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FOX Sports exclusive: One-on-one with Tony Stewart | FOX Sports on MSN


Tom Jensen
FOX Sports


MAY 23, 2014 12:48p ET



CHARLOTTE, N.C. —


Tony Stewart lives in interesting times.

The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and the owner of USAC and World of Outlaws race teams, as well as several Midwestern race tracks, is always active, always wearing multiple hats.

But even by Stewart's crazy-busy schedule, 2014 has been a frenetic -- and erratic -- year so far, with no sign of letting up. To recap:

In its first year as a four-car team, SHR already has three Sprint Cup race victories, with two-time winner Kevin Harvick already locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup and teammateKurt Busch almost certainly headed into NASCAR's playoff round as well.

On Sunday, Busch will attempt to do something only Stewart himself has ever done: complete all 1,100 miles of the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

Stewart's business partner, Gene Haas, is launching a Formula One team from scratch in the Kannapolis, N.C., complex that houses SHR.

Danica Patrick, while still struggling at times, posted the best finish of her Cup career two weeks ago in Kansas -- she was seventh in her SHR Chevrolet -- and Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, she qualified fourth, her best result at a non-restrictor-plate track.

And, oh by the way, Stewart is 22nd in points as he is attempting to come to grips with the new Sprint Cup handling package while simultaneously still recovering from the most gruesome injury of his career, a double compound fracture of his right leg suffered last August in a sprint car crash in Iowa.

Yet through all the maelstrom, Stewart has kept a low profile for much of the year, except for shocking the NASCAR world last week by joining Twitter, where he posted a selfie with his pet pig, Pork Chop.

Between Sprint Cup practice and qualifying Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Stewart sat down with FOXSports.com for an exclusive interview about this most curious of seasons.









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The good, from Stewart's perspective, includes the addition of Harvick and Busch to SHR and their early season success.

"It's just fun to listen to them in debriefs," said Stewart of his two new teammates. "They know so much about their cars and what's in 'em, what springs are in 'em. They're very, very detail oriented when it comes to describing their race cars and knowing what's in 'em, where I couldn't tell you any of the four springs that are in the car when I drive it , but I can tell you whether I need the car to be free or tight, if the platform's not level --€“ whatever.

"I just work on what it feels like versus knowing what's in it, where they come from a train of thought and a school of knowing every detail about what's inside those race cars and I think it's really shown. They know when a change happens whether it's working or not and why it's doing that, so from that standpoint, it's made me pay a little closer attention to what we're doing."

When Harvick and Busch joined the team, there was much conjecture about how it would go, given that both are strong and occasionally volatile personalities, just as Stewart is. But so far, it's been good for all involved, according to Stewart.

"The bottom line is the organization from a whole has given us every resource that we have asked for," Harvick said. "You never talk about money, it's just what do you need and how do we get it for you? How do we get better? ... Everybody is having fun and everybody likes to race. It's all about racing most of the time."

"We've got a solid Stewart-Haas team," said Busch as he prepared to head back to Indy. "I'lll be back next week and it will be back to normal of running Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma and on with the rest of them."

Asked how important it was to the stability of SHR to get Harvick and Busch into the Chase, Stewart minced no words.

"Oh, God. More than you can imagine," Stewart said. "Especially more and more, sponsorships are more delicate now. It's such a big deal just to make that Chase. To have those two guys in already takes a huge weight off our shoulders."

As for Patrick, Stewart said he was pleased with her improvements, even though she still has a way to go.

"She's making progress. She's gaining on it," Stewart said. "You know, there's no ginormous leaps and bounds, but Kansas was proof that she's making gains and getting better. I think she's learning more as a driver, what these cars like and dislike. It's a process, especially a year like this, where you look at guys like Jimmie (Johnson) who are struggling. It's just another hurdle for her to cross because of the new packages in the cars. I think she's doing a pretty good job, considering."









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When it came to his own performance, Stewart said he and crew chief Chad Johnston haven't been able to consistently hit on setups that suit Stewart's driving style. And what Stewart wants is completely different than what Martin Truex Jr. wanted last year when Johnston was his crew chief.

"I just haven't gotten the feel I've been looking for," Stewart said. "Man, Chad has absolutely been working his guts out trying to get me comfortable in the car. And I'™ve felt comfortable (at times). I just haven't been able to find a package that I like the feel of yet."

Stewart said missing off-season testing due to his leg injury hurt, too.

"I think we started off the year a little bit behind the 8-ball because of that," Stewart said.

The good news? Once the driver and crew chief do eventually figure out what works, Stewart thinks he could go on one of his patented summer hot streaks where he puts together several race victories.

"Kevin has been hot all year and I think they found something that's working really good for them,” Stewart said of Harvick and Harvick's crew chief, Rodney Childers. "He's got two wins already, but he could have easily had four or five. And I think that's proof that if you find something that you hit on, it's something you can build momentum on, for sure."

Stewart made it clear that while he feels well enough to race, his leg isn't fully healed and won't be for some time.

"I honestly won't be 100 percent until at least the end of the year," he said. "To do what I'm doing, I'm in good enough health to do that, obviously, but we're kind of in the same boat we've been in. It's the same thing. It's a slow process for it to heal 100 percent and we just have got to keep working at it. Still going to therapy and still working hard."

Stewart said he's had very little discussions with partner Haas about the F-1 venture, but when it comes to Busch's Indy-Charlotte double attempt, Stewart is very supportive.

"It's been fun for us to watch him," Stewart said of Busch. "He's really enjoyed being up there, it seems like. I'm just having fun watching him have a good time."

On this day, though, duty called. In addition to his myriad other commitments, Stewart had to shoot a television commercial in the motorcoach lot at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"I remember when we used to show up at the race track and work on making your race car go fast and you did production days away from the race track," Stewart said, shaking his head. "Now we'€™re shooting commercials. ... It kills me. I've yet to understand what my job is anymore."

 
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