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August 12, 2007
WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
THE MODERATOR: Tony should be here momentarily but we've got our winning crew chief with us right now, Greg Zippadelli. Greg, congratulations, a great effort by the 20 team today. Take us through it.
GREG ZIPPADELLI: Thank you. You know, we just for some reason were fortunate enough to love this place and run good here and we unloaded yesterday the same car we had at Sonoma, and it really was good on Friday. It was excellent yesterday. Keeping track position was obviously going to be the key, and obviously we gave that up when we spun. Everybody kept their heads up and stayed focused knowing there was enough time to put ourselves back in position to hopefully win this race and you know, good Lord willing, it worked out today.
For the first time in a long time, fuel mileage wasn't an issue for us but the guys in front of us at the time were really in trouble as far as if we don't get all of those cautions. For us we felt like we had a good opportunity to capitalize on the win here, whether it was racing it or you know, obviously fuel mileage. But it didn't come down to the fuel mileage with all of the cautions we had.
when Jeff spun it gave us the opportunity for the lead and that's how he got track position or how he got the lead when we spun, so we kind of got it back. Normally it doesn't go full circle that quick but today it did.
Q. You have the low of him spinning in turn one and then the high of Jeff spinning and Tony taking the lead. What did you say to Tony when he spun and what did you say when Jeff spun?
GREG ZIPPADELLI: You know, we don't talk about those things a lot. This team has been together so long, we all know what we need to do and what's expected of us. You know, when Tony spun it was, don't worry about it. We have a long way to go, we'll do with a we can do and salvage a good day if we can't get backup there, but we are going to do it and stick together to be proud of each other for whatever we do accomplish today. When the 24 spun, there's a little bit of excitement because we regained the lead but you don't want to see that happen to anyone.
You know, it happened to us earlier, it's kind of funny that's how he got the lead and we got it back. We tried to stay as emotional as we can throughout the day and we're here to do one thing, that's win and if we can't win, finish as good as we can and collect as many points as we need for the rest of the year.
Q. (No microphone.)
GREG ZIPPADELLI: We've had a good car since we've been here. Jeff obviously had a pretty good car this afternoon, and you know, getting into turn one when we spun it, it kind of put us behind a little bit. We were off a little bit for some reason all week and Tony just couldn't use the brake or drive as deep as we did. We're going to have to work on that for him next year but every other place on the racetrack we looked to be as good as anybody, you had to guard that I believe a little bit today.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Tony, for winning today. This is your 32nd NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win, that's tide for 19th all time by Dale Jarrett, congratulations on that. This is your third victory this year and, man, they have come big, congratulations on that. It's your fourth time you've won that, fourth time here at the Glen. A great race, with you guys were very dominant, had a lot of things happening give and take, etc. Your thoughts, take us through the race.
TONY STEWART: You know, we got to third right away. And you know, I told the guys, Jeff and Denny kind of got away a little bit from us and I told him I was just taking care of my car and we were not in any big hurry and didn't really have to be in any bug hurry at that point in the race so just was trying to take cake of the brakes and fuel is always a big issue here so trying to save fuel from the start of the race on and not really being in fuel conversation mode but just not hammering down 100%.
We were running a comfortable pace and not running behind those two guys when we were getting the brakes hot for some reason early so just settled into third there and got comfortable and got into second and ended up getting the lead thereafter the first caution there and you know, still just kind of ran our pace and were able to open up a pretty good lead and just kind of maintain it.
So you know, everything was going according to plan there, and halfway through the race there, I get the lead back again from Jeff, and I think the 10 car was in front of us at the time, we were actually running second to them and finish their cycle and we were kind of in the same situation again, and then I go down on one and I do the big wheel-hop deal.
So you know, it took us from first to 19th, I think they said and took about two laps to get back in my original many. You know, you just had to kind of shake it off and know that we had half the race left to come back to the front and just had to try to be patient and not burn the brakes off and you know, not knock the fenders off. I got into Robby Gordon once and wheel-hopped it and didn't knock him out of the way or anything but I made sure that when we came off of 1, I let him have the spot back and I wasn't going to take it by running over him.
just tried to be patient and work our way through the crowd there and sure enough, with the three laps to go, we're back in the Top-5 there and fighting the guys that we're going to be fighting for the win. You know, we just kept picking them off one at a time and that's the leadership of Greg and all of the guys on this Home Depot team. You make a mistake like that and I know it was disappointing for those guys but they are still behind us 100% and every time we passed a car coming back by, they are rooting me on. So that kind of supports what helps you get through disappointment like that.
