"If you take the one thing in life that you're most passionate about, and apply it in your life, it would be easy to understand what it means to me. There's something in everybody's life that they're very passionate about. To me, it's winning at the Brickyard. It's just a situation that it only happens once a year. That's the hard part." - Tony Stewart

Question and Answer session with defending Winston Cup Champion Tony Stewart, his car owner Joe Gibbs and crew chief Greg Zipadelli.

Stewart has posted two top-10 finishes in four Winston Cup races at Indianapolis and was the Bud Pole winner of the 2002 Brickyard 400. His history at IMS includes three top 10 finishes in five IRL races, including a sixth-place finish in the 2001 Indianapolis 500.
LAST YEAR, IT WAS DIFFICULT TO KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON DRIVING AT INDY. WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO AHEAD AND ADDRESS LAST YEAR, OFF THE TRACK, ONE TIME FOR EVERYONE, SO WE CAN GET THAT BEHIND US AND MOVE ON? TS "Sometimes you have to have something bad happen for something good to come out of it. I think there were a lot of frustration with me last year - especially when it comes to Indianapolis because I am from Columbus south of here, and Rushville, and I always want to do well when we come to Indy. Coming back to the Brickyard and being so close so many times to having a good day and having it go south was kind of a boiling point for me. You hate to have it happen at home like that but I think we've learned a lot from it.

"I got to spend a lot of time with Gary Mook (photographer for The Indianapolis Star) when we were in Kansas City last fall. Gary is a great guy. I think Gary's put it behind me and I've put it behind me. Our actions this year, on and off the track, have proven that we've made some significant changes in the way we deal with things. Hopefully this year when come back here (Indy), we'll be able to just concentrate on hopefully getting the Home Depot Monte Carlo a little closer to the front than where we've ended up in the past."
CAN THE MEDIA AND FANS REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT RACING AT INDY MEANS TO TONY STEWART? TS "I think so. If you take the one thing in life that you're most passionate about, and apply it in your life, it would be easy to understand what it means to me. There's something in everybody's life that they're very passionate about. To me, it's winning at the Brickyard. It's just a situation that it only happens once a year. That's the hard part. It's not something that everyday you can accomplish that goal. You only have one chance out of every 365 days to accomplish that goal."
IN CHASING THAT PASSION, DO YOU SOMETIMES HAVE TO KEEP YOURSELF FROM BEING OVER-PREPARED? TS "I think so. I think you can let it monopolize your mind too much. I think that's also what's helped me get to the level where I am - by preparing and focusing on the objective. As every year goes by, you learn how to deal with situations better and how to prepare better and sometimes you can get to the point where you can over prepare. We've tried to simplify things this year."
THIS IS THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY FOR WINSTON CUP RACING AT INDY. DO YOU REMEMBER THE NEGATIVE REACTION BACK THEN FROM SOME OF THE OPEN WHEEL GUYS?TS "I was actually one of them also that wasn't extremely excited - just because of the history of the place. But now, it's been taken to another level and to another level again. The way we've all adapted our attitudes toward it is the major racing series being the Indianapolis 500 is obviously what the tradition and history of this great race track has been all about for so many years. But to bring NASCAR Winston Cup racing, the premier racing series in the United States, and to bring a Formula 1 race here have brought all the major racing series together at one great venue. It's just like anything else. A lot of times, people are scared of change. As the years have gone on, people have accepted it. In all reality, they've seen what a good change it's been for Indianapolis and the community."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO CHIP GANASSI AND IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO THAT RUMOR, OR ARE YOU LEANING TOWARD JOE GIBBS? HOW ARE YOU DOING ON YOUR CONTRACT NEGOATIONS? TS "I really haven't done much with it. I saw Chip at the track last Sunday and said hi when I walked by. Other than that, I haven't really talked to Chip very much. I guess the thing that everybody has missed is that the month of June and the month of July are the two busiest months of my schedule. We've been pretty busy on the road running dirt races and everything else, so we really haven't had a lot of time to do anything with this. But Joe (Gibbs) has sent me a proposal to extend my contract and like I said, we've really been on the road so we haven't had a lot of time. It's not been a real pressing issue because I still have another year on my contract after this year. So, for some reason, everybody else is putting a bigger press on that than I have so far. Joe and I have been working fine on it so far, so it hasn't been a big issue."
