NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
AAA TEXAS 500
TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
NOVEMBER 2, 2012
DANICA PATRICK AND CREW CHIEF TONY GIBSON, NO. 10 GODADDY RACING CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Texas Motor Speedway, working with each other this weekend and beyond, the importance of getting a head start for next season now and other topics. Full Transcript:
TELL US ABOUT RACING HERE AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY YOU HAVE BEEN HERE SEVERAL TIMES NOW:
DANICA PATRICK: “Yeah I was trying to think of how many times. Somebody while I was giving ride and drives for Chevy yesterday in the middle of the day, convertibles with my hair are just a really bad thing at around 120 mph around here so, they were saying it seems like you have been around here a few times. I was thinking about how many and I think this will be maybe my 11th race here between IndyCar and NASCAR stuff I have done. Always love coming to Texas, I would sort of describe it as my favorite style track. It has a lot of grip, banking, and speed and had pretty good success here over the years with whatever I have driven. I think this is a great place to start with Tony (Gibson, crew chief). I think this is a nice way to kind of get towards the end of my Cup races this year and hopefully we can have a good weekend.”
TALK ABOUT COMING OVER TO THE NO. 10 TEAM AND GETTING A LITTLE BIT OF A HEAD START ON NEXT YEAR:
TONY GIBSON: “Yeah it’s good. The communication side of it, her hearing my voice on the radio and working with her and finding out this is one of her good tracks. I’ve done some research on that, she really gets around here pretty good. Hopefully, we won’t screw it up and we can give her something good to drive today. To get any kind of time in is crucial. Not only on a communications side, but as far as the balance of the race car we have to learn. We don’t want her to adapt to our set-ups we want to adapt to her driving style. These two races will be crucial in gaining a head start on that. So over the winter time we can make plans and do some testing and get further on down the road for us. She has the capability of winning races; she’s a winner so we don’t have to teach her how to win. We just have to make sure that our race team is solid and can comfort her and give her the things she needs to win in the Cup Series.”
HOW OFTEN HAVE THE TEAMS YOU’VE BEEN WITH WANTED TO ADAPT TO YOU VERSUS YOU ADAPTING TO THEM? HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT TO YOU?
DANICA PATRICK: “It is a nice thing to hear. I think that is something you hear from someone who is open, ready and smart and knows that every driver has a different style. It is just a matter of how to maximize that. It’s kind of music to my ears as a driver. I know that there is a lot for me to learn about these cars and Tony (Gibson, crew chief) is extremely smart. I already know that as well as everybody who works with him. I have a lot to learn, but that is nice to hear. I hopefully can convey exactly what it is that I need and be able to point them in the right direction. What is really nice about working with each other these last couple of races of the year is that every driver has a unique way of describing the car and how it feels. When I say the car is two out of five tight that is not the same for anyone else. So learning what that really means and how big a change you need to make to fix that is the kind of stuff that we are going to get a really good head start on now.”
WHY IS THIS A GOOD PAIRING FOR YOU TWO TO WORK TOGETHER?
TONY GIBSON: “I just think the biggest thing is Tony (Eury Jr.) and Danica got a long really well and I’ve worked with Tony Jr. we are great friends and we worked together for several years at DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) so I think putting us together is a better fit. It’s a really good fit. It’s a good fit for my race team we are old school racers. We are the Tony Jr., Tony (Eury) Sr. style of racers and I think that fits Danica pretty good. I think they have done a great job as a company at Stewart-Haas putting the right people with Danica and her with us because we are going to grow together. We are going to grow fast. There are going to be some bumps in the road, we know that. But, my team is ready for that and we are ready to grow and we are excited about this new venture for us.”
DANICA PATRICK: “He hit is right on the head to be honest. I agree. It’s funny I think of that too. I think about how well I got along with Tony (Eury) Jr. and how he is definitely a little more old school. Just the personalities are just cool, laid back, get down to business, but still have fun. I think that is a great attitude to bring to the track every weekend. I feel like it gets a really good team to rally around them. It speaks volumes that the guys stayed all together to come onto the No. 10 car. I think that just shows what a great leader he is.”
TONY GIBSON: “It was one of the things that I talked to Danica about earlier was everybody on the No. 39 had an option of what they wanted to do as a team. It took them like 30 seconds to answer back that they were on board and everybody was excited for it. Hopefully, that is comforting to Danica and just sends a message to her that we are behind her 110 percent and ready to move forward.”
WHAT HAPPENS THE FIRST TIME YOU CALL HER ‘OLD MAN’?
