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Joe Gibbs and Tony Stewart meet the media at Homestead

An Interview With: JOE GIBBS and TONY STEWART

            THE MODERATOR:  We’re going to go ahead and start, kickoff our media availabilities for Ford Championship Weekend.  We’re joined by the team owners vying for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title on Sunday, Joe Gibbs and Tony Stewart.  Gentlemen, to both of you, congratulations on successful seasons, and before we turn it over to questions from our media, just want to get your initial thoughts as we head into championship weekend.

TONY STEWART:  Well, this is how you dress when you have one car in the championship, this is how you dress when you have three.  I walked in, I’m like, are you going to court today?  Oh, wait a minute, he’s got three cars in, this is the way you’ve got to dress.  You’ve got to step it up.

JOE GIBBS:  This is the way Tony dresses, this is the way Joe dresses.  Go.

TONY STEWART:  He’s nervous.  I’ve got him all tore up.  We were back there talking and he’s rubbing his forehead and everything else.  He doesn’t know what to do.

JOE GIBBS:  I had a flashback to my years with Tony.

Actually for us, I’ll kick it off, I would say this, that this sport is a brutal process.  And when you think about it, it’s really different from other sports.  You go 38 weekends and you’re fighting on short tracks, road racing, intermediate.  And for a driver and for us to go through that, I think for each one of the guys that get here each and every year, it really is a testimony to how good they are and the entire team, the crew chief and everything that goes with it.

So for us, having said how hard it is, we’re thrilled to be here, and obviously it’s been an unbelievable year for us.  I think it started off with the Daytona 500 and J.D. and everything that ?? Tony knows how much all that meant to us.  And so it’s been kind of one of those unreal experiences, and for us to be here for each one of our drivers and for our sponsors, it’s a thrill, and we’re just excited.

This is going to be different.  The thing that I love about our sport which is totally different than any other sport really, you’ve got four teams that have to work together in order to get here.  But once you’re here, this is each one of those guys, this is their chance to win a championship for their sponsor and everybody that’s following them.  We have a huge contingent from each one of our sponsors here this weekend, which is a huge deal for us.  Everybody here knows our sport, what’s critically important to us is sponsorship, and they’re all here.  And so each one of our guys are geared up.  They want to win this, each one of them for a different reason.  Denny has never won one, and so it’s a big deal for us.

TONY STEWART:  I agree with Joe.  It’s what the goal of every organization is at the beginning of the year is to go out and win races, win big races and contend for a championship and try to win a championship at the end of the season.  To get one in, I mean, that’s definitely our goal.  Our goal is obviously to be in the scenario Joe is in and have multiple cars in, but it is, it’s tough.  You look at how the season goes, especially during the playoffs, it’s so crucial to get everything you can get with stage points and everything.  When you’ve got three three?week segments to lead into this weekend, just getting into the playoffs is a battle, but then you’ve got to execute nine straight weeks and not make mistakes to give yourself an opportunity to be here this weekend.

I’m proud of our group.  I feel like we didn’t get off to the start that we were looking for, but as the season has came on, I feel like we’ve gained momentum and keep gaining momentum.  We’re here, and that was the goal all along was to at least have one car here.  I feel like it’s kind of like poker.  It’s a chip and a chair.  We’ve got one bullet in the gun, and we’ll give it everything we’ve got.

For you, Coach, two of your drivers said yesterday that you work relentlessly; you never give up; you never take a break.  You’re always doing something.  Legend is you used to spend the night at Redskin Park night after night after night.  Where does that work ethic come from?  And at your point and what you’ve done, isn’t it time to maybe back up a little bit?

JOE GIBBS:  (Laughs.)  I take it you didn’t talk to Tony.  He thought I loafed all the time.