RATHER THAN PINNING IT ON NASCAR'S USE OF VOLUNTEERS, DO YOU THINK THAT RACING BACK TO THE CAUTION CAUSES THE DELAY IN RESCUE VEHICLES GETTING TO THE CRASH SITE?TS "I can guarantee you that it is. The fact that we do race back to the yellow is exactly why (there is a delay). You can't have safety vehicles on the track when a guy is trying to get his lap back. It's a situation where it's made it exciting for the fans but at times might make it unsafe for the competitors. I think that NASCAR is looking at that and trying to evaluate if that's something we need to look at in the future and whether we need to keep racing back to the caution or whether we need to do something a little different to help speed up the process of getting the safety crews out there. I don't think it's so much because it's volunteers - there can be some seconds shaved there - but when you take a track like Pocono where it's a 50-second racetrack it takes a long time to get the crews out there. So I'm not sure there's a lot we can do about getting them out there any quicker, with the exception of a couple seconds, when we have a whole lap that we have to wait."
HAVING GROWN UP IN INDIANA, HOW BIG A PRESENCE WAS NASCAR THEN AND HOW HAS 10 YEARS OF NASCAR WINSTON CUP RACING AT THE BRICKYARD CHANGED THAT? TS "It had a great presence in Indiana. Before I joined the series, I was involved in Midget Sprint Car racing and the IRL and the presence was great around here before that 10-year period and during that 10-year period. At the same time, it was mainly like a lot of areas in the country where there wasn't the exposure to it up close and personal like it is now. I think once NASCAR came to the Indianapolis area in person, I think it brought the excitement level to an all-time high here. I think it was a great thing."
IF YOU WERE NOT BEHIND THE WHEEL OF RACING WHAT OTHER OPTIONS EITHER WITHIN RACING OR OUTSIDE OF RACING WOULD YOU CONSIDER?TS "That's a pretty tough question for me considering I'm 32 years old and for the last 24 years I've been behind the wheel of a race car. I don't know. I'm sure I would be involved in racing in some aspect. Obviously I'm involved in racing now, aside from being a driver, as a car owner. I've thought a lot about working with sanctioning bodies in the future from an official standpoint. I'm very passionate about auto racing on many levels and in many different series - whether it be dirt track racing or short track racing; I'm very passionate about the IRL still and I'm very passionate about Winston Cup racing. So I guess if it came to a day where I couldn't participate as a driver, I don't ever see myself totally disassociating myself from auto racing."
MANY OF YOUR OPEN-WHEEL BRETHREN HAVE GONE ON TO NASCAR AND IT APPEARS JJ YELEY MAY BE GOING IN THAT DIRECTION TOO. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HIS SEASON?TS "He has had an unbelievable season and it's not even over yet. He's tied the single-season record for the most wins in a season. He's tied with Jay Drake, Sleepy Tripp, and I believe AJ Foyt. I don't know how many races there are left in the USAC schedule between the three divisions, but I know for my Sprint Car team that he drives for me he's won 11 feature events for me out of the 19 feature events that he's won total this year. The next win he has will put him in a category all by himself with more wins in a season than anybody in the career of USAC. He's having a dream season. At the same time, I'll admit I'm having a dream season as a car owner. To come into the series as a first year car owner in USAC in the Sprint Car division and be leading the point standings with 11 victories, I couldn't be happier as a car owner."
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT ALL THE GANASSI CONTRACT RUMORS DISTRACTING YOUR TEAM OR HAS THE TEAM SHOWN THAT NOTHING CAN KNOCK IT OFF COURSE? TS "Over the course of the last four and a half years, I think we've been able to overcome every obstacle that's come our way. I haven't seen this to be any distraction to the team to be honest. When I listen to you guys (media) I feel like it's becoming a bigger deal than I apparently think it is. At the same time, I'm pretty confident that our race team is probably more focused this year than we've ever been. That has shown in our performance on the track. It doesn't show necessarily at the end of the day with the results, but we've been running better than we've ever run as a race team and I think people are seeing that on the track."
