TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND AT THIS ROAD COURSE:
“Sonoma didn’t go as well as I thought it would, but that is definitely a challenging track as I’ve found myself and heard a lot since then. We went and tested at Road Atlanta a week or two ago and felt really good. This place has a lot more grip than Sonoma so I’m hoping that translates and that we have a better weekend.”
IF YOU COULD JUST TALK ABOUT YOUR REACTION TO WHAT HAPPENED WITH TONY (STEWART), HOW DID YOU FIND OUT AND HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO HIM SINCE TO GET AN IDEA OF HOW HIS SPIRITS ARE RIGHT NOW?
“Well, I didn’t know until, well I guess I found out late that night that it happened, Ricky (Stenhouse) watches all those races. It’s the most exciting time of the year for them; it’s on every night for 10 days or so. He said that he crashed. Well his team is Jason Johnson I think he was running like third or second so they were both doing really well and he said he crashed and he was airlifted. Later on I had woken up because I can’t stay up that late and he said that he had broken his leg. We talked to Eddie (Jarvis) the next day and just kind of kept up with how he was doing. We went and saw him in the hospital. He’s in typical Tony spirits. He’s hassling the nurses and everything you could imagine Tony is. He has pretty good spirits, but it’s one of those things, it happens.”
IN TERMS OF TEAM HE IS OBVIOUSLY OWNER AND LEADER OF THE TEAM. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO MISS THIS WEEKEND IN TERMS OF TONY NOT BEING THERE?
“Well he is like one of the masters of this track. I called him the master. He’s won here a lot and so before we left I asked for all of his speed secrets. We will see if they work (laughs). You know he just he has a good spirit about him and everybody that works around him or doesn’t to be honest, loves Tony. He will just be missed from a presence and a morale stand point. I said I would do my best to keep everybody on the up and up and the season well.”
WE SAW YOU WERE UP AT ROCHESTER FOR THE PGA YESTERDAY. DID YOU HAVE FUN UP THERE AND WHAT CAN YOU KIND OF OBSERVE FROM OTHER PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES THAT YOU CAN APPLY TO YOUR DRIVING?
“That us race car drivers are pretty cool and casual before we have to get out there and do our job and that we are very fan and sponsor oriented. So many other sports they get to just kind of keep their head down. Whether they go from practice to the course or whatever watching them practice every sport is incredibly difficult and it takes a lot to get to the top of any of them. I have played golf a few times lately and I’m just happy if I make contact with the ball and get it above the ground by any measure at all as opposed to rolling it. They are very good at what they do and dang they are good at putting. They make those 10-15 foot putts look easy.”
DO YOU FEEL A RESPONSIBILITY OF ANY KIND TO LITTLE GIRLS WHO WATCH YOU RACE?
“I mean I think it starts off as you just race. I think I’m kind of getting a little bit older now and recognizing how honored I am to be in a position to be looked up to and to have them want to grow up to be like me or to just purely cheer for me. There are a lot of choices out there. There are a lot of different sports to look at. I do what I can to kind of nurture that or take care of it and spend time with kids. If I’m ever running about and don’t have a lot of time, but I have a little bit I always try and make sure I pick out the kids and take time for them. I guess I do. I do feel some sort of responsibility to be someone that they want to look up to and a good role model for them. Mostly just not break their heart. I feel like one of the hardest things when you are young is you have this idea of your idols or your role models and it’s so high. It’s hard to not disappoint because they have built you up so much. I do my best to just not let them down and that if I have a second I at least say hello or waive.
“There was a little girl at the golf course yesterday. She wasn’t little, she was maybe 10 (years old) and her Dad was telling her who I was as I was walking by. I could hear it all happening you know it’s right behind me. He had said ‘hello’ and so as I kind of turned off to walk another way I looked over just to waive at her. It would be easy enough for me to just keep walking and they didn’t say anything to me. They didn’t try and say hello again or take a picture or anything, but I thought you know what I can tell that she figured out who I was and she thought that was cool. So I just turned around to waive at her. She will have that story now as opposed to me walking away. Just little stuff like that.”
HOW DO YOU THINK IT WILL AFFECT TONY TO WATCH SOMEONE ELSE DRIVE HIS CAR?
“I mean I don’t know, but I think that he understands what happened and he is where he is. I mean essentially he watches people drive his cars a lot. He owns a team and he has his sprint car stuff and so he watches and he has his own drivers already. I don’t know if that kind of dampens it a little bit just because of his position of being an owner of a lot of cars, but I mean he really was getting on a roll this season. Especially being at a track that you’ve done really well at as a driver I’m sure it’s a little bit harder to take that one. He’s on the road to recovery and he is just going to have to keep his head down and get well. Like I said he was in good spirits so I’m sure it won’t be easy, but I think it probably helps that he owns cars already.”
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND ANALYZING AN ACCIDENT LIKE WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK TO LEARN FROM IT? HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO TRAVIS (KVAPIL) AT ALL?
“I definitely think about it. I don’t want to make more mistakes and I know that at least coming off of Loudon for sure into our break that I just said to myself I was just going to run my own races and I wasn’t going to let anything get to me. It just is what it is and I have better days when I don’t think about, when I don’t get bothered by anything. Honestly that was how I went into Pocono and I didn’t let anything bother me if someone was catching me, if they passed me, fine. If I couldn’t get by someone that was just what was happening. I really felt very calm in that race. I did. I did call him and did talk to him. I felt like it was time to do that. It was a good conversation and hopefully we don’t have any more issues in the future. It’s not good to crash cars so I don’t want to be in that position. I don’t want to be in the position to take anyone with me.”
GREG ZIPADELLI INDICATED THAT TONY FELT BAD BECAUSE HE FELT LIKE HE LET THE TEAM DOWN AND HE LET PEOPLE DOWN BY HIS BEING INJURED. JIMMIE JOHNSON AND DALE EARNHARDT, JR. HAVE SAID HIM GOING OUT AND RACING IN THESE SPRINT CAR RACES IS WHAT MAKES HIM TONY. IT HELPS THE SPORT. IT’S A GOOD THING. WHERE DO YOU KIND OF FALL ON THAT?
“Well, I mean it’s not a mystery he loves racing sprint cars. He has a team; he races them all the time. When we were there saying hello obviously you get a lot of people on both sides of the fence about the safety of sprint car racing, but I said ‘beep’ happens. It just does. Nobody at the team is mad or upset we feel bad for him. We all want him around. At the end of the day those are the most important people are the people around you. None of us are mad whatsoever we just feel bad for him.”