NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
CHEEZ-IT 355 AT THE GLEN
WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONAL
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 9, 2013
MAX PAPIS, INTERIM DRIVER FOR TONY STEWART, NO. 14 RUSH TRUCK CENTERS/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET SS AND GREG ZIPADELLI, COMPETITION DIRECTOR AT STEWART-HAAS RACING, met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed Tony Stewart’s status after his second surgery, this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen with Max driving, the future of who will be in the No. 14 Chevrolet SS and much more. Full Transcript:
GREG CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PLANS FOR STEWART-HAAS RACING AT LEAST THIS WEEKEND AND MAX JUST FOLLOW UP ON THE OPPORTUNITY THAT YOU HAVE HERE TODAY:
GREG ZIPADELLI: “Obviously with the circumstances we are dealing with Tony (Stewart) out of the car Max (Papis) is here for us this weekend. He had done some road course testing recently, about two weeks ago, in the No. 14 car. There was a little bit of a database built. A little communication had already been started and we felt like that was our best option for this weekend. Max has a lot of experience here and its road racing. Obviously difficult situation for everybody at Stewart-Haas this weekend, but it’s the situation we are in and we will do our best.”
GREG ALLUDED TO IT YOU HAVE A SPORTS CAR WIN HERE NOT TOO LONG AGO. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY WITH THE NO. 14 CAR AND THE HISTORY HERE AT ‘THE GLEN’:
MAX PAPIS: “First of all it’s great to be here with all of you guys. I hope that Tony will be back soon because that is actually his car. It’s just an honor to be able to be called by an organization like Stewart-Haas and fill the shoes of Tony. It was not really a dream come true, but it was more like recognition towards all the work that I’ve done so far in my career. I feel that I have a lot of confidence to go out there and give them solid results. Obviously, if I would have been maybe 25 years old I would have been maybe sitting on the toilet for how nervous I was, but I guess now I’m 30 plus 12 so I feel pretty good about it.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY MORE OF AN UPDATE ON TONY SINCE HAVING THE SECOND SURGERY AND HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO HIM? IF YOU COULD JUST GIVE US A LITTLE BIT OF YOUR INTERACTION WITH HIM:
GREG ZIPADELLI: “I saw him Wednesday night before his surgery. I talked to him, texted, yesterday after everything went well. As good as could be expected. It’s going to be a day by day situation right now just with infections and things of that nature. Hopefully, it will turn into a week by week here probably Sunday or Monday we will know a lot more. Right now it’s a week by week deal. We will see what doctors have to say at the beginning of the week and we will go from there. Obviously Michigan, Bristol and those things we are looking right now for who is going to be in the car and trying to work those things out. As far as that goes he was in great spirits. As good of spirits as he could be in, he’s a little bit down. He felt like he has let a lot of people down, the world, his fans, so I know all the support that he has gotten from the fans and the racers here I know has helped him a lot. We talked about that and it’s cool the outreach that this area has given him.”
MAX, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN DOING THIS WEEKEND IF YOU WEREN’T HERE RACING AND COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THIS BEING A VERY HIGH PROFILE RIDE FOR YOU?
MAX PAPIS: “I think it is more sensational for you guys. For me I love the opportunity. I love that you guys talk about it. I would have been in Elkhart Lake racing the Ferrari and actually that was going to be the plan to do both. At the end Remo Ferri Racing decided that it would have been better just for me to stay focused on this deal here and not flying around. Thanks to them as well for that. Even if I thought there would have been a pretty cool deal to run both. I kind of feel a little bit like an old style generation guy in a way. For me I admire people like Mario Andretti, people like A.J. Foyt, people like Tony Stewart that can drive anything any day. I text Tony a few times, obviously he is doing his own deal he is trying to recover, but I can tell you guys this watching and listening how much love there is for this guy in the sport it’s really overwhelming. Everyone really loves him for real. At the same time I feel that love has been spread around towards me driving as well. I felt really good about it. Like people were excited about me being in the car and everyone said just go out there and represent him the best way you can. That is kind of what I feel like. I’m going to go out there and do the best I can. I have a lot of confidence in my own abilities. You’re asking me if this is something that is going to change my career. I am 42 years old. I don’t think too many things change your career anymore. It’s more just the satisfaction in a way. I woke up this morning and I told my kids ‘guys Poppy is going to go out there and drive for Tony Stewart’. That is something we are going to talk about in the year to come.