No, I love what I do.  It’s a thrill for me.  Football was a thrill because I was a technical person and worked on that side of it and called plays and stuff.  I came over here, this to me is ?? for us it’s a small family business.  Now it’s Coy has a big part of this, and we know J.D. spent his entire occupational life, and I’ve got grandkids coming.  And honestly, I’ve tried to talk a couple of them into do you want to coach and things like that.  I swear, each and every one of them said to me, no, I want to do what Dad did.

So I think they’re coming.  So for me, it’s ?? I just get excited every day because I love the competition part of it.  And think about it, we’re competing against the absolute best owners in all of motorsports.  So I get a chance to go to a weekend and be a part of a team, try and put things together.  I love that part of it.  I love team sports.  I wasn’t good enough to play an individual sport, so I wound up in team sports, and I love it.

I think it’s just that you have fun.  I don’t look at it as a lot of work.  It’s just you try and do the best you can to help the team in every way you can.

Joe, it seems like we’re seeing a different Denny Hamlin this year compared to years past.  So this is a two?part question.  One, what have you observed from your perspective on the changes in Denny?  And two, how do you think Chris Gabehart has been able to help him both personally and professionally this year?

JOE GIBBS:  Right.  I think one of the things for Denny, and Tony could speak to this probably better than me.  But if you go through a whole year like he did last year and not win a race and you get everybody kind of the ?? the rumors start, is this guy over the hill.  I think Denny was fighting through that saying that’s not the case.  But I think the fact that I think Chris came on board and I think Chris really helped because Chris has a different outlook on things.  And then I think Denny getting off to the start the way he did winning that Daytona 500, I think that we all know that people mature and grow up.  Different things happen in their life.  So I think Denny is ?? I think he’s in a part in his life where he says I get a second chance really in a lot of ways, and he’s making the most of it, and I think certainly Gabehart has really, really helped him with that.

Tony, this is the first time we’ve seen you since the announcement on the 41 car.  Can you tell us what went into the decision to make the change?  And also, do you still plan to have an Xfinity car for Briscoe?

TONY STEWART:  Well, we’re working on all the Xfinity stuff still.  You know, Gene actually controls the 41 car, but we’re all comfortable with the decision.  I spoke to Gene a lot about it.  We feel like Cole has done a great job this year, and Cole has earned his right to be in the Cup Series next year, with seven wins and running for a championship.  He deserves it.

You know, it ultimately is Gene’s decision, but like I said, this is something that as a company we all agreed with and feel like that Cole has earned his right to be in the series and have an opportunity like this.

We still want to try to figure out how to help Daniel.  I think he deserves to be in the Cup Series.  It’s just a matter of how do we fit it all in, and when you’ve got a feeder series and you’ve got your own program to work young drivers up through there, sometimes you get in scenarios like this where you’ve got more drivers than you have cars.

So it’s a tough spot to be in for us as management, but like I said, we’re going to try to work with Daniel and see if we can find a solution to keep him in our system and hopefully get him back in a car one day.  But Cole has definitely earned his spot for sure.  Everybody has worked hard.

We wish we could have five cars, but we can’t, so it puts us in this odd position to have to make a change like that.  It’s bittersweet.  We love Daniel, we love what he does, but we also believe in Cole and believe this is the right time and his opportunity, and he’s really made big gains this year.  We talked to him at the beginning of the season and said we need to see some improvement and see some gains, and not only did he respond to that, he responded with a bunch of wins this year and racing for a championship this weekend.

The kid has earned his opportunity to get this ride for next year.

I got a kick yesterday in the breakout sessions on media day with the drivers, Joe, your drivers being asked about whether ?? what kind of a leader you were but also if you had ever yelled at them or if they’ve ever gotten a tongue lashing and Kyle was pretty funny and Denny said there was a time where he went rogue on a drafting session and then there was a crash and you said, “You’re paying for that car!”  And then he won the Daytona 500 and you said, Well, maybe not, right?  So do you remember that?  And Tony, have you done those tongue lashings, and similar, Coach, do you remember what Denny is talking about?

