JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AARP MEMBER ADVANTAGES CHEVROLET SS
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
JEFF GORDON: I'm excited. I think a lot of people didn't count on us to do this or expect it. I think for us, we're carrying just a lot of confidence and momentum and pride right now knowing that we've had to grind it out just to get ourselves in the Chase. That grind and that fight that we have in us is what we've been putting out there these last six weeks that have gotten us to this round.
Now, we get to continue that fight and grind, but we get to go do it at some tracks that we legitimately have a shot at competing for wins.
I'm pretty excited that we're where we're at and that we've made it this far.
Q. What is your view of Sunday, the end of the race, one green-white-checkered?
JEFF GORDON: Well, now I think I have a clearer understanding that we got the green flag, but we didn't cross the line. I don't know if I've gotten verification from NASCAR or read the rule book on that. I probably will clarify that before the race in Martinsville.
But that seems to be what allowed that second green-white-checkered to happen. So, I'm fine with it. I'm disappointed that the fans didn't get to see a green-flag finish to the checkered, because it was certainly going to be spectacular, and there was an awesome crowd there. At the same time, I thought there was a lot of good racing that went on there. Certainly plenty of drama because of the Chase and everything that's going on with the points, what happened there on that final restart.
Q. Would you like to see the same thing at Daytona in February?
JEFF GORDON: I would. Just from the driver standpoint, I think it's too much risk that's involved to do multiple green-white-checkereds. Each time you have a green-white-checkered, there's so much aggression that goes on on those restarts. You're putting everyone in a position to not lift, to not hold back, to do things outside their comfort zone. That's what's going to cause some big wrecks.
I think doing it one time is enough.
Q. What is your strategy for this round? How does it change as you've moved on in the Chase?
JEFF GORDON: Our strategy, obviously we're focused on Martinsville right now being the next race. I just left my team in the shop doing our debrief, analyzing what's been working for us the last few races there, especially earlier this year with this aero and power package. Then, I look at the improvements we've made as a team with cars, power.
We qualified pretty well there, but that number one pit stall is so huge and we want that thing bad. Looking at the race and some things that we dealt with, how we can be better prepared for that.
At the end of that race, other than having the issue on pit road where I was trying to jump into my box, got caught speeding, trying to execute that a little bit better, but also get ourselves in a position at the end, I think we have a shot at winning this race.
One thing that we've done so well that I think will continue no matter what, because it's just this team, is we never stop fighting and grinding. That's what we've had to do. Now we're just in that mode. That's just what we do. We seem to really do a great job being consistent and getting the best finish. That's what we've been certainly doing in the Chase.
If we do that for three more weeks, I think we make it to Homestead.
Q. What are your thoughts on the controversy afterwards with the 4 car?
JEFF GORDON: I think it was inconclusive. I don't think that it's a clear-cut thing. Do I like the fact that there's somebody with an engine that is under-powered starting right in the middle of the pack? No. If this Chase format wasn't the way that it is, I don't think somebody would do that.
There's no doubt that the way that Kevin started that last restart was to cause chaos. I don't think that he intentionally tried to do it. I can't see anything from what I saw that he was intentionally trying to take somebody out. I think the restart before that he moved up and got out of the way and let people go by. This one he didn't. I think that's pretty clear that he wanted there to be chaos. That was his shot. He did what he had to do. You can't blame somebody for that.
Q. It shows how high the stakes are.
JEFF GORDON: You have no idea. You guys have no idea how high the stakes are. When competition is at the level that it's at, and you're seeing that opportunity either slip away or in your grasp, the things that you will go to, the level you'll take it, you don't even know yourself until you're in that position.
Q. As the last Hendrick guy left, any effort to pull resources from other guys?
JEFF GORDON: Of course, I mean, our teammates already, Jimmie and Kasey, have been phenomenal since they were knocked out. I look the same to happen with Junior as we move forward. That's continuing the level of information that we have.
I know that, just like if it were us, we would want to see a Hendrick car win this championship. I think there's probably even a little added motivation, because these are my final four races. So I think everybody wants to see us advance to that next round, to Homestead, and have a shot at it. We're all going to be working hard together. I feel confident about Martinsville, but we'll always take all the information we can. All three of our teammates have run really good at times at Martinsville either this year or last year. We've got tremendous resources to fall back on. Of course, we never have too much pride to not go after every bit of information or resource that we possibly can.
Q. You've had a storybook career. Can you imagine going out on top like that with a championship?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I can't imagine it. That's why I haven't allowed myself to really go there. One, there's too much racing left to happen. Can't help but give you a smile on your face that we made it further than maybe we even anticipated.
