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JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AARP MEMBER ADVANTAGES CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNER
WE’VE NEVER SEEN YOU CELEBRATE LIKE THAT!
“We’re going to Homestead!”
IS THIS THE MOST MEANINGFUL WIN OF YOUR CAREER?
“It was a joke. I’m coming back next year! No, I'm kidding.” (Teasing)
YOU’RE NOT GOING TO RETIRE NOW?
“No way, man. (Teasing, again). This is the sweetest, most amazing feeling. I am so proud of this team. You want to talk about holding back emotions; right now man, wow, we’re going to Homestead! I can’t believe it. What an incredible battle that was. We just stuck with it all day long and I was just trying to protect those rear tires and then that incident with the No. 22 (Joey Logano) and those other guys….
“Those last couple of laps, I give a lot of credit to Jamie McMurray. He raced me hard and clean there. Oh, man, I’ll tell you it’s just never over. What a battle. What a team. People don’t give this team enough credit and we seized an opportunity right there. I don’t think this opportunity would present itself the next couple of weeks. We’re going to take advantage of this one and I don’t have to worry about that.”
YOU SAID AT TIMES THIS TEAM WAS AT EACH OTHER’S THROATS WHEN THINGS WEREN’T GOING WELL. DID YOU REALLY BELIEVE THIS COULD HAPPEN?
“Well, I believe when we went through those moments and we came through it and we were still talking to each other and still smiling and communicating and trying to be better, I knew that if we could just get in this position, we could do something special. And man, this has turned into a fairytale year. I cannot believe it. Homestead is going to be an unreal weekend and we’re going to completely focus now. We talked about this in our meeting before the race and if we could make it through today and win, all our focus is on the Homestead car.
“I don’t know who to thank first. Obviously I need to thank AARP Member Advantages and oh my gosh, Pepsi, Axalta, Chevrolet, Panasonic, Valvoline; oh gosh, I’m missing somebody. But I’m just overwhelmed right now. But thanks to this team. Rick (Hendrick), thank you, buddy, for believing in me and letting me make this my last year. And now we’re going to Homestead. Wow!”
WHEN THE KIDS WALKED UP, DOES THIS MAKE IT MORE MEANINGFUL THAT YOU CAN CELEBRATE A WIN WITH THEM IN YOUR FINAL YEAR?
“Oh, gosh….yes! It’s so nice to have them here. There’s nothing sweeter than going to work, I kind of call it work, to have them and Ingrid here to experience these moments. This is what life is all about and that’s where I realize after being in the series for 23 years that it’s these moments that you’re sharing it with the people that work hard and the people that you care about the most. There is no greater feeling than that.”
ON BATTLING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP AT HOMESTEAD
“It’s just like we did today. We’ll grind it out. We’re going to give them something to think about. First, we’re going to improve our race car a little bit for Homestead. Don’t count us out. We’ve proved that during this entire Chase and we certainly proved that today. This team is fired up; we’ve got some momentum now!”
TALK ABOUT THIS WIN:
“Oh my gosh I didn’t think they could get any better, but to win here at Martinsville in front of this crowd that stuck around. I tell you there is nothing better than crossing the finish line and have that kind of reaction from the crowd. That reaction from my team and to have my family come up this is unbelievable. I feel like I’m dreaming right now. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up and this is not going to be true. We were just trying to do our best throughout the whole day, trying not to burn the rear tires off of it, needing some long runs. Of course a lot of things unfolded that were unfortunate, but sometimes you have to be there and take advantage of those opportunities. This team did that today. I’m so proud of them. So proud of Alan, this whole team, they have been working so hard and we wanted this moment so bad and here it is. It happened.”
