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February 14, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll into our winning race team of today's Camping World 300 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series here at Daytona. Our race winner is Tony Stewart. He drives the No. 80 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet. Crew chief Lance McGrew and team owner Rick Hendrick.
Tony, right now you're having a good week, good weekend leading into tomorrow's race. You have to feel good about the victory today.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I was ecstatic about it. The first time I've got to drive for Mr. Hendrick, Lance, all the guys at Hendrickcars.com. Just an unbelievable run today.
We never really got to run with a huge pack yesterday, or the last two days in practice. Wasn't quite sure exactly what we were going to have today. We had a great start to the race, got ourselves in the top pack there, were able to stay in the lead draft.
We were a little bit free, but we were really good about third back. We got up and led some laps before that first caution, and came out and Lance did a great job all day of making changes to the car to where toward the end we finally got it snugged up enough to where I could do what I needed to do.
I thought I made the worst call/move of the year. Was going to get that award for coming into the pits with 28 to go. It actually ended up saving us at the end. We got good track position. Got ourselves back up to third, got track position, and restarted second.
Fortunate we were able to get through the pack like that. Because we had a good car, we could run through the middle in times that guys couldn't go through the middle three-wide. Just the car drove good and had -- all the guys at Hendrick Motorsports in the engine department.
The thing was so good, it would just roll the corner. I could roll through there by myself and not have to have the push when we were three-wide and make ground. Thanks to those guys for giving us a great engine package to let us run up there like that.
KERRY THARP: Lance, talk about the strategy that played such a role there late in the lace.
LANCE McGREW: He kind of let the cat out of the bag. I was looking like a real hero till the end of the race. Everybody thought I made that call to come down pit road, but...
TONY STEWART: You did.
LANCE McGREW: The car was really good all day. Just a little free out front. We just kept snugging it up, snugging it up until he was happy. When you get a guy like that in your racecar, you get a perfect car, even in this case it wasn't even perfect and he still won with it. So a good day.
KERRY THARP: Mr. Hendrick, talk about the win today and how it was having Tony drive for you out there this afternoon.
RICK HENDRICK: It was a real special, special win. We've talked about doing things. I guess in '96 I called him. He said he wasn't ready yet. You know, real proud of what they've done with their team. We were going to launch this weekend, the site with Hendrickcars.com. All of our stores were advertising it.
We figured out yesterday that if we didn't make the field, we spent a lot of money, didn't have any points (laughter).
But it was really special. You know, after watching him win this race so many times on Saturday, it was good to have him in our car doing it.
Lance, you know, he and Ricky started the Busch team, and you, know, won with Brian. It's been a long time since we won a Saturday race in Daytona. It was a real special feeling. It couldn't have been a more picture-perfect deal with the automotive group.
To plan a promotion in this kind of economy, it doesn't work. You spend a lot of money for nothing. So, thank you, Tony. You saved us.
It was a great race. I didn't have any idea we were going to win it there at the end. I thought we might get wrecked. But it was a good one.
KERRY THARP: Questions now for either Lance, Tony or Mr. Hendrick.
RICK HENDRICK: Could you not call me Mr. Hendrick? I'm almost 60, but 'Rick' would be great (laughter).
Q. Tony, we can't see what you see or feel what you feel. Sometimes we have to ask. I hate that. But tell me how those Goodyears were sticking up in three and four that last lap.
TONY STEWART: Well, not very good, but good enough. Kyle got through our bumper right after we got off of two down the backstretch. I thought we were going to be able to pull away from the field further than that.
Normally, you get two cars hooked up like that, seen it at Talladega, get the bumpers locked, they drive away from everybody. Didn't get as big a gap as I thought we would.
I was surprised that we were able to chase it as far as we did. He never turned loose of us. He drove halfway up the racetrack still glued to my bumper, instead of staying on the line trying to go around us.
I wasn't going to lift, though, because I knew if I lifted I was going to get wrecked for sure. I definitely needed all the real estate that I had there. Trust me, I would have loved to have had just a little bit more grip there at the end.