HAVE YOU SAT DOWN AND EXPLAINED TO THE TEAM THAT YOU'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE?TS "This has happened a couple of times with the team. We've extended my contracts before. The team is used to it. I think everybody in Winston Cup is used to it. Drivers are constantly renewing contracts and there are always contract negotiations. It's just like any other professional sport. At the same time, days like what we had last Sunday when we started 33rd and got to the lead, that shows that nothing is a distraction to us right now."
AS THE 2002 WINSTON CUP CHAMPION, IS IT MORE STRESSFUL GETTING IN THE CAR NOW THAN IT WAS IN THE PAST?TS "No, not at all. If anything, it's taken a lot of the pressure off in all reality. I'm able to get in the car and just concentrate on what I enjoy doing and that's just trying to win races."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE ON THE TODAY SHOW FRIDAY AND AS A KID, DID YOU EVER THING YOU'D BE ON THE TODAY SHOW?TS "As a kid, I used to watch cartoons about the time the Today Show started (laughs). I didn't get a chance to watch it a lot. I think it's neat. The exposure our series and sponsors and teams are getting is great. To bring it to a national level like that on a show that's so widely watched each morning is great to be a part of as a driver."
WILL YOU FLY TO NEW YORK CITY TO TAPE IT ON THURSDAY AND THEN COME BACK?TS "To be honest, I'm not really sure. I know what my schedule is today with the appearances I have, but I'm not exactly sure what the timeframe is. I pretty much go when they tell me to go."
WHAT IMPORTANT THINGS DID YOU LEARN LAST YEAR THAT HAVE HELPED YOU DEAL WITH THIS SEASON SO FAR?)TS "The biggest things in all reality are a couple of things. There are a lot of variables that you can't control each week and I'll take last Sunday as an example. We started 33rd and got to the lead and had the fastest car on the racetrack. I am fairly confident we were going to win the race if we didn't have engine failure. But sitting in the trailer after the race was over, Joe Gibbs came in and had his head down, and Zippy had his head down and I said, 'Hey, we had the fastest car here today. We've done something today that a lot of people haven't done and that's coming from that far back to lead the race and have the fastest car on the track.' To be able to do that and find the positive in the negative is what I've really focused on this year.

"When you have a good day it's easy to focus on the good things, but when you have a bad day it's easy to forget that there is something out of the day that you can take away that was good. I've really focused, not only in the race car, but away from the race car, in just trying to find the positive in any negative that happens."
DOES THAT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE ABOUT THE REST OF THE YEAR?
"Well, I don't know if it helps give me confidence about how we're going to finish or anything, but it's given me a ton of confidence as far as how I react to how everything happens each week. I'm excited about that."
DOES IT FLATTER YOU THAT THERE IS SO MUCH TALK ABOUT PEOPLE WANTING YOUR SERVICES AND AT LEAST MAKE YOU FEEL THAT YOU'RE ALWAYS GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST IN YOUR CAREER?TS "It definitely does. The ironic part is that it's still funny because I still get calls every year from Sprint Car teams and Midget teams and many different series asking me to come drive for them if I get a day (off). It's kind of like the old days when I used to try and run as many races as I could because that's how I paid my rent and got my gas money and paid for my groceries. Now, I have an established job in the Winston Cup Series and to have that comfort level of knowing there are other teams out there that would love to have me come and drive if I ever had a problem is very flattering."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN SIDE-DRAFTING AND HOW MUCH IS COMES INTO PLAY DURING A RACE?TS "The easiest way to describe side-drafting is if you watch bird flying in a V formation, it's like that. It's like watching a boat go through the water. It's basically the wake of the air. If you can stay in that V, you get a side-draft. Once you get up to somebody's rear quarter panel, it pulls you along and pulls you past. But at the same time, once you pull ahead of that person, they're in the V. It's something that's very tricky and a lot of us have had to learn over the years. I think Dale Earnhardt probably was the first to truly learn it, but it's something that all of us have caught on to by now."
