Tag:Jeff Gordon
Posted on: September 6, 2011 6:14 pm
 

Jeff Gordon, Alan Gustafson post Atlanta comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

THE MODERATOR:  We welcome at this time Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet.  Winner of today's AdvoCare 500.  This is his 85th victory in 642 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, placing him solely in third place on the All-Time Wins list, also his third victory of 2011 and fifth victory here at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Talk about the race today.  I know you're full of emotion and a little bit about the special presentation in Victory Lane as well.                

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, everybody knows when Mike Helton speaks he has a way with words.  So to be up there, get presented that beautiful plaque that they put together with all the victories, just looking back on all the people that have contributed to it from Hendrick Motorsports, different crew chiefs and crew members and guys in the engine shop.  I mean, it's a team effort.           

To win 85, you know, is unbelievable.  And to do it here at Atlanta.  I'm not sure really to kind of rank everything, because the significance of this win today, the timing of it, doing it here in Atlanta on such a tough racetrack, battling with Jimmie, the bonus points, the 85th win, the momentum that this team has got right now and the race cars we're taking to the racetrack.  Man, this is cool.          

THE MODERATOR:  Alan, from your perspective, obviously with this win and the finish here today, Jeff clinched a top 10 spot in The Chase.  Your thoughts being with this team this year and being part of such memorable finishes and a memorable year for Jeff Gordon?           

ALAN GUSTAFSON:  Yes, this was one of the racetracks that we felt, like Jeff alluded to, we had a lot of momentum; but we felt like we struggled on the mile-and-a-half high banked tracks, Texas and Charlotte.  This is one of the tracks we felt like to be an elite team and contend to win the championship, we'll have to do well on these style of racetracks.           

So really pleased to do that.  Had a really fast car.  Jeff did a great job.  And it was a lot of emotions today.  There was times where I felt like, man, we were going to win the race and there was times where we were tenth, like it was going to ring out.  So it was up and down and a long time coming.  But a great day, nonetheless.           

And Jeff alluded to it about the 85 wins, it's awesome accomplishment for him.  I think he's super deserving of all the accolades he gets throughout his career, not only for a race car driver but for being a great person, and it's a big deal for Hendrick Motorsports also to have Jeff solely in that third position.  It's a real great accomplishment for our company.           

THE MODERATOR:  Questions?           

Q.  Jeff, how important do you think it was to sort of deliver a message to the 48 team that you guys are in championship form and we can beat you by holding them off here in those last few laps?          

JEFF GORDON:  I think everybody recognizes how strong they are, and that you can never count them out and those guys are running really strong right now as well.  And I think the last couple of weeks we've been able to send a great message to all our competitors of how strong this team is, how good our race cars are.          

I love the fact we go to -- at Bristol I felt we had a car that could win there.  Then we come to a big mile-and-a-half track like this and we do win.    

Certainly a great battle between me and Jimmie.  A lot of fun out there racing him.  Man, I was sliding around.  This track really, really freed up as it laid rubber down.           

And I'm kind of glad we had that break, because it tightened up after that, and we needed that.           

So had we needed to run and make one more run, I don't know if we could have gotten it tight enough.  But when you've got a five-time champion -- and I have a lot of respect for Jimmie and that team -- and when we pulled out after that last stop and we pulled away from him, I was like -- I felt pretty good.  Pretty comfortable.  The car was driving perfect.  And then all of a sudden, with about 15 to go, it started to really loosen up.  And I was hoping to look up and see him loosening up as well.           

If he was, he wasn't showing it, because he was coming hard.  And I made a few mistakes trying to search around and try to figure out if I could get my car to drive a little bit tighter.  And I just had to go back to what I was doing.  I had to get to the bottom in 3 and 4 and the top in 1 and 2.  So that kind of maintained a little bit, but he was a little bit better than me at 1 and 2.  And he had a couple runs at me.           

And I think when he got underneath me and didn't complete the pass, to me that's what allowed me to go, okay, we still are going to win this race.  I just can't make mistakes.         

So I know that it was a great message.  But I think that we're having a lot of fun right now.  The race cars are awesome.  And we've got a lot of momentum.  So we can't wait to get to next week, Richmond, as well as get this Chase started.

Q.  Jeff, you alluded to this just now.  But just if we can backtrack a little bit.  Just when did you think you pretty much had this thing in the bag when, as you said, he couldn't quite get by you, at what point?  Because there was about 10 laps or so it was very much of a dogfight?           

JEFF GORDON:  Listen, my emotions -- I can't imagine what these guys were going through on pit road, but mine were going up and down.  I made a comment about, man, we're done, the thing's just got too loose.  Alan was encouraging me:  We can get it done.  My spotter, Jeff Dickerson, did a great job as well.  So Jimmie got underneath me off of 2.  It was probably like five or six to go.           

And I kind of cleared him.  Then we got into 3 and he got right up on me got real loose and got underneath me.  But when he didn't complete the pass, you know, gave me a little bit of hope.  But I didn't -- I mean, it was a nailbiter all the way to the end.  He got real loose off of 4 coming to take the white.  And I think that was the turning point.  I really do.  I think had he gotten underneath me off of 2, I was getting so loose over there, and if he could have got to the bottom into 3, I don't know if I could have held him off, off of 4.  It would have been a great battle either way.  But he got real loose off of 2.           

When that happened, it gave me a little bit breathing room where I could go down to the 3 and drive the car straight and not push the issue and not get the car real sideways.  Every time I stood in the gas off of 2 the car would step out and lose momentum.  That's where he was gaining on me.  I was able to drive it straight when he got loose off of 4.            

Q.  Today we heard stuff about tires lasting, but also wearing out.  Tony talked about the character of the track, touching it, repave it.  We saw side-by-side racing at the end by you and Jimmie.  What were the ingredients you think that added up to what turned out to be a really good race from start to finish?           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, I think that any racetrack that we go to that has a pavement that is of this consistency, that has worn, has aged, that is abrasive like this, and as long as Goodyear can find a tire that can hold up in these kinds of conditions, then this is the ultimate track and ultimate place.           

When you've got a track that cars are running on the bottom, the middle, the top, both ends of the racetrack, you know, and the drop-off in speed from the beginning to the end of the run, that to me is what you want to see in a racetrack.           

So I think that if you look at Kansas and Chicago and these tracks that now have some age on them, those are the best tracks that we go to.  They're finding a little bit better ways doing the progressive banking on new paves.  But I think all of us prefer these older surfaces.           

We understand that they've got to stay together, the foundation and everything.  These start seeing the seams and the cracks.  Obviously it's tough to hold these high-banked tracks together like this.  Sometimes they have to do what they have to do like Phoenix did.  But for all of us as competitors we prefer to keep it like this.            

Q.  Jeff, do you recall how long it's been since you won a race in a car that was that loose and might that be a little part of the rejuvenation you feel that you were talking about on TV a while ago?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, the car wasn't loose the whole run.  It was just loose there at the end.  And that's why Jimmie caught us, just because we got too loose.  But I gotta say that right now the rejuvenation is going to the racetrack and having race cars that are driving as good as the ones that I'm driving.           