TONY GIBSON: “(Laughs) I don’t know. I’m not really sure. If I do say that I’m sorry. It just comes out for some odd reason. I don’t know. I have no idea hopefully she will forgive me.”
DANICA PATRICK: “In what context do you use ‘Old Man’?”
TONY GIBSON: “Pretty much, I don’t know it slips out. I don’t really know why I say that. For years it’s just been what I say. I’m not sure where that came from to be honest with you.”
DANICA PATRICK: “I don’t mind.”
TONY GIBSON: “If I do say that I am sorry and I don’t mean it. I was Mark Martin’s crew chief and everybody is like ‘man that is really insulting to him’. I’m like I have no idea; I don’t realize I’m saying it to him. It was a big joke. Aric Almirola, I was the crew chief for Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and it was the same way. I don’t know. It just comes out so I’m probably going to say it a few times, but if I do I’m sorry forgive me. As long as we are successful we can call each other what we want to.”
DANICA PATRICK: “I don’t really care what people call me. Tony (Eury) Jr. would call me ‘babe’ and things like that on the radio and he would apologize. I’m like I really don’t care what you call me. I don’t care if you pronounce my name wrong as long as it starts with a ‘D’.”
TONY GIBSON: “I think I have called her ‘D’ every time I have called her and talked to her on the phone. I will try to just stick with just calling her ‘D’.”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE LESSONS IN THE THREE YEARS YOU HAVE BEEN HERE WHAT ARE THE GREATEST LESSONS THAT YOU HAVE LEARNED WHAT DO YOU STILL HAVE TO LEARN TO REALLY GET ABSOLUTELY COMFORTABLE HERE?
“For me I have just transitioned through quite a bit over these years. It was just coming every month or so into the car and doing a race and trying to get comfortable quickly after driving and IndyCar for a while. There was that transition for two years then this being the first full time year then sort of sprinkling in some Cup races then next year going full time Cup. That is a lot o
f transitions and a lot of changes and a lot of things to get used to whether it is new cars, new schedules or new crew chief. It’s just been a lot to get used to, but I think that it all helps me adapt quicker. It helps me focus on what being more specific with my words and being more poignant with what I want. There has been a lot that I have learned for sure and I have a lot left to learn. Just understanding the cars and how they change from practice to the race and how they change throughout the race. Those are things that are just so much more unique to NASCAR than they are to IndyCar I feel. In IndyCar you could set the car up in practice and it would feel the same in qualifying and the race for the most part of adapting some weather changes to the downforce levels to that they were equal. You could calculate that. There is a lot more transitions within the weekend itself in NASCAR. So getting used to that has been something I am still learning.”
HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF THINGS ARE MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION NEXT YEAR AND WHAT WILL BE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR DANICA TO KNOW IF SHE IS IMPROVING?
TONY GIBSON: “Well, there’s no pressure on us. I think the communication will get better and smoother. Understanding when she is tight like she said earlier, a two out of five, we go through that every weekend. Every driver I’ve ever had is different. Even (Tony) Stewart and (Ryan) Newman are totally different. The offsets that we had to do for Newman versus Stewart are just on the other side of the spectrum. Just learning those things for what she needs going into qualifying trim, as the races go on how do we adjust, and me learning the tone of her voice. I can tell by a driver, because the tone of his voice is getting higher and higher and higher that it’s pretty serious. Those things we are going to learn. She puts more pressure on herself to do good because the media puts pressure on her to do good. For us it’s all about learning and growing together. Like I told her, we are going to set small goals and achievable goals for us. Whether if it’s by the end of qualifying practice to be on the left side of the board and qualify 25th, 23rd, 20th, 18th; let’s set goals that we can achieve together as a race team and grow together. I’m not putting any pressure on her or any set we’ve got to win a race or we’ve got to run a top-five, so I’ll judge everything off how we are getting along, how our team is building more than I am results.”
YOU’VE BEEN WITH DALE (EARNHARDT) JR, SO YOU’VE BEEN WITH HIGH PROFILE, DANICA IS OBVIOUSLY VERY HIGH PROFILE, THERE’S NO DOING ANYTHING UNDER THE RADAR, WILL THAT HELP YOU THAT YOU WERE WITH JUNIOR AND YOU UNDERSTAND BEING WITH SOMEBODY THAT EVERYTHING YOU DO IS GOING TO BE SCRUTINIZED?