DO YOU GET THE SAME TUNNEL-TYPE RUSH GOING INTO THE FIRST TURN AT THE BRICKYARD IN A STOCK CAR AS YOU DO IN AN OPEN-WHEEL CAR?TS "To be honest with you, if I felt like I was going into a tunnel, I'd probably go somewhere else (laughs). I've never seen that. I've driven the Cup car, the IROC car, the Indy car there and I've never really noticed that. I've always just been focused on markings on the track that I've used as reference points. I think the reason a lot of drivers feel that way is because it's such an open entry into Turn 3 as far as not having a lot of objects around the track, versus going into the first turn. It probably just seems like that more so to those guys than to me right now. But I can see where they the can feel that way."
ON JEFF GORDON'S EXPERIENCE DRIVING MONTOYA'S F-1 CAR AT INDYTS "I'd love to have the opportunity - especially at Indy - to test there. I was probably the most excited, yet jealous, person of Jeff when he got to do the Formula 1 deal. I was very excited that he had the opportunity to do that considering that he's never had the chance to be behind the wheel of an open-wheel car before. I'd love to have the opportunity to do a test at Indianapolis and to have the opportunity to drive the Formula 1 car finally."
ON THE GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENTTS "I learned a lot about that from Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton and Mark Martin and guys I raced against in the Busch Series. I don't really know how to explain what's happened there. I think a lot of it is that there are a lot of new guys coming into the Winston Cup series. The duration of the races are longer and I learned a lot of patience and etiquette from the veteran drivers in the Busch Series that helped me when I got to Winston Cup. Unfortunately, there is a pretty high disregard for etiquette these days, which has taken a lot away from what we do.

"A lot of it started with a driver that has retired now and sits in the TV booth and does a great job. Darrell Waltrip was one of the first guys to ask on the air why we were letting each other have our laps back. If we look back at the last three or four years of Darrell's career, he was normally, when that first caution came out, he was the one guy begging everybody to give him a lap back. What the Gentleman's Agreement was always been about - the way I perceived it...

"We all race 36 races together. It's a long season. There might be a day when you cut a tire down. It's not your fault or your team's fault. But you're going to get a lap down changing that tire. When the caution comes out, other drivers have been pretty cordial about letting each other have our laps back. It doesn't mean stopping and letting everybody have a full lap back. But if somebody is close to you, give them a break.

"I gave Mike Wallace a break the other day at Pocono. You help a guy now and down the road there might be a day when you need some help. That day might make or break your points season. We've always tried to be cordial to other drivers. But it's hard to do that when part of the field is doing that and another half of the field is totally disregarding that. It makes it difficult for everything to be fair. We don't care what we do; let's just make it fair for everybody. If you're going to let some guys have a lap back, let everybody have a lap back."
IS A DEFINITE RULE THE ANSWER TO THIS?TS "The end result is probably going to come down to that, unfortunately. Half of the group is racing one way and the other half is racing the other way."
HAS THE TEAM RECOVERED FROM A ROUGH DAY AT POCONO ON SUNDAY?GZ "Yeah, our spirits are high. We had a really good racecar. Everybody on the Home Depot team did a great job. Tony did a great job coming from the back and dealing with a lot of traffic. We've had some tough luck this year. It's not from any lack of effort on anybody's part. The guys in the motor room have been building unbelievable motors. The guys in the fab shop have been building great cars. We've been doing a decent job at the racetrack of putting everything together. We don't have a lot to show for it this year.

"Indy is a place where we've run well at. We've qualified well there. It would mean an awful lot to us - especially our driver - to go there and have a shot to win. As strong as this team is this year, there's no doubt in my mind that we will be a contender."
DO YOU AND TONY STEWART TALK ABOUT HOW PASSIONATE HE IS ABOUT THE BRICKYARD?GZ "Every once in a while we talk about how cool it would be (to win). If you don't have a passion about going to Indy and trying to win, you're probably close to (being) dead. That place is kind of like rolling into Daytona. It gives you goose bumps. There's just so much there from the past. He doesn't have to say anything. Everybody knows it. That's something he's wanted to win since we started. We're going to do our best to help him accomplish that."
