NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Kobalt Tools 500
Topics: Kobalt Tools 500
November 13, 2011
THE MODERATOR: We are welcomed in the media center by Tony Stewart who finished third in today's race.
Tony, talk a little bit about this race here today, going into Homestead next week, three points behind in the championship. It's between you and Carl. All other drivers were officially eliminated today. This is the third closest championship race going into the final race ever in the history of NASCAR.
TONY STEWART: I'm not thinking of that. I'm just thinking of the three points.
No, we had an awesome day. We came up two spots shy. I don't know how you could have asked for a better day really. I mean, you figure we led the most laps, we were on the same pace we were last week just to have a perfect day. Just fought as hard as we could all day. Got out of balance the second to last stop and just lost that little bit that we needed to stay up there and keep Carl honest.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. The last couple weeks it literally has been you and Carl lap after lap. What is that like for you? Where does this rank as far as championship battles that you've been in?
TONY STEWART: Well, it's fun. He's keeping me honest, I'm keeping him honest. It's fun when we're first and second in the points and we're running first and second on the racetrack the last two weeks. It shows why we're both in this position.
We just got to keep doing what we're doing. We got to keep the pressure on. Two weeks in a row we've led the most laps. Really proud of that. Proud of the pressure we're putting on him. A lot can happen in 400 miles next week.
As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead heat going in there. We just got to do our job like we've been doing. To have three top-three finishes in the last three weeks, pretty proud of that.
I'm still pumped up. I want to go to Homestead tomorrow and start. I want tomorrow to be Friday. I'm pumped up, I'm excited about it and ready to go.
Q. Where does this rank?
TONY STEWART: I don't know. Shoot, after 31 years of racing, I've been through so many championship battles. We've had somewhere we never won a race, we were the third guy in the Silver Crown deal in '95, just mathematically in it, won it by two points the last race because the two guys in front of us, one blew up, one crashed out with 15 to go.
Under the circumstances I don't know. It's hard to rank anything. I'm more worried about where we rank after Sunday next week.
Q. Tony, how do you handicap this? Do either of you have an advantage?
TONY STEWART: I don't think so. I think we both have momentum. We both had two really good weeks in a row. I still think our mile-and-a-half program has come a long way this summer. You look at how we ran at Chicago, Kentucky, Charlotte, Texas last week. We've been good on the mile-and-a-half's. I'm excited about it.
I like Homestead. It's a place that we had a lot of success when it was flat. We haven't got that win with it banked. I like the way that track races right now. I'm pretty excited about it.
I don't know where to handicap it. Doesn't matter to me. It's just about getting four more points than he does. That's all that matters.
Q. Do you see any Jedi mind tricks in the next couple days?
TONY STEWART: I don't even see any Jedis.
Q. Any verbal throw-downs?
TONY STEWART: Does it matter? It's still going to matter what happens on the racetrack. I don't think it really matters right now.
Q. What will you do this week? Are you going to think about racing? Try to get away from it?
TONY STEWART: I've got a busy week. Office Depot's headquarters are in Florida. We've got a store appearance on Tuesday. We're going down to Office Depot's campus in Boca Raton on Wednesday. We're going to have a pretty busy week. That's kind of what I like. I'm better off being busy this week and going down to Florida early and getting ready.
THE MODERATOR: We now welcome Carl Edwards who finished second in today's race.
Carl, give us an opening statement going into Homestead. You're the only two left in contention. I told Tony you're the third closest championship battle going into Homestead in NASCAR history.
CARL EDWARDS: That's cool. Couldn't ask for any more. It's neat to go to Homestead and race it out. I'm sure these guys are going to be good down there. They're fast on the mile-and-a-half's. I love that place.
Just proud of my guys today. They did a great job on pit road. Tony was really fast. We got our car tuned in, were able to go up there and race with him and compete. That was just a good, hard-fought day. Just really pumped about Homestead. I think it's going to be a good time.
