Tag:Jeff Gordon
Posted on: July 8, 2011 12:47 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2011 12:47 pm
 

Jeff Gordon Kentucky pre-race comments

By Pete Pistone

SPARTA, Ky. - Jeff Gordon met the media on Friday morning to give his views and comments about the weekend's inaugural Sprint Cup Series visit to Kentucky Speedway:

TALK ABOUT COMING TO KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY: “It is very exciting to be here for numerous reasons. Obviously a new track so the unknowns, even though we have tested here in the past, but, I think for the most part, it is just a market that is new for the Sprint Cup Series that I think opens us up to some great exposure and an incredible fan base.  To me, I just love the electricity around a new event. You’ve seen for years the Nationwide races run here and them pack the stands and all the excitement the fans have. You have heard them talk for years about having a Sprint Cup event and now here we are. It is definitely a very exciting weekend and one that all the competitors want to come away with the trophy being that is it the inaugural event.” 

TONY (STEWART) SAID YESTERDAY HE THOUGHT THEY NEEDED MORE SAFER BARRIERS HERE ESPECIALLY ON THE INSIDE WALLS, WHAT IS YOUR THINKING? “I was just making a comment after last week’s announcement by Richmond (International Raceway). ‘I wonder what other tracks don’t have Safer Barriers.’ Then I came here and saw the inside wall. Hopefully that is the only time I notice it this weekend. You understand that they have put a lot of effort, you can tell they’ve put a lot of time and money and effort into getting this race track ready. Hopefully it’s not an issue. We’ll see. There is definitely some areas out there that could be addressed. Right now, the way that this track is, I see that the inside is not as much of an issue as maybe it is at some other tracks. But, we’ll have to get through a race and I’m hoping I’m not the crash-test dummy this weekend.” 

WHY DO YOU THINK THERE ISN’T A DOMINANT DRIVER AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON? “That is a very good question because when the season started, I thought that Carl (Edwards) had the ability to put that together or a Roush driver. They, to me, seemed to be the strongest when the season started. (Kevin) Harvick, I think their team has been very strong, but his performance has not been up to maybe what I thought it could be, but, yet, he has three wins. He’s been there at the right time. So that is the sign of a good team; that they are in the right place at the right time. Then you have the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) that have been off to a little bit of a slow start. It’s hard to say. The cool thing about that is there is no clear-cut favorite right now that just shows all the signs of this is the team to beat for championship which I think makes it very exciting as we get closer and closer to the Chase to see who is going to step up and take control of this championship. I think it is really wide-open right now.” 

DO YOU THINK THE PERCEPTION IS A LITTLE BIT OFF BECAUSE WE ARE SO USED TO SEEING THE NO. 48 WIN, ESPECIALLY LAST SEASON, BUT BECAUSE HE HASN’T BEEN TO VICTORY LANE AS MUCH AS HE HAS IN THE PAST, MAYBE PEOPLE JUST ASSUME THAT THERE ISN’T A DOMINANT DRIVER? “Maybe. You assume there is a dominant driver when someone is dominant. The No. 48 and No. 11 last year were very dominant. Right now, there is no stand-out, dominant driver. But, that’s not to say it won’t still happen or come. Certainly when it relates to the No. 48, and I would probably through the No. 11 in there was well, you can never count them out. When it’s time for the Chase, whether it be leading into the Chase, who gets momentum. Or, when the Chase starts, who really takes off and that is the beauty of the Chase. We usually have seen at this point, somebody show more dominance than what we’ve seen this year. I still, and again, you cannot count the No. 48 out and you can’t count the No. 11 out, but there are definitely some guys out there. I think that the No. 99 (Edwards), they were very strong at the end of last year. They just showed that they were going to be one to beat this year and they have done that, but, for some reason, I think some of the teams that were behind, have caught up. I don’t know if they have progressed as much as other teams have because they already had an edge on us when the season started.” 

TALK ABOUT THE FEELING OF WINNING OF AN INAUGURAL RACE: “It is definitely special because you always get recognized as that. It is a stand-out win because it is the inaugural event and you can only do that once. You can win at a track several times, but winning the very first race is something special. We’ve been very fortunate to do that three times. We have had great success at inaugural events. We are certainly hoping to make this another successful inaugural event.” 

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO ANNOUNCEMENT YESTERDAY TO RE-PAVE AND RE-CONFIGURE KANSAS SPEEDWAY? “There are those tracks that I think are just…they absolutely have to be repaved. This one (Kentucky Speedway) would be one of them. It is very rough here. While I really like the surface, the roughness is kind of a must. Kansas, to me, should not be re-paved. But it might be a foundation issue. It might be a drainage issue. There’s deeper stories behind the scenes that we maybe don’t know as competitors so they do what they need to do. I’m not a fan because the new pavement that exists out there is so smooth and is not very abrasive. Goodyear has a very difficult time building tires for the new re-paves because it just generates so much heat, but they don’t dissipate the heat by having abrasiveness. I just wish we could talk to the companies that are doing the paving and find a way to put some abrasiveness into…and a lot of it…is just in the aggregate. The aggregate that is in the newer pavement is so small and very little of it is at the surface. So that is what has caused a lot of issues. But, it lasts 10 times as long as the old pavement. I think that there is certainly for whatever reasons the tracks feel it is necessary to do that, but, I wish there was a way to meet in the middle on it, because, to me…  The variable banking certainly will help. We saw that at Homestead (Miami Speedway). But, you’re still going to have a very fast race track. A very smooth race track which a lot of times makes for less side-by-side racing in the first event of two. I love the surface at Kansas, so I think that is one of the reasons why Kansas stands out to me. It is a great surface right now. To me it is perfect. You are slipping and sliding. You are running up against the wall, in the middle, at the bottom. How can the racing get much better than it is at Kansas, in my opinion.”

ARE YOU GOING TO DEVELOP ANY OF THE YOUNGER DRIVERS IN THE SPORT?: “If I recognized a talent and I was introduced to him and was able to spend some time with them, absolutely.  I think that our sport, it thrives on new, young talent and I don’t know if we’ve seen enough of it in recent years.  You look at how many Cup drivers are in the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series and we need to make sure that these series and even further down are developing new up and coming drivers.  They are certainly out there.  Just need to see them get the opportunity and get the chance.  Right now I’m more focused on driving the No. 24 Chevrolet so I don’t really have the time to do that right now.  If I recognize somebody then I certainly would try to help them out and maybe one day I will have more time to be involved in that side of the business.”

HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WITH THE CAR ON A NEW RACE TRACK?:  “I think it’s different if you’ve never been there before.  Like the Brickyard, California, even Kansas – nobody had ever been there really.  This is different.  You’ve got Nationwide drivers who have been here before.  We all tested here for years.  I probably haven’t tested as many laps as a lot of the other guys in here.  It still wasn’t a new, new race track to me.  Just because of the time that has been spent here.  This is a little bit different, but still racing here is different than testing here and having that test date yesterday was valuable in trying to figure out what it’s going to take and that’s probably the biggest challenge is what is it going to take.  Even yesterday with testing, you might be able to put one or two good laps together and maybe you could even put 10 good laps together, but how are the tires going to wear, how is the track going to change as it rubbers up – maybe the groove moves wider.  What is it going to take to win.  I don’t think anybody truly knows that right now.  That adaptation and figuring that out on the fly as we go throughout the weekend as well as through the race.  I think it is usually, typically a sign of a very strong team that knows how to adapt to that and they usually have the most success.” 

WHAT MAKES SOME TRACKS HAVE MORE INCIDENTS IF IT IS NOT DIRECTLY RELATED TO RACING ROOM?  “You can look at racing room in a couple different ways, you can look at it as multiple groove race tracks or you can look at our race cars that we have today and how aero dependent that we are today – more so than we ever have been.  And the competition I think is much closer than it’s ever been.  When they went to this car, that’s basically what they did was tighten up the box and the areas where you get the advantages over the competition so what did that do, that made the field that much tighter from the number one spot all the way to the tail end.  To me, when you’re traveling the same speed as the guys around you or very close to it, it’s much harder to pass and so what happens is that if you feel that your car is even a little bit better, if you can’t complete the pass or if somebody really makes life difficult on you, then your frustration level goes up and your patience runs out and then you start having to use the bumpers to get the job done.  That’s when the tempers flare.” 

WHAT LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE DOES YOUR WIN AT POCONO GIVE YOU FOR SATURDAY’S RACE? “There is no doubt – even yesterday, we have greatly improved our mile-and-a-half program.  I think that while Pocono is not a mile-and-a-half, you can in some ways look at it and sort of race it like it is.  Big, long straight-aways, but you have to get through the corners good there.  They are high speed corners and that’s what we have here and I thought we were very competitive yesterday while we still needed a few things to be one of the best cars out there, we were very competitive.  That to me is just the biggest sign that we’ve made great strides, we’re working in the right direction and I’m really excited and proud of the team for stepping that up and getting me comfortable at these types of tracks.  Coming here now with confidence that we can be competitive and have a shot at the win.  We saw that at Kansas and we followed that up since then.  That’s really exciting for us and certainly has us ready for this race this weekend to show that some more and like I said, I thought we had some signs of it yesterday and today should help us even further that.  Now that we looked at the data and everything from last night and how we can make improvements to even be a little bit better here today.  But you’re right, this track is very rough, it’s got a lot of grip, it’s fast and so you can use some of those same tools that you use at Pocono.  Hopefully we get the same results.” 

