NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sprint All-Star Race
Topics: Sprint All-Star Race
May 16, 2009
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by our race winner of the 25th running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Tony Stewart. He drives the No. 14 Office Depot Old Spice Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. Also with us is Crew Chief Darian Grubb.
Congratulations, Tony, your first All-Star Race victory. You've become only the second driver/owner to win this event. The first was Jeff Bodine back in 1994.
Take us through that final couple of laps and how you got to Victory Lane.
TONY STEWART: I've said this 50 times since I got in the car: I can't believe he gave me the bottom. We got a run on him two laps before and got a run off of 2 at the bottom, got beside him. I overdrove it in 3 and just got down there and got loose trying to clear him, and he was able to get back by us. And then he went to the bottom in 1 and 2 the next lap.
I don't think he was great down there, but he was good enough, I think, to hold us off. But the next lap we go back through there and we got a run off of 4 on him.
I was prepared to go at least to the middle or to the top and run somewhere different because I knew I wasn't going to be able to follow him through there again.
And on the entry he ran up high, and I was like: Wow, I can't believe he's giving me the bottom again. I got down there, got in the gas real quick and got by. And it was the best the car was all night. Darian made a handful of adjustments on that last caution and, man, did it wake that car up.
It just was stuck those last 10 laps. We were as good as the guys in front of us. We were just in traffic with them. And I'm confident even if Jeff didn't have a problem or Jimmie didn't have a problem around us, that we had a shot at running with those guys.
I don't know if we would have got by those two, but Ryan Newman was probably the guy that should have been in Victory Lane tonight. He got a tire cut and had to come get it fixed.
But, man, it was just awesome to finally get into Victory Lane here with a group of guys that have been looking at this for a long time.
THE MODERATOR: Darian, talk about some changes after the third segment. You had a little intermission there, talk about some of the things you did.
TONY STEWART: You tell them that, I'll kill you.
THE MODERATOR: In general terms.
DARIAN GRUBB: Honestly, there wasn't a corner of the car we didn't touch. Took Tony's feedback and made adjustments all around, a little bit of tire strategy, just track bar, wedge, air pressure, about everything we could do, packers, shot clicks, and just luckily we were able to get him out there, keep track position since we were doing all that stuff. He was able to drive it to the front.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Right after you won you told the guys they were climbing the fence. Were you planning on doing that all along once you got victory? And, Darian, did you know that was going to happen?
TONY STEWART: I think they took that upon themselves to do it. They told me. I said: No way, I'm not doing this again. I'm too old to be doing it.
But I was so excited, I wanted to get back to them right away. There's guys on this team that haven't been to Victory Lane before. And that was something I was really looking forward to was getting there and congratulating Gene on his first win and these guys that have been with the organization and haven't been in Victory Lane, to see those guys get their first win and be a part of it with them was what I was really looking for.
But I don't know if he knew about it, but I heard and caught wind of it when they stopped us in turn 2 when I was taking my gear off. But I made up my mind I wasn't doing it.
DARIAN GRUBB: It was actually Aaron Kuhn, the tire guy.
TONY STEWART: One of the young guys that's able to actually do that without passing out when they get up there, that was one of the guys that decided to do that.
Q. Tony, certainly you've had a lot of spectacular big wins in your career. Is it safe to say this ranks second to your Indy wins, or how does this rank from a car owner's point of view? What's the feeling? What does it mean to you?
TONY STEWART: It's awesome. It's definitely up there. I mean, I've been very fortunate as a car owner with the USAC cars and winning championships and winning the Knoxville Nationals championship with our World of Outlaws teams. Like I said, the most fun part about it from the ownership side was getting some of these guys to Victory Lane that have never been there before. That's something that, that and getting Gene in Victory Lane.
And Gene and Joe Custer, gave me a great opportunity last year when we decided to do this deal, and that's not something that an opportunity comes around like that very often.
So to get those guys in Victory Lane and to get these guys on the team that haven't been to Victory Lane yet, to get them to there for the first time, that means more than a million dollars does to me. It's that gratifying to get this group of guys in Victory Lane. And there's guys on the team that are friends of mine and there's guys on the team that I never met before.
But they've been an awesome group of guys to work with up to this point. And that's the most gratifying part about it. It's about seeing those guys and seeing them celebrating and smiling in Victory Lane when I got there and seeing how happy they were and the excitement on their faces. There's no check that you can write in any amount that's going to make up for that and could take the place of it.