Q. Tony, when you made the decision to go in for tires, what were you thinking about?
TONY STEWART: I looked behind us. Lance had told me to stay out. Said that the 5 and the 88 were going to stay out. Those were our teammates. I should have stayed. But I looked in the mirror.
I've been caught out so many times in the past, especially last year, that we just had such rotten luck all year. So many times we planned on staying out, the whole field would come and get tires, and we would get swallowed back in the pack. I saw a bunch of cars.
I mean, there were only about three or four cars that I saw behind me that kind of stayed up enough on the racetrack that I thought that I knew they were going to stay out. The rest of them stayed down on the line like they were coming, or they were seriously considering it.
I just, for some reason, felt like -- I just didn't want to get caught out and not get tires and then the thing go to the end.
I got really, really lucky there, because I had a big possibility of screwing us up there. But even before the caution came out we got ourselves up to third. When Lance had made the changes there at the end, the stop before that, it got us right where we needed to be. That let us drive through the field to get up and get that track position back.
I'm not sure if the caution would have come out, you know, five or eight laps earlier, if the outcome might have been different. But the way it came out with seven laps or six laps to go on the restart there, it gave our tires time to cool down a little bit and let us have enough grip to at least have it for that small amount of time to get to the end.
Q. Tony, can you talk about the emotions that you had today just from the lows of this morning to winning the race. Hard to separate yourself when you got in the car today from the frustrations from what happened?
TONY STEWART: You know, I know it probably doesn't make sense, but I've done this for 29 years now. This is my 29th year racing. I think I ran so many different types of cars, that after practice was over and Darian and I kind of got the game plan of what was going to happen, what we had to do to finish getting our car ready, what we had to do to get Ryan's car ready.
When I went back to the bus and put this uniform on, when you see Hendrick on it, you switch gears real quick in your mind and you realize that, Hey, you got a job to do. You put what happened in the morning behind you. You focus on the task at hand.
Going out there and seeing Mr. Hendrick come to the car, Lance and their guys, I mean, they were pumped up. They knew what this morning was like. It was very disappointing this morning. I was so frustrated I almost couldn't see straight.
But seeing how good a job the guys did, I guess almost the positive to the negative is I was so proud that we had guys from Hendrick Motorsports come down, Richard Childress came down and personally told me that if we needed a car, if we were in a bind on chassis, we could use one of theirs.
The amount of guys that came over and said, Hey, we don't know what we can do, but if we can help, let us know. That made me extremely proud of how many guys in the garage were willing to come up and lend a hand and their support.
If they don't like you they won't offer that hand. It made me feel real fortunate that we have a bunch of friends in this garage area that wanted to help out.
I'm really proud of our guys, too. They never got down. I mean, as soon as it happened, they were working hard to get the backup car out, get everything switched over to get it exactly where the primary car was at the end of practice yesterday.
To get back on the racetrack in a timely manner like we were, I was really proud of Darian and our guys. I know it was a little different situation for Ryan and the U.S. Army car. I mean, they didn't have the luxury of just bringing the backup car down as quick as we did.
But I think we found something this morning with both cars. I was struggling getting my car to suck up in the draft. We finally found something that helped that. Ryan's car yesterday wasn't handling quite as nice as he wanted, but it would suck up real good.
We kind of found a common balance between the two. His car was driving good today and sucking up good, and mine did the same thing.
I feel comfortable because of our package that we have that we're going to be able to duplicate that in both cars for tomorrow, too.
Q. In that last lap position where you were leading the race, we keep asking people, Do you want to have the lead at the white flag. You got Kyle Busch coming. You're the only one that doesn't have any moves to make except countermoves.
TONY STEWART: That's what you think (laughter).
Q. As the leader, what do you have in your arsenal?
TONY STEWART: You just watch. I mean, you know, the thing when you're leading is you spend 90% of the lap looking at what's going on behind you in the mirror. I know that's hard to image running 190 miles an hour that you're watching the mirror.
You have to be conscious of what the guys behind you are doing. You can see how they're trying to set themselves up to make the pass to try to win the race. They have to be careful not to try something that's going to get them in a position to get passed, but at the same time get themselves backed away from you.
