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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Pocono 500

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Pocono 500

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Pocono 500

Joe Custer
Darian Grubb
Tony Stewart
June 7, 2009


LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA

THE MODERATOR: First, owner/driver victory NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since Ricky Rudd did it at Martinsville in 1998, still at the top of the points standing. Tell us about your day.
TONY STEWART: We were in here Friday talking about how good of a weekend it started off being by getting a pole due to the rainout. But I found a way to screw that up on Saturday and just lost it off of 2, and because of that, we had to start last today and we just had a great race car.
I'm so proud of our guys, the Old Spice team, and I've got to thank guys from Hendrick Motorsports from Jimmie Johnson's team and Jeff Gordon's team that helped out today. We only missed out on five minutes of happy hour. Gary and our guys did such a good job.
We went out there, it was like we had not missed a beat and just thankful we got a good group of guys like that and good partners that were willing to help out when we needed a hand.
Had an awesome day. Darian said we were not going to try to be fancy and not going to do anything tricky trying to get track position. Just going to stick to our game plan and we did that. We never tried to take two tires to get track position or anything. We were able to get through the first half of the pack pretty quick, and once we got there finally started getting in better air and just had a really good car all day.
We had a car that we were consistently in the top three I think speed-wise all day, and we were able to run guys down. We were able to stay out a couple of laps longer than everybody it seemed like all day. But the tradeoff to that was they would get fresh tires and two or three seconds on us and you had to widdle that back down after we would make our stop.
So it was fun, though, knowing that you had a car that you could do that with. And there at the end there, we had an awesome pit stop. And their guys have been doing such a great job all year, coming in second and coming out with a lead like that. That was really the turning point there for us at the end.
And once we got that lead and we were able to hold Carl off, they went into the fuel mode and tried to conserve and as soon as we got a little bit of a lead we were able to do the same thing. It's just at that point listening to Darian and he knows what pace we need to run. And he just kept backing me down when I would get going too hard or too quick. He would tell me he needed more and we would slow down a little more. You hate to be in that situation but that's a theme here when we come to Pocono; it being such a long track like this, fuel mileage is going to be important. And seems like the weather always becomes a factor in these races and actually we got enough laps under caution in rain that was right on the edge or window of making it. It was just a matter of running hard enough to stay in the lead but slow enough to save fuel in case we had a green-and-white checkered at the end.
DARIAN GRUBB: That was a very interesting weekend all the way around; to come up here and sit in the rain and get the pole because we earned it; we had the points lead and guys have been working really hard, the entire Stewart Haas organization to get that. And just to be able to get it last week and to take the benefits of it this week by being able to start on the pole was a great thing.
Having to go to the backup car, it was great to see everybody just keep their heads about 'em, stay calm and stay cool. Made all the changes we needed to between the two cars, and I think we actually made the second car better when we went out and started happy hour.
So it's a testament to how hard they work and how they all pull together as a team to do this. Tony said before the race that he felt bad; he felt like he gave that car away and he was going to go out there and earn something for us. And I told him: This is a team and what we are all here for and luckily at the end we were able to show him what kind of team we are and get him out of the pits in first and it was great from there.
The double-file restarts were great show all day, and Tony being able to start on the outside and keep Carl and just driving away from him and star driving in fuel conservation mode it was pretty cool to watch.
THE MODERATOR: We are also joined by Stewart Haas Racing vice president Joe Custer. Joe, tell us about your thoughts on today and really this historic win.
JOE CUSTER: Very historic. Thrilled. I think Darian touched on all the points. I think from my perspective and probably from Tony's, an owner's perspective, it's been really easy, Darian and the guys have worked really hard, prepared well, come together and gelled quicker than probably most teams. I always felt they would, the talent was clearly there, but it's obvious that you give people some time to work things out.
But for them to be able to work through a weekend like, this a complex weekend like Darian explained and then execute, the 39 car as well, recovering, I really was proud of the whole organization, overcoming adversity and looking like a team that's been working together for years.

