Iteleconference:/I Tony Stewart

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Q.  You've talked about a new attitude with this team and everything that's been going on, the success you have had with it.  How much will that transform over to Indy or is that a different situation altogether? 

TONY STEWART:  No, it should transfer at Indy, too.  We had a good test there last week.  Even though it was a one-day test, we were all joking around, laughing, cutting up and carrying on.  That's kind of the way our attitude has been all year.  It's not that we're taking things for granted, obviously, but we're just having fun with everything, with everything we do, whether it's testing, racing or whatever.  I see that being the same attitude we go through this weekend.  I don't see that being any different. 

Q.  Is the speedway addictive? 

TONY STEWART:  Oh, yeah, definitely.  I mean, it's just one of those places that consumes you.  I mean, it's like Daytona is to all the stock car guys that have grown up around stock car racing all their life.  Indy is just one of those special places.  I mean, there's no other track like it.  There's no other track shaped like it.  It's just a neat atmosphere.  When you have a track that's got that many years of history, it's hard to not get consumed in it. 

Q.  You talked about it being like any other week.  Obviously this has a special meaning.  What kind of steps will your team go through to keep this from getting to be sort of a circus?  Do the best job you can? 

TONY STEWART:  Yeah.  I mean, we obviously know the reason we're doing the teleconference today is to try to lighten our load for the weekend.  We'll do everything we can to allow the team and myself to just go about our business and not let the media get to us too much.  And we're not saying that from a negative standpoint.  But, I mean, obviously with me growing up in Indiana, knowing how much everybody -- everybody knows how much I want to win there, it creates a lot of attention.  That extra attention is sometimes what creates a lot of problems for us. 

We're doing this today, this is a step in trying to make my load a little easier for this weekend, to try to help alleviate some of those stresses and strains that can get in the way. 

For the most part, we'll all just have fun and, like I said, do the best we can, treating it like any other weekend even though deep down all the guys know how important that weekend is to me. 

Q.  You mentioned a couple times already about growing up in Indiana.  Now you've moved back to Indiana.  Can you talk about your thought process, what made you decide to take that step to move back? 

TONY STEWART:  You know, I guess it was a couple friends of mine.  I had friend of mine that actually lived with me, one of my roommates in Charlotte that had went back for about three days or four days with me back to Columbus for a period there to just hang out.  He said -- we got back to Charlotte and he said, You're a totally different person when you get on that plane and when you get off that plane.  I guess that was an attitude and thought, something I never really thought of, but how it did change my attitude about living in the Charlotte area versus living in Indiana. 

It wasn't that I disliked the Charlotte area.  The Charlotte rather is awesome.  There's probably five times more things to do in Charlotte than where I live.  But it's just something about being in your hometown and there's something about being around the same friends you ran around with when you raced go-karts, three-quarter midgets or sprint cars.  It's just a different atmosphere there. 

Q.  Is this all just talk that you're just a mellower guy than you used to be or are you mellower?  If so, why? 

TONY STEWART:  Why not?  I mean, you get tired of being uptight about everything all the time.  I could be right about a topic, but it's just not even worth fighting sometimes. 

A lot of times it's just a lot easier to go through the motions instead of having to stand up for what you think is right on a particular day and have to sit there and defend yourself the next two or three days on Monday and Tuesday when in all reality you would have had those days off and then for the next two or three weeks have to catch the backlash of it. 

That's part of it, just learning what fights are really worth fighting and which ones aren't.  Like I said, being home and knowing that every weekend when the race is over, I'm going back to -- I'm living in the exact same house I lived in when I was 10 months old.  Just being able to go home and see your friends and kind of get away from the stock car scene for a couple days is a nice break.  It just helps you be a lot mellower that way. 

Q.  Living in Indiana, might this help your situation at the racetrack this time?  Might it relieve some of the pressure and uptight feeling?  What would you climb if you were to win at Indianapolis?  The pagoda tower or what? 

