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February 16, 2008
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
HERB BRANHAM: We're ready to start our post-race press conference with the race winner, driver of the No. 20 Armor-All Toyota, Tony Stewart and crew chief, Dave Rogers.
Congratulations, guys. Great race. Tony, Dave, to start off, give us a quick idea about the race today, how it went.
TONY STEWART: It was terrible, especially the outcome. We just hate this when we have to win races and stuff. Then you got to take pictures, all that. I hate taking a trophy home. It's miserable.
It's just a lot easier if you get wrecked in the first 20 laps, beat the traffic back, get a shower, kickback and watch the end of the race on TV. It's much more comfortable, not near as hot. You don't get sticky with all that stuff they pour on you in Victory Lane.
Other than that, it's pretty cool (smiling).
HERB BRANHAM: Dave, I know you can do better.
DAVE ROGERS: Yeah, we don't see eye-to-eye on that.
TONY STEWART: I will say this. This will tell you the true equivalent of the percentage of the importance at this table here, because when the crew chief's -- the size of his font is exactly how important he was verus the size of mine and how important I was today.
DAVE ROGERS: We don't see eye-to-eye on that either.
This is very exciting. Everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing worked so hard over the winter making the change to Toyota. This just rewards all the guys back at the shop. The fab shop built us a great body to come down here and work with.
Mike Cronquist built some serious horsepower. All the guys just executed our game plan. We had a great test. Mike McLaughlin worked on our front end a lot to make it turn. According to Smoke, I had some more work to do, but it wasn't that bad. It's exciting to be here in Victory Lane at Daytona.
HERB BRANHAM: Questions for Tony Stewart and Dave Rogers.
Q. How nice has it been to have Gibbs back around this week? How much of a difference has it made for you? Is he calling any audibles out there?
TONY STEWART: Obviously you don't know the race team very well, 'cause ever since I can remember being here, for 10 years in the Cup Series and two in the Nationwide Series, since I've been here, they've never, ever given him a radio that he can push the button and actually talk to anybody on it. That's the God's honest truth.
He is not allowed to talk to anybody, especially when the race is going on. It's great, obviously, having Joe back. He's a great leader. He's a great motivator. This week's proof of that. Everybody's excited to have him back.
We all were hoping that the end of his football career would have ended a little different for him and his family. But, you know, we're all excited to have him back here. There's just something about Joe. When he's in the shop, everybody's demeanor is different, everybody's more excited when he's around, it seems like.
It's definitely great having him back. His biggest strength is knowing who to hire and the right people for the right positions, and obviously Kyle Busch was his latest stroke of genius obviously. I mean, he knows what Kyle's capable of, and today was perfect proof of it. Kyle ran a great race today. I think he had probably the best-handling car out there.
I think we were real close on speed. I think we were a little faster speed-wise, but I think we sacrificed a little handling to get that speed.
You know, great teammate. He was awesome to work with today. There were a lot of times in the race late there when we could stay together. We would probably have a run that was big enough to go on by the guy in front of us. We would just stay with each other and push each other an help try to clear ourselves from the rest of the pack to make sure we could get away.
So, you know, having a teammate like him was awesome today. And Denny has been great to work with all week, too. He's been a great teammate ever since he started.
You know, that's due to Joe and his leadership and knowing who's going to be the right people for the right positions. You know, we had a great car today. I mean, Dave and the guys did an awesome job building a very, very fast race car.
Like Dave mentioned, having Mark Cronquist and the staff working 24 hours, not only on Cup motors right now but Nationwide motor to get ready for this weekend, has been a huge undertaking for our organization.
But the power has been unbelievable with our Toyotas. Really, really proud of what the guys were able to accomplish last year. You know, everybody has talked about how much JGR has brought the level of Toyota up. It's not been us. It's been what they did before we came along.
You know, we're able to help with little things here and there, but they laid a very nice foundation and base for us to all work from.
You know, I think Toyota doesn't get the credit it deserves for what they did last year. Getting both the Nationwide program and the Sprint Series programs where they are right now.
