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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 2

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Gatorade Duel 2

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 1

John Andretti
David Reutimann
Tony Stewart
February 14, 2008


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

KERRY THARP: We're now pleased to be joined in the media center by Tony Stewart and David Reutimann. Tony drives the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. David got in on his time, congratulations, David, driver of the 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota.
We'll talk to Tony first. Good run out there today. Your thoughts?
TONY STEWART: I'm happy. Obviously if the caution doesn't come out we think the outcome might have been different.
But, you know, the important thing was to keep Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2 no matter what the order was. That's what I told Denny during that red flag period. One of the two of us has to win this race. If you get a run, you've got to go. Don't try to help me and get yourself in a bad spot.
He got a run that he couldn't stop. I mean, there's no way. If he would have tried to go with me we probably both would have ended up fourth or fifth. I thought he did a great job. Really happy with our guys. We just kind of took it easy at the beginning. After the midway caution, just went ahead and tried to work our way forward and got there.
Definitely handling, like we talked about in the Shootout, handling is at an all-time premium this year. Everybody is going to take what they learn today and try to make their cars better for Sunday obviously.
KERRY THARP: David, your thoughts about getting into the 50th running of the Daytona 500? Congratulations.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, I've actually managed to be down here however long we've been and haven't thrown up once, so it's been good. It's a lot different than last year (laughter).
On top of that, you -- you're not going to ask me anything else, are you? (Laughter).
TONY STEWART: They will. Trust me.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Just to be able to get down here, get in a race, function somewhat normal, has been quite a relief. So it was good to be able to start the race today and know we were locked in, we had a spot in the 500 no matter what.
KERRY THARP: We'll open it up to questions. We have John Andretti up here, as well.

Q. Tony, when you're sitting there at the red flag, are you pretty much resigned to the fact you're a sitting duck and there's pretty much nothing you're going to be able to do at restart?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, to a certain degree. I mean, obviously having our teammate behind us provides a little bit of comfort there. But you have to be a realist. I mean, I got on Denny's channel and I told him exactly to a T what Jeff was going to do on the restart. It's the same way I lost the Daytona 500 here.
I know his trick on restarts like that. It's a good move. It's just making Denny aware of what was coming. I told Denny, I said, You do what you got to do. Just watch Jeff. Don't worry about me. I'm going to do what you do.
That's why we took off so late, was Jeff was hanging back. As we started to go forward a little bit he was trying to get a gap there. That's his textbook maneuver for this. Which, like I said, it's a good move. It's just knowing what to try to do to counter it.
We were pretty successful doing it. I mean, like I told Denny, I said, If it gets to a situation where he has to run, he has to go. He got a huge run there. There's no way that I would have asked him to stop and try to carry me on the deal. I was just glad I could get in a position there the last lap to be able to duck down and help him and get him going forward.
KERRY THARP: We have John Andretti, driver of the No. 34 Makoto Chevrolet. Congratulations. A couple quick comments. Go ahead, John.
JOHN ANDRETTI: I don't know what to say. I didn't expect to be here. I think the team has done a great job. I mean, in the race, there were some guys that really did treat me fair. One of them is sitting to my right (David Reutimann.) Tony helped me at the beginning. It looked like he was hanging on at the beginning.
Were you?
No, he was just taking it easy (laughter). I was driving my guts out. He was taking it easy, keeping up.
But, anyway, it was a good race. The last lap for me was everything. I wasn't in the race till I came off turn four. I guess that's all that matters.
I'm really proud of this race team. Really happy to see and want to congratulate Dale Jarrett making the race. What an awesome thing to make the 50th running with him because he's such a great champion. Probably more excited about him making the race, probably not more, but equally excited about him making the race as me.
I don't know what to say. Kind of wore out just talking, not used to people coming up. I even have a little sign here with my name on it. So it's been a good day (smiling).
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for all three.

Q. Tony, you talked about Denny getting the run, him doing what was best for him. Was it because of where you were on the track that you couldn't go with him, or it would have knocked the crap out of you?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, it would have knocked the teeth out of my head, I think.
You know, Jeff tried to get a run up high. By the time I saw him move up there was too much of a gap for me to be able to really do much with it. I could have moved up, but he was going to end up going down anyway. That's what he did.
It was just bad timing for me. That's kind of the nature of the beast here. You look at every start and restart, it was hard for the guys up front to stay there because guys were getting runs from behind and able to get a second line going.