To me, it's not about being loose or tight it's about having a fast race car that you can lean on it.  You can maneuver around the track.  You can pass with.  You know, and you can adjust.           

When I can give information to Alan that we're not panicking, we're not way off, he can make those great adjustments that keep us in the game and keep us improving as the race goes on.           

So I credit Alan and his group.  These guys have been just unbelievable this year in how they listen to the comments that I say, the belief that they have in me, and now the confidence that I have in them in what they're bringing to the racetrack.            

Q.  And also, just again specifically talking about those last 10 or 12 laps, but I asked Jimmie if he was surprised or disappointed to lose a duel of loose race cars considering he's so notorious for that.  And he said, well, I know what his setup is and it was a ton tighter than mine.  The last 10 or 12 laps, were you as loose as he was from what you could see?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, I mean, I think his car would just roll the middle a little bit better.  So he could kind of roll into the corner and keep the momentum.  But he was pretty loose off as well.           

My car was a little bit tighter through the center.  But it was as loose up off the corner, for sure.  But I think that at the end there, as hard as we were all pushing, you know, I think that we had about the same amount of grip.            

Q.  Alan, you mentioned that you said you guys felt like you had struggled on the mile-and-a-halfs.  After today's run, do you feel like you guys have solved your problems on the mile-and-a-halfs are is there still a lot of work to be done?           

ALAN GUSTAFSON:  I don't think you ever solve your problems.  I think we've improved a lot.  Obviously our performance today shows that.  And we tried some different directions and I feel like that we're getting some good validation on the things we're trying.  And so we can understand how to take that a step further and improve.           

So this gives us -- it's very encouraging for Charlotte and Texas.  Two very similar racetracks, even though they're not near as rough.  But we feel like we've learned some pretty good stuff today.  And we're excited about bringing that stuff back to these other racetracks and being able to perform this well at Charlotte and Texas.            

Q.  Jeff, I'm sure if you've been around Bobby Allison very much lately.  He claims 85 wins as well.  A lot of historians agree with him.  I'm just wondering what you consider on that issue?           

JEFF GORDON:  You know, that's what's encouraging to try to get to 86.  As far as I'm concerned I'm probably still tied with Bobby.  And as long as it's in Bobby's head that we are tied, then that's still a great thing.           

So it's to be debated for sure.  I started getting a little bit more of the story last week at Bristol from his brother and talking about how I guess there was Grand National cars against Cup cars or whatever it was back then.  And so it's interesting when you hear the story and the debate of why they feel like they're at 85.  But listen I'm just thrilled to be at 85 in the company that I'm with.  Bobby and Darryl, and you look at being behind David and Richard, it's something very significant.  Something I'm very proud of.  And with the kind of racing that we have right now, though, I gotta say I think we can get free and clear of Bobby, if we have a few more things go our way.            

Q.  (Off microphone).           

JEFF GORDON:  The way things are going, the way the team has rejuvenated me and the confidence they have in me and the confidence I have in what I'm doing now, anything is possible when you've got this guy as a crew chief.            

Q.  Where do those final 20 laps rank in your own personal memory?           

JEFF GORDON:  It's going to rank way up there because we won.  You gotta understand from where I was sitting it was very frustrating and intense.  I mean, I felt like I was swatting flies inside there.  I was so loose.  And I was just trying to squeeze the throttle down to get a little bit of an edge, and when I did that, the whole back end would slide out.           

One time I brushed the wall off at 2.  You know, I really to me it's going to stand out in your mind as a great one and a great battle, because of the victory.           

And certainly when you're battling with a guy as talented as Jimmie is and that team as good as they are, definitely it's going to be one that's going to be significant.  And I gotta say, I mean, that's the kind of race team we have right now.  We've not been able to do battle with those guys like we have been able to this year.  Especially the last several weeks.  And that's what's got me extremely excited.           

It's not just them, it's the 17, the 99, a lot of guys that I think we're going to have to do battle with in this championship when it starts.  That just feels awesome.            

Q.  I remember in Vegas last December somebody mentioned you hadn't won a championship in a while.  You kind of joked about it a little bit.  But you talk about the rejuvenation process.  Did any of that start a little bit in the off season get you forward-thinking, you're going to hit 40, a lot of milestones coming up, 10 years since you won a championship, were you thinking more, not that you'll be less focused, but time to step it up a little bit this season, given some of the dynamics you're working with?           

JEFF GORDON:  I've been trying to step it up for 10 years.  I think that The Chase format is definitely more challenging.  Those ten tracks are significant ones.           

I feel like we've had good years, and even when I go back to -- what was it? -- '07 when we battled with Jimmie and won races in The Chase and everything else but we still couldn't get it done.           

To me, it was more about how can I play a role as a driver and give the feedback to Alan and his group and get myself settled in with this team and make sure that I'm doing the job that I'm capable of doing and that I feel like they think that I'm capable of doing.           

And so it's been a new relationship.  And there's excitement that comes along with that and kind of you can sort of start over.  And that felt really good in a way because I saw the excitement in the guy's eyes in the shop when I walked in there the first couple of times.           

Now to be able to build on that and show those results has only made us a stronger team.  So it all comes down to -- it's not about me just deciding one day I'm going to step it up or not step it up.  It's that I gotta do my job and they've gotta do their job and we've gotta come together and build chemistry and connect and just be on the same page when it comes to running races.  And that's what I love about this group, and Alan and these guys.           

It kind of leads back to the earlier question, where it's like driving a loose race car.  It's not about driving a loose race car, it's about getting the car right for each driver.  And Alan went from Mark Martin who does drive a very loose race car to me.  And yet we're still having results because they say what do you need, Jeff.  And here's what we think we need to do to allow you to do what you need to do.           

And that to me is what makes up a great team.  And they've been able to find the tools to do that for me.            

Q.  About this time 19 years ago you make your debut on the Sprint Cup Series here at Atlanta since then this racetrack has weaved itself in and out of your career as far as highlights.  Can you talk about that?  You clinched championships here and have this fantastic finish here today.  You've won here five times.  No. 85 here.  Could you talk about how this racetrack has intertwined itself into some of the career highlights for you?           

JEFF GORDON:  I've always enjoyed this racetrack.  To throw another one in there, my first Busch or Nationwide win came in here.  That's where Rick Hendrick recognized me and where we kind of connected.           

And then running my first race here, winning some big races here, kind of clinching the championship or celebrating the championships here.  So this place has always been a place I've enjoyed going to.  Plus I just think it's a great racetrack.           

The surface and the slipping and the sliding around and having to run up against the wall in 1 and 2 and down at the bottom 3 and 4.  And it's a challenging racetrack.  And it can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  And it's been a good track for me over the years for the performances as well as the memories.           