You know all we can do at the end of the race there with Jeff leading is just try to keep as much pressure on him as we could there. By far, I think we had the two best cars all day between Jeff and I and you know, whichever one of us was in the lead, I think the other one wasn't going to get around unless they made a mistake and we were fortunate enough to get a break that cost us the lead to get us back in the lead. So I feel bad for Jeff because he didn't have the luxury of having all of those laps to get those positions back like we did. But, you know, I just, that's fate from upstairs that gives you a day like today when you make a mistake and you get it back the same way you lost it.
Q. Talk about all the success you've had at Watkins Glen?
TONY STEWART: We've been fortunate. This is a track I like obviously with four wins here. The day we got here, I remember the first time was still when NASCAR and good year were till working with the rain tires, and Zippy wouldn't even trust me enough to let me go out and practice in the rain that year. I think we got about four laps before qualifying and we qualified fourth that year. It's a place that I've become comfortable with right off the bat and we've always, we always have been fast here and we haven't necessarily always won obviously, but we've always been fast here. We've always been a contender if we didn't have a problem. It's definitely one of the tracks on the circuit that we look forward to coming to four out of nine races we've run, we're almost batting .500 here.
Q. How do you explain all of the unforced errors, seemed like nobody was immune and so tough, is that a product of the cars?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I mean, you know, obviously Jeff's situation, we were putting a lot of pressure on him. You know, we, that was our only shot at getting by him was to keep the pressure on him and hope that he made a mistake. Trust me, I was probably the most shocked person to see it happen. Jeff has won four championships and 70-some odd races now. He's the last guy you expect to have a problem like that.
But you know, I think it shows the strength of how good our car was that we were able to stay probably closer to him longer than anybody had been able to stay to him all day and kept him from getting in a spot where he could take it easy and be more comfortable. You know, I'm proud of our guys for giving me a car that was that good.
Talking to Kenny Wallace, nobody was immune to it today. Everybody at one time or another seemed to wheel-hop into one. Turn one is tricky here. You go downhill into it, there's a couple of bumps that can make it real easy to wheel opponent whether it's due to the brake balance or whether it's where you downshift from third to second, if you're not careful, it's real easy to wheel-hop, and I've wheel-hopped it twice in practice and that's why we were not able to get into 1 as good. But I was not getting in quite as deep as everybody else but really getting on the gas a lot earlier than everybody else so really averaged out. So was not too concerned about it other than on the restarts when guys were right behind us. It just seemed like today was one of those days that, you know, the competition up front was so close, it wasn't unheard of to see somebody do that, racing for the lead.
Q. Can you talk about the battle with Denny there when you guys were behind Gordon and it seemed like both of you were running through the grass at any time; did you think you had damaged your car behind the ability,
TONY STEWART: Having your teammate up there, he'll run a constant speed where I can we've back and forth and it runs the grass out of there. To be honest I never saw the corner, and I had Denny up in front of me, it's a flat corner so I never even saw the turn when Denny turned. I was like, I still never saw pavement. I was like, well, this is going to be interesting. He went off, I went off and Carl back there kept from running over both of us somehow. That's kind of a neat trio, you trust the guys you're going to be around obviously. But it wasn't exactly what we had in mind. It got the water temperature up to 245 which is warmer than I wanted it, but luckily we had a teammate there that during the caution, the temperature came back down.
Q. Winning is the ultimate, but when you have pressure on the four-time champion, how does that magnify the feeling?
TONY STEWART: You know, I think it shows the significance of how important those ten points are. It wasn't, you know, you want to win here anyway. This is a big race to win obviously with it being the own one of two road courses. But you know, running second here to myself or Carl didn't mean anything. It was all about winning today because we want those extra ten points, those ten bonus points right now.
