NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Pepsi Max 400
Topics: Pepsi Max 400
October 10, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the media center by our race winner Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Old Spice Chevrolet, also his crew chief Darian Grubb. For Tony, his 39th victory in 422 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, second victory in 2010, first win at Auto Club. Now fifth in the Chase, 107 points out of the lead.
And also with a top three sweep by Chevy today, they claim the manufacturer's championship this year, their 34th manufacturer's title in their history in the Sprint Cup Series.
Gentlemen, congratulations to you both. Talk about how things went out there today.
TONY STEWART: Thank you. Awesome day, obviously. I'll be honest, when I woke up this morning I thought if we had a top 10 day that was going to be good, and if we ran in the top 5 today that was going to be an outstanding day.
You know, it just shows how hard this guy works. Some of the crew guys and I, we were out, we went to a sprint car race last night and went to a fair and rode rides last night, and I can tell where Darian was. He didn't go very far from his computer and from the engineers. I guarantee they were busy last night.
He told me this morning he found something that he was confident was going to be quite a bit different and better than yesterday, and he for sure didn't disappoint on that. It was a big key.
DARIAN GRUBB: Basically backing him up. It was a good team effort all the way around. The engineering staff, like he said, with Jonathan Toney and Scott Radel, they brought me a few ideas and last night and we looked at it, and it actually made sense from the feedback we had from Tony at happy hour. And that was the key to the whole thing was we were not really good in happy hour. We made a lot of large changes and it didn't really seem to affect the car, and we finally hit on a few things right at the very end. No matter how frustrated we were, we kept working on it. The last run was very good, and we had definite things we needed to work on, and the engineers went and found the solutions to that.
And after that it was just the pit crew did an incredible job making the adjustments. Every stop we keep making pretty big swings at it, and then Tony told us we were just kind of keeping up with the changing racetrack, we weren't really getting ahead of it, so we started swinging a little bit bigger, and that feedback is what makes it easier for us to decide how far we want to go.
And that one stop I think we had all seven guys on the left side of the car pulling tires, pulling the windshield tear off and everything all at one time, and I think we still gained three spots on that one stop. So kudos to those guys and everything that they've done. They've worked really hard at getting faster and making the car faster all at the same time.
Q. Tony, has the composition or the makeup of this track changed over the years to maybe make it conducive to better racing?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. When you see guys haven't run the whole car on the apron through 3 and 4 and it's probably eight to ten degrees less banking running on the apron, I don't know that that's better necessarily track-condition-wise. But it's just a difficult track. I mean, we always have a lot of temperature when we come out here, even in the spring it seems to be fairly warm.
But this track is so momentum-driven, and when it's as slick as it is here, it puts it back in the driver's hands, and normally I think that's going to be my advantage. But I've just been terrible here. We've had times when we've been good, but I've really struggled as a driver here over the course of 12 years.
But it's just a very difficult place to get a hold of, and if you can get your car balanced, you really can drive away from the majority of the field and get a pretty big gap there. But it's hard to do. You have to have that balance perfect. Somebody is going to get it right. I mean, somebody gets it perfect every time we come here.
But it's hard to do that, and there were so many guys today toward the end of the race. I mean, Clint Bowyer obviously had a great car, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie, Kasey Kahne at the end of the race there. These were guys that all had cars that were really good, and it was just a matter of who could get out and get a gap early in the run and be able to take care of their stuff.
I mean, it's getting harder and harder to do to where you have an advantage over somebody and can be that much better. But I thought the racing was good today. I mean, the restarts early in the race were out of control. We were five wide. We were one of them that put a bunch of guys five wide early in the deal clear on the bottom, and I think we gained four spots in one corner doing it.
But guys know how important these restarts are now and they're willing to take more chances it seems like on the restarts, and this place is so wide and you can run so many different lines here.
And I guess to go back three minutes ago and answer your original question, yes, it's good, and it's racy, but man, it's difficult. The seams are slick. The racetrack is slick. I mean, it's just a -- it's not an old track, but it sure races like an old, worn-out track.
Q. This is for Darian. You worked under Chad and you were Jimmie Johnson's crew chief for six races back a few years ago, and I know you're going to take every race as they come, but you have to make up 107 points in the next bunch of races. Do you ever put your mind like what I did back at Hendrick?
DARIAN GRUBB: Not really. You always learn from every aspect you have and every ordeal you deal with in life. I learned a lot of lessons back at Hendrick Motorsports, and I think I understand some of the things we're doing; we're running some of the same cars and same engines. But we're putting our spin on it when it gets in our shop, and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing has done an incredible job of making our cars as fast as we can and making incremental changes to make things better. You always pull from everything you learn in the past but you've got to look toward the future all the time, too.