Q.  You talked about this rejuvenation.  You talked a little bit about it before.  But when you look at the stats, after 25 races last year, you had nine top 5s and 13 top 10s -- I mean, you had ten top 5s and 13 top 10s, nine top 5s, 13 top 10s this year.  The difference obviously the three wins from this year to 0 from last year.  But looking at the numbers, other than the wins, it's almost the same.  So what --           

JEFF GORDON:  Are you looking at laps led?            

Q.  Obviously that's another factor.  But what do you see and how do you do that because just looking at those numbers people could say in some ways --           

JEFF GORDON:  This is why winning is big.  You know, winning is huge.  It might only be worth a few more points, and it might only be one number there in the stats, but it is huge for the momentum and confidence in team building and heading into The Chase.           

Yeah, you know, we had a strong season last year.  But because we didn't win, you know, it just kind of took the wind out of our sails.  We were like, gosh, we're good, but we're not great.           

And right now we're great.  That's what we have to try to maintain when The Chase starts.  We're going to be tested on that for sure because the competitors will all step up, and we have to step up as well.           

So that's the real difference there, is that it's the fact that we have won.  We've proven that we can win.  I think you have to win to be able to win the championship and you also have to send a message to your competitors that they know you can win.           

And also the laps led.  To me it's like getting top 5s is important because if you can get top 5s it shows you can win.           

If you get enough top 5s, usually you'll find yourself into Victory Lane.  The same thing with leading laps.  You lead enough laps, you're probably going to find yourself getting to Victory Lane.           

And so I think those two things are very significant right now the laps led and the fact that we're pulling off the wins when we're strong.            

Q.  Based off of that, how do you compare with where you've been the last few years; is this the strongest you've been at this point going toward The Chase since when?           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, this is to me the strongest that -- I mean '07 we were strong.  But you know the difference in '07 was I dreaded going to Phoenix in '07.  And I know that the track has changed you know since earlier this year where we won there.  But I'm looking forward to going to Phoenix, because Alan is, he's really good there.  And they build great race cars for that type of racetrack.      

We've had to work really hard this year at the mile-and-a-half stuff.  That's what I love.  Right now our momentum has shifted to make us better at those tracks.  They're going to be significant in The Chase.  I feel like when you go into the debriefs and you're talking to the team in the meetings and you look at how we're planning, you know, how we're improving and the areas that we can get better in and how we're addressing it, to me this is the best that we've been since I can remember.  Certainly since The Chase has started

 
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Posted on: September 6, 2011 5:25 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 6:31 pm
 

Speed Read: Atlanta

By Pete Pistone



AdvoCare 500 final results

AdvoCare 500 Recap 

Jeff Gordon’s all for talking about his resurgence in 2011 but the four-time champion wants to be clear about one thing. 

Don’t call it a come back. 

“I don’t think we ever went that far away,” Gordon laughed after scoring his third win of the season in Tuesday’s rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 

Gordon may not have fallen into the category of also-ran in recent years but he was off the radar for a while. 

Although in the thick of the championship fight in 2009, Gordon went more than two years without a win until his victory at Phoenix back in February. 

He’s since rattled off a couple more and with only one race left in the regular season is ready to do battle for title number five when the Chase begins in two weeks. 

“I think this is turning out to be a great year,” Gordon said after his hard fought battle against teammate Jimmie Johnson for the Atlanta win. “Alan Gustafson (crew chief) and all the engineers and all the guys that work so hard; the awesome pit crew, man we’re having a lot of fun right now. And when you can drive a race car that drives like that one, it makes me look like a hero but they’re the heroes in my mind.” 

Gordon has now surpassed a number of drivers he once considered heroes when he made his Sprint Cup Series debut at the very Atlanta Motor Speedway back in 1992. Tuesday’s win was his 85th career victory and leaves him behind only Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105) on the series all-time win list.

“…wow, that is unbelievable,” Gordon said in victory lane when he was informed of his historic accomplishment. “I’m just blown away at the kind of day we had and the kind of year that we’re having. I just feel rejuvenated in such a big way. It’s because of this race team and the racecars I get to drive. 85 yeah!” 

Don’t be surprised if there’s another celebration in Gordon’s future this season involving a fifth Sprint Cup Series championship trophy. 

"....to me this is the best that we've been since I can remember.  Certainly since The Chase has started," Gordon said confidently.

 

RISERS  

Brad Keselowski  

Locked up at least a Wild Card spot in the Chase with another solid day and a Top 10 finish. Keselowski had to rally back from some early race challenges to finish sixth but the Blue Deuce remains squarely in the hunt to make some noise when the Chase kicks off in two weeks. 

Tony Stewart  

Had a good car most of the day but put on a furious charge in the closing laps to come home with a third place finish. That puts Stewart 23 points ahead of 11th place and inches him a bit closer to locking down the final Chase transfer spot via the standings. 

Denny Hamlin  

Still has hold of the second Wild Card berth and appears to be in pretty good shape heading to his home track in Richmond on Saturday night. Hamlin hammered down a second straight Top 10 with his eighth place performance on Tuesday and perhaps more importantly didn’t suffer any engine issues for a second straight superspeedway race.

 

FALLERS   

Clint Bowyer  

His Chase chances took a major hit thanks to a tangle with Juan Pablo Montoya that ended up with Bowyer hitting the wall and getting knocked from being competitive with a badly damaged race car. He’s not mathematically out of the run for a playoff berth but for all intents and purposes it looks like you can put a fork in the 33 team’s hopes to see redemption in this season’s Chase. 

David Ragan  

The news broke late last week that UPS was cutting its NASCAR sponsorship way down and Roush Fenway Racing would have sponsorship from the company for a mere half dozen races which virtually seals the deal regarding Ragan’s return to the team next season. Adding insult to injury he exited Tuesday’s race with an engine failure. 

Bobby Labonte  

A guy who used to own Atlanta Motor Speedway back in the day, Labonte suffered through a particularly disappointing day on Tuesday. He first slid through the infield grass early in the race before ending his day with a hard crash into the backstretch inside retaining wall. A far cry from when the two-time series champion called Atlanta his playground.

 

RADIO WAVES  

(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)   

 I'm not running this s&*$%^ next time." – Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

"All right boys, get yourself a good seat and watch the show.'' – Darian Grubb 

"I don't mean to be a smartass (but) what I need ain't fixable.'' – Kyle Busch to crew chief Dave Rogers 

"Are you on the same page that I am on" "I"m not sure you understand the terminology of which I am saying." – Denny Hamlin to crew chief Mike Ford 

"You can't race around the jackass. Everybody in this sport knows what you're up against when the 42 comes around." – Clint Bowyer after his tangle with Juan Pablo Montoya

 

RACE RATING    

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Tuesday’s rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway a four. There isn’t an intermediate-sized track on the schedule that generates better racing than Atlanta Motor Speedway and despite all the weather-related issues of the weekend including the pesky delays for mist on Tuesday, the actual racing was spectacular. Gordon and Johnson put on an epic battle in the closing laps with actual hard racing – no “Boys Have at It” intentional spinouts – to provide a thrilling end to a long and soggy weekend in the A.T.L.

