NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
IRWIN TOOLS NIGHT RACE
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 23, 2013
MARK MARTIN, INTERIM DRIVER FOR TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BASS PRO SHOPS/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET SS AND GREG ZIPADELLI, COMPETITION DIRECTOR FOR STEWART-HAAS RACING, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed expectations for the race weekend and the remainder of the season, what Stewart-Haas Racing might look like in 2014 and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT HOW THINGS UNFOLDED THE LAST FEW DAYS AND THEN NOW THAT YOU HAVE YOUR SIGHTS SET ON THE REST OF THIS SEASON YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT BEING BEHIND THE WHEEL OF THE NO. 14:
MARK MARTIN: “Well first of all I’m honored and humbled both to be asked to fill in for ‘Smoke’ (Tony Stewart). I really look forward to Tony getting back with us. I just wanted to say that first of all. It has been a whirlwind for sure. Getting the details sort of sorted out Sunday and Monday really not until Monday and then taking the trip, I’m over in Arkansas right now with Arlene (Martin, wife). Taking a trip to North Carolina Tuesday and spending the day fitting seats and shooting pictures and getting to know people. Faces and names and the organization and everything else Tuesday and Wednesday were kind of a whirlwind for sure. Today I’m a little bit nervous. Today is going to be action packed with a short amount of practice to get ready to race tomorrow night and to qualify all packed into one day. I’m excited about the challenge and I’m extremely committed to do a good job for this race team, for this group, for Tony and hopefully return his car back over to him in as good or better standing then when it was turned over to me.”
TALK ABOUT THE THOUGHT PROCESS THAT WENT INTO CERTAINLY BEEN A LOT OF THINGS HAPPENING OVER AT YOUR PLACE THE LAST FEW WEEKS. JUST TALK ABOUT THE THOUGHT PROCESS IN GETTING MARK (MARTIN) AND GETTING SOME STABILITY OVER THERE HERE MOVING FORWARD:
GREG ZIPADELLI: “For us it’s a homerun. Obviously he has big shoes to fill to take Tony’s seat and there are not many guys in the garage that could do that. We all agreed that if there was any way to get Mark Martin he was the guy that would do us the best job and be able to do that. That is kind of like over the last few weeks we said we were going to take our time and everything that we did we would try to be as calculated as we could and obviously we were hoping we could get this worked out. We felt like it was the best opportunity for the No. 14 car to perform on a weekly basis and you know do our sponsors the justice that they deserve.”
TONY HAS HAD SUCCESS IN ALL FORMS OF MOTORSPORTS, RACED ALL KINDS OF THINGS AS WELL AS IN NASCAR. ALSO DURING HIS CAREER HE’S HAD RUN IN’S WITH MEDIA, OTHER COMPETITORS AND EVEN NASCAR ITSELF. EVEN THROUGH ALL THAT PEOPLE STILL HOLD A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF RESPECT FOR HIM. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
MARK MARTIN: “I think because people see people who have been around and close enough to him to see Tony on the inside know that he is an incredible person, caring and amazing person. For the people who don’t get to know that side of Tony they might have a different impression, but he’s loved in the sport and respected throughout the sport universally I think for what a great person he is and the incredible driver and commitment that he has to racing.”
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT WHAT TONY MAY OR MAY NOT DO OR WHAT HE WILL BE LIKE AFTER HE COMES BACK WILL HE HAVE CHANGED. DO YOU EXPECT HAVING YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH TONY THAT HE WILL BE ANY DIFFERENT THE DAY HE GETS BACK IN THE NO. 14 CAR?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “No, I mean I hope obviously he is struggling with the fact that he is not in the car and he’s in this situation, but he’s a racer he loves to do what he does. I hope that and think that he will come back to Daytona with something to prove to the world and maybe he will turn over a whole new leaf he hasn’t got to see you guys for four or five months and he will be more welcoming to you. I don’t know, I can’t guarantee that.”
YOU HAD A CONVERSATION WITH TONY, WENT TO VISIT HIM WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? WHAT DID YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT?
MARK MARTIN: “I couldn’t get a word in edge wise. If that tells you what two weeks of bed rest does for you. We talked initially about he went into great detail about the accident and what caused the injury and the fix for that particular freak accident. What happened all the stars had to line up just perfectly for that to happen where it injured him. He went through in great detail of how they were going to address preventing that from ever happening again in sprint car racing. Talked a lot about sprint cars, a lot about safety in sprint cars and we talked some about injuries. Finally after about an hour of Tony never taking a breath I got a chance to talk a little bit about… I had some injury stories for him. We had the biggest laugh. I thought he was going to start crying once laughing so hard. A story that I told him about when I had my foot and ankles broke. It was that story about when Darrell Waltrip drove my car at La Crosse, Wisconsin. Actually what was funny was the trip from Arkansas to La Crosse Wisconsin. My dad was driving me up. It’s a long story… move on past that… it’s a very funny story. It sounds like a lie, but it really is not even embellished it’s just crazy. But we had a really good time. We did talk a little bit about the No. 14 car and about Cup racing. We had a really good time and he was in really good spirits.”