HOW DID YOU GET OVER THE FRUSTRATIONS OF LAST YEAR AT INDY?GZ "In this sport or any sport, you need to be able to react to things and put things behind you as quick as possible. If you let things build up inside of you and work at you, they're always in the back. You always have doubts - whatever the circumstances. That's very unhealthy in a team sport. We went to Watkins Glen and talked as a team and put everything behind us. The way we ran there and the rest of the year and to come back and win a championship just showed we were capable of putting stuff behind us. We had a bad day at Indy. We ran really well and our expectations were extremely high. Things didn't work out the way we thought they should have or the way we wanted them to. Everybody got frustrated. Nobody did anything wrong. It was just a group of competitive people being very disappointed with the outcome."
WITH ALL THOSE COMPETITIVE AND STRONG PERSONALITIES, IS IT HARD TO GET THEM ALL TOGETHER AND GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AGAIN?GZ "No. Our group is an extremely competitive group of people. We all have high expectations. We are unhappy when we don't do a good job. But at the same time, I don't know that there is anybody who has more respect for Tony - as a driver and a friend -- than I do. Things test your relationship. The stuff that we've been through has made us much stronger. We can be as brutally honest with each other as we need to be and put it behind us. We're not poking fingers and pointing at each other."
DO YOU THINK THE POCONO RACE SHOULD BE SHORTENED FROM 500 TO 400 MILES?GZ "It is a long day. That racetrack is big. It's long. It's hard on equipment. You're at such a high rpm for a long period of time that you see some motor and transmission failures there. Obviously, I would have loved to have it be a 400-mile race last week. But it didn't work out that way. If any of them need to be shortened, I would agree that one could be. It is an extremely long day. But then it's always been 500 miles. I don't think there's any right or wrong reason to keep it the same or shorten it."
WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THE ENGINE AT POCONO AND WHAT WILL YOU DO TO KEEP THAT FROM HAPPENING AT INDY?GZ "It was obviously something internal with the motor. We're still working on pinpointing exactly about what came first, the chicken or the egg. When something blows up and breaks as bad as that motor did, it's hard to say a valve broke or a piston broke right off the bat. We've got some good ideas, but we're not drawing one conclusion. We're looking at every thing and every part. It was valve-train related and we're working in that area. We had some new stuff that they've been working on that we wanted to get in the racecar that we've been testing. It's shown to be very durable, but it hasn't run a race yet. This is the same stuff that we ran at Chicago and Loudon and tracks like that where we haven't had a problem. We're not sure what the main reason was. Pocono is one of the hardest tracks on motors because it stays at such a high rpm all the way around the track. If you're going to have problems, that would be one of the places."
HOW MUCH OF A TEST IS IT FOR TONY TO GET THROUGH THE EXCITEMENT AND ANXIETY AND RAMAINING CALM AT INDY THIS WEEK?GZ "I think you'd be testing that for the rest of your life. When you have that competitive nature and fire that he has, those are struggles. We all have them. Yours are different than mine. There are things you learn and work at and try to be better at every day of your life."
DO YOU WORRY THAT TONY WILL SIGN ELSEWHERE OR DO YOU THINK HE AND JOE GIBBS WILL WORK OUT AN EXTENSION AND HE'LL BE WITH YOU LONG-TERM?GZ "When you have somebody who is as talented as that, of course you want him signed up to know he's on your side and in your camp for the next four, five, or six years or whatever the contract may be. I feel in my heart that this is the best place in Winston Cup racing. We've got as good or better equipment than anybody. They're dedicated to winning and taking care of their people. That's a rarity in the sport. A lot of this sport has changed. A lot of teams have made better places to work with benefits over the past year and that's good. You shouldn't have to work as hard as these guys do for us and give up their weekends and days and family and not be rewarded for it somehow. This is a great place and we've given him a great deal. We can only hope and pray that he makes a decision to stay with us."