TAKE US THROUGH THE LAST RESTART:
“I got a pretty good start and he can drive so deep in the corners. I knew I couldn’t let him get too far ahead of me getting into the corners, so I raced him hard and clean just like he raced me. I really appreciate that. We had a lot on the line and I squeezed him a little bit, he squeezed me, but at the end of the day we were able to get out front. I felt pretty good coming off Turn 2. It’s so dark out there I could hardly see. I think I overdrove it into Turn 3 a little bit and I slid up the race track. I kept hearing my spotter, 3, 2, 1 and then I got in the gas and got the corner and knew we had it at that moment. I am sorry I didn’t do a burnout. I was going to, but I got so excited that I just got out of the car. I just wanted to waive to everybody and say thank you.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE GOING TO MIAMI AS A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER?
“Even today I don’t think people thought as good as we are at Martinsville that our competition was just too tough and that we wouldn’t prevail. I love it that we have been under the radar. We have been just working on all of our team, work ethic and determination and just execution. Today, we showed what we are really truly capable of.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AARP MEMBER ADVANTAGES CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNER
THE MODERATOR: We're going to hear from our race winner. That's Jeff Gordon. This is Jeff's 93rd win in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, his ninth win at Martinsville, and probably more importantly, he will now be competing for his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in a few weeks at Homestead‑Miami Speedway. Jeff Gordon, congratulations. Talk about this win here today.
JEFF GORDON: I'm telling you, I keep going through these moments where I'm hearing you say it, and still it's not registering because I can't believe it. I cannot believe it.
This is turning into one of these just incredible storybook finishes to this year, to this career. Of all years, I mean, of all years, I cannot believe this. I'm so excited it's happening in this year.
That was clutch. That was huge. Yeah, we had a few things that fell in our favor. But you got to be there and be ready for that moment when it comes, and we were.
Our car was pretty solid all day. Our restarts were pretty good. We fought through some things. Our car was good on the long runs. We were having to make some adjustments there.
Yeah, we still had to go battle. Jamie is real aggressive on those restarts. Kyle and some other guys there. We had to battle it out with them. Whew, man, it was tough.
Gosh, this feels amazing. Feels amazing to be able to go to Homestead and go battle for that championship.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions now for Jeff Gordon.
Q. You've mentioned in the past several times although you've won four championships, you don't think you've ever won a Sprint Cup championship. Now that you're in a position to do that, would that make this the most memorable and most important championship of your career?
JEFF GORDON: I was going to stop Kerry when he was talking about the fifth championship and say exactly that. You mean, go for my first Sprint Cup championship.
The format has changed completely, the trophy is different, the banquet is completely different, the competitors are completely different. Everything's changed since I won a championship. It only makes it that much more meaningful to me, that it's been this long, that it's been in this format.
I will say I like this format. I liked it last year, and I like it better this year. I think it suits me personally. I think it suits our race team better. It's because of this racetrack right here that I feel that way, because this is a track that if we get here, and we had to still earn our way to this round, and we did, but I knew if we got here, we'd have a shot not only at just having a chance of winning, but even getting the points that we needed to advance and go do it over the next couple weeks.
This was huge. That's a huge moment and opportunity. Trust me, we are not going to take that lightly, that opportunity that lies in front of us. This is not, Okay, cool, we won Martinsville. We get to be one of the four at Homestead. We're going to watch them battle for the championship.
No way. No way. This team is way better than that. Nobody is more driven and excited than this race team is right now. Every resource we have, we'll be putting towards what we have to do to go be competitive enough to win the championship in Homestead.
Q. You've enjoyed the thundering crowd at Indianapolis, the crowds at Daytona after wins. What was that like to be up on stage with this crowd, and why did you go into the crowd at the end?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, gosh, I wish everybody could experience what that was like from my standpoint. It was unbelievable. I don't know what it feels like to be a rock star, but that's as close as it can get I think. That's a rock star moment right there.
There's so much on the line. I already have a tremendous amount of fans that are here pulling for us. But I think a lot of people that maybe aren't my fans are kind of looking at my career, the respect, just winding it down, what it means.