HOW DO YOU ADJUST YOUR CAR FOR A BUMPY RACE TRACK AND HOW DO YOU RACE WITH THE BUMPS?  “Yes.  If you can find a way around the bumps, great.  This is a pretty unique line that you run here.  You really are wide into turn one, which helps you get around some of the bumps.  When we get into the race, you’re going to have to run those other lines if you’re going to pass.  You’re going to have to go low.  You’re going to have to go through the middle with some of the bumps or you’re going to have to go higher to try to find ways around it.  Most of it’s in the setup of the car.  It’s just how you spring the car, shocks, the more aggressive that you get with the setup for downforce, the more the bumps with affect you.  That’s what we were looking at last night with our data and what we’ll be playing around with today.  Just trying to find that package that compliments the bumps the best, but keeps the best aero platform in the car to maximize the downforce, which hopefully with maximize corner speed, which hopefully will maximize speed in general.”


 
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Posted on: June 26, 2011 9:21 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2011 9:22 pm
 

Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards post Sonoma comments

Posted by Pete Pistone
           

Carl, you are still the points leader by 25 over Kevin Harvick.  Talk about coming into the road course at this point in the season and maintaining that points lead.          

CARL EDWARDS:  I think this is a huge weekend for us.  We started out terrible.  We changed plans right at the end of practice on Friday.  We all got together and talked about it.  I called the CEO of Fastenal.  We decided for me to stay here and practice on Saturday and Billy Johnson would run the Fastenal Mustang up there in Road America.  That was the call of the weekend.  Ended up giving us two hours of practice.  We got to really work on the car, and that's what made this a good day for us.           

I would have much rather gone over and raced over there.  Bob did a great job with the strategy.  Early in the race we were terrible.  We were back there mired in the back, all the other terrible racecars like Jeff Gordon's (laughter).  I almost passed you on the green.  It was going to be big.  But in the end, he got us.  You know, back when I was a little kid and you didn't have gray hair.           

JEFF GORDON:  Like I said, I'm going to be 40.  There are some advantages.  Today it paid off.           

CARL EDWARDS:  He got us in the end.  It was a great points day.           

THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for questions.            

Q.  When Kurt stayed out, did you think this was playing in his hands?           

CARL EDWARDS:  We were too far back.           

JEFF GORDON:  You have to ask somebody that actually could see the front.  I know it wasn't me.           

CARL EDWARDS:  No, at the end on the restart they were telling me his lap times.  He was kind of easing around there.  Once in a while he would blister off a fast lap.  His car was extremely good.  I think he just had a very fast car.            

Q.  Carl, if you were battling for the points in the Nationwide Series, do you think you might have made the opposite decision and gone out to Wisconsin?          

CARL EDWARDS:  I think we would have.  As it stands, we're racing for the owner's championship over there, then there's the fact that I committed to running all the races.  That was the most important thing, that Fastenal was okay with me staying here.  They made it clear they were part of Roush Fenway Racing, not just for our 60 team.           

We're still fighting for the owner's championship over there and I'll race any race that I can.            

Q.  Jeff, you mentioned before the beginning of the race your car wasn't as good, then it was way better in the second half the race.  What was the biggest difference you made or maybe the way you were driving to get up to second place?          

JEFF GORDON:  We made a lot of adjustments.  Gosh, rubbers in the rear, track bar, wedge, everything else.  You know, I didn't really think any of those things were making a big difference.  But we also were never in clean air.           

There at the end, that was the furthest forward we had been all day.  I really think the adjustments we made really did work on just helping the car turn into the corner a little bit better and getting us pointed up off the corner so we could drive off a little straighter.  I was just so tight getting in the corner.  Because I had so much wheel when I went into the throttle, I wanted to spin off.  I was really slow through the fast sections as well.           

We struggled in every aspect.  Normally when you're off a little bit, there's normally one corner you're good in.  There wasn't one corner I was good in.  There at the end, I don't know if the track came to us, what happened.  It seems like that setup, the adjustments we made, being in cleaner air, started working for me.  I had enough grip to really use the curbs.  By using those curbs, I could get up off the corners better.            

Q.  Kurt Busch said at the end of the weekend he was put off by the fact you didn't apologize to him last year; you apologized to other people.  Have you ever used something like that as a catalyst to come back and kick everybody's butt?  He had a phenomenal race.  Have you ever used something like that to kind of push you to have a day like the day Kurt had today?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, no.  I make a bonehead move and mistake on a guy, a guy like Kurt Busch who ran me off the track on a restart, then I ran him off the track on the next restart.  But I did it far more.           

I didn't feel like I owed him an apology.  He's done things to me over the years that I didn't get any apology on.  That's just the relationship I have with Kurt.  If it's Carl, certain guys out there have certain relationships.  If you have that kind of respect on the track for one another, you apologize.  I don't think that exists really with me and Kurt, so I see no reason to apologize.           

Those guys have been on a mission here lately.  I would say their motivation is how bad they ran earlier in the year.  I think it was pretty well-documented how much they struggled, some of the comments that were made.  Whatever they've done since then, it's been working.  They're fast on ovals, fast on the road courses.  They were strong all weekend long.           

To me, that's why he's in Victory Lane, 'cause he's a good driver and he had a great racecar and team today.            

Q.  The way they have come back and performed here lately, have you ever seen a team and organization turn things around that fast?           

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know if it's unusual, but they definitely have turned things around.  Our team one year ago after this race, we turned things around, got on a roll.  Now all I worry about is how long it's going to last, if we can keep it going.  I'm sure they're thinking the same thing, hoping they can keep this going through the whole season.  It's amazing how the performance in this sport peaks and can fall as quickly as well.            

Q.  Can you give us an idea what you thought when you saw the 14 car.  It's not often that we see a car kind of in that position, so to speak.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't know.  What happened?           

JEFF GORDON:  I'll tell you what I thought.  Did you see the wreck in the Grand-Am in Elkhart Lake?  That's what I thought.  Throttle stuck or brakes went out.  You got to be traveling at a high rate of speed going backwards to get up on the tires over there and keep it there.           

From what I heard, he had a little help getting there.            

Q.  Carl, how much do you think staying yesterday helped?  Was it tough at all watching the Road America race?           

CARL EDWARDS:  It was tough to watch the race.  But I think staying was the right decision.  I paid off today.  It was a good call.  We could have finished poorly here, ended up on the fence over there like Tony did or something.  Anything can happen.  It turned out to be the right call and it paid off, so it was a great move.            

Q.  From up here it looked like things were crazy on turn 11.  Lot of action.  In your past experience with this race, was it more than usual or anything different about turn 11 or just the way luck is?           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, I made a comment one time on the radio, it was nuts, just crazy, crazy.  You guys are seeing turn 11.  It's crazy from the time you drop the green going into one, two, three.  I mean, it's just the buildup to get to turn 11.           

The problem is turn 11.  There's two places you can pass on this track, going into seven and 11.  You couldn't really pass going into seven today.  It was so slick, you had to be so careful.  So everybody gets to turn 11.  Because you're racing one another, it seems like guys, you know, really block the inside lane and force guys to go around the outside lane.  So it builds frustration.  You get in a position where this is your only shot for that entire lap to try to make a pass.           

So, you know, either somebody gets aggressive and drives in there too hard, makes contact, or they just get frustrated and start using the bumper.  It's hard to say.  But it was pretty crazy from where I was sitting.  I know that.           

CARL EDWARDS:  It looks like there's an opportunity with all the pavement out there to move turn 11 150 or 200 yards this way.  Call it the doughnut hole.  Spin around and do doughnuts.  A lot of pavement to put that corner all the way at the end of it.  You know what I mean?             

Q.  Jeff, you alluded you didn't feel you needed to apologize to Kurt from last year.  You apologized to a few of the others.  Did you come into this race planning to run it differently than you did last year?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, I didn't plan on going into it last year that way.  It just kind of happened that way.           

I was not proud of some of the things that I did last year.  You know, it's not my style.  It's not the way I like to race.  Like I said, there were some instances where it was a mistake on my part.  Juan Pablo is behind me.  He's the king of the late brakers.  He would be a long bay ways behind me, yet he would still drive down inside me.  When I crashed Martin, I was blocking Juan Pablo and made me go into Martin.  It wasn't like I was trying to do anything towards Martin.           

There were times today where we didn't have the car and I gave up the spots.  I wasn't going to try to push the issue.  I guess that's good and bad.  I didn't have a car that could even try to pass anybody or block anybody down in turn 11 for most of the race.  So I had to give up a lot of those spots and bite my tongue and hope that we could get it fixed or get track position, which it worked out.           

I certainly didn't want to make as many enemies as I did last year, because I made a lot of 'em coming out of here.  So it's nice to come out of here and that not happen.  I don't think I really touched anybody today.  So that feels good.           

CARL EDWARDS:  You really pissed me off passing me at the end (laughter).           

JEFF GORDON:  But I didn't touch you (laughter).           

CARL EDWARDS:  I felt bad after that race.  Then I heard how mad everybody was at you and it made me feel better (smiling).            

Q.  You might not want to talk specifically in the first person, but talk about retribution and what you need to do if someone gets you earlier in the race.  With Vickers and Stewart today, they seemed to have the bad blood.  I'm sure you've had problems with other drivers in a particular race.  Talk about that in general because NASCAR might be listening.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I don't think I've ever gone out and tried to get somebody back.  Have you?           

JEFF GORDON:  Never.  And I have a terrible memory.  I never remember those instances where I got into a wreck with somebody so I forget about it later.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I think NASCAR has this 'have at it' mentality, the statement they made.  I think in the end will be better and safer for all of us.  You know when you're out there, if NASCAR is going to let things be settled on the racetrack, I think people will respect each other a little bit more on the racetrack, and that's good.           

