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August 10, 2009
WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK
KERRY THARP: Let's roll into our winning press conference. Our race champion today is Tony Stewart. He drives the No. 14 Old Spice Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. This is Tony's 36th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. This is his fifth win at Watkins Glen International, his third win of 2009. He ups his lead in the points by 260.
Tony, just a great performance by your team today. Your thoughts?
TONY STEWART: I'm excited about it. Obviously it's a great day for Stewart-Haas Racing and an awesome day for Office Depot and Old Spice. Finally got Old Spice in Victory Lane. Office Depot, Old Spice and now Burger King. It was an awesome day. We weren't as strong as we needed to be at the start, till the end of the first run. Came in on the first stop and I asked for a lot of changes there. I appreciate Darian and the guys. They did an awesome job. There was a lot of stuff to do that was lengthy time-wise. Awesome spot. I think we only lost six spots. To do what they did in that short amount of time was pretty phenomenal. That kept us up good enough in track position to where we could start working our way through there.
We just had a good car where we could stay there all day. Darian did a good job of knowing where we needed to be on fuel mileage. Tried to do as much as we could in the parts of the track where we could shut the car off and save fuel.
Everybody was doing their part, the drivers were to go green with NASCAR today, trying to be economically friendly. I think everybody did a good job.
It was awesome that last -- both the restarts where we were able to stay ahead of Kyle. Both on the outside and inside we were able to get good jumps, beat him to turn two, up to the top of the S's. That was really key for us, especially when we did it the second time, the opposite side when he chose the opposite side as he did the first time, we still beat him there, I thought that was a pretty big moment in the race, showing our strength. At that point it was just a matter of when Marcos got to second making sure on the restart we didn't give him an opening. Protected our spot like everybody else did all day. We were able to pull away, get enough of a gap where I could run my line and pace and do the things that I needed to do to make my car good.
There were spots on the track he was a little stronger than us, but I thought there were equally the same amount of spots that we were a little better than he was. I felt like lap time-wise they pretty much evened out. It was a matter of not making mistakes, not giving him an opportunity to get there. I was pretty happy with the day.
KERRY THARP: Darian, your thoughts about the performance of the team and some of the things that went into making this win happen.
DARIAN GRUBB: We spent a lot of time at the shop, Stewart-Haas organization, as a whole, preparing for the road course races because they are different, knowing how good Tony is, coming to Watkins Glen, knowing his past record here. We knew we had to have good equipment for him to go out there and show his talents. Really proud of everybody there. Did a great job. Brand-new car we built this year. Ran it at Sonoma and here. Been really happy with the performance and with Tony's feedback, being able to do some tuning on it, make the car better over the weekends.
We've always unloaded both places, needing to do a little work. He gave us the feedback we needed to make the car faster. The pit crew has done, like he said, a phenomenal job. They came in backwards on pit road and everything from what they're used to, still were flawless and made many adjustments and got the car better. Did everything we needed to do.
Fuel mileage was great. The engine department from Hendrick, can't pat them on the back enough. We had all the power we needed, all the fuel mileage we needed as well. Really proud of everybody.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.
Q. Darian, you kind of called the shot late in the afternoon, saying it was going to be hot and slick, could play right into your hands. Is that essentially what happened? Could both of you elaborate on how that played out for you.
DARIAN GRUBB: That's exactly what happened. Definitely track temperature and everything went way up today. We kind of planned ahead for it, made some adjustments. Some of those adjustments didn't work, and we had to back out of during that first pit stop. Pretty proud to say that we made a good prediction, but we made the wrong adjustment, was able to know what it is, back out, fix the car. Tony got to where he was happy with the car after that and the lap times picked up for sure. We were able to keep the momentum and track position going after that.
It was pretty stressful with all the cautions coming out, trying to sit there and hope you're gonna be in the right position at the right time. Luckily we did come out on the good side of that.
TONY STEWART: I like it when it gets hot and slick here. It seems like it's that way anywhere. It kind of has played into our hand for the last 10 years it seems like. This part of the year when the temperatures are at their highest, we tend to pick up, I believe. I think we can handle the slicker conditions sometimes a little better than some of the guys around us.