So if you're solidly in the Top-10 right now, I mean, second, you might as well kiss your aunt with hairy mustache; not something you really cared about. Don't act lie you guys don't have an aunt like that, either. Everybody does.
Q. Do you think you have the best car? If Gordon doesn't spin, do you still win the race?
TONY STEWART: I'll be honest, I think our car was rust just a tick better than Jeff's. But, you know, it was a situation that whoever was leading, it was going to be extremely hard for the other guy to get by me. If we're leading, it's going to be hard for Jeff to get by, and if Jeff doesn't make that mistake, we run second to him. You know, I could run, there were parts of the track where I could gain time, there were parts of the practice where he would gain time on us.
We could gain a little ground, but you were going to have to be a bunch faster to get by him. He was really good in braking and I think eventually that's what got him was we just finally, you know, pressured him so much in the braking zones that hopefully, you know, we got his brake temps up to where either the fronts gave up a little bit to where it made the backs grab harder or whatever the case is, but whatever the case was, end result worked out for us. Whenever was leading with ten to go was probably going to win the race most likely.
Q. This was the first Car of Tomorrow race here at Watkins Glen but you've had success here in the past. What do you think has allowed your team to be so consistent from the old car to the Car of Tomorrow to have that success continue?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I'm just a driver to be honest. You missed the guy that you should have asked that question to. He just left a minute ago. I don't know. I really don't have a good answer for you on that. It's just a place that, you know, I think through the nine years that we've been here, I know what parts of the track are real important and know what portions of the circuit to place a lot of emphasis on.
So I think in itself has kind of helped us and zippy works really hard to get the areas that I feel like we need to be good at and he figures a way to get the car driving real well. That combination has helped us be successful every time we've been here.
Q. You've won three of the last four, Jeff Gordon has had an ungodly point lead for I don't know how long, you're the favorites going into the Chase, no road courses in the final ten but is today a preview of what we'll see the rest of the way?
TONY STEWART: I hope what we've seen in the last four race s is with a we'll see in the Chase. I hope for every four races we won, I win three of them and the other ones, I hope we run second. I don't know, it's hard to say.
Obviously there's a lot of racing to go on, and you know, you see how easy and how quick a string can end and go just the opposite for you. So you know, we hope that we're getting hot at the right time now, and that we take the next two or three weeks and lock ourselves into the Chase there to where we can, those last couple of races, just strictly go for the win and get those extra bonus points and hopefully once the Chase starts we can be on a run like we are right now. I feel like we're in the best position of anybody right now with what's happened three out of last four weeks. It's just a matter of keeping your fingers crossed and hoping that carries on the rest of the year.
Q. I have two questions.
TONY STEWART: You can only ask one, Ma'am, and then pass it to somebody else. We'll come back to you if we have time later on. (Laughter).
Q. You seem to have a knack and have mastered the ability to get way back in the pack and then finagle your way up in a hurry.
TONY STEWART: Finagle? (Laughter).
Q. Okay. It's a good verb. So ...
TONY STEWART: Can you pick another verb maybe? Something that makes me feel like I accomplished something important today rather than just backed into it?
Q. Darted, how about that? Sped?
TONY STEWART: Why don't you just try the rest of your question and see if it works any better.
Q. And I just wanted you to react to
TONY STEWART: I think I just reacted plenty for you.
Q. I know. I know. The Harvick and Juan Pablo shoving match.
TONY STEWART: Oh, I didn't see it. I was kind of busy. (Laughter)
Q. So how are you? That's all my questions.
TONY STEWART: Maybe next week after I've seen it. Only thing I heard is they still had their helmets on so it doesn't impress me. If they are going to do it, take their helmets off, and if not, don't waste everybody's time. I think we covered that years ago at Bristol.
Q. And your art form of battling towards the front?
TONY STEWART: You know, that was the great thing about zippy today is, you know, it's as much of a hole as I dug for us by one mistake in one corner and takes us from first to 19th, the guys, every time I would pass a car, you would see guys cheering for us on the pit box and you know having that kind of support from the guys, that is what helps you rebound from something like that is knowing that your whole team is still behind you. They knew I was working hard and I just made a mistake.