So you have to try to not let yourself run out too far ahead and get such a gap that all of a sudden you lose that push and your car slows down, and then they get a push from behind and get a big advantage and a big run on you.
You spend the majority of that lap just watching behind you. It's a chess match at that point. It's move, countermove, move, countermove. The last two and a half miles seems like it takes forever. It's because it does. There's a lot that happens in that last, you know, 50-second lap.
Q. On that exact topic, that last portion of the race, was there anything about the way Kyle raced you and was on your bumper that you would consider over the line, or do you respect that as hard-nosed, aggressive stuff?
TONY STEWART: It's definitely aggressive, for sure (smiling). If I would have lost it and crashed because of it, I guarantee you I'd be upset about it. Because he never turned loose of us going in there.
You know, we saw Jason Leffler get a five-lap penalty for aggressive driving. Pushing a guy off in the corner isn't exactly obviously the best thing to do. The thing that Kyle did that I want to make sure everybody understands, Kyle didn't wreck me. He didn't try to wreck me.
What Kyle did was try to get me in a position where my car got loose, and I had to try to race it up the racetrack to give him the bottom. And that happened.
In doing so, he had to run up the racetrack, too. It wasn't like he just ran us up into the fence. He didn't do that.
Kyle's the type of guy that if you beat him, in a race like this, if you can win the race, you know you did everything a hundred percent right. Because if you don't do it a hundred percent right, he's going to find a way around you.
It doesn't mean I did something special that nobody else could do. It means I got everything out of myself today, and the guys did a great job of getting a hundred percent out of the car.
He's not gonna give it to you, and I wouldn't expect him to. You want to earn those wins. When you can do it that way and you can manhandle your racecar up around the racetrack like that, that's what makes winning these races so special, is knowing you didn't get it handed to you. You know you had to work for it.
Q. With all the pressure and attention on tomorrow's race, Rick, where do you rank a win on Saturday? At what point do you stop enjoying this race and start worrying about tomorrow?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I hadn't even thought about tomorrow for the last -- I don't know how long we've been in Victory Lane. You know, when you've been doing it for 25 years, when you look at the wins, you'd like to see some of the greatest drivers that ever drove the sport in the sport drive your cars. That's something that I've been really excited about, to have Tony get in the car.
Again, it's been a long time. I watched a lot of Saturday races. Been a while since we've been in Victory Lane on a Saturday race. So, you know, I take 'em one at a time. I'll start worrying about tomorrow probably in the morning. But all the cars are real competitive. I think it's gonna be a heck of a race tomorrow, based on the 150s and the Clash, the Shootout, whatever you call it now.
I think this is -- again, the emotions from having Tony in the car, Lance being the crew chief, all the dealerships putting so much behind this and at this point in time with the economy like it is, it was just a script. If I could say I want this to happen. It couldn't get any better than this. It just couldn't.
Q. Tony, have you met with Goodyear yet? Do you stand by what you said this morning in the interview?
TONY STEWART: I don't say it if I don't mean it. Surely after 11 years you guys have figured that out.
You know, the thing is, this morning is over. There's nothing we can do about it. Nothing will change. It hasn't since I've been a part of this sport when it comes to that topic. The important thing is that, you know, we found a way to put that behind us by winning the Nationwide race for Mr. Hendrick and Hendrickcars.com and Lance.
This was the perfect thing to try to get it out of my mind and to get me focused a hundred percent on what we can do to try to win the race tomorrow again now.
Q. Did you talk to Goodyear?
TONY STEWART: No, I didn't. And I won't. I've met with them before. It doesn't do any good. I would rather spend my time productively hanging out with this group and going out and winning races.
Q. Tony, that final half lap, how much of that, if you could break it down, would you say was car and how much of that was just personal on your part? Would a lesser driver have backed out of that?
TONY STEWART: Well, I don't know. I mean, I've not ever been another driver, so I really can't answer that for sure.