Q. John, you say your chances were so slim. You didn't think you'd be here. Did you have anybody spotting, telling you you need to get one more spot? Did you know as you went along you were in, or did you not know until the absolute end of the race?
JOHN ANDRETTI: No, I knew the whole time. I knew who I had to pass. I knew who was the transfer spot. You know, I could never get there. I could always get one away from the transfer spot. But on that last lap, I knew if I got around Mike. It was a little bit of confusion. I didn't really want to know whether Michael counted or not. I knew when I passed him that put me in the race.
I mean, I wish I would have put money on me in Vegas, on me making this race. We were definitely not somebody expected. I think the car handled well. We could do a lot of things with it. Whenever I'd move, you know, you always need help when you move. Sometimes I'd get going and do things.
But, you know, otherwise, I mean, it was a good race, I just -- I mean, I knew when I passed Michael that was it. I knew when I got alongside Dale that he was the guy, coming to the checkered flag. I can't say that I wouldn't have passed him, but I really didn't want to pass him at that point. I didn't think it was cool. We kind of finished side by side. For all you newspapers out there and stuff, and NASCAR.com, if you put Dale Jarrett I'll be in the same picture, so that's a good thing, too (smiling).

Q. Tony, you said the other night that the usual suspects were up front. Now it looks like six of the top ten starting are Gibbs or Hendrick. Is this setting up to be kind of a Gibbs/Hendrick showdown, the 500?
TONY STEWART: I think there's a lot of good cars also that are in that mix. But, I mean, if you look back, it kind of is the normal list of suspects up there.
Yeah, I mean, for you guys I'm going to say, yeah, just because it makes a great story line for you guys. I know I can help you guys out a little bit today.
Yeah, it's going to be the epic battle. It could be the battle of a lifetime, of the century. May not be another battle of this proportion for the rest of my life, career, or for this century. We'll start there.
If you need more than that, call us. Call Arning. We'll try to create something else (laughter).
It probably will be, but I think you just can't limit it to those two teams. We got John Andretti in the field. As long as he's in the race, he's a contender. There's a lot of good cars. You look at Matt Kenseth's run today. He had a good run till he got shuffled. Like I said, I mean, if it helps us to make a better headline for tomorrow, yeah, it's going to be the battle of a lifetime (smiling).

Q. John, did you realize it was Reutimann that you had to pass to get in?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I didn't know if it was David or Michael because I knew Dale Jarrett was up there. Michael, I didn't quite understand whether he was a transfer or how that worked.
When I got around David, I felt like I was in. That was off turn two. But I didn't pass Michael until coming off of turn four. Once I passed him, I knew for sure I was in. I just needed to get, I don't know, whatever distance that is to the checkered flag and we were in good shape.
The restart scared me a little bit because it got really bottled up. I don't know what happened up there in the middle part. But there were two cars between me and David. I almost ended up right on his rear bumper. We were just lucky to get through that part and get the last two laps in, I guess.

Q. Tony, after the first race, several drivers were talking about how much the car is sliding and slipping around. I'm wondering if, from your point of view, there was more of that than normal? Does that make it more challenging, more fun?
TONY STEWART: It's definitely for challenging, for sure.

Q. And why might it be slipping so much?
TONY STEWART: Well, if we knew that we'd fix it.
You keep in mind, these cars were designed and built to not drive as good as the cars we used to run. I can't say it's a surprise that they don't handle as good, because that's what they were built for.
But, you know, it's still our jobs as teams and drivers to try to figure out how to make them drive as good as we can.
You know, it makes you definitely -- I mean, track position's very important. You need to be as close to the front as you can get to get the cleaner air. It helps your car drive quite a bit better. If you get in the back there, get behind a bunch of cars, it's a handful for sure.
You definitely want -- I think Dale Jr. said it best. You definitely want to try to take full advantage of when you have fresh tires at the beginning of a run to try to get as many spots as you can early.

Q. David, I believe you were penalized for jumping at the start of the race. Can you talk about that, what was going on?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah. Michael told me before the race he was gonna be a little soft on the original start. I didn't anticipate him not -- I didn't anticipate him being in a coma when they dropped the green. My spotter says, Green, green, green. I took off. Michael was still sitting there.
Before I realized it, it's like, Oh, dang, here comes the start/finish line. Then I thought, Well, maybe they didn't see that (laughter). What do you think the chances of that were?
I knew as quick as it happened, Oh, I'm in trouble. We came down, did the pass-through, and then run around there by ourselves for 15 laps or whatever before we got a yellow.
It ended up working out okay. Just disappointing. Pretty disappointed in myself. You're not supposed to beat the leader back at the start/finish line. It's only been like that for like a hundred years and everybody knows it but I managed to do it anyway.