 

DOWN THE ROAD  

It’ll be a short turnaround for Sprint Cup teams with Tuesday’s rain-delayed Atlanta race and then Saturday’s final regular season event at Richmond International Raceway. The last race to decide the Chase field has been a bit tame in recent years but that should change on Saturday as the new Wild Card policy has done its job and made the race to get into the playoffs pretty interesting and exciting. The Wonderful Pistachios 400 has a chance to be one of the best races of the season. No pressure, right?


For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

  

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Posted on: September 6, 2011 4:49 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 6:05 pm
 

Jeff Gordon's notable wins en route to No. 85

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

Tuesday at Atlanta, Jeff Gordon took sole possession of third-place on NASCAR's all-time wins list, capturing the 85th victory of his stellar career.

The four-time Cup Series champion also broke a tie with Darrell Waltrip to become the all-time wins leader in NASCAR's modern era. (Note: “Modern Era” refers to the period in NASCAR Sprint Cup history when NASCAR shortened the schedule from as many as 62 races in 1964 to the 31-race schedule of 1972. Race numbers fluctuated between 28 and 36 since 1972.)

Among Gordon's 85 wins are three victories in the Daytona 500 and four in the Brickyard 400. Gordon also holds the record for most road-course wins (nine) and most restrictor-plate wins (12).

Notable wins (courtesy NASCAR PR):

1 – On May 29, 1994 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gordon won his first race. It was in one of NASCAR’s biggest events – the Coca-Cola 600.

2 – Gordon won the inaugural NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 6, 1994. He would go on to win three other IMS races, in 1998, 2001 and 2004.

8 – Won another “crown jewel” race, the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, on Sept. 3, 1995.

19 – On Sept. 29, 1996, won his only race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, the final race at the North Carolina short track.

20 – At the time, became the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history at 25 years, six months, 12 days on Feb. 16, 1997. His record was later broken in 2011 by Trevor Bayne (20 years, one day). Gordon also won the Daytona 500 in 1999 and 2005.

28 – On Aug. 31, 1997, won his second Southern 500, capturing a $1 million bonus in what was known as The Winston Million. The Winston Million was given to any driver to win three of the following four races: the Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600, the Southern 500 and the first Talladega race.

42 – In the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Nov. 8, 1998, won his 13th race of the season, tying a Modern Era record first set by Richard Petty in 1975.

74 – On June 25, 2006, won at Infineon Raceway, his record ninth victory at a road course.

76 – With a win at Phoenix International Raceway on April 21, 2007, Gordon tied Dale Earnhardt for sixth on the all-time wins list. Gordon memorably took a victory lap with a massive No. 3 flag waving out his driver-side window, a tribute to his long-time rival.

80 – On Oct. 7, 2007 at Talladega Superspeedway, Gordon captured his record 12th restrictor-plate victory.

85 – In a race delayed two days because of inclement weather, Gordon captures historic win No. 85 on Sept. 6, 2011 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Jeff Gordon
 
Posted on: September 3, 2011 3:26 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2011 4:12 pm
 

Atlanta Happy Hour to Gordon

By Pete Pistone

Jeff Gordon led the way in Saturday afternoon's final Sprint Cup Series practice at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gordon turned a lap of 182.392 mph around the 1.5-mile track to top the session in preparation for Sunday night's AdvoCare 500.

Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle rounded out the Top 5.

Qualifying to set the field for Sunday's race is slated for late Saturday afternoon.

ADVOCARE 500 FINAL PRACTICE

 
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Posted on: August 28, 2011 11:22 am
 

Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex Jr. post Bristol

Posted by Pete Pistone

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, it was an awesome night for us with the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet.  We started up front.  We had a good -- great pit stops, and man, we just had a fun night.  It just felt so good to be that competitive.           

I mean, we've been competitive like that for several weeks now, and I'm just having a blast.  Can't wait for the next race when you're running good like this and you have a team that has confidence in you and you have confidence in them and you're getting along the way that we're getting along, it's a lot of fun out there.  Yeah, it was an awesome performance.           

I hate we came up short.  We just couldn't quite get after it the way we needed to being on the inside lane on that last restart, and you know, I almost was clear of Martin when we were running hard there together.  It was a great race between me and him and couldn't quite clear him.  And I knew at that point we just didn't have enough laps to get back by him or get up to the 2 car.             

Q.  You talked a lot about the competition you were having with Martin and Jimmie all night long.  Sometimes you have those races where it seems like you're racing around the same guys all night.  Was there a time during this race where you looked up and said, Can't I just race somebody else instead of the same guys I've been around all night?            

JEFF GORDON:  Well, I don't know.  I was wondering where the 1 car came from that one time.  He was really strong and had a good race car, as well.  You know, definitely me and Matt, and actually me and Matt have been racing a lot lately.  You look at the Brickyard, Michigan, a lot of racetracks me and Matt have been really battling.  I guess that's a good thing because Matt has been running up front a lot this year.           

You know, I saw Martin running in practice and his car looked good, and the last time that we were here, or this race last year, they were really strong, and we raced with them, as well.           

You know, I was hoping that I could get up to him a little bit earlier than I did.  The longer that you ran, the less the two tires -- or four tires -- had an advantage, and he was running a great line up there on top holding momentum.           

I kind of picked up some lap cars there one time and thought I was going to get him but he stuffed it in there three wide and that was it.  Once I didn't get by him there, I kind of used up my stuff, had to kind of ride in there behind him, and took one last shot on him on the last corner and couldn't quite clear him.  It was a great battle.           

But yeah, any time you're racing -- I was surprised we weren't racing with Kyle Busch tonight.  I was expecting him to be up there.  But Jimmie Johnson certainly wasn't a surprised.  Keselowski, man, those guys are on a roll.  They're running strong.  We have to keep an eye on him because he's strong.           

THE MODERATOR:  Joining us right now is Martin Truex, Jr.  He's our race runner up.  He drives the Number 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.           

Martin, as Jeff alluded to, you raced strong here last time at Bristol and had a good car tonight.  Talk about your runner-up finish.           

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.:  Yeah, thank you.  It feels good to be finishing up front.  It's been a while.  We've had some good races here lately, fourth at the Glen.  So trying to build a little bit of momentum here towards the end of the year.  The guys on the NAPA Toyota have been working really, really hard, all the buys at the shop, working hard on our stuff and just got to thank them for sticking with it and working hard.          

As Jeff said, we had a strong car here in the spring, but only for the first half of the race.  And we led the most laps, and halfway the car just went away, and we finished, I think, 18th or 19th just struggling to stay in the lead lap.           

We came here this weekend really trying to focus on being better the second half of the race, being better in the long run when the track really got rubbered up, and it worked out for us.  I was a little concerned yesterday after practice going into the race, but Chad Johnston, my crew chief, and all my guys did a great job getting the car ready and made all the right positions and we were close all night.           

