Yesterday kicked off day one of the NASCAR 2011 Media Tour. Stewart-Haas Racing was one of the first on the list of race shops visited. Let’s start with the Q&A with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. They spoke about upcoming Daytona, new babies in the motor coach lot , and even mentioned Tony’s fitness routine! Read on to hear what they had to say.
Question: “Tony, it’s Stewart-Haas Racing’s junior year of operation, a phenomenal freshman year, a sophomore year that also had some strong points, as well. What do you envision for the junior year of Stewart-Haas Racing?”
TONY STEWART, Driver, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet and Owner, Stewart-Haas Racing: “Hopefully, we just keep building on that momentum. Obviously, the first year was a learning year and a building year but, this past year, I think we all started the season a lot more comfortable in knowing what to expect. It’s definitely not easy, for sure.
Question: “And Ryan, if you could add to that, specifically, to you and the No. 39 team.”
RYAN NEWMAN, Driver, No. 39 U.S. Army/Tornados/Haas Automation Chevrolet: “Just continue to go build on the relationships with the team, the communication that we have, and working on our racecars and taking everything to that ‘nth’ degree of performance. Had a good year last year, and look forward to this year. I look forward to starting strong. That’s one thing we have not done as a team on the 39 side is start the season off with a good Daytona 500, so we look forward to that opportunity again this year. Had some fun testing down there with the new pavement, and look forward to the entire Speedweeks.”
Question: Tony, you’ve had a chance to test at Daytona – new asphalt and everything. Sounds like the guys think the wind tunnel work has been good and cars are good. Hendrick engines, can you see any difference? Can they come with a little more horsepower this year?
Tony Stewart: “The hard part is, we have a smaller (restrictor) plate than we’ve had at Daytona – than we have had for a while – so it’s hard to really feel it. I know they have worked hard over the offseason and I know they are excited about our package. I know we never really got in a group of more than five cars. So it was hard to compare car-to-car and that’s the only way you can really tell. They always feel like they are lazy with the restrictor plate on them, but when you get around other cars is when you notice that Hendrick horsepower. Seems like when we were able to get around some other cars, I felt like we had really good horsepower.”
Question: Looks like you’ve (Stewart) lost some weight. If you’re in a program, could you describe that program and any other comments on fitness for the job that you do?
Tony Stewart: “I’m definitely not the guy to be adding a lot to the fitness comments. (Laughter) I can tell you that my left hand controls the volume and the right hand controls the channel. That’s about the best workout regimen I’ve got. But I did start working out a little bit before the end of the year and changing how I eat a little bit. Actually, I wasn’t eating enough, believe it or not, and eating two meals a day.”
Ryan Newman: “We don’t believe it.”
Tony Stewart: “I know. I know. (Laughter). Let me rephrase that – I wasn’t eating frequently enough. Went from eating two meals a day to five meals a day, a lot smaller, obviously, and now Ryan is the guy you have to ask about fitness. But no, we have lost quite a bit of weight. Haven’t lost a lot, pound-wise, but we lost a lot of fat percentage.”
Question: The motor coach lot has changed quite a bit. It seems like the youngsters have come along frequently. Do you guys talk about that? Do the other drivers talk about this whole kids (thing) and what you’re going through? Because your lifestyle is very unique compared to anyone else in the world with the travel and the motor coaches and everything. Do you share stuff and talk about the kids when you’re hanging out?
Ryan Newman: “We have, more recently. Just like testing last week, (I) talked to Jimmie (Johnson) about it. He’s further ahead, so I can learn from him. Jamie McMurray and myself were about the same time going through the same thing, so we can compare what’s right and wrong and women and kids and everything else. (Laughter).
I guess, ultimately, you might see some more trailers behind golf carts in the motorcoach lot. That’s about it. We are just adapting to it. It’s a big change for us and I think it’s weird if you look back at the history of the sport. I’ve heard the stories of the Petty’s and all that stuff back in the day. It’s like it skipped two or three generations, it seemed, and now there’s a big influx of mass production of kids, it seems. (Laughter). There are guys who are doubling up quicker than we ever thought. So it’s different, for sure. It changes the conversation from set-ups to baby cribs and things like that.”
Question: Down there in testing, was there any noticeable characteristic of the new nose that jumped out at you right away, or was it pretty much business as usual?
Tony Stewart: “I think, for the most part, it was still business as usual. It didn’t seem to be a big balance change and, like Tony Gibson mentioned earlier, there’s so much grip on the racetrack that I’m not sure we know how much change in aero balance it will be. It seems like, with the smaller plate, it was real easy. It was hard to get to the back of guys’ bumpers, and the only way you could do that was to get the guy in front to actually back up to you, and he either had to lift down the throttle or drag the brake pedal while he was still on the gas to back up to a guy to get in that push situation. That was the only noticeable change, I felt like. It seemed like opposite polarized magnets. When you would get so close, finally it would just push you away before you could get to the guy’s bumper. It took more effort to actually get the two cars hooked up together.”
Ryan Newman: “And I don’t think that we’ll see all of the things that are different in the nose until we get to a different track that’s the same. So, for instance, Phoenix, our second race, mostly from a bump standpoint, the way the splitter touched the racetrack, it’s going to be different this year in how we control that because this nose here seems to be more of a direct connect from the body to the racetrack than with the old splitter stays that we had that were a little bit more forgiving, I think.”