NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola
Topics: Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola
July 4, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined in the infield media center by tonight's winning driver, driver of the No. 14 Burger King Chevrolet, Tony Stewart. Tony, tell us about your run.
TONY STEWART: We had an awesome night. Obviously being able to start on the pole got us good track position and got us -- our man there with the question that we all thought was totally asinine yesterday. He's not looking a ton smarter, so don't get a big head over it.
You know, having the pole got us that No. 1 pit spot and got us an opportunity to -- we had great pit stops all night. We came in with the lead -- came out with the lead every time, so I was really proud of our guys for that. That's something that I can promise you they're going to take a lot of pride in, and I'm taking a lot of pride in as how good a stops they had.
I don't think we ever really dropped out of the top three all night. There was a point there where we were riding third and got tight and we saw Matt Kenseth move around a little bit and find a groove that was a little bit better and we moved around and actually ended up passing both Kyle and Denny back for the lead on the outside.
I was really proud of how well our car drove. Darian and Jeff Meendering and all these guys did a great job of giving us a great Burger King Chevy that gave us a chance to run up front all day and dial our car in to the conditions more toward the front and not have to be stuck back there in bad air fighting the Hamlin car.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined tonight by the winning crew chief, Darian Grubb. Darian, your thoughts from on top of the box tonight.
DARIAN GRUBB: Just a great night all the way around. The pit crew did an incredible job. Everything we asked them to do for adjustments, they did not miss a beat the entire night. Tony was able to keep the car up front all night like he said. It was a dominant car, and I hate to see that finish that way. That's typical speedway racing, but we were able to get the fastest car out there and win the race.
Q. Tony, when you got out of the car you seemed a little bit shaken by the way that all ended, and it was very, very similar to what happened at Talladega. How do we stop this from happening?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. You know, I'm not shaken by it. It doesn't matter who it is, you just don't want a race to be decided like that. You know, it's hard work that gets these cars to the racetrack, and you know, it's just a bad situation.
It's not bad because we're put in a bad position. It just is what it is. But nobody -- I guess I just don't feel as much gratification from winning this race as I probably should, I guess, just because I don't like the way the outcome happened. I don't like -- if we didn't win the race, we didn't earn it. But I don't want any part of earning a race because the guy that was leading the race got wrecked.
I don't know that we did anything wrong. I mean, I've seen replays of it, and he's protecting his position, which he's got to do. I mean, that's what he has to do as a driver. He can't just sit there and let us make a move like that and not try to defend it. But it puts him, it puts us, it put Kasey Kahne behind him in a bad position where it drove Kyle's car all the way up to Kasey's windshield.
It's a product of the racing, like Darian said. But it still doesn't -- I guess tomorrow I might be happier about it.
I worked really good with Kyle all day long and Kyle was the guy that I chose to have restart behind me all day, and we worked really well together.
You know, you don't want to see a guy that's -- you don't want to see anybody, but you don't want to see somebody that ran up front all day lose that many spots and lose an opportunity to win because of an accident like that coming to the checkered flag.
Q. Is this still a product of the yellow line, and is that still the issue out here?
TONY STEWART: No. We didn't go down to the yellow line. The yellow line had nothing to do with it. We still had room to the outside to play with. That's why I'm saying the yellow line didn't even come into play. It wasn't a factor. We had room to go below, and we had a lot of room to go above. The yellow line wasn't at all an issue with it.
Q. How were the track conditions following the flood from a couple months ago?
TONY STEWART: It was dry. Much different from the flood. It was polar opposite, actually. Kind of the same as it normally is July 4th when we come here. It's not been under water yet when we've come. Have you been here July 4 in a Cup race? Have they not said it's been slick here in July? Pretty much the same thing.
Q. You talked about how you kept picking Kyle Busch to restart in front of. Did you expect at some point that he was going to try something, and did you just figure it was going to be he was going to wait until the last possible moment?
TONY STEWART: The good thing was that every time we got in line, and two-thirds of the time Denny beat me on the outside, but the biggest factor we thought was keeping the Gibbs cars split up because they were really strong together and we figured we had a better shot splitting them up. If you can stay in the top two or three cars, even if you get beat on a restart, you don't really overreact until the end, and we figured with teammates being such a factor at restrictor plate races we had no choice but to take that bottom line and split those two guys up even though we had Jimmie that lined up on the outside. Denny Hamlin's car I think was the fastest car all night in my opinion, and we had to keep those guys separated, I thought, to give us a reasonable shot to have a shot at it at the end of the race.
Q. Tony, what happened on the next to last lap when Kyle got wrecked? Denny said that he just thought that you just slowed down dramatically in 3 and 4 that something might have happened that allowed Kyle --
TONY STEWART: Nothing happened, but you're right. We slowed down just trying not to get too big a gap, and I timed it wrong and that gave him a chance to get around us. It was just a mistake on my part. He had been setting that move up for a couple laps, and I tried not to give him too much of a gap to get a run like that, and I slowed myself down too much to protect my spot. It was a mistake on my part that gave him enough of a shot to get a big run on the outside like that.
Q. Tony, it seems like you're being kind of hard on yourself. Do you have any doubt that anyone in that circumstance wouldn't have handled that the way that was done?