JEFF GORDON:  The only thing I'll say is if you're going to try to win a championship, those types of situations are, in my opinion, going to hinder you from doing that.  If you start getting into a battle with a guy, especially if it's somebody that is not in championship contention, you know, then what happens is you're not going to win.  It's going to be a lose for you and everybody.  If it's somebody that's in the championship, then you guys have to figure out how to settle it, whether it happens on the track or off the track.           

I think it just depends.  If you're that upset at what happened, and you see that guy again before the race is over, you're still upset, depends on how your fuse is.  Some people have short fuses and some people have long fuses.  I got into a battle with Tony Stewart before.  That's not a guy I battle with anymore.  We had our situation.  I'm so glad that we resolved it fairly quickly.  Nobody has more respect for one another out there than me and Tony because I've been on the other side of it with him when he can get mad.  He's not a guy that you want to have gunning at you.  He's a great racecar driver, he's smart, he can get really mad.  We'll see how this one turns out.            

Q.  Jeff, does it ever get old winning in your neck of the woods?  Probably not.           

JEFF GORDON:  I hate winning and I hate finishing second.  It's awful (laughter).           

CARL EDWARDS:  You have to deal with all the trophies and money and stuff.  It's awful.           

JEFF GORDON:  You have to understand my emotions throughout this day.  Carl can relate because I know he was back there with me.  I never thought for one second we were going to finish second today or anywhere in the top 10.  So to come back and do what we did was incredible.           

I love coming out here for so many reasons.  You know, the family, the friends.  But I love this track.  It's a very challenging, but fun track to drive.  It's the first road course of the season.  That's unique and different for us at this point in the season.  I get to bring my family out here.  Ella's birthday is this past week, so had a birthday party for her.  There's just one thing after the other.  I have the wine that's out here.  There's so many reasons I love coming out here.           

So to me it's only added pressure to try to do well on the racetrack.  And I'm just shocked with all the distractions that we've actually been able to be as successful as we have.  I was up the 4:30 in the morning two days this week.  I was dead here on Friday.  Luckily my wife was very considerate to let me get a lot of sleep the last couple days.  I don't think we would have run as well as we did today.            

Q.  What were you doing up till 4:30?           

JEFF GORDON:  I was up at 4:30 with Leo.  That was six or seven years ago (laughter).            

Q.  When you see something like what went on with Vickers and Tony, Vickers may come back at him and vice versa, how aware of you are that while you're trying to run your clean race?  How do you handle that?           

CARL EDWARDS:  I wasn't even listening.           

JEFF GORDON:  You have to understand, neither one of us even saw that.  I don't know what happened.  I hate to comment on something I don't know what happened.  I was purely pointing out an instance with me and Tony.           

It sounds like there was a situation, I don't know what it was.  I was kind of using that as a reference.  But I have no idea what happened.           

I think something may have happened earlier that led to that.  But I have no idea.  I don't think it's really something I can comment on.            

Q.  You're not aware of that at all.  That doesn't factor into trying to stay away from those guys during the course of the race?           

CARL EDWARDS:  My spotter does a good job of letting me know who is mad at each other.  Jason says, Watch these guys up here, they're about to wreck each other.  You never really know what happened.  You don't know if it happened a lap before.  It's hard to tell in real-time what happened to who and what's about to happen.            

Q.  Jeff, your fans out here are pretty crazy.  They just love you to death.  How do they compare to fans around the country?  Are they as enthusiastic?           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, you know, you've got the really avid core of fans that are kind of based back east or in the southeast that are very avid fans.  The difference is I'm from here.  Because I'm from here and we've had so much success out here, the avid fans that are out here are as big of fans as there are anywhere else in the country.           

It feels so good to go to driver introductions and get the reception that I get.  Even just walking through the garage area.  Again, another one of those reasons why I love coming out here, because it is not the same other places that we go.  I have an incredible fan base, but it is a little bit unique out here because Vallejo being so close.            

Q.  After the race, Jeff, you came into the winner's circle and congratulated Kurt.  Did that have anything to do with what went on here last year?           

CARL EDWARDS:  Did you apologize?           

JEFF GORDON:  I'm still not apologizing (laughter).           

No, had nothing to do with that.  The guy did a great job.  He drove a great race.  They've been running well.  To me what happened here last year, what happened at Martinsville, is behind us.  I've moved on from that.  I think we're pretty even.  Was just congratulating him on the win.  Had nothing to do with anything else.           

I think it was his first road course win.  Is that right?  So a guy really who is as talented as he is, every guy that competes in this series has won on ovals wants to win on a road course to kind of prove something to themselves and the rest of the competitors.  When you do that the first time, I know how much it means.  I know it meant a lot to him.  I wanted to congratulate him on it.            

Q.  Carl, you decided to stay and practice yesterday.  Did that help for you?           

CARL EDWARDS:  Come on, you need to get here on time.            

Q.  I was with the winner.           

CARL EDWARDS:  Hey, we're all winners (laughter).           

It did help to stay.  We covered it earlier.  But I think it was a good decision.  I owe it to Fastenal for helping me make that decision.  It was cool.            
Q.  Jeff, you talked about that you haven't been real good on the road courses.  What does this do for you now?  You were right there at the end.           

JEFF GORDON:  I have a question for Carl.  I want to know what you were thinking when you decided that you were going to fly all the way across the country from California during the middle of the season for that race.           

CARL EDWARDS:  I like to race a lot, okay?           

JEFF GORDON:  I know you do.           

CARL EDWARDS:  We had so much fun last there, man.  Have you raced there?           

JEFF GORDON:  No.  When you left last year, I was like, He's crazy.  So I take my hat off to you for doing that.           

CARL EDWARDS:  Thanks.           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, I think I may have answered that question, as well.           

CARL EDWARDS:  Are you going to write this article on Tuesday (laughter)?  We're just messing with you.           

JEFF GORDON:  I don't remember the specifics of your question.  But we struggled throughout this day and we really were able to turn it around with some adjustments as well as track position there at the end.  So kind of contributed to a great finish.

 
More NASCAR coverage
Posted on: June 12, 2011 8:24 pm
Edited on: June 12, 2011 8:24 pm
 

Jeff Gordon, Alan Gustafson post Pocono comments

Posted by Pete Pistone
 

THE MODERATOR:  We now welcome into the media center Jeff Gordon, winner of today's race, along with crew chief Alan Gustafson.          

With this win, Jeff has tied Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison for third on the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win list with 84.  With this win he also tied Bill Elliott for most series wins here at Pocono Raceway.           

Jeff, a few comments to start off with about this memorable win.           

JEFF GORDON:  It was so amazing because I was so excited about the hard work that Alan and his guys have been putting into our Speedway program, whatever we call these types of racetracks, intermediates, because we struggled on 'em.  I'm so excited to get that win and see what we've been working on, the talk we had in our team meeting prior to today's race about just putting it all together.  We've had fast racecars at times, then the strategy didn't fall our way or the cautions don't fall our way or we didn't have the fastest racecar.           

So today to see it all come together, to have a fast racecar, great pit stops, calling the race right, good restarts, those types of things, I was so caught up in that, I was so excited, plus I have my family here to celebrate it with, I didn't even think about 84 till they reminded me when I went to do the SPEED Channel Victory Lane Show.  I was like, Oh, yeah, man, that's unbelievable.           

I really can't even express in words what it means to tie Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison at 84 wins because I just never thought it would ever happen for me, or really when I got in this sport for anybody to win that many races is amazing.           

THE MODERATOR:  Alan, talk about your race today.           

ALAN GUSTAFSON:  Yeah, I mean, it's really a great accomplishment for our team.  Winning at Pocono, it's a really tough track.  To win, there's a lot of difficult challenges you have to face.           

I think as Jeff said, the most rewarding thing about all of this, it's just a really complete day from our race team and we've worked really hard to get to this point.  All phases, the car was good, the guys did a great job on pit road, the strategy was good, the strategy we employed on the transmission was great.  Top to bottom, it was a great day.           

We weren't necessarily the fastest car, but I think we were the most consistent, solid race team at the racetrack today.  That's rewarding for me.  Super, super, super happy for the guys because we've worked them hard, real hard, and they deserve this payoff.           

THE MODERATOR:  We'll start with questions.            

Q.  Jeff, I know you don't want to say you're virtually in the Chase now, but with two wins you have to feel like you're more in the in crowd than the out crowd?           

JEFF GORDON:  They take two, right, with the win?  So looking at that, it certainly helps us.           

But there's too many good guys to me inside the top 20 in points that can win a couple races here.  Hamlin, Biffle, several others.  I don't know who is in the top 10 right now after the points, how they shook out today, and who's not.           

But our focus has to be the same thing all the time, and that's just trying to win races.  If you can't win the race, get the absolute best finish you can to try to lock ourselves in.           

I'm just more excited about the momentum that's coming for us and getting into that stride at this point in the season.  The conversations that Alan and I have had prior to the season, as the season has unfolded here, and starting to see those conversations come to fruition, I'm just excited about that because the things that we've talked about and believe in with one another are starting to come true.           

You definitely question that at times.  You're like, Okay, are we just being cheerleaders here to try to keep ourselves from getting down or are we really serious about it.  Days like today show how serious we are about those things.           

I think this point in the season, to get our program turned around as quickly as we have, because of the effort that Alan and his group of guys, those engineers have done, to get us better on these types of racetracks, the timing couldn't be better.  Hopefully we can keep that going.           

Q.  Jeff, obviously the drivers you're tied with now, one is in the Hall of Fame, another one will go in the Hall of Fame, you'll probably go in the Hall of Fame when you retire.  People forget you're a solid racer now.  Did you ever feel that they're overlooking you, they forget that you're a four-time champion that still has something to prove out there?           