Q. Tony, do you come here now with the success you've had and Denny and Kyle have had, having the same kind of -- equal kind of confidence in what you can do this year in Toyotas that you always had in Chevrolets?
TONY STEWART: I still think it's a little early to tell that. If every week was a restrictor plate week, I think, yes, we would.
But, you know, we haven't ran the open motors enough to know. There's no reason to believe we're not going to be. They don't concentrate on just the restrictor plate side, totally neglect the side you're going to run 32 times a year.
For us, I think it's a lot of confidence in knowing how hard and how dedicated they are to being successful in the series. You know, the limited amount of time they've been in NASCAR, as this year is starting to prove, they're having a lot of success in a short amount of time already.
So I think they got a lot to be proud of there.
Q. Tony, why not climb the fence in celebration?
TONY STEWART: Just so somebody in the media center would say, Why didn't you climb the fence (laughter)? Thank you for that, I appreciate it. Took a little longer than I thought (smiling).
Q. After you got the lead from Bryan, was it really at that point Kyle the only guy you were seriously worried about since he was so strong?
TONY STEWART: I wasn't worried about him from my standpoint. I was worried for him. You know, he had a lot of pressure from behind. He did such a great job of defending his position. I was hoping, the way we were running - and obviously Dave doesn't want to hear this - as long as it was a 1-2 finish for Gibbs, no matter what the order was, I think we were all going to be happy.
Obviously each team and each driver wants to win the race. You have to rely so much on teammates here. He was handling good. When we were behind him, I got so tight that that's how we lost second place. When we went into turn one, I couldn't stay on the bottom. Just slid up enough off the bottom enough that the 10 car and the 8 could get underneath us there. That kind of just got us separated from each other, so it made it a handful for him.
Vickers got to the outside on a run. That actually helped us get our momentum back. Seemed like, you know, in all reality, once we got to the top, I freed up, the car freed up when I got up a little bit. I think we had a short enough amount of laps on our tires that it actually worked out to our favor. If we had to run 20 or 30 laps, I'm not sure the outcome would have been the same.
When we got up there late, we were able to get our momentum back, we could stay flat in the throttle, we could roll through the center of the corner real nice and not have to break our momentum. We got such a big run down the backstretch that when we got in front, it was back to, What do we got to do to help our teammate out again?
It wasn't a situation where we could get behind him and push him back into the lead. We just had to, you know, stay in our line till we got a chance to get free. Once we got in front, you know, just tried to get back down to where we could help Kyle draft with us again. You know, he did a great job, I thought.
He could go change lanes in the middle of a corner, which was something that was really hard to do today. I mean, this track is -- every year we talk about how important handling is here. It seems like every event that we run here, this track is starting to get like Darlington to where after 10 laps your tires are falling off and you're sliding all over the place and trying to hang on to your car.
It makes it fun to a certain degree, and it makes you do a lot of exercises on holding your breath a lot, too. 'Cause, you know, you're running so fast here that when you do get loose, it makes you hold your breath. You gasp for air, wait till you get to the straightaway. These are long corners to have to hold your breath before you get back to the straightaway and breathe again.
Q. Tony, did you and Kyle talk today much on the radio? Toward the end you've been in the same situation. At what point do you start worrying about keeping your teammate in front and not worrying about your own position?
TONY STEWART: Well, I mean, as long as you're in second you worry about keeping your teammate up there with you. You know, obviously when we got the lead back and saw the pressure that he was under, I mean, at the point he loses second you got to start worrying about yourself again.
But, you know, he got shuffled back there at one point. He showed how good his car was today handling-wise. He was able to get right back up there to the front. They had a great stop. We had great stops all day. I'm really proud of our team. They did a great job getting us in and out of the pits.
But, you know, you have to pay attention to what lines are running. I talked to him in Victory Lane. I kept thinking there were about three or four times where the rules were reversed, he was leading, the line on the outside got a run like you got to bail out and get to the top, take care of yourself in that situation.
We really worked hard at staying with each other today. I think no matter how long this race was going to be, if we had to run another hundred laps, another pit stop, as long as we could stay together we were going to be a pretty strong team and strong combination.