Q. Tony, it was 100 miles short or two less pit stops. Was it becoming a fuel race if we hadn't had those back-to-back cautions, and if so, how would you have handled it?
TONY STEWART: I don't think it was that. I mean, Darian will know a little better than I do. I don't know exactly how far we were aware from the window but I don't think it was a situation where anybody could make it on fuel just from listening to Darian's tone, I think it was a situation that everybody was going to have to pit one more time from what I understand. So I don't think it was going to be that kind of situation.
It doesn't matter. You could have a 100-mile race, 200-, 300-, 400-, 500-, 1,000-mile race and it could come down to a fuel mileage race just because of the way cautions fall. It's that caution that puts some guys outside their window and some guys in their window, so it doesn't matter really how many miles it is, it can always end up a fuel mileage race, no matter how long or short the distance.
Q. You said back last week in Kansas that really you were in an all-or-nothing mindset. How satisfying is it for you right now knowing that you did exactly what you needed to do this weekend here, and then the second part to the question is where does this leave you in terms of a championship?
TONY STEWART: How satisfied? This is what they pay me to do. I mean, I'm supposed to do this every week, or at least try. You know, it's a situation where we were at and as many points as we were out and have been out since day one, we have the flexibility to just look forward and not worry about if we take a gamble and it doesn't work. We still have to be mindful of it, obviously. But the penalty for us isn't that great when you're 10th in points. You can take a chance, and if it doesn't work out, what are you losing, two spots?
I don't care between 10th and 12th in points, it doesn't matter to me. Neither one of them are acceptable. If that's what we get, that's what we'll take, but it's worth taking the gamble to make ourselves better.
Q. Tell us about who Irish is.
TONY STEWART: Irish Saunders works for Hoosier Racing Tire in Indiana, and his son Eric when we won in Atlanta, that's who we dedicated the race to was his son Eric who the day before his 18th birthday crashed in a motocross training accident and broke his back and is paralyzed from the chest down right now.
So I was checking in to see how Eric was doing yesterday and talked to Irish, and he told me that -- and he said it with confidence, too. It wasn't just one of those pep talk things where he said, hey, you're going to have a good day tomorrow. He said, "I have a feeling you're going to win this race tomorrow." It was just very matter of fact, and I've known him for 20 years now, and just the way he said it just kind of caught me off guard last night, and I didn't think much about it. But once we took the checkered it's like, man, he knew something I didn't know.
He's had to battle a lot of adversity with his family and his son, and I can promise you I'm going to call him tonight and ask him where we're going to finish next week.
Q. If anybody knows USAC talent, you've seen them all. You know, where did you feel like Shane Hmiel is? Where do you feel like he is and what's your response to his actions?
TONY STEWART: I'll be honest, when Shane started running sprint cars and midgets and silver crown cars, it was like, oh, man, this could be very interesting because he had never really ran those types of cars, he had never raced on dirt. Be he just never was scared of it, he never backed down from it, he said I've got to learn at this, and he has given 110 percent ever since day one. He's really turned into a great open-wheel driver.
So that's actually part of the reason I had called Irish last night was to check on Shane, and he was going to the hospital to see him. But you know, just -- it's something that doesn't happen a lot in open-wheel racing. It was just a freak accident that happened, and the way that he crashed was -- the way he hit the concrete wall was not too many guys hit like that. But it was a devastating hit, and obviously his injuries reflected that.
But to get an update from those guys at Indianapolis this morning and hear how well he made it through the night and hearing the optimistic thoughts from the doctors, you know, it made us all, I think, breathe a sigh of relief today knowing that he made it through that first night, and that's a big step. To hear the doctors say they don't think there's going to be any paralysis with a broken neck and broken back, we just went through that a month and a half ago with a close friend, and with Shane we didn't want to see that happen again.
That's why we mentioned it in victory lane. Definitely our thoughts are with him right now for sure.
Q. Darian, Tony spoke a little bit ago about always looking forward. Would you say that was the philosophy of the team after the New Hampshire race was kind of not focusing on what had transpired but what you could still find ahead for the rest of the chase?
DARIAN GRUBB: Yeah, you're always going to think about what could have been, but we've got to go into every week planning to get maximum points, lead every lap and win the race, and after that we'll just see what else happens. If we do our job and execute, that's all we can ask for.
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