Q. After all of the prerace talk about how the track would race, what are your thoughts on how the race actually did unfold and how the track did? Tony, could you comment on your ability to pass on the outside line on restarts.
TONY STEWART: I mean, I think a bunch of the credit has to go to Randy LaJoie, Steve, Tim, the guys that came early this week, Kimmel. I think if it were not for those guys, we wouldn't have had a two-groove racetrack today.
We have to thank those guys for getting that cleaned off, getting that base of rubber in there to where we could actually get up there and run the last couple days.
I still wouldn't have changed the shape the way they did. I guess the computers are smarter than the drivers these days. But I thought it was a good race. I didn't get to see all of it. From where we're at, we get to see the part we're involved in.
You did have the flexibility to move up and down. Really that's all you can ask for. I didn't think there was any dramas with it today.
Q. Were you surprised you were able to pass on the outside on the restarts?
TONY STEWART: Yes and no. I mean, our car was a little loose on restarts, but it just seemed like we were actually better on the outside than we were on the inside. Once the groove moved up, once they got rubber up there, I don't think it was a reason to be surprised.
The racetrack was wide enough you could run two-wide then.
Q. Carl, could you comment on the track.
CARL EDWARDS: I think what Tony said is absolutely correct. Noffsinger, all those guys that came out here and spent that time, I think that helped a ton. I think Bryan Sperber recognizing the issue we were potentially going to have and addressing it like that was huge. It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It moved out, the groove did. It got wider and wider. I started to remember the old Phoenix. I believe after it sits for a while, we come back here for the Subway 500 in the spring, even a year from now, I think it's going to be awesome.
I'm a convert. I was ready to put a tombstone up and say good-bye to the place, but I think it's going to be good.
Q. Carl, around lap 190 to 210, Tony was leading and you followed him. I had the impression watching it you could go quicker. Was it part of the strategy to follow him and study his driving style? And what's the preparation for the last race?
CARL EDWARDS: That's exactly what I was doing. I was just hanging out back there, keeping his blood pressure up (laughter).
No, I was having fun. I think our car was a tick faster right then. I was watching what Tony was doing, searching around, doing what I could. That was really fun. That was neat to be able to race like that. I think if it would have gone green from there, I know the chances of that are virtually nil, that would have been a fun race. I think we would have battled it out. You can't ask for anything more.
The way this has turned out for us to be running 1-2 racing hard like this the last two races is pretty cool.
Q. Carl, given your success at Homestead, is there anyplace you'd rather have the season finale?
CARL EDWARDS: There's some dirt tracks I grew up on that would be fine with me.
TONY STEWART: I think we should do it then. I'm all for changing.
CARL EDWARDS: If we tie, we should go to the dirt tracks in Florida.
TONY STEWART: I have one in Ohio we can use.
CARL EDWARDS: I'm not doing that.
TONY STEWART: Just saying. I got one in Kentucky and Illinois we can use. But that's all I got.
CARL EDWARDS: That's why you got a busy week this week.
Yeah, Homestead is going to be a lot of fun. I really enjoy racing there. The cool thing about Homestead, we're going to go there, you're going to be able to move around, pass, not get hung up as badly in traffic as you can at other racetracks. For the sport in general, I don't think there's a better place to go than Homestead to fight for this championship.
Q. Been a long time since the first and second in points have battled not only for the win but also in points. Can you talk about how that feels going into Homestead. Will there be any distractions?
TONY STEWART: I don't know what distractions you would be talking about. It is kind of fun to be in this scenario where you got guys that are three points apart. Last week we were running first and second in the race. Today we ran first and second. It does make it fun. We're both having to earn what we get.
No matter how it ends up next weekend, it's not going to have been given to you. We're going to have to definitely earn it and fight for it, for sure.
Q. We watch you come in and sit down next to each other after battling on the track. What is it like to sit down and have to talk about your race and the Chase next to the guy you're battling?
