NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel
Topics: Gatorade Duel
February 12, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: We're going to go ahead and roll into our post race Gatorade Duel at Daytona press conference. We're joined by our top-finishing Raybestos rookie of the year candidate. He finished fourth in today's duel.
Joey, congratulations on an outstanding finish out there today. Your thoughts about today's race and your thoughts about running in your first Daytona 500 on Sunday.
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I think we accomplished everything we needed to do with The Home Depot Toyota. Our main goal was to go out there and finish the race. That was more than we got in the Shootout. Just kind of keep going, gain some respect from these guys like I've been saying all week.
I feel like we accomplished that. We can work on our car a little bit more and get ready for the 500.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Joey.
Q. How much of a relief is it to get a race under your belt in the 20?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I think it's a really big deal. Just working with those guys, getting used to, from what I say, to adjustments, you know, just working like that. It takes a little bit, but I feel like we're getting there.
Q. Joey, could you comment on how the education process continues. Did you have another problem on pit road? How was the experience on the racetrack?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I had another problem on pit road (laughter).
I think these speedway brakes lock up quicker than you would think. You're slowing down, you think you're good, and then you go to really stop and they just lock up.
I feel like I've got that kind of calmed down now at least. I thought it was going to be a little better than that ARCA car, but I guess not.
Besides that, I learned a lot. Just, you know, the handling of the car, what to do to keep your run going, drafting. Just learned a lot about all that stuff.
Q. Joey, talk about the handling in the draft. When you got to the front, did you feel more comfortable running up there with the guys who had that experience? When you helped push Jeff to the front, any thoughts about passing him at that point?
JOEY LOGANO: Well, I was going to plan on getting there, then planning on what I was going to do from there.
The handling of the car is so much better in the front than it is in the back. Once you get in the back, especially on old tires, it's a handful and a half. As you get closer to the front it gets better. It's just a matter of getting there, which is not the easy part.
Once we got up there, only a few to go, I made a last-ditch effort there at the end going into three, hoping someone would go with me. Figured I'm that close, might as well go for a win. Overall, I think it was a good day.
KERRY THARP: We're also joined by Scott Riggs. Scott raced his way into the Daytona 500 today, finishing eighth. Outstanding effort, Scott. How do you feel about getting into the 500?
SCOTT RIGGS: Man, we're elated. Very happy with all the guys. This is grass-roots right now for us. I mean, you go to the shop, it's a lot of guys are just volunteers, passionate about racing. They're addicted to the racing bug that we all are addicted to. They put their heart and soul into it from faith in Tommy, the whole organization.
To be able to scrap something together from a month and a half ago to nothing, to be able to put something together, come here, run good, be pretty strong in the pack, get ourselves in the race, it speaks volumes for us.
Q. Scott, you're obviously in a difficult spot. It appeared it's a perilous thing finding people to draft with you. You're here with a team and a car that's not familiar to other cars. You've had a good record. How frustrating is it for you when you know you can't afford any mistakes and you have to try to find somebody out there who will run with you and work together with you?
SCOTT RIGGS: I mean, it is definitely hard. You get frustrated at times when you have a run, you try to make something happen, somebody doesn't go with you to make it work, or just peel off and leave you hanging.
I know from the other side of the shoe, too, it's hard being out there. It's one thing for everyone to come down to Daytona and try to figure out, Okay, this guy's in this car, this guy changed this car, and try to figure out who is in what car these days and what sponsor is on the car.
I know it's even more difficult to have a car and a car number and car colors that no one else recognizes. So it takes a little while for everybody to get used to it, figure out who's behind the wheel, who you can trust, who you can't. You have to know your competitors.
We had a fast enough racecar. Some people saw it. Hats off. There was a handful of guys out there that I had a chance to practice with yesterday. Those were the same guys that got behind me and gave me some good shoves today.
KERRY THARP: We're also joined by our second-place finisher in today's duel, Tony Stewart. Back-to-back strong finishes with that new race team. You have to feel good about that.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, real happy. Kind of picked up where we left off the other night. This car is a little better than our Shootout car was. It drove great today.
Just really proud of Darian Grubb and the Old Spice Office Depot team. They've done a great job. Still amazes me how much they got done in such a short amount of time to come down here.
