WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO THE RACE AT WATKINS GLEN AS YOU PREPARE FOR THE CHASE?
“I don’t know, I’ve run pretty good here a couple times, but my expectations coming to these road courses is always pretty low. That way I go away feeling pretty good about whatever result we get. It’s a fun track and probably of the two road courses, the one I enjoy the most and I do appreciate the history of the race track itself. Pretty aware of how this place came about and all the Formula 1 races and other events that have been held here way before we started coming here. It’s a great area and a pretty fun race track. It’s really one that we seem to kind of hit and miss on. Sometimes we actually come here and we’re relatively quick and sometimes we come here and nothing seems to be working. We’ll just have to see what kind of car we’ve got and work real hard and try not to ruin it. Last year we were looking like we were going to get a top-10 and I spun out over there on the back side of the track so we’ll just try to do a better job of not making as many mistakes.”
WOULD YOU BE OPEN TO REGAN SMITH DRIVING THE NO. 14 CUP CAR FOR TONY STEWART IF THE OPPORTUNITY WAS PRESENTED?
“I’d be the first to put Regan’s (Smith) name in the hat for that kind of opportunity. I understand that we are racing for a championship and I think that could actually help Regan understand. It would be a challenge, but I think it could help him in some ways and be an advantage to him maybe to have that extra track time and just be able to have some other ideas in his head about what can improve his car. I would be for that and it would also give him an opportunity to showcase himself and give himself possibly a chance to get some interest on the Cup side as far as ownership goes and get some guys maybe wanting to put him back in the car full time on this side of the deal. That would be good for him.”
WOULD YOU NOT WANT A ROAD COURSE IN THE CHASE?
“Yeah, no I’m not a big fan of them. They’re fun to watch. If you could put aside your feelings about wanting to finish well, win or points then they are kind of fun to be in. If you can get over the potential pitfalls and things that could happen to you, especially at the end, the restarts and everything when we have late restarts people just kind of go nuts and you have to run over people or be run over. There’s two things that can happen to you, you are either going to run somebody over or get run over. There’s no middle ground really. It’s whatever the popular opinion is, if fans want to see road courses and if they want 10 road courses in the Chase then that’s what needs to happen. I, myself, I’m just one guy, but I like ovals a lot better than road courses.”
DID THE INCIDENT IN SONOMA IMPACT HOW YOU VIEWED YOUR EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES IN RACE CARS?
“Well it had an effect on me, everybody’s different. It’s everybody’s opinion is going to be different as far as being a driver and certainly the injury and style of injury that you have could make a difference as well. I remember we went to — the burns that I had really didn’t talk about that much and tell a lot of people what kind of injuries we had or what the injuries were. I know that when we went to Bristol and I still had some open wounds in my legs that I probably should have had skin-graphed, but those really stung when we got all that champagne in them from winning the Nationwide race and the Cup race. It just sort of put things in perspective for me. If I enjoyed road racing as much as Tony (Stewart) enjoys dirt cars then you wouldn’t give it up and I wouldn’t have. I would have gone back and done it more. Those were just really, I wouldn’t compare what I was doing to what Tony was doing because his passion and love for that far exceeded what I felt about racing sports cars. I just really liked the relationship that I had with Corvette and Chevrolet, but I was really never a sports car fan per se. That was not very hard for me to shut that out of my life and do without it. Just going through the process of healing and knowing burns take so long to heal and knowing how much of a pain in the butt that was, it was easy for me to not want to do that anymore. I think if I could, you know how some drivers run late model races like Brad Keselowski went up and ran a race in Canada a couple weeks ago, that’s something that I dream about or daydream about doing is on an off-weekend taking my late model and running Motor Mile or something like that. The only reason I don’t is just because I’m not sure about what the balance would be between standing there signing autographs all day and being able to run a 50-lap feature. I miss the comradery and all the volunteer help going and just being with your buddies and racing. I’d love to do that and get back to that style of racing one day. I think that for me shutting out the sports cars was kind of easy because it wasn’t something that I had that much passion for and it was just a one-off deal. Every once in a while we would do it with Boris (Said) or anybody that we happen to team up with to go have fun. The two are really not the same with what happened to me and what happened to Tony.”
CAN YOU COMMENT ON WHAT ITS LIKE FOR REGAN SMITH TO COME TO WATKINS GLEN AND RACE IN FRONT OF HIS HOMETOWN?
“I don’t really know how he feels about coming here and running. He doesn’t have a ton of confidence about his road course ability, but he’s kind of like me. I think he’s having a great year and he’s enjoying himself and he’d like to get back to finishing well like they were at the beginning of the season and get himself back in the points. A couple of them races, Road America and a couple other places were pretty regrettable for him, but he’s trying to rebound and get back in the groove and hopefully finish this year out really strong. I’m sure he’s looking forward to trying to do well this weekend. We get along really great. We hang out quite a bit away from the race track, most of the time drivers don’t really spend a lot of time around each other off the circuit, but we get along great. He’s a lot of fun. Good guy and it’s fun to sort of have him part of the team and everybody on the team and in the office enjoys him and it’s easy to want to get behind people that have the kind of energy and attitude that he has. It’s been a real boost for our company and he’s worked really, really hard.”
WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL REACTION TO TONY STEWART GETTING HURT RACING SOMETHING ELSE?
“I was just real sick to my stomach about it. I woke up for some reason at five o’clock in the morning, which is rare and I just couldn’t sleep so I grabbed my iPad and that was the first thing that I saw and I just couldn’t believe it. I felt like I must have been dreaming. Tony (Stewart) is one of my competitors and you really aren’t supposed to have, you really aren’t supposed to have the kind of admiration I guess that I have for Tony as he is my competitor. You want to go out there and beat him on the race track and he’s fun to race with, he’s a hard racer and he takes it as good as he can get it. A lot of guys can’t take it very well. You all know what kind of guy he is so I won’t go on and on about it, but I hated it for him just knowing what being out of the car is like and knowing how much he loves what he does and loves how much he enjoys driving no matter what it is. I know he feels bad you know. He hates to put his company and team in this situation and he personally is a bit upset and saddened. Just knowing the kind of guy he is, I hate that he has to go through that and I know they’ll be a lot of pain and rehab and things like that he will have to face and that’s unfortunate and you hate to see people have to deal with that. He’s tough though, he’s really, really tough and everybody knows that he’s just going to beat the hell out of this and get back in the car before you know it. He’ll probably be back in the car before the doctors want to let him in. I don’t anticipate this really slowing him down at all.”
WILL THIS CHANGE TONY STEWART AND WHAT HE THINKS ABOUT?
“I don’t think it will. I think it makes you appreciate what you do anytime something like this where you are put on standby or taken away from you, I think you appreciate it more, if that’s possible. I think when you come back you are even more tenacious and fired up than you were before. You just take it for granted that you just get to do it every weekend and once that’s gone just for a little bit even, you really sort of reset your priorities and I think you come back stronger and more determined.”
WHAT DOES IT DO NOT TO HAVE TONY STEWART IN THE CHASE RACING AGAINST YOU? “He’s a lot of fun to race with so you’ll miss that competition as much as everybody wants their job to be easier, you’ll miss the competition that Tony (Stewart) brings to the table every week and I think the fans will miss that as well. There’s a lot of guys in the series that are just real fun to race against. Especially when the cars are so equal and you can get out there and really get after it, he’s a lot of fun. He’ll be back before any of us are ready and he’ll be tougher and more determined. I expect a lot of good racing lays ahead for him.”
DOES BEING OUT OF A RACE CAR DO ANYTHING TO YOUR CONFIDENCE?
“No, not really. Not really. I think as far as, drivers have pretty big egos so I don’t think that none of us, I don’t think our confidence is something that’s easily swayed. I feel like you do everything you can while you’re not in the car to make you feel as close to the action as possible so you get the entire experience except for the driving obviously. When you go back into the car it’s almost like you haven’t been gone or the process is seamless as far as the transition to getting back into the car. You’ll go test and run somewhere I’m sure, most drivers when they have an injury that gets them out of the car, they get a couple laps somewhere to see speed and know that I’m not going to miss a beat. This all makes sense and feels normal so by the time you go race you are ready to go.”
WHERE DO YOU FALL BETWEEN TONY STEWART FEELING BAD AS A TEAM OWNER VERSUS BEING GOOD FOR NASCAR TO HAVE HIM RUN OTHER SERIES?
“I think Tony (Stewart) just ought to do what he wants to do. I think if he wants to race everywhere every night of the week that’ what he wants to do, that’s what makes him happy. He understands the risks and the situations that can happen and it was worth it to put in that kind of effort and go do it. I really don’t feel, I know he’s upset that he feels like he’s let his team down and that’s nothing you can really do to make him change his mind about that because he understands that his priority and top priority is his Cup program, especially being an owner. He wears a lot of hats and he wears them really well and he’s such an asset to the sport as a driver and to come in as an owner and do the things that he’s done and have the success that he’s had. He’s become even more important to the sport. When we talk about personalities and how that drives the sport, he’s definitely the top of the list as one of the more important ones and the more influential ones that sort of drive the needle. I think that he’s got to do what makes him happy and that’s why you like him. That’s where the appeal is with Tony I think is he’s a blue collar racers racer. He can get down on the ground level and he might be the owner of the Cup team and owner of a race track, championship driver, but he can get down in the dirt and get his hands dirty and get behind the wheel of a sprint car and win anywhere in the country on any night. I think that’s part of the appeal with him is that he’s that kind of guy that can do that. We all compare him to AJ Foyt and guys like that who used to race all the time and just compile an amazing resume and I think that’s definitely a positive for him. He enjoys it. It’s whatever makes him happy, I think he ought to be able to get out there. He’s leveraged his life to where he can make those kinds of decisions and be able to enjoy that part of it. I think more power to him.”