It gives you that feeling that, Hey, maybe this could be our year.
The reason we're where we're at is because of the way we've been executing, the resources, the team we are. That's where I'm at. Just thinking about doing that.
That would be a lot of fun to talk about when Homestead is over. I can't talk about it now, because I think we just have too much work ahead of us.
Q. You said you don't allow yourself to think about it, but do you have the confidence you can get it done?
JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. There's not one of these eight teams and drivers in this round that don't feel like they can do it. We've eliminated eight. When you get down to this point, I think that everybody feels like, Hey, this is our year, this is our moment, and we have the team and the drive to do it.
So, yeah, absolutely we feel like we can. If we've made it this far, who knows what we can do.
Q. You've won multiple races in a row like Joey is doing now. What is that like?
JEFF GORDON: It's definitely a zone. I'm pretty sure that Joey probably said, I didn't anticipate going to Talladega and winning at Talladega. Sometimes when you're in that zone, you're fighting hard to win races, you have the car to be able to win it, the team to win it. You go to another one, you don't think you have it, you're still finding your way into Victory Lane. Next thing you know, you feel like you can win every race.
It's amazing how hard it is to get yourself to that level of confidence. When you get there, it can carry you for a long way.
Q. Is the racing out of control now?
JEFF GORDON: No. Why? I don't think anything's changed. I think the format's changed, and that's changed things slightly in the urgency of things. But, I mean, if you took five drivers and said, All right, you have two or three more races to go to win the championship, you guys are all within a few points of one another, you would see the same thing.
It's just the opportunity that presents itself that's there in front of you. I don't think that would be any different 20 years ago versus today.
Q. You said in Charlotte that all you needed to do was to get to this round of the Chase.
JEFF GORDON: Right.
Q. The fact that you've gotten to this point and you're going to a track that you're so comfortable at, how do you stay in the moment?
JEFF GORDON: Well, it's just like the meeting I was in with my crew chief and engineers this morning. As strong as we are, I look at tracks that we led laps at this year, it's restrictor plates and Martinsville. But that did not come easy. We struggled the first half of that race trying to understand where the grip was at, the tires, the falloff, the balance of the car. It was not easy.
We fell back and we had to fight our way back up, then we were in position.
So just knowing that tells you, even if we go there and the car is driving amazing, we qualify up front, it's not going to be an easy task. But I also know that it is the one track, if I can put any track on the schedule to give ourselves opportunity to win at right now, I would pick Martinsville.
Q. Last year you were one of the best teams. You've had Chases also where a sixth-plate average finish wasn't good enough. Are you amazed you're still alive in this thing, I can't believe we've had this kind of a season?
JEFF GORDON: I think back of how frustrating it was earlier in the year when we were taking a 10th-place car and finishing 15th with it. What we've been doing lately is taking maybe what could have been a 15th and turning it into an eighth or a 10th.
What I'm most proud of what we've done this year is that when those times were tough and we were at one another's throats and we weren't happy, we were discouraged or frustrated, we fought through it, we continued to communicate. We actually bonded and grew from it. That's why we're one of the strongest teams that exists out there. Even though we're not maybe bringing the fastest race cars to some of these mile-and-a-half tracks, I think we're one of the strongest teams when it comes down to sticking together, fighting through adversity, executing to a high level.
Q. Does your history at Martinsville and Phoenix give you an edge at all?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I look at this round, I feel like not only are we capable of being very consistent, but we're capable of winning at each of these tracks. Of course, Martinsville I'm more confident in. But that doesn't mean that I feel like we've got this thing. We don't. We've got to go out and we've got to earn that.
Texas, even though we haven't been great on the mile-and-a-half's, it's a track that has an older surface, the tires wear, there's falloff, you have to search around the racetrack. Our cars are better than they were earlier in the year. I feel more confident about Texas than the other mile-and-a-half's.
Phoenix, we finished second there last year. We tested there. We weren't the fastest car on the short runs, but I thought we were pretty good on the longer runs. A track I feel pretty good about.
Homestead I would put in the same category as Texas.
I think the way we're performing right now, I look at the tracks coming up, yeah, I feel good about it. But we're still under the radar, and still I don't think anybody expects that to happen, and we like it that way.
Q. Harvick has led a lot of laps, Logano is on a hot streak.
JEFF GORDON: I hope Joey continues to steal the headlines and we sneak our way to Homestead, then we can steal some headlines.
Those guys are strong. We give them credit, give them a lot of credit. We got to find our own way to get there and our own way to get it done and not focus on what they're doing.