JEFF GORDON:  I don't know if it's about forgetting.  You got to go out there and show it.  To me, the people that the media talk about, the fans look at, the garage area looks at the threat to win are the people that are doing it on a consistent basis.          

When we were doing that, people looked at us.  They were scared of us.  They thought, Don't ever count them out.  You know, truthfully, me and the 24 car, you know, 'cause I look at Alan's group as a little bit different because it's new, even though it's still the 24, we just have not put the numbers together.  So I don't expect anybody to look at us as a real threat.           

But I think the thing that was probably the most disappointing to me, we came into the season talking about the stuff we were going to do.  We went to Phoenix and did it.  We were like, Oh, yeah, we're going to get them.  Then it kind of fell off the cliff for us.  Then at that point it was not about how people looked at us, it was, We got to get it together ourselves.          

Days like today to me give us that confidence and momentum and show the competition that, you know, they might need to start worrying about us again.  But we got to do that consistently to show that.  That's why people fear the 48.  That's why people fear Carl and the guys that have run up front, because they're doing it week in and week out.            

Q.  Alan, a lot of guys had mechanical issues today.  Can you speak to how punishing this place, the shifting changes sort of exacerbated all that.       

ALAN GUSTAFSON:  This track is very unique because of the size and corners.  You really focus on straight line speed because the straightaways are so long, but you have to brake hard for turn one, you've got to shift, you have to accelerate really hard.  There's a lot of things.  A track this size usually is a Speedway plate race when you don't ever brake until you come to pit road, you don't ever accelerate.  This has so many attributes that make it so difficult.  You have to try to maintain good braking ability, but you can't give up the drag.  You have to have the right transmission package, you have to have a car that drives well, has a good motor, good straightaway speed.  On top of that, you got to take care of it.  Any one of those components, the brakes, the engine, the transmission, the driver can find a little lap time in those and abuse them.  The driver has to be able to put everything together and take care of his stuff.           

Jeff is obviously extremely good at that, good on equipment.  We were a little nervous.  We didn't know, shifting, we haven't done that in a while consistently, the different gear ratios.  We're all trying to win in this sport.  You have to have everything right on the edge.  We had everything right on the edge.  When you have that, it's not like, We're going to run 200 laps at Pocono.  You definitely are concerned.            

Q.  Jeff, could you talk about putting this in perspective at this phase of your life, two months short of your 40th birthday, where this win ranks.  The first 75 wins of your career came pretty easy, then you struggled.  Put this in perspective.           

JEFF GORDON:  I'll put it in perspective of the great Mark Martin.  These days you just never know when it's going to be your last win and when that next one's coming.  I guess it's because we haven't won as much recently that you definitely take that into account and you appreciate those wins a whole lot more when they come.           

Today was a special day.  To have Ella and Ingrid here.  Ingrid was at Phoenix, but Ella wasn't.  I would have liked to have Leo, too, but he's probably not old enough to understand.  Ella, when I leave to go off to the race weekend or I get in the car before the race, she's like, Go win the race, papa, good luck.  She's starting to understand it.           

Being a parent, I appreciate it more and it means more to experience things like this with them.  I've never been one to really focus on age.  When I was real young in the sport I said, I'm not going to focus on being the young guy and let that hold us back.  Now that I'm the old guy, I don't want that to hold me back either.           

Also I'm so appreciative of the confidence that Alan has in me, the things that we talk about as a group, trying to get better, trying to improve our racecars, our program.  Sometimes I know that can be frustrating because as I've gotten older, I feel like I've gotten smarter in some ways about driving the car, but also I'm a little bit more conservative.           

I feel like I still have a lot to offer in the car, and I think that the things that I do have, some are better when I was younger and more aggressive and some are weaker, but I feel like I have a pretty good balance even though I'm 40 and haven't won as much.           

I think Alan has the ingredients and the confidence to be able to get us back to our winning ways more often.  Today to me is the type of a moment and experience that kind of solidifies that.            

Q.  Jeff, could you talk about the whole shifting mindset today, particularly with other guys that were having issues with their transmissions.  How does this change your outlook for the rest of the regular season?  You have a breakthrough win today that you said you needed.           

JEFF GORDON:  Well, this is a tough place to win.  I'll be honest.  This is a tough place to win at.  I do think the shifting made survival a little bit more important today, in today's race, than what we've seen in the past because you're just shifting more, so you throw that extra element in there.  It can put you in position to make more mistakes.           

I think from the shifting standpoint, this again goes back to me almost being 40, I was pretty conservative when it came to shifting.  The first hundred laps of this race, I guarantee you I shifted less than any other car out there.  It wasn't because I was trying to save the equipment.  It's just that it was easier to drive.           

What I noticed is as we started making adjustments on the car and the pace started to drop, the track started getting slicker, I had to start getting that rpm range up there.  I got into clean air and was racing with the leader, like the 22 and the 11, those guys.  I knew it was time to step it up.  I knew at the end of this race I had to do that and had to be comfortable with it.           

It got my attention a couple times because I started shifting more as the pace started to drop.  There were some times it almost got me in trouble.  But I was never worried from a failure standpoint, I really wasn't.  I mean, I got enough confidence in our equipment at Hendrick, what we did coming into the weekend, it could have happened but it certainly wasn't on my mind.           

We have to enjoy this day, enjoy this win, carry momentum.  I think the last couple weeks...  Most people are not going to look at Charlotte as momentum for us because they're going to look at our finish.  But I think we look at it as we made the fastest lap of that race, we were out front pulling away when we got out front.  The cautions didn't fall our way there at the end.           

But last week to me, to be able to go up front, stay up front, finish up front, even though we didn't have the fuel mileage strategy like some of those guys did, we were the best car that didn't make it or had to stop.  To me, we've carried a lot of momentum on these last few weeks to get this win.  This is going to continue.           

I'm excited about the next couple weeks.  I love Michigan, one of my favorite tracks.  I think we're on to some things.  We had a great road course test this past week that I'm excited about Sonoma, as well.  I don't even know what the next race is after that, but I'm excited about it (laughter).            

Q.  Jeff, where do you place your career among the all-time NASCAR greats?           

JEFF GORDON:  Man, I'm going to be 40, but I'm not in the rocking chair yet.  I really haven't thought about it a whole lot.  And I don't know if I want to.  I want my mindset to be in that mode of, How do I enjoy this moment?  I'm looking forward to Tuesday, our debrief, to go over this race, what we could have done to even be better, and the great things we did do that we need to continue doing, then

get ready for Michigan.  That's what I want my mindset to be.

There's going to be plenty of time when that time comes for me to look back on my career.  There's no doubt, it's been amazing.  I'm very thankful and appreciative of it.  But it takes more time than the time that I have right now with my schedule to really be able to express it the way I truly want to express it because it means a lot.  But I want to think about it a lot more before I really answer that.            

Q.  Jimmie winning the last five championships, you're teammates and friends, but how hard has that been for you to drop off the radar a little bit?          

JEFF GORDON:  It happens.  It doesn't matter if it's your teammate, your friend, or another competitor.  I think you go through cycles in life, just like you do in your workplace.  To me, I don't want to say it's been a down cycle.  It could be a whole lot worse.  Life is pretty darn good for me.  We were living at the peak of the mountain there for a number of years.  It was awesome.  When you're there, you know you're going to get knocked off eventually, you can't always stay on top.  I think you work harder, you appreciate it more.  It means more to you when you get back.  I hope we can get back to that moment and that peak because I know I would have a far better appreciation for it than I ever did before.           

You won't understand that until you go through the valley, until you go through some down times.          

Q.  Earlier in your career so many people thought, He's going to get 100 wins, seven championships.  Did you ever buy into any of that?           

JEFF GORDON:  No.            

Q.  Sort of like Tiger Woods, everybody assumed he was going to get 18 majors.  Did you never buy into that and why didn't you?           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, in 1998, I will say there were moments in that year where I was like, Man, this is kind of easy.  We won 13 races that year.  I'm telling you, as soon as you start to think that, that's when it comes up and smacks you upside the head.  1999 came and it got our attention.  Then 2000 came.  To me, those are wake-up calls of how hard it is to win, how hard it is to win championships, and that what we were doing was just extraordinary, and it doesn't last forever.           

So you can't those kind of stats up.  Nobody can.  Maybe Richard and Pearson did, but I've never seen anybody else ever do that.  I mean, Jimmie is certainly on a heck of a streak.  I think he'll continue for a little longer.  But how long?  That stuff is going to not come to an end, but you're going to have some rough times.  It's just the way the world works and the way the competition works.           

I didn't buy into it just knowing it's just too hard to stay on top like that, because of 1999 and 2000 really, those years said to me, I just want to win, it's not about trying to get to a hundred.             

Q.  Alan, since you became a crew chief at Hendrick, it seems like you've had a daunting challenge.  Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon.  Have you ever felt a little pressure?  Seems like you've had a lot on your shoulders.           

ALAN GUSTAFSON:  No.  I look at it as a privilege.  I think it's a great opportunity.  I don't think there's many people who can sit out there and say they were able to win Kyle Busch's first Sprint Cup race with him, have success, still to this day have the highest points finish.  That and then Mark is a super guy.  With Mark and Kyle, I just learned a tremendous amount about racing, about life on and off the track, about teamwork.  Some good, some bad.           

To have the opportunity to work with Jeff, you hear the questions, Is he the greatest?  Where does he rank?  I can tell you, he's pretty damn good.  He's the best today.  So I'm happy to be the guy who's able to work on his cars.           

I believe that he's as good as anybody out there.  I think there's 42 guys in that garage area who are envious of my position.  I think it's a great opportunity.  I just feel blessed.  Maybe I'd like to do it a little longer with one guy, that might be cool (laughter).           