Q. Tony, which is more difficult, becoming co-owner of a Cup team and transforming it into a winning organization in probably less than six months, or starting dead-last in this race with your backup car and winning?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. Both of them seem pretty easy. (Laughter) But I know it's not. I mean, neither one of them are easy and they are both difficult and they both are because of hard work.
It's easy when you've got the tools in place and that's something that Joe has given us from the start is anything that we needed, and the tools were there when I got there. It's just a matter of finding some key people to help tie up the loose ends so to speak. Then when you've got a car like we had today, I mean, you know that you've got a shot at. It's just going to be a long day and that it's going to take a long time to get there, but a 500-mile race like, this you are going to get that time and eventually going to get that opportunity.

Q. You're a fiery, intense guy, how hard is it at the end of the race to let off that throttle and not want to keep it down the whole way?
TONY STEWART: It's miserable. I mean, it's 180 degrees of what you are trained to do and taught to do and what you thrive for.
You know, at this level, this level of racing, that's part of it. I mean, this is the -- I guess we really only won one fuel mileage race where we actually were not a leading -- a leader, and ended up winning it because we took a gamble. But we were a car that was leading the race in a way, and it would have been a shame to lose because of fuel mileage. It's nice to -- I don't know how much we had left, and I saved enough; whether I needed to or not, it remains to be seen.
But just to know that you can if you have to, that's half the battle. But I think a lot of that, we have to give credit to the Hendrick engine department making great power, but at the same time giving us good fuel mileage, too. Without those guys, we couldn't do this.

Q. You messed up in qualifying at the All-Star Race and won it, you had a crash in practice before this one; do we detect a pattern?
TONY STEWART: Somebody take Monny's mic away from him, please. (Laughter).
Good God, I'd hate to think that I have to screw up every week to win a race, but only you would think of that, Monny. I hope not. I hope that's not how it works out. I screwed up qualifying and we won there; but here I didn't screw up qualifying, I screwed up happy hour. I don't know, I think it's just sheer coincidence at this point, so hopefully that's not a pattern that we have to go through.

Q. Darian, how do you manage the closing 30 or 40 miles of a race like this? You're in a situation where you know the 99 is doing sort of the same thing you are, trying to go fast, but not really fast. Are you sort of timing that car every lap and then trying to match Tony's next-lap speed to what they are doing, or how does that balance work?
DARIAN GRUBB: Yeah, absolutely. The whole time you're sitting there we knew he started out in the lead and we are just fight to go stay there. We knew we had a car fast enough to go out there and run and win it, but we would probably run out of fuel if we try to run wide open the whole time. You have to judge your competitors; no matter whoever gets there first, no matter how it happens, is the winner. Just a matter of Tony backing off and saving as much as fuel as we can.
If the caution came out and went to a green and white checker, it would have been very fiery, but a lot of guys in that same position and you're racing against those guys and you have to play the strategy against them. We knew we had a fast car; we went from 43rd to 20th, so he did get to do his racing. He earned getting all the way up to the top three and then getting out in the lead and then being able to take off -- and being able to manage your fuel mileage, we are going to work everything, just thinking about trying to do everything you can to save all the fuel you can and use all the lessons we've learned and it's just been great.
TONY STEWART: Over and over, just because we had to get out of the backup car, but it was no fault of his own, we had the car a little bit too loose and he spun down over there, and got down in the track. With the shape of the track, he hit the road course access rode and just sprayed the whole front of the car. So there was really nothing we could have done any different from that. If it would have been paved, we would have walked away and put four tires back on and gone back racing, but we might not have had the car today. But we actually think the car we have today is a little better because of the lessons we learned there.

Q. How concerned were you at the end of the race for the gas?
TONY STEWART: I didn't know how close we really were. I mean, I just -- you know you've just got to save. All you can do is just listen to the intervals every lap when we come down the front straightaway and try to give yourself enough cushion that if they take off on one lap, that's what happened. Two laps to go, it went from a four-and-a-half-second gap to a little over a two-second gap.
So you give yourself that cushion to where when we -- even on the last lap with the two-second lead we could afford to give up some time and still was saving fuel going into the tunnel. And Darian said just run hard from the tunnel or through 3 there to make sure we had enough momentum so that if we had a hiccup in it and had to slosh to pick up fuel, that we still had the-mile-an-hour to carry us down the straightaway.
You know you just kind of -- we were in that mode for a long time there and there's nothing you can do about it. You can worry all you want, but all you can do is the best job you can do as a driver behind the steering wheel to keep from getting in a bad position with that, knowing that you've got Darian on the box and he's watching the lap times and knows what the pace you really need to run probably is half the battle. So you know when he doesn't get -- when he's on the radio and when he's calling that interval out, unless he starts getting wound up there was not any reason for me to get wound up.
Yeah, you have to trust him, that's the way it is for every driver, crew chief here, you have to trust the guy that's on that box making the calls for you.