HAS THE TEAM BEEN DISTRACTED BY THE CONTRACT RUMORS?GZ "Anytime you have anything going on of significance at this level it can surely be a distraction. All it takes is one little tiny thing to distract you today in Winston Cup and you're going to get run over because there are so many other people who are focused and hungry. It's become mentally gruelling to stay focused for that long. The season is long. This is the long stretch of the year. I know a lot of the guys at the shop are concerned and hope we can get things ironed out. I know I am. Joe is and we'll do whatever we can."
SOME PEOPLE THINK TONY WILL GO WITH GANASSI BECAUSE HE'LL HAVE A LOCK ON BEING ABLE TO RUN THE INDY 500 EVERY YEARGZ "He's got the same opportunity here. We told him the day he came here that he can run Indy every year if he'd like as long as he puts forth the effort that he can and Winston Cup doesn't get punished too badly because of his efforts over there. We'll do whatever we can and compromise whatever we need to for that week to help him live a dream. We still stand strongly by that."
HAS YOUR ROUGH WEEKEND AT POCONO FOR BOTH THE NO. 20 AND NO. 18 TEAMS AFFECTED YOUR PREPARATIONS FOR INDY?JG "Yes. We were in here first thing Monday morning trying to find out exactly what happened to these motors. Sometimes it's hard to tell because you destroy so much stuff that it's hard to pinpoint it. But we certainly think we have a game plan worked out. You're always on the ragged edge with the motors and this one really bit us. It's something that you just can't come back from, obviously. It's the one thing in motorsports that is the end of your day. I hate it because it seems like whenever something like that happens to us, one of our cars is running up front. In this race, had something not happened to Tony I think he would have been one of the challengers."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF NASCAR AT INDYJG "The very first time we went, I can remember how I felt. As a kid, I had been to Indy before. I remember the very first practice and the feeling that we had. It was kind of neat. Dale Jarrett was driving for us at that point. He was halfway through his first lap and he came on the radio and said, 'Guys, this is great.' He spoke for everybody. It's one of those really neat places and we're just thrilled about being there. I think we add something to it to. I think we bring a lot to the table because our races are great and our cars beat and bang on each other. I think we have some great races there."
AT POCONO, WERE THE ENGINE FAILURES THE SAME FOR BOTH CARS?JG "We think so. It's very hard to tell. Bobby's (Labonte) was totally different because it blew the whole bottom end of it out. In Tony's, that wasn't the case. But you could also have something that was starting -- and Tony's never went any farther than that - but if it kept going it might have blown the motor up out the bottom. We think it was. We think we've got it pinpointed what it is. But it always makes you nervous. But we're going to try and get the best game plan we can for Indy."
WITH BOBBY IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT, DO YOU TUNE THE MOTORS MORE AGGRESSIVELY FOR TONY AT THIS POINT?JG "Not really. It's up to Greg. When you get in this situation, we'd have a tough time protecting ourselves as a Winston Cup winner with Tony. We may take a few more chances on gas mileage. I think it would be taking more of a chance during the race. You wouldn't tune the motors differently or anything. They're pretty much set to go the full 500 and I don't think we'd want to take a chance because we think we have good race teams and good drivers. So if we just do our part and keep the stuff under them, normally we have a chance."
WHEN THE DUST SETTLES ABOUT THE CONTRACT, WOULD YOU EXPECT TONY TO STAY WITH JOE GIBBS RACING?JG "Obviously I don't have the answer. But I would expect him to stay here. To follow up on what Zippy said, the most important thing for drivers is to have a place where they think they can win races. That would be the people around him. The crew chief is critical and we know how Tony feels about Zippy. Our number one job as a race team is to make sure we're in the forefront of what's going on and that any driver would think he has a chance to win in our stuff. If you have great stuff, we think we have a great chance to keep our drivers happy. When you go through a process like this, you've got to make the best preparation and make the best offer and we feel good about it. I think Tony is going through a process too on his side and has all of his people analysing things. The fact that it is a long-term deal means that there are a lot of tax ramifications and there are also different ways to take the money. Those are the kind of things we're going through now."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PROCESS OF RE-SIGNING AND SIGNING DRIVERS IN THE MIDDLE OF A SEASON WHEN THE CONTRACT DOESN'T END UNTIL THE END OF NEXT SEASON?JG "We purposely did it that way and we think it makes sense for us. You're not going to be able to get away from that unless you just tried to time it in the off-season. We don't want to do that because it puts the race team in a bind. We make long-term plans here. We try to sign all of our people to long-term deals - including our sponsorships. It's just a part of what we do. Other than the driver input on it, it's pretty much up to us to try and get something done with Tony. Greg and the team worry about it. It does cause some worry there but that's just part of what we do and that's part of pro sports. It's just a natural case in NASCAR."