You know, they knew I would give 100% at the end and they were giving me 100% of their support to help me get back to the front. This team has never quit on anything and just because we had one bad lap and went back to mid-pack didn't mean we were going to quit today either.
Q. Patrick Carpentier had his first start, trying to do like you did, going from IRL to NASCAR. He was in front of you, and you had time to much with a him drive a little bit, what's your take on that?
TONY STEWART: I thought he adapted pretty quick in all reality. We were not really letting it ride there much. He was putting some good laps down, so I was pretty impressed, for the time he's had in a heavy car, I thought he did a good job today. I think the pit strategy killed his chances of being able to run in the Top-10 or Top-5. But I think the laps that he led up there, I think if it didn't impress a bunch of people, it should have. I think he put on a pretty good display there, the kind of talent he's got.
Q. Can you run through the emotions the last two laps, the last five laps, you challenged Jeff and he got away from you and then he spun and you grabbed the lead and Carl put a nice challenge on the inner loop. Can you run through those last couple of laps real quick?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, we just, the only thing we could do is just keep the pressure on, with less than ten laps to go, no point in saving anything. All we could do is keep going into every corner as hard as we could and not give up any time. Our brakes, I knew we were in good position on our brake where we had taken care of it all day. Even when we battled back I was real conscious not to burn the car and brakes up. That let me keep the pressure on him obviously and then he spins, breaks my momentum and let's Carl catch up. And I'm hearing on the radio from the spotter, Dave Blaney's car is blowing up through the S's, and it's not exactly a perfect shot to have a car blowing up and running a third of the speed that it needs to be especially as fast as they are running there. So I just screwed up and didn't, you know, was obviously not concentrating as good as I needed to be, and gave up time to Carl there and Carl got a run on us and once we were able to hold him off there, every corner, just forced him to make a last ditch effort with two corners to go and looked at him in the mirrors and looked like he got shot out of a cannon straight across the grass there.
So, you know, I don't know what happened to him other than I know he missed the corner. And at that point, spotter said there was no pressure from behind and had one more corner to make to win the race.
Q. You and Gordon are pretty much the two best on road courses last five or six years, have you ever had a battle like you had with him today in of all the times you raced together on the road courses, this may be the best battle you've had.
TONY STEWART: I think we had a better battle at Sonoma three or four years ago. I think Jeff broke a transmission that day but we had a good battle up front to where neither one of us were saving anything at that point. We both felt the importance of being in the lead and showing the other one that we had a better car at that point. But that's what's fun. It's fun to race Jeff. I mean, when you have a day like today and the laps that we were ahead of Jeff and could drive away from him a little bit, it makes you feel good and you know you're out running the best that's been out here.
Any time that you can run with Jeff like that, you have the confidence with race with him, we never had any close moments with each other today, we raced each other with respect and, you know, that's what makes racing with Jeff fun here. You know that when you have a good day here and you out run them that you did an excellent job. You're not going to back into it with Jeff out there.
Q. Can you tell us how your relationship with Jeff has changed since the altercation here seven years ago?
TONY STEWART: Seven years ago? You're going to bring up something that happened seven years ago?
Q. How your relationship has changed?
TONY STEWART: Oh, it's just fine now. I think we have a pretty good relationship now.
Q. Has is evolved? Is there something that helped in your relationship with him?
TONY STEWART: You're really digging deep to try to find something. I mean, obviously I mean, do you have siblings? Did you have brothers and sisters? Did you ever get in fights with him? Didn't it normally work itself out? That's kind of the way it happens here, too. Especially when you're around each other 120 days a year. There's mutual respect.
And it was fun being able to, I felt, a big honor, Jeff deciding to come and run in the Prelude this year. When he had not been on dirt in 16 years and the first time he comes back to dirt he decides to run at an event we came up with; that made me feel good and honored that he wanted to do that. The best part of night for me was seeing him when he came in after his first hot lap session, he was grinning from ear to ear. It reminds you there's more to this racing thing than just winning races and trophies and prize money. There's a day we all quit driving and it's about the relationships you make along the way, and you know, you're going to have battles and rivalries with guys that are strong competitors with you, and you know, that's to be expected. But at the same time, there's a huge admiration and respect when you race guys like that, too. I think we both realize that.
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