JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND
GREAT POINTS DAY FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM, A GREAT DAY FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AS WELL. WALK US THROUGH YOUR EFFORT HERE TODAY:
“Well, first of all I have to say what an incredible tribute that is. A 1-2 finish. We know how much the fans love to see Dale (Earnhardt), Jr. win. They certainly got that today. He did a great job, but for all of those at Hendrick Motorsports that lost friends and family members, people that played an important role in Hendrick Motorsports and in this sport. A 1-2 finish is the best way you can pay tribute to them. It was a great effort for our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet today. I’m proud of the guys. We got behind. I made a big mistake on pit road and was speeding. I knew it. We had to go to the back and claw our way back up in there, so that was a great comeback and a total team effort by everybody.”
WE KNOW A WIN MOVES YOU ON, BUT YOU SAID YOU NEEDED TO COME OUT OF HERE WITH A GOOD POINTS DAY:
“The good news is that a Chase driver did not win the race today. Finishing second isn’t as big of a deal today, it’s actually really a good finish and good points day compared to if a Chase driver would have won. I wanted to get that win to get ourselves locked in, but we have two more great tracks coming up and yeah, today was a great overall effort by the whole team.”
A GREAT RUN FOR YOU AND FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS. HOW DO YOU LOOK AT TODAY?
‘It was a great performance and a really good finish. I about threw this one away on pit road. I made a mistake there and was speeding. So that’s a great comeback. I thought we had the car to beat. There at the end we were kind of stuck on the outside on one of those restarts and those guys got out there on us.
“At that point it was just about clawing our way back up there and me and Denny (Hamlin) were having a great battle and then late pit stops and those last couple of laps were just wild. Congratulations to (race winner) Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. That’s the best way you can possibly pay tribute to those we lost here 10 years ago. To have a 1-2 finish is pretty awesome. I would have loved to have gotten that win to move on to Homestead, but this is surely a great start for us. We’ve got two more great tracks coming up. I’m really proud of him and I know that means a lot to him and all his fans here.”
KERRY THARP: Questions for Jeff Gordon.
Q. Given what was at stake, what a win would have meant, what were you prepared to do? You tried to get to Dale Jr. What were you prepared to do if you had gotten there?
JEFF GORDON: I would have moved him for sure. There's no doubt in my mind. Everybody who is out there racing has to weigh risk versus reward. For me, to win this race, it's worth taking a lot of risk, even if you upset your teammate.
I think everybody out there that's not in the Chase understands that if that guy can win that race and put himself in Homestead for the championship, you can pretty much guarantee that you're going to get the bumper or get slammed or something.
I mean, Dale drove a nice, clean race. I never had an opportunity. Even prior to that, I didn't really have the car to run him down. We just lost the drive off there on that run. We were still a little bit better than him, but not enough to really go up there and run him down.
We had our opportunities, no doubt about that. But, yeah, it wouldn't matter who it was. Anybody, I would have taken big chances and big risks. You can do that here at Martinsville. It's a short track. You can get to people's bumpers. You can out‑brake them, slide up into them. There's a lot of tactics you can use to be aggressive here that can win you the race. You can't do that everywhere, but you can do that here.
Q. Jeff, knowing there will be at least two spots on points now heading for Homestead, do you think that changes the way people race at all?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I've never felt like you couldn't think about being consistent in this format. You still have to be consistent. Points can still get you through. Your goal is to either win the race or be the highest in points. I think that gets you through no matter what.
I will say that it makes me feel a little bit better about finishing second today, that it was second to somebody that's not in the Chase. Had that been somebody in the Chase, it would have been hard to swallow.
Q. Why were you speeding?
JEFF GORDON: I'm embarrassed to say this. Completely my fault. I said that on the radio. But I didn't want to go into details.
We do two settings, one in first gear, one in second gear. A late sequence for each one. I ran second gear under my light sequence for first gear. Plain and simple.
I looked up and Jamie was way behind me. I was like, Uh‑oh. I knew right then I was speeding. Surprised I didn't hear anything in the box. I thought for sure they were going to say something. They didn't say anything till I left pit road. But I knew it right away.
You have a sequence of lights on your tach. The way that they're set, you can set them for just different rpm ranges. It's not about a first gear, second gear, it's more about the range they're in in that rpm.
I was supposed to run one green light in second gear and one red light in first gear. I ran one red light in second gear. That's way too fast (smiling).
Q. Despite the fact that Junior won and you finished second, are you in some ways grateful that Hendrick Motorsports really doesn't go by team orders from a philosophical standpoint?
JEFF GORDON: Yes and no. I would have liked to have had that win, but you don't want to do that because somebody moves over for you.
I think that I said before, the only way I felt like you can work together as a team is cut somebody some slack a little bit. If you're in the outside lane trying to get to the inside lane, you know, just give‑and‑take a little bit I think is the smart thing to do. Not be too aggressive where you take a teammate out that's running for the championship, but at no point did I think it was about not racing hard for wins.
Dale Jr. saw an opportunity to win, and you can't blame him for giving it everything he had to go get that win. That's awesome for him.
Our job is to make sure that we secure that win by having the fastest car and the best pit stops, me making good decisions on the racetrack.
Q. On the restart, next to the last one, you restarted on the outside next to Clint. Junior was third. Did you either hope or expect he would cut you a little bit more slack there on that one and let you in?
JEFF GORDON: I was hoping. I mean, he let me in on another one. I think the next time I was third, and he never even tried to move down. So I filled the gap.
It's something we're going to talk about a little bit because I have a feeling that what happened was when I didn't let him in, he felt like, I'm not going to let him in again.
I don't really know. But I'm not upset about it. You don't expect anybody to do anything. You hope, yeah, sure. You hope. I mean, I hoped Tony Stewart was going to let me in, too, one time. We about crashed going down turn three. That's racing. That's just part of it.
Q. Jeff, obviously you saw what happened with Kyle Busch when he finished third at Kansas. Do you take that into consideration into how you approach these next two races?
JEFF GORDON: Run that by me again. Kyle Busch finishing third at Kansas?
Q. He secured a spot in the next round.
JEFF GORDON: No, anything can happen. That's why you want that win so badly. I like our chances at the next two tracks. They're good tracks for us. Thank God none of them are Talladega.
We got to go race. We got to race hard. We got to be smart and we got to go for it hard. That's the toughest thing about this thing, you got to go for it. You got to put everything out on the edge. If you go too far over the edge, you might be out. There's a very fine line there.
We go to Texas. I mean, I feel like it's the way we race as a team anyway. We race smart. We work on the details, on the setups of the car, to try to make a fast race car, go race to get the best finish we have, hope we get ourselves in the best position to win.
Q. You talked about it earlier, but why do you think Rick Hendrick comes to this track still? Does it surprise you at all that he comes here?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, under normal circumstances I would have said that I would be surprised. But he's not normal. I mean, this is an extraordinary man that when all that went down, two days later he was at Hendrick Motorsports speaking to all the employees. I mean, I was shocked then. I'm not shocked that he comes here now.
It's just the kind of person that he is. I know it's not easy on him. I really do. I know that it puts extra pressure on us at Hendrick Motorsports when he's here to get that win because it's a way to really pay tribute. It's the ultimate way you can do it.
We've been able to do it several times, which is very, very cool.
KERRY THARP: Jeff, congratulations on a strong start. We'll see you at Texas.
JEFF GORDON: Yes, sir.