JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AARP MEMBER ADVANTAGES CHEVROLET SS – Finished 3rd
THIS IS YOUR 32ND TOP 10 AT POCONO AND THIS MIGHT BE THE CRAZIEST EVER. TELL US ABOUT THE END OF THIS RACE
“Well, it would be a long, long list if we talked to a bunch of people in the grandstands and myself, and everybody on pit road and probably people watching at home to find out who was more surprised. That was crazy. I’m so proud of (crew chief) Alan Gustafson and everybody on this AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet. This team fought through a lot. We’ve been fighting hard. We just haven’t been getting the results. Today they stuck with a strategy and it played out. It wasn’t looking good at times, but boy, it sure looked good when we crossed the finish line and got the checkered flag.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AARP MEMBER ADVANTAGES CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED THIRD
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: We're going to roll right into our post race for today's 42nd annual Windows 10 400, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at Pocono Raceway. Our third place finisher is the driver of the No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Gordon. Let me ask Jeff first, you've been to a lot of races obviously and seen how these things play out. Just talk about today, how things played out here today at Pocono.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I'm not exactly sure where I started on that first restart but it was like 15th, 16th and I can't say I passed many cars. We just kind of hovered around that area, wasn't real pleased with how our car was in traffic, and when we were up front we were pretty good, felt like we were a top 5 car. But we played the fuel mileage strategy pretty early on and that lost us track position and we weren't able to climb our way up through there, and we continued to play that strategy and I'm proud of Alan for sticking with it. There at the end we were one of the last ones to pit which allowed us to run hard all the way to the finish not having to conserve or save fuel. I thought we were trying to get maybe 10th or 12th and all of a sudden they said you're third, and I think I was probably the most shocked person out there on the race track when I found that out. I knew cars were peeling off, but I just didn't realize that many were either running out or coming to pit road.
Q. Jeff, you finished third. Did that race have like a Michigan June 2009 feel when you finished second behind Mark Martin, and did you think you could script it like this running mid pack all day and then Kurt spins in front of you, you fall back and finish third in the end?
JEFF GORDON: First of all, if I had a memory that I could go back to the details of 2009 Michigan, I probably wouldn't be stepping out of the race car. (Laughter.)
I could not tell you one thing about that race. I mean, all I can speak of is my memories here of Pocono over the years have been great. I enjoy the challenges of this racetrack right from the beginning, the shifting, the three unique turns and how you have to set up the person that you're racing each and every corner and try to get that momentum off the corner. It makes for frustrating moments at times, but also a lot of fun when you complete it. You know, I've had certainly some great victories here over the years, as well.
What was the second part of that question?
Q. Just your career here at Pocono, all the wins. Did you think you could script the way you did today, finishing third with everybody kind of running out of gas?
JEFF GORDON: No, the script I had played out in my head was we were going to be 15th, so this one was way better than that. For whatever reason the last couple times we've been here we've had decent race cars, not maybe the cars that we would have liked to have had, but cars far capable of better finishes than what we've had, have been getting, and just a lot of different circumstances not playing out. Some to our own credit and others just circumstances.
Today finally one went our way for a change, which is really nice to bounce back after last week's unfortunate incident where we lost so many points.
Q. How was the car compared to June?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I think we were more competitive in June. I mean, we were running up front in June, and I thought we were holding our own with guys like Harvick and the 41. Those were guys that were pretty quick. I didn't think that we were as strong today as we were then. But you know, like you mentioned, when the 41 made a banzai move down into Turn 1 and spun out, we lost a bunch of track position on that situation and just never regained. It's really hard to evaluate your car. All I can tell you is Brad went by me like I was standing still, like I had 100 laps on my tires and he had three laps on his tires, so we've got some work to do.
Q. Jeff, we're looking to Watkins Glen next and wondering what you feel you can bring to the table there as road course racing is something I think of you as being quite proficient at.
JEFF GORDON: Well, the one thing that's encouraging to me is last year I thought we were really strong there, and we had an I don't know if it was an alternator or battery issue, but yeah, some kind of battery connection issue and we lost power, so we never saw it play out. That happened, I think we were running second to Ambrose at the time. I'm encouraged by that. I'm looking forward to going back there. I know our aero package is a little bit different, but you know, I don't think it's that much different from what we had last year, so hopefully we can have another strong finish and performance there. That would be awesome. We need them. Right now every race is so critical for us. We can't afford to have finishes like we had last week at Indy, and so we're going to have to attack and be on it, just marching forward to be aggressive to try to get those good points and finishes and hopefully a win.
Q. Jeff, third place finish today; how much momentum does that provide you and your team for Watkins Glen next week and the races before the Chase?
JEFF GORDON: This track is nothing like Watkins Glen. We need every bit of boost that we can possibly get. It's not been the kind of season that we would hope to have for my final season and certainly hasn't stacked up to what we had last year, but we don't quit. We fight for every race to build a better race car, to get the performance up, pay attention to our competitors, and do all that we can to put the best race car and race team out there. Sometimes you need just something to pull you through it, and last week got us down quite a bit. This is definitely going to lift us back up, so we'll try to, I think it's not about carrying momentum, it's about getting momentum, and I think this is the beginning of hopefully what can get us the momentum we need to get where we need to.
Q. Jeff, it looks like from looking at the Chase Grid you're 12th right now. You had something happen to you at Indy last week, and you come out today with what looked like was going to be a mid pack, maybe top 15 run, you end up third. How big are those points as the season is winding down? Obviously you want to get that win, but to come away with a third versus a 15th.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I think as a team even though we're not performing to the level we want to we are performing well enough to make it into the Chase. If you knew that you were going to finish between 10th and 15th every week here going forward, but just like what happened last week, you can't afford to have many 42nd place finishes. That could be disastrous. There are no guarantees, and so you've got to gain all the points you can when you have the opportunity. We had that opportunity today; we did it. Like I said, this more helps make up a little bit for what we lost last week, but we can't afford to let that happen again. It's that fine line and balance between fighting as a team, as a driver, being aggressive, but yet not putting yourself in position to cost you everything, and so this is not the way we want to be in the Chase, but hopefully we can just continue to make gains and get ourselves in the Chase, and we've seen in the past where anything can happen when that Chase starts, but you've got to be in it first, and we're going to try to secure our way in there over the next few races.
Q. You now have a teammate Kasey Kahne who's outside the Chase. You don't have a win but you're in it and you have other teammates who do have wins. How does that change the mindset of the team, having a car that's in that type of position?
JEFF GORDON: Well, we're not in a safe position. Our teammates Junior and Jimmie are, and Kasey is not at all so I don't know what happened today. I haven't talked to those guys, other than I know he got loose and got into the inside wall there on pit road, and we're going to be doing everything we can with the 5/24 teams being under one roof there at Hendrick Motorsports, working as teammates, working with our other teammates to try to do what we can to get both of us in. We're going to be fighting for every position. We know they are, as well, and if we're in the position, if we can get a win, then we can be in a position to try to do all we can to help those guys get in. If it's setups, if it's cutting him a break here and there, whatever, it can be a pit stall selection, just the littlest things sometimes. Right now we've got too much to think about on our own, and they do, too, and we work together like we always do, and hopefully it works out for all of us.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff and Brad, congratulations. Thank you for a great weekend, and we'll see you at Watkins Glen.