JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS – Finished 2nd:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON NOT MOVING ON TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND IN HOMESTEAD, YOU ONLY MISSED IT BY ONE POINT:
“Yeah, it’s disappointing. We have a lot to hold our heads up high about; the way that we raced this race and this whole Chase and the whole season. We raced hard. We raced together as a team. But I hope we taught somebody that you can race clean and still go out there and give it your best. You don’t have to wreck people to make it in the Chase or win the championship. I’m afraid if it was that ugly these last couple of weeks it’s going to get really ugly next week. I couldn’t be more proud of this Axalta Chevrolet team and Alan Gustafson (crew chief) and everybody. This makes last week hurt that much more. But we did everything we could at Martinsville. We did everything we could here, second just wasn’t good enough. (Kevin) Harvick was in another zip code. There was nobody that was going to get him today. We did a great job finishing second. You know what, I’m not happy about it, but at the same time I’m really proud of what we have done this year and we will go try to win Homestead and end this season on a positive note.”
ON THE OUTCOME OF THE RACE:
“It’s disappointing. Kevin Harvick was in another zip code. I’m not going to wreck a guy that’s raced me clean all year long just to make it into the Chase. That’s not what it’s all about for me. You’re not going to go win the championship next week by doing that. So, it’s just unfortunate. It’s just unfortunate. We did everything so good this year. That one race. That one race is going to stick with me for a little while. I got over it this week, knowing that we could come here and compete like this. Now it makes it sting that much more. But, I couldn’t be more proud of what this team did this year. What a great season and great race cars. That’s what I’m most disappointed in. I don’t think anybody deserves to be in at Homestead more than this No. 24 team because of the effort that they put in and the performances that we’ve had. But, you know what? You’ve got to score the points or win the races to get in there and we didn’t do that. So now we’ll go to Homestead and battle hard to try to win that race.”
IS THAT WHAT MAKES IT SO TOUGH BECAUSE YOU RUN SO WELL BUT YOU’RE JUST ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN?
“Yeah, we did everything right, in my opinion. We did everything that we could control. We ran smart races. We were aggressive when we needed to be. We had great race cars. When we needed to qualify up front, we qualified up front. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) called a great race today. We fell back; had some issues on a pit stop, and fought our way back up there and held on for second there at the end. We gave it everything. I’m proud of that.
“I’m so proud of this race team for all that they’ve done this year. It’s so disappointing. I mean to have two second place finishes in the Chase and know what we were staring at last week, makes last week even tougher to handle. But we certainly did everything we could. We didn’t score enough points. We didn’t win the race to get us to advance to next week, and now we just put our heads down and go racing this next week really hard to try to win that race and see what we can do next year.”
WE KNOW YOU’LL COME BACK AND RACE JUST AS HARD IN 2015?
“I certainly will because of this race team. They have inspired me this year. They’ve given me great cars and great confidence because they’ve given me such great cars; and pit stops and pit strategy and it’s been a lot of fun this year. I think nobody is more deserving and has worked harder to be at Homestead battling for this championship than this No. 24 team. But some things are out of our control.”
YOU HAVE COME ALL THIS WAY, AND WIN RACES AND YOU’RE NOT THERE TO BATTLE AT HOMESTEAD. DO YOU HAVE AN ISSUE WITH THAT?
“Well, that’s just the system that we have. You’ve got to race a system the way that it’s structured and I’m so proud that I can hold my head up and say that I drove my heart out. This team put their heart and soul into everything we did. There were some things that were out of our control that happened that are unfortunate that kept us out of it. But it wasn’t for a lack of effort from our part or good race cars or a good race team. We’ve got all that. I knew Kevin Harvick was going to be tough today. He was in another zip code. But to come home second, I thought that would be enough. I really did. But it’s pretty disappointing that it’s not.”
HOW TOUGH WAS THAT RACE TODAY? HOW INTENSE WAS THE RACING?
“It was tough. We had a couple restarts that were pretty edgy. The start of the race was the toughest. We were off a little bit on the car. The track was real slick. I was sliding around. I knew it was going to be a long day. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made some great adjustments and got us right back into it. So, we had one issue on pit road that made it that much tougher, but we fought back from all those things and had great pit stops and strategy there and a good race car but it just wasn’t enough. It certainly wasn’t from lack of effort.”
HOW WAS THAT LAST RESTART?
“It was good. The last few were good for me. I could race Kevin (Harvick) down in the corner but I don’t know. He didn’t have to use brakes! I don’t know what they’ve got in that thing. He was just in another zone today. It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen a car that fast; that much faster than the competition. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They deserved it. They made their way into it. I think they are going to be a real factor next week.”
ON THE PRESSURE OF THE RACE
‘There was pressure. But honestly, nothing to me was worse from a pressure standpoint than Talladega. To know that track and what it offers and what can happen there and to be in a position where you’re not safe, but you’ve got to be conservative. That was the worst weekend. This weekend, I just feel confident in my race team. We can go out there. When you have a race where you can play a role in the outcome, you have more confidence in how you are performing and what your team is doing; whether it be strategy or pit stops or setting up the car. So, I don’t know. I had confidence coming into today. And we finished second. That’s pretty good.”
YOU WORKED SO HARD ALL YEAR. EMOTIONALLY, HOW DO YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW?