TONY STEWART:  Let's just worry about winning it first, then we'll have to figure that part out.  Going back to the first part, it's just a situation where you just got to stop and hit a reset button once in a while.  I think being around the stock car community, you know, seven days a week finally gets to where it takes its toll on you.  The hard thing is, you know, especially living in Charlotte, I didn't have any friends down there when I moved there.  All the friends I had were on race teams.  They worked during the day.  The only time you had, if you were home, was in the evening.  There were a lot of times during the day you were kind of bored and didn't know what to do or who to do anything with.  That part is still the same in Indiana.  But at least I've got plenty of projects with my race teams up there to mess with, got plenty of stuff to do with my property up there.  That part was probably different. 

But just gave me more of an opportunity to, like I said, just refresh myself to when I do show up on the Cup weekends, I don't feel like I've been consumed with it for the four days or five days before that that I wasn't at the track. 

Q.  That wonderful story you told ESPN about driving down Georgetown Road in a tow truck thinking about what it would be like to be on the racetrack, can you pinpoint that as the time your fixation on Indianapolis started or was it before that? 

TONY STEWART:  I would say you're right on the money.  That's when it really hit home.  At that time I was starting to run USAC midgets and sprint cars.  It wasn't that I was an eight-year-old kid racing go-karts that had the dream of one day running Indy, I was a step or two away from it, especially during those times is when you heard talk of the IRL coming about. 

I guess it was a situation where it's one thing to talk about it, but when you can physically look out the window and know that 200 feet over is the front straightaway where cars are running 230 miles an hour down there on Memorial Day weekend.  That's something that was pretty captivating.  I guess that's when the reality of it set in that, Hey, this is something that I'd really like to do one day.  I'm at a level now that if things keep going now, maybe one day I could get there. 

Q.  12 years ago, I heard the stock cars were coming to the Brickyard.  Some people in the open-wheel community kind of freaked out a little bit.  What was your opinion at that time about putting NASCAR cars on the Brickyard? 

TONY STEWART:  I freaked out, too, I'll be honest.  I guess I was a traditionalist also and didn't want change.  I think that's -- hindsight, I think it's been one of the most positive things for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to see how many fans come to the Brickyard just like having the fans come for the Indy 500.  Instead of having it full one time a year, it's full twice a year now. 

And to see the excitement it generates, there's -- stock car racing has become so popular, for a premiere racing facility like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it's very deserving that these cars are there now, something that I think everybody has kind of welcomed with open arms. 

At first, you're right, I mean, like I said, myself included, there were a lot of people that felt like it was a tradition that shouldn't be broke, that only the Indianapolis 500 should be the only race run there.  It's society.  Society's always scared of change, and it's no different with stock car racing or IndyCar racing or anything else.  You got your traditionalists that have their beliefs.  But I think if you went back and talked to all those people now, may not have them all convinced it was the right thing to do, but I think the majority of them are going to say that it was something that has been a very positive change for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Q.  The timing of your move back to Indiana, can you refresh my memory?  And for all the good it does, are there any drawbacks? 

TONY STEWART:  So far there's been no drawbacks.  My airplane is based out of Indiana anyway.  Zippy calls me on the phone and said, "I need you down here as soon as I can get down here."  We figured out from the time I pick up the phone till the time I arrive at the shop would be within three and a half hours.  We're pretty organized.  There's never really a time we have to be that tight on time anyway.  We've never had a problem with that so far. 

As far as moving back to Indiana, I moved the week after Homestead was over last year in the fall. 

Q.  Can you talk about how the people of Columbus, especially maybe those you knew growing up, have reacted to you being back?  This being your boyhood home, surely you've added a new wing or a home theater? 

TONY STEWART:  Believe it or not, I haven't.  In all reality, the house I grew up in, my father added an addition onto it and just never finished it.  It's a very modest house.  It's an average size house for the neighborhood I live in.  It's three bedrooms, two baths, got a family room, a dining room, a kitchen.  It's got our old race shop in the back.  It's not a big, huge, fancy home, but it's nice.  We definitely took some time redecorating it when I got it. 

