NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods
Topics: Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods
October 4, 2009
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS
THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined in the media center by today's race winner and his crew chief, Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Old Spice Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing and his crew chief Darian Grubb. Congratulations to these guys for winning the Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods here at Kansas Speedway. For Tony, it's his fourth victory in 2009, his second victory here at Kansas Speedway. It moves him up to fourth in the points in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, and also the win today for Chevrolet clinches its 33rd manufacturer's championship.
Tony, congratulations on the win. Tell us how that happened out there today.
TONY STEWART: It happened because we were the first guy across the finish line. (Laughter.)
But to break it down a little more complicated than that, the good thing was we got two tires at the end there, and Darian made a great call getting two, and the guys had an awesome stop. That was really what it boiled down to.
We got that track position at the end, and we had the luxury of being able to pick the inside or outside lane on the restart, and I kind of debated back and forth which side I needed to be on. But I kind of struggled when I was stuck on the bottom on restarts today. So took a gamble and went to the top and got enough of a lead on Kasey to get down to the bottom by the time we got to 1 and 2 and was able to run our line, and we got enough of a gap right off the bat that it gave me the flexibility to run my own line, run my own pace and let those guys have to worry about catching us.
THE MODERATOR: Darian, talk about some of that strategy that Tony was sharing with us there that helped you win this race.
DARIAN GRUBB: It was pretty tough. We had to make a decision there being two or four tires towards the end, but we had a lot of laps on the tires. Two stops before that we had done two, and it actually worked pretty well for us. We gained a lot of track position and Tony was able to hang on a little better than some of the other cars that took two. We knew we had a shot at it, and we knew that track position was going to be key, so we had to do that to be able to get out there and race those guys that were so fast.
We were hanging out with them all day, but we couldn't get in front of them to be able to outrun them, so we knew we had to do something there at the end to get that track position.
Q. At the end of the race, you said you could tell Jeff was coming. Did you pick it up a little bit, or maybe did he fall off? Did you just kind of try to keep that gap between you at the end of the race?
TONY STEWART: We just kind of ran our pace. It's easy, when somebody starts running you down, it's easy to over-drive your car trying to maintain a gap, and you end up making it worse on yourself. So even though I saw him getting bigger in the mirror, I didn't want to burn the tires off of it in case we got a caution, and we got a green and white checkered, so we just ran hard enough to not abuse the tires.
It's like he could get so close and then he couldn't get any closer. When he got up there, he got tight, and he had to run pretty hard to get by Greg, and then to run us down. So by then he pretty much got the good off his tires and we got the luxury to kind of on that restart run our own pace and take care of it and make sure we made it last the whole way.
Q. How much debate did you guys have over two or four? Were you in agreement right away? Am so of the guys talked about --
TONY STEWART: We did, actually. He asked me what I thought. I kind of put my vote in, and he said it was exactly what he was thinking. So I mean, it made me feel good that I felt like when we both agree on the same thing like that that quick, it was like to both of us it wasn't even an option. We pretty much knew what we both needed.
Q. For both of you, you hit a little lull; you had like six straight races of ninth or worse. Can you just kind of talk about your mindset and how you kind of reversed it and what's this mean?
DARIAN GRUBB: We still approach every race the same. We've had a few races in the last few weeks that just weren't up to the standards that we had set that we wanted to have, but we got the best out of every situation we ran and got the best finish we possibly could.
By doing that we know we're going to keep setting the tone. We're going for wins every week. We know we have to win to be able to win the Chase for the championship, and today was just a good example of how hard you have to fight and how close the competition is between all these guys.
We swapped the lead tons of times today between all the actual competitors for the championship. You've got to be able to compete against those guys and race them and also race your race and just go for the wins. That's the only way you're going to be able to make up any ground.
TONY STEWART: I agree exactly 100 percent with what he said there. That's exactly right. You have to take those bad days, like Darian said, they weren't days that we wanted, but at the end of the day, no matter what the circumstance that got us behind, we were able to rebound from it, not get all the way up to where we wanted, but we were able to make gains on it at the end and salvage a better finish than where we were. Whatever the scenarios were, we were able to overcome part of it.
