JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 PANASONIC CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND
YOU SAID YOU MADE ONE MISTAKE ON THAT LAST LAP THAT COST YOU THE WIN, AND YOU NEEDED ONE MORE LAP. WHAT WAS THAT?
“Well, it was actually maybe five or six laps to go. I was making some ground up on (race winner) Carl (Edwards). I was good in the fast sections and he was pretty good in the slow sections. So, I was having to hit everything so perfect. And I just overdrove it into (Turn) 4 one time and went real wide off and that gave him enough of a gap that I had to close it back in and I just couldn’t put enough pressure on him. And I think had I put some more pressure on him; I saw him really struggling with the grip level. He drove a clean race and he did everything you need to do.
"But of course, on that last lap, I gave it my best effort and closed up on him, but I just drove into (Turn) 11 as hard as I could. We weren’t good in 11 anyway. He didn’t overdrive it. I was hoping he might slide up and I’d get a run underneath him. But all in all, it was a great weekend for this Panasonic Chevy and I couldn't have been more proud of the calls made and everything the team did. We didn’t qualify good, but we had a great car in the race.”
CARL EDWARDS SAID IT WAS AN HONOR TO BEAT YOU BECAUSE HE GREW UP WATCHING YOU WIN HERE:
“Yeah, I’m starting to hear that a lot more where somebody was born when I won my first championship or was watching me as a kid. But I love racing here. I love being competitive and leading the points and having a shot at winning races, at 22 years into my Cup career. It doesn’t matter; we’re having fun.”
DID YOU THINK YOU HAD A WAY AROUND CARL EDWARDS ON THAT LAST TURN?
"On that move, you just want to make the guy overdrive the corner, because if you miss the bottom down there, there is a real opportunity for someone to get inside of you. Carl (Edwards, race winner) was driving a really good race, and the tires were definitely falling off bad. So were mine. At that point, I was just trying to keep the wheel spin to a minimum, and see if I could inch up on him every little bit. Those last couple of laps I really did. I made one mistake with about six (laps) to go where I overdrove - maybe five to go - where I overdrove (turn) four. I really think that was the difference. I think if I could have got to him, I probably would have had him. But, he was better in the slower sections; I was better in the faster sections. I would have liked to have a little bit closer shot at him going into (turn) 11 on that last lap. Can't thank Panasonic Toughbook enough. Great having them on board. What a great way to finish this weekend out with a second place finish. Congrats to Carl. He did a great job."
POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 PANASONIC CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND
KRISTI KING: Joining Dale, our second place finisher, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet, who is our all time winningest driver here at Sonoma Raceway. Talk a little bit about the race out there today and your second place finish.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it was a fun race, a tough one, certainly tough for the guys making the calls in the pits. You know, tire strategy as well as us on the track, because the cars just drove unbelievable on new tires, and you just felt like King Kong. You could just drive it so aggressively.
And then eight laps later, it was where did all the grip go, and you were on ice. There was some tire management, which I love. I think that's really cool to have that kind of a race and all the different strategies, and I mean, Carl, me and Dale were all on different tires as far as laps on them, and it made for a very interesting race.
Gosh, I wish I could have had those last five or six laps to do over again. I started overdriving it a little bit trying to catch him a making a few mistakes, and I made one in particular that really cost me, and I think if I had just stayed smooth and stuck with it it looked like his car really started falling off those last couple laps and I might have had a shot at least putting more pressure on Carl to force him to make a mistake or maybe get a run inside of him.
Our car was great today. I felt confident it was going to be in the race, and it was exciting when they dropped the green that we did have a car like that.
Q. Jeff, watching on the TV, it looks like friends or enemies, you were banging around pretty good. You and Jimmie had a couple of tussles towards the middle of that race.
JEFF GORDON: Those restarts when you're double file like that, the first few corners get pretty hairy, and there's not really enough room to go side by side, and so if you're on the outside you've got to squeeze the guy on inside; if you're on the inside you've got to push the guy on the outside.
I got a run off of 4, and I went to go to the outside of Ambrose, and I don't know if Jimmie dove in there or if he was protecting from somebody else trying to dive in there on him, but as I made the corner, he got into my right rear pretty hard, and I almost went around. At the moment you're just mad that it happened, so I took it out on my right front fender, but it did more damage to my car than it did to his.