I KNOW MARK AND TONY ARE NOT THE SAME SIZE. YOU DID A PHOTO SHOOT THIS WEEK HAD TO GET A UNIFORM. WHAT ABOUT THE COMMERCIAL SIDE OF IT? ARE WE GOING TO SEE MARK REPRESENTING TONY STEWART IN ALL FACETS OF PUBLICITY NOW?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “Obviously the sponsors wanted some things done so I mean we are obviously doing everything we can do be good partners with them and make sure that they can use Mark in whatever they need to from here to the end of the year. Everybody did a great job this week. A lot of stuff got done in a short period of time, but we got it done and feel like everybody chipped in and gave when they needed to and we were able to get everything done and pulled off.”
BECAUSE THE ANNOUNCEMENT HAD ALREADY BEEN MADE WITH BRAIN VICKERS GOING IN FULL TIME DID YOU FEEL MORE AT EASE TAKING THIS POSITION BECAUSE OF THAT AND DID THE FACT THAT ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE RESULT IN YOU BEING MORE PRONE TO TAKE THIS?
MARK MARTIN: “It obviously opened the door for this to happen. It’s been quite a work in progress since Brian’s win up at New Hampshire. Getting Aaron’s re-signed, getting Brian signed, getting all those parts and pieces of the puzzle together and so it was just a matter of timing. Once they got that done, signed and announced you know then it kind of opened the door where it was a win/win for everybody. It’s a win for Brian, it’s a win for Michael Waltrip Racing, and it’s a win for myself to have the opportunity to be a small part of Stewart-Haas. I’m not sure I can describe to you what it means to me that Tony wanted me to do this. He is definitely one of my heroes. People who are paying attention knew that before this ever happened so it means a lot to me that he wanted me to. Like I said before I’m a little bit nervous about today because I feel like it is an extraordinary challenge because it’s not like…I’ve switched around a lot, but usually you have a couple of months and a test or two to get together. Man, I see a lot of faces I’m not sure I can put names to just yet. This i
s going to be an action packed two and a half hours or whatever today. It’s going to be action packed. Then we are going on and testing next week at Richmond and I think that will help us this weekend and next week’s test will help us start getting in the groove and as we go forward I think things will smooth out. It’s been pretty intense so far this week.”
THE PHYSICAL RECOVERY FOR TONY IS GOING TO BE VERY DIFFICULT. I’M WONDERING IF THE MENTAL PART OF THIS IS GOING TO BE JUST AS DIFFICULT FOR HIM SINCE HE IS USED TO BEING IN A CAR SIX DAYS A WEEK?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “I think that is part of what he will learn a little bit about how important it is to him. Sometimes we all take things for granted and I think at the end of the day hopefully he will look back. I think he is bound and determined to change the sprint cars and making them safer and getting that movement going in the direction it probably should have happened years ago, but they are so weight conscious and have been allowed to work in those areas. I think he is bound and determined to do that which I think will help everybody over there. Hopefully he will come back here with a little bit different attitude and understanding how important and we all rely on him. He’s got a lot of kids at Stewart-Haas you know what I mean as we say we are under his umbrella and I know he will do his best. I really think when he comes back I think he is going to be fired up and ready to show the world that all that time he has had cooped up there will hopefully pay larger dividends for next year and hopefully start the year off on a stronger note. Obviously we’ve got a lot of changes at Stewart-Haas and adding things. There is just a lot of excitement a lot of positive things to turn this around and to head into next year with.”
IT SEEMS LIKE THERE IS A LOT GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES AT STEWART-HAAS AND YOU GUYS ARE SEEMINGLY TAKING A PRETTY AGGRESSIVE STANCE AND POSITION ON BUILDING THINGS FOR THE FUTURE. WHAT IS GOING ON, AT STEWART-HAAS? IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GUYS ARE BUILDING AND BEING VERY AGGRESSIVE AND WANT TO BECOME A VERY LARGER PLAYER AMONGST THE HEAVY WEIGHTS?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “I think that is said very well is we are looking to expand. We are looking to do whatever we can to make Stewart-Haas a better place to race, give our drivers better resources. Our crew chiefs and things our goal is to give our teams better product to race every week going into Daytona. With four good drivers next year I think that it gives us that opportunity. Our owners are aggressive. It’s kind of exciting it’s fun in a time where everybody is kind of going the other way we’ve got owner that are committed to stepping up and hopefully making Stewart-Haas a bigger and better place in the future.”
