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August 10, 2008
WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
THE MODERATOR: We're ready for Marcos and Tony to come up on the podium. We appreciate them coming in. Outstanding performance by these two drivers here today.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, finishing second in today's Centurion Boats at the Glenn, and Marcos Ambrose fresh off of yesterday's Nationwide series victory with a top three today, finishing third in that No. 21 Little Debbie Ford. Congratulations to both of you.
Tony, you're on a tear right now, you're really racing well here the last month or so. Your thoughts about your performance today?
TONY STEWART: I was pretty happy with it. It was fairly uneventful from our side. We didn't have any big dramas during the race. The red there at the end kind of killed us a little bit, but really happy with the day, proud of Kyle and how he ran, and we saw behind us that Denny was having a good day, too, so really proud of the whole organization and thought it was a good day for us.
You know, just the thing that hurt us at the end was just the red flag. That cooled the tires down and dropped the air pressures, and it seemed like we were a little bit low on the left front tire, and it seemed like when the pressures were really low, it really made the front end hook to the right.
But even if we got that fixed, I'm not sure we were going to be fast enough to get by Kyle. He never made a mistake. He had a really, really good car today, and he was fast in all the right spots he needed to be fast in. You know, I think he ran a perfect race today. I thought we were really close. I mean, we're talking nitpicking stuff to get our car perfect.
So I was really proud of our guys. Our pit stops were good today. I thought Zippy had good pit strategy. It's days like today that you want every week. You want it to be uneventful and be this smooth every day.
THE MODERATOR: Now let's go to Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford. You had to come all the way back from 43rd, finished third, so you were flying by a lot of cars today. Congratulations. Your thoughts about your performance?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Just a great weekend all around. I thought yesterday was great, but when I'm lining up there on that red flag and I realized where I was, I was behind Tony and in front of all those other great drivers. It was just a real thrill.
We came out of the Trucks so well in practice yesterday that we were too scared to change anything, and the car was flopping around a lot during the race. It had a lot of grip, it was just really tough to drive. So I just tried to stay clean as best I could out there and pass cars cleanly and just pick away at it. I really had no idea where we were at until that last cycle of pit stops when we saw we were in about sixth place.
Just a great day all around, just so proud of the Wood Brothers for giving me a piece that I could really get out there and give it my best, and Little Debbie and the McKee family for giving me the chance to go Cup racing.
I don't want to be labeled a road racer, by the way. I am tenth in the Nationwide Series points so I'm trying to make it as a NASCAR driver full stop, not just a road racer.
THE MODERATOR: You've got to learn English first (laughter).
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, pigeon English.
Just really excited that I've been given an opportunity and I'm able to make the most of it. You don't get many chances in life to do something special like this, and today I'm going to look back at very fondly, the whole weekend to be honest with you. I'm just really proud of both my teams, and I hope that it can give the Wood Brothers the shot in the arm they need to get the momentum to move forward.
Q. Tony, there was a few restarts there where you were second, Kyle was first, you had a couple shots at him. What was the key to him beating you on the restarts? Can you talk about how close you came to passing him in any one of those?
TONY STEWART: I never really got that close to passing him unfortunately. I never could get the runs in the right spots. That was the key, really, was we struggled a little bit off of 5 and off of 7, and those are both right-hand corners, and our car was a little too free on the right-handers and was really, really good on the left-handers. But couldn't really get that run that I needed to stay with him to try to make a move in a braking zone.
I had great brakes all day. We were able to go deeper than he could in the corners, and there were corners we were better than him, just not in the right spot, so we never really could get close enough to really get an opportunity. Like Marcos said, you could dive bomb a guy and probably make something happen, but it wasn't going to be the right way, and we just never were really close enough to do it right.
Q. Marcos, on the restart, I understand your brakes were really iffy at that point. Was there ever a chance when you were close to Tony that you were going to dive in and try to make a pass, or did you back off knowing that it was a lose-lose situation?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, yeah, I just really want to be respectful to guys out there that are doing it week in and week out. It's not my place to stick my nose in and ruin someone else's day that's fighting for the Chase. If I was going to pass Tony, I was going to do it clean. I really thought about it. I wanted to have a good crack at it, but I just wasn't close enough and didn't get the run up the hill through the esses to get into the bus stop.
