NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
THE COMBAT WOUNDED COALITION 400 AT THE BRICKYARD
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
JULY 22, 2016
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/CHEVY SUMMER SELL DOWN CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed his last race as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, his thoughts on Eldora’s success and the potential for more races there in the future and many other topics. Full transcript:
ON BEING AT HIS LAST BRICKYARD 400 AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO WIN HIS LAST RUN HERE: “Everybody wants to win here. Definitely want to win here myself. It would be pretty cool.”
WITH THIS BEING YOUR LAST RACE HERE, HOW GOOD OF A JOB HAVE YOU DONE MANAGING THE PRESSURE FROM THE AMOUNT OF FRIENDS AND FAMILY THAT WILL BE HERE?
“I’ve done a great job, because I have no clue how many friends and family will be here this weekend. It was not my responsibility to get them all here. I don’t know how many of them are here. I will see them after the race is over, but I’m going to work here in a minute, and that is all I care about doing for three days.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE JEFF GORDON’S TOUGHEST PART THIS WEEKEND?
“Nothing for him. I say that because he can handle all of this. The Digital Dash is a non-event for him. If we were at Bristol or Martinsville or something, it would be a little tougher, but you have long straightaways here. He’s been in the simulator. He has the information. He knows where it is at on the dash now, and he has plenty of time on each straightaway to find what he is looking for. It won’t take…it won’t be any problem for him. I can promise you getting back in a car will be like he never got out of a car. He will be fine.”
ON EMOTIONS OF BEING HERE AND ON RACE DAY?
“I just got here. I mean I literally just got here late last night. You guys are going to make a lot more out of this than what I’m going to make out of it this weekend. I am literally just coming here in my mind like it is just another race, and it’s another weekend here at Indy. I’m not doing all the sentimental crying stuff that you guys think I’m going to be doing. I’m going to race this weekend. I’m more focused…I’m probably more prepared for a Brickyard than I have been any other year. I feel like we had a really good tire test here. Felt like our car drove really well. I think they brought the same car back. If not, it is another one that is the same generation-type car. The body might have been a little better on this one. That’s honestly…you guys can ask me all about how I’m feeling, thinking, whatever but you are wasting my time and your time because all I care about is driving that race car right now. It is probably the most focused I’ve been getting ready for a race. It is not amped up, or anything that. I’m just really relaxed and focused and feel good going into it. That is the way I need to do it.”
ON FINDING NEXT GENERATION OF DRIVERS OR A REPLACEMENT DRIVER FOR SOMEONE AT SHR:
“We never thought of that actually. It is something that I thought about since the talk came about Jeff getting back in the car. We don’t have a feeder system. We don’t have an Xfinity team. We don’t have anybody that’s in our system to bring up if that is the case. We will talk about it at some point, but I am definitely open to that scenario if it were to happen down the road and we needed somebody, I would be open to doing what Jeff is doing this weekend.”
ON HIS SPECIAL HELMET:
“I haven’t seen it yet, but the painter texted me about how cool this one is, and he doesn’t usually do that. I don’t know what it looks like, but I’m keeping this one because it is my last race here.”
HAS THE WIN AT SONOMA HELPED YOU COMING HERE TO BE MORE FOCUSED AND RELAXED?
“I think it definitely started the process. But I think it started at Pocono when we got running better at Pocono. Then Michigan was better after that. I think that was kind of the start of it and then the win continued that momentum.”
THIS WEEK YOU WERE TRACK OWNER, TODAY YOU ARE A DRIVER, YOU ARE A TEAM OWNER ALL THE TIME HAVE YOU EVEN BEGAN TO THINK OF WHAT YOUR LEGACY MIGHT BE 40 YEARS FROM NOW?
“I know we are doing a lot of stuff, but I don’t think I’ve really sat down and thought about it in the big picture. I like what I’m doing. I’m probably busier than I ever thought or dreamed I would ever be and involved in more things than I thought I would ever be involved in. I like what I’m doing. I’m enjoying it. As far as thinking what the legacy part of it will be I really don’t know. At the end of the day I’m just having fun doing what I’m doing right now.”
WERE YOU AWARE THAT JEFF GORDON WAS APPROACHED TO DRIVE YOUR CAR EARLIER THIS YEAR WHILE YOU WERE OUT WITH THE INJURY? IF YOU WERE AWARE THEN HOW MUCH INPUT DID YOU HAVE INTO THAT?
“I wasn’t, but that would have been awesome. That probably would have been one of the coolest things to happen this season if that happened. I would have been all for it. I mean the least he could have done got me broke my back for me the least he could have done is drive for me. But, no, it would have been awesome. I wasn’t aware of that, but that would have been a really cool deal for us.”
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU FELT THE COMPETITIVE AND THIS CONFIDENT WALKING INTO A RACE TRACK?
“It’s been awhile it’s been a long while. I mean it’s a good feeling I can tell you that. It’s nice to… anytime you get hurt like we did with our leg injury and everything that happened after that there is all speculation of why you are not running good. You guys had asked the same question has that been a factor in it. It’s been nice to kind of get it all put behind us and show everybody that is not what this is all about and that was not the factor. It just was getting cars to feel right. I think that was the biggest thing just trying to get through the speculation of ‘can he do this anymore’ and ‘why is he not competitive.’ When you finally get going and you start running up front with guys that you are used to running with again then you are getting text messages after the race saying ‘hey it was glad to see you up there with us again.’ That is the stuff that makes you feel like ‘hey we are back where we belong now.’
ANOTHER GOOD RACE AT ELDORA THIS WEEK. A FEW YEARS AGO YOU TOLD US YOU WERE OPENLY LOBBYING FOR AN XFINITY OR SPRINT CUP RACE THERE. HAS THE SHIP SAILED ON THAT?
“I’ve not really lobbied for it, but I mean I’m more than willing to. I mean every year that we do it and every year we’ve… you know the first year we basically had it like pavement track the first year. It was hard as a rock all the way across and it still got that way at the end of the night, but it started the race more like a dirt track is supposed to start. The biggest challenge with that obviously is the windshields and because of safety NASCAR can’t take those windshields out like you would want to do for a dirt track. It makes it limited on what we can and can’t do with the surface. It seems like every year we kind of keep sneaking that direction a little more and we keep making it a little heavier and giving it more grip. It seems like it keeps working. I’m definitely open to it. It may not be this year that I try lobbying for it. I mean I want to focus on what I’m doing with the Cup car the rest of this season, but I was proud of our staff. We had some turnover employee wise there and some guys really stepped up big for that event. I was really proud of our group there I thought they did a great job.”
LAST NIGHT DOUG BOLES (PRESIDENT OF INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY) WAS ASKED IF HE THOUGHT THAT YOU WOULD BE UPSET AT ALL BECAUSE JEFF GORDON WOULD STEAL SOME OF THE THUNDER FROM YOUR LAST APPEARANCE HERE. HE SAID NO, HE THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE QUITE HAPPY. CAN YOU COMMENT ON THAT?
“Absolutely accurate. I had a couple of friends send me messages yesterday and they were furious about it going ‘oh he is stealing your thunder.’ I’m like are you kidding me? Jeff Gordon is doing me the biggest favor anybody could possibly do this weekend for me. I’m just glad he’s back to be perfectly honest. I’m sad that Dale, Jr. is not here, but if Dale can’t be here and we know why and we respect why he is not here. I couldn’t be happier about the one guy that is here in his place. I’m glad I get to race with him one more time.”