As long as you do that at the end of the day, obviously the outcomes weren't what we wanted, but the fact it just shows this team doesn't have any quit in them, and that's what it's going to take to get back on top.
Q. Speaking of making gains, entering the race there were only three drivers within 106 points of the lead, now there's six. How important is that, and you're one of the guys that made up a sizable amount of points. How important is that right now?
TONY STEWART: It depends on who you're talking to. It's not important to me that there's that many guys there. I want to be within ten points of it, obviously. But it shows how competitive this Chase is. Guys that were up front there had average days, and a lot of guys closed on them today. It just shows that you're going to have to be on for ten weeks to win this thing, and if you have a bad day, there's going to be guys that are going to capitalize on it.
Q. Two elements that you guys have already talked about, the start to the Chase, I'm wondering, how disappointing for that because of how good you guys have been were the first two races of the Chase? And then Darian, you said you knew you were going to have to win races. Were you feeling you were in a must-win situation with the way the 48 and the 5 had performed the first two weeks?
DARIAN GRUBB: We knew going into the Chase it was a must-win situation. You're going to have to win races against these competitors. These guys have probably won 80 percent of the races this season in Chase. You have to go in with the mindset you have to win races.
Those last two weeks, first two weeks of the Chase, the last two performances we had, they weren't what we wanted, but it's what our team needed to do. We came back from 36th to 9th at Dover, and we came back from 33th to 14th at Loudon in very short amounts of time. We were able to salvage what we could out of those races, and we actually became a stronger team and fixed some problems and were working a little harder. We know what details we're missing now to become a strong championship contending team.
DARIAN GRUBB: You have to take a positive out of it every week. If you don't, you're never going to be moving forward. If you just take negatives, all you're going to be doing is beating yourself down.
Q. Could you talk about how nice it is for your team back with Chevrolet to help them clinch the manufacturer's championship today?
TONY STEWART: Yes, it's a proud moment. I mean, Chevy has been a big part of my career, and General Motors in general has. To be the team that wins the race today and locks down the championship for them, that's a huge sense of pride for us leaving here today and something that we hope they're as proud of us helping and doing our part in that as we are.
Q. Jeff Gordon was in here and mentioned that --
TONY STEWART: He came in here? Jeff Gordon came in here? Wow.
Q. I know you're amazed.
TONY STEWART: That's awesome. I never would have thought Jeff Gordon would have came in here. (Laughter.)
Go ahead. I'll try to contain myself.
Q. He said if this was the old system you'd be running away with it --
TONY STEWART: Yeah, but it's not the old system, so why are we talking about the old system? In case you didn't know, we haven't used that system for five years now, so why are we talking about the old system? Who cares?
Q. That's what I was going to ask you --
TONY STEWART: No, you guys are the ones that bring it up. We don't know. We know what the system is.
Q. Jeff Gordon mentioned it. He was sitting right there. He used that same microphone.
TONY STEWART: You would think I would feel the vibe from it right now and understand that.
I don't even talk about the old system because we don't use it anymore. It's not even a factor in the equation. It's like, yeah, we know we would have, but that's not what system we run under. We all know it starting the year. Unless they go back to it, who cares? Except for Jeff Gordon.
Q. I guess my point was after leading in the points all year long and then not -- and then falling back a little bit at the beginning, that wasn't a factor at all for you guys.
TONY STEWART: In what way?
Q. I mean, you didn't let that get you down at all.
TONY STEWART: You're kidding, right?
Q. I'm struggling.
TONY STEWART: We know what the system is, so we knew that when we got --
Q. But you fell from first to --
TONY STEWART: Yeah, but you know that can happen. Everybody's points are reset. The whole field was within 40 points of each other going into Loudon. It doesn't take a math major to understand what the system is.
Q. Or a journalist.
TONY STEWART: Obviously. You said it this time.
