NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Autism Speaks 400
Topics: Autism Speaks 400
May 31, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by today's second-place finisher, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Old Spice Chevrolet, Tony Stewart. Tony is the first driver/owner to lead the points since Alan Kulwicki at the end of the 1992 season, November 15, 1992. Stewart leads by 46 points over Jeff Gordon. Tony, thoughts on the day?
TONY STEWART: Obviously that stat there is pretty cool, to be leading the points standings this early into the new venture. But really proud of our guys to give us equipment that puts us in this position. Just pretty excited about the end of the day there. It was fun racing with Jimmie like that. Definitely the fastest car. They've been the fastest car all day, so there's no shame in running second to a guy that led the most laps all day. So pretty excited about it.
We had an opportunity. We got to the lead there and got by Biffle and just couldn't hold off Jimmie. He was like a freight train coming. I mean, I was surprised I could hold him off as long as I did, but I was pretty happy that we were able to do it for that long.
Q. I've got two quick ones. Who do you think enjoyed those last 20 laps the most, you, Jimmie Johnson or the fans?
TONY STEWART: I hope the fans did. I mean, you had three guys racing for the lead inside ten laps to go. I don't know how it gets much more exciting than that. But I would say if I had to pick between the three of us on the racetrack, I'd have to say Jimmie. I mean, when you're the fastest car and you're coming as fast as he was, it was just a matter of getting the opening that he needed, and we did everything we could to take his line away from him as often as we could, but just couldn't do it long enough.
Q. How much of a handful was your car on two, and what made you and Darian think you might be able to pull that off?
TONY STEWART: We kind of got stuck back around 11th or 12th there, and we kept fighting with lap cars so bad today, I mean, if you couldn't -- right there at the end, that was proof of it. As soon as we got clear of Jeff there and had some decent air and could run our line, we were fine. But we just kept getting hung up by the same lap cars all day long, and it just was frustrating.
So we decided to take a gamble, and if that many guys came, we were just going to stay out, period, and then Darian called us in at the last minute to do two. It was a perfect call obviously, but we weren't that fast of a car. I don't think we were a second place car all day, but we were better than where we had been running track position-wise, we just had gotten hemmed up so far back there we couldn't get going until everything sorted out.
Q. That was your first two-tire stop all day?
TONY STEWART: No, that was our second one.
Q. Looked like you passed Jimmie on the high side and then you started going down low. Did you feel you might have been able to take him down low, because every time you stayed up high you pulled away from him?
TONY STEWART: You know, every time I stayed high, though, and he knew I was going to commit to it he would start moving around. I tried to make him guess where we were going to be when we got there. When he was that fast, that was your only hope was to keep him get guessing on where we were going to be when we got there.
We really weren't stellar anywhere. We were a little better Wednesday with you got to middle of the track. But the groove got so wide, you weren't going to just hold him off and you didn't know exactly where he was going to be. There were a couple times he about got by us on the bottom. You don't know where you need to be, really.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined in the infield media center by today's third place finisher, driver of the No. 16 3M Nexcare Ford, Greg Biffle. Tell us about your run.
GREG BIFFLE: Man, we had a great car, and you know, what really probably screwed our day up was getting caught on Pit Road. We were running second. I was catching the 48, and we went through the green flag pit cycle, and I ended up a lap down at the tail end of the lead lap or whatever, and the 48 was still the leader with four new tires. So I'm not sure how that all played out.
But we spent the rest of the day getting back all the way to the front, so we ran in traffic all day. Once I got back toward the front, the car started getting loose, and then once I got out front with two tires it was so loose I couldn't drive it. Just really tough to drive out front.
I saw the guys coming. I was just doing all I could do. I was afraid if Tony got behind me in the corner that the car would probably spin out. I figured my only hope was go to the top, but I was so loose up there I couldn't get the gas down, either. I got a pretty good run at the top, but just needed a little adjustment, and I think I would have made it more interesting. I think it would have been a three-way battle possibly instead of two.
But overall a great day for us in the points, and happy to come home third.
Q. I don't know if you guys saw this, but obviously this became like a ticking time bomb with Johnson coming behind you. Tony, you were talking about the difficulty of traffic. I would think if you saw this both of your hearts sank when Johnson went between Gordon and Truex behind you with relatively little ease. Did you notice that? That might have been the difference in whether he could catch you or not.
TONY STEWART: I can say I did, because you're trying to see where you can gain on Greg, and at the same time you're checking on what's going on behind you. We didn't see him get through the lap cars there, but once he got to third, his car every corner got bigger and bigger, and that's never a good sign from a driver's standpoint, especially you're trying to do everything you can to run the leader down and at the same time you're trying to pull away from the guy that's behind you. So it's kind of a double-edged sword.
GREG BIFFLE: I couldn't take my eyes off the road. I didn't see anything. If I would have looked anywhere but forward or out the side window, I think I would have wrecked.
Q. The reality is you finished second but you're first in points now. What does it say about your program at the halfway point to be leading in the points standings?
TONY STEWART: We're excited about it. I mean, you know, it's been a dream season for us up to this point, and you hope that you don't wake up tomorrow and all of a sudden realize that we're just getting ready to go to Daytona or something and it's all been a dream to this point. I'm proud of our organization. I'm proud of Bobby Hutchins, I'm proud of Darian Grubb, proud of our teammate Ryan Newman and Tony Gibson and our entire organization. To get caught up like we had to do through the winter with the personnel changes and updating equipment and everything, you know, it took a lot just to get everything ready like they had it ready for Daytona, let alone to keep it ready and keep us going each week. Just proud of our guys.
I mean, it's something that we probably all lost bets up to this point that we would be this far along. But it's a good bet to lose, I guess.
Q. Just a follow-up to the point question, Tony. How difficult it is to do this is kind of spoken by the fact that it hasn't been done since Alan Kulwicki. Were you familiar with him as you were doing your open-wheel stuff at that time? Does that mean anything to you?
TONY STEWART: Well, it does. Everybody respected Alan because he was an owner-driver and what he was able to accomplish. But I think it was a little bit before I was really a die-hard NASCAR guy. I was still Sprint Car and midget racing at that point and wasn't able to keep up because we were racing the same days Cup was racing.
You know, you go through a time and you're able to go back and look at how the history of the sport has evolved and what milestones and moments shaped the sport to what it is. So it's a pretty cool moment to have your organization mentioned with his organization.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Congratulations.
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