OBVIOUSLY THERE IS A LOT OF SPECULATION ABOUT WHO MIGHT BE IN THE CAR AND THAT WILL BE LIKE WILD FIRE UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY ANNOUNCE IT. ARE YOU GETTING CLOSER TO BEING ABLE TO SAY WEATHER IT IS GOING TO BE A ROTATING CAST OF PEOPLE AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE CHALLENGES WITH RACES JUST A WEEK AWAY AND WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “We would love to put somebody in the car until Tony comes back. The problem we are faced with next week is if you look at the schedules and you lay out the Nationwide schedule at Mid-Ohio and us in Michigan they don’t match up very well. Somebody would do two half-assed jobs or we can try and find somebody that is out of the norm and put them in the car and try to go to Michigan and do the best we can. Then hopefully maybe Bristol we could pick up with one person that maybe able to do the rest of it and obviously it would be a Nationwide driver. There are a couple of really good people that we have talked to. There are an awful lot of people that have reached out and obviously a lot of people would love to get in that car. Right now we are taking it slow; we spent a lot of time on this week. Obviously we had a lot of stuff with our sponsors and we are trying to keep them as involved as we can. They are very important partners to Stewart-Haas and our future. We are trying to weed out, give them some options and get their input. Just try and do everything in the right way.”
ASIDE FROM RACING THE CAR HOW SOON DO YOU SEE TONY STEPPING IN TO HELP MAKE DECISIONS AND RUN THE SHIP FROM WHERE HE IS AT BEING THE LEADER OF THE GROUP?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “He has been involved. He was in and out Tuesday/Wednesday, but we shot him a text and I talked to him about Max and a couple of our options. He was all about Max getting in and doing it, didn’t question it. He actually sounded pretty excited about it. In all honesty to answer your question we are waiting for him to kind of, I’m thinking tonight/tomorrow I will be able to spend a little more time talking to him and get his input as well. We have got a little bit of time before we need to make that decision. I feel like before we leave here Sunday/Monday morning we need to know what we are doing when we get home. I will probably take all of that time to make sure we make the right decision and move forward from there.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK TONY’S MENTALITY IS GOING TO BE OR HOW DO YOU THINK IT IS GOING TO BE FOR HIM SUNDAY WHEN HE IS THERE WATCHING THE RACE ON TV? HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT GOING T
O BE FOR HIM?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “I think that is a really difficult moment for anybody that has been in the sport and has raced. I think his personality and as much of a racer that he is I think it will be harder on him than anybody else. When you look at the consecutive starts that he has had over here and how many races he has run and now he can’t get in his car. I imagine that would be really tough on him. We will all be there and support him. It’s still his car he’s just out for you know a temporary spell so we will do the best we can with trying to keep him cheered up as a group. It is what it is. He loves racing and knows and we all know that this day could be here. It’s here now we are just going to do the best we can to navigate through the obstructions that we have one day at a time. Before you know it we will be talking about him getting back in it and be business as usual.”
MAX PAPIS: “I can tell you from the drivers stand point. You are definitely not happy. I have been in this situation and you can picture it as you want. You don’t want nobody to put his butt in your car, nobody. Knowing Tony for over 20 years I just can tell you guys that I really feel that something like this that happen to him he is going to be back with a lot more aggression that he has ever had. Because I think that being out of the car sometimes opens up your eyes on a lot of little things. Sometimes God makes things happen for a reason. You never know.”
WHAT WAS THE RANGE OF EMOTIONS FOR YOU FROM I’M GUESSING YOU GOT A CALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. THEN YOU IMMEDIATELY HAVE TO GO INTO WHAT NOW MODE WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY DEALING WITH ONE OF YOUR BEST FRIENDS INJURY:
GREG ZIPADELLI: “Yeah, we were in Atlanta I was sleeping. Obviously we went down for a tire test he was supposed to meet us there in the morning. The phone started going off about 12:42 (pm) or so and hasn’t stopped since. I don’t know my emotions obviously my biggest concern was he okay, was he going to be okay. Then the reason I’m there is to try and deal with whatever circumstances get thrown at us. Other than obviously feeling bad for him and wanting to know where he was at I haven’t had a whole lot of emotions through this whole thing to be honest with you. I have just kind of just tried to stay as focused and as level as I can and do the best job that I can for him and Stewart-Haas Racing.”