JOE GIBBS:  Yeah, I do, and I was upset with what happened.  And then he turned around and won that next race, and I said, okay, you can forget that.  I don’t think I’ve ever penalized anybody for anything, but I threaten them every now and then.

TONY STEWART:  That’s not true.  (Laughter.)

JOE GIBBS:  On second thought, there is a driver I’ve worked with where we…

TONY STEWART:  I had to pay for two TVs in the lounge of the trailer that I broke.

JOE GIBBS:  I used to try and get to the hauler as fast as I could if he had a bad night because he was going to tear up the inside of the hauler.

TONY STEWART:  I feel like I got pretty good odds out of it because I think I broke five TVs where he said if you break another one this one is coming out of your paycheck.

JOE GIBBS:  I got him at Richmond one time, and I beat him in there real quick, and you were ticked off and he’s in there all flustered and everything, and he goes like, they usually turn to me after tearing stuff up, he goes, I’m going to go out there and kick his ?? and I went like this, I started to go, Okay, I think you should.  (Laughter.)  Hoping somebody will put a lump on you.

TONY STEWART:  See, as a good owner you should have thought of that first and I would have saved the trailer.  (Laughter.)

Have you ever tongue lashed your drivers?

TONY STEWART:  No, and honestly I can’t say that he did me, either.  Here’s the thing.  It’s a sport that you’re passionate about.  I mean, every driver is different, and Joe can tell you better than anybody because he’s dealt with more, quote?unquote, professional athletes than anybody, and how you get people to respond is different from person to person.  I mean, sometimes you’ve got to put your arm around them and really walk them through the whole process.  Sometimes you’ve got to be a little stern with them.  But there’s that one button in each of us that gets us to respond.

I think that’s kind of what makes good leaders and good owners and good crew chiefs, good competition directors.  You have to know your people.  You have to know what that button is.  You need to know how to get ?? what you have to do to get the best out of them.  It’s not always about a tongue lashing or this and that.  A tongue lashing is because you’re upset about something.  But when you take a step back and you say, what are you ultimately trying to accomplish out of it, what’s the right way to go about it with this particular individual.  So I think it’s ?? I learned a lot from this guy in the years I was there.  And I’ve said it a million times, if I didn’t work for him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.  I wouldn’t be the things that I’m doing now.  I wouldn’t be in debt like I am now.  And I blame all of it on Joe.  (Laughter.)

But it’s great to have worked with somebody like him because he has, he’s worked with so many great people.  It’s not things that you always see just that show up at the racetrack.  A lot of it pertains to everyday life, too, and when you get a chance to sit with him long enough and when you shut your mouth and listen, spend more time listening than talking, you can learn a lot from this guy, and I promise you, it helps.

For both of you guys, I talked to ?? I read what Kevin said five years ago about this format being very stressful on drivers and could shorten careers.  I talked to Kyle yesterday.  He also said the same thing.  And that’s from a driver standpoint.  From a team owner standpoint, what’s the most stressful part for you guys of trying to get your guys into the championship race here at Homestead?

TONY STEWART:  It’s the same thing.  I mean, it is.  It’s extremely stressful.  It’s great for TV, it’s great for the series.  It’s not the greatest thing for the drivers and teams, but it’s ?? if it makes our sport better, that’s what we do and that’s why we do it.  It creates a lot of excitement.  But for the people that are involved and have to be a part of that for 10 straight weeks, it’s the worst 10 weeks of your life, I can promise you that, because all it takes is one thing to happen that can eliminate you from your whole year’s work and everything that you’ve done in the off?season to prepare to try to get to this moment.  It can be wiped out by somebody that’s just running their first race of the season.  That person can totally alter your whole season by one mistake that they make.

