Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Code 3 Associates Chevrolet, met with media following the press conference to announce Code 3 Associates’ role with Stewart-Haas Racing, The non-profit organization specializes in animal rescue and recovery in disaster areas and has partnered with the Ryan Newman Foundation and the Tony Stewart Foundation, both of which specialize in animal welfare. Among the topics discussed with media were the new track surface at Kansas Speedway, their expectations for the race on Sunday, Danica Patrick running full time in the NASCAR Sprint Series in 2013, their outlook for the balance of the season, and more.
RACING HAS ALWAYS BEEN IMPORTANT IN YOUR LIFE. WHEN DID OTHER THINGS LIKE CODE 3 ASSOCIATES BECOME AS IMPORTANT AS JUST MAKING A LAP AROUND THE TRACK?
STEWART: “I think for me it was about three or four years after I was established in the Cup Series and you sit around one day and just in casual conversation you talk to somebody about what it was like six or eight years before that; and you realize that there isn’t anybody, unless they have a wealthy family, that bought their way up here. There are a lot of people, at least in my case, that helped out. Whether it was somebody who gave me an extra $20 at the end of the night so I had gas money to go to the race track; or had a kid that was off to college that had a room that and knew I was traveling to a track and couldn’t afford a hotel room, that gave me a place to sleep. It was scenarios like that that made it to where we finally were at the level where we could finally pay it back. It’s a very gratifying feeling in knowing that having some of these partnerships with some of these associations is sometimes more gratifying than a win because you realize that it’s more than just what’s happening in the moment. It’s got lifetime affects that help out. That’s when it was big to me.”
NEWMAN: “Same here. It’s the two or three years after you built the confidence in yourself to know that you have the potential to make a difference in other people’s lives for the greater good. With our foundation, the Ryan Newman Foundation, we chose animals and animal rescue and helping to reduce the overpopulation through spaying and neutering and pet adoption and things like that. You get to a point where it’s just like Code 3. You want to do it your way. And that’s why we’re starting our own rescue ranch, which will be a rescue shelter at some point. It’s starting out with an education building for an education side. We feel it’s important to connect with the kids through school systems and school programs and things like that. We want to make a difference in our local community as well as up and down the entire eastern seaboard. That’s why we’re starting Rescue Ranch as a separate part of our foundation and the desire is just the same as like Tony said, it’s heartwarming to know that you can make a difference. And together we’re stronger as a team and why we appreciate Code 3’s support.”
TALK ABOUT THE IMPACT THAT THE REPAVE AND THE RECONFIGURATION OF THE TRACK IS GOING TO HAVE ON THE RACE THIS WEEKEND AT KANSAS:
NEWMAN: “It’s faster. That’s the no-brainer. There’s a lot of grip with the tire combination, which is as equally an important part of the repave as it is the actual asphalt that they use. But in the two half-days we’ve had in testing, it’s very influential, as it was in Michigan, when the sun comes out, what it does to the race track and allows us to lay some more rubber down and move around. And from what I’ve seen and with the weather this weekend, it’s going to keep getting warmer and warmer and the sun is going to start beating down on the race track. I’ve seen the race track changing quite a bit; not just from what we’ve tested the last two days, but much more so in the next three days. You have Hoosier rubber as well as Goodyear rubber and multiple laps put on the race track, which are not going to really age it, but they are going to change it. So, the racing, I really can’t say until we get to that point where the track gets a little bit wider and we’re the last people to get to race it and it’s always better the later laps when the track has widened out.”
STEWART: “Yeah, what still amazes me is how technology is and how they pave race tracks. To put banking in and have it so smooth; the transitions are smooth. It’s smoother than most highways that you go down. From that side it’s nice to see how nice it really is right now. It’s like Ryan said. It will be easier to get more rubber on the race track as it gets more heat. The cool temperatures like today, it’s a lot harder to get rubber transferred into the race track. But the more rubber that gets transferred down, the better it will be. So, like Ryan said, the temperature is supposed to keep getting warmer each day, so with that, it should keep making it better and better.”
