“This is a weekend that to me helps define what our program is about and what our organization’s about.”
Going into the weekend, there wasn’t much hope for Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing to have much success this weekend. After all, Stewart was having a bad year to date. He had only three top 10s in 12 races, with no top fives to date. Add on to the fact that the past three years, Stewart had struggled at Dover, finishing in the 20s.
Friday didn’t help that much as Stewart noted that Friday was a bad day for the team as they did not have the speed.
“When we finished happy hour, I’ll be 100 percent perfectly honest, and I might get backhanded by both of them sitting here, but I was preparing for a very long day today,” Stewart admitted. “I wasn’t prepared to be sitting here. I knew that they stayed late and were working, but I honestly didn’t think we could get there from where we ended up happy hour yesterday.”
However, crew chief Steve Addington continued to make adjustments. The team continued working hard, even including switching their package completely over. During the race, they were able to work their way up through the field, into the top 10 in the late going.
“I was just happy — I was going to be happy if we got in the Top-10 to be honest, and we got up to eighth there,” Stewart commented. “And then Steve had the — I’ll be honest, Steve had the balls to make a call that gave us the opportunity to run for the win. That’s confidence and that’s something that you can’t teach. It’s just something you have to have, and Steve has it.”
After a late restart and a controversial penalty for Jimmie Johnson, Stewart was able to pass Juan Pablo Montoya in the final laps to win the FedEx 400 presented by Autism Speaks.
“I’m proud to be sitting here saying that I was very wrong and happy that I was wrong,” Stewart continued. “So this is — these are the days that — you know, this means more to me going from where we were Friday to where we are today than having a weekend where we show up and we are quickest in practice, sit on the pole and everything goes right all weekend.
“It’s much harder to do it the way that we just had to do it over the last 48 hours.”
Stewart says while his guys have been upset with how they’ve run, they have never given up, continuing that search for speed.
“There’s been a lot of dejected guys all year, and disappointed guys all year, but that’s why we want them working at Stewart-Haas Racing, too, because the way we have been running, we want them to be disappointed and dejected, but nobody is walking around with their heads down,” Stewart commented. “They are all trying to find a solution and that’s what makes days like today so special is when you have guys that just do not quit and they refuse to give up.”
The way they worked through the weekend is how they’ve been working through the year so far – working at it, going through the process of elimination. He also admits that they’re not quite yet where they want to be, either.
“You eliminate a variable at a time until you finally narrow it down to a group of possibilities of what the problem is, and that’s something that this group has done and been doing and we are still in the process of doing,” Stewart said.
In looking at his organization, he says he is proud of the guys he has working for him as they have the ability to execute what needs to be done.
“We’ve got people that are very dedicated to making sure that no matter how bad it gets that they keep their heads focused in the same direction,” he added. “What Zippy (Competition director Greg Zippidelli) has done in the last month, especially, is being able to get these guys to rally around each other. You know, we are all looking for a direction of what it’s going to take to get this thing fully back on track consistently.”
Stewart adds that he is happy with the progress and how the three teams are working together.
“It’s okay to be working different directions, but to have all three teams understand why we are going the directions we are going to try to figure it out,” he said. “That’s something we have really been focusing on in the last month.”
“I think last week was a step in the right direction, and a bigger step than I possibly could have imagined. This week is a step in the right direction. Matt and Ryan had an awesome day on Friday, qualified well and that gives us hope. Today gives us hope.”
Stewart has been known for going on a terror during summers past, and this could be the start of the terror of summer 2013.