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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Budweiser Shootout

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Budweiser Shootout

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Budweiser Shootout

Tony Stewart
February 7, 2009


THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Tony Stewart. Tony, tell us about your run.
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I got to ask Jamie McMurray. Apparently he was talking about me.
No, I'm happy with it. Wasn't the prettiest third place we've ever got. But if there was ever a day to take one, this was the day for sure.
We had nothing to lose on that last caution. We were able to come in and get four. We saw how it paid off for the 11 and 24. We had the luxury, since we were at the tail end of the pack, being able to pick which line we wanted, knowing that if there was any kind of gap at all, with fresh tires, we were going to be able to go wherever we wanted and have enough grip. That's basically what we did. We just picked whichever hole we wanted, and we were able to get up to a good spot. Got lucky being on the bottom when the wreck happened at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Been a lot of bad news over the winter about layoffs, economic hard times. Seemed to be a very entertaining race tonight. How big was it to get the season started off on a big note for the sport?
TONY STEWART: I think it was big, obviously. I mean, I think one of the funniest things I've laughed about the whole day, as odd as it's going to sound, when the national anthem was going on, and the lady's microphone kept going in and out, and the crowd picked it up from there. The whole crowd was singing the national anthem. Didn't miss a beat. Like you didn't even care if her mic came back on or not. Bless her heart. It was one of those things, like this sport is going to be all right.
The fans were here. Fans were pumped up about the Shootout tonight. It just kind of made me smile, made me laugh, made me forget that I was going to get ready to get in my own racecar for the first time.
If that's any sign of what's to come with the economy and the fans, we got some dedicated fans and we got fans that, no matter what the circumstances are, they're going to rise to the occasion obviously.
But as far as us tonight, I mean, you couldn't have asked for a better night. Like I said, it wasn't that we were the third place car. We ended up finishing third, but we weren't the third place car. We had I think probably one of the top five best handling cars out there. We got some things we need to work on. It's given us a direction on what we need to concentrate on this week before the qualifying race. Obviously, if we haven't figured it out by then, we got two more days to work on it.
I'm really proud of Darian. I'm proud of the guys. They had really good stops tonight. As odd as it's going to sound, it almost seemed like we worked together before. I was really surprised in the confidence I heard from him every time the caution came out about what we were going to do, how much of a change we were going to make. He really impressed me tonight.
You never know what's gonna happen that first night with a new guy. It really put me at ease I guess the whole night. Just hearing his confidence on the radio gave me confidence. We led laps tonight. We were a factor at parts of the night. I think everybody at some point of the night was vulnerable and able to fall to the back and get freight-trained.
We led laps, we ran in the top five a lot. We were in the back a lot, too. At the end we ended up where we needed to be.

Q. Did it feel like the dawn of a new era for you or just like old times?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. It was like business as usual while you were in the car. Like I said, when we led those laps, I wasn't thinking anything about it. Didn't seem like it was any different than when we were in the 20 car in the past.
It wasn't till the caution that came after we got the lead there that it was, man, we just led some laps in our first race with our own stuff.
It's a proud moment when you realize that you've seen everything happen firsthand at the shop and seen it build and develop over the winter, to see how it got here. It's not just disappear for the winter and go off and mess around on vacation or whatever, then show up at the track and all of a sudden you go to work again. It's been a little more detailed than that for me this winter. I guess it hit a little harder when we led those first laps.

Q. The tone of this race seemed to be like it was on edge, waiting for stuff to happen, it happened. Did it seem like cars were bumping around the a little more than usual to you or was it about the same?
TONY STEWART: I felt like for the most part it was the same. I think we noticed last night between the two sessions, race practices yesterday, that the second session, everybody had more grip. Any time you get more grip, guys are going to start putting it in places that are going to make them get edgy.
What surprised me was how many times guys could go through the middle and not be totally out of control. Guys got their cars driving pretty good to when they got in the center, they were able to go on and not be waiting on the wreck to happen.
It's just a lot of movement around there. This isn't the widest track that we run on by any means. It gets pretty crowded. Especially when you get three-wide there. Even at the end, I think on the last lap, we were four-wide at one point in one and two. That's something you very, very rarely see.
As much as it just seemed like it was half out of control, it seemed like everybody was in control, too. Any time they get more comfortable, guys are just going to push that much harder to get them where they are on the edge. That's basically what happened.

Q. What do you think the difference is? I think we can anticipate the middle portion is somewhat sane, fairly insane end of the race. How much difference does it make between running in the daytime and running at night?
TONY STEWART: The thing I think I'm going to base this decision off of is what happened last year. Until it got dark, until that temperature and track temperature cooled down, guys had a hard time with the handling. You saw everybody kind of separate. Like you say, it was pretty much tame. But it was tame because guys didn't have good enough grip to get themselves in compromising positions.
I think it will be like that in the daytime. I'm sure Thursday will be a really good indication of that. Any time you get any temperature at this track, this track is very temperature sensitive, just like Indy and some of the other places we go to, Charlotte. Just seems like any time there's any kind of track temperature at all, everybody's cars slide around.
When it cools off, by that time, everybody has had all day to work on their cars, make adjustments. When the track cools off, you get close to those money laps, it definitely is going to get crazy again.

Q. It's one thing to get on the track yesterday for practice after a long off-season. A race like this, was that pretty much what you were hoping for to get those juices flowing, particularly in your situation?
TONY STEWART: I'll be honest. I just wanted to finish the race today. I wanted to get through the live pit stop, through the second segment of the race, and just kind of get everybody that chance to get through that first bit of the season. I mean, even if we didn't finish the race, as long as we got through that first pit stop, that was going to be good that we got those guys in that mode.
I wanted to stay out of trouble for the most part. It wasn't that we played it that way, and it wasn't that we played it safe. It's just that was my goal at the end of the day was, If we can finish this thing, we'll take whatever it gives us.
These last two days were really important for Darian and I to work together. I'm going to bed tonight with a lot of confidence that I didn't have coming into tonight, just because you just don't know. You don't know what it's gonna be like. This was our first test. I felt like Darian and I, the communication between us was very, very good. From that side of it, I'm real pleased with the result of that, and that gives us confidence going into not necessarily tomorrow, but when we come back on Wednesday and go back to race practice, that's gonna give us a lot of confidence, I think.

Q. You stopped for tires. You were running 13th. Is that going to be a strategy we look for in the 500? Do you feel half the guys are going to stop for tires?
TONY STEWART: It could happen that way, for sure. Obviously when Denny and Jeff came in and got their tires, they were able to blast back up through there, too. I think part of it's the draft, part of it's tires. Neither is a bad thing. But it definitely is gonna make guys think.
I don't think it's gonna be so much track position as you would think. But I think there's going to be guys that might gamble and try to stay out and get track position, knowing what little might be able to happen in two laps. Then there are guys going to be able to look back on the night and say these were two different situations where guys in the back took tires and it paid off for them.
I think it's probably going to be more the second case than the first case. I think you'll see guys gambling on coming in. I don't know how many guys tried two-tire stops today. Seemed like they all took four. I don't think you'll see a lot of two-tire stops. I think if they come, they'll come for four.

Q. There was a record number of lead changes and I believe a record number of cautions. Any opinions on why?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. I think the record number of lead changes is a good thing, though, for sure. I can't really say that I know exactly why the record number of cautions. There's one thing. There's nobody I think that can leave today and say they didn't see an exciting race. Hopefully that's the way the whole season is going to be for all of us.

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