We fought track position most of the race, but once we were able to get up towards the front, you know, we had a strong car, it was really good.           

Just thank them again.  It feels good to finish off a weekend with a strong run.             

Q.  Jeff, you mentioned Brad and how strong they were running.  They were 25th in points at Charlotte and now have three wins and 11th in points over the last 12 races.  Are they serious championship contenders now?  And the second question, when you were trying to get around Martin did you kind of think back to Watkins Glen and the promise he made there?            

JEFF GORDON:  Watkins Glen?  Oh, Sonoma.  We'll get to that in a second.  I only remember he promised.  I remember begging for mercy (Laughter).          

Let's see, yeah, I don't know what more to say about Brad and the 2 team.  They're strong and you put them in position at the end of the race and they're going to pull off the wins.  They're, to me, as strong of a team out there that there is right now.           

I think it's really ironic that he had the issue at Road Atlanta, and ever since then he's been on fire.           

I think he proved to all of us he's tougher than we thought he was, and we always knew he was a good race car driver, but he's stepping it up, and that whole team, so you've got to give him a lot of credit.           

As far as Martin and I at Sonoma, I made a huge mistake, and it didn't matter to him whether I made a mistake because it ruined his day.  But I think tonight I wanted to prove to him that I could race him hard and race him clean for position.            

Now, if we would have been racing for the win it might have been different.  But racing for the position we were in, I raced him hard, we rubbed, we banged, but we had a lot of respect for one another, and he finished second, I finished third, and that's pretty much how we've raced one another ever since Sonoma.             

Q.  Martin, how much do you credit the surge to the change in crew chief, and how much is it just things getting better?            

MARTIN TRUEX JR.:  I think it's a little bit of both.  You know, Chad has definitely brought a lot to the table for our team, and the communication between us has gone really well.  I feel like he's the right person for me to get the most out of me and ask the right questions and make sure he's giving me what I'm looking for.           

The communication, the relationship has been great for our team.  He's a great leader.  The guys really respect him, and he really fits in our system and the way we do things, the way we set up our cars, the way we go through all the sim work and all the stuff that we do, he's really on top of his game.  He's done a great job.           

And, you know, at the same time, it's a team effort.  Everybody at MWR has been working hard and all has a part in the runs that we've had here lately.           

We're not out of the woods.  We've still got some work to do.  I feel like the mile and a half, two-mile stuff is still where we're behind and where we need the most work, and we'll just keep plugging away at it.  And hopefully finish off the season strong and be prepared for next year.             

Q.  Jeff, you mentioned something about pit road after you got out of the car out there.  Is it more of a bonus to have a good pit stall like Matt did tonight?  What exactly is the problem with having the pits on each side like this?            

JEFF GORDON:  Well, don't get me wrong.  We had a good pit stall similar to them.  I don't know if there's a little bit more of an advantage on the front straightaway than there is on the back straightaway, but to me the whole purpose of having timing lines and pit road speed is to make it as equal and fair for everybody as you possibly can.  And they've got some work to do at this pit road.  The racetrack is awesome, but the pit road is terrible.        

When a guy can run 60 miles an hour down pit road and the pit road speed is, what, 35, then something is wrong with the system.  We were able to do something similar to that on the back straightaway, so I don't really feel like that's what cost us tonight.  I did have a couple cars coming down pit road that were going slow when I left my pit stall that held me up a little bit, but we qualified good, so we had one of those stalls.           

But even when you have one and you see the other guys have one, it's a joke that somebody can leave pit road and run that fast down pit road and then slam on the brakes.  Kenseth drove by four cars and so did the 2 car when he left his pit stall.  I just don't understand it.           

But that is the way that it is here, and it puts a huge premium on the pit stall and qualifying up front.             

Q.  Following up on that, technology exists, or GPS units I guess you can put in these cars, that can tell you instantaneous speed at any point on the racetrack or at any point on pit road.  Instead of using lines where people cheat, would you have in favor of something like that?            

JEFF GORDON:  I don't understand why we don't have a button on the steering wheel, just hold it and takes us pit road speed and we just run it all the way down pit road.  You'll have to ask NASCAR where why we don't have that technology.  We have the technology to do it, but why we don't incorporate it into the cars, and there might be good reasons why we don't.           

I think the time lines are a big improvement over what we used to have, but there are certain tracks -- you look at Michigan last week, they redid pit road, and they completely redid their pit road lines, and there was no stall that had a big advantage at that track because they segmented them in equal segments all the way down pit road.  And that's what they're going to need to do here eventually, as well.            

Q.  You kind of touched on it right there, but is this an issue that we see at more than just this track?  You mentioned Michigan repaving, but are other tracks just as bad or is this just the worst on the schedule?            

JEFF GORDON:  This is the one I'd say that's most noticeable.  But Martinsville -- there's a couple of them.  Everywhere we go we look at timelines and see where there's big gaps in the timelines and try to take advantage of them.  And sometimes it's more risky than others because you might be pitting in between two other cars, so you'll pick a spot or a pit stall right on a timeline to gain that advantage, but you might be blocked in.           

Where here, at least the one that I had and the one that Matt had, when we were -- we were wanting to be third in qualifying really, really bad because that's where that last -- that pit stall that Matt had was the cutoff.  We knew that the top three would get the best three pit stalls, so we got the next best one, and it had advantages like that.           

But I think Matt's seemed to have a little bit more of an advantage.  So this is probably the worst one.             

Q.  Obviously all the talk is about the excitement with Brad maybe being a contender for the Chase, but how much do you feel like you really yourself could be right up there to challenge your teammate Jimmie this year to actually get another title for yourself?            

JEFF GORDON:  I'm excited about our race team.  We've been running really strong, been leading a lot of laps, running up front at the big races.  To me the most impressive thing about my racing was what improvement we made from the spring at this track to this evening.  We were out to lunch earlier in the year, and I just think we've come a long way as a team, communication, confidence, and what we've learned together on how to make our race cars better and how to communicate better to get the most out of the cars.           

I'm having a blast right now, and when you're having fun it means you're competitive on a fairly consistent basis, and I hope we can keep that going because we can definitely do some damage and give some guys a real run for their money in the Chase.             

Q.  Jeff and Martin, could you talk a little bit about the racing tonight?  Jeff, you talked about on pit road racing the 17 and 48.  Would you ever have imagined to be able to have that kind of racing here at Bristol where you guys had plenty of room to almost go three wide quite a bit, and also Martin, if you would just talk about the same thing in regards to when you were racing and holding off Jeff.            

MARTIN TRUEX, JR.:  Yeah, I mean, since they redid the surface here, that's kind of the way it's been.  You've had options, you've been able to run three, four different grooves and move around the racetrack and it's made for, I think, more fun racing for us drivers.  I hated the old Bristol.  I mean, I won on it, but I hated it.  If you were faster than the other guy, you had to knock him out of the way, and that's no fun.  That's not how we grew up learning how to race and that's not how you race with respect to the guys you race with every week.           