I was going to do a burnout. I was. I thought about it. First I'm going to stop here, get out, get the checkered flag. Then I saw that reaction. I'm not going to go anywhere. This is awesome. It was incredible. They didn't stop there. They just kept going.
That's why I went into the stands afterwards, because it just was non‑stop while we were in Victory Lane. People were just staying there. Who knew if we were going to run this race today with the weather, then it getting dark. I mean, they saw a heck of a race, that's for sure. If they wanted drama, they had it today. They just kept chanting the whole time while we were on the stage. It was way cool. I wanted to go say hi to them.
Q. What were your thoughts in the car when you saw the checkered flag on your cool‑down lap?
JEFF GORDON: There was so much screaming and yelling going on from my spotter, Alan, myself, it is just unreal. It was just unreal. I mean that: unreal. I couldn't believe that. I thought this could not be happening.
I mean, it's not that unusual for us to win a Martinsville race. That's not what I'm talking about. It's to be able to do it when so much is at stake, when you know that this is how you get to Homestead, to be one of those final four.
For us to be a team that nobody, nobody, had picked to be able to make it to Homestead, I love that we just keep proving them wrong and finding a way to move on.
I think that hopefully when we're at Homestead, people will give us a little more respect of what kind of depth our race team has.
Q. Was that an upset today?
JEFF GORDON: Well, yeah. I mean, look, Martinsville, you can't ever count us out at Martinsville. But I got to tell you, the 2, the 22, the 4, man, they were strong today, stronger than I thought they were going to be.
The 22, I knew he was good on short runs, but I felt like we have him covered on long runs. The first run we did that, but they made some adjustments and he was really good.
Then the 2, I mean, I was saving my stuff, running my line, just doing what I felt like I needed to do. My car was working pretty well. He just came up and smoked me, blew me off. I was like, Wow! At that point we became an underdog.
But you know what, you got to be there at the end to win these races, especially here at Martinsville. They weren't there. We were. For whatever reason, we were, they weren't, and here we are.
It wasn't given to us, I can tell you that. But we certainly had some help. That would not be the first time I've had help winning a race at Martinsville. That's kind of how races go sometimes.
Q. What were you thinking when you saw what Matt did to Joey? Is this just always going to be a self‑policing sport when it gets down to it?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I wasn't ready for it, I'll be honest. The way I remembered the wreck, I thought the 2 got into the 20. I couldn't quite see what the 22's role played in it. As soon as I went by, I thought, Wow, did I just see that?
I also put myself in Matt's shoes. I could relate. I could relate to frustration getting the best of you. I didn't blow a right front tire like he did today, but I can relate. I get it.
You might have some regrets later, but I understand why you make that choice at the moment. I think there's a lot of different things that you can look at it because I feel like what you say and how you do it, things that you do, come full circle. That exists on both sides of that. I could relate to being on both sides of it.
Yeah, I was shocked at first because I wasn't prepared for that to happen. Then I was like, Oh, my, this is going to get big. Then there was no fight (smiling).
Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it helped me. I mean, the 22, I felt like we had a better car than him in the longer runs. We weren't going to have a long enough run towards the end of this race, in my opinion, to really take advantage of that.
Yeah, when that happened, I was like, This is our opportunity right here to win this race. Boom, we got to go do it.
Q. You've said many times over the course of the season with everything that transpired you wished at times your fans had had more moments from the on‑track performance to enjoy.
JEFF GORDON: This makes up for all that. I mean, nobody's more frustrated. You turn on the TV, you're watching a racing show, the radio. You know, I mean, I listen to NASCAR on Sirius and stuff. Nothing is more frustrating than when people call in and say, If Jeff Gordon doesn't win this year, it's going to tarnish his career. He's got to get a win. He's going to have to win to make Homestead, all this stuff.
I hear it. I agree. I felt like if we didn't win this year, it was going to take away from it a little bit. I felt like if we points raced our way into Homestead, that would help make up for it if we didn't win. I feel like if you're going to win the championship, you have to win this, not just here, but at Homestead. I'm hoping we got one more in us.