Q. Did you talk?
TONY STEWART: We didn't. I don't know the Nationwide radios, whether we've got each other's frequency. We do have it in the Cup Series. I didn't know if we had it or not, so I never messed with it.
I did at one point call my spotter and have him go over to Kyle's spotter and relay some information over to him.
Q. As much as we talk about the handling, when tomorrow comes along, will you take horsepower over handling, take what you can with the handling, deal with that, as long as you have that horsepower? Toyota has shown it has horsepower here.
TONY STEWART: How much do I have to sacrifice in horsepower for the handling?
Q. Your choice.
TONY STEWART: I only got to give up one or two horsepower for handling, I'll take handling any day. I feel we can sacrifice a couple.
Handling is going to be huge here. You have to be able to stay in the gas. Even in the Nationwide race today, I mean, I told Dave, I said, If I told you the amount of laps I actually ran flat it would scare you. We didn't run near the laps flat on the throttle that I thought we would.
All the laps in practice that we ran, we never had to get on the gas at all. It wasn't till about 20 straight laps tonight that we had to start cracking the throttle and keeping the nose underneath it.
I think handling is going to be everything tomorrow. I mean, I think as long as -- I think you can have a car that's down a little bit on power. As long as you can keep that momentum up through the corner, you're going to carry it through the straightaway.
If you have to start checking it up in the corner, losing that momentum, you have to rely on the horsepower to get you going back. But I don't think it's an even trade. I think just being able to carry that momentum all day and handling is going to be the most critical issue for tomorrow.
Q. Tony, you talked earlier about how bad it is here on the tires, how quickly they go away. Is there a lot of difference between this car that you drove today and the car that you're going to drive tomorrow since you don't have that much experience with that car on a track like this?
TONY STEWART: I think it's gonna be a huge difference. It has been all week. I mean, obviously when I got in the car two days ago with Dave and the guys, it was like putting on an old pair of shoes and it really drove really well when the track was a little cooler. It doesn't matter how cool the track is, I mean, we're sliding around with the other car, the Cup cars.
It's like we talked about all week: that's what these cars were designed to do. They were designed for tomorrow's race not to drive as well as the cars we were driving today. They got that wish, for sure. It's definitely going to be a driver's race tomorrow, who can hang on to their car when it's not right.
That's probably going to be the biggest key. Not who gets their car driving good, it's who can hang on to it when it's not driving good tomorrow, and can you make it to the next pit stop to make an adjustment or are you going to have a problem?
Just being able to hang on to your car tomorrow is going to be a huge factor. But, you know, we used to talk about Saturday to Sunday, and the changes were very similar, what you learned today you could transfer to the car for tomorrow. It's not necessarily that way anymore. I mean, track bar is still track bar. Air pressure is still air pressure. Wedge in and out is wedge in and out.
We didn't deal with bump rubbers today. We didn't deal with splitters. It's just a totally different ballgame tomorrow now with this package than what Dave and I worked with today.
Q. Dave, drivers have to adapt to a lot of changes for tracks. Do you do anything special to help your team to adjust to all the changes, especially the last couple years?
DAVE ROGERS: Not really. With the driver lineup I have this year, there's not much driver coaching going on.
All we did is put together a game plan. We talked about the what ifs. We knew that the car was going to tighten up as the track got hot. Tony and I talked about that before the race.
We just had a game plan of, Okay, when it does this, we're going to do this. We're going to try to stay ahead of it.
But it's all driver-comment dictated. Tony tells us what's wrong and we do our best to fix it. It changes throughout the race.
HERB BRANHAM: Dave, thank you very much.
DAVE ROGERS: Thank you very much.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll continue with questions for Tony.
Q. Tony, the car owner, exopen-wheeler, I'm wondering if you thought it would be that hard for Jacques Villeneuve to secure sponsorship?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I mean, I'm selling sponsorship in the World Outlaw, Sprint car level and USAC level. I'm not a team owner at this level. I would say at this level it's increasingly harder and harder to get sponsorships.