TONY GIBSON: “Absolutely, anything in this business. I was with Bill Elliott for a while too and he was probably one of the biggest ones in the sport then. It’s difficult, it’s different, but at the end of the day you still have to do your job. No matter who is driving the race car you have a job to get done. My job is to fit a race car and a set up for Danica’s driving style and that’s what we are going to work hard on. She is in the lime light all the time. It’s like last weekend the deal with Landon Cassill and all, I don’t want her to lose that fire. That’s the fire you need. There has been guys that have spun people out and done things like that when they are rookies and nobody talks about it but being a female it gets blown out of proportion. I hope she keeps that fire and desire and we’ll work on the rest of the stuff.”
GOING BACK TO WHAT TONY SAID EARLIER, WHY ARE YOU SO COMFORTABLE WITH OLD-SCHOOL RACERS?
DANICA PATRICK: “I don’t know. Doesn’t that seem funny? I’m kind of fancy. I buy fancy things, I eat at fancy restaurants, drink fancy wines, I don’t know. Honestly I think it’s opposites attract. It’s more fun to be honest. It’s just more fun. I think back to being a kid growing up and go-kart racing. That sort of style is also why I love NASCAR in general, everything from the language to describe the car, to the style of people and the camaraderie. It just reminds me of growing up and racing all over the east coast and the south. It’s more normal to me probably than what I did for over 10 years with seven years of Indy Car and from 16 to 19 being in England. I guess I realized how European style Indy Car was when I came to NASCAR and was I remember the word tight, I used to use that. It’s just how everybody gets along and how much fun we have here, and kind of almost how much racing we do. In go-karts we would do 40 or 50 races a year. In NASCAR we obviously do a tremendous amount and I think it’s just more normal to me than what I was doing. From the first time that I got into a car at Orlando Speedway a couple of years ago, I pulled out of the pit area to go on to the track and I really felt .. I was like oh my God, what have I been doing. I feel like I’m at home. I felt comfortable and it just felt like I was where I was supposed to be.”
TONY WILL BE YOUR FOURTH CREW CHIEF SINCE ENTERING NASCAR, DO YOU HAVE A BETTER SENSE OR APPRECIATION OF WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR, WHAT YOU NEED, AND IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SERIES?
DANICA PATRICK: “You know I think that it’s not necessarily a specific person as much as it is their demeanor and their openness to listen and going down the paths that I go down sometimes in practice, and being ready to just kind of adapt what I say to the car and trust me, and want to be there. I think that may be one of the biggest things, when someone wants to be there it just gives me confidence and give me comfort. It makes me feel better. No matter what I’ve been doing that’s one thing I’ve learned, the person has to want to be there. There’s so much racing and so much time together that if they don’t, you just don’t feel it. I really get that feeling from Tony, that he wanted to be here and from his guys. I just think that’s like a perfect remedy for success moving forward.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET, met with members of the media today at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed how he is feeling going into this weekend’s race at Texas, his frustrations with the ending of last weekend’s race in Martinsville and other topics. Full Transcript:
STILL FEELING GOOD ABOUT GETTING BACK IN YOUR ROUTINE AND GETTING BACK TO NORMAL?
“Yeah especially after last week not getting the finish we wanted to get. We were really anxious to get back to the race track and get back to work. Anytime you don’t finish things like you want you kind of want to get another shot or start over. You hate to have to sit around for a couple of days waiting on the next opportunity to do it the right way. That is what we have been thinking about all week. Just been kind of preparing going over last week and writing down all the comments about the race and then looking over the last race here at Texas all the notes of that just trying to get ready.”
HOW DID YOU FEEL SUNDAY NIGHT, MONDAY? DID YOU FEEL NORMAL? THAT WASN’T A HARD HIT BUT YOU STILL KIND OF TAPPED THE WALL:
“Yeah, it wasn’t that bad. I felt pretty good. I’ve been in contact with the doctor’s everyday throughout the whole process just keeping them aware of how things have been going. I thought the weekend really went well in terms of how I felt especially Saturday and Sunday. I was really nervous I think Friday, just anxious and real nervous. Obviously, talking to you guys in the media center I was really nervous. Saturday and Sunday really felt great. That was kind of a little breakthrough for me. To get back to the track and see things work like I wanted them to work, really kind of connect to the race car like I wanted to
felt really good.”
WHAT WAS THE MOST FRUSTRATING THING ABOUT LAST WEEK? WAS IT PURELY THE RESULT THAT UPSET YOU OR WAS IT THAT PEOPLE WERE BEING STUPID THERE AT THE END?
“No, I wasn’t really worried about how people were at the end. We were coming back from missing a few weeks and just trying to really get in a solid week of work. Obviously, even finishing seventh or whatever wasn’t exactly where we wanted to finish, but I needed a little closure on the whole process. I really didn’t get it last weekend.”
