NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Bojangles' Southern 500
Topics: Bojangles' Southern 500
May 12, 2012
DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
KERRY THARP: Joining us now is tonight's third‑place finisher, Tony Stewart. Stewart is now seventh in points.
Tony, just take us through that race. Certainly had a lot of ups and downs. You certainly had a good racecar tonight.
TONY STEWART: It ended up really good. I was really proud of Steve Addington and all of our crew. We kind of struggled there the first half of the race. We fought loose in one and two, really tight in three and four. So it's really hard to fix the balance of the racecar when it's doing two different things on two different ends.
Really proud of Addington. He just kept throwing things at it to try to get a direction. Once he got on what it was like, it got a lot better at the end there. We got both ends at least to do the same thing and we could balance it out from there.
I broke the clutch about 85 to go. Came in the pits. They jacked it up, looked at it, figured out we could keep going. But we came in, because we looked at it, took the option to come back in and top it off with fuel, just basically got the opportunity the next caution. When everybody came in, we got up to eighth, had two really good restarts after that that got us up to second.
Then coming to the green, we actually lost fuel pressure, with one to go, and that's why we were on the apron trying to get fuel to the pickups. Got it back, but then lost it again coming off four to the green. Coming down the front straightaway on the restart, it kind of laid down a little bit, that dropped us back to third.
You know, considering the hurdles of the day, I'm pretty happy with a third‑place run.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.
Q. Tony, I know this is one you want to fill in the blanks. You made the best of it. Was there ever any time in this race that you thought, This is the time I'm going to do it?
TONY STEWART: I was pretty frustrated about halfway through because we just kept fighting the same issues on the respective ends of the track. We just kept fighting loose and couldn't get it tightened up in one and two and couldn't do anything. Because we were trying to tighten up it up on one and two, we didn't really have the opportunity to try to free up three and four.
So it's hard and frustrating when you got two different conditions going on. We basically fought that loose condition in one and two since we unloaded yesterday. So it just kind of was frustrating that we couldn't find anything and couldn't hit on it. After the first couple runs of the race, having two or three chances to take a stab at it, didn't seem like we were making the direction. It was frustrating.
It's why we won a championship last year, too. We never give up. Steve kept me positive. He was calm the whole time. He kept saying, I'll work on it, I'll get it fixed. It just kept me calm. Sure enough, we finally got it to do one thing and then we could work on it from there and try to get it the rest of the way.
Q. Tony, given that this is Darlington, it was her first run, you had to be pretty pleased that Danica made it to the end here?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, I got to watch a lot tonight, even if it was from afar. I'm ecstatic with the results. Don't know where she finished. Don't know how many laps down it was. She ran good lap times tonight. There was a period of the race where she said her balance was at her best, she was within a 10th of the leaders at that point in the race. Really, really proud of her. Really thankful to Greg Zipadelli and all those guys.
This is a long weekend. What she did in these two days is hard to do. To have the result, the way she ran last night, I'm sure I'll get a chance to watch more of what she did after we get home. The time I was around, got to watch, she did a really good job.
This is a hard place to learn. First time I came here, about the fourth time I crashed, I finally was glad they couldn't fix it because I'd had enough for the night. I'm pretty proud as a car owner of what she did both nights.
Q. Do you know anything about Ryan's pit crew getting in an altercation with Kurt's?
TONY STEWART: I haven't yet. First thing I did was go down and congratulate Rick Hendrick and Jimmie, then went to find Danica. But I will find out after we leave here what happened.
Q. What does it mean to you that Rick Hendrick wins 200? What do you think about it?
TONY STEWART: I think it's phenomenal, especially with the competition every year getting tougher and tougher. It's harder and harder to win these races.
Especially for it to happen at the Southern 500, too, such a historic race, it's a pretty cool milestone. I was trying to postpone it another week by trying to get to Jimmie and just couldn't do it. The closer I got to him, the tighter I got.
That was one of the best runs we had. I wasn't strong enough to deal with him. I had plenty of car left. He was just riding and trying to save fuel. They won it in dominating fashion.
To win a 200th race, you don't want to back into the win. He dominated it and took it the way they should.
Q. (No microphone.)
TONY STEWART: I'll never make it that long, so...
Q. On the final restart, you're on the inside, side‑by‑side with the leader, yet the inside line is a zero at this track the way you have to go into turn one. Were you thinking Jimmie is going to win it unless something fluky happens?
TONY STEWART: No. The restart before, even when we broke the clutch, it didn't bother us except on the pit stops. Going through the gears, it wasn't an issue.
We actually spun the tires the restart before when we lined up behind him. We actually kind of got him shot into one and got him ahead. That got us to second, obviously.
I thought that we may have a shot at it if he spun the tires again, but we ran out of fuel coming off of four. It didn't run all the way out of fuel, but it laid down enough that it didn't run a hundred percent going down into turn one. Once we got into one, we got the fuel to the pickup and we just lost our spot doing it and it took away our opportunity to try.
Q. There was a lot of talk before the race and during this week that the pavement had turned grayer, the old Darlington was coming back. On the last caution, there were several guys that came in and took four tires. When we had the green‑white‑checkered, they really didn't go anywhere. Whether it's the tire or the track, is it still track position more than tires at this place?
TONY STEWART: It's so narrow that you don't have that luxury that you have at some of the other tracks where you can go numerous different spots on the racetrack. One and two, you're pretty much line committed. Three and four, you had guys all night all over the racetrack. I mean, this is the first time I ever remember being at Darlington and seeing guys in turn three and four all the way underneath the hashmarks on the first level of banking. It wasn't even on the racetrack, it was on the highest level of the apron. There were guys that were running down there. It actually made me want to try it, too (laughter).
I went down there a couple times and couldn't make much ground on it. I mean, I was running on spots in the racetrack I've never even been on. So it's definitely losing a lot of that grip and it took it all night before it really gripped back up at the end.
KERRY THARP: Tony, thanks for putting on a great show here this evening.
TONY STEWART: Thank you.
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