“I’m disappointed. I thought if we came out of here second, even if it was to Kevin or (Brad) Keselowski, I thought we’d still make it in. That’s pretty disappointing to do all of that. It just makes last week that much more disappointing and I’m going to be thinking about that one for a while.”
IF RYAN NEWMAN DID WRECK KYLE LARSON ON THE FINAL TURN TO MAKE THE CHASE, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
“Well, he ran him wide. I don’t know if I’d say he wrecked him. He certainly ran him up the race track. That’s the system that we have. Wait until next week when the championship is on the line. You’re going to see a lot more than that. That’s what NASCAR wants this to become to create intensity and interest and that’s what’s going to happen. You have to expect it. But just like what happened on pit road last week, there are lines that need to be drawn or somebody’s going to cross the line and they’ll have to back everybody up.”
ON THE NEW FORMAT:
“I like it. It’s exciting; the most interest I’ve seen in this sport in a long, long time; not necessarily for all good reasons, but it certainly makes it very challenging and difficult to get there. Only next week will tell. You want it to just come down to the best teams. That’s not necessarily always the case.”
IS THIS THE MOST EMPTY FEELING YOU’VE HAD AFTER DRIVING A GREAT RACE?
“Yeah. It is; besides last week (laughs).”
BUT YOU’VE GOT TO SUM-UP YOUR SEASON BY SAYING YOU WERE ALIVE AND IN IT RIGHT TO THE END:
“Oh, I told my wife when the day started that no matter what happens today, we have a lot to smile about and be happy about. We have two wonderful children. We’ve worked our guts out this year as a race team and we’ve won races and showed everybody what kind of race team we are. And for that I’m extremely proud. I knew if this moment happened and we had that kind of performance today, it would be very tough to take. But that’s the reality of it.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS, FINISHED 2ND AND 5TH IN POINTS
KERRY THARP: We're going to continue our post‑race for today's 27th‑annual Race for Heroes 500, our race runner‑up, Jeff Gordon. He drives the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Jeff, I know you gave it everything you had, and on that last lap things happened that kept you from advancing to the championship. Your thoughts on today?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I'm really proud of the effort, not just today but throughout this whole season and the Chase. I couldn't be more proud of this team and the effort that they put out. Today was another one of those ‑‑ I mean, Kevin was in another zip code. There was no touching him. But to come out of here second, I really thought second would get it done, but obviously it didn't. We did everything that we could, other than have a faster race car than Kevin. That was near impossible. But yeah, it's disappointing. It makes last week that much even tougher to swallow, but that's alright, we put in a great effort at Martinsville, great effort here, and it just wasn't enough.
Some things are out of our control, and I felt like we did a great job putting all the effort into the things that we could control.
Q. Did your team just tell you after the race, hey, Newman moved a guy and you're out? What's the feeling when you're kind of helpless like that?
JEFF GORDON: (Laughs) Newman just told me that that apron was really slick, like there was some oil down there or something.
Yeah, I knew prior to that last restart, Alan told me that we weren't in at that time, and then he said, give it everything you've got, and I did. And we come home second, and I just was hoping that it was going to be enough. When you hear those words that it wasn't, it's disappointing.
Q. Jeff, I assume it was pretty clear to you early on in the race that Harvick was going to be very hard to beat, but at what point did it kind of become clear that second was not going to get you in? Was that still kind of either/or late in the race for you?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I didn't want them to tell me points and what was going on behind me. I saw a lot going on, but you can't go halfway through the race and have them go, okay, you're good, you're this many to the good. That's just a false sense of hope. You really just have to work and put your best effort out there every single lap and get the best finish you can and hope when it's all said and done that it's enough.
I mean, it's tough to swallow that two second‑place finishes and staring down a potential win or at least top 5 last week that we didn't get it done. You know, to perform as well as we did in this round, and I was looking forward to this round for a long time, you know, ever since they announced this Chase, and we started having a good year, I was looking forward to hopefully being in this round because I felt like this was a round where we could really shine, and we did. But it still wasn't enough.
Q. Is it acceptable that somebody moves somebody for a spot in that situation?
JEFF GORDON: It was acceptable last week, it's acceptable this week. I mean, don't think that that's not going to come back to you, you know. I mean, I could have taken out Harvick, too, to make it in, but I didn't.
Q. Pretty much every week you've been in here in the Chase, you said you love this format, you think it's great. You're really excited about it. Do you feel the same way now?
JEFF GORDON: I do. I mean, I like it. I do. I'm a little concerned where it could go with ‑‑ just like last week we found out on pit road where the line is drawn and when you cross over that line, and I think that it could get to that on the racetrack, as well. I don't necessarily know that it has gotten there yet, but it's certainly possible.
I think it's incredibly intense. This is the most interest we've had in this sport in a long time, so obviously it's been good. I feel like the only disappointing thing or the only thing I don't like right now is the fact that I'm not in it next week.
Q. Who do you like next week?
JEFF GORDON: I like Harvick. Yeah, I think Harvick looks really good. The guy has led the most laps all year long, guys. It's not me that's saying this. I do think that Denny won that race last year, so he can be really, really strong there. But Kevin looked good there in the test, and man, they've just been so strong lately, and it seems like they've gotten some of the bugs worked out in their team that they had early in the year, and I think if they do that next week, they're going to be really tough to beat like they were today.
KERRY THARP: Jeff Gordon, thank you for coming in.
Proud of the effort #Team24 has put into every race this year. Bummed not to advance but looking forward to Homestead to close out season.— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) November 10, 2014