The value of what this series has to offer from sponsorships, no mayer whose car you're on I think is very valuable. I mean, obviously the coverage that you get here, I mean, you just look at the amount of people here in the media center's proof of that.
If it's not a popular sport, all you representatives from all the different papers and online sites wouldn't be here if it wasn't worth covering. As long as you guys are here, obviously it brings that value because you guys are the ones that help us.
As much as we promote the sponsors, you guys do the same things for us. I think as long as this sport is as popular as it is, I think corporate America realizes the value of the marketing side and what these series have to offer them, no matter who the drivers are.
Q. They're talking about making some drastic changes when they come in with the new Nationwide car. Do you think that will be the end of Cup drivers driving in this series?
TONY STEWART: No. I mean, Clint Bowyer went and ran dirt this week. Just because it didn't have anything to do with his Cup car didn't stop him from going and racing a dirt track. The Cup drivers race on Saturday because they love racing. You know, there's a lot of value to that from their standpoint.
I mean, if you're going to be here for three days, you might -- if you want to race three days in a row like Kyle does a lot, running the Truck Series and Nationwide and Cup, you should be able to do that, I mean, if you're going to be here that long. And the fans want to see you run as much as possible.
I don't think it matters with the difference of cars because still, you know, we're still running vastly different cars now from the two series versus what we did in the past anyway. It hasn't stopped anybody from saying, Okay, well, I still want to go down and run a Nationwide car.
Even if they change, and I don't know what the proposed changes are, I know they've talked about it, and I've heard it through you guys this week, the possibilities of it being a different car in the future.
Racers race. I mean, you look at the amount of guys, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kenny Schrader, how many guys are going out and running more and more of just the Cup cars, I don't see that changing, especially where we're at at the weekends.
I don't think you're going to see a decrease in the amount of guys that are going to run just because the cars are different. I think if you want to race, you're still just going to race.
Q. Getting back to Joe one more time. How has his demeanor been this week? Have you made him forget about the Washington Redskins with all the success you had this week?
TONY STEWART: Washington who (smiling)?
I would say we kept him busy enough. With the driver lineup he's got, I don't think he wants to relax too much anyway, to begin with. We just kind of like keeping him only edge anyway. It's kind of fun to watch him walk around on edge a little bit.
He hasn't even mentioned it. I'll be honest. Obviously it's been a busy week with two of us running the Shootout last Saturday, Kyle running the truck race last night. Joe was interested in keeping tabs of what Kyle was doing, even though we didn't have a truck entered in the race. All three of us running today.
So, you know, I think -- I don't know that Joe's forgot it. It's probably a question you'd have to ask him how much he's thought about the Redskins or not. I know the topic of football hasn't even came up since we've been down here at Daytona.
I just want to know, did they pass out any more cool bobbleheads? Anything I want to grab from you guys that I can take back to the motor coach that's cool? You guys get all the cool stuff.
Q. Great Clips stuff.
TONY STEWART: Now, I'm okay with the Great Clips stuff right now. I'll tell you what, I'll let you guys each take a shot at the scissors tomorrow if we can win this thing. Each of you can cut a lock for yourself. That's my gift.
And Poole is not going first (laughter). Hunter is damn sure not going first. He can't see. He may try to clip my beard instead (laughter).
Q. Who would your favorite bobblehead be?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. That's a really good question. I just think I want to be the first driver to come out with a bobble belly, because I think it just fits me. If we use that mold we can probably make a David Poole, Monte Dutton. What are you laughing about (laughter)? We're still teammates, so...
I think it would be kind of cool. I don't know who in the series. I know we put a lot of work into trying to get Kevin's mounted today, and Zippy was the one that put the squash on it. The guys were all ready. Had all the hardware to bolt it in.
Zippy is so knotted up about tomorrow right now, it was hard to convince him that putting a toy in the car was actually going to make us more productive today. Didn't have much luck there.
Q. You said you're a racer and you'll race anything. How much do you want to go back to the Indy 500?
TONY STEWART: Check with me tomorrow night. If I can say that I won a Daytona 500 first, I think it will make that interest in doing that again that much greater. Got a lot of work here in NASCAR that I want to do before I would even consider going back and doing that.