Q. You talked about the difficulties of wanting to drive fast but having to slow down to save gas. Is it easier to conserve fuel if you're the guy leading the race, and if Carl had been on your bumper, say, for the last lap, do you race him or do you let him go and hope he runs out?
TONY STEWART: Well, you know, I think the big thing for us was to try to keep the lead, and it is an advantage to be in front.
Obviously when you're in a fuel mileage deal like that, but like Darian said we were able to dictate our pace off Carl's pace. Once he realized he cannot get in front us and went to saving fuel to try to win, it gave us the opportunity to do the same thing, and you know, we got out in a couple of laps to a second lead and that gave us that buffer to start pedaling and playing that part of the game.
It's a chess match at that point. You don't know if you need to run that slow, but you know, like Darian said, you don't have to run any harder than that if everybody else is in the same boat you are. When they start backing it down, you back it down, too, and make sure that you are doing everything you can to not take yourself out of an opportunity to win.

Q. Whoever wants to take it, a lot has been made of the personnel that was put in place, Darian, Tony Gibson, Bobby Hutchins, tell us about the rest of the personnel, the guys that made the difference this weekend getting the car ready to run in this race and then getting you out so quick on that last pit stop. How did you put that team together, those guys?
TONY STEWART: That's the guy to ask right there. That's his personalty.
DARIAN GRUBB: The majority of those guys were the old 66 team Haas crew. We work with those guys and I feel like they are one much best pit crews on pit rode they have worked so hard this year getting faster and faster. The jack man, Mike Casto (ph) was here, he got hurt a few weeks ago back at the stop just during practice blew his knee out, and we had a fill-in guy that stepped in for us just to take over that role and has not missed a beat. And Casto being here with his brace pumping up the team, he is the best cheerleader we could have. He's still a very, very strong leader on this team.
And every one of those guys has worked so hard, they work out six days a week at the shop, they get basically half a day off and that's all they get. And even if they are off most of the time they are back there hitting lugnuts, hanging tires, doing everything they can do to get better and they definitely have shown that improvement, and I consider them one of the best on pit road.

Q. Tony, you make it sound like in the past few months, that starting a team has been easy; that you just kind of walked into great resources there, and that you're the beneficiary of this great team that appeared. Are you short-selling yourself? Was it more -- or maybe it's a better question for Joe or Darian. Is he making it sound easier than it really is or has he really busted to get this thing going?
JOE CUSTER: He's busted to get going. There's been no -- this didn't just, you know, happen over a weekend. It's been a year of difficult negotiations -- not difficult; I mean, hard work, and Tony is the type of person from my perspective, I haven't actually known him that long, but I worked hard with his group. He's got a group of guys that are very sharp business people, and we put together what we thought would work, the building blocks, and you know, it has not been easy at all.
But, I'm not surprised; I'll tell you that. I'll be honest, I'm a little surprised that we are leading the points at this point in the season. I thought we would be a team that built and built and built, and by the Chase, we were capable of doing what we are executing, now.
I've got to tell you, people like Jabo (ph) and some of the key people that Darian has put together, I think that had a bigger impact than we think, and the Matt Borlands of the world and Bobby Hutchins of the world, there's a whole group of people that work real hard. And it has made it easy on Tony's group and my group, but only from the standpoint of, we have confidence in them.
DARIAN GRUBB: There's something to be said when Tony walks into the shop and he has that confidence. He pats everybody on the back. They know he's back and putting everything he's got into it. And same thing with Ryan Newman, they know they have two of the best drivers out there and they come through and pat each other on the back, and they know they are part of this team and they are in it for the long haul; that makes everybody want to work that much harder to go out there and give them what they need to win.
TONY STEWART: I don't want to downplay it either. The hardest part for me was last fall. That was the most stressful part of it for me. You know, and that was getting these key people in place. That part was not easy and has not been easy from my standpoint this year. Last year, not so much. Last year as a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of headaches going to bed. It's hard to get it all together but once you get it together and you get a good group like this and you've got a group that's as hungry as this group is, they feed off of each other, and you know, it makes it to where all I have to do is walk in there and pat those guys on the back, because they are all a lot smarter people than I am.
So my hard part was like I said in the fall, and it does make this year seem a lot easier, because these guys are the guys doing the work every day. You know, I've just got to spend the time being the cheerleader during the week and I've got great race cars and a great team behind me on the weekends.

