NASCAR Media Conference
February 1, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Now we'll bring up the reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion, Tony Stewart. We have several people also on the conference call, so we'll try to do one question at a time, try to avoid the follow-ups. Tony, first off, everybody wants to know how you're feeling.
TONY STEWART: Great (laughter). If you believe that, I'm lying. No, I mean, ribs are real sore. Hey, it will heal. Nothing that keeps me from doing what I'm doing on the racetrack. Just a little uncomfortable right now.
THE MODERATOR: Second time you defended a championship. Any different this time around? Can you learn anything from the first one?
TONY STEWART: Season's still a season. Like I tell everybody every year, we're not reinventing the wheel from one year to the next. We're starting this year with the same attitude we started last year and the year before, all seven years that we've been doing this. There's nothing that we've learned that's actually going to help us other than we're trying to figure out how we can start the year a little stronger than we have the past, still be good in the middle part and end of the season.
THE MODERATOR: Questions. Claire and then Lee.
Q. Two quick questions. One is, do you feel like you're going to have to still have some healing time on that rib, that you are in pain as we head into Daytona coming up? Is it healing quickly? What about the changes to the track here proposed, the higher banking, whatnot?
TONY STEWART: I didn't know anything about that. I kind of like the racetrack the way it is. The more banking you get, the more grip it gets. Every time you repave something, it's got a ton more grip. Every year I think this track is getting better and better, too. Last year I think the track finally widened out and guys could definitely run two different grooves, one and two. Three and four, it seemed like it moved up a little bit also. I'm not sure that they need to do that. Looking at the drawing, it looks like they have a pretty extensive project going on inside the track, let alone trying to rebuild the racetrack itself. I would leave it the way it is. I think the track itself is fine. As far as the ribs and stuff are concerned, it's just a typical rib injury. There's nothing you can do about it. There's nothing but -- time is the only thing that's going to take care of it. There's nothing we're going to do. There's no treatments for it. Absolutely nothing but watching days on the calendar go by for it to heal. To do something in the car, I mean, for the most part I'm pretty comfortable in there. It's still sore. But every day that goes by, it's getting better and better. We'll get I think a week and a half now before I have to get in a car again. I think that will be plenty of time for it to at least get to a stage where I can breathe a little better in the car.
Q. Did your illness over the Christmas holidays and subsequent injuries after Chili Bowl, did it slow your plans on your physical fitness regime that you said you were going to endure after the end of last season?
TONY STEWART: Do you work out when you're sore or sick? You do? You're tougher than me. I'm not doing it while I'm sick and sore.
Q. (No microphone.)
TONY STEWART: Well, you said it (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We'll go to Debbie.
Q. Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee. You look thinner.
TONY STEWART: See, Lee (laughter). Maybe you ought to try my way of working out. Better yet, just do what you're doing, all right? I'll take your word for it.
Q. You went down to Daytona for the Rolex 24. You got a blister on your hand. Is that better?
TONY STEWART: Are you kidding me? It's just a blister. It will be okay. I'm pretty sure I won't have to go to the hospital for it. I think it will heal, too.
Q. What is your mindset on this season? Are you thinking "I have to defend a title" or are you thinking you're going to go out and run your class, have fun, do the best you can?
TONY STEWART: That's exactly what I'm doing, the second part of what you said, just going out and having fun each week. That approach seemed to work pretty well last year. It's a nice feeling starting the season knowing we're the defending champions. With that, I mean, it starts the year off right for our team. Everybody is positive and having fun. We've been having fun at the tests. We've been having fun in the off-season when I've been at the shop with the guys. Like I say, we're not going to reinvent the wheel this year. We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing all along.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff Wolf.
Q. Tony, before the Chase, did your team kind of look at the way that Kurt won it and did that affect the way you guys approached it at all? The results were similar.
TONY STEWART: No, I think it was more of a situation where we looked at how we lost it, which was the first race of the Chase, getting crashed out early. We knew that we just needed to have our performance up to par and just have 10 solid weeks. If we were off, if we had an off day, we still needed to try to salvage the best finish we could. We didn't really try to pattern it off of what had happened the year before because you knew that a scenario from one week to the next to change and make it totally different than the previous year. I think more people look this year -- look at the last two years combined, and say what did Kurt do, what did we do, how are our years similar and how are they different? People are going to try to figure that into the equation. But still that last 10-week stretch, you try to do everything you can to stay out of trouble. Even if you don't have a perfect day, you still want to have a really good solid day so if that bad day does happen, you have those other solid days to back it up with.
THE MODERATOR: Joe.
Q. Joe Stiglich, Contra Costa Times. We make such a big deal about the Daytona 500. The fact is it's the first race of the season, there's 35 after that. How important is that race as far as setting the tone for a season or does it set the tone for a season?
