Atlanta: Post-Race Press Conference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our post‑race press conference. Following the AdvoCare 500 here at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. We welcome Jeff Gordon driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet who finished second in tonight's race. Talk about your run tonight.
JEFF GORDON: What a battle. You know going into this race that it's going to be a fight. You know, the track is just so slick, and your car has a lot of grip for about five laps and then all of a sudden it just starts going sideways. We just never could get my car tight enough. On the short runs we were really fast, which worked to our favor here to get that second place and almost that win. I'm just mad at myself right now. I don't know, I guess I'm just getting soft in my old age. I'm too nice because, I don't know, 15 years ago I would have just moved him right up the racetrack. I don't know why I didn't do that. I thought I could get to his quarter panel and slow him down and stay there. But I got there, I just carried too much speed into 3 and it pushed up the racetrack.
Man, this team is just ‑‑ I'm so proud of how hard they fought through this whole season. We know how bad we need that win, so it's pretty disappointing to come up short like that.
Q. Jeff, I guess you're kind of intimating maybe next week it's boys have at it rules in terms of you and the handful of other guys trying to qualify?
JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. That race is always intense. I've been a part of it where I've either been trying to get in like this or trying to stay in the Chase. There's so much on the line, trying to win the race. That race is always intense. But when you look at how many guys have to win the points and everything else, I mean, it's going to be a pretty crazy night.
We got a lot of pressure on us, so we're going to be going there guns loaded and ready to do battle. I mean, just like what we did tonight. We're just going to fight all the way to that last lap. Short track is a little bit different than mile and a half. I think everybody expects there to be a little more pushing and shoving on the short track. So that's definitely going to ramp up the intensity.
Q. Jeff, a lot of times track position makes things difficult to read when you're following a lot. Did you have a performance boost? Did your car get a lot better late, or was it just a matter of getting in a position where you could show it?
JEFF GORDON: Well, our car all night was strong on the short runs and just not good on the long runs. So we came in ‑‑ we took tires, I mean, there was, what, only 10 cars or nine cars on the lead lap, we came in and put tires on, put enough fuel to make sure we could make it to the end there, made some adjustments, and I got a really good restart on the outside, not talking about that last one, I am talking about when we got up into second. We had a half a lap on the tires, and we came in ‑‑ of green, right, half a lap, then those caution laps. We came in and got four tires and started outside and drove from wherever we were, eighth or whatever, to second. That's how important tires are here and track position and being in the right lane on the restarts. We had a good car on the short runs but we just didn't have it on the long runs. But we were maintaining, and unless Martin ran out of fuel, we were pretty much going to finish second.
But actually that caution was the best thing that could have happened for us. That was really to me the only thing that gave us a shot to win. I thought we ‑‑ if we get a good restart, get in that outside lane, even Hamlin, I thought we were better than him on the restarts, and I got a little bit too tight, but we had the run. We had it, and just didn't do enough with it going down the back straight away.
Q. Jeff, around lap 190 or 200 you were running together with your teammate Jimmie Johnson. Was this part of the strategy that you helped each other to gain positions at that time?
JEFF GORDON: We weren't doing a very good job of it if that was the strategy. No, there was no strategy there. A strategy at a track like this is to get your car working as best it can. The team shared on pit road what adjustments each team is making to help or hurt their car, but ‑‑ I felt like neither one of us were really very good, not good enough to win. So I guess the answer is no.
Q. This is for either of you guys. We had a couple, three instances lately of one lane being obviously stronger on restarts than the other, and it may not be the lane that is the primary lane when the race is going on. Can you explain how the grip can be that much different in two lanes that close to each other?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I don't know if that's anything new. When the tires are new and they have a lot of grip, if your car is working well, you run around the bottom until the grip gives up. You know, that's why you see guys run around the bottom for a few laps. But I was shocked. Hamlin, Kyle Busch, other than Martin and maybe myself and a couple others, I was very surprised those guys were able to run a lower lane tonight even on the long runs. Of course down in three and four the bottom lane is the only lane that's the preferred lane all the time because you hook that paint down there. But you kind of have that in one and two but not really. It's just because there's so much grip in the tires, the shortest way around is almost always the best and fastest way around, and it just makes it hard to make that outside lane work.
This is not a progressive racetrack, so if you have progressive banking, maybe you have a shot at carrying a little more momentum on that outside. But you've got to carry a lot more speed on the outside here the first couple laps after a restart if you're going to make any ground up on a guy that's got fresh tires.
Q. Jeff, it's been an awful long time since you've won at Richmond. Tell me over the last 10 years or so, has the track changed? Has your philosophy changed? Has the competition gotten that much better? Why has it become so much more difficult to win at Richmond?
JEFF GORDON: Well, it's always hard to win, no matter where you go. Not the last time we were there, but last time we actually had a car capable of winning. Kenseth wrecked us one time, and then I can't remember what happened in the other one. But we've had cars in the last couple years that have been good enough to win. So we've already been talking about Richmond and our debriefs about the things that we can do to improve our performance the last time we were there. We just completely flat out missed the setup last time we were there trying some new stuff, and it didn't work. We'll go back with a little bit more conventional, typical for us, and try to improve on it from there and see how the race unfolds.
But I think we can ‑‑ we know Kyle is going to be tough there, we know those other guys are going to be tough, but I think we can mix it up with them pretty good.
Q. Trying to crunch the numbers, it looks like it's going to be pretty much you versus Kyle. You're going in there 12 points behind him so you're going to have to win. Does it make it easier for you that it's pretty much just probably going to be just down to the two of you for one spot?
JEFF GORDON: You don't want to have to go beat Kyle Busch at Richmond. He's pretty strong there (laughing). I think we're really just going to focus on our own program like we always do. We focus on tuning the car, communicating and working the setup the best we possibly can and try to have the fastest race car out there. If we can do that, then we try not to make any mistakes driving on pit road and pit strategy. If we don't have the fastest car we've got to switch it up and puts a little more pressure on the crew chief or maybe even on me if we try some tire strategy, fuel mileage strategy, whatever we do track position wise, but you can't predict any of those things. We've got to go out there and race, you've got to race hard. I'm not going into it thinking that we've got to finish, whatever, 12 positions ahead of Kyle. I'm thinking we've got to win. And if we don't make it, as long as we put our best effort forward, we didn't make it, then we go try to win races in the final 10.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on your run tonight. Thank you for your time.
View photos from the night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway here -> http://jeffgordon.com/media/photo_2012_racing.php.
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