I promise you this: You have to have a car that is driving good to be able to do that with a guy on your bumper like that. I think we had 27 or 28 laps on our tires at that point. To have somebody tucked up under you with that many laps on your tires was pretty impressive.
That's the job that Lance and the crew did, making sure. We kept whittling away at it. Lance made a pretty aggressive change there and caught all the way up to what we were wanting in one change there. It really impressed me that we went from kind of being a ways off to not knowing how much to go.
He made the perfect call in one stop and got it right where it needed to be. If you don't have that balance, I don't care whether you got stickers on. I don't care whether you're on 40-lap tires. If you go down to the corner, your car's not right, I don't care whether you're the best racecar driver in the world, you can only do as much as that car will let you do. That is where it starts.
I think there's a lot of guys that could have wrestled it. It's how far do you go before you finally just run out of talent. I wasn't too far off of it. But luckily I didn't have to go any further than I went before I caught it (laughter).
Q. Tony, on the last lap after you slid up the track, Kyle went to the inside and then stopped. Did you block him at that point? Did he run out of draft? Did he back off?
TONY STEWART: You know, I don't know. 'Cause I thought at the point I got off the bottom, I thought that I had lost the race for sure, and that him and the line would have went underneath me.
I got a chance to watch the replay. When we went off into three, I had to start chasing the back of the car up the track. He just stayed there. I mean, he stayed on the bumper and followed me up the racetrack.
I'm not sure exactly why he ended up going up the racetrack as far as he did. When he had to tug on it to get back down, apparently it broke his momentum enough where we were able to carry the momentum we had.
Our car was really good, even in practice, about rolling the center of the corner and carrying the momentum. I think that's what helped us win the race, was the fact that our car rolled so good through the center of the corner that once he got off of us and tried to get back down to the bottom it broke his momentum and we were able to carry ours.
By that time, the 60 car and a couple - I think the 29 was behind him - were able to get on the outside. I think that pulled Kyle back the rest of the way when we came down the short chute.
Q. Lance and Rick, can you talk about how this team came together. I assume this car was built fairly recently. Are you going to race it anywhere else?
LANCE McGREW: Mr. H has got to tell me if we're going to race it anywhere else. It definitely did come together quick. I got a walk-in visit from Ken Howes on October 24th of last year. He walked in and said, Mr. Hendrick wants to go to Daytona. He wants you to build the best car we've ever built. He wants you to win.
We were in the middle of doing some Cup races with Brad Keselowski. We didn't get a big jump on it. We pretty much worked seven days a week since January 5th, since the holidays, to get it done.
Fortunately enough for us we still have jobs (smiling).
TONY STEWART: You think you do.
RICK HENDRICK: I'm glad you told me that. I told Ken Howes in July that we needed that car (laughter). I'm going to look for him in the morning.
Actually, what we're doing with it, as soon as it leaves, it's going to the dealerships. It's going to the guys that sold the most cars on those sites. It will be shifted to them. Let the fans register for his uniform, and then next plate race it might show up again.
But right now we're going to put it to work in the car business, so...
TONY STEWART: Just so you know, part of where the 80 came from was the 80 franchises with Hendrickcars.com. That's the significance of what the 80 meant to the team and to all the people and all the franchisees.
So every bit of that 80 was all the franchisees that were behind us this weekend. It's pretty cool that Mr. H is going to let the car go on tour, go to some of the dealerships, let those guys enjoy the victory with us, because they were a part of it with us today.
Q. Tony, the last corner, Clint came in and said what Kyle tried last night didn't work. He was surprised he tried it again today and it didn't work. Did you remember that he tried that same thing last night? Would you expect maybe something else?
TONY STEWART: I would've known that, but my car owner duties kicked in last night and I had to go to a sponsor dinner of all things last night. I was dressed up and eating dinner with our sponsors. Ryan and I had a pretty good time last night. We missed the entire truck race because our dinner started when the race started. We kept both trying to sneak out of the room, because they had a TV in the restaurant over in the bar area. We kept trying to sneak around to see what was going on with the truck race, but we didn't see the end of it.