So this is more fun.  You have some options you can race with some guys.  I think tonight it took a step probably a little bit too far where the top groove was better than anywhere else on the racetrack and it made it a little bit difficult to pass.  Last time here I thought the bottom was a little bit easier to finish passes on the bottom, and if your car was really good, you could run down there.           

Seemed like tonight nobody could really make any ground.  If you went down there you could make ground for five or six, laps and then your tires would be overheated and you'd have to move back up.  I think they need to work on that a little bit more still.  But again it's a lot more fun when you have options and you're not stuck in one groove.  I've enjoyed the track since they've redone it for sure.           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, I agree.  I love racing here with the multiple grooves.  I know there's not as many cautions and there's not as many guys upset at one another after the race is over, which makes for a good television show, I guess.  But for us as drivers, it's very challenging to try to make a pass.  You've got to set a guy up, and you've got to work him over and over and over, and sometimes you make the pass, sometimes you don't.     

You know, I wonder -- Goodyear came here earlier in the year with a little bit softer tire, and they had to change it because we wore through it.  If they could get that tire to lay some rubber down, that would probably be a better tire to allow us to -- kind of what Martin is alluding to, where it would have a little bit more grip.           

This tire, it seems like you sit up on top of the racetrack and slide it around a little bit and you can overheat it real easily, but it doesn't wear much.  So I think that maybe Goodyear could look at that a little bit.         

And I know they'd prefer to have that other tire, they just got scared because it wore so quickly.  So if there's a way to keep the rubber on that tire, I think the compound would make the racing even a little bit better than it was.

 
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Posted on: August 19, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Jeff Gordon addresses future

By Pete Pistone

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Jeff Gordon still believes he has time left as an active Sprint Cup Series driver but the four-time series champion told the media Friday morning at Michigan International Speedway he has started to think deeply about what plans lie down the road:

WHAT IS YOUR LONG RANGE PLAN FOR YOUR CAREER OUTSIDE OF RACING?

“How much time do I have in here?  This could be a long day.  As a race car driver, I can tell you that most of what I’ve done throughout my life has been instinctive and taking advantage of opportunities when they came my way and tried to make good decisions with those opportunities.  Racing has certainly provided a tremendous amount of opportunity that has been very rewarding and fulfilling in my life.  That’s kind of where I’m at right now is that I know that I’m not at the beginning of my career, I’m certainly closer to the end.  I’m not saying that I’m there yet, but I’m definitely closer to it.  I’m starting to build what that model is going to look like when I’m no longer driving.  Obviously, my foundation is very important to me and the work that I’m doing there.  My primary focus is pediatric cancer research and that’s where my efforts are going to be driven most of the time.  Again, an opportunity comes up like the CGI trip to the Congo and it opened my eyes up to things that are happening globally.  We are also looking at some pediatric cancer research and treatment globally, which I am hoping to go to Rwanda with that in December.  As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports, racing has always been a part of my life and I don’t see how when I’m no longer driving the car, that I’ll ever be able to step away from it completely because I just love it.  I’m a fan of it.  I’m a partner with Rick (Hendrick).  I love the sport and all forms of motorsports, but particularly NASCAR.  There’s no doubt that I want to continue to be a part of it in a big way and I can’t really answer that question today because my main focus is on driving, but I’ve been fortunate again through an opportunity with Rick Hendrick to be a bigger part of our organization than just a driver.  We’re talking about what that will be in the future.”

 

HOW DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO THINK OF YOU WHEN YOU STOP DRIVING?

“I don’t believe in retirement to be honest with you.  I don’t think there is such a thing as retirement.  I think that racing -- it’s going to be hard to top what I’ve done in racing, but I will certainly try in other ways because when I get behind something, I try to do it 100 percent and I want to be successful at it.  I want to make a difference.  All I can say is that right now it’s hard for me to really do the things that I want to do with the children’s charities because I am so limited on time.  When I have more time, I would love to do more and I think that I can make a bigger impact because right now I feel like we’re just scratching the surface with a lot of the things as it relates to children and whether it be something like Pertussus or even the pediatric cancer that I’ve talked about.  I think that again, racing is always going to be a part of my life and so whatever I do within racing after driving, I want to certainly be as successful as I can at it and bring what I’ve learned and my experience of all these years as a driver, knowing what the behind the scenes are with Hendrick Motorsports that I’ve been able to experience and play a role in hopefully making Hendrick Motorsports continue to be successful.  But I can’t guarantee that’s going to happen.  I don’t know.  We haven’t made all those decisions yet.  Certainly I know that my work with my foundation is going to increase in a big way when I’m not driving.  I know that for a fact.”


 
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Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:17 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 3:28 pm
 

Road course Chase race okay with Jeff Gordon

By Pete Pistone

Count Jeff Gordon among those drivers who would like to see a road course added to the ten races that comprise the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

"I’ve always said that in order to make the championship fully complete and find out the true best team and driver, the only thing that I think we’re missing in the Chase right now is a road course,” Gordon said Friday during his media session at Watkins Glen. “I feel like the Chase has about everything right now from short tracks to superspeedways to intermediates, so I think it’s pretty complete right now, but if you wanted to look at just one little thing that was missing, it would be a road course.”
 
Gordon also believes the recent level of increased excitement at road course events would make the decision to include a Chase road race a hit with fans.

“I guess as exciting as the road courses have been here lately with these double-file restarts, I think the fans would be for it as well,” Gordon said. “Where as in the past, you haven’t seen that kind of action so most people would say that road course isn’t as traditional as the ovals are in our sport so why have one in the Chase? I could see one in there.”

Although NASCAR won't completely dismiss the idea, the sanctioning body doesn't envision including a road course as part of the Chase schedule any time soon.

“As we sit here today, we still maintain the thought process that when we introduced the Chase that we were not going to shuffle tracks around to adapt to the Chase,” NASCAR president Mike Helton said. “The Chase was the last 10 races.

“Now, however that might work out in the future, if someone comes to us and asks to change stuff around, we would have to take a look at it, consider it. There’s nothing on the table today."

 
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Posted on: July 31, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 11:37 am
 

Jeff Gordon, Regan Smith post Indy comments

Posted by Pete Pistone





REGAN SMITH: 
We just got to figure out how to perform on the rest of the stages, we'll be in shape.          

The Chevy was good today.  It was probably a top-10 car, ninth or 10th place car.  Didn't have track position for a long time.  When the 51 car wrecked, played our hand for us, didn't have a choice but to come in and clean the grill off because we were overheating right away almost immediately.  Cleaned the grill off, looked at the fuel strategy, and said, you know what, let's top it off.  We had nothing to lose.  We got to start in the back of the pack anyway.           

They kept pulling me back, pulling me back about saving fuel.  We'll see how much is left in the tank after all is said and done.  I felt like I had a little bit to go a bit further.           

But certainly can't be disappointed with third, and in particular when somebody like Paul wins, I have very many close friends on this circuit, that's one of them.  He was at my victory celebration; I plan on being at his tonight or tomorrow or whenever it is.           