IS THERE ANY THOUGHT WHEN YOU ARE FOCUSING ON WHO TO TAKE OVER FOR THE NEXT RACES ON KEEPING THE NO. 14 IN THE OWNERS CHASE?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “Yeah, if we have anything to fight for right now is owner’s points and representing our sponsors the best we can and getting that car to perform at the highest level that it can for our sponsors is first and foremost. We owe that to them. Obviously finishing these races and collecting owner’s points is obviously a very big deal.”
THE LAST TIME TONY HAD A SERIOUS INJURY WAS 2006 AND YOU WERE HIS CREW CHIEF. YOU WERE CREW CHIEF AND HE WAS THE DRIVER FOR AN ORGANIZATION. YOU ARE NOW COMPETITION DIRECTOR FOR A MULTI-CAR TEAM HE IS THE TEAM CO-OWNER AND DRIVER. HOW IS THIS EXPERIENCE BEEN DIFFERENT AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT ADDRESSING ONE TEAM COMPARED TO HAVING TO DEAL WITH ISSUES REGARDING A WHOLE ORGANIZATION?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “Yeah I mean there is a little bit obviously when you are a crew chief you are… I always said this that I was paid to be selfish for the No. 20 car for all those years and just do whatever I felt was best for that group. Now it’s different, it’s three teams, from the sponsors from the people at the shop to everybody involved. There is different roles and responsibilities at the end of the day it’s still to do your best job and do what you can to make the situation just to get through the situation as best as we can. Can’t lose focus on the other two teams there is still responsibility there. There is still make sure the No. 39 has everything that they need to try and make this Chase and for Danica (Patrick) to continue to make progress. It’s a little bit different. Obviously a lot of focus has been spent here the last couple of days and over time I think it will weed back out to be over the whole organization.”
YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT YOU KNOW TONY WILL BE OUT AT LEAST A FEW WEEKS BUT NO REAL TIMETABLE. IS THERE ANY HOPE HE COULD BE BACK AT ATLANTA OR RICHMOND? IF HE DID THERE THEORETICALLY WOULD BE A CHANCE HE COULD STILL MAKE THE CHASE:
GREG ZIPADELLI: “I mean I think it’s real early to hope for that. Obviously that would be best case scenario. I don’t know honestly without getting into a whole lot of details. It’s going to be a few weeks before we can even look at that and talk about it. Right now it will be a week to week prognosis on him. It will be week to week for us as a team to try and put the best candidate we can in it at that race track and we will go from there.”
YOU SAID YOU ARE NOT OPPOSED TO HAVING A VARIETY OF DRIVERS IN THERE. COULD YOU KIND OF CUSTOM TAILOR A DRIVER TO A TRACK? OBVIOUSLY YOU WANT CONSISTENCY, MAX HAD CONSISTENCY SINCE HE TESTED WITH YOU GUYS LAST WEEK? WOULD YOU BE OPPOSED A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE SAID KYLE LARSON, BUT IS HE TOO YOUNG TO TAKE OVER A ROLE OF THAT MAGNITUDE THIS EARLY IN HIS CAREER?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “Kyle Larson is obviously an awesome race car driver. I think we are only seeing the beginnings of what he has to offer to the sport. I think he is at a really crucial spot in his career of learning everything he can and not getting ‘fed to the wolves’ too soon would you say. I think I would prefer to put from this point on put one person in that we felt was capable of doing a good solid job and trying to build some chemistry with the crew and the crew chief. There are a lot of those little details that make up for a good day on Sunday. Pit stops and how the driver gets in and out of the box, on and off pit road, all those things you take into account so the longer you get to work with someone the better you get to know them. I feel like the better chance we have of having some consistent results. I don’t know that we will honestly be able to do that just with drivers. The drivers that we would like to put they are all racing for a championship and we need to be respectful of their position. Make sure we don’t hinder them in the position that they are in.”
DO YOU PUT THE FOCUS ON THE NO. 39 SO YOU AT LEAST HAVE ONE STEWART-HAAS RACING CAR IN THE CHASE?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “Absolutely, I mean we will put as much focus on them as we can. We will do the best we can with the No. 14 to maintain its owner’s point’s. That is basically what we can do and we will do the best we can at it.”