Tony Stewart met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing at New Hampshire, aggressive driving, the Brickyard and other topics.
What are your feelings about New Hampshire Speedway?
“I always like coming up here. This is a place that before I ever won anything, we missed in an Indy car. With like 18 laps to go, we had a two-lap lead in my IRL race here. It's all been uphill from there. We've had some good races here and bad races here but it is a place I've always enjoyed.”
Can you talk about how hard the transition from Indy cars to stock cars is for Danica Patrick, since you know it so well?
“It is opposite ends of the spectrum. You go from a car that has a ton of grip and a real flat platform, as far as how the car just kind of sits on the track and you really don't feel a lot of movement in it, to a heavier car that moves around more and obviously has a lot less downforce. It is a big transition here. It is quite a bit different, so this will be a challenging weekend.”
Jeff Burton said the racing was horrendous last weekend at Sonoma, in terms of driver etiquette. What is your take and do you think there is any particular reason for the over-aggressiveness we've seen lately in NASCAR?
“I agree. I have no idea, trust me, because I sat there wondering the exact same thing the whole race. It was berserk. It was like open season.”
Does someone need to stand up in a driver's meeting and take the lead as a driver and say, “This is unacceptable”?
“It is a little late now. We are a week past it already. I don't know. We'll see. I don't know what the reason was. I don't know if there was something in the air last week or what. It was absolutely out of control. The good thing is we are out of that environment and we're back to an environment where you won't see that this weekend.”
Are we seeing a steady erosion of respect on the track?
“I don't think that it is the lack of respect as much as it just such a lack of patience. There's a phrase we use all the time: “give and take.” There is a lot more taking anymore than there is giving among the drivers. It is not due to respect – everybody respects each other out there. There is a lack of…the equation is out of balance right now between give and take. It is getting worse and it is probably going to get worse still before it gets better.”
The comment has been made that part of the reason we are seeing some of the rough driving is that the younger drivers, the 25-year-olds, this is the way they know how to race and the older guys came up at a different time and have a different way of looking at racing. How do you feel about that?
“That and younger guys coming in aren't accustomed to running 500-mile races or 500-lap races, and realizing that you have to be patient and you have to have respect for each other. It's something that was always self-policing. In this era, we have lost some great racecar drivers and nobody really wants to have to self-police on the racetrack like we used to. If you did something wrong to somebody, they waited – it may have been five, six, 10 weeks down the road, but somewhere along the line, you got paid back and you got wrecked and while you were sitting there wrecked and going, ‘Why did I get put here?' it makes you think, ‘Well, maybe it's about something I did earlier.' You just don't see as much of that as you used to. That was the way it used to fix itself and in my opinion, that is what it needs to get back to again.”
In the Chase mindset, at what point does the ratio shift from winning and having to save points and not be over aggressive?
“I think if you are in the top three or four guys right now, all you are worrying about is getting wins. You have that cushion with enough points to not have to worry about not making the Chase, so it is a matter of just getting the wins. If you are ninth through 12th right now, you are worrying about just making sure you have enough points to be in it and going from there. It just depends on where you are at in the standings right now.”
Is there over-aggression in the top-15 guys because of trying to get in the Chase and with the younger guys, is there a false sense of security because the racecar is so safe?
“I honestly don't know if that is the case, because they didn't have softer walls in the tracks they came up from, so you could still hit hard. I just think that it's the style of racing that most of the younger guys are accustomed to. That is a style of racing I was accustomed to when I came here, but you learn from the veterans that's not how we race here. Some of the veterans – and even some of the younger guys who have already figured it out – take the bull by the horns and remind these guys that this is not how we race.”