Q. Scott, you said it was about six weeks ago this team was formed. I'm assuming you're getting paid, you're not volunteering to drive. If you wouldn't call this miraculous, you getting in the 500, what would you call it?
SCOTT RIGGS: Well, I mean, Tommy pays me attention. He pays me some attention, for sure (smiling). Came down to a point that I had to make a decision. Am I going to sit at home and stay on the phone and call people and hope that something opens up to give me an opportunity to get in the car? Or am I going to go down to Daytona and start the season off with somebody, like Tommy, who in my situation has more experience than anyone I've ever worked with as a crew chief?
What really made the decision for me is when I talked to Tommy and heard the passion in his voice, heard it just talking to him several times on the phone, how dedicated he was, how positive he was. We're going to do this. Stick with me; we'll do it.
I think that's the turning point for me that I said I'm going to go fight this good fight and make sure that this team is going to give me this opportunity. We're going to try to make the best of it.
I hope things can go further and we can continue to race. Tommy is committed to go to every single race and try to qualify for every single race. The more the sponsorship comes, the more opportunities we have to get our races paid for, the more races we're going to try to race.
So far we've got the first three paid for and sponsored. Real proud of everyone that's out there hunting for us, as well. Also real proud of Red Bank Outfitters coming on for this weekend's race and next week's race in California.
Q. Scott and Tony, you came out on the topside of this qualifying situation here. Could you each comment a little bit about this qualifying format. Do you think it's fair? Do you think people understand it?
SCOTT RIGGS: I'll let Tony answer that.
TONY STEWART: I don't understand it fully. I mean, the part I do understand is that the guys that are trying to race their way in are split up evenly. That part I think is really good. It's not fair to have nine guys on one side and one guy on the other side that's trying to make the race and have to race in.
I'm not sure that I fully understand exactly how we ended up where we did, how we started in our starting spot. But that's the great thing about NASCAR: there's smarter people than us that figure that out for us. They give us a lineup and tell us where to go.
Q. Joey, you don't have a lot of experience here yet. How do you feel other drivers are approaching you out on the racetrack? Do people want to work with you, stay away from you? Do you think you've earned any trust yet?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I think I have a little bit. I think it's just going to take time, too, at the same time. I think this run helped that a lot. Getting up there at the end helped a lot.
But, yeah, that stuff just takes time. I understand if someone wouldn't, there's an excuse why not to. But at the same time, I feel like I'm getting treated fairly. I'm not getting dumped out there or anything like that. Pretty fair.
Q. Tony, you expressed happiness with the car yesterday, how it handled. Did it meet or exceed your expectations in traffic out there today?
TONY STEWART: It was better today even. You know, even at the beginning of the run when we were back about seventh or eighth spot, it wasn't hard yesterday to get back that far and have a car that wasn't very happy.
So I was pretty pleased with it today. I mean, obviously the further forward you get, the better it's going to drive. Still, to be able to work our way up there the way it did, to drive the way it did, I was real pleased.
I think we made gains over yesterday. We made a couple real small changes for today, and the car really liked it.
Q. Tony, you're an intense guy. You seem subdued after this race. Is your dominant emotion that you're happy that you were second or frustrated you were that close?
TONY STEWART: I was real happy. I guess I'm worried about Ryan right now more than me. Obviously them getting ready for the second qualifier, I was really happy with the way it turned out.
Jeff and I had a great battle there at the end. It wasn't one of those deals where, you know, everybody's trying to run each other all over the racetrack at the end, which makes it a little more enjoyable. But I think that's part of knowing we're in a qualifying race where we got to bring these cars back on Sunday, and you just have to take care of them is part of it.
We got a lot of respect for each other, too. That's what made it fun. If a guy got an honest run, he was going to get that spot. We ran right with him all day. We ran second and third for the majority of the day, and then ran first and second the rest of the day.
I wasn't at all disappointed. I mean, you still want to win, obviously. That was our goal. But more so it's knowing that we need to bring this car back on Sunday. Guys like Matt Kenseth that got involved in wrecks today, that's the stuff that hurts you going into the rest of the week, makes a lot of extra work for the guys.
I am really happy. I guess I'm still in shock about the fact that this week has gone as well as it has. With the exception of losing the motor on Ryan's car yesterday, it's been awesome. But all the Hendrick guys, especially from the engine shop, yesterday when we had that problem, they were right on top of it. By this morning we found out exactly what's cause of that failure was.
