STAFF: Friday has long been nicknamed “Fast Friday” for a day of on-track activities. Even faster than what occurs on track, the activity that occurs in the NASCAR media centers week in and week out.
With a full schedule of media events ranging from drivers talking about new sponsors, Chase hopes and perhaps an occasional groundbreaking news announcement during “silly season,” the media center is the hub of activity that keeps the fans informed.
Today the hot topic of the media center conferences was asking each driver about Tony Stewart and his recent injury.
What did “Smoke’s” competitors have to say?
Martin Truex Jr.:
Could Tony Stewart’s injury help you qualify for the Chase?
“Honestly, when I first heard about it, I really didn’t even think about the Chase stuff. I’ve really not been focused on points or all that stuff. I mean, there’s still a lot of racing to go. I think my first thought was just that it obviously — it was a bad break for Tony (Stewart). Hate to see somebody out there just trying to have fun and do what he loves to do get hurt and have to sacrifice his real job or his main focus, which is obviously Sprint Cup cars. I honestly didn’t even think about it at first. I just was thinking what he was thinking and just kind of felt bad for him. Obviously, there’s some implications there as far as he’s got one of the ‘wild card’ spots and I’m not even sure to be honest how it all works out. If he comes back in a couple weeks, is he still able to get it — I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it much to be honest with you. Got a lot of races to go. There’s a lot of guys around us that can still win a race on any given weekend and we just need to worry about our own deal and focus on trying to get another win and be consistent enough to hopefully get back in the top-10.”
How wild is it to not have Tony Stewart in the field this weekend?
“Yeah, I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet. I was in Knoxville (Iowa) this week with our ‘Kick it for Kids Cancer’ program there and they’re doing the kickball tournament today, which it’s been such a great relationship to be on Shane Stewart’s car at Knoxville, but to go there and be in that environment of sprint car racing and around the people that are feeling the impact of that and now here I come this weekend to this race where the impact is being felt here as well. Tony (Stewart) is such an influential person in motorsports as a driver and just as a supporter of racing that it’s tough. I was looking all over those cars trying to understand what happened and you’re there and you’re in awe of these awesome beasts of race cars. 930 horsepower, 1400 pound cars, tons of downforce. They just fly and they impress you and it makes me want to get behind the wheel of one so I totally understand the appeal and then you look at Tony and his talents and to go out there and want to be as competitive as he is. He has a shot at winning these races, which is unbelievable. He’s racing against guys that do this every single weekend. They are somewhat, compared to the space cowboys of the NASA program several years ago where they’re sitting on top of a rocket and without a lot of protection. I hope that this can actually be a great benefit and influence on the sprint car community to make these cars safer. There are some areas that could be improved. These cars are lightweight and they’re fast and they’re cool and awesome, but we’ve seen a lot in seat technology in that series, but I think that we’re seeing this type of injury that’s happening from time to time with that torque tube and driveshaft being so exposed and the lightweight components. I hope to see something like this advance that. Yeah, we’re missing Tony and haven’t had a chance to speak to him yet, but can’t wait for him to get back as soon as possible.”
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.”
What are your thoughts on Tony’s injury? You’re a top driver that runs in other series. What goes through your mind about running in a different series and getting an injury where you can’t compete?
“There’s always that risk. We’re always on that edge when you’re racing. No matter if it’s a Cup car or a Sprint car. And when you’re out there, like Tony is, leading your crusade for short track racing, he was out there continuing to do what he has been doing all along. He does it for many reasons. One is to keep himself busy and it’s his outlet to enjoy life at a level that’s fun for him. And I’ve been through the ups and the downs of finding fun in racing versus doing the daily/weekly grind. And for him, he’s been leading a crusade for short track racing. We all commend him for doing such. You look at it, he brought the truck series to El Dora and that was the feel-good story a few weeks ago. So for Tony, that’s just the next step of what he wants to do for short track racing. This won’t set him back from doing that anymore. He’ll get back in the car, he’ll keep running those Sprint Car races and he’ll be back in the Cup car. It’s just a bigger speed bump than we all expected. But as drivers they know that there’s a danger and there’s a fear of when things can happen. I mean I’ve run Grand-AM Rolex races, jumped in an Indy car at Indianapolis to drive around in an open cock-pit at 218 miles an hour. It’s a whole different experience and I’m hoping I’m making the right steps in transitioning to run an Indy race that if I do, to do it the right way. But tony, he is the most experienced racer there is, especially in Sprint cars, in jumping in them and jumping out of them. A freak deal happened. I mean I saw video of it and it was freak deal. It wasn’t anything he induced to put himself in a bad position. That’s the code I’ve always lived by. Don’t put yourself in a bad position to wreck.”
Greg Zipadelli, Competition Direction at Stewart-Haas Racing
What do you think Tony’s mentality is going to be or how you do think it is going to be for him Sunday when he is there watching the race on TV? How difficult is that going to be for him?
“I think that is a really difficult moment for anybody that has been in the sport and has raced. I think his personality and as much of a racer that he is I think it will be harder on him than anybody else. When you look at the consecutive starts that he has had over here and how many races he has run and now he can’t get in his car. I imagine that would be really tough on him. We will all be there and support him. It’s still his car he’s just out for you know a temporary spell so we will do the best we can with trying to keep him cheered up as a group. It is what it is. He loves racing and knows and we all know that this day could be here. It’s here now we are just going to do the best we can to navigate through the obstructions that we have one day at a time. Before you know it we will be talking about him getting back in it and be business as usual.”
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