HOW MUCH PREP TIME DO YOU PUT INTO MAJOR NASCAR EVENTS LIKE THE BRICKYARD?JG "The one that we probably put the wrong amount of time on is Daytona because it comes first. It is so big. Everybody in here is extremely competitive and we have two months to worry about it. We test, we worry, and we fret. We go down there and spend two weeks making tons of laps. Almost anybody will tell you that that race takes on so much more than it probably should. The next week is going to give you just as many points but we put a lot of emphasis on Daytona. Then when you start into the rest of the year, it's pretty hard to put emphasis on one particular race. We have a limited number of tests, but normally you put that emphasis on places that you don't run well. What's unusual about Indy is that Pocono comes the week before. If there are two racetracks that are the closest on the circuit with turns and configuration, it's Pocono and Indy. We think if we do well at Pocono, we're going to have our best chance of running well at Indy."
WHEN YOU GO TO INDY AND DAYTONA AND DARLINGTON AND PLACES WHERE THERE IS MORE MONEY AND PRESTIGE INVOLVED, IS THERE MORE OF A BUZZ AROUND THE SHOP?JG "I think so. When you get bigger purses and everybody knows it's one of the crown jewels and this winning Indy would be a big deal for us. The good thing about our sport is that we've got so many big, big races. The other thing that you miss sometimes is going to regional parts of the country where we don't get to go that much. Take Texas, for example. It's a huge deal for us. Bobby is from Texas and a lot of our people are from Texas. So many times it's the regional part of it and the fact that it's a big race. It has one of the biggest crowds. That would be an example of a very big race for us. We haven't done particularly well there, but we'd like to."
WHEN DID YOU TENDER THE CONTRACT OFFER TO TONY STEWART AND HOW LONG ARE YOU LOOKING TO LOCK HIM UP. ALSO, WHAT IS YOUR SITUATION WITH GREG ZIPADELLI AND HOME DEPOT?JG "We're working on all three of those. Zippy's deal is a little bit different because we actually re-did his last year. When we do our contracts, typically it's very long. And that's all I would say about them. It's longer than a two or three year deal. We look for long-term stability. We're working hard on the Home Depot and the Tony situation. That's a process that's not easy sometimes because of the fact that you are trying to go for long-term deals and there's a lot involved with that because people are making commitments over a long period of time. There is a lot involved with it."
WHAT IMPROVEMENTS HAS TONY STEWART MADE ON HIS REACTIONS TO NEGATIVE SITUATIONS?JG "A couple of things probably happened. One was winning the championship. I did notice a different attitude after he won the championship. Everyone was thinking he might struggle with New York and being there for a whole week doing a lot of press stuff. He actually handled it very easily. When you get Tony in the right frame of mind and away from the racetrack, many times that's when he's very engaging and tells stories. I think the press has probably seen that too. Winning the championship has helped. There is a lot of pressure off. He seems to have taken a step up and doesn't let as many small things bother him.

"The second thing is probably just a maturing process over a period of time. If you jump out there and do some things because of the amount of attention on yourself, it's a learning process. Even though we haven't had the success we had last year, I think he's handled everything very well this year."
HOW MUCH EASIER DOES THAT MAKE YOUR LIFE?JG "Obviously you don't like having negative things happen. You realize it is part of pro sports. And in motorsports in general, we have a lot fewer critical things. Our key issues are many times not the real serious things. When you have a lot of people together and you have money and competition, it's constantly changing. You just need to be the one to handle the changes the best."