It's just unbelievable to have the support from Chevy, Hendrick Motorsports, have the week we have had.
Q. Tony, do you think the racing has been better this week at Daytona? And if so why?
TONY STEWART: Obviously every year the qualifying races, the middle of the race, it gets kind of single file, strung out a little bit, and there's multiple battles throughout the field. At the end of the race there nobody knew who was going to end up where. Guys were all over the place as far as shuffling back and forth, lead changes like we had.
It's nice to be able to do that, not be in a big melee. I thought the races have been good this week. I thought the Shootout Saturday, it was definitely exciting. It was exciting to watch. It's been exciting to watch the replays. It was exciting to be in it.
I don't see Saturday night being any different. I think another year of time with these cars - everybody is getting more comfortable with them - I think everybody is figuring out how to get them driving a little better. That gives us a little more flexibility as drivers to move around the racetrack. It helps us put on a better race.
Q. Joey, two rookies in there. Dale Earnhardt, toward the end of his qualifier as a rookie, kind of felt like, I know what I'm doing. He took off with A.J. Foyt and finished fourth. A few years later Jeff Gordon tucks in right behind Earnhardt and stays there. You made that last-ditch effort. Was there a point where you said, I got a handle on this stuff, I can go with these guys?
JOEY LOGANO: I don't know about all that. As I was going to the front -- well, I guess a little bit (laughter).
I think, you know, let's just do something with it instead of letting it die out. I just went for it. I was hoping for the best. Hoping some cars would go with me. I don't think I had a big enough run to get to the front. Trying to do something, trying to learn more.
I don't regret that move, because I did learn a little bit about that stuff. After I get done with the Nationwide race, I'll be even more comfortable out there.
Q. Scott, you said yesterday you did not want them to tell you how you stood against the other guys. Did you stick with that plan? Were you aware the whole time how you stacked up?
SCOTT RIGGS: Pretty much. I mean, the one car that I saw the entire day that I wish I could have got by was the guy beside me right here, the 14. I kept seeing him up there running well. The only time I took a notion to count the guys and see who's in front of us, where we need to be, how we need to position ourself, was the last restart, 'cause so many guys had taken two tires or no tires.
I knew that was going to really be a mess when the restart got into turn one. First lap was going to be something. Sure enough, I saw Jeff starting to get the momentum run and start to weave through all the guys up front with the different tires we had.
That was the only time I really took note of who it was, what car numbers were in front of us. I was really worried about trying to get by the 09. I looked up there the very last time and I saw Tony, Jeff, Jimmie, the 09. I knew were pretty much Hendrick related.
I thought that was going to be trouble for me. I guess the new tires definitely paid off for us. I think it sort of failed for him when he started to fall back. I try not to pay attention to it, as little as I can. You try to make your way to the front as far as you can.
Where the cards fall, that's where they fall. The only time I looked in my mirror to see what I needed to do was the last couple laps with the 87 behind us, just to make sure he didn't sneak in there somehow on me.
Q. Tony, if you were to be completely honest with us...
TONY STEWART: That will never happen, not in this lifetime (smiling). But let's just pretend.
Q. Would you say that you are genuinely pleasantly surprised by the way everything has gone this week? To a certain extent, you didn't know how things were going to work out of the box. Would you say even you are a little surprised they've gone as smoothly?
TONY STEWART: I guess I came into it with an open mind, not knowing what it was going to be. I didn't come here saying, We're going to struggle, or, We've got a shot to win every race every time. It was more taking a step back and saying, Let's just see what happens.
But I have been pleasantly surprised. I've been obviously very ecstatic that we've run the way we have. Ryan's car obviously was good in qualifying. We qualified well. We've had two good races now this week. It's been an awesome, awesome week for the organization.
So, you know, it's like I keep going back. I know I sound like a broken record. You are probably sick of it. I'm just so happy. When you're at the shop every day, you see the progress being made, it's different than -- normally I've been in Indiana for a whole month, forget about it. I guess when you're there every day, you see what's going on firsthand, you see the effort.
It makes me think back to Christmas Eve. We had to kick guys out of the shop at 1:00 in the afternoon to spend time with their families. They wanted to stay and work on racecars. When you show up and have a week like this, it makes you very pleased you've had those results. It's not just for myself, it's for everybody in the organization, because I know how hard everybody has worked.