I'd like to go back and watch it. I wish I would have now. If I would have known he pulled the same move on the last lap as he did last night, I would have been watching for it a little bit closer.
Q. Tony, Mr. Hendrick has talked about how much he wanted to put you in a car, what an honor it was. Is the feeling mutual? Are you honored?
TONY STEWART: I'm honored. This has been a great organization in NASCAR racing, no matter whether it been the truck or the Nationwide series or the Cup series. You look at all the races that they've won, it's a huge honor to drive for this organization.
When we talked about me joining Haas Racing at the end of the year and our relationship with Mr. Hendrick and his organization...
KERRY THARP: Rick.
TONY STEWART: Rick, sorry. I got it now (laughter).
This was something that timing is everything, and it been part of making decisions at the right time. I feel like we've been real lucky from that standpoint, that we've made the right decisions.
We had an opportunity to join Mr. Hendrick - Rick's - operation in '96. Honestly, the timing wasn't right. I mean, it was the perfect opportunity, but the timing wasn't right and I wasn't ready. I just started in the Nationwide Series with Harry Ranier.
I was scared. I had one step on the ladder to go. I didn't want to make that last step too soon and end up falling down the ladder. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make, to not accept that offer. I felt like in the long run it might pay off.
I knew I might never get a chance to have that opportunity again. I think that's why it means so much to me to be here today. This was something since '96 that we had tried to do, and here we are in 2009 in our first race together we win.
It's kind of like a fine bottle of wine that's sat. By the time they pulled the cork out of it finally, we were ready to come here and the timing was right. Lance and their guys, I mean, all the pieces of the puzzle came together at the right time. We went out and won the race today because of that.
Q. Did it surprise you when Edwards and Bowyer got that run off of four? Did that kind of surprise you a little bit?
TONY STEWART: That wasn't near as dramatic as going into three was. I can promise you. I was still in shock, I guess to a certain degree, that I hadn't got passed on the inside. The spotter cleared me. I couldn't believe that he said clear on the exit of four.
With that, you know, you only have a short amount of time that you got to defend your spot. As soon as I saw the 60 car and the 29 on the outside of the 18, that will pull the inside guy back the way that they had lined up on him. It was just a short amount of time.
But it was like the seconds were ticking away, and the distance was ticking away. They got a run on us, but they ran out of time before they got there. I could see them coming down the short stretch, moved up to where I didn't give them just a free lane to just go sailing on by. I was going to do like Kyle: I wasn't going to let them have it easy.
Q. Tony, this may be a silly question. I'm sure you'll tell me. Does it help having a race like this to have to really race this hard, manhandle a car, do it going in? The Daytona 500 will be the first race of the season for you. Like when you play tennis, you might not play as well if you're playing against someone that's not pushing you.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, but I think that started last Saturday at the Shootout. We were all wrestling our cars around Saturday night, too. I think that was a little harder to just kind of get in that mode, since most guys didn't do a lot of testing in the spring.
We didn't do any drafting down here. It wasn't like two weeks later we come back and everything is ready to go and you start. We all kind of started cold turkey, so to speak.
I think that was kind of the one that got us all back in the mode. It never hurts at all to go out. Especially, you know, going into tonight. I mean, I'm going to go back to the bus and I'm going to see the trophy sitting in my motor coach. I'm going to know even though we had a disappointing morning, we finished the day strong. That momentum will carry over to tomorrow, even though we're going to be at a big deficit to start with.
It's that momentum that carries you through the day and keeps you motivated and keeps you pumped up. I guarantee all of our guys that worked hard all day working on the car were paying attention to the race. They're excited we won, too. That just carries the whole team into tomorrow. Carries the team with some momentum that we definitely need right now.
Q. That was one of the greatest displays of driving skill that I have seen on that last lap, saving the car, preserving the win like you did. Given if this was in the Car of Tomorrow on the Cup side, would you have been able to save the car like you did?
TONY STEWART: I'm not so sure those handle quite as good as the Nationwide cars do. But still, NASCAR has really worked on both packages to try to make sure we're not easy flat all the way around, that the cars suck up good.