So the amount of variables that are in your control are in your hand.  The amount of variables that are out of your control are in this entire room, the scale of it.  There’s tons more things that can go wrong than can go right, but that’s what makes ?? these teams that get to this point at the end of the year, they know how to sit there and not overlook any detail because they realize that one small variable in the equation can destroy your plans.  It makes us all work harder as organizations and as drivers, but it is, it’s extremely stressful to sit there and run through the playoffs.  It’s not like the World Series where you’ve got seven games to try to win four of the seven.  We don’t get a redo tomorrow.  It either goes right for you or it doesn’t, and if you make one mistake, your whole season came down to one mistake.

JOE GIBBS:  I think Denny highlights that.  He’s had an unbelievable year, and then we had that ?? two weeks ago we had that one spin.  It was one time the car got away from him and tore up the front, and then we were in a bind.  When you go through races and you eliminate four, Tony is right, it is really stressful.  I will say this:  When I looked at it kind of over the years, it does; somehow, someway, it rewards real good cars at the end.  I don’t think anybody gets here unless you’re really good.  And that’s the entire team, crew chief, everybody.

But I think you can see how one mistake ?? it happened the other night and last week.  And that kind of ?? I think that drives you crazy is what Tony was saying.

TONY STEWART:  It’s part of what makes it so gratifying, too.  If you accomplish your goal, you know that you had to do everything right.  Like Joe said in his example, they had to overcome a mistake and had to overcome it by winning a race.  I mean, you think back 20 years ago, 30 years ago where you had a whole season to make points up.  The stress of it wasn’t near like that because by the time you got here, you had one, two, maybe three guys that mathematically were in it.  But the level of anxiety you have and the level you have to perform at when you get to this one event is incredible.  I mean, that’s what makes this so special if you do win it.

Tony, this kind of plays off what Claire had asked you, but I’m curious how you have found your personality and your style of management as a team owner versus what your personality may have been as a driver, as a competitor only.  You guys were kind of joking about a rough after?race, but is it similar, the high intensity?  And also to that point, you’ve won championships and had all these drivers eligible for a championship as an owner, so you right away were successful much like your driving career.  You jumped right in and had success.

TONY STEWART:  I think a lot of it’s there are two different levels of intensity for sure, when you’re a driver versus an owner.  And Joe used to harp at me, he’s like, you’re like a quarterback, your emotion trickles down through the entire system, and Lord knows he had to manage that emotion quite a bit.  As an owner it’s a lot different because it took a little longer than I’m sure Joe anticipated that it was going to sink in, but it finally sank in, and you realize everybody is feeding off of what we do.  Everybody is feeding off of our emotion.  If we’re upset about it, the whole organization gets upset.  I mean, you can be mad and walk through the whole shop and by the end of the day everybody is mad at the shop.  You walk through and we’ve had a bad weekend and you walk through and you’re positive and upbeat.  By the end of the day everybody is positive and upbeat and looking forward to the next weekend.

I think it’s just, like Joe said, with time guys grow up.  It took me a lot longer.  I’m not even sure I’m there yet.  I’m still a work in progress.  But when you’ve been around good people you learn good lessons and then you realize how you apply it to what you’re doing with your organization, as well.

You know, like I said, I’ve been around teammates that I had to work with differently.  I’ve been with crew chiefs that I had to work with differently, and like I say, you learn how to push the right buttons to get the right results from guys and get the best out of them.  When you can learn ?? that’s something not a lot of guys have the ability to see that and know how to do that, and I think that’s what makes ?? there’s car owners and there’s great car owners, and I think that’s the difference is how you organize your people, how you manage your people and how you motivate them.

Joe, yesterday Denny said that he was going through a bit of a tough stretch during the summer in his personal life and he relied on you maybe more than he usually does.  How do you balance the personal with the professional?  And considering obviously the great loss you had this year, has anything changed in the way you deal with your drivers or people on your team?  How do you get through the kind of things you’ve had to go through?

JOE GIBBS:  Yeah, I do think it’s made a big difference in my life in that what came back to us after J.D. went to be with the Lord was how many individual people he had stopped to help, or I’ve got a little photo on my desk of this girl that couldn’t walk really.  She wound up in the shop, and J.D. spent an hour and a half with her taking her through the shop.  There’s all kinds of stories like that.