KERRY THARP:  We'll take questions for Regan.            

Q.  You talked a little bit before you came in about the fuel mileage races, absolutely hating them.  Could you expand on that a little bit.           

REGAN SMITH:  I think it's pretty simple.  I hate 'em.  I don't care I don't think they're fun racing.  I don't think there's anything good about them.  I'm certainly sure there's cars that ran up front, led a lot of laps, that ended up 10th or 12th.  I don't know who was up front most today, I was just worrying about our race and what we had to do to get track position.           

It's a product of how we're racing right now.  I think every week we know it's going to be a fuel mileage race and we try to plan for that, to work around it accordingly.           

That's what we're doing.  Even when it's races that aren't necessarily fuel mileage races, they still play a part in how much track position you can get, who can pit sooner so you have that track position.           

It's here to stay.  It's not going to go away.  We'll learn to like it and to adjust to it.  I guess I should be happy for it today because we had a good day and Paul won.  So, you know, I'll take back that statement.  I love fuel mileage races right now (laughter).            

Q.  You won the Southern 500.  Running top three at Indianapolis.  I know you're kind of busy in the car, but did you let your mind wander to think you might be able to win Indy and Darlington the same year?           

REGAN SMITH:  Hell, yeah, I did.  I saw Jamie do it last year with the Brickyard and the 500.  I certainly thought we had a shot to do that.           

The thing that was going to hurt us, if I would have pushed a couple laps earlier to catch the lead pack, we would have had to pass four guys.  If I would have pushed a little bit sooner to do that, we would have used up too much fuel, maybe run out.  If we wait till they go, we're going to have that same gap no matter what.  Unless I got the most incredible restart in the world, passed 10 cars right away, that was what we were going to have to do today, accept a third-place finish and be happy with it.           

We tried doing this at Loudon.  Had a good car.  Did the fuel mileage there, ran out way short.  So this meant a lot to me to be able to save it and actually be able to make it to the end of this one.           

Q.  Can you talk about the balance that you've got to strike over the next six races?           

REGAN SMITH:  Well, from my team's standpoint, I don't think we're looking at the top 20 right now.  We'd have to win out at this point to have a shot at getting back up there.  Certainly we'd love to do that.  The reality is, this is such a tough series, it's going to be really hard to do.           

We're going to focus on winning races.  If it puts us in position to get top fives, great.  If we can sneak up there and maybe get top 20, and the right things play out, then cool.  If not, we're working hard to make sure we can do this every week next year and this just isn't a thing we did a few times this year.            

Q.  Regan, you mentioned how thrilled you were that if you couldn't win it, that Paul won it.  What do you think it means to his dad in particular to put so much into winning here?           

REGAN SMITH:  Well, Jeff can probably speak better to that than I can, being from Indiana, being up here as much as he was.  I just know what it means to Paul.  I know how hard he's worked.  One of the really good close friends that I have on this circuit, always go to if I have a question or need something.           

He always talks about coming up here.  He always talks about how much he loves this place.  I know if he had to highlight one race to get his first win, I'm sure he'll tell you in a minute he couldn't be happier.           

It's cool.  You only get one chance to get your first win.  It's a special thing, especially when you do it here.           

KERRY THARP:  Jeff Gordon has joined us at the podium.  Finished a strong runner-up today.  Jeff has moved up to seventh in the points, with two victories on the season.           

Jeff, you were coming like a locomotive at the end of that race.  Talk about your effort today.           

JEFF GORDON:  It was awesome.  What a fun race for us.  From the time we got here, probably even prior to getting here, I felt really positive about the effort that was put into our racecar.  The guys were really fired up about getting here.  But you still never know until you get out there on the track.           

The first couple laps on that track, it just had that feel, you know, it had a great feel.  Struggled a little bit getting ready for qualifying, but qualified better than I thought we would.           

When they dropped the green, I knew we had a car that could win this race.  It was a lot of fun.  Kasey Kahne looked to be one of the best.  He had some issues.  We got up there and were able to kind of control the race.           

It was just a lot of fun.  It's been a while since we had a car like that here at Indy.  Just a flawless effort by the team.  The pit stops were fantastic.  I thought Alan called a great race.  When we came off pit road the last time, we were able to get ahead of Harvick, I thought that was a huge moment for us.  That put us in position to win.           

I knew that shortly after that, there were some guys that were going to try to stretch it on fuel and all I could do is run as hard as I could to put pressure on them and hope that I got there in time.           

We got there just a little bit short.  But Paul did a great job saving fuel because when I got there, even Regan and other guys, they were still pretty much checking up when I got there.  It was easy to get by them.  But Paul had saved enough to where he could go back to a full pace.  By that time, my car was just too tight behind him.           

Back to what Regan said, you know, I don't know Paul as well as he does.  But I was with him the other day.  I thought it was pretty cool.  We were talking about him coming here as a kid with his family I think from like, I don't know, late '80s or something all the way to 2000, some ridiculous thing where every year he was here for the 500, knowing what his dad has done here in IndyCars.  I don't think there's anybody that could appreciate a win, even if it is his first win.           

I think he's in awe right now.  I went and saw him.  His eyes, he's like a deer in headlights.  I'm so happy for him, I think a lot of people are.  It's one thing to get your first win here, but it's another when you can appreciate how special it is to win here.  I think Paul certainly has that.           

KERRY THARP:  We'll continue with questions.           

Q.  Jeff, I guess second kind of sucks, but what does this weekend and effort today say about your team's championship drive?           

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, it says a lot.  Obviously we wanted to win this race, but we also wanted to make a statement.  I think we certainly did that.  You know, this team is for real.  We showed that today.  You always hear about people talking about, you know, the team that wins here at Indy, their chances for the championship.           

While we didn't win, I think we definitely showed that we're a championship-caliber team.  We've been knocking on the door, getting closer every single weekend, won a couple races.  For me this is going to be a huge boost for this race team and hopefully a bit of a statement to the competition as well that we're serious about our efforts at a championship this year.           

If we can run like we did today here at Indy, you know, I know we're capable of winning just about anyplace we go.            

Q.  Jeff, do you have any theory as to why out of the four major races, three have been won by first-time guys this year?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, Daytona's different.  The type of drafting that you do.  So I don't know if you can necessarily -- you got to kind of put that in its own category.           

But when Regan won at Darlington, I mean, that was a risky move that they made, kind of like what Paul did today.  But he drove the wheels off that thing to keep Carl behind him.  So you got to give him a lot of credit.           

I'm not sure which other one?  The 600?            

Q.  The 600.           

JEFF GORDON:  I don't even know who won the 600.            

Q.  Harvick won the 600.          

JEFF GORDON:  So three of the four.  Got you.  It was a good thought (laughter).            

Q.  Regan, you mentioned Paul being one of your closest friends out here.  How did that develop?           

REGAN SMITH:  I think the same thing, we came into the circuit the same time, around each other a lot, a lot of different appearance, stuff like that.  You start seeing guys more and more, get comfortable with them, just like that.           