You know, I'm excited about it. It's nice to be able to be in that position where you know when it gets hot like that, a lot of guys panic because it's going to get slick. I get excited when I know it's going to get slick.
Q. Does that come from running in dirt, being more comfortable sideways?
TONY STEWART: I think I'm comfortable with it not being locked down and having a ton of grip. I'm used to not having as much grip as some of the other places or some of the other guys are used to. I think I enjoy that part.
Q. You've had a 10-race run with three wins, a couple races out of the top five. Are you ready to declare the championship, too?
TONY STEWART: That's way too early to do that. There's so much that can happen still. I feel like we're in a good shot to be a contender for it. I'm not sure I feel like we're a dominant contender yet. It's hard because there's so many good teams. The 48, the 24, the 11, they've been really, really strong here in the last couple weeks.
I think those are the three guys that we're worried about the most right now. But I think, you know, if you look at the past in the Chase here, I don't think that you can count anybody out that's gonna make the Chase. They're strong and there's a reason they got there. I don't think at any point you can really count anybody out till mathematically they're getting behind.
I feel like, you know, today's 10 points were huge for us. That cuts the deficit down that we're going to be behind at the start of it in half. We're gonna be in better shape here. We'll keep working hard. I mean, that's what we have to do. I mean, everybody asked if we're going to get off track and try things and get way out of the box. I'm not sure that we'll do a lot of that. I think we'll try different things, but I'm not sure we're going to totally get away from what got us to this point. I'm scared to get away from that. Sometimes you try different things and you get outside the box. When you try to come back, you never hit it exactly right.
I think from our standpoint we got to kind of do what got us to the dance here and stay that course, but at the same time not be afraid to try little things here and there to try to make sure we're doing everything we can to be as good as we can be for the Chase.
Q. Were you surprised Kyle chose the line he did on the restart?
TONY STEWART: No. I mean, we lined up out there and beat him on the first one. I think I would have done the same thing. But, you know, it gave us a lot of confidence. After we started on the inside, we were still able to get back to the lead on the second turn, we were strong.
I think it's a hard decision when you're a leader to decide exactly where you think you need to be. But for here, it's a matter of how good you think you can get into one that's going to dictate what side you want.
Q. Are you talking about the 10 points you'll get once the Chase begins or the bonus points today? Were you aware the trouble the 24 had and the 48 wasn't able to keep up with the front pack?
TONY STEWART: Where we were at in turn two, there was a jumbotron. We got to see the replays of what happened. The good thing is I'm glad nobody got hurt. When Jason Leffler had that problem on Friday, man, that had a lot of potential to be bad. So it kind of replayed itself. This time there were two guys right behind him. But it was good to see that everybody was all right from that.
I can't say that I'm worried about getting 10 points for today as much as I am for the Chase. At this point of the deal, you know, I guess I got my eye on the bigger prize. You don't get any prize money. You don't get a trophy for leading the points after 26 races. Whatever we accomplish by doing that other than pride. I think our pride winning the championship will mean a lot more than leading the points when the Chase starts.
We keep the eye on the prize at the end of the year and those 10 bonus points could be a big factor at the end. In Bristol we ran good. We can run good there. We're going to places that we like. This stretch seems to be a stretch coming up that we really enjoy every year.
Q. Darian, with the chance of rain obviously yesterday, if you had gotten started, chance of rain today, do you have a big chart of what you need to do to do fuel mileage-wise or do you not get bogged down in that kind of thing?
DARIAN GRUBB: No. You can go about 30 to 35 laps on fuel here anyway. If there's anybody that can predict exactly what lap the rain is going to come on, how many laps of caution NASCAR is going to run to get it in, they're fooling you there. It's more you have to run to try to be in position to be in the front at that point. It doesn't really matter whether you can make it on fuel all the way through the rain or not.