JEFF GORDON:  Not so sure how many years I got left (laughter).           

ALAN GUSTAFSON:  I hear you.           

But besides that, I feel fortunate.  I feel fortunate Mr. Hendrick gave me the opportunity in the first place.  The rest of it, I'll make sure I'll do the best I can to give him the payback.            

Q.  For the last month or so we've seen fuel mileage races, tire strategy races.  Today I think on the last restart you said, Our strategy is to go as fast as you can.  Jeff said, I like that strategy.  Talk about that.  Was it that simple to win?           

ALAN GUSTAFSON:  Yeah, I mean, it is funny.  The reason it's funny is from Charlotte and Kansas, those race winners generated those wins off fuel mileage.  Obviously we know that.  We take that into consideration, something we've been working on, trying to get a better grasp on.           

As soon as that caution flew, that's what I said to Jeff.  We just can go now, right?  Don't worry about the rest of it.  It's full-contact combat now.  It's all about going hard, going fast.  In a way, all of us love racing.  I'll take any fuel mileage when I can get it.  You want to win the race being the fastest car, and that's what we did.            

Q.  Jeff, you started third, but you didn't lead for the first time until lap 140, then dominated.  Was it a conscious decision to play it a little easy for the first half of the race?           

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, I was just hanging back there (laughter).           

ALAN GUSTAFSON:  You kind of laid back in the weeds and waited.           

JEFF GORDON:  I may be 40, but I don't have that kind of patience (laughter).           

I pushed as hard as I could all day, to be honest with you.  One is you don't know how the cautions are going to fall.  Our car was really good on the short runs.  The funny thing about it was it was not very good about getting into turn one on the restarts.  It hit the track really, really hard.          

I could get off the corner great.  I could get through the tunnel great.  I could get through three great.  I had to be careful attacking on the first corner.  So that kind of caught us out at the beginning of the race, some of the restarts.           

But I felt like the adjustments that Alan made on the car, the way the track conditions were came to us.  The pit crew did an awesome job.  Those last two or three stops were as good as it gets.  I credit them with getting us that track position that we desperately needed.  That's all we were missing.   

I think we had as good a car as anybody, but we didn't have the track position.  The 11 did seem to fade.  I know they had the left rear issue.  He didn't seem as good there at the end of the race.  Our car got loose, too.  Seemed like the 22 was out there and he was tough.  I don't know if we were going to be able to get by him.  We could get to him on the short runs, but he seemed to be a little bit better on the long runs.  The key was getting out front.  The pit crew basically did that.  Then we took four tires instead of two on that one restart.           

Jimmie made a pretty bold move.  He was on the outside.  He had the momentum.  I was working on Juan Pablo.  I saw him start to take it three-wide.  I had to block him.  He maybe could have pushed the issue a little bit more.  I felt like I blocked him just enough where he had to push me and that got us the lead.           

Once we got the lead, I knew at that point we could not afford to give it up.  You cannot give up that track position, once you get it, especially in the closing laps.            

Q.  Jeff, you say this is a tough place to win, yet you've done it five times, tied with Bill Elliott.  Talk about that.           

JEFF GORDON:  Again, I go back to it's been a while since we won here.  There were times when it seemed like it was easy.  Hasn't been quite as easy lately.  Last one we had here was a great call by Steve Letarte, rain-shortened fuel mileage.           

This is just to me a tough place to get that track position, because of the shifting, the balance change in the car, the grip level change, when the sun comes in and out like it did.  As soon as that sun came out, my car got extremely loose.  Trying to battle back and forth on that was tough, what kind of information I was giving Alan.  He probably sensed me getting a little frustrated at times.           

We stayed calm.  Tying Bill Elliott, any time you do something that Bill Elliott did, it's awesome.  This is a great track.  I love racing here.  But it does seem like it's been a while since we had a complete day like we had today.  It feels awesome.            

Q.  Jeff, why did it seem that no matter who was leading, especially Hamlin, yourself, it didn't seem like anybody was able to keep with you guys when you were leading?           

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, I think if you look at the cars that were the best cars today, I would say Hamlin, Busch, ourselves, I think Jimmie was really good.  That's why I mentioned that one move.  Had Jimmie taken me three-wide and gotten the lead, gotten that all-important track position, I don't know if we could have beat him.  Our car was pretty good.           

But track position is just so important, even on a track like this.  In turn one, you have some options.  Turn three, you have a few options.  Tunnel, you have no options, just one groove through there.  It's hard to make up ground because of the aerodynamics.  It's been a trend in motorsports across all platforms of racing if you look at the last five to ten years.  But even in this series, they made the cars bigger and boxier, blowing a bigger hole, the splitter, so down the straightaway they might suck up a little bit more, but they're still aero dependent in the corners.  Unless you have a track like Michigan that we're going to next week that has a super wide groove on it, and even there track position is still going to be very key.           

If there had been more cautions today, I think maybe some guys could have come up there and challenged.  But because there were so few cautions, those guys in the first two or three rows on each restart, the original start, could pretty much control the pace.           

Q.  This was the first season since 2007 where you've had multiple wins.  You were 35 back then.  I don't want to belabor the age issue.           

JEFF GORDON:  I'm embracing it, man.  Go for it.            

Q.  If you had to pick one, would you pick yourself at 30, 35 or 40?           

JEFF GORDON:  Are you talking about moments in life I'd like to go back to or racing?            

Q.  Being the best driver you could possibly be.           

JEFF GORDON:  30 was pretty good, man (laughter).            

Q.  Do you still feel you could be as good as you were back then from a physical standpoint?           

JEFF GORDON:  From a physical standpoint, no, I've had back issues.  I feel in some ways I'm in the best shape I've ever been in because I'm actually working out and training, doing those things necessary to stay in shape, where before I was just younger and I kind of relied on that and stayed in race shape just racing every weekend.           

Like I said earlier, there's advantages and disadvantages.  There's times in my career where I was younger where I was probably a little too aggressive and didn't think enough about the moves, and sometimes that paid off, sometimes that cost us.  Then there were times in my career where I was not aggressive enough.           

I think the one thing is that there's a certain way I need that car to drive.  I don't always like that about myself, but it is what it is.  I think I'm just embracing who I am at this stage of my life.  I think that's very important and I think that's something I probably haven't done enough of over time.  That's something you do as you get older.           

I'm happy about that because it allows me to stick with what I know, what I'm good at, and not try to go over those boundaries.  It might frustrate Alan and the guys at times.  But I think today we were good on restarts, I felt like I was good getting into the pits, and we were good when we needed to go.  To me these are moments that prove that today, with a team like I have, a car that I had, that I'm as good as I've ever been.  I think we can do more of that.  That's all that really matters.            

Q.  I realize you don't want to look ahead and say two wins will get us there, but there's nobody else in the top 20 who has even one win other than you.  Nobody has shown they've got enough to win multiple races.  You're going to places coming up you like.  Deep down inside, don't you think maybe you're in the best spot you can be in to make the Chase?           

JEFF GORDON:  We're in the best spot currently today.  I disagree with you.  I think there's a lot of guys in there that are capable of winning.  I think Hamlin is one of them.  The Roush cars have been strong.  I believe Biffle is one of those cars.  Alan, he knows those numbers a lot better than I do, the cars that are there.  There's plenty of guys that are capable of it.  Keselowski won last week and he hadn't really shown a whole lot, but he still won.           

To me, you can't count on those others not winning.  You got to think that they can and they will.  It doesn't change our focus.  It doesn't change our approach.  We just keep doing what we're doing and hopefully we can do enough good things to make sure that we're in there.           

I've said this before, too.  I don't want to just be in the Chase.  Being in the Chase, at 40 years old, is not enough.  That's cool.  Our sponsors like it and all, but that's not enough.  This guy is too good of a crew chief with too good of a race team.  I feel like I'd be letting them down if all we do is sneak our way into the Chase.           

I want to be a threat for the championship.  I'm not saying we're there.  But today is definitely a big step in getting us there.            

Q.  Although it was premature to comment on your legacy since you're not done yet, how do you want to be remembered personally?           

JEFF GORDON:  You know how I want to be remembered?  I want to make it to that speech.  I've been to two Hall of Fame events.  I want to be on that stage mixing it up with the other people when that day comes, and hopefully it does, and I want to be able to express it then because I think I'll have had the moment and the time and the appreciation to truly embrace it and understand what it means.           

I'm just not there yet.  I'm just not in that frame of mind to put it in perspective.  It would be way too premature to talk about it.  There's no doubt I'm blown away with what I've accomplished.  Just like going through those down years, I appreciate the wins a whole lot more.  I think I have to be able to step away from the sport and look at it for a period of time and really go back through those memories.           

84 wins, I can think of about 25 of them right now in my head, but that's about it.  But there's a lot more than that.  I'd like to go and remember those moments, people I've become friends with.  Just incredible memories that have made this crew what it is for me.  Then I want to be able to talk about it.  I'm just not ready to do that right now.           

Like I say, I don't have time to go back and look at it right now.  Being a father of two, trying to give this guy everything I got.  I feel like, again, he's just so good the way he approaches it, the mindset, the attitude, the way he orchestrates his engineers and team.  My mindset right now is split between doing everything I can to give him my best, to be the best dad and husband that I can be, and take care of our sponsors.  I just don't have time to think about those things.           

But there will be that day and I can't wait for that day.  I'm excited for that day when I do get to think about it because it has been awesome, it really has, and I'm very thankful for that.            

Q.  Will you embrace or would you embrace it if the time came when you were the wily veteran, but you wouldn't be winning?           