“We talked about it just a little bit. When we made the decision to stay out I was positive coming to that restart I was positive about what we were doing. When he made the decision for us to not pit I didn’t immediately throw my hands up in the air at that moment. I was still like ‘alright you know I’m going to go as hard as I can go here.’ I was starting up front and I really didn’t think we were going to be as bad as we were on that little run after that restart. So I really wasn’t that upset about it at all. Then we had the restart and the car was real tight, real slow and just in the way. People were all over me trying to get by me. I know I was a pain in the ass and I was just getting more and more frustrated. I think I lost control of my emotions a little bit in how I expressed my opinion after the race to him, to you, to everybody. Because looking back now I really wasn’t that mad about it. I didn’t even think it was a bad call when we made it. I was being a bit of a back seat driver or arm chair quarterback after the fact. He had done a great job been real supportive of me and I need to realize he is trying to help me. He’s not trying to throw me to the wolves. He is trying to help me win races.”
IT WASN’T THE FINISH YOU WANTED, BUT HOW ENCOURAGING WAS IT BEING OUT OF THE CAR FOR TWO WEEKS COMING BACK AND RUNNING AS GOOD AS YOU GUYS DID?
“Yeah that was real good. Real encouraging the laps in practice, how we were working on the car, all the communication was good. Had a lot of good energy, felt good, the race went pretty well throughout the whole race, felt good. I felt like we were running a smart race. Really didn’t have the car like we wanted, we were trying a little bit different stuff with the track bar in the back. I think we were a little bit better there in the spring, so we will just have to go back. It’s a good track for me and I’ve run pretty well there every time we go there and I would just really like to win there. Just have to go back and try again.”
HOW DO YOU HANDICAP THE CHAMPIONSHIP? OBVIOUSLY, IT’S YOUR CLOSEST TEAMMATE ON ONE SITE AND IT’S ONE OF YOUR REALLY CLOSE FRIENDS ON THE OTHER SIDE. DO YOU HAVE TO GO WITH YOUR TEAMMATE IN THAT SITUATION?
“Yeah I’m a company man first I think. I want what’s good for the guys. Inevitably, indirectly no matter what driver it is when there is success at Hendrick (Motorsports) it affects all of us in a good positive way. Obviously, I want to see Jimmie (Johnson) win the championship between the two. But, I’m real happy for Brad (Keselowski) to be experiencing the season he has had. He has earned it. He’s a really good competitor and he is a great asset to the sport for years to come. He’s going to have a lot more opportunities aside from this one; he is going to have a lot of opportunities to win championships. He’s got to be excited about that.”
GIVEN THAT SITUATION WOULD YOU RATHER BE THE POINTS LEADER OR THE ONE CHASING?
“I would rather be the leader. You want to be out front and put the pressure on the guy behind you.”
IS IT KIND OF WEIRD THAT YOU SAW BRAD (KESELOWSKI) WHEN HE WAS A TOTAL NOBODY AND NOW HE COULD POSSIBLY WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? IS THAT KIND OF WEIRD TO YOU?
“Well yeah, I mean it’s pretty impressive. I knew he was a pretty raw talent and had a lot of good qualities. He definitely made all of our stuff at JR Motorsports look really good there for a couple of years. When he got in the Penske stuff he has not done anything but move forward. I think we kind of forget just how far along that program has come. To be competitive in a Dodge no less; in a manufacturer that has signed its papers leaving the sport. It’s impressive and I think like I said he is going to be able to race for a very long time and for all intents and purposes he should be able to compete like this for years and really enjoy a great career.”
REGARDING PHOENIX WHAT KIND OF RACE ARE YOU EXPECTING?
“I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot. I don’t know these repaves have been pretty indestructible. They are not aging quite as fast as the drivers would hope. They did a good job on that track and I haven’t run good there since they repaved it. Just kind of anxious to go back and hoping we can find some speed and be competitive because I do like the race track. I’ve ran well on all the repaves this year so maybe we’ve got something for them going back.”
THAT CORNER TWO (AT PHOENIX) WAS KIND OF WHERE BRAD (KESELOWSKI) WAS GOING DOWN ON THE APRON THERE WHY DOES THAT WORK?
“It’s shorter. It’s a shorter distance.”
IS JIMMIE (JOHNSON) PERHAPS A BIGGER FAVORITE THAN TWO POINTS MIGHT SUGGEST JUST BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE?