Q. So much of the season was lackluster for you. What has happened since the Chase started?
JEFF GORDON: We just stopped making mistakes, number one. I feel like we were maybe trying too hard. I think we've improved our race cars. Through the adversity that we had to overcome, I think we became a stronger unit as a team to know that, man, if we can overcome some really poor results this year, still make it into the Chase, then do what we've done since the Chase, there's no telling what we're capable of.
Q. Has the driver been better, too?
JEFF GORDON: I made less mistakes, yes (laughter). Probably a few less distractions. Been really focused. Then the team, all of us, have been doing our jobs.
Q. How much do you think their attention or focus has to do with knowing it's your last year?
JEFF GORDON: The team's?
JEFF GORDON: I think everyone at Hendrick and certainly everyone on the 24 team is certainly aware that these are my final four races. I would say when I think of Alan, our conversations, there's no doubt that it's on his mind that he wants this to be special not only for his own accomplishments and the team's, but for me. Knowing we have four more chances to work together, I think the cool thing we have is I believe he's the best crew chief out there, and I believe he thinks I'm the best driver he could have out there.
The fact that we get to do that, what we do every weekend, four more times, we want to make the most of it.
Q. Getting to this round, the success at the tracks we're going to, where is your confidence level?
JEFF GORDON: Much higher (laughter). This past round was the one I was most nervous about. Two mile-and-a-half tracks that have rock-hard tires. That does not suit me. I want a tire that falls off, that wears out, that slips and slides around. That was not Kansas or Charlotte.
Then Talladega, I mean, I can't remember the last time I finished a race at Talladega with a car in one piece, or a restrictor plate track for that matter.
So, yeah, I didn't have a tremendous amount of confidence. But I had a lot of confidence in our team, what we were capable of in the way that we've been going about it. I keep saying 'grinding it out'. If you analyzed the races the way we analyze our races, you have no idea how much we've had to fight for those finishes.
Now Talladega, a little bit different, because restrictor plates have been really strong for us this year. But mistakes getting to pit road, maybe a miscue on pit road, some bad decisions during the race. I went through a lot of video before this Talladega race to try to make sure I didn't make those same mistakes.
This time they didn't happen. We did everything we were supposed to do. So this round ended up being our best round so far when I didn't expect it to be. So we can't let looking at these next few races, having confidence in those tracks, let us get off what we've been doing to get this far. We've got to fight really, really hard. But, yeah, I mean, when you just scratch and claw your way in, you don't expect to get very far. It's pretty awesome that we have.
Q. Being the only Hendrick car in, does that benefit the team in any way? You were in this position a year ago.
JEFF GORDON: Yes and no. We're still going to have to battle against them for wins. I think of this race coming up last year. We were in the same situation. We were the last Hendrick car in the third round. Dale Jr. wins, we finish second. That win could have gotten us to Homestead.
We're going to work together on how we work together, which is sharing information, helping when we can. I felt like at Texas Jimmie and I were battling on restarts. He was really I felt like working with me well. I had a very fast race car, but he had a shot at winning. That last restart he got a little bit better one than I did. He goes on and wins the race. It still kept us alive because had Brad won that race, we were pretty much out of it. We went to Phoenix, did what we did there.
There's certainly advantages. When you're getting the amount of information in more focus as one group with all those resources, yes, it's beneficial. But you still got to go out there and race those guys. If you could just get all the information, then they pulled over and pulled off when the green flag was dropped, yeah, that would be a little bit different, but that's not the case.
Q. You talk about falling under the radar. Do you see yourself as an underdog?
JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. Absolutely. Of course I do. We have not shown the strength that other teams have that are still in this thing. We've not been the dominant cars and team.
I hope after this round that changes. But I think if we can run strong at Martinsville, and we run strong at Texas, we make it through this round, I think people will think different. But up to this point we're definitely the underdog.
Q. Can it change that quickly?
JEFF GORDON: You've got to understand tracks change things a lot. They make a huge difference. We've had a lot of mile-and-a-half tracks up to this point. I think of Chicago. Chicago is a more worn racetrack. Even though that tire doesn't fall off that much, there is some falloff. You move around the track a little bit more, the tire is not as rock hard as the Kansas tire or the Charlotte tire. We performed well there.
I think that the track changes things a lot.
Q. Do you want to be the guy with the momentum?
JEFF GORDON: I just want to be the guy and the team that we are right now. Honestly, I do. Because I feel like we have this ability, and I truly meant this, we might not have the fastest cars, but I do think we have the strongest team. It's because we haven't been riding at the top. We haven't been just super confident. We've been having to work extremely hard for everything we've gotten, just pulling ourselves up there to climb that ladder. I think once you get there, that can be a strength that can separate you.