Q. Kind of along the same lines when you crossed the finish line, you said, 'you guys are making me look like a genius.' I know you've always had great teams around you but are you having a better appreciation of team work now that you're the owner?
TONY STEWART: Well, I've been racing for 29 years now, so I mean, you've always known that all along. But it's fun when it's a new group. I mean, society is always scared of change, and everybody assumes that you're always set up for failure when you make a change.
It's just fun to watch a young group like this that so many people from so many different organizations come together and have success like this. I mean, that's what makes it fun and that's what makes it different from where I was at. I was with a group of guys that when I won 33 races they won 33 races, too, and I still miss those guys. I was there this morning after the drivers meeting talking to them about the dirt race model race that we ran, and I still have that relationship with those guys. But it's fun to have a new group of guys, too, and change isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes you just need a change to get that little shot in the arm that you need, and doesn't mean that you were not happy with what you were doing before. Sometimes it just means that you need a fresh start and a change.

Q. If I could get back to the race itself, the 29 was interesting because I've been covering NASCAR races for 29 years, if you would comment on the extremely long stretch, almost a hundred laps at the beginning of the race, to watch it was a little mind-numbing, but what was it like during that stretch, and how did your final win, how did that play into it, what you did and didn't do at that time, if you could, please.
TONY STEWART: Everybody thinks to have good racing you have to be side-by-side all the time, and that's not the case.
You know, part of it is the strategy that goes into. It part of it is performances when you see somebody like Carl that goes out and can dominate. That's something special. You don't get dominating performances like that very often, and to have a 100-lap run, that shows you the caliber of competition that you have, not having cars against the wall and not having mechanical failures causing cautions.
But it's a part of our sport that's always been there, and it's kind of fun. There is an element that's fun for the drivers, especially when you have a good car, and you know, for me, Darian cannot give me an arrow (ph) on everybody I am out there racing, but the front straightaway is so long. The back straightaway to the tunnel turn is long, and you can gauge where you are at by guys that are ahead of you. And when they go off in the corner and where you are at on the straightaway and you lose them, eventually they start backing up, so it's kind of like you have your own gauge of what's going on.
It is fun. You don't have to always be side-by-side with somebody to have a fun race, and to sit there and know that we are able to -- I don't know, there was one point in the race there where in six laps we gained three seconds on the leader. I mean, that's a half-second a lap. That's pretty cool for us.
There were fun parts of it, even though the field was strung out a little bit, you are still battling the stop watch and battling those guys, trying to knock down deficits and close in on guys, and at the same time trying to pull away from others.
You know, it's pretty neat to have those green flag stops like that. That makes those pit stops even that much more crucial because you have cars that speed, and if they have a hiccup that's a second; it's a bigger penalty under green than it is under caution, so really puts the pressure on the pet crews at the same time.