What was the other side of your question? 

Q.  About the people you knew in Columbus growing up, how they reacted. 

TONY STEWART:  They love it.  I mean, all my friends are excited that I'm back home.  They were all sad about me moving down to Charlotte, even though it's what I needed to do at the time.  They understand that.  It's something where you never want one of your friends to leave town.  They're all excited I'm back.  The community itself has been awesome.  I've joined the Moose Lodge, the Eagles lodge just to be a part of the community a little more. 

Through the winter, it was pretty busy and hectic.  We used to -- typically we would just kind of stay away from the public, we'd stay at home a lot and hang out with our friends.  But, you know, I made the decision that I when I moved home, I needed to be out more and let everybody see us and get used to us being there.  As time goes on, everybody gets more accustomed to seeing us.  People don't freak out when they see us and get that excited.  It's just more I'm just another member of the community to most of them now.  That's the way we want it.  I don't want to be treated any different than anybody else.  If you didn't know what I looked like, you wouldn't be able to pick me out of a crowd. 

The nice thing is the community has welcomed me with open arms back home.  Like I said, it was a little busy during the off-season, but now that we've been around quite a bit, out quite a bit, everybody treats me like a regular part of the community now. 

Q.  Do you still have the home in Charlotte? 

TONY STEWART:  I still have a home in Charlotte, yes. 

Q.  Could you talk specifically about some of the people you grew up with there and who you're close friends with now. 

TONY STEWART:  I would, but they don't like being in the media light any more than I do.  That's something that we've all been pretty adamant about.  Our group of friends, they're the kind that they -- if somebody comes and does TV interviews, they won't even come over.  They don't want to be a part of it.  It's the same core group of friends I've had for 15, 20 years now.  The great thing is it's kind of like a fraternity house to a certain degree.  Half of us are single, half of them are married.  We all just hang out and have fun. 

Q.  Can you hang out there and be yourself better there than anywhere else in America? 

TONY STEWART:  Yes, absolutely.  Like I said, through the off-season, it was a little bit hectic to where the shock of seeing me out a lot was more than they were used to seeing.  It was still celebrity status.  But now everybody has seen me at home enough to where I'm just able to hang out as one of the guys.  Everybody will see me, they'll wave, say hi, good luck.  It's not, Can you sign this?  Can you talk to somebody on the phone for me?  Can I get your picture?  We pretty much got it taken care of during the off season. 

Q.  Favorite hang-out place? 

TONY STEWART:  I'm not telling. 

Q.  Hanging out at the Dairy Queen? 

TONY STEWART:  I go to the Dairy Queen quite a bit. 

Q.  When they put the corporate name with the Brickyard name, were you kind of saddened by that? 

TONY STEWART:  I'm not saddened.  I'm furious about it, to be honest.  It would be like saying the McDonald's 500 for the Daytona 500 this year.  I don't understand what they were thinking there.  I mean, there's one thing in breaking some traditions, but to commercialize everything, I think they could have done it different.  I think they could have said, The Brickyard 400 presented by whoever it is.  We don't make the rules.  I guess it's not our pockets that we're worried about filling.  They're going to do what they're going to do from that standpoint.  I'm very disappointed by it. 

Q.  Is there anything significant or special about the fact that -- I understand moving back to your hometown is one thing, but moving back into your old house, anything specific about that house? 

TONY STEWART:  No, not necessarily.  I think the one things, aside from being in the house itself, the neighbors in front of me, behind me, on both sides of me, you go one direction behind me, three houses down, they're all the same, two houses the other direction, they're all the same.  The people in front of my house, the people behind my house are the same.  My neighbors are the same.  That's part of what helps keep me grounded and helps maintain the sanity, I guess, from a certain standpoint of, you know, not being bombarded with people that live next door that want to snoop and see what you're doing.  These people don't care.  They've seen me since I was a little kid.  I'm the same kid playing baseball in the backyard would smack a baseball into the aluminum siding of their house and come out screaming.  They're used to having me around.  They're happy I'm back. 