Q. I know you talked about how maybe you guys are underdogs. You're very good at Homestead. Do you think people now have to fear you?
JEFF GORDON: Well, listen, why can't we win at Homestead? That's what I say. I think a lot of people didn't think we could do this, and we have. There's no reason why we can't do it there as well.
I agree with you. I like Homestead. It's a good track for us. We were better last year. We dominated that race, I know. But we were better last year on the mile‑and‑a‑half's than we were this year. There's no secret about that. It's a little bit on us and a little bit of our competitors just being better.
You don't just flip a switch and automatically find some magic. But we've been working on a lot of things. We've been getting better. We showed it at Chicago. We're going to go to Texas and have to step up there as well.
It's an abrasive track at Texas. It's an abrasive track at Homestead. That suits us and it helps. I think that helps a lot when we're on mile‑and‑a‑half's. But I'm still going to tell you that our team is making up for that. I absolutely think that we're just as capable as anybody else that's going to be in that final four.
Q. Compare this win to your first win at Charlotte. And have you talked to Clay?
JEFF GORDON: He already said he's getting me the caboose. I also asked him to include the horn. The train is not the same without the horn (laughter).
This is one of the finest moments I think I've ever had in my career, I'll be honest. It's just because what this year means, that this is my final year, my final race at Martinsville, punching our ticket to Homestead, having my family here, the hard work this team has put together, that reaction from the fans. This is one of my finest moments I've ever had.
Not my most emotional one. I held that back. I've been holding it back. I'm not going to be able to hold it back at Homestead. I hope it's because we're doing something even more special than what we did here today.
Q. Did you allow yourself through the season to think about how this sort of storybook thing is possible? Not a lot of athletes get to go out with the opportunity you have now.
JEFF GORDON: No, I wasn't allowing myself to go there. I didn't want to allow myself to go there coming into Martinsville because I knew we were going to have our work cut out for us today. We saw that earlier this year. I knew we were going to see it again today, and we did.
I just wanted to hopefully seize that moment, then just experience it to the fullest. I did. I'm going to continue that all the way through Homestead. I'm going to need a lot of these Goody's Powders, I'll tell you that.
This is incredible. It's absolutely incredible. This whole year has been, I don't know, I can't even put it into words. I made the announcement. I was super emotional about it. Then, we went to work. We were getting our butts kicked. We weren't competing the way we wanted to. I'm like, Man, this is not the way I thought I saw this season going, the way I was hoping it would go.
I had to check myself. I'm so proud of Alan Gustafson. He put me in check. He works so hard. One of the best crew chiefs I've ever worked with. I'm working too hard to let this slip away from us, and it almost did. That brought us back together as a team, as a driver/crew chief, that communication. We started going to work then. We started getting better and better ever so slightly every single weekend as a race team.
From that point on, I thought, man, the season's not over. Anything can happen. Let's get ourselves in the Chase. We got ourselves in the Chase. We went to Chicago. That changed everything to me. To run the way we ran at Chicago, to lead laps, have a fast race car, even though I didn't finish it the way I wanted to, that turned it around for me to go, Wait a minute, they're not even thinking we're on the radar. We are, more than people think. Not only are we capable of being very consistent, but I think we can run better than people think we can, too.
We've proved it the last now seven weeks.
Q. Earlier in the season, did you have a point’s finish number in your head that you thought you could be proud of going out like that?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I don't want to set my goals too low. Being in the top 16. There was a point when we weren't going to make the Chase. We were close to not making the Chase. At that point I thought, I just want to make the Chase. That trip to Chicago is really special; interact with that group of drivers. It's not easy to do. So that's kind of where it started.
But, again, when we ran as good as we did at Chicago, I was like, Wait a minute, all right, I'd like to see us advance to the next round. We advanced to the next round. Each time you just kind of reset your goals.