There's a lot of things that have to happen first before I would even think about going back and doing that again.
Q. It's been you and Dale, Jr. all week long. You've run really well all week long. So has Dale, Jr. What is keeping it from being the showdown between you two tomorrow?
TONY STEWART: I think the fact that we both got teammates that are really good also right now. I think my teammates' cars are handling better than mine is right now.
You know, you look at the teammates from both sides here, you can't count any of those guys out, I don't believe. I think Denny is running as good as he's ever run here at Daytona. I think Kyle, everything he's drove this week, he's been fast. He just hasn't had the luck to go with it.
You look at the Hendrick side, aside from Junior, you look at Jeff and Jimmie, and you never ever can count those guys out at a race. I think that side of it speaks for itself.
This series is so competitive, I don't think you really can narrow it down to two guys. Even with what happens during the week, you look at the last lap of the Daytona 500 last year, nobody would have predicted it was going to be down between Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick. That's the way it worked out. That's the way it shook out.
500 laps here is a long, long, long race, especially with the cars being different this year and everybody having the tire problems. You know me, I'm normally the first one to jump on Goodyear's back about tires. I really don't believe it's a problem with what they've been doing.
I think it's, you know, the conditions were so much better when we came and tested here that I don't think they could even predict what was going to happen.
But these cars and this racetrack has given up so much grip, I think especially in the last two years, it just feels like it's finally got that wore-out feel to where it just doesn't have a lot of grip. When that happens, it's hard for any tire manufacturer to stay caught up to it and know what to expect.
But, you know, I wouldn't want to be a bookie trying to lay the odds on the Daytona 500, because I don't know how you predict who's going to win it. I don't know how you can be that accurate and know how to accurately give odds for this race, so much can happen the last three or four laps.
If you look at the qualifying races, you look at the Shootout the other night, so much can happen at the end of the race when guys get their cars driving halfway decent, that it even makes it hard to predict with two laps to go who is going to win. It's hard to narrow it down to two guys.
I think in all reality, we got to give credit to more of the field than that.
Q. 78 career Nationwide starts. All three of your victories have come here. Do you get to a certain place, a certain car, a certain series where you have a certain confidence to where you feel like you can't be beat or you're the guy to beat?
TONY STEWART: It's actually the opposite. It means I suck everywhere else basically. Haven't been able to win anywhere else yet (laughter).
We've had good luck here. Obviously, you know, with all three wins being here it's a race I look forward to. Winning that first one with Kevin and DeLana Harvick and winning their first race for them as a race team was really a special moment for me in my career because of how good of friends they are to me.
Armor-All this weekend, this is the only race we're running for Armor-All all year. It was just a one-off race. They're in my World of Outlaws Sprint car team with Donny Schatz. To go out and get the pole yesterday and to see them the day before the race, see how excited they were, it was really cool to finish it off this way today.
I hope to break this jinx I guess of just being able to win at Daytona in this series. Trust me, I wouldn't want to give those three wins up for anything. But, you know, you still hope that you can go out and do it on another day also.
You know, obviously we like the restrictor plate races as far as how we perform. I'm not sure I like the style of it. When you look up, look in the stats 10 years from now, it says three wins, most people would have forgot they were all just here. They'll think I was actually pretty good somewhere else, too.
Q. How much do you think a lock of your hair would go for on eBay?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. We actually sent some in earlier this year. I shouldn't say this year. It was late last year, right before Thanksgiving. Actually had it shaped, whatever that means. It means she took scissors to it and it looked the same when I left as when I went in there, so I didn't really think much happened.
I don't know. Especially if it comes from you guys cutting it. It should raise a lot of extra money if the media cuts it. I think the situation behind it would make it more valuable, obviously.
HERB BRANHAM: We're going to wrap up with Tony.
TONY STEWART: Scared?
HERB BRANHAM: Absolutely.
TONY STEWART: So am I (laughter).
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, Tony.
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