CONCORD, N.C. Tony Stewart, one of 10 drivers competing for the Chase for the Championship, is never at a loss for words. He's never afraid to show his emotions or speak his mind.
The 2002 Nextel Cup Series champion tackled several difficult issues recently as he prepared for this Saturday night's UAW-GM 500 at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. Here's a sampling of what he had to say:
Question: NASCAR didn't throw a caution flag after Greg Biffle crashed on the final lap at Talladega, Ala. Shouldn't you expect a caution when there's a wreck, even on the final lap?
Stewart: I expect to see me not in that crash, hopefully. Hey, if it's green, I race, if it's yellow, I slow down. It's pretty simple. We can theorize all day, but I'm not much on theories. I graduated from high school and I got As in geometry. That was the last time I dealt with theories.
Question: Do you feel frustrated because you feel like pawns on a chessboard?
Stewart: I've been frustrated over that kind of situation for years, but at the end of the day, I still get a paycheck and still have a job that I thoroughly enjoy. I guess I've come to the realization that I've learned what my role is here. Every other series that I was a part of, the drivers had a lot of input and the officials really worked with them. At this level, it's done in a totally different situation. You realize it doesn't matter what you opinion is. They don't care about your opinion. I think that's why this series has been as successful as it is, too, because they've stuck to their core organizing skills. This formula they've had over 50-plus years has been pretty successful. So I guess I'm not as frustrated as I used to be because I've realized that's partly why it's gotten where it has is because they've done it their way and not listened to everybody else who has come and gone throughout the series.
Question: At this point of the season, do you find yourself being mentally frustrated and worn out? If so, what do you do about it?
Stewart: Every week is different. And that's a really good question because this is the time of year when everybody gets concerned about it. Every week is different. With the schedule I've had this week, I thank God I do not have it the rest of the year. This week I'm worn out. Next week is a totally different week. What do I do to help combat that? I bought property in Indiana just outside of the town I grew up in. I'm going back there (last) Sunday night and I'm going to be there Monday and Tuesday. Everybody has one or two things they really enjoy doing. At this time in the season, that's what every driver is really probably trying to do is the one or two things they enjoy doing or trying to get that balance in the week so they can get away from everything for a couple of days.
Question: Everybody's busy this time of year. If you can find something fun to do, how do you find the energy?
Stewart: Yeah, but your body is still like a gas tank whether you're having fun or not. You can go a little longer if you're having fun doing it. But there's still a point where you finally run out of gas. At the same time, you do kind of run out of gas. It's when you feel like you're 'Stretch Armstrong' where somebody grabs this arm and somebody grabs that arm and the next thing you know your arms are 20 feet apart from each other. So that's the part where it starts getting hectic is when you've got different groups pulling you in different directions at the same time.
Question: There is talk of converting some racing weekends from three days to two. Do you like that idea?
Stewart: On that two-day schedule topic, I'm all in favor of a two-day weekend. I think Talladega last week on Friday was a perfect example of how we can really waste a lot of time doing what we do. Two hours of practice and two laps and the garage was open more than 12 hours. I don't think that's fair to the crew members each week. If we're only at the track two days a week, that may open up a day for all of us to actually have a normal life for a day. And it's not as bad for us drivers as it is for the crew members. Those guys are lucky if they get one day off. I can promise you that those guys were not only up, but were in the garage at 6 a.m. I got up at 7:45 a.m. On a typical Cup day, those guys will be here three hours after I'm done for the day. Those guys have it worse than anybody. Drivers are looking into early retirement and now the crew guys are looking into early retirement because they're gone so much. They're burning the candle at both ends because of the schedule that NASCAR makes us keep. If we're going to be at the track, let us be productive. In the amount of time we were at the track on Friday, we could have practiced, qualified, and run two different Happy Hours. I'm all in favor of those two-day weekends if they ever decided to do that. But you know how the promoters are going to feel about it. That's one more day they're going to lose part of their billions of dollars they make each week and they're not going to like that too well.
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