I didn't have any preconceived mindset of what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be competitive. That's what was frustrating. I wasn't competitive, not at the tracks I felt like we should have been. The ones we were, we weren't capitalizing on it. This makes up for a lot of it, I can tell you that.
Q. I saw you had your kids in Victory Lane. This is a big win. How was that for you? Did they really get a sense of how big a win this was for you?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I hope that one day Leo remembers this. I think back to when I was five, I remember some special moments, but I don't remember a whole lot when I was five of things like this. But my daughter, she gets it. She made a comment to me; my teacher said she never started watching racing until I came into her class.
She's going to go to school and people are going to probably say they saw her on TV, how did the race go, whatever maybe. She gets to talk about this moment. We get to talk about it all the way home. That's very special. Ingrid, I love her so much. She so badly wants to see us succeed and be a part of a championship celebration. She's never experienced that. I can just tell she's really excited and proud.
We wanted to go to Homestead. We got a lot of people coming to Homestead, regardless of what was happening with the championship. We had a tremendous amount of people coming to Homestead just to celebrate with us what this career has meant. Making a lot of plans.
It's pretty cool now to see that we're going to get a chance to go there and actually compete for the championship. She's been through all those tough times. I think the wives, sometimes it's tougher on them because they don't have much control on what goes on. It eats them up inside when things aren't going the way you feel like they're capable of or she feels like they are.
Whether you're a crew chief's wife or driver's wife, pit crew member, whatever it may be, or husband, it's tough, because you're sitting there trying to support them but you can't really contribute or do anything other than just support them.
To know she's supported me the way she has, to see that smile on her face today was awesome.
Q. Friday you said your core fans are right here. Did you feel them today?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I told you, I had an event on Thursday night and saw a bunch of them. There were more here today than I thought. It was unbelievable. All weekend long, lots of autographs and pictures. I could tell the heightened sense. Even a lot of fans tell me, this is my last race, last chance I'm going to get to see you. I felt like I was dying (laughter).
I'm not dying, I'll be back. I don't know, I'm not coming to any more races if you're not here. To know the kind of support I have around here, to reward them with that, God, that was awesome. It's a great feeling.
Q. Even if you hadn't made the Chase, hadn't won a race, been 40th in points, Homestead was going to be a zoo. Now it's going to be probably out of control.
JEFF GORDON: It was already out of control. Now it's going to really be out of control. Thanks, I was enjoying this moment right here (laughter).
Q. Do you think you're going to have to readjust your thinking going into that week?
JEFF GORDON: I'm thinking now the track and NASCAR might actually allow me to have all those people there (laughter).
Yeah, it's going to adjust and change things, which is cool. Again, this is what I love about this format. Very cool about winning this race. I thought about Joey Logano when he won at Charlotte, how you can plan ahead for the next couple weeks. There's nothing cooler than winning the first race in this round, to know you're going to Homestead so you can think about it, plan for it, you can adjust your schedule accordingly.
I'm going to be 100% focused. Yeah, I got a lot of people coming there, but it's all about the pre-planning. I'm 100% focused to go there and do what I got to do with this race team. I can't wait to get to work on that.
I know when I get back on my phone, the things I'm going to be texting and emailing with Alan and the engineers already just from today. I can't wait to get in that meeting on Tuesday and start working on that. I'll be working with my own personal team at Jeff Gordon, Inc., Jon Edwards to make sure we got everything squared away to make that week enjoyable, but very serious about this championship.
Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF GORDON: The budget just changed for her, I think (laughter). She's going to go add a few things. The banquet dress might change. Doesn't this mean now we actually have to go to the banquet or stay there?
Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF GORDON: It can't get any better than the one we're going to throw. I'm not even going to talk about it. It's going to be fun, cool.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff Gordon, congratulations. We'll see you next week at Texas, definitely at Phoenix, and Homestead‑Miami.