We just stuck to our game plan from the way the race started. We changed it up a little bit because Tony needed some adjustments in the car. Luckily all those things were able to work, keep getting the car better, have to race till lap 90. There is no other way to get away from that, and hopefully stay in front the whole time.
Q. Alluding to what Mike asked earlier about the last 10 races, while it might not lock up things for you in the big picture, it's kind of a pattern that you've had with your title runs that this race has been part of a hot summer run for you. Can you describe your approach to these races, including Watkins Glen, how important has that been for you to be this good in the summertime.
TONY STEWART: I can't honestly say that we've looked at it that close. I mean, I think we have the attitude we take it one week at a time. I think that's the way we've always done it. Every time we talk about that kind of stuff, it's always going to remain that way. You just have to take it one week at a time, worry about where you're at that coming week. Now we're done with Watkins Glen here. We'll focus on Michigan. Once we get out of here tonight, we won't think about it any more, we'll be focused on what we have to do next week.
From my side, I won't be thinking about the week after that. Darian does because he's planning ahead on what cars we're going to run where. There's a lot more logistics from his side. From my angle, Monday morning, I'm focused on where we're going the next week. I strictly keep it one race at a time focus.
I don't know that you can sit here as a driver and say, okay, two weeks from now we're going someplace that we're good, we're focusing on it already. You just got to take it wherever you're at that day, that weekend, do the best job you can from there, and on Monday go to the next place.
Q. From where you sat there coming down the last two laps, how big of a concern was the fuel at that point?
TONY STEWART: I wasn't worried. From what I understood, I didn't need to be concerned about it. Under the green, I think we were more about it if we had a 'green-white-checkered' at the end where we had to run a bunch of laps. Darian can tell you better than I can. From what I understood, we were good to the tend.
DARIAN GRUBB: Yeah, we should have had about a lap or so cushion to make it to lap 90. You're always wondering how much fuel evaporated as you're sitting back there under the red flag, sitting there just vapor. Everything is coming off the carburetor. You're not sure. You don't know whether you got it completely full on the pit stop, there was an air bubble, how much your fuel cell pickup is going to get out of the tank. You always worry about that stumble, especially coming off of turns 10 and 11, there is not a whole lot of room. You can't swerve the car back and forth to get that little drop of fuel. Still concerned, had to be able to accelerate all the way to the start/finish line. Luckily we were able to do that.
Q. Looking at the Jason Leffler part of the track, Sam Hornish, should they move the wall back and put a gravel pit so cars don't come out? From a safety standpoint, pretty bad accidents over there.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I mean, I'm sure NASCAR will look at it. They have a great staff that can analyze what needs to be done. I guarantee you they'll look at that after this weekend I'm sure. The hard part, that's a section of the track where it splits into the long course and breaks off to go to the short course. That kind of presents a problem on what flexibility you really have there.
But the good thing is what they've done there is safe enough it kept people from getting hurt. The bad part is, when those two cars hit, it put them back into the racetrack. That's the part that makes you concerned about it, makes you look to see if there's anything you can do different.
I guarantee that NASCAR will be on top of that this week and try to find a way to make that where it doesn't happen again.
Q. Darian, what changes did you make on that first stop? Was it evident to you in the first run that the car was off?
DARIAN GRUBB: We knew the car was off a bit based on the lap times and Tony's comments. He was struggling to get by some of the guys we thought they were faster than. He gave us some feedback. We knew the changes we made going into the race. We were able to back out of some of those, spring rubbers, wedge, changes along with that.
So no real details, but the changes we made going from Happy Hour to the race, we backed back out of that a little bit, got a lot better.
Q. Your overall reflections of making history up here, five wins.
TONY STEWART: It's awesome. I mean, I think the bigger honor was last year when we got inducted into one of the drivers of the decade here. That's something that means a lot to me. This place has just been good to us. It's a track we've had a lot of success at. It's neat to be a guy that's won the most races here in the series.