TONY TOLD A RADIO PERSON THIS WEEK THAT HE HAD NO INTENTIONS OF NOT RUNNING SPRINT CARS. HAVE YOU TALKED ABOUT THAT AND ARE YOU OKAY WITH HIM GOING RIGHT BACK TO DOING WHAT HE WAS BEFORE?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “I think that it’s too early to get into that stuff. He needs to go through his process right now. We need to go through ours and we need to spend time talking honestly. I don’t think you can take Tony Stewart and tell him he can’t drive other cars. That is what makes him that is who he is. Can we get him to cut his schedule back, can we get him to look at things; can we help him with this movement of making those cars safer for everybody including himself? I think those will be the things that come in the next couple of months.”
CAN YOU BE A LITTLE MORE SPECIFIC WHERE DO THINGS STAND WITH KURT (BUSCH) AND IS RODNEY (CHILDERS) GOING TO BE THE CREW CHIEF FOR KEVIN HARVICK NEXT YEAR?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “We love Rodney (Childers) we think a lot of him he has been a friend of mine for a while. We have talked to many people. He is on our radar, but we have no commitments, nothing signed. I talked to people yesterday about the opportunity so we would love to make him part of Stewart-Haas, but we are not there yet. As far as Kurt’s deal that is moving forward. We spent some time this week talking about buildings and expanding. As far as that part of it goes we are pretty much committed.”
GREG ZIPADELLI: “We are working on that and if we can get it all worked out we are going to head that way.”
YOU SAID YOU TALKED TO TONY ABOUT MAKING THE SPRINT CARS SAFER CAN YOU GO INTO A LITTLE MORE DETAIL ON WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CAR AND WHAT YOU FEEL LIKE CAN BE DONE TO MAKE THEM SAFER?
MARK MARTIN: “I shouldn’t because I’m not technically familiar with sprint cars. The way evidently the rear ends can’t come back because they hit the fuel cell. When the car went upside down the rear end was able to get below the fuel cell and it was able to pull like the drive shaft, for me not knowing better, there may be a better word for that. The yoke out of the front side and that is what got him. Technically I shouldn’t even answer that question because I’m an idiot I haven’t ever been closer than 10 feet to a sprint car so I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
GREG ZIPADELLI: “He’s kind of explaining what it is the torque tube came out and hit him. There is protection, but obviously that hoop that is there is not enough to contain it. I think that is the area they are working in.”
MARK MARTIN: “So the torque tube is actually in my world a drive shaft. See I told you I was an idiot (laughs). It’s a drive shaft in a Cup car.”
HAVING WORKED WITH RODNEY CHILDERS CAN YOU JUST TALK ABOUT HIS ABILITIES AND WHAT THE OPPORTUNITY WORKING WITH A FULL-TIME DRIVER POTENTIALLY AT STEWART-HAAS COULD DO FOR HIM AND WHAT HE COULD DO FOR THE TEAM?
MARK MARTIN: “Rodney Childers is an amazing person. I will say that first and foremost, amazing. He’s very smart and very dedicated and an incredible crew chief. It’s funny how things work out. My mission in February was to help him secure a championship caliber sponsor and driver for 2014 so that he could race for a championship in the No. 55. My how things change over time. I feel like we still accomplished that, it’s just that he may have an opportunity to do it. I would assume that the whole garage would be after Rodney Childers. Last year he did a one year contract instead of a long term deal because he wanted to wait to see what transpired after our year together. He wanted to work with me and Brian (Vickers) and Michael (Waltrip) in 2013 and wait and see what 2014 brought. He’s in that position now to look at all options.”
WHAT ESSENTIALLY TRANSPIRED IN THE MONTHS SINCE THE ANNOUNCEMENT IN NEW HAMPSHIRE THAT RYAN (NEWMAN) WOULDN’T BE COMING BACK AND TONY’S STATEMENT AT THE TIME THAT HE DIDN’T THINK YOU WERE READY FOR FOUR CARS? HAS THERE BEEN A QUANTUM CHANGE IN PHILOSOPHY SINCE THEN THAT’S MAYBE ALLOWED YOU TO GO FORWARD WITH THAT FOURTH CAR AS MUCH AS YOU CAN GET INTO THAT WHAT HAS CHANGED?
GREG ZIPADELLI: “I mean obviously something has changed. Gene Haas is obviously a partner and started this many years ago. He just came the other day, he is always liked Kurt (Busch). We had talked about Kurt last year of putting him in the No. 39 things just didn’t work out. It’s really nothing that Ryan (Newman) did wrong I mean he’s done a great job, he’s a good guy, heck of a driver. This just kind of got sprung on us 14 days ago or less. It’s kind of all come down. Gene just showed some interest and having the ability to put something together. Without getting into a ton more details that is really all it is. It’s something we are working o
n. I don’t know that it will all come together. It’s going to take an awful lot. It is kind of late. We didn’t think that we would have all the pieces to get put together at Loudon and felt like it was the best thing for Ryan to give him a fair shot at securing something for himself. I mean which is the most important thing.”