ALAN GUSTAFSON, NO. 24 AARP MEMBER ADVANTAGES CHEVROLET SS – WINNING CREW CHIEF
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race‑winning crew chief, Alan Gustafson. Obviously a big win for you and your team tonight. Jeff winning here at Martinsville, you punching your ticket to the championship race at Homestead. Talk a little bit about the emotions of being in Victory Lane.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, it was a pretty crazy day. I don't know where to start. There was a lot going on.
Really, really excited. We knew coming in this was a really big race for us. We put a lot of effort into it, were able to do it. Probably not in the fashion we wanted to, but really proud of the fight and the fortitude of the team to contain and push and push and push and get ourselves in position to win the race.
Huge win. Great opportunity now moving forward for Homestead.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. How concerned were you when that last caution came out?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, pretty concerned. You know, the good news is I think it was timed where it was going to be green‑white‑checkered. So guys with tires probably couldn't get to us if they got tires in that amount of time. The thing you worry about is a couple attempts.
But I was concerned. I was concerned. I felt like if we were on equal tires to the guys around us, we would win. We could clear Jamie, just for the fact of having the inside lane. I think Jamie was pretty good there at the end, but the inside lane is such a big advantage.
Yeah, it was concerning. It always is. From my seat you just hold your breath and watch.
Q. (No microphone.)
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, it's not new. It's not new. I think that's been going on. People have done that in the past a lot. The JGR cars have done that the most that I can think of working with their teammates allowing somebody down. The Penske cars were doing a good job of it. It was a pretty big advantage.
Ultimately it's probably what started the original melee there with Brad, Matt and Kurt getting caught up in it.
It's good. I think it can be a good thing. Obviously you can see what could happen if it goes wrong.
Our stance on it, we've kind of stayed away from doing that, Hendrick Motorsports, because you don't know what's going to happen. This is an example today of what happens when it does not go your way.
Q. Seemed like with the temperatures this weekend, the track didn't take a lot of rubber throughout the weekend. Rain didn't make that much difference. Were you surprised? Seemed like the track tightened up significantly near the end of the race. Was that rubber or cooling down?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I think it was cooling down. I'm not surprised. Unfortunately the last at least two years we've struggled to lay rubber here. The first half of the race is really survival until you can get a decent amount of rubber down to where you don't blow the rear tires off the car.
It was no different today. I knew with the overcast, and low track temperature, it was going to be a struggle. Hopefully with the '16 package, we can put a little softer tire to lay rubber down. As you walk across the track, you leave the track, it's pretty wore out. Pretty big aggregate in the track. Chews up tires until you get some rubber down.
I think the reason everybody got tightened up is the track cooled off. Also at the end of the race it's not unusual because the pace picks up. You got to go. You can't be rhythm. Middle of the race it's smooth, rhythm driving. At the end it's not. You got to get to the accelerator really, really fast. That also generates tight conditions. So it's not unusual.
Q. Obviously there will be a lot of talk about revenge. That's been an ongoing discussion the last five years. Is a lot of the garage going to be looking at how NASCAR handles this, how drivers and teams will treat each other going forward?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. I've been on both sides of it. I mean, it's a tough thing because when it happens to you, you feel like you've been robbed. I don't really know any other way to put it. When you feel that way, not only are you mad and upset, but you feel like you need to stand up for yourself.
When that happens, the most recent one for me is Texas, it's just tough. It's just tough. You kind of feel like you've got to stand up for yourself or it's going to continue to happen.
I can see both sides of it and I've been on both sides of it. I don't have the answers. I'm glad I'm not the guy who has to make that call.
It's part of the sport that's good, the passion and competitiveness. But at the end of the day there's a lot of people who worked really hard, really hard, to put those cars in the position they were in on both sides, in particular on the 20 side and the 22 side.
There's a lot of guys that worked countless hours, a lot of guys at the shop, a lot of guys involved with that team that put in tons and tons and tons of effort. They're the ones that are taking it on the chin, in my opinion.