But a cool side of it, when I'm gone, they're watching that house like a hawk because they know how much it means to me.  We make sure the neighbors, if they need something, we have a lot of their house keys in case something happens or if they need us to take care of a dog or something like that when we're home, they know we'll do it for them. 

It's a neighborhood that people -- you know, every day, when I was home this past week, I mean, people are walking, jogging, riding bicycles, husbands and wives pushing baby strollers with kids in them.  That's the same stuff that was there when I was growing up.  The cool thing, it's the same stuff going on now.  It's just a cool neighborhood.  It's a place that makes me feel very comfortable when I go home. 

Q.  Is it an oversimplification, one of the appeals there, when you go back to Columbus, you're just Tony?  When you're out doing your NASCAR deal, you have to be this Tony Stewart character that the media and your racing career have put yourself into?  Almost two different lives. 

TONY STEWART:  Exactly.  That's exactly right.  I couldn't say it better than that myself in all honesty.  That's exactly what it's like.  That's what the people in Columbus have found out.  They realize, yeah, I do what I to on the weekends.  That's my job.  But when I get home, they realize that hanging out with them, I'm just another one of the guys to them.  They're pretty good about letting me just be me when I'm home. 

Q.  When you go to Indianapolis to race there, does that hometown feel like you're relaxed racing there or is there a pressure that you have to have this thing?  With the exception of you and Jeff Gordon, the open-wheel drivers haven't fared well at Indianapolis.  Why do you think that is? 

TONY STEWART:  I don't know.  It's just a tough place to win at.  I mean, I've never won there in an IndyCar and I've never won there in a stock car.  It's just one of those tracks with the way that it's designed, the guy that wins the race there, whether it's in the IndyCars or stock cars, has had their car right on the money.  It's very hard to do that with four corners.  Normally the wind plays a factor there. 

I don't know why open-wheel guys haven't had better luck than that.  But I would say Jeff is the only one that's really had any luck there to begin with.  We've ran well and led some laps, we just haven't been able to finish it off.

Q.  When you go there, do you feel like there's pressure to knock that one out because it's your home track or not really? 

TONY STEWART:  Yeah, I mean, it's not one of those situations where if I never win there, my career's not going to be complete.  But because it is home, it's just like when Zippy -- when we go to Loudon, that's a very important race to Zippy because it's very close to home.  Everyone has kind of that one track on their schedule that is important to them. 

You know, I wish I could say I had a lot of fun there.  Normally, it's one of my more miserable weekends of the year, but I think it's because we put so much pressure on ourselves to do well.  It's not one of those tracks we go to twice a year.  You get one shot a year at it.  When it's over, it's over.  If you didn't get the result you wanted, you have to wait 365 days to try it again.  There's all kinds of races that way.  The Chili Bowl, midget race in Oklahoma in January, it's the same way.  There's just two or three races on the schedule that are like that, that are very important to you.  Every time you go there, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform there. 

Q.  Could you discuss your experience on the charity ride last week? 

TONY STEWART:  I enjoyed it.  It was awesome.  I was disappointed that I hadn't been able to do it till now.  I've already told Kyle and Patty, I said, "I'm going to try to book the whole week off next year Monday through when the ride shows up in (indiscernible)."  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The people were awesome.  Every one of the riders on that ride, they were just so appreciative that we were there.  I mean, it wasn't what I expected at all.  I thought it would be autograph after autograph after autograph.  The riders were actually really cool, actually made to it where when we did stop and get fuel, there were autograph seekers, they actually kind of helped us get through some of that to where we could actually enjoy the break and the time we were off the bike. 

It was an unbelievable ride.  Beautiful, beautiful scenery.  The people were awesome.  The ride itself and the scenery is pretty cool, but the people are what make that ride so special.  Met so many new friends I can't wait to see on the next ride.  It's already making me look forward to next year already. 