The difference between second and third to me was small compared to the negative I would have if I took out one of these Chase cars and got a bad reputation. So I wanted to badly have a crack at Tony at the end there, but I thought better of it when I just didn't have the run that I needed to to make a clean pass.
Q. Marcos, Kyle Busch, one of the things he said after the race, was he didn't pass anybody all day except on Pit Road. Now, you started last. Just for the record, describe how you managed to get track position and pass and get in position.
MARCOS AMBROSE: It felt like I passed everyone three times (laughter). There was some guys there just through the cycle pit stops that I did pass three or four times out there. We passed quite a few on the track. We passed quite a few in the pits, too, just with our strategy.
You know, I wasn't overtaken all day, which I'm proud of, and we did a lot of passing. You have to have the right strategy when you come from the back. It's not all about passing cars back there, it's about having the right calls and the pits, too. And David Hardy did a great job, stopped us at the right time so we could make it home on the gas, and it's just been a great day. It's been a great two days on strategy to be honest with you, because we managed it really well yesterday, as well.
Q. Marcos, obviously you've had a great two days here, but you've also given quite a shot in the arm to the Wood Brothers team. From the standpoint of throughout the weekend, how busy were you consulting with their engineers and the people with their team?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, it's actually quite strange because the guys that I had at Sonoma aren't the same crew chief, and Hoyt wasn't with us when we were at Sonoma and we ran really well there, too. We had a car that was sort of mothballed up in Sonoma, we tested it in Atlanta, and it was like, what do we do; the new guy is in, want to change it. I knew the car was good at the test in Atlanta and I didn't want to change it.
We were debating during the week what we should or shouldn't do, and then with limited time on Saturday we decided that the best thing to do was just roll it out like we tested it because I thought it was a pretty safe package, and it's just been great, been great working with Hardy for the first time.
I'm driving for three teams this year; it's the first time I've ever done that. So I'm losing helmets and earplugs and boots and all kinds of things because I'm so disorganized between the three trails. It's just a lot of fun to work with new guys, and they're top-notch. They gave me a great piece and gave me everything I could ask for today.
Q. Tony, great day for you, great run, lots of good points, but a little disappointing. This was the one you were kind of looking at to break a winless streak and win, wasn't it?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, but when you know your car was really close -- I mean, if we were off I think I'd have been more disappointed. I'm pretty happy with the run today. I know that we just were a little bit off. But the guy that won never made a mistake and didn't bobble. It's hard to be disappointed with that because the good thing is that we're back on track. You know, it's not all just about wins. I mean, there's a bigger prize at the end of the year than an individual race.
You know, the last three weeks have been good for us, the last two weeks to finish in the top two. There's a lot of guys that would love to have two weeks in a row where they could see they finished second. So no complaints.
I mean, I thought if we could have ever got track position on Kyle we might have been able to do something. If think if we'd have been leading when the red flag came out and our balance was like it was at the end, he probably would have got by us anyway.
But I can't be disappointed with a second place run to a teammate like that. I mean, he's on fire this year, so when you have a run like that, it's hard to be upset with it.
Q. Comfortable with the momentum now going in?
TONY STEWART: A lot more comfortable with the momentum now, for sure. I feel like we're -- today doesn't necessarily mean that next week when we get back to our normal discipline and run on ovals that it's going to be on track and where we want it to be. But there's good momentum and especially with all the changes this year and everybody thinking how disruptive it's been to our program.
I think the last two weeks has shown how focused our team is on the job at hand, so it makes me proud of our guys and proud of our whole organization. To have Kyle win, us run second, I looked up and Denny was fifth at one point, I don't know where he ended up. But all three of us had good cars today, so it just makes you proud of the organization, and you know that you've got a shot if we can stay in the top 12 now.
Q. Tony, in addition to sweeping the road course races, Kyle also clinched the top spot in the Chase today with eight wins, 80 bonus points. It just seems like he doesn't have any vulnerability right now. Going into the Chase, is he just far and away the favorite, and are you guys hoping something is going to happen between now and then that that team will start to fade a little bit?
