Tony Stewart was at one of the local Home Depot Stores (350 Centennial Pkwy Hamilton, Ontario) signing autographs for about 700 fans today. After he did that he then met with members of the media, myself and two other guys, and then signed stuff for the employees of Home Depot before leaving for Chicago.
Let me tell you, the PR people running the show did an awesome job.
There were people lining up as early as 5:30 am. Some people even travelled from the US to get a chance to meet Tony.
Tony was in a great mood tonight as well and it appeared to me that he was having a good time meeting the fans and even the media guys.
To the question about his future in racing Tony’s reply was, “I’m gonna shorten’ this up for you real quick. I’m gonna make you do just like everybody else and wait for tomorrow.”
That was the end of the ‘Tomorrow’s Big Announcement’ part of the interview and when it was brought up again in an other way Tony quickly shot the question down and remained cool, although I could tell he was a little bothered by the persistence of the individual in question (not me).
One of the other media guys then asked Tony, “Is it a dream of yours to eventually own your own team?”
Tony’s reply was, “We’ll know tomorrow,” quickly followed by, “I’ve got teams. I’ve got two World of Outlaws sprint car teams, two USAC teams with the two cars in the midget division Silver Crown Division, Sprint Car Division, so between four race teams and three race tracks it keeps me pretty busy.”
I then asked Tony about sponsorship and alluded to his possible sponsorship formula next year usingale Jr as an example.
Tony’s reply was, “If you look at the (sponsor) program that Dale Jr has this year, it makes sense. You can’t keep asking the sponsors to keep spending more and more and more, but it costs more and more and more to go racing each year. The program that they’ve got where they’re flopping a couple of sponsors around on a car makes sense to me. Seems like a pretty good formula that’s working good for them over there. I don’t think you’re gonna see one sponsor that can keep affording to spend 20-25 million dollars for the primary sponsorship of a car and have a whole car to themselves anymore. It’s hard for one sponsor to do that, especially when the economy is bad, it’s hard to get the return on your investment. So [multiple sponsors] seems to be the better option for a lot of corporate America right now.”
I tried to pin Tony down on who he might have for a Crew Chief next year, now that we know his longtime Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli will not be going with him. I even asked him flat out if he was going to take the Crew Chief of JGR’s #20 Nationwide car, Dave Rogers, with him.
Tony: (laughs) I don’t think you could pry Dave Rogers off of that 20 car right now … they’re one (win) away from tying the record (for wins) in the Nationwide Series and we’re just barely half-way through the season. I don’t think you could take a crowbar and pry Dave away from that program right now. It would be foolish to see him leave right now because they’re having so much success right now.”
I then ask, “In a perfect world, knowing that Zippie and Dave are out of the question, who would top the list of Crew Chiefs that you would want to work with?”
Tony: (laughs) “I don’t even know right now to be honest. I’ve never worked with anybody else so I don’t know. I don’t know who the perfect Crew Chief is really.”
So there you are, make of it what you want. There’s more to the interview and I’ll have that at a later date. I just put up the things that I thought you might find interesting due to the fact that he is having his press conference tomorrow at 2:30 pm to announce his future plans in racing.
I just want to thank Tony for giving us the chance to talk with him. It was certainly a pleasure to interview him and let me tell you, he was great all evening with the fans and media. I even asked him to smile for a picture and he smirked, looked up and gave one of his patent ‘goofy’ smiles. That is the picture that I’ve posted here because I think it exemplifies the whole evening with Tony at the Home Depot, just flat out fun for everyone.
Hey Tony, in case you are reading this I just want to say, from myself and your fans, ‘Thank-you’.