I think it made a big impression on me from the standpoint, I’m kind of doing big things and big this and big ?? J.D. would take individual time, and it comes back over and over again.  There’s a stack on my desk that I answered, letters where people said J.D. took time out and helped me in some way.  So it made a big impression on me.

I think that he was really the spiritual leader in a lot of ways, like with his kids and everything.  I think I did learn a lot from that, and it made a big impression on me.

I think individually what you see in the career of drivers when we’re with them is so intense, and it’s hard for them in a lot of ways.  Most sports are this way, pro sports.  You’ve only got a certain amount of time that you can do this.  And so I think ?? I always felt an obligation as an owner to try and give them everything that you could so that they could be successful because you know their career is going to be ?? it can only be a certain amount of time.

So I think when you do that and you’re with them for over a period of time ?? like we’ve been together with Denny now for 12 years.  Longer than that really.  J.D. found him, everything that happened there.  And so you see through his life, he goes through different things in his life.  You’re more mature, you’ve been through some of those things.

So when you see him kind of hit something that’s hard for him, I think, you know, you really are partners in a lot of ways.  I know when Tony gambled and came with us, we were partners really.  Through his efforts and everything he did, he had a huge influence on our sponsors, building our company.  I mean, he really had a lot to do with us getting to where we are.

When you see somebody going through something like that with Denny or any of our guys that you’ve been with for a while, yeah, you share with them, talk to them.  You’re friends really, and sometimes you can help, particularly if you’ve been through a lot of things in life and you’re a little older, sometimes you can help.

For both of you, I know you two have raced against each other for a championship before, but considering the way your careers are intertwined, you’re both going to the Hall of Fame together.  Now it’s just the two of you just racing against each other for the title.  I’m wondering what that means to each of you.

TONY STEWART:  It means a lot to me.  Like I say, at the beginning of the season you don’t know who you’re going to be sitting up here with.  It could be three other owners and this year it’s unique and it’s one guy that I’ve spent a lot of time with and I think the world of.  To be able to compete against him for a championship is a really cool deal.

This whole year and everything with the Hall of Fame, all of it’s really special to be doing a lot of this with Joe.  Every week we want to go out and beat his guys as much as anybody else, but at the end of the year to be battling it out and think where it was, what, 25 years ago ?? God, we really are getting old, aren’t we.

JOE GIBBS:  Yeah, we are.

TONY STEWART:  That means you really are old.  You were old when I started.

JOE GIBBS:  I know, I’m in the fourth quarter.  (Laughter.)

TONY STEWART:  Something tells me he’s going to have multiple overtimes in his game for some reason.  But it is cool.  It does make it more special when it’s somebody that you have worked with firsthand and have a lot of respect for to be here in this kind of scenario with him.

JOE GIBBS:  I think plus Kevin is ?? we’ve been whipped up by these guys to know ??

TONY STEWART:  Not enough, we’ve got two more days.

JOE GIBBS:  Okay.  But honestly, we have great respect.  I think everybody in the garage area does for them.  So it’s got us scared and worried, I’ll tell you that.

I think that’s it.  You can’t ?? if you look at Kevin and what Tony and his group have done, Gene, it’s just they’re there a bunch and they can win championships, and we know it.  And it’s just like we talked about.  If they hit this thing, okay, then we’re going to be in trouble.  So that’s kind of what you’re looking at.

I think the dynamic even in here is maybe a little bit more fun than what we’ve seen in past years for this owners’ panel.  Do you guys get to have a little bit of fun with this and kind of the jabs back and forth at each other because of the driver?owner relationship that you guys had in the past?