THE PRELUDE TO THE DREAM IS GOING ON HIATUS IN 2013 IF YOU COULD TALK ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THAT AND ALSO TALKS ABOUT MAYBE A TRUCK SERIES RACE THERE? AT 50 POINTS OUT NINTH IN THE STANDINGS AT THE HALFWAY POINT OF THE CHASE WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FINAL FIVE RACES HOLDS FOR YOU, WHAT YOU CAN DO AND WHERE YOU MIGHT END UP?
STEWART: “Last year we had a really good stretch about this time of the year, but we are in a little different scenario this year than we were last year we are a little bit further back. You never say never and this track obviously it’s new for everybody this weekend so that gives us the opportunity to try to take advantage of it on a track that is new. As far as where we think we will end up I have no idea. The hard thing with trying to predict something like that is there are just so many variables that are out of your control. We really missed on an opportunity at Talladega. I mean I had an opportunity to gain 20 some odd points and that would have put us in a very similar situation where we were last year. That was an opportunity that got away because of a mistake that I made. We have learned that until they mathematically tell you you’re out you still have just a good of shot as anybody. We will keep plugging away. We are only half way through this now so we are going to stay focused. We are racing like we are still racing to win the championship right now.
“The Prelude on hiatus it takes a ton of work to put the Prelude on. We are changing our format for how we run the Dream that weekend making it a three day weekend with that series. We are trying to focus on that a little bit more and some changes that we think are going to be better for our late model race. We just needed to take a year off while we focus on that and make sure that we don’t get overloaded for that. The rumor about the Trucks, trust me I would be ecstatic if we could get any NASCAR race at Eldora that would be great. I have talked to NASCAR they have been looking at all kinds of different tracks. It has been brought up in conversation but that is about as far as it has come right now.”
WILL THE PRELUDE BE BACK?
STEWART: “We have intentions of bringing it back. Like I said we are just changing the format with the Dream this year so we want to make sure that we have enough resources to focus on that. It made it a little bit harder to try to put the Prelude on the same weekend so we needed to take a year off with that to focus on the dream.”
WHY DOES A RACE TEAM NEED SOMEBODY IN THE COMPETITION DIRECTOR POSITION? WHAT WOULD THEY BE AT A LOSS IF THEY DIDN’T HAVE THAT GUY THERE?
STEWART: “I think for where the casual fan doesn’t understand is that not every car owner can be at the shop every day and can be down on the floor every day and handling financials all the way down to the people that sweep the floor at the end of the day. The competition director is very crucial in that connection between what is going on down on the floor and what is going on in the upper office. He is managing the crew chiefs, managing the teams, managing the different departments at the race shop. He is that connection between downstairs and upstairs. Especially on a race weekend, if we have any kind of a problem that is the guy, and in our case with Greg Zipadelli, he is the acting role as the car owner from my side. He is very crucial in that role and having the right person in that role if very important to each organization.”
WHEN THINGS LIKE THE GODADDY DANICA (PATRICK) REPORTS THAT CAME OUT THIS WEEK DO YOU HAVE TO GET INVOLVED AT ALL WITH THAT OR DO YOU LET MIKE (ARNING) AND HIS PEOPLE HANDLE IT? DO YOU EVER WORRY THAT ALL THE CRAZINESS THAT SURROUNDS HER WILL IMPACT HER ON THE TRACK?
STEWART: “I never worry about how it is going to impact her on the track because when she started last year in the Nationwide Series everywhere she went it was crazy, but she is able to get in the car and focus on what she is doing. As far as what came out yesterday it hasn’t even been to our department yet and our side. We don’t really have anything to do with that at this point. I think whatever happens it will be interesting to see when it comes Super Bowl Sunday for sure. As far as what she is doing with the race team and the commitment there it is all the same. For us we read everything yesterday and laughed about it and going on.”