TONY STEWART: No, not necessarily. I just don't like it to end that way. You know, you work hard to get to this level and you don't want to see races decided by guys wrecking coming to the finish line. I mean, that's not what it's about. I don't know that I'm -- maybe I am being hard on myself, I don't know. But I just don't like the way that ended up.
It's nobody's fault, it's just racing. I mean, it's a product of the environment. It doesn't mean the environment is bad, it just means that's the way it is. Like I said, he did what he had to do, and he defended his spot and we held our -- it wasn't even that we tried to hold our ground, we just got on his quarter panel, and that's just how you suck up. As soon as he moved, I didn't anticipate him moving, and went across the nose.
But no matter -- like I said, even if it's 100 percent his fault, I still won't feel good about it. I think racers hold the integrity of the sport in mind, and it was a good race, it was a good race all night long as far as guys moving around. There was a pack of cars that were definitely the strongest cars all day, and we were one of those cars, and we deserved to have a shot at it at the end. But it doesn't mean that you still have to -- the outcome may go your way, but it doesn't mean that you have to like how it happened.
Q. Have you mellowed out with ownership or aged? We keep waiting for a blowup or something crazy to come out of your mouth. I feel like Tony of past might have been like, you know, get over it, stop whining, this is how it is. Instead, you're this way. I don't know, are you all grown up?
TONY STEWART: God, let's hope not. I don't want to disappoint you guys that much. I want to try to help out with as many good articles as I can.
I don't know, the last couple years it just seems like we seem to get it a little more and we pick our battles a little differently. I think honestly owning a racetrack and owning race teams has been a really big part of helping me understand the big picture. You know, I guess it was probably inevitable I would grow out of this phase a little bit.
You know, I don't know. I still enjoy the same things, I just don't get as riled up, and I don't know why that is, either. I'm kind of glad. Now with that, hopefully you guys will let me put the past behind me hopefully. I mean, there's nothing I can do about what I've done before, and I think I've paid long enough. Hopefully we can move on from it.
I'm enjoying my new role, I'm enjoying being an owner. I thoroughly love the guys I'm with. I mean, I've always loved the guys I'm with, but it's fun having a new group of guys and a young group that, some of these guys, three times now they've got to experience victory lane for their first time this year.
You know, it's kind of neat to be in that position. But I've still got the same passions and dreams and desires, maybe there's just not the low sides that go with it anymore.
Q. Tony, when you're coming out of 4 and there's contact like that, are you aware of where the finish line is or even thinking about that, or are you just concerned with keeping your car pointed in the right direction?
TONY STEWART: I was kind of surprised at where we came out of that ordeal, not necessarily with the lead but the direction we were pointed. It really easily could have taken us out of a chance to win the race, too.
You know, it happened so quick and he went across the nose so fast, and the next thing we know we're pointed at the line. I'm assuming Jimmie ran second to us. I have no idea where he was at, if he was even close to passing us. I didn't see that far. Every replay I've watched so far, when we did the SPEED interviews I was watching happened to Kyle and Kasey running into him. I really didn't see the very end of it like that.
But I guess you just know you can't -- the one thing I learned from Ryan, when Ryan had his wreck at Talladega at the last lap, he said the one thing he knew is even when he made contact with Carl is that he had to hold it wide open because he knew he could slide to the finish line, and that's something that gave him -- I think he finished third out of that, and that's the one thing that I remembered was that he said he just never lifted and never checked up, and with that, that's why he was able to salvage the finish that he had.
So it was kind of my mindset once it happened was just don't get out of the gas.
Q. You've always been a guy that when something like this happens you try to talk to the guy either immediately or soon afterwards. You or Kyle, has either one of you tried to reach each other through text or phones?
TONY STEWART: I haven't had my phone yet. I've been in victory lane and in here to meet you guys' deadlines.
Q. Knowing Kyle because you were teammates, how do you feel like he's feeling right now?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. Has he not been to the media center yet? Or did he come to the media center? I mean, I'll talk to him. I don't know at what point this week. It probably won't be tomorrow since tomorrow is kind of an off day and all of us cherish having a Sunday off like this.
But that is important to me. It is important to talk to him about it. His opinion matters to me. So yeah, it will happen. I mean, I'll have that conversation, I just don't know when it'll be.
Q. Darian, you guys were seven for seven on pit stops tonight which Tony talked a little bit about. The 11 was complaining a little bit that maybe you guys were getting it based on your pit stall selection, but I know you guys will probably say you worked for it and earned it. Can you just talk a little bit about how did you put a team together that was able to do this in this short a time and come out of here seven for seven?
DARIAN GRUBB: It's honestly just hard work, bringing Joe Piette in as a pit coach, those guys have worked so hard. They've had some small issues here and there, but they've improved every single week on those. They just haven't stopped working. Yes, the No. 1 pit stall did help us, but there were very few times that we didn't have at least a car length by the time we crossed that line. I don't think that was the determining factor. We had really good pit stops, really good smooth stops. They never missed an adjustment.
We did everything we needed to do to make the car fast and get Tony out there first. Him leaving the box, he did a great job getting in and a great job getting out.
It's a whole package put together. The guys have been together for a while now. They were with the original 66 crew with Haas CNC. We've made a few changes to that and they've just gotten better ever since.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys, and congratulations.
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