Q. How much have you guys believed that if you could make it to Homestead, you could win this championship?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I mean, really that's kind of how it all started. That's really what we had to believe in, I guess. That's what our focus was. We didn't have the season we wanted to leading up. We didn't have the performance. We just knew we had to come together and just fight and claw for eighths, sixths, sevenths, whatever it is, not make mistakes and transfer.
The vision was always to come here with a chance. We knew if we came here with a chance, not only could we win the race, which it ultimately turned out that way, but even coming out of here with a top‑five finish was going to be a pretty big boost. You knew some guys were going to have problems. You knew you were going to have a point’s advantage if you could finish top five. The grand thought was to come out of here with a win, if not, in good points position to move on.
Getting to Homestead, there's a lot to momentum. There's a lot to the positive energy. Everybody I'm sure in our shop will be there an hour early tomorrow ready to go working hard. We have a couple things we've got to do. I think we've got our Homestead stuff, try to get an advantage on that. We can also use Texas to try some new things, try to get more speed.
Anything can happen. We saw that today. I know we can run competitively enough to be right in the middle of the mix.
Q. You've been a part of a lot of wins and championship seasons at Hendrick. What did you think of the response from the crowd today about Jeff? There's a time in his career when he didn't see that.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: It's really probably the coolest thing about it. Even the last couple years, the success we've had. The one that kind of stands out to me is when you win a pole, even Talladega, as big as Talladega is, we qualify on the pole, you can just hear the place erupt.
I don't know how to describe the sensation. It's just an amazing feeling. Then here the same way. You can hear the crowd. You don't even have to really know what's going on. You can hear the crowd and you can kind of figure it out.
To me that's one of the most satisfying things. It makes you feel really good. It makes you feel like you accomplished something that's really special, to have the reaction from the crowd.
Jeff deserves that. I'm so happy for him that he's having that response. He can remember these special moments in his career for everything he's done and all he's accomplished.
You guys know him, what a super person he is. Yeah, that's really cool. That's the one thing that no matter how many times you hear it or see it, it sends chills down your spine. It's just a great feeling.
Q. How much pressure has gone with this season trying to send Jeff out the way so many fans and you guys want to send him out?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I mean, it's tough. It's tough because there is pressure there. I don't really put any more pressure on myself this year than I do any time. You try to win. You want to win for a lot of reasons. You want to win for Hendrick Motorsports. You want to win for Jeff surely on his last year. You want to win for our team. You want to win for yourself. There's a lot that goes into it.
I think the thing that's probably been more of an impact on me is just when we haven't performed the way that we want to, the way that I feel like we should, you just feel like you're disappointing people. That's tough. That weighs on you.
You sit there, I don't even know how to describe it, but you just constantly have that over you. Not pressure as much as I don't know how to describe it. It's like your father when you're a kid, you want to please him, do everything you can to make everybody happy. We weren't doing a great job of it.
Hopefully everybody's a little bit happier now and we can give everybody something to cheer about at Homestead.
Q. You talked about the pressure of not disappointing people. Now you have this opportunity to send Jeff Gordon into retirement with a championship, which is like storybook. How is that pressure?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: To be honest with you, I've thought about this. If I sat here and told you I didn't think about this, I'd be lying. I'm playing with house money now. I feel like we're in a good position that we can go there and just put it all in, push it all in, go as hard as we can go, not be tight or calculated.
I almost felt like when you're really, really good, like we were last year, you almost try not to mess it up instead of go win the race. Now I don't have that feeling at all. I kind of feel like we're playing with house money, ready to go. We're a little bit of the wild card. I'm embracing that and enjoying it.
I think that will help keep the pressure off at Homestead. It's going to be crazy. We all know that. Kind of just have to settle in and understand that. As far as the race goes, just focus on winning and race like you can't lose.
THE MODERATOR: Alan, thanks for joining us. Congratulations.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Thank you.
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