JEFF GORDON:  If you're wily, that means you've got to do something good.  If I wasn't winning, what would I be doing?            

Q.  Usually that's a term in racing they use with people that can score some wins.           

JEFF GORDON:  What do you think I'm doing?  I'm getting those wins any way I can.             

Q.  If I could clarify.  You would reach the time where the wins weren't there but you would be finishing fifth, still doing well, and that's when they refer to you as a wily veteran, a code word for not winning but doing well.           

JEFF GORDON:  I don't know.  To me in this sport, as competitive as it is, if you're getting top fives and top 10s, then you're usually going to find a way to get to Victory Lane somewhere along the way because you got to be pretty good and you got to be running pretty good and your equipment's got to be pretty good to be in that position because it's so tight, it's so close and it's so hard to get there.           

So to me, you know, I look at Texas, I look at some other places where we were like 15th to 20th at best, and that's just not acceptable.  So I don't feel like I'm there yet.  I don't feel like I'm there.  I don't want to put him in a position to have to fuel mileage us to try to get a top 10.           

That's what makes this win so special to me because instead of them going, Well, our teammates are finishing in the top 10, and they were faster than us, we just looked terrible.  Instead of losing confidence in me, they went to work on giving me what I need.  Here we are a month later and we're competing for wins.           

I don't really know if that answered your question, but that's my thoughts on it.

 
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Posted on: June 12, 2011 6:50 pm
Edited on: June 12, 2011 8:34 pm
 

Speed Read: 5-Hour Energy 500

By Pete Pistone





Pocono Race Recap

If Jeff Gordon’s win at Phoenix in February wasn’t a sign the four-time champion was back in form Sunday’s Pocono victory solidified the point. 

Gordon led the last 40 laps of Sunday’s race around the unique triangular track to take multiple checkered flags in a season for the first time since 2007. 

And his 84th career triumph lifted him into a three-way tie with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for third on the all-time Sprint Cup Series win list. 

But perhaps most important is the fact that with two wins Gordon is sitting pretty in the Wild Card picture for this year’s Chase. 

With two spots in this year’s playoffs going to the drivers outside the Top 10 in points with the most wins, Gordon’s pair of victories look to be enough to punch his ticket into the Chase. 

But Gordon cautions not so fast. 

"No, there is too much racing left to go,” Gordon said. “You have guys like (Denny) Hamlin who are really strong and a bunch of other ones that can ease up. (Greg) Biffle, there are guys that can win multiple races. I feel a lot better about it though. That is for darn sure.” 

Gordon has a lot to feel better about midway through the regular season. He’s been back to victory lane twice and maybe more importantly has a renewed confidence that has been missing in recent years. 

His performance in the first fourteen races of this year has been enough to give his thousands of fans a better outlook as well. 

“When we don't win, I get down and everybody does in this sport and you start to question everything,” Gordon said. “When our teammates are outrunning us, then you have to look at that as well. This team went to work and we made big improvements and we've shown that the last couple of weeks. Today was proof that all that hard work can pay off.” 

So Gordon would like to bask in the success of Sunday rather than handicap his championship chances this season. He knows there will be plenty of time for that but for now enjoying a return to victory lane and thanking his team is the priority. 

“They just worked so hard to get me what I needed to go fast,” Gordon said of his crew. “They never lacked confidence in what I could do out there. That is so important and that is what makes it a winning effort like this. I have to thank them and all those guys and everybody back at the shop. This is awesome.     

 

RISERS   

Kurt Busch 

The resurgence continues for Busch and the Penske Racing team. Another pole winning run followed by a runner-up performance has Busch and crew chief Steve Addington feeling very confident about the upcoming summer stretch and the potential of the No. 22 Dodge rolling into victory lane. 

Juan Pablo Montoya 

Led much of Sunday’s race but ultimately slipped back to seventh place finish. But Montoya could be a forced to watch in the next several weeks with road course races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen on the calendar as well as a return to Pocono and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he has been outstanding. 

Martin Truex Jr. 

A mid-season crew chief change is not an easy proposition but that’s exactly what Truex Jr. and the Michael Waltrip Racing team had to face when Pat Tryson was replaced by Chad Johnston earlier this week. The No. 56 Toyota team responded with a nice solid outing in Pocono and a Top 10 finish.

 

FALLERS   

Carl Edwards  

The driver who has been on top of the series point standings nearly from the beginning of the year suffered his first mechanical issue of the season Sunday when engine problems knocked out the No. 99 Ford early in the race. The Roush Fenway Racing team seems confident the problem was not something they believe will be in the equation in the coming weeks but that will be an intriguing story to watch. 

Marcos Ambrose  

Forget those pre-race predictions of Ambrose breaking through as a Sprint Cup Series winner Sunday at Pocono because of the shifting return.  Despite his prowess as a road racer and the possible benefit of being able to shift when needed around the triangular track, Ambrose suffered a broken transmission to take him from contention. 

Jamie McMurray  

The frustrating season continues for McMurray who has been thwarted in any attempt to replicate his big race winning ways of a year ago. Transmission issues sidelined the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver and as the regular season goes into its second half, McMurray has been one of the season’s disappointments.

 

RADIO WAVES   

(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

 "It wasn't flat when we put it on, dude." – Crew chief Mike Ford to Denny Hamlin after team suffered flat tire late in race. 

"One of the valves got in an argument with something in the engine and lost." – Carl Edwards on engine problems 

"I just want to thank NASCAR for having us shift about 100 times today, I appreciate that." – Tony Stewart 

"Keep your composure in that race car, bud. I've lost mine about four times already." – Crew chief Dave Rogers to Kyle Busch in the aftermath of a on-track scuffle with Kevin Harvick 

"Maybe just kind of shows his character and who he is. ... It's not my fight. He's trying to turn it into one." – Kyle Busch on Kevin Harvick 

 

RACE RATING   

On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy 500 a three. Let’s face it, Pocono has a reputation for long afternoons and races that find cars spread out all around the gigantic 2.5-mile layout. Sunday was not any different and in terms of side-by-side racing there wasn’t much. However the grind does make for some interesting strategies and the struggle of endurance for both driver and machine. Still shortening these races to 400-miles seems to be a no-brainer yet does not seem to be on the horizon anytime soon.

 

DOWN THE ROAD 

The first of two trips to Michigan International Speedway is next up when the Sprint Cup Series rolls into the Irish Hills for Sunday’s Helluva Good Sour Cream Dips 400. The race will be the first for Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch after their probation period so there could be some drama between those two who clearly have not gotten past their differences. It will also mark the three-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last Sprint Cup win in June of 2008. Oh and keep your calculators handy for another potential fuel mileage strategy race.


 
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Posted on: May 26, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 9:55 pm
 

Drivers comment on Kyle Busch speeding ticket

Kyle Busch


What is your reaction to the speeding ticket?
"I'm certainly sorry for my actions and for my lack of judgment.  This is something that I can take and learn from and hopefully move forward and not let happen again."

How do you look back on the speeding incident?
"I'm certainly sorry that it happened and my actions led me to speed.  It was a lack of judgment and all I can do is apologize to the public, my friends, my fans, my sponsors and everybody, look at this experience as a learning experience, and to move forward."

Is it difficult to have a learning experience in the public eye?
"It's certainly challenging sometimes with things you have to think about and of course actions that you may cause yourself. Thankfully, I've got some good people around me that can help me through these experiences and help me learn from them. Take the good from it and take the bad from it and just be able to apply that for later on down the road."

Can you make a case for yourself?
"I'm sorry I'm not the jurisdiction to make a case.  I leave that to the court systems and everything else like that.  This matter will be handled through that as best as we can handle it and as best as the authorities decide to handle it.  I have the utmost respect for the authorities across the United States of America that try to keep all of us safe every day.  Of course, being Memorial Day weekend with all the men and women serving our country to keep us safe as well too.  It's not in my place to decide what does or does not happen."

Has Joe Gibbs Racing given you any penalties?
"We have certainly discussed some things.  We're working through the process of that now and looking at what might be done later on down the road."

Have you personally spoken with your team owner, your sponsors and your neighbors about the speeding incident?
"I have certainly had discussions with Mr. Coach Gibbs (team owner) as well as Joe Gibbs Racing and my sponsors as well too.  It's just a matter of showing your utmost respect for them and what they do for you.  That they believe in you to do what you can in order to represent them well and obviously I had a lack in judgment and just made a mistake.  I'm sorry for making that mistake, but as far as any of the people that have made comments or anything like that, I don't have a relationship with any of those people.  Unfortunately, I don't go door-to-door knocking on the door and commenting to them.  All I can do is say my piece here and let it be."

How much have you thought about the potential of what could have happened on Tuesday?
"There's if, ands or buts to a lot of different things in life.  Fortunately, there was no one hurt, but that doesn't make any kind of excuse for what happened and for my lack in judgment and for what I did.  Like I said, there's a lot of processes to be thought about here. There's some learning experiences to be taken from this and the best I can do is just try to move along past it for this weekend and take my course of action during the week in what might lie ahead."

What did you mean when you said the Lexus was, 'just a toy?'
"Well it was a car that was on loan to me from Lexus and it wasn't that it was a toy, it's a high performance vehicle and that shouldn't be taken lightly.  Should be driven with caution.  Obviously, I didn't have caution and I had a lack in judgment and there's probably a reason why on TV commercials and such they always show at the bottom, professional driver, closed course.  Mine was not that.  Again, I apologize sincerely to all those affected and that all I can do is try to make sure it doesn't happen again and that I make sure that lack of judgment doesn't overcome me."
 