Any time that you push somebody in a corner like that, it's easy to do it at Talladega because of the surface, it's been repaved. I know there's been a lot of discussions, weighing of the options of whether they should repave this track. I don't think they should.
The bumps in it and the surface being slicker, it makes us all work hard on making sure our cars drive good, making sure that we're in the right positions on the racetrack.
At Talladega, you just go where the empty hole is. It's just a matter of which line pushes harder than the other. A guy can line up on there and push you all the way around the racetrack till his water temperature goes through the roof.
You can't do that here and the guy in front be comfortable. It's hard enough just to get to him, let alone be the guy that has to lead it that way. I don't think with the Cup cars we'd be able to do that.
Q. You both talked about what an honor it is racing for Rick, vice versa. Obviously you want Stewart-Haas to be successful for years to come, win a lot of races. Mark Martin talked about getting a taste of Hendrick equipment, making him start to think that maybe that's a place he wanted to go. Now he's at. Is it the same with you? You've gotten a taste of it and you're looking down the future, maybe the door's a little open now to possibly considering a full-time move there?
TONY STEWART: You got to remember, I've got Hendrick chassis and Hendrick engines and Hendrick technical support. Even though I'm not in the same building, I feel like I'm a part of the Hendrick organization. That's the relationship we have. That's something I'm really proud of.
This has been a huge opportunity for me to have a chance to be like Rick and to be like Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress and Jack Roush. One day maybe they'll talk about me like they talk about this guy next to me. That's the part that's exciting to me.
I'm not sure that a guy like Mark Martin, I don't know that anybody has really had that opportunity presented to them. I think that's why I'm so excited about it. I would love to have the opportunity to drive for Rick, because obviously in one weekend you see what the reaction is when we get in a car like that.
But, you know, it's nice to have that challenge of trying to build your own program and follow in the footsteps of Rick and some of these other great car owners that have paved the way to try to have that opportunity.
You don't see a lot of new guys that came from the driving side. I mean, Rick came from the driving side. Richard Childress, Richard Petty. You just don't see that much any more. That's something that I'm really excited about, of having that opportunity to be a driver and a car owner down the road.
RICK HENDRICK: I think I want to give him a plug for what he's accomplished, though. He came down here, rebuilt a team. I can tell you he's been in the shop over there, 'cause I know they were a little nervous when they first put their deal together. But he has busted his butt, a lot like Ray, Ray Evernham, what Ray was able to build.
I think Tony is going to go down as one of the great owners in the sport. He's got a good partner with Gene Haas, Haas Automation. They've had the foundation. But he's bringing what they're missing. He and Ryan are jacked up. We've given technology the other way, but we'll get some technology, a lot like the Toyota guys do, so forth and so on, to compete with them.
But I can tell you folks that this guy has been living in a shop, 'cause we get calls, and our guys have been over there just checking out what they've done. But what he has single-handedly done with Bobby Hutchens and Darian and Tony Gibson and Ryan Newman, they're going to be a force for us to deal with.
I'm waiting for the day that our guys are going to be complaining, but right now they see that it's going to be a benefit. But he deserves an awful lot of credit to come out of the box and come down here. His talent is unbelievable.
I'll answer that other question. There are not very many folks who would drive a car into three with somebody nailing them in the back sideways and not lift and not wreck. That's all driver. I think Lance will agree to that.
LANCE McGREW: Absolutely.
RICK HENDRICK: That's just talent. Not many folks can do that. He wouldn't have won as many races here doing that. So he's got this place figured out and he knows what to do.
What he's accomplished, you have to see people from where I've been for the last 25 years and watched them come and go. Money doesn't do it; it's dedication and determination. He's gonna be one of the greatest owners in the sport 'cause that's all he wants to do and thinks about. That kind of dedication will get him to where he needs to be.
KERRY THARP: We appreciate y'all being in here. We enjoyed watching you perform and race out there today. Tony, Rick, good luck to both of you tomorrow.
TONY STEWART: Thank you.
RICK HENDRICK: Thank you.
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