Q. Tony, you started kind of far back because of some of the adventures on the pit stop.
TONY STEWART: That stellar one I had yesterday?
TONY STEWART: That was part of our strategy was to actually get those guys so confused that they were still talking about it today and wondering what I was doing and why I was doing it. And I still don't have an answer for why I did what I did yesterday. But go ahead.
Q. And clearly it worked. But my question --
TONY STEWART: It's worked with us, too. We're still confused about it.
Q. My question is this: At what point in tonight's race did you realize you had a very good chance of winning? Because you were fairly far back for the first half of the race. Was there a point where the car picked up? When did you know?
TONY STEWART: I think it was when we got the restart after I guess it was when Jeff spun and we got that restart there. I thought Ryan was, the plan was just to follow Ryan. I thought we could both get by the 17 there and go on.
And it didn't -- I guess I was beside the 17 and Kyle was on the pole at that time, I think, or vice versa. That's what I was thinking: Man, Ryan's going to win this thing; wherever I end up I'll take it. And I'm going to try to beat him to Victory Lane.
I knew when his car didn't take off on the restart I knew something was wrong. I knew something wasn't right. You could see the damage he had.
I told those guys, when they ran us down the pit road the first time, I said look at his left rear and make sure it was all right. I was worried about it after I saw the contact and I saw the letters wore off.
I felt like after that restart, when we cleared Ryan, we ran right with the 18 and the 17, and I felt like at that point if they got wrestling with each other, which they did, we ran them down and we got a caution again.
But I felt like at that point we had a shot at it. When we restarted the third there, I thought if we can get a good restart, get through turn 2 and not get loose, we were going to be at least in the hunt and have an opportunity to do something with them.
Q. Tony, are you going to bring the same car back for the race next week? Will you bring this same car back? It's fast. You guys are outstanding. And we're proud of you, Tony.
DARIAN GRUBB: I have a feeling we'll sit there and talk about that tomorrow after it all settles in. I think we have a better piece back at the shop. It's in the paint booth right now. They're finishing up the decals. We might bring this as a back-up. But I think what we've got back at the shop is even better.
Q. Tony or Darian, can you talk a little bit about Gene and his feelings, his first race back. First win for the organization 2002. Darian, I talked to you before Darlington and you talked about wanting to get Tony these wins at places and events that eluded him, so. Your emotion on getting Tony a win he never had before in his career. And, Tony, are you going go to Indy tomorrow and try to qualify there?
TONY STEWART: I don't know if I'll even be conscious tomorrow. (Laughter) We might set an over/under and see what time I actually wake up and you guys might want to start a second pool and see what time I actually climb out of bed.
Whoever wins that tomorrow, I'll personally, on the day that my headache goes away, I'll personally deliver the pot to you. But, no, I'm not going to Indy. I don't know what day this day is actually going to end.
So I would like to go, and I'm sure at some point tomorrow -- thank God for Tivo, let's put it that way. I'll at least see what happens at some point.
But talking about Gene, I'm excited. It's so nice. I was so worried today just making sure, I wanted him to be proud when he got here and proud of what we've done and proud of what he's been such a huge part of putting together.
Everybody's given us all the credit for this. And you really have got to give him the credit for taking the gamble and taking the risk and having us come be a part of this organization like that and trusting us to make some pretty big decisions and personnel changes.
That's not something that a lot of people in that position are willing to do and give up that kind of control to let a totally different group of guys come in and all of a sudden start changing things around.
But Gene was willing to do that. And Joe Custer has been so good this year. It's been a hard transition. But like I say, it's a hard transition when you give up control. Nobody likes to kind of let the reins loose and let things go. And Joe's worked really hard at letting us do that.
When Gene got here today, we wanted him to be proud of what we were doing and what we've built. And he's been following us every week and knows what the team's been doing, knows what happens every day at the racetrack. We just wanted to have a good night for him.
That's what made Ryan taking the lead there, at least three-wide for the lead at the end, that was so exciting. It was like, man, we've got a shot at getting Gene his first win here on a night first time back.
So that in itself made it really special. So he's happy. He's drenched. We absolutely soaked him with the giant champagne bottle. But he'll get over it. He'll get used to it. Gibbs did for 10 straight years. So he'll get over it, too.
DARIAN GRUBB: As far as the tracks that Tony hasn't won at and the tracks that, the races that he hasn't won, it's something we're not really that concerned about. The way I see everything, every week we're going to write a new chapter in the book that we started.