Kurt Busch

“Talking with Kyle (Busch) about it, I feel like he definitely understands the mistake that he made and that speed is supposed to be saved for here at the race track and putting on a good show.  All of us drivers have a responsibility as being role models to what we can teach our youth on the roadways.  There are posted speed limits and rules and laws; that’s what we have to do.  Whatever comes of it, he has his court date and things will be ironed out.  He’ll learn from the situation and be a better person from it.  I think I was 26-years old when I got put through my big episode and it definitely changes the way that you look at things.  There’s a responsibility that all of us have.”

Jimmie Johnson


SHOULD NASCAR BE INVOLVED IN KYLE BUSCH’S TUESDAY INCIDENT WITH PENALTIES OR ANY KIND OF CORRECTIVE SITUATION?
“I think consistency is the key in whatever other issues that have taken place off the track. There should be a precedent there and that’s how they engage and interact. I don’t know how to really form an opinion on that. You’ve got to get into the fine print of the rule book. I think I’m learning a little bit through this as well. You don’t need a valid driver’s license to compete, is that correct? It’s in there and when you have leagues and players unions and things there are penalties that are usually passed along and make sense because you are part of a league, we’re not in that situation. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer and I’m kind of watching and learning as we go here just to see what it is.”

IN REGARDS TO KYLE BUSCH, WITH WHAT YOU GUYS DO FOR A LIVING DO YOU GUYS JUST KIND OF MAKE THESE WEIRD DECISIONS SOME TIMES?
“Yeah, we as drivers aren’t necessarily wired the same but I’d have to say anybody that buys a high performance vehicle gets in it and stands on the gas. Maybe not in the same situation but that’s why you buy whatever car. I’ve always joked with my friends and I have a collection of old cars that I cruise around in because I’ve always felt if I have an exotic sports car I would be doing stupid things and I don’t need to do that. I drove my ’49 Chevy Step-side pickup here today and I don’t think I broke 65 on the way up, just kind of cruising with the windows down and enjoyed the ride. It’s tempting especially when we have the skill sets that we do as drivers and you get a high performance car and you just want to see how it stacks up. Man I guess everybody that has a high performance car stands on the throttle at some point. I’m not trying to justify what he did, but we can all look at ourselves in the mirror and know that we’ve wondered what it felt like to stand on the gas pedal.”

WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO GO 200 MILES PER HOUR OUT HERE AND HAVE TO GO BACK HOME AND DRIVE 35 MILES PER HOUR IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD OR WHEN YOU GET STUCK IN TRAFFIC?
“For me there is certainly a huge sensation of speed on the track and some tracks like Darlington or Dover really exaggerate that sensation. But for me, it’s about passing someone. As long as I’m going by someone, if they are doing 35 and I’m doing 37 I seem to be pretty content there and haven’t had many issues with the law.”


Ryan Newman


DO YOU THINK THERE SHOULD BE A NASCAR SANCTION AGAINST A DRIVER WHO WAS CHARGED, AS KYLE BUSCH WAS CHARGED WITH SPEEDING THIS WEEK?
“If you don’t have to have a driver’s license to compete in the series, then what happens on the street has no affect as to what happens on the race track in my opinion. That’s what you hold a driver’s license for. If he’s charged criminally, then that’s a different situation, right? Versus being charged with a driver-related issue. Maybe that makes sense, I don’t know.”

BACK TO THE KYLE SITUATION. WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT IN REGARDS TO CRIMINAL AS OPPOSED TO A LICENSE, AN ACTION IS AN ACTION? SECONDLY THERE IS A LOT OF RUSH ON THE PUBLIC’S BEHALF FOR SOME KIND OF JUDGEMENT, SOME KIND OF ACTION UPON THIS, DOES IT NEED TO GO THROUGH THE COURTS AND WAIT OR DOES SOMETHING NEED TO BE HAPPENING UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU COULD BE IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT, NOT SAYING YOU WOULD, BUT FATE, BUT IF SOMETHING HAPPENED, IT WOULD BE COMING DOWN ON YOU?
“My point about the license part of it is if you don’t have to have a driver’s license to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, then, no matter what, it’s DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) related in my opinion. If he would have clobbered a mail box at 128, then that is a Federal situation. There are different ways of looking at it is my point. If something was to happen to it…it is just a private car incident that has no affect on his eligibility to drive a Sprint Cup car or a Nationwide car. But, to me, it is a very gray area in reference to the police officer and what he did as to how he got away as clean as he did. I think that is probably your judgment question. If it was you running 128 in a 45, would he have treated you the same way? Every officer has to answer that question a different way depending on who he is dealing with.”

THE NEXT THING PEOPLE WILL LOOK AT WILL BE THE TEAM OR SPONSORS, SHOULD THEY ACT BEFORE IT GOES THROUGH THE COURT PROCESS OR SHOULD HE BE ALLOWED TO GO THROUGH THE COURT PROCESS AND WHAT’S DETERMINED THERE BEFORE ANY KIND OF DISCIPLINE TAKES PLACE?
“It’s just as you said. It’s a judgment situation where I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. In multiple people’s eyes, is Joe Gibbs going to react to it in the same way that M&M’s or Interstate or anybody else does, I don’t know. That’s not for me to judge. I believe that he made a big mistake, he openly admitted that he made a big mistake from what I read although it sounded like somebody else wrote it and not him. We’re supposed to be professional race car drivers and by being professional race car drivers we don’t make stupid mistakes like that on the road. That’s the way I look at it.”

Jeff Gordon

Do you think NASCAR should penalize Kyle Busch for his speeding violation the other day?
"No, I don't.  You know, I think it's pretty clear if they feel like it's detrimental to the sport, then maybe they should or could.  But in my opinion that's not detrimental to the sport.  I think it's more detrimental to Kyle than anything else.  I think it's something that should be handled separately away from the sport."

Is there an urge for somebody in your profession to just want to drive fast all the time no matter where you're at?
"I've always kind of had the approach of I get it out of my system on the weekends.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't want you to think I'm perfect.  I've been speeding before.  But certainly the way I look at it today as a parent, I look at things different.

"I do think of the 'what if's.'  I told somebody this the other day.  If I'm going down a fairly narrow country road and I see houses and yards, I think of that ball running out in the street and that kid chasing after it.  That's because I'm a parent.  You think a little bit more responsibly."

Greg Biffle

HAVE YOU EVER RECEIVED A SPEEDING TICKET?

“That’s a loaded question (laughing).  In my younger days I have driven a little faster, probably, than I should have a time or two.  I never got pulled over or never got a ticket for doing that, but the fastest I’ve gotten stopped is maybe 85 or 90 – something like that.  I think I got pulled over going 90 out in California.  I was on my way to the desert one time, going through the desert with tumbleweeds and was on Highway 8 or something like that.  That was probably the fastest I ever got a ticket for, but there is obviously a time and a place for going a little bit faster than we should at times.  You just have to watch your P’s and Q’s.” 

DO YOU WATCH IT MORE CAREFULLY BECAUSE YOU’RE A NASCAR DRIVER? 

“I do.  I will always make sure I take advantage of the nine miles an hour over the speed limit, but, beyond that, you have to be careful how fast you go.  Certainly, you don’t want to cause an accident because that’s probably the worst thing to have in the newspaper being a NASCAR driver, so you have to take a little precaution when you’re on the road around other cars.” 

Matt Kenseth


"My first reaction is I was wondering if he was in jail.  My second reaction is, when I heard where it was, I thought it was probably a little extreme for that road, but, other than that, I didn’t think about it.  I’m glad somebody didn’t get hurt.”  

Dale Earnhardt Jr.


“Sometimes you go a little fast, even away from the race track I guess. I’ve been guilty of the same thing myself just been lucky enough not to get caught.”

“I don’t really know if I got that fast, I didn’t know if we had enough straight road in North Carolina to get going that quick, but, apparently there is a piece somewhere (LAUGHS).”

Kevin Harvick


“I think some people are their own worst enemy when it comes to being responsible as a person or as a business person or anything that comes with life’s responsibilities. For me, they won’t even let me drive down the highway because I drive five miles per hour over the speed limit and it tends to take us a lot longer to get to places. Since I’ve been about 16 or 17 years old, I haven’t been into really driving fast down the highway or anything reckless on the road. It’s not really the place to do that. I don’t really know how to answer that to be honest with you because I’ve never driven a vehicle 120 plus down the highway. It could put a lot of people in a bad situation and I think Newton’s article probably touched the outcomes of how things could work this week.”

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Posted on: May 14, 2011 9:14 am
 

Video of the Day: 1992 Busch Series at Dover

Posted by Pete Pistone


Before it became the Nationwide Series, NASCAR's number two division was known as the Busch Series. And in 1992 the cars featured V-6 engines as well as some of today's Sprint Cup stars including the likes of Jeff Gordon who was involved in this accident at Dover:


 
Posted on: May 6, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: May 6, 2011 12:17 pm
 

Gordon reacts to Richmond crash

By Pete Pistone

Jeff Gordon's hard impact to the inside retaining wall in the aftermath of his crash last week at Richmond International Raceway is still very prominent on the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion's mind. Gordon's hit registered at 4G, one of the hardest measures recorded in a NASCAR crash, and he spoke about it during his media availability at Darlington on Friday:

“I’m not (sure what) the threshold is, but, I know we exceeded the threshold. At the time when I hit the wall, I wasn’t thinking about it. I knew it was a hard hit. I got out, got in the medical center, you know, my head hurt a little bit. Other than that, I was feeling pretty good. I was walking out of the medical center and I happened to see a TV and caught a glance at what happened and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a Safer Barrier there. Then I realized why it hurt so much.