“Yeah, I think he has definitely got to have the odds in his favor winning five championships in a row isn’t done by accident or by luck. I think he has got the entire package as far as not only is he one of the best drivers in the series, but he has got possibly one of the smartest minds on his pit box in Chad (Knaus) controlling the entire team. Everybody around that team, all the road guys all the pit crew everybody is just really maxed out in talent and ability. They are a tough opponent. They are a real tough opponent especially when they’ve got some confidence and it’s late in the Chase and they are leading like this. You are really going to have to work hard and do some miraculous stuff to be able to beat them.”
THIS YEAR THERE HAS BEEN A LITTLE BIT OF THE MIND GAMES GOING ON. HOW MUCH DOES YOUR HEAD PLAY INTO RUNNING FOR THIS CHAMPIONSHIP?
“I don’t know. I think it just depends on the person. Some people aren’t affected by that stuff and some people might be affected by that. I think it just depends on how insecure you are and how much you respect the guy you are racing. It comes down to different individuals and different people react different ways to it.”
IS IT A USEFUL TOOL?
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET met with media and discussed participation in the Disaster Relief Fund, his focus on the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the pressure, the competition, and more. Full Transcript:
YOUR FOUNDATION HAS BEEN VERY ACTIVE IN SUPPORTING THE RELIEF EFFORTS FOR HURRICANE SANDY. CAN YOU TOUCH ON THAT?
“Yes, definitely. Myself, Hendrick Motorsports, and Lowe’s are proud and happy and more than willing to donate money to the Disaster Relief Fund. It’s something that Lowe’s is very passionate about; and Hendrick Motorsport and I certainly want to join in support and help spread the word and hopefully influence others to donate. In the Manhattan area in the building that Chani and I have an apartment in has been flooded and it’s still evacuated. Nobody can go in the building and the bottom two floors are underground and have been flooded and the main lobby had some major damage too. So it’s impacted us in a small way; to many others, in a much greater capacity. But it’s just a wild, wild deal up there. And to talk to our friends about the experiences they’
ve had; and to know how many people in Manhattan and all the surrounding area that are dealing with all the water issues, It’s a sad thing. Hopefully what we’re doing will help influence others to donate and try to help our friends up there.”
TALK ABOUT COMING TO TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY WITH THREE RACES TO GO; YOU’VE GOT THE POINTS LEAD. WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET FOR THIS WEEKEND?
‘Honestly it’s really been the same thing throughout the Chase, and that’s to go out and get as many points as possible. I’m in the mindset of sitting on the pole and winning the race. I think that’s what you have to do with as tight as the points have been and with how strong the competitors have been on the race track. Denny’s (Hamlin) troubles have put a gap for Brad (Keselowski) and I over third spot. And I guess in some respects, you can look at two guys and a two-guy breakaway right now, but I’m not putting too much stock in that. A mid-pack finish for myself and Brad will bring everybody back into it and that’s not too big of a margin in my eyes. So, I’m still very focused in getting as many points as possible and trying to win the races.”
THERE HAS ALREADY BEEN A LITTLE BIT OF JABBING BETWEEN YOU AND BRAD KESELOWSKI. HOW MUCH DOES THE MIND GAME ISSUE PLAY INTO YOUR STRATEGY ON AND OFF THE TRACK?
“I wasn’t aware of any verbal jabs yet, but it’s racing. There are different aspects to it I think. Personalities of drivers; some are eager for those opportunities and like to play it out in the media and stir the pot. It’s really not been my outlet. I like to go out and perform like I did last week; and send a message on Friday with a strong qualifying effort. If that doesn’t work out, make sure that I rebound and come back on Sunday with a strong performance. So I look over the last couple of weeks and what our team was able to accomplish at Kansas with a damaged race car and then what we did last week, is quite a statement in that we’re serious about this championship and we’re doing the right things to go out there and try to win this thing.”
ON THE BUSCH-WHACKED MUD RUN AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY DIRT TRACK, DID YOUR TEAM END UP WINNING AFTER ALL?
‘Yeah, we won the overall team competition last night, which was cool. It was fun. It was my first opportunity to run a Mud Run. I’ve done some triathlons. I’ve done a few 5K’s. And to do a Mud Run was quite a different discipline. I think the distance of the race was like just over a mile; 1.2 miles, with 10, 12, or 15 obstacles; something like that. So, in the running areas, you’re trying to keep a good pace going; and then you’re challenged with some obstacle that for whatever reason would elevate your heart rate higher than you wanted it to be. And then you’d get over or through or under the obstacle and take off running again trying to catch your breath. It was an intense 13 minutes during my lap. I ended up second overall, which was cool. My throat is still kind of raspy just from breathing so hard yesterday in that event. It was an aerobic workout to say the least. It was a fun event. I think the awareness from this event will, if Kurt (Busch) decides to continue to it, I think it has potential to be pretty big; and incorporate the fans and the competitors in the garage area. A lot of team planes didn’t send their crews early, but I have a feeling in the future there would be enough crew members lobbying for an early plane to get out here and be a part of it. There are so many guys who go over the wall and work in this garage area that they’d get involved in a heartbeat. And it’s for a great cause; I need to also mention; with the charity component. So I hope it was a successful fund-raiser for them. I know I had a lot of fun in the event.”