Q. Tony, did you feel a little bit of a sense of pride seeing that 20 car up there toward the front?
TONY STEWART: Yeah. I just couldn't figure out what took him so long (smiling). I knew he'd get there. I mean, obviously Joey has a lot of talent. He's with a great race team. I know that firsthand.
It's going to be a good combination of Joey being with those guys. The great thing is, Joey didn't get a lot of time in the Shootout the other night. To come here today on a day when this race normally is a little more difficult because of the weather, you know, to have a run like he had today, I'm proud to see that those guys aren't having problems, and proud that Joey's really made some big gains in a short amount of time.
You can tell he's getting more comfortable. You can see it when you're out there with him. Every lap he gets more comfortable than the one before.
Q. Scott, does this seem to be a continuation of what you did last year in the 66 in terms of really having to push hard to keep the car in the race? How satisfying is it to do well when you're not expected to?
SCOTT RIGGS: It's very satisfying for us. I mean, considering how fast we've come together, all the things that we've put together in one little shop, the guys there working that are volunteers, working on the cars to get them to the racetrack.
I don't think anyone has any high expectations of us. We want to under-promise and over-deliver. I think with Tommy's ability, how much experience he's had in the past, it was tough last year for me. This year will probably even be tougher.
It's more rewarding on a day like today when you come out showing your strength and showing what you can do with the people that work so hard, you know, behind the scenes with Tommy.
Q. Joey, the last lap, you're coming off the second turn. I was thinking that you were going to give Tony a bump-draft by Jeff into three. You were waiting for him to make a move and he never made a move so you made a move. What were you thinking the last lap about Tony?
JOEY LOGANO: Yeah, I think if I was to hit him I had a big old run with Jeff. If I was to line up and hit Tony, I think I would have sent him out of the track. I had to keep going with the run I had and follow Jeff through there.
But, you know, I think at the same time, you know, it just depends on the scenario where you're at. You know what I mean? I feel like I had to do what I had to do at that point.
KERRY THARP: Joey, thank you very much. Congratulations. We'll continue with questions for Tony or Scott.
Q. Tony, I know you were briefly asked about Joey and the 20 car. Was that surreal to look in your rearview mirror and see your old paint scheme coming up behind you?
TONY STEWART: It's a different paint scheme. You still see the same logo on there. I guess -- I don't know. I guess being at the shop all winter, seeing red racecars and black racecars everywhere, I got pretty used to it in a short amount of time.
On Sunday after qualifying, I went over and walked up in the 20 trailer, plopped down like I always have, sat there and talked to Zippy and Adam for 35, 40 minutes. Sat up there like we always did. Talked about the same stuff we always talked about. That side of it I'm really proud of, that we still are able to do that, that we still have those relationships.
But it wasn't. It really wasn't as weird as you would think it would be. It's still another racecar on the track that you got to race with. It's exactly like what Scott said. Everybody's out there in cars that look different this year. It was just another adjustment.
Q. Tony, the TV camera showed A.J. up on your pit box with the headphones. Can you tell us, was he set up to be able to talk to you?
TONY STEWART: Oh, God, no. No, no, no (laughter).
We actually had a special radio sitting there just for him. It had the button on it and everything, but it didn't do anything when you pushed the button. I'm not joking.
Q. A pretend radio?
TONY STEWART: Yeah. Can you imagine having to sit there and drive with him yelling at you all day long? I've kind of done that in Silver Crown cars a little bit. I've learned my lesson. I know better than to give him a radio he can yell into.
The best part about it was when we were coming to the media center. He stopped me. He said he gave me an A minus for the day. I said, Coming from you, that's as good as an A plus from everybody else. He's your toughest critic, but at the same time he's one of our biggest fans, too.
It just means a lot that he cares enough about what we're doing to want to spend the rest of the week with us here and be a part of it.
Q. Scott, what are your expectations for Sunday? How did today's performance impact those expectations?
SCOTT RIGGS: Well, I mean, we sort of take every day one day at a time. Coming down here this week, the first thing we wanted to do was try to qualify in on time. We didn't do that. The next thing we wanted was to make sure our car drove well and was fast enough to be able to race our way in.
