NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500
Topics: Daytona 500
February 17, 2008
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: We'll go ahead and roll into our post-race press conference. We have our third-place finisher, that's Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. Your thoughts?
TONY STEWART: Disappointed, obviously. It would be a lie to come in here and say I was happy about, you know, going from first to third on the last lap of the Daytona 500.
I just made the wrong decision on the backstretch. Tried to get down in front of Kyle. Thought I would get a push down there, and the top line, the 12 -- or the 2 got glued to the 12.
When you do that, I mean, I don't know if I could have stopped them anyway, even if I would have changed lanes. I'd say most likely we would have ended up like a bunch of other guys: wrecked.
But I guess in all reality, in hindsight, tomorrow I'm going to be a lot happier about it. But I thought we were going to have a fun hair-cutting party in here tonight with you guys. I don't know. It's hard to explain. It's probably just one of the most disappointing moments of my racing career tonight, so...
KERRY THARP: Let's take questions for Tony Stewart.
Q. Can you tell me, a year ago the Toyotas were not a factor at all in this race. Did you expect in the off-season for them to be as dominant they were today until this last lap?
TONY STEWART: Didn't know what to expect, in all honesty. You never know when you go to a new program exactly what you're going to have till you get it.
I can say I'm pleasantly surprised for sure. Everybody has worked hard. You know, I've mentioned it all week. Every time we've come here, we couldn't have even been here without Mark Cronquist and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing engine department. It was a monumental feat to get us in the position they got us in today.
We had one of the fastest cars, both Kyle and I. When we could get a run they absolutely flew, and that's all horsepower right there. Really proud of those guys.
I want to take a second to congratulate Ryan. He's a fellow Indiana boy. If we couldn't win, I was glad to see him. I was hoping it would be a Joe Gibbs Racing car to win this thing tonight. Happy for Ryan. He's a good guy, a good friend of mine, and I did want to congratulate him.
Q. Did you expect a lot of surprises this year with all the changes?
TONY STEWART: Such as? What kind of surprises?
Q. Any kind of surprises as far as your engine, team, anything.
TONY STEWART: I don't think so. I mean, I don't really know how to answer that 'cause I don't think there were going to be any surprises. I mean, it's the same car we ran half the season last year. It's a motor program that, you know, obviously Mark Cronquist felt comfortable with that change or we wouldn't have done it. I can't really say that there's anything that stands out at this point, so...
Q. You had to worry about both Ryan Newman on the top line winning the race and Kyle down low. When you moved low, were you blocking Kyle?
TONY STEWART: I was hoping to pull him along. I knew the 2 was behind the 12. I'd rather have my teammate behind me than two teammates from another team behind me.
So, you know, like I said, I made the wrong decision obviously. I don't know. I don't know if it was the wrong decision or not, honestly. I mean, hindsight. As fast as they were coming, I don't know that it wouldn't have wrecked me if I blocked anyway.
So, you know, my intention was to get down in front of Kyle, though, and try to pull Kyle along with us, you know, have us work together. I got a run on him on the restart. We've talked all week about the teammate part of it.
On the restart, I hung him out. But I tried to win the Daytona 500. I mean, you work all day to try to get yourself in a position to win. Then when you get a restart with three to go, you got to do what you got to do to try to win that trophy.
I did what I thought was the right thing for me. I felt like Kyle and I had worked good together. He had stayed up front all day. But when I did get in a position where I could finally help, I felt like, you know, we made a couple key moves together, when we were able to start on the restarts together, to get ourselves both up there.
You know, I felt like we did what we had set out to do. The last lap just didn't work out.
Q. You touched on the other day you didn't like that this race could possibly come down to what other cars did to each other, and that it wouldn't be a great driving performance. That's what happened. It came true for you today. Can you touch on that again.
TONY STEWART: Well, I mean, you still have to drive. Because I can promise you, when you got somebody glued to the back bumper, you're not just sitting there riding. The push Ryan was getting from his teammate, he had to drive. I mean, I promise you, when Ryan was pushing me through one and two, it was not fun. I had to do some of the hardest driving I had to do all day at that point.
You know, it is what it is. I mean, we all know, you guys all know, we've known it for years. When you come here, just every year the emphasis on team is a bigger factor into it.
You know, I think tonight was proof that it didn't disappoint.
Q. I'm really sorry if this is stupid, but I'm having trouble describing what happened. Kyle, was he not as able to get as close to your bumper as you thought he would be? He never really pushed you. There was no contact, right?
TONY STEWART: Right. You know, I don't know who was behind him and how close they were to be able to give him a push. I mean, Kyle finally got to me off turn four. But by that time we were both way too far behind to make a charge. We needed another lap. If we could have got another lap, the outcome might have been different.
Kyle was the one that pushed me and kept me in third. You know, I got to thank him for that.
Q. Could you speak a little bit to the frustration and the hard work it takes for Kyle Busch to lead the most laps and coming up short and how hard it is, the frustration, doing that all day, and of course how hard it is to do that?
TONY STEWART: I thought today was extremely hard. I mean, my car was absolutely one of the worst race cars I've ever driven in my life for the first half of the race. You know, to lead like he did all day and be up front, you know, and miss at the end like that, it is disappointing.
I mean, anybody that didn't win the race tonight's disappointed. But, like you said, to lead the most laps like that, it does, it breaks your heart. You know, you spend 10 days here trying to win the biggest stock car race of the year. When you know you've got a car that's capable of running up front and you can't capitalize on it, you know, not due to any fault of his own, you know, it does, it breaks your heart. I mean, it just absolutely crushes you.
Because it is the biggest race. I mean, if it wasn't a big deal it wouldn't bother you, but, I mean, this is the Daytona 500. If you know you got a car that's fast enough to win and you don't, you know, you're devastated over it.
Q. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like you didn't realize that Kyle dropped below the yellow line and then seemed to penalize himself. He let everybody go by. I think that's kind of why he disappeared. Did you not know that?
TONY STEWART: I didn't know that. But, you know, that's part of the yellow line rule, I'm assuming. If he had to go below the yellow line to pass somebody, and it sounds like he did what was right, and that was letting the guy go back by before he went on.
Like you say, on the last lap of the Daytona 500, if that's what happened, that kid used a lot of discipline there and did the right thing, and I'm proud of him for that.
Q. Seems like last few years whoever is leading late doesn't end up in Victory Lane. I know it sounds almost crazy, but is it a disadvantage to be out in front?
TONY STEWART: Absolutely. No doubt about it. We lost the lead twice this week leading the race on restarts.
You know, everybody works hard to get a run. That's what practice is about. That's what the qualifying race is about. That's what the shootout is about. You try to learn how to get those runs so you can make big moves like that.
You know, you are, you really don't want to be -- kind of the old days when the slingshot was so effective. You didn't want to be the leader on the last lap because there was that big run on you on the last lap.
You know, it still holds true today that same way.
KERRY THARP: Tony, thanks a lot. See you in California.
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