THE APRIL RACE HERE FEATURED A LOT OF LONG, GREEN-FLAG RUNS; AND FROM THE FAN PERSPECTIVE, NOT THE MOST EXCITING RACE OF THE YEAR. DO YOU EXPECT THE SAME THING SUNDAY? OR WITH DIFFERENT WEATHER CONDITIONS AND DAY INSTEAD OF NIGHT, DO YOU THING THIS RACE COULD BE DIFFERENT OR DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE THE SAME?
“I think it will be like that, to be honest with you. I’m trying to think back to Kansas and what created all the cautions. I think a lot of it was the narrow racing groove and the uncomfortable or unbalanced aero situation that the pack was in and it did create some slipping and sliding and a lot of cautions. But here, we’ll be from the line to the wall all the way around the track ad we’ll have options, which the drivers love. It creates fewer cautions because we have an opportunity to race and move around. The flip side of that is there’s a lot of green flag racing. So I’m preparing for that, in my mind.”
WHILE THE VOTING IS JUST A THEMED SORT OF PRESIDENTIAL THEME BECAUSE OF THE ELECTION IT REALLY IS FACING YOU AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) OFF AGAINST EACH OTHER EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK. DO YOU TRY NOT TO LOOK AT THAT?
“I walked through the garage and I didn’t see it I guess. I was too busy catching up with (Kristine) Curley on, I don’t even know what it was. It’s great I think the hype is great for our sport. It is certainly great for Brad and I both. It’s a tough thing to dodge that excitement and notoriety all that comes with it. I’m glad I’ve missed it so far because it’s just a distraction at the end of the day. I will just keep my blinders on and keep going in circles and hopefully fast circles.”
OBVIOUSLY THERE IS AN AGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) BUT DO THE TWO OF YOU HAVE ANY KIND OF PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP AT ALL? DO YOU KNOW EACH OTHER TO ANY EXTENT?
“Well he was at Hendrick for a while, but that was four or five years ago something like that. He was pretty new in the sport, eager, and talented. He showed a lot of speed and a lot of potential. I watched him in (Dale Earnhardt) Junior’s car for those couple of years. I was excited for his success there and happy to see that he went to Penske as well. I know Roger (Penske) well and certainly respect his organization and everything he has done in motorsports. I think it’s been a good fit along the way, but my relationship with Brad has really been at track or racing related. We haven’t had a chance to hang out too much off the track. For the longest time he hasn’t been old enough to have a beer so it has been hard to hang out too much. We’ve got a good relationship and I feel a great deal of respect for another and I think that is why we have handled things how we have so far and raced like we are.”
CLINT BOWYER WAS IN A LITTLE BIT AGO AND WAS RATHER LOOSE; HE REALLY HAS NOTHING TO LOSE. DO YOU THINK THAT DEMEANOR HELPS HIM? THE WAY HE HAS RUN THE CHASE DO WE SORT OF DO OURSELVES A DISSERVICE TO OVERLOOK HIM BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN STRONG ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS? HOW ARE YOU SIZING UP HIM IN THIS BEING A TWO MAN RACE, BUT WITH A DARK HORSE LOOMING?
“I feel like if Brad (Keselowski) both have a mid-pack finish it really opens this thing up at this point. A finish in the 20’s something like that man this thing is real tight. There is some pressure taken off you when you are back. I think there is more pressure on the point’s leader, but there is more control as the point’s leader. Just a week ago was sitting there seven back thinking okay if I got two a weekend or if I got three a weekend or how you play that game. Right now I don’t have to think about that. There is the pressure to maintain, but I would much rather be leading the points than be anywhere else. Pressure shows up in a lot of different ways. Clint (Bowyer) is a serious threat so is Kasey (Kahne). Those guys have been very strong. I think both have shown their best in the Chase and have really delivered and stepped up. I’m glad that we have a gap over those guys because I like when it’s down to one person and not three or four to
deal with. If we slip up they are going to be right there in the middle of it and strong, good tracks for both of them. I’ve said this about Kasey (Kahne) too if you look at his performance every year he always finishes so strong. I’m happy from my own selfish perspective to have a little gap on him right now because he could finish this thing our really strong.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed morning practice, Donny Schatz World of Outlaws championship and other topics. Full transcript:
HOW WAS PRACTICE? “It was okay. Nothing spectacular. We’ve got a ways to go.”
