sure. It definitely makes you say, Hey, this makes sense if you want to be involved in racing, do it from the business side.
Q. You talked earlier about the passion. Is it your passion, is that the reason the fans follow you so intently?
TONY STEWART: That's the reason the fans that pull for us pull for us. There's 43 guys every weekend. People pull for some, boo others. There's a reason that each person pulls and boos for whichever ones they pull for and boo for.
My fans like us because we call a spade a spade. We wear our emotions on our shoulders. Never have to wonder where you stand with us. We're not going to give the vanilla answer. We are going to be us. The people that appreciate that are Tony Stewart fans. The people that want the corporate image, cleancut, short hair, no beard, they pull for somebody else. It is that way. That's the beautiful thing about America: you have the right to choose who you want. Today I don't think we were lacking too many people up there. I was pretty happy with the number of people that supported us.
Q. You mentioned how important it was to get away, have some fun. On the Tony Stewart scale of fun, does any of that stuff remotely compare to the fun you have on a day like today?
TONY STEWART: No, absolutely not. I mean, this is what my life has revolved around for the last 20 years of my life, is running a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Not to say that what I did on the off weekend wasn't fun. But still in the back of my mind, even on that off weekend, I knew what was coming up. I was getting ready for this even on the off weekend. I wish I could say it was as much fun because if I could go outside and have this much fun every day, I'd never be upset about anything.
Q. After the race when you spoke with ESPN you didn't say that your fans take a lot of heat, you said they take a lot of bullshit. Last time a profanity was used on TV with Dale Earnhardt, he was fined, all that. Are you at all concerned?
TONY STEWART: A little late to be concerned about it now, isn't it? It pretty much is what it is.
Whatever happens, they still can't take this trophy away from me today. Whatever happens happens.
Q. Upgrade from Schlitz last night?
TONY STEWART: No. It was a full-on manhunt to find it. I don't want anybody from ESPN talking about how irresponsible I am, even though it's legal to do everything I did. Heaven forbid you actually have fun in life.
Q. In '98 when Earnhardt won the Daytona 500, there was a caution flag at the end of the race. Some people said Earnhardt might not have won the race if it went to the end. I say Bobby Labonte would have had to beat him into the dog track to beat him. Today, second time, 10 laps to go, you get out of turn one, next to Kevin Harvick. Any way on God's green earth you would have given him some room or whatever euphemism you want to come up with? What would it have taken for you to let off the throttle one-eighth of one percent in that situation?
TONY STEWART: As much as you probably won't believe this, it wouldn't have meant anything if I would have crashed him to win the race. He wouldn't do that to me. I think, I mean, the last couple years we've had a couple instances with a couple guys that everybody questioned my tactics. Those people I don't have problems with any more. The people that I raced around today raced me with respect, I raced them with respect.
I work really hard because if I'm going to preach about give and take, I want to be somebody -- it's stupid for me to not do the same thing. If I want people to race me with respect, I'm going to race people with respect. Like I said, I didn't mean to get into Kevin. That wasn't my intention. I didn't have to do that. That could have screwed me up, could have cut a tire down more than it would have accomplished to get into him. There was no logical reason to get into him. That was a mistake on my part.
But would with 10 laps to go crash somebody just to win the Brickyard 400? No, it's not worth it. When you have those people that follow you up there say, Why did he do it that way, it means nothing at that point. Doesn't mean anything to him. Doesn't mean anything to him. Wouldn't mean anything to me to do it that way. It's not the right way. If I would have done it the wrong way, it would have ruined winning it.
Q. Greg, you were talking about the tires not being a factor. It was a really wild, weekend with the rain, three-hour practice. People were fried after practice. Stress on the teams through the weekend. Not a lot of racing at the beginning of the weekend. Can you talk about that. Your team always seems to survive without worrying about stuff like that.
GREG ZIPADELLI: Yeah, it's whenever you sit around for 10, 12 hours and don't accomplish anything, I think that's worse than working hard and steady for eight hours. You know what I mean? Mentally you're working, we were prepared to do a lot of things. Everything we prepared, we didn't accomplish.
Saturday morning we had to kind of change our game plan. We thought it was going to be an impound race. You have to change your thought process a little bit.
The tires I don't think were as big an issue as it was made out to be. Last two years we have seen the same exact thing. We've been here to tire test last year twice. We could only run six to 10 laps. By the end of the day, you could run a full run and everything was fine.
Q. Tony, you won here twice in the fendered cars.
TONY STEWART: Don't do this to me here. We've dodged this for a long time today. Go ahead.
Q. Two years ago we thought you might have had a shot in an A.J. Foyt car. What are your thoughts?
TONY STEWART: Why do you want to make J.D. mad after I just won a big race?
Q. Is that part of your consideration with J.D.? Is that something you are discussing?
TONY STEWART: We need Indy to work with us on that one 'cause there's no way that we can get -- just hear me out here -- with the time change being changed two hours, no way you can finish Indy and get down in time to start the 600. My obligation is to this race team and Home Depot, all the guys at our shop.
I've learned to never say never. I told the people at Chevy, I'm not going to say I'm never going to be back here in an IndyCar. There's a lot of things that have to happen for that to happen. It's not just as easy as saying, Yeah, I want to do it. There's just way too many variables that play into making something like that happen. It's not just, Hey, call up Chip Ganassi or Roger Penske and say, I want to drive a car for you. Okay, we've got a car, show up.
There's so many details. We learned that over two years of trying it, there's a lot of things that absolutely time-wise and logistics-wise have to be absolutely perfect. The way it's set up now, it's not feasible to do it now.
Down the road, anything can happen. I'm not going to say that I won't be back here in an IndyCar one day. I got business to finish with these guys and goals with these guys that I want to accomplish before I come back to do that. This is where I'm at right now.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys. Enjoy it. See you next week.
End of FastScripts