TONY STEWART: We've been doing this how long together? I mean, it's no different. Our demeanor isn't any different than we always are. It's you guys and ESPN that loves to try to build that crap in between everybody. The total drama network, for sure. At least they're consistent about it. Everybody at ESPN is consistent about it.
I don't see it being any different than normal. If you want, we can eliminate the chair, if that will make you feel better.
CARL EDWARDS: We're good.
TONY STEWART: I think that answers your question, though, doesn't it? Can you make sure everybody at ESPN understands that? Thank you.
CARL EDWARDS: Thanks, Tony (laughter).
Q. Carl, last year Jimmie Johnson wouldn't come into this room when Denny was sitting here talking. He sat outside, didn't want to hear it. You did come in the room. Tony has been in this championship battle before. This is your first real one that you're going in as the leader. How is your mindset right now? How are your nerves?
CARL EDWARDS: They're really good. I'm fortunate. There's a potential for me to get real nervous there at Homestead. You never know what's going to happen.
I guess for me the thing that I've always tried to do, I've been fortunate enough to be able to do, is to go get in that racecar and go race. There's no time for me that's more calm and I feel better than in that racecar.
I understand what all this stuff is. I understand that we come up here and we answer questions and that's part of our sport. But when it comes down to the racing, both of us know we've got to go race each other.
It is truly neat for me, like you said, this is my first time to come into this not just tied but to have a little bit of a points advantage going into the final race. It's fun. I'm just enjoying it.
It really truly doesn't matter what anyone says or what anyone's predictions are. It gets done on the racetrack. That's when we'll see.
Q. What will you do this week?
CARL EDWARDS: I don't know what I'm going to do this week. I don't have a very busy schedule.
Q. Is that good or bad?
CARL EDWARDS: That's good. I can always find something to do. I'll just go hang out and do what I normally do. Spend a little time hopefully with the guys, talk a little bit with Bob, keep doing what we've done all year, go down there and enjoy it.
Q. It's not coincidental that you are battling like this side-by-side. How fun is it that you're battling for a championship?
TONY STEWART: We saw what happened at Texas in Hornaday's championship run. We saw what happened with Elliott Sadler's championship run. I want to beat a guy because you did a better job, not because a circumstance happens that takes somebody out of it. To race Carl for the lead in the races, for the points championship, that's going to mean something at the end of the year. That's going to add to whoever wins this.
We both had to fight and fight and fight to get every point we can get up to this point. I think it makes it more gratifying, the results, at the end of the day. I feel like I'm working towards something and I feel like if we accomplish this, we have worked for it, not had it handed to us, not had it given to us. That's all you can ask for as a driver, is to be in that position.
I think it's pretty honorable to be in that situation right now. It's an awesome championship battle. So I don't know how you could ask for more than what we got.
Q. Carl, your thoughts on that?
CARL EDWARDS: This is strange to say right now. We're battling. A zero sum game, one of us going to win, one of us is going to lose. It's neat to me that Tony and the guys on the 14 are running so well, won so many races, performing on a high level. It's going to mean more if we're able to beat them in this championship because of that, to beat Tony and those guys at their peak.
I know for us I can say completely truthfully this is the best Chase we've ever had. We haven't gone out and got the trophies that we have in other Chases, but we've performed better than we ever have. If they're beating us, they're beating us at our best, and I think that's pretty neat.
Q. You've been a part of most all the Chases. We're going to be saying this is one of the best ever. How would you rate it from being on the inside? Is this the best ever?
CARL EDWARDS: It's the best points battle I've been a part of at this level, so it's fun for me. I still don't understand why we're both running so good. It's pretty neat. Seems like subconsciously we're both able to dig down and our teams are able to give us what we need and everybody has been performing at a high level. It's been neat that this battle has brought out the best in us.
TONY STEWART: I agree.