Q. Temperatures Sunday are supposed to be much warmer. The high line today was a line. By Sunday maybe it won't be. In this race in general the flexibility to be able to run wherever and with whomever is always important. Talk about how you decide when to run where.
TONY STEWART: The biggest thing for me was just -- you know, when we got in a position there where John and I were side by side, we kind of lost touch with the lead group there for a while. When we got going again, you know, when we all got back in single-file line, I kept running the bottom in three and four just to give myself clean air and not run the line that everybody else was running.
With it being a shorter distance, you could at least break even with the guys on the top, even though they were running faster in the draft. To me it was worth being easier on the tires trying to catch up than it was trying to beat your tires up just trying to get caught up to the pack.
I think you just have to gauge according to what your car's doing. I mean, there were times that my car felt better on the top than it did the bottom. Toward the end of the race I felt a lot better on the bottom than the top.
That characteristic is one that always happens here. I mean, it seems as the race goes on and you keep running a spot on the racetrack, it gets warmer and warmer and warmer from the friction. Seems like a lot of times if you can change your line and find a different spot, I mean, that's why they pay us to drive these things.
We're supposed to be smart enough to know to look for those things. That's where you search. I mean, sometimes the middle is going to be decent, but sometimes, depending on whether you're tight or loose, depends whether you're going to run the top or the bottom.

Q. David, in this race you had to worry about getting yourself in, you had Dale Jarrett, you have Boris Said sitting on your pit box. How aware are you of all these different scenarios? Do you have to put it out of your mind, or how do you deal with that?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, you know, you go out there and you know kind of the format or what you think you need to do. Trust me, all the guys at Michael Waltrip Racing weren't going to not let me know what we were supposed to be doing at any given time. We knew the 44 car needed to finish ahead of the 00. It's irrelevant where you start, to me, at this point, as long as we get three cars in the field. That's what our goal was.
So, yeah, I hated it for Boris. He got me in last year, so I definitely feel like I owed him one. I feel like we let him down there. Yeah, all these guys wanting you to do -- you do what you can when you can. You run as fast as you can and try not to knock the fenders off of it.
That's what I was concentrating on doing the rest of the race. One part of the deal was we got the 44 car in. At the end of the day, as long as we got three cars in, that's kind of all that matters.

Q. John, you were talking about wishing you went to Vegas or got online or tried that deal. What do you think your odds were?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Oh, gosh. The field? I mean, I don't know. I don't know what it would be, but it wouldn't have been Tony's odds.
I think for us, again, I feel like when we got in the race, I felt pretty good about the race car, but I don't have maybe as much experience in these COTs. I didn't come down here and test. I only did two drafting practices yesterday in this car.
But I felt pretty good about it. I felt like we made changes to it. The car was sensitive to them. It drove well. It drove well the whole race. I felt like, you know, when I get in the corners, I could do what I needed to do. I could stay wide open at any given point. I never had to lift except to keep from running over somebody.
I had to keep myself from trying to go through the middle. There were a couple times it was pretty tempting to try to muscle your way in there. But that usually -- that's last-lap stuff, not stuff you need to be doing at the beginning.
I just tried to be somewhat patient and try to hang on to the back. If we lost the draft, that was it for us. There were a couple times when it got close, because you get shuffled out, seems like you go backwards a lot faster. Like somebody throws an anchor on you.
It was a lot of fun. I don't know. I mean, we're in this race. For us, the big step has been made. But the other part is we still want to be respectable on Sunday to think, you know, illusion -- you know, visions of grandeur is not us. I think if we just have a good, solid run, top 15, it would be just unbelievable for us. Of course, you know, 'cause there's all those Gibbs and Hendrick cars in front of us that are going to be fast.
TONY STEWART: The epic battle.
JOHN ANDRETTI: The epic battle is going to be in front of us, so we'll be behind watching it. Hopefully the battle is fun to watch. I'm sure it will be. It was fun to watch on the Bud Shootout, I can tell you that.

Q. Tony, you always talk about you want to win every race, but the two races you haven't won are here and Indianapolis. To win the 50th Daytona 500, would you be okay with not ever winning Indianapolis at that point then?
TONY STEWART: You know, John knows what this means. We both ran the Indianapolis 500 a ton. He's run it more than I have actually.
You know, it's opposite ends of the spectrum. There's nothing that ever takes the place of the Indianapolis 500 and there's nothing that's going to take place of the Daytona 500. One doesn't offset the other or make you feel better about not winning the other.
If anything, it probably makes you want to win the other one more. You know, from my side, I'm one of those guys that have taken pride in winning in a lot of different divisions and different championships. You know, I think if we were able to win this, I mean, it would make it just that much more tempting to want to go back to Indy even more and try to complete all of it.
KERRY THARP: Guys, congratulations.
TONY STEWART: We got a question. Where do we get the Kevin Harvick bobblehead dolls (laughter)? I only need one.
KERRY THARP: Load him up.
TONY STEWART: I think I'm going to mount it to the dash of the car for tomorrow's practice. We should be able to adjust our shock. I don't know if he's going to shake his head yes or no, but he's going to do something one way or the other.



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