Q. You saw the perfect model over at Hendrick Motorsports with the 24 and 48, but sitting here looking at the points, Ryan and Tony are 1 and 4. I mean, that's -- winning a race is a huge deal, but looking at the points, that's pretty much what stands out. Can you talk about, you know, what you learned at Hendrick that you were able to bring over here, because I won't say it's so much a love-fest, but the respect between these two drivers and the way they build each other up, it's pretty amazing. And Tony if you can fool up on that, it's pretty amazing.
DARIAN GRUBB: It's not just what I learned form Hendrick Motorsports but they definitely are an example and on top of their game, and they are the ones you build your model to beat. But I came from Hendrick, Tony came from Roush, Tony Gibson came from Dale Earnhardt, Incorporated; Bobby came from RCR and DEI, Matt Borland from Penske. We have been able to pull from every one of those experiences to say, what do we need to do to make the best decision.
So when you have that many different views on any problem, it's pretty easy to say, if you can sit down and explain what your reasoning is behind a situation and everybody is going to back you on that, you come together as a team, because you have to be able to explain yourself, or nobody is going to buy into it. They always think what they do is better, but if you sit down and explain it and you understand enough about it to explain it, then it's easy to build that, the whole team rapport, the way everybody is going to work; it's great to put all that together.
All of these guys work so hard and we have had a lot of late nights like Tony was saying, long meetings, a lot of decisions to be made on what to do. I just feel like we couldn't be any stronger with the position we are in and the people we have behind it.
TONY STEWART: It's one thing that Bobby Hutchins tells us when we started the season and when we started our competition meetings: The thing that he stressed to us was we check our he emotions at the door when we go into these meetings and it's like Darian said, when you have that many different sets of examples of how to do things, it's easy to get in a pattern and think what you are doing is right and think that it's the only way that you can do it. And you realize there's four different -- four other guys that came from four other different places that are seen from a different angle, and they did it another way and he thought their way was the best way.
It's kind of a nice perspective to be able to sit there and say, well, there's no dead-set way of doing any one thing. You realize that you could sit there and analyze five different approaches and say, okay, this is going to be the right application for us.

Q. Start of last year, did you think you would be a crew chief again and how does this compare to the other stints?
DARIAN GRUBB: Honestly I was not planning to be a crew chief at all. I was very happy where I was at at Hendrick Motorsports. Like I said before, we were on too of the game. We were having fun racing for wins every week in championship. Jimmie was able to win three straight and just to be a part of Hendrick Motorsports as an organization was great but when Tony came to me and gave me an opportunity and just kind of put that bug in my ear, hey, think about this, we are going to build Stewart Haas as an organization and do it from the ground up and I want you to be a part of it; it's kind of hard not to get chill bumps from that and say, hmm, do I really want to that.
From the first meeting I had with him and I asked him point-blank, why should I do this, and then he just told me, he wanted me to do it. He wanted to go out and he wanted to build a team to win races and championships. And then he walked out of the room and Jarvis (ph) and I talked and just one of those things that when you can read it in somebody's eyes and you know how much it means to them, then you just want to be a part of it. You want to take along that ride it might be good, it might be bad, but you know at that point you have to make a change and try it.

Q. Is the camaraderie and friendship with Ryan growing, and how is your relationship different now that you're a boss and teammate, and have you tried to like get him to move back Indiana?
TONY STEWART: Have I tried to get him to move back to Indiana a? No. They have got an awesome piece of property north of Statesville and after the Charlotte race, after the 600 was over, they had a huge picnic for everybody that they had planned anyway. But this is their home now. North Carolina is their home, and our relationship just gets stronger and stronger every week, but he was one of the first people up there to congratulate us when it was over.
So he goes, I'm not really a guy that likes hugging guys, but gave me a hug and said he was proud of me. (Laughter) I didn't really mean it that way. Just that's what he said. It was his words, not mine.
But we are, we are really close. His wife is helping me build my house. It's just little things like that that shows the relationship we have with reach other. It's not just Ryan and I, it's his wife and myself and his people and our people get along really well. Like we said, from day one, we have so many common interests; it's a combination that the deeper you got into it, the more you realized how perfect it really was. Just gets stronger and stronger every week.

Q. How do you think the double-file restarts worked? Did you know where you were supposed to be each time?
TONY STEWART: The good thing is, and everybody knew it was going to be an adjustment period and it still is. It worked great today. To the best of my knowledge there were not any hiccups with people not understanding where they were supposed to be or anything. But I thought it was great. It was awesome not having to deal with lap cars on restarts.
You know, it was nice knowing that everybody you were around was for position. You know, this was a perfect place to try. It next week at Michigan is going to be another great place to go through that. I think Bristol or Martinsville would be a enough weekend to try to debut this system.
But I think the great thing is we got a sanctioning body that is proactive. I mean, they are listening to people and realize that people want to change, and so they have really worked hard in a short amount of time to make that happen. And you know, it reminds me of the change that hockey had a couple of years ago when they made some rule changes. We are fortunate to have a sanctioning body that listens to its fans and cares.
I thought the system worked really well today and it will work good in the future and I think it's something the fans are going to enjoy, and it's pretty easy to understand. You don't have a restart and people are going: Is that guy a lap down or is he not a lap down. It seems like it's probably going to be a lot easier for everybody to understand every time we go on the racetrack.