Q. Tony, you've talked a lot about driver etiquette this season. In light of this points battle being close, certainly at the end of the season there are times where guys use Homestead as a way to get back. Because this points race is so close, should drivers have a little bit more respect for this championship battle and put that stuff on hold? How should that issue be addressed? Obviously something could happen.
TONY STEWART: It's a mile-and-a-half track. Wherever I'm at, wherever he's at on the racetrack, as long as it doesn't happen around us, I don't care what they do around each other. You can't control the other 41 guys in the race. It's just you hope one of those 41 guys doesn't do something that impacts the championship.
I don't care what they do; just don't do it around us.
Q. Carl, you have raced hard with each other, racing for a championship. How much harder does it get? Where does that line get between good, hard racing and crossing a line for a championship?
CARL EDWARDS: Heck, I'm going to trip him when we walk out of this room (laughter).
No, I think we're just going to go race as hard as we can. Both of us, we want to win this thing because we're the best out there next weekend. That's all we can do is just go out there and race hard, race like we've raced for years. There would be nothing better than coming down the last lap side-by-side racing for the win. That would be really fun.
Q. Jimmie's run came to an end today. Winning five straight, do you think anybody will ever do that again?
TONY STEWART: I haven't won two straight so I have no clue what five straight feels like.
I don't see anybody doing it again. I think it's been absolutely remarkable to begin with for Jimmie to put five in a row together. I know this year hasn't ended up the way he's wanted by any means. I think he goes to Vegas and holds his head up high knowing what they've accomplished. The fact that there's a real good possibility in the history of the sport for eternity that it could never happen again.
The competition gets tighter and tighter, tougher and tougher. I just think it's amazing. You understand why people didn't want him to win a sixth one. At the same time, I've said it from day one, how do you knock down a guy that's going out and doing what he's supposed to do? If we could trade places with him, we'd do it in a heartbeat, go out and win five in a row.
I think you've got to tip your hat to him. I think that's something in NASCAR history that I would put my money on that it will never happen again. I'm willing to put that bet with anybody in this room right now. I just think it's remarkable at this level to do what he's done, what that team's done. I know this year hasn't ended the way they wanted, but I still think they have to have a lot of pride in knowing they've done something in the history of the sport that most likely will never be duplicated.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I'd say if anyone is going to go out and do it again, it will be those guys. They've got as good a shot as anyone to do it again next year. I don't ever see them quitting and giving up. It's very impressive. I agree with what Tony said.
Q. You have scored exactly the same amount of points in the Chase. Kasey Kahne has scored the second most points. Have you noticed him turn it up and come on the last nine weeks?
TONY STEWART: I'll be honest, I haven't worried about it. Haven't really thought about it and paid attention. I don't know that anybody doesn't see that coming. Kasey had bad luck like we did the first half of the year, just stupid stuff happening. He's put together some really good runs here recently, run consistent.
Obviously if he was staying with that organization next year, I think we'd all be more worried. It's kind of a question mark now that he's switching to a different organization. Going to have to try to find their way over there.
But couldn't happen to a better guy. I think Kasey is a guy that has fought through a lot of adversity this year to be able to rifle off these finishes.
CARL EDWARDS: Kind of snuck up on me as well. I didn't realize that statistic. I feel we got to work with those guys really closely when he was driving a Ford. He's a really, really impressive driver. Those guys are going to be tough for a long time if they can find a groove, if he can stick with one team, have people rally around him, I think he's going to be really tough for a long time.
Q. Carl, as precious as points are, was it at all deflating that you realized that Kasey had the race and you didn't?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah. But, you know, I felt with the strategy that we went with, we had to do it that way. I think to pit early with him would leave the opportunity to be stuck a lap down, be mired back in the field. I believe Bob did the right thing. If we had a caution there at the end, I felt like our car was a little faster than his, we had a good shot at the win still.
Yeah, I would have loved to have won this race for sure. That's what we all do this for. But we still did our jobs. I think we did a really good job today. I'm not certain if we had the fastest car but we performed well with it and got a good result.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Good luck next weekend.
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