Q. I'm going to move on to something different.
TONY STEWART: The thing is we had the whole time that we were in the lead to think about that, but we didn't think about it. All we did was worry about the significance of just making sure you're in the top 12 when it comes time for Richmond. It doesn't matter whether you're leading, it doesn't matter how many you're leading by, it doesn't matter if you only make the Chase by one point and you're 2,000 points behind the leader. And that's the mindset that we all start Daytona with, and you know it.
It's not a situation where anybody that's leading the points is going to be -- they shouldn't be disappointed because that's what the system is. We understand what it is. There's nothing wrong with it. The system is a cool system.
It's like Bruce said, now we've got six guys within 100 points of the lead after three races. So it obviously makes sense, and there's a reason that they've done it, so it's like there's no point in even worrying about the old system and how it all works.
Q. You said you've got a race tonight. What's your plan? I guess you got rained out last night.
TONY STEWART: Yeah, as soon as I get done with this stimulating conversation that we're having here, make me feel smarter when I leave here, then I'm going to get to Knoxville as quickly as I can. That's my goal to get out of here soon. Just a hint.
Q. Darian, you come from a team that had a lot of success out of California. You guys are now heading to California. Your outlook on coming up with a good strategy and a good car to run there next week?
DARIAN GRUBB: We're really looking forward to it. We've got some good cars. We made a lot of changes to our entire fleet over the last few months trying to get things more acclimated to what Tony needs in a race car. We finished eighth there in the spring with our second race together. So I feel like we learned a lot of lessons through the year. So hopefully we'll be able to go back and improve on that.
Q. Tony, what's your outlook?
TONY STEWART: I agree with Darian. We were still just learning each other going into California in the spring. So going around this time, we obviously know each other better. We've had time to make mistakes and make decisions that worked for me, and we've learned the feel that I like together, and that's something that will help us definitely for next week. So it's a much more -- I'm anticipating California a lot more this time than in the spring.
Q. Following up on that, the relationship with Darian, is that something recent or is that just -- do you just have the chemistry and click with him like you did with Zippy?
TONY STEWART: It was only about an hour and a half ago that I felt this way. I'm just kidding.
Honestly, when we started this thing in the spring, I mean, this were times when I was sitting in the car, and I told him what my balance was, and he told me what we were going to change, and I was like, wow, is that the right way to go? I told him that, too.
It's just learning each other. It's learning a new package. It was a big learning curve for me to learn a new chassis. Darian obviously knows what these cars like and what this chassis package likes. It's just a matter of tailoring it to what I like feel-wise in the car.
There were times the first couple races where I didn't necessarily understand why we were doing something. But when you go out there and it responds positively to those changes, you gain that confidence right away. And I do; I have the same confidence in Darian that I had in Zippy for ten years.
It doesn't take long, and the great thing is I've been really blessed and lucky over the last 11 years to have two really good crew chiefs that I can talk to about anything and that I've connected with. It definitely helps on days like today.
Q. Is there something about this track that you like, given that you've come away with the checkered flag twice now?
TONY STEWART: It's round. We really like that part.
No, I mean, not necessarily. We've been lucky enough to win at all but three tracks on the schedule, and that's a goal of mine is to win at those other three. There's nothing -- I've had more local news people ask me what I think about the racetrack, and I think the same thing about it as when I came the first time. I liked it when I came here the first time, and I still like it.
But in case you didn't know, this track is exactly the same as Chicago. I mean, even down to the bus lot. It's another track on our schedule. But the cool thing is there's a lot of short track, dirt track fans from this area, and that's what makes coming here different than some of the other places we go to, because of the dirt track routes that we have here.
Q. Darian, the decision to take two tires at the end, was that irrespective of what Biffle was doing, taking four? In other words, was that irrelevant? And were you surprised then that he did and then came out behind Tony?
DARIAN GRUBB: It was. I actually think his plan may have been two tires. We heard him call on the radio that they switched from two to four at the last minute. I don't know if that was because he slit his tires coming into the box or anything like that. We made our plan and we were going to stick to it and hoped the other guys weren't going to make that same decision.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, Darian, congratulations.
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