TONY STEWART: You should borrow Claire's notes. We've answered that question every year. I know I've answered it for the last seven straight years since I've been involved in the series. The answer has never changed. The reason I think it's the first race versus the last race is it gives the teams time to prepare for that race, where all of our other races are week to week to week to week. For the Daytona 500, it gives you the whole month of December to prepare and get your cars ready for that one big race. I always thought it was kind of odd that it was the first race of the year. Then when you think about it, think about how busy our schedule is now for the teams to have the whole month of December to not only get all of the rest of the cars prepared, but they can spend a little extra time on those Daytona 500 cars, that kind of makes sense.
THE MODERATOR: Doug.
Q. Doug Kazarian, Channel 13, Las Vegas. You have everyone cracking up a little bit. Big marketing campaign in the off-season. Talk about how your image has changed in the last year or so.
TONY STEWART: What marketing campaign? I don't know.
TONY STEWART: I remember shooting them. I haven't seen them.
Q. Talk about that, the new movement, the new Tony Stewart, or is it not a new Tony Stewart?
TONY STEWART: If there's another one out there, so be it. I'm the same guy. I don't know, different attitude I guess. No different than we talked about last year. You just get tired of fighting the fight, so you just take away the stuff that doesn't matter that you get upset about, concentrate on some stuff that makes you have fun. That's what we did.
THE MODERATOR: Jamal.
Q. Jamal Brown, NASCAR Images. How was your visit to the White House?
TONY STEWART: It was cool. It was fun because, you know me, I'm kind of the guy that always strays off the beaten path normally. Went in there, and he just kind of went, "Hey." I went, "Hey, boss." He went, "What's up, dude?" For the president to say, "What's up, dude," I thought that was pretty cool. That made my trip.Probably the neatest part of it was he spent time with the crew itself, not just myself and Zippy and JD and Joe, but spent time with all the guys on our team. I'm not sure we're ever going to get invited to the White House after what Jason Shapiro did. He gets promoted to car chief over the winter, then proceeds to give the president a good game, a little good game on the rear-end. I'm not sure we're ever going to get to go back to the White House again. He took it all in stride. He laughed about it. I thought, if we don't get arrested for this, we're pretty good here today.
Q. Was the Secret Service laughing?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I started stepping away from the president when that happened. I figured when the snipers start coming out, I'm out of the way.
THE MODERATOR: Steve.
Q. Steve Richards, PRN Radio. Talk about how the car feels compared to last year's Chevrolet. Any difference at all?
TONY STEWART: To be honest, it's been so long since we were in last year's car, I don't notice it. It would be easier if I ran last year's car yesterday and ran today in the new car. I'd say this car is a little bit better. Seems like balance-wise it feels a lot better. I know the hard thing is we've made so many changes, differences in setups from last year to this year, it's really hard to really AB it. But the new nose and tail I think are going to be a positive for us this year.
Q. Lug (indiscernible), Speed Freaks. Tony, you see tracks changing all the time, teams changing. What hasn't changed is the media. Do you think it's about time for an overhaul on some of the media? Some of these dumb questions are harder than flipping over in a car in the Chili Bowl.
TONY STEWART: If we had more like you, it would make it a more pleasant experience in here, for sure. If you want to make a difference in the media center, just cut the buffet, cut the buffet out. You'll see them scatter like ants. They won't stay hemmed up in there. Tell me I'm wrong (laughter). Coming from a guy that's going to get hurt the worse from it, looks like it. If you want to change the media center, just change the buffet.
THE MODERATOR: Claire.
Q. Maybe you should invite him to come every week, he might get a little crazy, too, if he came on the journey.
TONY STEWART: Look at him. He looks crazy enough as he is. I deal with the guy all the time.
Q. I want to ask you if you were in the garage this morning and you saw Casey Mears with his Rolex. He put it on today and got it fitted. He said he didn't want to brag to you because he said you tried so hard. He was like really proud of carrying it around the garage on his arm today. Did you see it?
TONY STEWART: No. I don't want to see it (laughter). About killed myself trying to win that race. He shows up one time and wins it. I'm happy for him. I mean, it's a hard race to win. It's awesome for him to do it his first trip there and win the race, it's cool. But definitely very, very jealous of him right now. I definitely want that watch really bad.
THE MODERATOR: Question from the conference call.
Q. Gary Graves with USA Today. When you were talking about having a slow start to the season, have you kind of analyzed some of the reasons why you tended to get hotter in the summertime as opposed to starting off well and carrying that momentum throughout the season?
TONY STEWART: Where are you guys at?
Q. I'm calling from DC.
TONY STEWART: Sounds like a race car in the background. Never mind, I'm sorry (laughter). Please excuse the ignorance. There was a cell phone on our side that sounded like a car going by. Honestly, if I knew why we had a slow start, we would fix it every year. We always -- the first third of the season seems to be our weak point. It's been that way historically for the last seven years. I really don't have a good answer. That's the one thing we're trying to change, trying to figure out why we get such a slow start. The good thing is the points are won in the last 10 weeks, not the first 10. That definitely works to our advantage now.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else down front? Think you're off the hook, Tony. Thank you for coming in.
TONY STEWART: All right.
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