Tony Stewart posted his sixth top-10 finish in the eight Chase for the Championship races and has a 38-point lead over Jimmie Johnson heading into Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway.
Stewart talked about the Chase after last week's race at Texas and how he plans to approach the final two races of the season. Here are excerpts of that press conference:
Question: Are you starting to feel things are falling into place for you?
Stewart: Not necessarily. We're just out there doing our job. The good thing, in my opinion, for these next three weeks, is that we're just going out and doing what we've done all year. We go out and try to win the race. And if we can't go win the race, we're not going to take any chances to win it. We'll just take what we can get and do it safely. We didn't back into anything last week: We were a top-10 car all day and we finished ninth. From our standpoint, we did what we have to do and had a solid, consistent day. The other guys were, at times, in front of us or behind us. We just stayed the most consistent all day.
Question: You were battling with Mark Martin for the lead at Texas when the two of you bumped. After the race, Martin came over to you. What was said?
Stewart: It was just about the deal on the backstretch. I ran clear up to the wall to give him all the room but he just got too close and ran into us and he came down and did what most of these guys won't do. They're too chicken to do it. He came down and apologized for it. We yelled at each other for a minute. And the good thing is I respect Mark because of that. I won't say most of these guys, but there are about 40 or 50 percent of these guys who don't have enough guts to come down here when they did something wrong and tell you right away. They'd just as soon sit there and hide behind and run to the trailer and wait for the phone call the next day. It's like I told Mark, 'I'm good with it now.' Anybody that's got enough guts to come down and talk about it has my vote. He was a man and came over and said he made a mistake. That's why I respect Mark more than anybody in this series. It hurt our car when it happened, but at least he came down and talked to me about it.
Question: You have a 38-point lead going into Phoenix. Are you thinking about points?
Stewart: You look at it for a couple of seconds, but you're really racing the same guys. If you look at the pylon, the guys that we're racing in the Chase are the same guys we were racing for the win today. You know, it's not even really worth worrying about the points, it's about worrying what you need to do to win the race the next couple of weeks.
Question: Your teammate, Denny Hamlin, had another top-10 finish at Texas in the No. 11 car. What do you think about his progress?
Stewart: He showed why he deserves to be in that FedEx car right now and basically, Denny keeps showing why he deserves a ride in the Cup Series. He was patient today. He was aggressive when he needed to be. But most of all he brought the car home in one piece and had a top-10 finish. So, I'm really proud of him. I think this kid doesn't even realize his potential yet. But he's definitely somebody who's going to make a big name for himself.
Question: It's seems like it's been a long time ago, but you suffered some burns on your legs during the spring race at Texas. What was that injury like?