2014 NASCAR Phoenix

By Ryan McGee - ESPN The Magazine

The Mag: It's been a few weeks since the big brawl with Brad Keselowski and his team. Postrace fights became pretty common during the Chase, even with some typically mild-mannered guys. Some would argue that it plays to the redneck stereotype. Others say the sport needs that. Where do you fall?

Gordon: We don't need that to become a regular thing. No sport does. But I do think that there is something to be said for real, genuine emotion, whether that's anger or frustration or genuine happiness in Victory Lane. I'm a lot more emotional when I win now. I don't take it for granted -- sharing it with my kids is a whole new level of emotion. And it's a lot better emotion than the one that gets you punched in the face!

The Mag: The older guys used to call you aggressive or reckless. Now I hear the same today as we experience the first real influx of young drivers in a while. Is that criticism just a response to dealing with youth?

Gordon: Sure. But this new elimination format has something to do with it too. Guys don't just want to win, they need to win. A win gets you into the Chase, and then, as I learned this year, wins are the best way to advance. You have to be more aggressive. Throw a bunch of young guys in there who aren't afraid of getting hurt and it can get crazy.

The Mag: Back in July, just before your 43rd birthday, you talked about becoming the elder statesman of the garage. Is that a role you're more comfortable with?

Gordon: I see young guys making mistakes all the time, just like I did. But it's rare that I'll go find a guy and start that conversation. If they want to talk about it, they know they can approach me. That's how Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace and even Richard Petty treated me. They didn't mind my mistakes because it was an advantage for them. But if I went to them with questions, and eventually I did, they were happy to help. I had to show the initiative.

The Mag: Unless you door-jacked them with one lap to go?

Gordon: Yeah, then the old guys don't ever mind...

To continue reading the full Q&A, click here to visit ESPN.com.

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