But there's something about this place that we've been really good. I know what fuel I need when we get here. That's a good thing. It's just a matter of how do you get to it and how do you get it right? That's where Darian comes in. He did an awesome job all weekend of not letting me get lax on where we were at. We were constantly pushing, tried a couple different packages. Having a crew chief like him that kept pushing it, that gave us the opportunity.
Q. Tony, when you have a guy like Marcos Ambrose in a restart, particularly the last one, what was going through your mind about what he might do? Were you focused on if I can get out there fast, don't have to worry about him?
TONY STEWART: Well, you want to get out quick. But you know on the restart, getting into one, being a road race veteran like he is, he knows how to get the most out of his brakes, he knows how to make the most out of the braking zone. My biggest concern was not letting him get to the inside, getting a good jump on the restart, not spinning the tires, not missing the shift, no mistakes into one. I figured I was going to have to go all the way to turn two before I got it sorted out.
The good thing is, he went from the outside lane and tried to come to the inside. We were able to take that line away from him, force him to go back out. That took his opportunity to get a run on us away. Once we got up through the S's, we were in good shape and never really had to worry about it from there on.
You know, two corners after the restart, we pretty much got a gap we needed to be not conservative but to not have to take extra chances, to make sure I didn't make a mistake.
Q. Darian, the last big wreck with the 20-minute red flag, did that alter or change your strategy? Did it help, hurt or didn't make a difference?
DARIAN GRUBB: The red flag really didn't make a difference. It just kind of puts you in a little bit of a bind where you're not sure how much fuel you're going to be saving on those caution laps. If they'd have stayed going under yellow, we had a lot more caution laps there, would have been no concern for anybody, make it on fuel. They threw the red flag because they needed to to be able to clean that mess up for the safety sake of the workers. I don't blame them at all for that.
Didn't change our strategy. Just kept us from getting a little bit more of a cushion of what we thought we had to get to the end of the race.
Q. Darian, was there really rain coming or did you tell him that to get it going?
DARIAN GRUBB: There was definitely some rain coming. They had the warnings out there a few minutes ago for fans to get out. The thunderstorms were definitely in the area and it sprinkled on us a little bit in Victory Lane. We're definitely watching that all the time. We never know when it is going to be there. Luckily we were in the position we were in the front, so we just had to maintain that.
Q. Darian, the regular season is like one thing. You're fantastic in the regular season. You don't remember what happened at Loudon with Robby Gordon. Are you worried about the championship, the last 10 races, you have to change your thought process? You have a rhythm going now, but in the last 10 races it's different.
DARIAN GRUBB: It is a little bit different. But I don't think you can approach it any differently. You have to do what has gotten you there in the past. We have to be able to understand what he wants out of the racecar. Most of the races in the Chase, we've been to those track one time already in the season. We might not have won there, had the best performance, but took some lessons learned away from there, so hopefully we're going to be able to get stronger. We're not going to do anything out of the ordinary either. You know everybody in the Chase is going to be pushing so hard those last 10 races. You got 12 guys you race for the championship, but you got 43 you're racing for the wins.
Obviously the easiest way to go out and win a championship is to win 10 races, nobody has to worry about anything. So that's our goal, is just go out there and have nice strong performance from everything we do at Stewart-Haas. Make sure everybody keeps 100 percent of their game up at that point. If they can step up to 105 or 110%, that's the time we're going to ask them to do. They are doing that now. We are already preparing for that. We've got the cars basically being built. We got to be staying ahead of the game enough to where we're not going to fall behind because those guys are going to work just as hard trying to beat us if we do have our momentum going.
Q. (No microphone.)
DARIAN GRUBB: I don't know. We beat him today. I can say that. Wasn't any part of my strategy or his strategy. Had a spin, fell back. Had a strong car. They were the fastest car all weekend pretty much, they and Ambrose. We were able to come out on top. Chad is a good friend of mine, along with all those guys at Hendrick Motorsports. You know how strong they are. I definitely say they're contenders along with the guys at Roush and Gibbs, and Childress and everything out there too.
There's no one person we're going to be chasing. We're going to race ourselves and do the best we can those 10 races.
End of FastScripts