Q. We saw you overcome the issue with going to the backup car, and you overcame the issue with the engine -- we saw both of your teams overcome issues, and this isn't the first time. What is it that makes your team -- helps your team overcome those issues better than some of the other teams out there?
TONY STEWART: I think it's just preparation and having a group of guys that have the confidence that no matter what the challenge is, they are not going to panic. They are not going to freak out. They just know that you are going to have situations like that.
Nobody got upset. Nobody lost their heads yesterday when I crashed the primary car, and you know, they just do their job and they are efficient at it. It that's half the battle is just having a group of guys that have the same confidence that I have behind the wheel. They have that same confidence as crew members, and the preparation at the shop before we come here, it'S not like they all of a sudden had to roll a backup car out and try to set it up from scratch. It was basically ready to go when it came off the trailer.
There's little things that you have to do here and there to finalize getting it ready but like I say, we only missed the first five minutes of happy hour yesterday and that shows the preparation of the team and the organization of the shop before they get to the racetrack.

Q. Were you shutting down the engine over the closing laps there to save fuel, and if so, did you have a concern that it might not fire backup?
TONY STEWART: I couldn't tell you that secret without killing you, and I actually like you, so I can't tell you that. There's tricks that you learn and everybody thinks -- I really haven't been in that position a lot, so like I said, I'm not sure if I was doing the right thing.
But it worked at the end of the day and whether there's a better way than what I was doing, but you don't know what everybody knows about how to save fuel. So not sure I really want to say what I was doing, but you know, it's a situation that you try to sit there.
And I know at Gibbs last year they took Joey Lagano over to Rockingham and actually did a test to see whether shutting motors on and off was better, whether to stay in gear and not accelerate, just went through a whole exercise of trying to figure out what's the most efficient way to save fuel. And we really have not been through that exercise yet, and I have not been in that position a lot. So I am not sure what I did was best thing but it was what I thought was the best thing at the time.

Q. You certainly know what it's like from last year to be out on the track and be assured that everyone is going to have to pit and find out four or five guys don't and you lose the race you dominated. Carl Edwards said, that he thought that if this race -- he had to make a decision whether he was going to try to win it on speed or on fuel and if he thought the race had been won on speed he could have won. It what is your view if the race had not come down to fuel, could you have held him off? Was your car getting better or was he cat are to beat?
TONY STEWART: He had been the car to beat all date. It was definitely going to be a battle between the two of us obviously. There's no doubt about that. We were able to hold him off for, I don't know, the whole duration up to the point where he made that decision to start saving fuel.
So I mean, I feel like we had just as good a shot as he had at that point. If it went back to a re start and we didn't get a good jump, the outcome may have been different. But you know, I feel like we had a shot at it.
Obviously he felt like he had a shot but you don't know how hard he was running. I ran as hard as I could to stay ahead of him and we were able to do that and he were steadily kind of inching away there until they started in the fuel mileage part of it, so I feel like we had a shot to stay ahead of him. We had the track position which was key to do that.

Q. With all the wins, in terms of satisfaction, where does this particular victory rank?
TONY STEWART: Why does everybody say that after every race, they want to know where it ranks, we don't keep rankings. We keep trophies, they are on a shelf and you scoot one over and slide the next one to it. You love having that opportunity to do that. It's not about rankings. It's just about enjoying the moment. Next week we could be 43rd at the end of the day and sitting there going, man, we appreciated the day that we had today and it's not about where they rank with each other.
Obviously special races like the Brickyard and Daytona 500 and Indy 500s, obviously are marquis events that mean more but a win is a win, man. I mean, I felt like I had won the race last night at Eldorado (ph) when I ran 6th in the Dream; to just make the starting field, I felt like was an accomplishment.
So you know, it's just the personal satisfaction at the moment that you have for it and the appreciation that you have for how hard everybody works to get you in a situation like this to go out and have a day like we had today.