TALK ABOUT DONNY SCHATZ CAPTURING HIS WORLD OF OUTLAWS CHAMPIONSHIP FOR TONY STEWART RACING: “I’m proud of those guys, especially Donny. It was a really trying first half of the season for the whole team. They were just struggling to try and find a balance in combination with the engine and chassis package that he was looking for. The second half of the year, those guys really dug in, and got going there, and really dug themselves out of a hole. They definitely earned it the last half of the year.”
ARE YOU GOING BACK FOR THE WOO FINALE IN CHARLOTTE? “No, it is too far. We’ll watch on the internet tonight and tomorrow. Actually, we’ll see it on the Internet tonight, and watch it live on SPEED tomorrow night.”
DANICA SAID SHE WAS A WINE AND FANCY RESTAURANT KIND OF GIRL, AND TONY GIBSON IS AN OLD-SCHOOL RACER. WHY DO THEY GET ALONG? “Why wouldn’t they get along? They aren’t going out to eat dinner together, they are racing together. That’s where they have to be on the same page.”
HOW DO YOU THINK SHE IS GOING TO REACT WHEN SHE GETS CALLED “OLD MAN”? “Probably the same way we all did. Look at him funny, and realize that it doesn’t matter who you are, or how old you are, he (Tony Gibson) calls you “Old Man”. That’s just Gibson.”
HOW DIFFERENT FOR YOU IS IT IN YOUR SITUATION THIS SEASON AT THIS POINT THAN IT WAS LAST YEAR, A SITUATION SIMILAR TO WHAT BRAD KESELOWSKI AND JIMMIE JOHNSON ARE IN? “You don’t always have that situation like we had last year. If you look at the history, we’ve had more years like we are having this year, than we had last year. You’d rather be in the situation they’re in, but it is what it is.”
LAST YEAR, YOU ARE CARL APPEARED TO HAVE VERBAL JABS GOING BACK AND FORTH, ALL IN FUN. HOW USEFUL OF A TOOL IS THAT WHEN YOU ARE FIGHTING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP? “It worked for us. (CHUCKLES) That’s all I can say is it worked for us.”
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY TALKS ABOUT ELDORA HAVING A NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK RACE? “No.”
JUST A FUN QUESTION, THERE IS A MOCK DEBATE GOING ON FOR NASCAR PRESIDENT BETWEEN MATT CLARK AND JIMMY SPENCER. WHO WOULD YOU SUPPORT? “Out of the sake of the entire nation, I would have to pick Matt Clark. I’m sorry. I love Jimmy Spencer like a brother, but that’s not a brother I would put in the Presidency.” (LAUGHS)
IS JIMMIE (JOHNSON) A BIGGER FAVORITE THAN TWO POINTS WOULD INDICATE? “I don’t know. It’s one week at a time still. It is what it is each week. It doesn’t who’s a favorite. It matters what those points say at the end of the day each week.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the current point battle between Johnson and Keselowski, head games, the upcoming Phoenix race, and more. Full Transcript:
HOW WAS PRACTICE?
‘We’ve been trying some things out to learn so we come up with a good plan for tomorrow and for Sunday. We were a little disappointed when we switched over to qualifying trim. We of course, knew the track was a little bit slower from the guys that went out early, but still we were two our three tenths off of what I felt like we needed to be there at the end. So, we’ve got some speed to gain and to pick-up for our qualifying run.”
IF YOU COULD TAKE YOUR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAT OFF AND LOOK AT THINGS OBJECTIVELY, AND YOU HAD TO PUT MONEY ON BRAD KESELOWSKI OR JIMMIE JOHNSON GOING DOWN THE STRETCH WITH THREE RACES REMAINING, IS IT EVEN A QUESTION GIVEN JIMMIE’S HISTORY?
“Oh, it’s definitely a question. And Brad has put a good fight. If you’re putting money down on it, it’s hard to go against that No. 48 teams. They’re just so rock-solid at so many different tracks. They’ve won five championships so it’s not like they’re nervous. They’re pretty relaxed and in a comfort zone and it’s really nothing to lose. They’ve won five championships and they’re in great position.
“But, where Brad going for it, basically for the first time, but you know what, they’ve done a great job. So, it’s not just a hands-down; one’s got it in the bag.”