Then I calmed down and we just went back to racing, and I was able to get by. He kind of got into it with whoever, Ambrose in front of him, and I got a run on him, but I was able to make a clean pass.
You know, I don't like to make judgment until you see the video, but we raced hard, and we had a great race and banged with a bunch of guys, but I thought it was all just in good racing.
Q. Jeff, it looked like that last lap, Turn 11, you made it pretty close, got a little close to him. Did it feel like a possible pass or was there just too much ground to make up at that point?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, that particular area, my car was really good. I could really get into Turn 11. I was just trying to get him to overdrive the corner and get up off the bottom. There's such an advantage to hook around those tires that had he missed it, which he did about two laps before that, I thought that I might be able to make it interesting. But no, he did lock up going in there, but he made the corner, and that was it. At that point it's a desperate move. It's not one worth wrecking the guy because hey, if you're racing the guy and you get a couple runs on him, he blocks you and he blocks you here and he blocks you there and you're faster, then you might not give an inch. You might go in there and you might use the bumper.
But I really had just caught him, and so that's why I wish I could have had those last five laps to do over again because I think if I could have not made a couple mistakes, I would have been on him with more like two laps to go, and I think I would have had a shot. But hey, that's the way it goes, and we finished second.
Q. Jeff, we've been seeing you in here a lot lately. Is this the most optimistic maybe you've been about how you've been running maybe the last five, six years?
JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. It's certainly the most consistent, great cars that I've had going week in and week out, to have cars that are capable of either winning or running up front. I'm very confident in what I'm getting behind the wheel of every weekend, and that just is because of all the hard work that's going on at Hendrick and all the data and work that everybody behind the scenes is doing as well as Alan and our engineers. I'm just working really well with them, clicking with them, but the cars are just really, really good, and that's making a lot of fun for me.
Q. The tire testing here got rained out in March, and since tires were a big issue this race, I was wondering if you could tell me how you made up for that. Second question, it's about when you got a chance to test over at New Smyrna Beach. I was wondering what you learned at some of these short tracks.
JEFF GORDON: I'll take the first one since Dale wasn't here during the tire test. It was just the 24 and the 14 and a couple other guys. It only rained out the first day. The second day we actually pretty much got the full day in. So we were able to learn something anyway, and even though we didn't actually test on the tire that they brought here, we tested on similar ones, and maybe the 14 tested on this exact one. But it was close to the one that I liked the most that had good grip at the beginning and it did fall off. We knew it was going to fall off, but it seemed like some of the other ones fell off just as much or more.
You know, I like this tire. I think it's not easy to drive at the end, which can be good and bad. But it's got a lot of grip at the beginning. I think it switches up the pit strategy where it's not always just about fuel mileage. We've been racing fuel mileage races out here for the last several years, and I think it's nice that tires make a difference. I like it. I wish we had tires like this more places.
New Smyrna, I mean, we're just short track testing stuff, just seeing what we can learn. We go to all the tracks that we can't race on, and if there's someplace that's close to Charlotte with good weather that might be able to teach us a little bit, then we'll go there.
I thought that it was more for fun than learning anything, I'll be honest. There's not another track that we go to that's anything like that. Not to mention that there was water seeping out of the track that we were driving on. It was a fun day, but I don't know if maybe Dale and those guys learned some things, but I didn't think that we did.
Q. Jeff, I seem to recall a conversation yesterday with you after qualifying and you said to me, you weren't really one bit worried and I should talk to you today when all the Hendrick cars finish, and you had four in the top eight. Is that how much confidence you have right now in the team and the program?
JEFF GORDON: You like them when the cars are working good. I've had some good cars over the years.
Yeah, I mean, you always say that when you qualify 15th. You always say, hey, talk to me tomorrow when it's all over. I mean, I had confidence that we were much better than that, and that was just based on how our car drove in practice. And I think that's kind of what Dale is alluding to, as well. You have a certain feel that you're looking for and you look at the lap times and I thought our lap times were competitive and the car had a pretty good feel. I didn't feel like we were going to stay back there all day long, and I was hoping that all the Hendrick cars would that didn't qualify good would come to the front, and I thought that they would. It wasn't being like so confident just in everything. I mean, things are going well for us, but it was really just solely looking at the lap times and how my car felt.
KRISTI KING: Congratulations on your run today. Thank you very much for your time.