JOE GIBBS:  I will say this, that the years that we had with Tony are some of the ?? I mean, they’ll always be in my mind, some of the stories and some of the things that happened.  From the very first time we sat down with him, we sat down at the FB over in Indy, and it was me and Don Meredith, and I don’t know if you remember this or not, but he sat there and negotiated his entire contract with just him.  He said, no, I’m not going to do that, we’ll do this and we’ll do that.  We went through the entire thing, and when we finished it I still remember our discussion we had because it sticks vividly in my mind.  He said, Now the only thing I want to race is dirt late models, okay.  I said, Dirt late models?  He said, Yeah, you can’t get hurt in those, no problem.  Dirt late models.  And I think within one month he was in winged whatever, and I never got him out of those.  But I always think about he sat there, it was really ?? what were you 22, 23, 24?  He negotiated every single thing in our deal.  We were calling attorneys and everything else.  I always remember that about Tony.

Tony is ?? knew exactly what he wanted.  I’ll say this, too, a little story about him.  We said to him ?? he said to us, I’m not ready for Cup.  Don’t put me in Cup.  I have to start in Xfinity.  And I said, Really.  And he goes, Yeah, I’m not going to make mistakes in front of the people I really respect.  And I think he had a great feeling for his talent and what he could do, and he had great confidence.  But there were some things about that meeting I’ll always remember.

TONY STEWART:  I think he forgets the last thing that I remember.  We’d kind of broke off, and Cary Agajanian was my attorney at the time, and I looked at Cary, I said, Do you see anything that stands out that we need to look at?  He goes, No, I’m happy.  Are you happy?  I go, I’m happy.  We walk back in, and Joe goes, So what do you think?  I said, Well, everything is good except for one thing, and Cary looked at me and Joe looked at me funny, Don Meredith looked at me funny.  I said, I want to drive the Top Fuel car at the U.S. Nationals next year, too.  (Laughter.)  And immediately his head started spinning off.  It looked like a horror movie.

But that goes back to what we’re doing right now and cutting up and carrying on.  It started that day because I let him go for about five seconds and Cary is literally kicking my leg under the table like what in the hell are you doing.  And then I told him, I’m just messing with you, we’re good, we’re ready to do this.  So I guess from the first day on ?? actually it goes back further than that if you want to talk about how it all started.  I was hurt from the IndyCar crash in Las Vegas.

JOE GIBBS:  Yeah.

TONY STEWART:  My buddies had been calling ?? I’d been really depressed because if you live with your mom and stepdad for a month, you’ll be depressed.  But my buddies had been calling all day and it was AJ Foyt and then it was Mario Andretti and then it was Steve Kinser and this and that.  None of them were; it was all my buddies saying who they were.  So my mom answers the phone.  It’s 10:00 at night, and my mom goes, It’s Joe Gibbs.  I’m like, Oh, great.  Sure, here we go, which one of these assholes is it now.  So they hand the phone over to me, and I’m like, Hey, Joe, how the hell are you.  He goes, Tony?  And I’m like, Oh, my God, is really is Joe Gibbs.

That’s the way our whole relationship literally from the first phone call on because I obviously had to explain to him why I was being an idiot other than I was heavily medicated.  Had to explain to him why I was being the way I was.  That’s the way we’ve always been with each other.  We’ve always had fun with each other.  But I think as much as we’ve had fun, we’ve always had a high level of respect for each other, as well.

JOE GIBBS:  I’ve got to tell you I was chasing him all over the place trying to get him signed and trying to get things worked out.  I’ve got to tell ??

TONY STEWART:  Do you really have to tell this?

JOE GIBBS:  So I couldn’t find him lots of times, I would call the girlfriend.  I would call the girlfriend, and she would tell me where he was and everything.  So about the third time I called the girlfriend, she goes, That no?good rotten ?? don’t you ever call this house again.  I went, well, that was done.  (Laughter.)

TONY STEWART:  We were ready to hold auditions again.  It was time.  What can I say?  (Laughter.)  All right, we need to talk about something now.  Oh, boy.

JOE GIBBS:  We need to get back to racing.

I hate to change the subject ??