JIMMIE’S LEAD FEELS ALMOST BIGGER THAN IT IS BECAUSE OF HIS HISTORY AND THE TIME OF THE YEAR AND ALL THAT STUFF.
“Well, it’s just like what happened to the No. 11 car (Denny Hamlin) last week. Anything can happen at any time. There’s just no way to predict it. If you just look at flat-out speed and performance, then I would give it to the No. 48. But that’s not always the case.”
DO YOU SEE JIMMIE JOHNSON PLAYING THOSE HEAD GAMES WITH BRAD KESELOWSKI AT THIS POINT? OR, IS IT JUST THE REPUTATION AND THE SUCCESS RATE THAT GETS INTO PEOPLE’S HEADS?
“The No. 48 has one things on their side and that’s five championships and the fact that they go out there and perform. I think the only thing that Brad has done this year that’s really combatted that was what they did at Chicago. That was a great way to get it started as well as they’ve hung in there. Like last week. To come out of there I think with a sixth place finish for Brad at Martinsville they way his day was going, that was actually a very positive result for them that I think they actually, even though the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) won, they carried a little bit of momentum themselves out of there. So, I’d kind of call it even, really.”
WOULD YOU RATHER BE THE CHASER OR THE CHASEE?
“No, you always want to be leading. I think you’d rather be leading if you’re the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) because they’ve won it five times. So, by being up front, they don’t sit there and protect and worry about what we have to do to win this championship. They just go out there and perform, focus, and do their jobs. But when you’re new to it and you’ve never won a championship, being out front sometimes can get you off your game. So I think it’s better for Brad to be chasing and I think the NO. 48, as long as they’re in reach, they’re comfortable and have a great shot at it.”
YOU’VE BEEN THERE BEFORE; WHAT ARE THE LAST THREE WEEKS LIKE AS FAR AS PRESSURE? “You know, it’s intense. Every practice lap; every lap in the race; every position; every moment is intense. You know that there is a lot riding on everything that you do. As a team you have to come together, and step up. It’s tough. It’s intense, and exciting as well. All at the same time. I’m just anxious to see how these next couple of weeks go because I think we all want to see a great battle come down to the final race at Homestead.
“I think you have to think, with the results the last time we were here, that the No. 48 has an edge here. I don’t know about Phoenix with the new surface, but at Homestead, the No. 48 has struggled there. Not run as good. This thing could be very interesting.”
WITH THE NEW LAYOUT AT PHOENIX, HOW DIFFERENT IS THAT TRACK NOW? “It’s changing fairly rapidly as it goes through the weathering that you go through, especially during the hot summer in Arizona. The tires haven’t changed as far I know, so that is kind of keeping things fairly even. We saw the grooved widen out the last time we were there; I would like to see that again. Track position is still going to be
very, very important.”
HAVE YOU CHANGED THE WAY YOU DRIVE THAT TRACK NOW? “I’m going to have to change the way I drove it the last couple of times just because we haven’t done very well there.”
BRAD WAS A PART OF THE HENDRICK FAMILY FOR A SHORT WHILE; DID YOU GUYS GET A CHANCE TO KNOW HIM AT ALL? “He was more of a JR Motorsports guy, so they probably got a chance to know him better than we did. But, he definitely was a great addition; we just didn’t have a place for him, or sponsorship to keep him there longer. It certainly is nothing but positive things to say.”
AT THIS POINT OF THE SEASON, DO THE WEEKS KIND OF SLOW DOWN AND SEEM TO COME FURTHER APART, OR DOES IT PICKUP AS YOU HEAD TO THE END OF THE SEASON? “It is amazing how fast a season goes by, and you are at this point. You go ‘Wow, I can’t believe we only have three races left, then this season is over’. For us, we’re sixth in points, and we are just focused on how we get to fifth, and, how we perform in each race, and make the most out of these last three races and come out with something positive from what has been a pretty up and down season. That makes the time go by pretty fast.”
NASCAR RACE HUB IS DOING A MOCK ELECTION FOR THE OFFICE OF THE NASCAR PRESIDENT BETWEEN MATT CLARK AND JIMMY SPENCER AS YOUR CANDIDATES. WHO WOULD YOU SUPPORT FOR NASCAR PRESIDENT?
“Why would either one of those guys be NASCAR President? (LAUGHS) I like Mike Helton! (LAUGHS) I love Jimmy, but sometimes he’s a little bit too far out there, so I’m going to go with the one that I think that would use the best common sense most of the time, so I would go with Matt.”