TONY STEWART: Well, you answered your own question.
Q. How do you sum up his Chase chances?
TONY STEWART: I think it's pretty obvious. When you've got a guy that's won eight races and run as good as he did, it's hard to not count him as a favorite right now. You don't have to be able to solve a Rubik's Cube to figure this equation out. He's on his game right now. He's having a dream year you'd cut off one of your legs almost to have a year like he's having. Everything is going right, and he's driving his heart out. I mean, the kid is up on the wheel every week and making things happen. You know, that's what you've got to do to win a championship.
You build that momentum right now before the Chase starts, it's hard to break that.
Q. I know that y'all were clear of the red, but when you were going down the first stretch, did you think a plane had crashed behind you?
TONY STEWART: There was a lot of stuff out there, obviously, but you know it's all speedy dry and they get the bulk of it up and there's always a little bit of residue, but it was far enough out of the corner that it wasn't a major drama. It sure looked like a major drama when we came through there. I was expecting yellow tape to be strung around it as a crime scene.
That stuff is going to happen, and it sounded like from the spotter talking to us for the 50-minute red flag or whatever it was that we had there, sounded like it was a pretty big mess there for a while.
Q. Kyle has got a little bit of an edge where he can go a little bit more wide open just for wins. You bumped your gap on 12th to over 120 points. Is there a point where you think you'll be able to just go for wins and try to get some bonus points between now and Richmond?
TONY STEWART: I'd love to be in that spot, but I'm afraid we're probably not going to be in that spot to have that just go-for-broke attitude. The things that you do that get yourself in the Chase, you don't do things different when it comes time to -- you kind of stay in that mode, but if you have a chance on fuel mileage or trick strategy or something on a day that you might be 5th or 10th place car and you've got a shot with trick strategy to win, you definitely take it. In his situation, you can take that chance.
But I think for us the important thing for our team right now is just the fact of getting back in the top five consistently each week, and if we can do that, then that's the important thing for our team. Right now we're just not in a position where we can take those gambles and take those risks right now.
Q. Tony, Steve Addington kind of joked about we hadn't won in three weeks and we're in a slump, and the slump is finally over. Can you kind of -- obviously he was laughing at it, but when he goes three races without a win the way he's had this year, it's almost like a slump, isn't it?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, and you love being in that position. I can remember years where we finished second or third and I went home the most miserable person on the face of the earth because I felt like we should have won the race. It makes a year like this year for us -- makes you respect those years that you have runs like that and you have strings where you're in victory lane a lot.
It's a great position for those guys to be in. I mean, like we said a minute ago, it's a lot of momentum, and momentum is such a big key here in this series. To be able to start the Chase off on the right foot with a lot of momentum is huge.
Q. And one quick question for Marcos, that was the first top five for the Wood Brothers in more than three years, and obviously the best finish for Little Debbie. How much did that team really need that?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Well, I felt bad for folks at Sonoma because I think we were going for a strong Top 10 there for them. But they've had a tough run, there's no doubt about that. I hope I can play my part in helping them get back on track.
But the problem is bigger than one person. This is a tough sport, and it's -- you've got to be 100 percent committed and have the resources and everything behind you to make it work. I hope they can turn it around, and it's just great that I can give them a bit of a lift. But like I said, they've got a long road ahead, and hopefully they can get it done.
Q. Marcos, I saw you watching the monitors there with the wreck. What do you think of that?
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, that's pretty big. I'm pleased I wasn't in the back. That's just a mess right there, there's nothing you can say. I'm just happy everyone is all right; I guess they are.
Q. For both drivers, getting back to that wreck, just seeing how big it was, did that possibly -- talk about neither of you felt like you had enough of a run. Did that kind of scare the rest of the field straight for the last couple laps?
TONY STEWART: I'm not sure all of us are smart enough to get that scared when we see something like that happen. You know every week, and especially even -- you go to Daytona and Talladega, it's almost a given you're going to have one of those a weekend there. And I don't want to speak for Marcos, but I think everybody that's ahead of us is focused on what they're doing and still focused on their game plan and what they've got to do to either move ahead or win the race or whatever situation they're in. If I was worried about getting hurt or worried about getting in a wreck, I'd stay in a rubber room all day and play Wii or something, I don't know.