DANIEL PASSE:  Tony, I really appreciate you taking the time out.  I know you're testing right now.  It's much appreciated. 

We're now joined by Greg Zipadelli.  He is the crew chief of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet. 

Greg, I know you have a very short time with us.  Just want to ask one question.  You and Tony have had one of the longest driver/crew chief relationships in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.  What is your secret? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  I don't know if there's any secret.  It's kind of hard-working honesty.  We go and do what we're supposed to do.  We're friends, but first and foremost I think we work at racing.  We work at our jobs.  We both have I think some similar upbringings as far as starting racing with a lot of short tracks and having to do a lot of it on our own and working to where we're at today. 

DANIEL PASSE:  We'll take some questions. 

Q.  Why is it with the exception of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart that the drivers with open-wheel backgrounds haven't fared well at Indianapolis?  What is the pressure of going there knowing that it's Tony's hometown track? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  Well, I mean, you know, it's important to everybody.  It's a very prestigious race in the NEXTEL Cup to go and run good and to hopefully win someday, we can add that to our resume. 

Whenever you go home, he grew up dreaming about racing at that place probably all those years, racing go-karts, all that stuff.  For me, it's a little different.  It's an awesome place to go and to be part of and want to win.  But when you don't grow up there...  He raced open-wheel cars there and things like that.  It's a little different for him than it is to me.  It's an awesome place, it's fun.  There's other racetracks.  Going to Loudon for me, there's a ton of people I grew up racing with and stuff that are there.  It puts that extra pressure on you to want to do well. 

We're excited about going.  We have a brand-new car we're taking up there.  Hopefully this will be the year for us. 

Q.  Would you not think the open-wheel drivers would do better than they have, the guys who came from the open-wheel? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  These stock cars are so much different than the open-wheel cars.  You know what I mean?  These race teams are so good today, teams that we're racing against, it's just such a team effort today.  Everything has to be right.  I don't know that one person, one element, is going to carry you at certain places any more today. 

Q.  What do you do, if anything, or what can you do to try to take some of that obsession and pressure off Tony because this is Indianapolis?  Do you think the move home will help him this time, that it might be less pressure cooker for him this time? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  I think just trying to relax will be a big deal.  He's much more relaxed.  He's having fun this year.  Not that we haven't in the past.  It's just a little bit different.  He's showing up at the racetrack really focused on winning and learning to control some of the things that used to aggravate him or be a distraction to him. 

Hopefully we can take the same approach to this year's Indy.  I don't know.  I'm sure it will be a little more than Loudon or Daytona or any of those other racetracks because we are going home, his hometown, knowing how much he wants to win there, some of the things he's said in the past as far as what it would mean to him.  We're just going to try and make light of the weekend, have fun, do the best we can. 

We need to try to put ourself in a position to win, and that's all you can ask. 

Q.  Tony talks about a meeting he and the team had last year.  Can you tell us when that meeting was, who called it, how did it all get set up?  He said it cleared the air. 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  Well, I don't want to get in a lot of details of what we do here, what happened.  It was late last season.  I get to listen to both sides, see both sides from Tony, my guys, their morale and things like that.  We got together.  I called him down from Indy to sit with the guys and talk with them. 

They just basically explained to him how some of the things he did, the way that he acted or did stuff, how it affected their life.  If you don't stop and think about it sometimes, it's hard to understand how maybe a truck driver going down the road is affected by something you did at the racetrack.  You know what I mean?  But it is.  We're a family.  I think those guys got to share some of that stuff with him that they've experienced.  That kind of opened his eyes to how big this family was, what these other guys went through when he had a bad day. 

Q.  Tony talked about being more relaxed coming into this week.  What has it been like going into Indy in past years?  Have you seen a change over the years?  I don't know if it's maturity or just being able to address certain things going into this week, how it's evolved over the last few years. 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  Well, I mean, I don't know that going into Indy has been any horrible week.  I think we've -- going into Watkins Glen, going into Daytona, going into anyplace have been struggles, you know what I mean?  Indy, I know the pressure was there, and you knew that he would be at his wits end if he didn't run good or feel like he had the opportunity to win. 