TONY STEWART:  I’m glad you are.  Whatever you’re going to say, I don’t care.

Tony, next year will be the fourth straight season that Stewart?Haas Racing has a new driver with Cole Custer’s promotion.  I know teams probably prefer to have continuity.  To what would you attribute that churn?  Is that just the financial realities right now in the Cup Series that you go through that many drivers?

TONY STEWART:  Well, I think you sit down at the end of each year and you look at what can we do to make our company better.  I don’t think it’s necessarily financial, but you have to sit down at the end of the year and evaluate where you’re at, and each year we’ve had opportunities to make changes, and it’s happened to be with drivers, as well.  I don’t think it’s ?? it’s not something we sit there and plan necessarily ahead of time that that’s the way it’s going to work out, but that is the way it’s worked out.

You do want to have that opportunity for guys to have time to gel and mesh.  When you sit down at the end of the day, business is business, and sometimes it doesn’t necessarily work that way.  Sometimes you have to make tough decisions that ?? sometimes they seem like a bigger leap and stretch than others.  But at the end of the day, it’s a group of us that sit down and say is this the right thing for our company right now.

Obviously there’s ongoing discussions about what the new car is going to look like as it takes shape here over the next year.  When the end result comes and that new car is here, what are you hoping and needing out of it that you hope provides for both your organization and the sport in general?

TONY STEWART:  I mean, I hope it just makes the series stronger.  I hope we have more car owners that are able to come into the sport and financially be able to be in a position where they can compete with Joe, with us, with Penske, with Hendrick, Childress.  We want stronger teams and have a platform where all the teams have the ability to perform at a higher level.  It still doesn’t mean we don’t want to beat them, obviously, but for the strength of the series and for down the road, I mean, this series has to be healthy.

You look at Formula 1, and I know worldwide people geek out over Formula 1.  I love looking at the technology of it, but you know there’s realistically two, maybe three manufacturers that have a shot at winning a race each week, and it’s not going to be anybody outside of those three.  That’s something that NASCAR has done extremely well over its history is being able to make sure that teams have the opportunity to compete at a high level.

We get caught and NASCAR does, too, and there’s times I give NASCAR more grief than probably anybody in the garage area.  But the thing they historically have done extremely well in the long haul is being able to combat technology and figure out a way to find a package that works and works well for everyone.

I think at the end of the day, what I look for, obviously anything we can do to make it financially better for all of us, it’s good for the health of the sport.  We need car owners, we need new car owners in the sport, we need new manufacturers in the sport, and being able to work on this new car and the things that are in discussion and the moving pieces that are going on are really exciting and give you hope that this ?? we’ve got a lot to look forward to in the future.  I think they’ve done a really good job.  They went way out on this limb, and I think it’s something that scared a lot of people at first, but when you really sit down and talk to them and talk about the revision of what and why they’re doing this and the objectives they’re trying to gain with it, it makes sense, and think it makes sense for all of us and gives us a lot to look forward to.

JOE GIBBS:  I think from Jim France on down, I think everybody is really engaged right now, and I think I reflect on it, what’s best for our sport like what Tony talked about:  New owners, new OEMs, but also for sponsors.  Sponsors are our lifeblood.  And for us, I think that’s critically important for us.  We’ve got an uptick this year in our TV stuff and numbers, which is good.  Most sports are struggling, so hopefully we’re in a good place there.  But I think social and digital is huge.  We’re all actively engaged in that.  I know NASCAR is leading the way with a lot of things we’re doing there.

But I think it’s ?? I reflect on it for the health of the sport.  I think that’s where we are.  And I think everybody right now is working hard, tons of meetings, everybody’s full speed ahead trying to do smart, right things for our sport.