Q. Marcos, you said this morning that last night was kind of quiet and you went to bed early but you got a lot of phone calls from Australia. What's tonight going to be like for you?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I've got a three-year-old and a one-year-old back at home, so if I have too big a night, it's going to be really painful on Monday. I'll have a couple of cans. Everyone was asking me what cans were last night. Beer cans, by the way. Not soda, beer cans. But just really excited. It's just a great weekend, and I'm going to enjoy it when I get back to Charlotte.
I've dragged my family a long way, away from the media, friends and family down home, and it's just a lot of commitment. When you have a weekend like this, it just validates the choices that I've made to come across here and have a go at it. It's a big, bad world out here in NASCAR world, and I'm just pleased that I'm able to have a weekend like this to remember. When it's all said and done, I'll be able to go back home to Tasmania and tell them how good I was at Watkins Glen on one year.
MARCOS AMBROSE: Yeah, we've got a fair chance at getting humbled next week so I'm going to have a really good five days to enjoy it and we'll try and qualify the 21 car in at Michigan and we'll take hold of that 59 car in the Nationwide series, too.
Q. Tony, the last couple weeks some people have started -- had started to doubt Kyle, thinking, is the pressure getting to him, he hasn't run that well the last couple weeks, and he kind of answered the bell today obviously. Do you feel like he has -- he's young, but he has what it takes. When the pressure is on here and guys start gaining on him to do that here and to do that the rest of the way?
TONY STEWART: I think so for sure. Obviously being his teammate I get a lot to chance closer to him than a lot of people do. I think you look at the beginning of the season when he was leading -- almost leading all three divisions in NASCAR, in the national series there. That's a lot of pressure in itself. So I think if it's a question of pressure, I think that's been answered.
You know, I don't think that bothers him. I honestly think he thrives on it. I think he feeds on it and uses it to his advantage. You know, I don't think he's one of those guys that pressure really affects. I think he's a young enough guy and he's so motivated to win that I don't even know if he even feels pressure. I think the only time he feels pressure is if somebody is up leaning on him. I think that's the only pressure he feels right now. He's just riding a huge momentum wave right now, and it's hard for anything to affect you when you're having a season like this.
Q. Marcos, yesterday you mentioned that you were going to celebrate, that the beer clock was ringing or something like that. I was wondering, how many did you have, and are you going to make it a tradition, because two good days in a row?
MARCOS AMBROSE: I'm heading straight to Margaritaville (laughter).
TONY STEWART: Be careful on this one. I said I was going through a case once and it went through like crazy.
MARCOS AMBROSE: I've got two little girls at home and I'm going to wake up tomorrow and have a great day with them and just enjoy it. I will celebrate it with my crew when we get back to Charlotte and I'll celebrate with my family, but we've got a race next week.
I've been down this road before and races come and go, and you've got to try and stay level. You don't want to get too high when the going is good and you don't want to get too low when the going is bad. We're going to enjoy it. I'll speak to my dad here in a minute back in Australia who's probably waiting for the phone call so I can tell him all about it.
Just really excited that we finished the deal. I really just wanted to finish today, especially there the last 15-odd laps there. I didn't want to ruin the day by making mistakes, so I just wanted to finish, and we've done that. All my guys on the Wood Brothers side should be proud, and it's going to be great to enjoy it on Monday.
Q. Marcos, Boris Said says he's going to do the Bathurst 1000 this year. Are you doing it against him?
MARCOS AMBROSE: No, he's actually running with a friend of mine down there. He's going to really enjoy that. Boris is a great road racer and he gets out there and tries all these different tracks. He's raced a lot of the world. He said to me before he stopped talking to me after Mexico that he really wanted to do Bathurst and was looking forward to doing that. He'll really enjoy that race, it's a lot of fun. It's a shame I can't go back there and do it but my focus is really here in America now, and one day I'd like to go back and try and conquer the mountain down there, but good on Boris having a go at it.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, Marcos, thank you for your time. Thank you for putting on an outstanding performance for us today. Thank you.
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