We've had some good cars there and have done some kind of dumb things in the past that took us out of winning there.  That's what we need to work on this year, is do what we've been doing the last six, eight weeks, just going out and running, doing the best we can, putting ourself in position to try and win and lead laps.  Hopefully we can do the same thing there. 

I don't know if there's any one key thing as far as leading up to it or not.  You just know that he's going to be at wits end with people, with our guys and everything else because of the pressure and the stress I guess that he feels. 

Like I said, it's hard for me to understand.  I got enough pressure on me as far as just going and performing every week.  It doesn't matter to me what racetrack it's at, my job is to perform and give him a car he's capable of winning at.  To me, I don't know that there's any more stress or pressure for me personally going to Indy than Loudon or it will be going back to Michigan in a couple weeks.  Every day of the week for me, it's more I guess the stuff you got to deal with, you know what I mean? 

Q. Because this is Indy, it's one thing to be relaxed or calm in the middle part of the week, but once you're at the track, you have everything going on with the race weekend, the media, fans, all the pressures, what are things you've have to do or how have you kind of adjusted in being the coach for him, easing that pressure cooker situation or if things are going well not letting him get too high? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  Yeah, I mean, you kind of got to go with the flow and adjust as you go.  Usually my main concern is trying to keep my guys upbeat and focused on what we're doing and just trying and make sure we don't make mistakes of any sort that cost us a chance at winning, just trying keep him as relaxed as you can and focus.  It's not easy, like I said.  You go to Indy, a place where -- somebody said something to me the other day about he said that he would give up a championship for a win at Indy.  I mean, that's a pretty big statement. 

Me personally, I want to win Indy for him and be part of it, but winning a championship again is obviously the most important thing in my career, you know what I'm saying, outside my family life, doing that again.  Making that statement that we did it one year, but we can do it again and again I think is a whole lot more than just saying you did it once, you know what I mean? 

Q.  You mentioned Watkins Glen.  In the past you had a gas can get caught in the car, you spun out.  Last year Tony nearly had to get out of the car with an ailment.  Has the race team had anything resembling a routine weekend at the Glen? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  No.  I mean, you go back two years ago when we won there, it was coming off the big ordeal we had at Indy the week before.  You know what I mean?  I'd say two years ago we probably could have, should have won it.  Our fuel mileage wasn't good enough.  That put us at a very frustrating day as well.  We ended up I think 11th or 12th in a car that was more than capable of winning, you know what I mean?  That's just the way things fell.  We got ourselves behind and weren't able to make up. 

So I don't know.  It's funny you say that.  We have not really truly had that luxury.  I'll take this year here in two weeks, going up, running good, try to win another one without any major big ordeals. 

Q.  Can you feel a mystique when you go through the tunnel into this place, into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  I mean, yes and no.  Like I said earlier, I'm one of them guys that to me, if I had a list of races that you want to win at, Indy is obviously right up there.  Daytona was very, very high on my personal list.  Going into Daytona and being able to win there was a really cool deal for me.  I know Indy would be also. 

Like I said, I just go to every race and treat them like they're the same.  I feel like with the driver we have, the race team we have, if we do our job, there isn't a racetrack that we can't win at, you know what I mean?  Tony does great at every speedway, short track, road courses.  That's something that we have to look forward to every week we unload.  That's kind of how I look at it. 

Every week, we get paid to do a job, that's to go out and try to win.  If not, do the best we can, represent our companies and our employees in the best way we can.  That's kind of how I look at it, try not to get too wrapped up personally in one place being more important than the other.  Bottom line is that we need to win races for our sponsor, try and put ourselves in a position to win the championship at the end of the year for them. 

Q.  What was your reaction to Tony when you found out that he was moving back to Indiana?  How essential is it for a driver to be near his shop? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  Well, I mean, I think he's about two hours away if we called or when he comes down.  The airport is not that far. 

