Ste­wart says all well with Zippy af­ter re­cent spat

The Covington News - - Sports - By Jenna Fryer

NEW YORK Tony Ste­wart said Wed­nes­day all is well be­tween the two-time cham­pion and crew chief Greg Zi­padelli de­spite their post-race squab­ble at Rich­mond.

Ste­wart crit­i­cized Zi­padelli and his crew as he pulled onto pit road fol­low­ing Sun­day's sec­ond-place fin­ish at Rich­mond In­ter­na­tional Race­way. He blamed the team for the loss — he gave up the lead dur­ing a late pit stop and was un­able to catch win­ner Jim­mie John­son in the clos­ing laps — and Zi­padelli sharply re­minded him they win and lose as a group.

"I don't know why ev­ery­body is mak­ing such a big deal about it," Ste­wart said dur­ing NASCAR's me­dia day for the Chase for the cham­pi­onship. "That's two guys that were talk­ing on the ra­dio that are com­pet­i­tive and don't like to lose. I'd much rather have a crew chief that gets as fired up as me than I would a guy that said 'Yeah, yeah, it's OK.'

"That was a par­tic­u­lar day where we had a winning car and we ended up sec­ond, and how we ended up there wasn't ac­cept­able."

The in-car au­dio was re­played sev­eral times by ESPN, a net­work that has had a con­tentious re­la­tion­ship with Ste­wart since it re­turned to NASCAR cov­er­age last sea­son. But Ste­wart said he was not up­set with ESPN for air­ing the ar­gu­ment.

"It's no se­cret that ESPN and I don't get along, and any­time we do any­thing that they can use to make us look bad, they jump all over it," he said. "That's fine, it doesn't even bother us any­more. But they have brought a lot of great things to the sport, and that's the kind of things that make it more ex­cit­ing for the fans.

"To be able to hear (the au­dio) and un­der­stand the dis­ap­point­ment — if I get out of the car and (fans) didn't hear that, then they don't un­der­stand why I was up­set."

Ste­wart has had a frus­trat­ing sea­son, his last with Joe Gibbs Racing and Zi­padelli. He's leav­ing at the end of the year to own a race team, and the im­pend­ing move was thought to have been a source of con­tention for the 10-year-old team.

He's cur­rently in a 40-race win­less streak, and has had sev­eral heart­break­ing de­feats this sea­son dat­ing back to the Day­tona 500. It's led to many show­ings of frus­tra­tion for the pas­sion­ate driver, who in­sisted those emo­tions are what's con­trib­uted to his suc­cess.

"If you are not pas­sion­ate and you don't stand up and get frus­trated — you show me a guy who doesn't get frus­trated once in a while and I'll show you a guy I can beat nine weeks out of 10 ev­ery year for the rest of my life," he said.

He also in­sisted that he and Zi­padelli have not tired of each other af­ter 10 sea­sons. Zi­padelli is stay­ing at JGR af­ter Ste­wart leaves to crew chief Joey Logano next sea­son.

"We want to win as a team, we want to fin­ish strong," he said. "We want to get this mon­key off our back. It's frus­tra­tion of hav­ing a bad year."

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