We're both kind of similar personalities, quiet, a little bit shy if you want to call it that, keep to ourselves a little bit.           

But he's been knocking on the door for a while.  Had some really strong racecars.  Certainly happy for him.            

Q.  Jeff, you won the first Brickyard here.  You know how you felt.  Compare it with what you think he feels today.           

JEFF GORDON:  I think the comparison's probably very similar.  I think, you know, it was a dream come true for me just to get a chance to race at Indy.  That first event, you know, was unbelievable.  I was definitely in shock that we won that race.  That race changed my life forever, certainly my career has never been the same since.                       

This is not just a fluke.  They took a big risk.  But they had to beat a lot of other guys that were trying to save fuel.  There at the end, you know, I couldn't have passed him.           

Again, just because he's been here so much as a kid experiencing Indy, he knows how special it is to compete here, let alone win here.  So I think the feelings are probably very similar.  He probably has a greater appreciation for it than I did in '94, because while I was watching from a distance and my heroes were Indy 500 drivers, I wasn't in the garage like he was.  So he could probably appreciate it even more.            

Q.  Jeff, you've won a couple times, basically locked into the Chase.  In these next six races, where is your team's focus going to be?  Business as usual, R&D?           

JEFF GORDON:  Man, we're going to try to put the same kind of effort we just did today and just keep building our team up to be able to be championship caliber when the Chase comes around.  I think we're very close.           

Alan and I, it took us a little while to get to know one another, how to communicate with one another, what I need in the car.  He's been really giving me great stuff to drive.  It's been a blast.           

Today was just solid pit stops, no mistakes, a lot of confidence in his calls, in his adjustments.  I thought today we were a complete team.  We've got to continue to do that week in and week out.  I think there's definitely more tracks that we can win at.  But it's really about building ourselves up to be strong when the Chase comes around.            

Q.  Jeff, when is the last time you've been this happy to finish second?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, this is Indy, you know.  I guess I'm happy because we ran so good today.  We haven't run this good in a while.  I know what it means to run good here at Indy.  This is a tough place.  There's no coincidence that teams that have won here in the past several times have gone on to win the championship because it shows who has the complete package.           

I think that we showed we got a great package.  While we came up short, I guess too because I'm happy for Paul.  If you're gonna get beat, it's pretty cool to get beat by somebody that can really appreciate this win.           

I don't like finishing second.  I was disappointed.  When I came down the front straightaway, I was pretty upset.  But that quickly turned into my thoughts about how great we ran today and how cool it was for Paul.            

Q.  Matt said he thought when you got around him as Burton was coming into the pits, that was probably the pass for the lead.  Did you have that same thought?           

JEFF GORDON:  There was two big moments I thought that happened for us.  That one, when we got by Matt.  I was better than Matt, but I couldn't pass him.  He was good enough to keep me behind him.  If we didn't get in front of him, then he very easily could have won this race.  So when I got by him there, you know, I thought that was big.           

Then the next big moment was when we came off pit road.  I thought this was where Alan was genius today.  I don't know how it worked out.  But when we came in for that last pit stop, we rolled off there and I could see him coming down the front straightaway, and I ran really hard through one and two on that access road to try to get ahead of him.  I just squeaked ahead of him by the time we got to turn three and pulled away.  That was Harvick and Kenseth.           

Those two moments were key moments to put us in position to win.  Had those guys had to come in, we had the position.  We did everything we could to put ourselves there to win this race.            

Q.  How much more time do you think you needed to catch him?           

JEFF GORDON:  I'll be honest with you.  You know, I used it all up getting to him.  There were a couple cars that were saving fuel when I got to them.  They didn't make it real easy on me, which you can't blame 'em.  But that held me up a bit.           

And then when I got to him, I got tight.  He could run a good enough pace where even if I had gotten closer to him, I don't think I could have passed.           

Paul was pretty good all day today actually.  I ran with him earlier in the race.  It was going to be tough to pass him then.  There at the end, where I give him a lot of credit, he saved enough fuel to where at the end he went for it.  The tires are not too burned off because he didn't push the car too hard.  He saved enough fuel that he could run a good enough pace that I don't think I could have passed him.           

I used it all up getting to him.  But another lap, I was hoping he was going to run out (laughter).  I was hoping it was going to be an easy pass.            

Q.  Regan, we know how you feel about Paul and the friendship you have.  Now we know what Jeff thinks.  Among other drivers, do you sense that a lot of them echo Jeff's feelings about Paul, that he has a lot of respect?           

REGAN SMITH:  Yeah, I think so.  A lot of people know what the Menard's name has meant to racing, what the family meant to racing.  Certainly I didn't come to this place as a kid and didn't have my roots around this track, and he did, like Jeff said.           

The other thing is Menard has built a lot of engines and cars to bring to the 500 year after year.  I think pretty much everything has been said.  It's just really cool for him to do that deal, to win here.           

Part of me's happy, part of me's mad.  Maybe these two could have run into each other and then I could have won this thing.  That's what I was hoping for.  Afterwards I said, That's okay (laughter).            

Q.  Jeff, is there any master plan for the fueling system that you can come out with enough fuel to finish big races like this?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, it seems to me like what a lot of guys are doing now to save fuel, used to be a big track like this, if you were one lap short, you better come in, you're not going to make it unless you get a bunch of cautions.           

Now what's happening is guys have figured out how to stretch it and get incredible fuel mileage even under green by pushing on the clutch, shutting off the engine, doing a bunch of things that they can stretch it four and five laps now, even on a big track like this.  Used to be impossible to save that amount of fuel.  But these days guys are figuring it out.           

That's about the only thing.  There's not a whole lot you can do to the tank.  There's not a lot you can do to conserve fuel with the carburetor.  Little tiny things.  But other than that, even just checking up early isn't going to save you a whole lot.  You have to get the rpms down.  It's something that a lot of teams have been working on.  Things to in-car cameras, we've seen other guys, how they've done it, and now we work on it.           

I will say, you know, I really enjoyed there at the end being in a position to not have to conserve.  It was a lot of fun to run hard and try to chase these guys down, even though we came up short.  It's the position everybody prefers to be in.  Doesn't mean you're always going to win the race that way.            

Q.  Regan, after winning Darlington, everybody was saying that the wins may start to pile up for you.  While wins haven't come, you've had four top 10s this year.  Finishing third here is a big deal.  Is this further validating your career and your team's ideology being based out of Denver and proving that model can work for you guys?           

REGAN SMITH:  I think we're going to continue to prove that that model can work.  It's a model nobody else has tried in a long time.  For the longest time, everybody thought you had to move to the Charlotte area to race.  We're trying to dispel that theory           

I think the times have allowed us to do that, technology has allowed us to do that.  We can be on a live active database back to North Carolina and see different things going on from Denver also.  Certainly with some of the teams having the troubles they've had in the past years, we've been able to get really good people to complement the people we already got in Denver.
 

 
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