Tony wasn't one of those drivers that had at any time ever really spent a lot of time at the shop or was very involved in our cars or what goes on.  I don't think that it really made a huge impact on our race team.  I think to my guys at the shop that liked to see him walk around every now and then, sign the pictures that they buy, racing collectibles, things like that for their family, it's a cool thing for him to come down and go through the shop.  As far as the race team and my guys, we see him all weekend, get to see him, test with him.  That part didn't really change. 

I think obviously the biggest thing is he's hanging out with people that he grew up with.  He's back in the house that he grew up in.  He's very comfortable in that element.  I think that's probably the most important thing, is that he's relaxed during the week.  He doesn't get bothered by a lot of people.  He just gets to hang out with people that were friends of him before he got to where he is today.  I think that's important. 

Sometimes you don't know, people want to be friends with you or things like that because of who you are in his state, where he's at in his career.  I think it's just a big comfort for him.  He definitely seems to be more relaxed, seemed to be enjoying himself.  I mean, if it works for him, that's what's important.  He's got to be fun and relaxed as a person.  That's something I've always tried to tell him, tried to encourage him, is to do that. 

First and foremost, the racing part of it, you know, when we're dead and gone, it's great to say we won a bunch of championships and stuff, but to me personally it's more important that my family looks back and says I was a good guy, I was a family guy, I was there for my friends.  I think he's realizing some of that now and that's why he's back with those people that he's comfortable with and he has fun with. 

Q.  Looking back at this season, how close the team has become, did that meeting after Homestead bring the team so close together in the fact that there was a -- there was a comment that Tony made that everybody remembers why they went racing.  Is that why this team seems to be so close and working as one this year? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  You know, I think we always have.  I say that because all of the adversity we've gone through, all my guys have hung in there.  They've been there through the good and bad days, they've been there through all our wins for the most part.  90% of my team is the same people that started with me seven years ago when we put this thing together.  They've been through it all. 

It's true, most of the guys, when we put it together, they're all grass-roots racers.  They all raced before you could get paid for it, when we used to spend our own money to get in and help people, work a job during the day and work four or five hours at night type of thing.  That's their passion.  They still have a great passion for the sport. 

I think Tony just taking the time to listen to those guys and respond to some of their frustrations really made the biggest impression on them.  In return, these guys will work extra hard for myself and Tony at any time.  But when you do something like that that's a little personal, more than just a thank you, a pat on the back, it usually goes a long ways. 

Q.  Is this team in a zone right now? 

GREG ZIPADELLI:  I guess if there is one, we are.  The next couple weeks will tell that.  We've got a long way to go.  What I'm most excited about is we've been running good at racetracks with cars not as good as we have coming up, which doesn't mean anything.  We kind of feel like we've got a little handle on what we wanted.  This race team has been working hard at building new cars for us for the second half of the season.  Aero-wise they're better than what we've had.  They're lighter.  Everybody is paying a little bit more attention to details and stuff.  To me that's exciting that I know that we're getting as good or better stuff than we had at the beginning of the year.  Our driver, crew has been great.  Everybody has been on fire.  It's just a matter of hopefully we don't peak too soon, we can kind of carry this through the end of the year, have a legitimate shot at winning this championship.

Photos

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  • Firecracker 400 Flashback
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  • Firecracker 400 Flashback
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  • Firecracker 400 Flashback
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  • Firecracker 400 Flashback
  • Gordon's NYC Ride of Fame
  • Gordon's NYC Ride of Fame
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  • Gordon's NYC Ride of Fame
  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
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  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
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  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
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  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
  • Toyota/Save Mart 350
  • Jeff Gordon Homecoming Tour
  • Jeff Gordon Homecoming Tour
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  • Jeff Gordon Homecoming Tour
  • Jeff Gordon Homecoming Tour
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  • Jeff Gordon Homecoming Tour
  • Jeff Gordon Homecoming Tour
  • Testing at Richmond
  • Testing at Richmond

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