I reflect on things, I know Tony goes to a lot of dirt tracks and a lot of things.  I’m in south Boston watching my grandson race.  The place is packed on Friday night.  You can’t get another person in there.  People love to watch cars, love to watch the thrill of victory, agony of defeat, the competition, everything that takes place in our sport.  And the fact that our sport is really different.  I love the fact that people can actually get an autograph on race day.  They’re a part of it.  They go to hospitalities.  Our sport has just got so much to ?? I think it’s got so much to offer the fan, the sponsor.  So that’s the reason why I’m excited about it, because I think we’re all engaged right now with what’s best for the sport, and 2021 is going to be a huge deal.  So we’re all engaged with it.  We’re all working hard on it.

I reflect on things, what makes it easier for us to sign a sponsor and what makes this more of a palatable way for us to race cars.  And for our family, Coy and everybody in my family, we’re heavily engaged there.  We’ve got Dave here.  We’ve got a lot of people that have been with us 28 years that have built our race team.  We give out 20?year awards every year, and it’s just unbelievable the number of people that have been with us over that period of time.  So our obligation to them is to have a healthy race team.

We’ve got sponsors like Toyota and all the other sponsors that we have, I couldn’t start going through them because we have so many, but it’s just a huge deal for us.  I’m thrilled with the fact that we’re heavily engaged in meetings all the time.  We were in a meeting on Wednesday with NASCAR, and I think we’re after it.  So I think that’s good.  And I think we’ve got a lot to look forward to in the future.

TONY STEWART:  This weekend is a perfect example.  We can talk about TV ratings all day long, but I think what gets overlooked is how many people you’ve got coming back to the racetracks.  Another sellout this weekend already.  It’s proof that it’s gaining momentum again and going the right direction.

All the other sports are struggling.  All the sports are struggling, but this has been ?? we’re finally getting in a position where NASCAR is actually starting to turn upward again and gain momentum and you’re seeing it in the stands, you’re seeing it in the ratings.  It’s making a comeback, and that’s positive for all of us.

Joe, you’ve hired an adult for your race team this year in Martin Truex Jr., under the radar, doesn’t get in the spotlight the way that Kyle and Denny do, but seven wins.  He leads the tour.  What has he meant to the organization to bring in somebody like that?

JOE GIBBS:  Like?

Martin Truex Jr.

JOE GIBBS:  Yeah, I’ve got to tell you Martin has ?? I think Martin had gone for a long time in his career, didn’t have a lot of wins, and now over these last three years, four years, he’s such an easy person to work with.  He’s heavily engaged, and I think super competitive.  Between him and Cole, I think they’ve got a great relationship going, and I think they’re awful good.  You can’t shake him up.  As Tony talked about, drivers have different personalities.  Some of them get out of the car and you can read them, extremely upset, all the things ?? that Martin, in our meetings, very calculated, smart.  So I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and I think he’s got a long way to go in his career, too.  I really do.  I think he’s going to be around for a long time.  He’s going to be winning races.

Having him come in with Cole has really meant a lot to our race team because what you’re trying to do during the week is solve problems.  Four teams work together.  What I love about our sport, then you go to the racetrack and you’ve got four individual efforts going after it, and that’s hard to do, put all that together.  But I think they’ve been a big part of what’s happened this year, and they’ve added a lot.

And Tony, real quick, there’s been a lot of talk that David Gravel will be in a truck next year.  What do you think his transition will be like?

TONY STEWART:  I mean, it will be interesting.  Obviously David is one of the best winged sprint car drivers in the world right now.  Winning the Knoxville Nationals, he ran third in the points.  To get an opportunity where he gets a chance, which it really hasn’t happened for a World Outlaw driver to get an opportunity to come to NASCAR for quite a while, so it’s exciting in the open wheel industry and community to see David get this opportunity.  Even though it’s a limited schedule, just the fact that somebody from winged sprint car racing is getting an opportunity again is exciting for us.

He’s a great talent.  I mean, I think he’s shown that getting in different cars and being able to still get up front and win races.  I think we’re all excited for him.  We all want him to do well and wish him the best.

THE MODERATOR:  Gentlemen, thank you for your time and good luck this weekend.

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