His history book is there. We know how capable he is of winning all those tracks and everything that's been done. It's nice to be able to add those accolades to his resume. But for what I want to do and for what we want to do as an organization with Stewart-Haas is go out and we want to win every week. There's nothing that we're looking at past history. We're just going out to win and run the best we possibly can. This was not a points event, so we knew we could let it all hang out and go for the million dollars.
Q. Tony, for 80 laps, the first green flag lead chase in this race was on the 81st lap. And it seemed all of a sudden this race was on a different track on a different night. The whole thing was different. Matt Kenseth said that if there hadn't been double file restarts it might not have changed. But is the process so difficult that you can't lay it. Why did the race change so radically at the end?
TONY STEWART: I think every time the guys had a chance to come in and work on their cars, that obviously made it better. We didn't have preseason testing. Normally we always have a test here.
Plus, you know, the practice yesterday getting ready for today. We get a lot of track time before coming to this event. Today I think guys just had to work on their cars. As the night worked on it got better and better. And I think next week you'll see more excitement sooner.
But, obviously, when this track gets dark and it cools off the longer into the night, the better the grip gets. And as the grip gets better and guys can move around on the racetrack more and have more opportunities to work on their car, the competition and the racing's going to get better.
To have the last 10-lap segment be three-wide for the lead coming off turn 4, I don't know how much more exciting it gets than that.
Guys were -- I don't know why it didn't happen earlier than that. I know we weren't in a position, we didn't have our car driving good enough at that point. But I think that's what made it so exciting for the last segment was that we gave the crews and the crew chiefs 10 minutes to get everything ready versus having the tire strategy and the chess game of two tires, no tires, four tires, where are you going to come out of the pits and have to restart that last segment.
Wherever you were at the end of the second 20-lap segment that's where you were going to start no matter what. So I think that's what gave guys an opportunity and made the racing so good, because you didn't have guys on different lap tires and guys just holding each other up because they got track position.
Q. Tony, it took you 11 seasons to win this race. But it seems like with this race's format, it seems like it's a race you were born to win, for a guy growing up racing Sprint cars and 20, 30-lap features, that sort of thing. Are you surprised or frustrated that it took this long to win the All-Star Race?
TONY STEWART: There's a lot of races I still haven't won yet. But it's a hard race to win. There's nobody holds anything back.
I mean, you look at the racing out there tonight, and how many times you see Jimmie Johnson spin out? How many times did Jeff Gordon get spun out? Three-wide for the lead with less than 10 laps to go. You don't see that very often.
You know, this is a special race. You know it's different. You know it's going to be more difficult because of that. And we always, in the past last 10 years here, were always good on long runs and always good late in the race.
And this kind of format never fit our package that we had. And tonight it just worked out for us. Like I said, that last 10 minutes, I didn't think 10 minutes, you could do so much in such a short amount of time.
But, man, was that a huge 10-minute period in my life, having the opportunity to come in and turn Darian loose. I think the guy's David Copperfield all of a sudden. I didn't even get out of the car, but I don't feel like I drove the same car the last 10 laps that I drove the first 90 laps.
Q. Tony, congratulations on your first-ever win for Stewart-Haas Racing. Entering that 10-lap segment, the final segment, did you feel like you had the car that could win? And, if so, what was your strategy to get it done?
TONY STEWART: It was funny, because the first probably minute and a half, two minutes of the break there, Darian and I were talking. And Darian had an idea of something to do. I told him, I said I don't know if I can -- I wasn't opposed to the idea, but I said I gotta know that I can just go when we take off. And I said this is what I gotta have it do.
And it's probably something we'll try during practice when we come back here next week. But I wasn't for sure. I didn't know exactly what we were going to have.
I just knew we were tight on the entry to the corner and then we were loose back to the gas, and that's a lot to try to ask a crew chief to fix. It's a lot easier if the car's just doing one thing. If it was loose all the way through the corner, tight all the way through the corner, makes it a lot easier for him. Telling him it's doing two different things and ask him to fix that, that's a big request for a driver.
Like I said, that was a big 10 minutes of my life to watch him go through all the changes he made and to watch how the car reacted and how positive it reacted there at the end.
I don't think that I had the confidence to know that we could win it going into that last 10 laps; but like I said, the second to last restart, when we ran the 17 and 18 down, when we were running third behind him, I knew we had a shot at that point.