Today that's all we concentrated on: making sure we can race our way in. Once we did that today, now we're into tomorrow, thinking about what we need to do adjustment-wise, what things we can do to try to make our car a little better, handle a little bit better, especially when it's in a bigger pack on Sunday.
I don't know if our expectations have changed. I think that we come to the track every single week now, and we're going to come to the track and try to show speed, show our strength, try to qualify well, be as strong as we can in every practice and every race we're in.
I don't know if it's changed. I know that I'll probably sleep a lot better tonight just knowing I'm in the show. There's a little bit of anxiety the last couple of days thinking about what our car is going to be like, how it's going to drive, who's going to work with you, who's not.
It was definitely rewarding today to have, I'm not going to say a rag-tag team, but to have guys that are there because of their love for the sport and the faith in Tommy and each other, to come here and to be able to do, show our strength. I hope we've earned some respect from other guys out there that saw how good our car drove, how good we ran.
Hope we can get a little more help Sunday when it comes time to really get paid.
Q. Tony, you've talked about how pleased you are with where you're at. Could you have gotten to this point without the aid of Hendrick and his group? Talk about the bond you have with those guys.
TONY STEWART: No, there's no way we could have got this far, for sure. Scott can tell you that from being at Haas last year. It's a support system. You really rely heavily on that organization 'cause they're doing your chassis for you, they're doing our engines for us.
Obviously those are two of the biggest components and key components of producing a racecar. So definitely couldn't have got to this point without them.
Mr. Hendrick is such a great guy. He's been the biggest supporter of us doing this, making this change. There's times he's called me at 11:30 at night saying, Hey, is there anything I can do? How is it going? How are you doing? He knows it's been a stressful off-season. He's kind of been the calming hand on my shoulder saying, Hey, it's going to be all right; you're doing a good job.
Q. Tony, you've had two races with Darian on the pit box, a new spotter. How is that going communication-wise?
TONY STEWART: Bob Jeffrey is our spotter. I worked with him before in the past. I've always been comfortable with him. Working with Darian has been a small adjustment. I was talking to Mr. Hendrick earlier today. I said it's really amazed me at how calm he is. He's so even-keeled.
I almost want to start messing with him just to see if I can get him off center a little bit. I haven't seen him get mad yet. You barely can get him to laugh sometimes. He smiles a lot, but he doesn't laugh a lot.
He's just very monotone about everything. You can hear his confidence on the radio. From a driver's standpoint, if the guy that is calling the race for you, making the calls for you is confident, it adds to your confidence and boosts your confidence.
You know, it's been really good. It's obviously been a big adjustment going from Zippy to Darian. But, you know, it's not been an unpleasant change by any means, to me.
I miss Zippy, but at the same time, I feel like I've stepped into a role with a guy that it doesn't seem like the first week we've worked together at a race. It seems like we've worked together a lot longer.
Q. Scott, you're a chip-on-your-shoulder kind of guy. Tommy Baldwin is a chip-on-his-shoulder kind of guy. You both have that "me against the world" sort of mantra against you. When the team was announced a month ago, there were probably a lot of eye rolls. What are they trying this for? How motivating is that for you, him, everybody that's working there, Hell, they don't think we can do it?
SCOTT RIGGS: That's the entire reason it feels so good to be able to be successful today, race our way into the Daytona 500.
Tommy is definitely a high-strung individual. I think I can be very high-strung at the same time. So far we've worked together and talked things out so easy. I'm sure we'll have some bumps in the road. But so far it's been great.
You know, it's not the ideal situation. I don't think Tommy or myself looked at last year and said, Hey, let's go race next year on a shoestring budget with no major sponsors and see if we can race all the races. That's not what we want.
I think we both have the kind of mentality that we are backed into the corner and we are here to try to prove ourselves and fight our way out.
Right now it's been fun fighting that good fight with Tommy, somebody like Tommy, who is so strong, so confident, always positive about what we need to do, always thinking forward about what we need to do next time to be better, things we need to think about during the race. He's got a long history of being a crew chief. He has a pretty deep notebook about things he's learned in the last few years. Hopefully we can continue to work on those things, prove ourselves together.
KERRY THARP: Guys, congratulations to both of you. A great performance out there today. We wish you all the luck on Sunday.
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