Q. I know the number is very special to you from an emotional standpoint, were you aware of the history of the number and how long it's been since it's been to victory lane in?
TONY STEWART: No, but I know it wasn't born yet, that's kind of cool.
You know my attachment to the number is obviously through A.J. Foyt and my relationship with him. But I can't say that I've researched the history of the number in this series that far. But you know, this is something that hopefully I'll retire with this number. It means a lot to me, and to look up in the stands every week and to drive in the facilities and see the 14 flags flying and see people wearing 14 hats and 14 shirts, that's something that means a lot to us. That's our identity. So you know, it's something we are proud of, and you know, good thing is we are adding to the history books every week now.

Q. When you were putting this together, did you have any kind of a realistic timetable where you thought, okay, this point in the season or this point in the time where you could be contending and winning races?
JOE CUSTER: No, it was more of a business. Everything was predicated on they are going to run a race at Daytona whether we show up or not, so we need to have stuff -- that was -- it was a nut and bold the -- it was getting down to making financial decisions and hiring and getting everything structured more than sitting down and saying, where do we want to be when.
We felt like once you're in, you're in. Now it's kind of interesting, we haven't had to tune on it much. We have kind of taken it -- and there's challenges. That's the thing that's exciting. We can get better. There's a lot of areas that our program can improve.
TONY STEWART: We didn't draw a line in the sand and say this is where we expect to be on want to be. I don't know how you realistically do that. You know, you look at the resources, you look at the tools in place and you look at the people in place; after we hired people, the key people in the fall of last year. And you look at it on paper and you say, okay, we got Chevrolet on board, we have got Office Depot, Old Spice, U.S. Army, Haas Automation, we got all of these key partners in place that want to be a part of this with us.
And on paper, you've got Darian Grubb, and before we even got to the track we went to one test with each other and was a great test but we didn't know how we were going to work together at Daytona when we got there it was literally a week-to-week deal, and that's the approach we've had from day one is our hope was having two cars in the Chase. And it's more like a dream. It's not necessarily a benchmark of saying this is where we expect to be or necessarily want to be. But that's kind of the goal and dream to be in the Chase for the first year.
But realistically we all as a group have taken an approach of a week by week attitude and our competition meetings on Monday we discuss what we did right and what we did wrong and we discuss things that we did right but we think we might be able to do better the next week, and I think that's the attitude that you have to have is just sit there and run each week and analyze where you are at and try to figure out to make what you've got that much better the next week.

Q. I know you say, you don't like to rank the wins and all that, but is there a time that you think years down the road sitting in a rocking chair, whatever, this is a pretty big deal, winning your first as an owner/driver and first time it's been done that long time, do you think there will be a time where you are sitting there and you will look back and it will be something pretty special?
TONY STEWART: Absolutely. And I'm not trying to down play what happened today because I am very proud of what's happened. But we are still in the middle of the season and we are going to race next week still, so we are going to VIR tomorrow at nine o'clock in the morning, well, nine o'clock in the morning I'll probably be waking up, I won't be there on time. I'm never on time for a test.
In the morning I'm going to get dressed and get in the car and test and try to be ready for Sonoma in two weeks. You don't bask in the glory for very good in this series and the time you spend doing that, there's somebody else back at the shop working on a way to beat you.
We'll enjoy it tonight but tomorrow we are going to go back to work and you're one hundred on the money, the good thing is I hope I'm not going to be in a rocking chair any time soon, but there is going to be that day and we are going to look back on that moment; and it's like I told Gene Haas at Charlotte, when we were up there taking pictures, we were there till one o'clock in the morning doing stuff and I told him: There's only one first and doesn't matter how many races we win, there's only one first time that you go to victory lane with a new organization, and you know, that was it, and this is the first one with a point win.
So this is the only first that you're going to have in this situation and the rest of them are just going to be a number and a stat down the road. It will be. And it is special. It's special for the organization. There will be a banner hanging in the shop that marks this day in time, you know, in history for the organization. But you can't sit there and sit on it too long. I mean, you've got to keep working forward to try to add to that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for joining us and congratulations.



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