Q. Tony, what was your first thought when you crossed the finish line to the checkered wave, was it, hey, free at last, I won a race?
TONY STEWART: I never felt like I was bound. Might happen tonight, who knows. But just a figure of speech, guys. I may not be able to leave my house later on. You guys have been doing some weird stuff down here I got a feeling -- you guys brought it up. If you guys weren't doing it, you wouldn't be saying it.
Now I forgot what the question was. I'm so confused. Oh, my first thought. I was so happy for, like I said, those guys. And I know it probably sounds pretty lame to say. But my first reaction was I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces when we came off of 4 and we had the lead with two to go. I didn't dare say anything on the radio. I didn't say a word. But, man, I wanted to see what the pit box looked like those last two laps.
Q. Tony, that last 10-lap segment was pretty aggressive out there. With that final restart, what were you thinking? Were you worried about kind of getting around the 18 there?
TONY STEWART: I was worried about getting both him and Matt. They both had been up there, since I guess it was the first 25-lap stop, they both got track position, I think taking two tires, and they never lost it. They stayed up there the whole rest of the race, and I knew they were both strong. I knew they were both going to be tough to deal with.
Like I said, I didn't know that we had something for them until we caught those guys. They were running side by side and had each other held up and we were able to just absolutely run them down in half a lap. And at that point I knew we had something for them at that point.
Q. Darian, if you can talk about the value of winning for these crew guys that Tony talked about that hadn't won. You've been with the organization with Johnson's team, the championship team, what kind of step does it help the team take for those guys to understand what it takes to win a race and how can this possibly -- how much of a step forward is this for this organization?
DARIAN GRUBB: I think it's huge. Just for the last eight months and how much time every one of those guys have put in at the shop and here at the racetrack, and being able to see their faces in Victory Lane. I remember what it was like when I got my first win with Jimmie and actually understanding then what it's all about, when you're sitting there, the cameras are flashing and everything else, and you realize all that work you've put in, all the time you're away from your family, and just makes you appreciate everything so much more.
So I think I saw a lot of that in those guys tonight. And a lot of tears, a lot of joy, a lot of pats on the back and hugs and everything else. I think that's what makes it all worthwhile for us to go out here and do this all the time, knowing all 150 people or so that had an input into that car, all that effort did pay off.
So hopefully next week we'll come back, they'll all be refreshed. They'll basically have that monkey off their back. We don't want to lose the monkey, we want him to hang out with us.
But we're running good every week. We finally got in Victory Lane. They know it's possible now. They saw what Tony can do as a driver and what we can accomplish as a team. So now next week we can come back and do it for 600 miles and the week after and the week after.
TONY STEWART: Something that makes it gratifying for Darian that he's downplaying, is him and Tony Gibson and Bobby Hutchins, spent a lot of time going through everybody that was in the organization before the end of the year and then the people they wanted to bring along.
So like he's saying, it's gratifying for those guys, but it's a group that he's assembled and he should be proud of that. He's handpicked every one of those guys between him and Bobby and Tony, those guys put that package together and put that group of people together personally.
Q. Darian, how many of those people came because Tony was one of the owners of the team?
TONY STEWART: That's a great question, Bob. I like that question.
DARIAN GRUBB: I'd say almost everybody that's been knocking on the door. Obviously this offseason and everything has been different than all the rest in the past because of the economy and the people downsizing things. We were one of the lucky ones to actually be out hiring.
The flow was steady. People really wanted to be a part of this because we were starting from ground up. And obviously the excitement was there because Tony was coming in, Ryan was coming in. They knew we had the caliber of drivers it took to win.
And they knew with the equipment that we had coming in, too, they knew we had definite chance to win. They all wanted to be a part of it. Now that flow has not changed at all.
It's a steady flow. Every time we've been running good every week there's more calls coming in saying congratulations, oh, by the way, we'd like to be a part of it, is there something we can do to help, is there any parts and pieces you need, anything like that, technology we're looking for.
So that does make it easy knowing that Tony's on your side and Ryan's on the other side of the fence there at the same shop. People really want to be a part of it.
TONY STEWART: I want to thank Mr. Smith back there in the corner. He gave us a beautiful ring on the Speed stage tonight that not a lot of places do. That's something, from a driver's standpoint, Mr. Smith, thank you for the ring this evening. We appreciate it. You guys did a great job like always.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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