REGARDING YOUR OUTLAW TEAM: THE TIRE DEAL THAT IS UP RIGHT NOW, GOODYEAR IS OUT, SPECULATION IS WHAT TIRE THEY ARE GOING TO GO TO TALK ABOUT THAT, YOUR DRIVER ROSTER NEXT YEAR AND ARE YOU GOING ANY OF THE NATIONAL TOUR RACES (AMERICAN SPRINT CAR SERIES) TOWARD THE END OF THE YEAR?
STEWART: “I’m a little disappointed in World Racing Group to be honest. I don’t think that their decision was what they thought was good for all of Sprint Car racing. I think they made a decision what was good for them only. I think the tracks are finally speaking out and speaking back and saying hey you are not going to dictate how we run our races. I personally think Hoosier is the perfect option. It has been for years. I’m kind of surprised that World Racing Group when American Racer brought them into the lawsuit years ago and then all of a sudden they are trying to partner up with them. I find that kind of ironic. I think World Racing Group has kind of lost focus on caring about its racers. I think they are starting to show pretty clearly now that they are more worried about themselves.”
STEWART: “It makes it tough for everybody. It’s really going to make it hard to get cars to show up at Outlaw races when they are not running that tire. A lot of tracks around the country have already announced that they are going with Hoosier tires next year. Hopefully, at some point World Racing Group takes a step back and realizes that they have to have partners around the country with race tracks and teams to do what they do and not just trying to make a quick buck by signing a tire deal.”
OUTLAW ROSTER FOR NEXT YEAR?
STEWART: “Still got Donny (Schatz) and Steve (Kinser) on board for next year and real excited about that. I’m really proud of both of them. We had a one-two finish a couple of weeks ago with Steve (Kinser) winning. I’m really excited to have our same lineup back next year.”
DANICA PATRICK WAS IN EARLIER TALKING ABOUT HOW SHE FELT SHE DID HERE YESTERDAY IN THE TEST AND AT CHARLOTTE. SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE RACES THAT YOU PICKED WERE PRETTY TOUGH. YOU HAVE TALKED A LOT ABOUT THAT BEING THE INTENT AND THAT SHE WOULD THANK YOU NEXT YEAR. DO YOU INDEED THINK THAT SHE WILL THANK YOU NEXT YEAR?
STEWART: “Yes. I do. I really do think she will thank me next year.”
STEWART: “Just like we said we picked races that were going to be hard. They are not supposed to be easy. Her scenario is a little different than a lot of other drivers. She has been very eager to get to the Cup series and I still think more so than some people do that she has the ability to be successful at this level. The learning curve that she is going through has been a lot shorter than what it probably should have been. But with that, that is why Ryan (Newman) and I are here as a support system to her, why Greg (Zipadelli) was chosen as her crew chief for this year. I believe she can do it, but it wasn’t going to be easy. There wasn’t anything to learn by going to easy tracks this year on a partial schedule. The schedule she is going to have next year she is going to have to go to these hard tracks. Being able to just have the experience of going the year before even if it’s a rough experience you at least learn and get a base of that track anytime you do something for the first time it’s tough. The second time is always easier. I don’t care what it is. Next year she will see the benefits of that. It is hard because she is running against top notch guys, top notch teams. There is not enough time to allow her to get caught up at this point, but she is still learning. She will realize that next year and she is a confident person and part of my job as a car owner is to say ‘hey I know it’s frustrating at times, but trust me there is a benefit to what we are doing. I’ve been there before I know’. Though she may not see the benefit of it right now she will next year.”
HOW DO YOU BALANCE GIVING HER THE TOUGH LESSONS WITH KEEPING HER CONFIDENT ENOUGH THAT SHE FEELS GOOD ABOUT THINGS?
STEWART: “Because we have all done it, Ryan (Newman) came from totally different types of cars to this level. I came from totally different types of cars to this level. There is always that part at the beginning where you wonder if you can do it if it was easy at the beginning then you would have that confidence right away. Anytime you move to a top tier series it’s going to be hard to be competitive right off the bat. Having us having gone through those lessons and going through those experiences that is where we can help keep her confidence up and reminder her that hey there is a reason that we brought you into this program. We can handle that side and help her out with that.”