"I think that it was pretty interesting this week because I had several drivers text me saying thank you for helping to make the race tracks safer because I am pretty sure we will be seeing a Safer Barrier there and I seem to find those places on tracks and I don’t want to be that test pilot for those things. I think there are areas that are still out there for some reason that still need to be covered and hopefully through this incident, which, I walked away from unscathed, we’ll be able to make improvements there at Richmond."

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Posted on: April 17, 2011 8:17 pm
 

Johnson, Knaus post Talladega comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Let's roll into our race winner for today's 42nd Aaron's 499 here at Talladega Super Speedway.  And our race winner Jimmie Johnson.  He drivers the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and is joined up front by crew chief, Chad Knaus.

As I mentioned earlier, the margin of victory of the margin of victory of .002 seconds ties the closest margin of victory since the history of electronic scoring previous .002 was in Darlington, 2003, and the 88 lead changes ties the all-time series record.

This is Jimmie Johnson's 54th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, his first in 2011, his second here at Talladega.  Jimmie, talk about the closing laps and when you were making your way up through the pack and that last part of the race where you got to the lead.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, we had a plan coming into the race, and stuck to it and learned a lot as the event went on, really Junior and I did, on how we would communicate, on what runs we could make, how we could set them up, how we could pass, how to have the guy push and could cool his car.  Really there was a lot of learning that went on through all of the laps throughout the race.

Once we got to the end, Junior started getting warm and had to pull out a couple of times with three or four to go and at one of the points we got disconnected, and a bunch of guys went buy.  But we stayed committed to the top and had our momentum wound back up and somehow trucked by a bunch of guys on the bottom.  I don't know if they had to switch lanes or what, but before we knew it, we found ourselves in third after we took the white and a decent gap from us to the leaders.

And they got side-by-side, which allowed us to really close up and as we went into turn three, I had a big run, and was thinking about the bottom, and the 5 and 24 defended that, and then I kind of wandered to the middle and didn't have an option then and knew I still had probably a mile to go.

So I just chilled out and sat in their draft and as we came off of four, those two groups were occupied trying to side-draft each other and racing each other at the top, covered up.  As we started rolling up on them, I shot down to the bottom, and we were able to surge by out of the triangle (ph) coming out of the bottom because they kind of left it open there.  Just worked out.

So very, very proud of the effort Hendrick Motorsports has put in as always.  I think it showed in qualifying and here are our four cars fighting for the win at the end.

So very proud of that; Chad and Stevie, and the growth of the 48/88 shop, and the way Junior and I worked together today.  So very proud of the effort.

KERRY THARP:  Chad, talk about the performance of the 48 crew.

CHAD KNAUS:  I thought it was a really good day.  To hit on what Jimmie was talking about, it was much more than just the 48 car that was able to pull off this victory.  We worked really hard.  We have a collective group of guys at Hendrick Motorsports that work on our Super Speedway program and they do a fantastic job of putting a very good product out there.  And I think that started to show signs on Friday.  Definitely started to show shines in Daytona when we were able to qualify with the 88 car on the pole and bring some of that momentum back here for qualifying at Talladega.

You know, we have been working a while to try to get to where we could get the drivers to really commit to one another and work together, and I think it was really nice to see the 5 and 24 work together the way they did today.  I thought it was nice to see the 48 and 88 work together.  It made it a lot easier on Steve Letarte and myself to call the race when you have that kind of strategy going on.

I think it was a good race for Jimmie and Dale to get a lot of experience work together and learning how the draft works and hopefully we can apply some of that to the race when we come back here in the fall.  So it was a very collective effort on a lot of people's parts and it was really nice to see.

Q.  In watching the replay, it appears that your left wheels had come across the yellow line; were you concerned at all that NASCAR was going to call that on you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Someone mentioned that to me outside, and my eye line was on the 5 and the 24, because they were coming down the track trying to protect the inside lane.  I have not seen the video yet, and I was not focused on where that yellow line was.  I was more worried about causing a big pile up and luckily the 5 quit coming down and then the 24 pulled back up.

So I don't know where my left side tires were, but I've heard that a statement has been released and everything is cool.  So I'm glad I'm not sitting here having to worry about that.

Q.  You kind of answered this but a follow up to the question about the yellow line.  Were you surprised the 24 and 33 didn't crowd you so that it became an issue possibly that you were near the yellow line?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  You know, the way it's working with the tandem situation, the spotter calls you in a way that like if I'm inside the 5, the 24 thinks that a car is in the side of him.  So in some ways I guess Jeff could have come all the way to the bottom and blocked me and it may have worked out for him.

You know, as soon as he heard I was inside the 5, I could see the 24 pull back up, and maintain his line with the 5 connected to his bumper.  So, I don't know.  There's still so much going on at the end of that thing coming to the stripe, I haven't seen it yet, either, like I mentioned and I don't know what anybody could have done differently.  When you're four-wide across a start/finish line, I think that's a pretty damn good race.

Q.  You pulled up and gave Dale Jr. the checkered flag at the end, class move on that.  Can you tell us the exchange and why you did that?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Just came to mind.  I handed it to him and he said, "Man, I don't want that. "

I said, "Well, I have to give you something for the push and working with me."

He said, "No, that's what teammates do."

I smiled and I said, "Take the damn flag.  I'll give you the trophy, too."

He says, "No, I don't want the trophy.  I'll take the flag, though."

Man, he's a riot.  You guys scan all the time but to hear him on the channel and Stevie and the things he talks about -- can I have this channel more often just to listen?

CHAD KNAUS:  No.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I mean there's some entertaining stuff going on.  On a serious note, he was committed, and as was I, and it showed today.  We were -- neither one of us were selfish and we worked as a group.  And at the end, he felt like the 48 car leading was faster; we agreed.

Looking back, it could have gone either way if we were single file and he was in the catbird's seat and could have pulled a move like the 29 did to the 1 that we saw in the in the fall or spring -- spring, at some point; but the way the race unfolded, the leader had the spot, and he pushed me to victory.  So just proud of the effort and hope to do more and continue to work like this it as time goes on.

Q.  How far back in the race did you decide that you were going to be the one that was leading and that Junior was going to be the one that was pushing?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  We kind of traded responsibilities off so that we could each learn and get a feel, just know -- we didn't know what would unfold at the end, and after the last pit stop I was pushing him for while and we were getting disconnected pretty easily.  And at that point, he just said, hey, you need to lead, it works better with you leading and Chad and Stevie confirmed that our lap times were faster with the 48 in front of the 88 and we made a swap going into turn one and just kind of stayed that way from there on out.

Q.  Was it fairly evident to you as you crossed the finish line that you had won or was there some mystery left?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  There some mystery.  I didn't hear anything on the radio and the first voice I heard as we went into turn one was Junior and it was something like, "Hell, I think the 48 won."  

And then I started going nuts.  Chad didn't know what radio to talk to me on, and I didn't know whether I had won or not, so I was going to stay in the throttle until I heard different.  But he was the one that broke the news to me.  But it was close.  I knew in my mind that if it that was the checkered, it was close, and I didn't know if I had it won.

Q.  At one point Jimmie waited in his box for Junior to come out; how much against the grain is it for you guys to do that and what were you thinking at that point?

CHAD KNAUS:  It's tough.  It's tough.  You know, you have to change your mentality when you come to a track like this, and I think we have done as a team a good job of changing the mentality of how you run a racing organization at Hendrick Motorsports and being committed to the team and the betterment of the organization.

We had to carry that to the Nth detail today to make that happen.  If you saw how we were working on the car, we were taking four tires; so was the 88.  We had damage, the 88 hung out and made sure their stuff was right; and they took two tires, we took two tires and vice versa.

It's different.  It's different.  Usually you're going for the win every single one, but today we wanted to get one of those cars in victory lane.

Q.  The last lap, the two different tandems came up and side drafted each other and stalled them out; is that how you saw it and it also looks like watching the videotape, you talk about being high, you make a very big moving to down two lanes.  I'm guessing you normally wouldn't do that, or how dramatic of a move was that, and were you able to give any warning to Dale Junior or he just has to follow you in a situation like that?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I was on the radio with him going down the back, and just trying to explain what I saw in front.  We had a good run coming into three, and I talked him down to the bottom, and then the 24 and 5 defended that.

And so then I thought I could get up to the middle and was telling him on the radio, and the 29 and the 33 had that kind of covered where there wasn't a move.

So I just stayed in the middle of the track and those two side-by-side, those four cars side-by-side punched such a big hole in the air that I kind of let off the gas a little, let Junior really to me and create some energy and as we came off four, worked my way back to wide open, we were rolling.

From my perspective, they were up there worried about each other side drafting and really stalling each other out, and I had such a run, I was talking to Junior, I was like, low, low, low, and off we went.  We got down there and the 5 and 24 were trying to defend it, but we just had a little too much speed coming, and we were able to get by them.

Q.  For you, you and Junior obviously worked really well today but there was a point at Talladega like six years ago where he was pretty upset with the way you used to draft.  Was there a moment when you guys sort of like learned to work well together and sort of change your style and became to the point where you guys could work so well to go today?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, in plate racing, you go out there -- before we could push all the way around the track, we would kind of bump on the straights and different things.  I'm learned, coming up through the ranks, learning at the Cup level, made some mistakes.  Certainly caused some big wrecks here at this track.  That's where one of those comments came from.

As you race and as time goes on, watch the best guys in the business make mistakes and cause big wrecks and watch guys that don't have a lot of experience make wrecks; they end up causing wrecks.

So there's really nothing consistent about it.  You're mad at the time and you leave the track and you go on and next time you come back to a plate race, you're mad at someone else and a whole new group of people.  You see it week-in and week-out with the interviews after plate races.  There's a lot of blame floating around, a lot of guys mad when they are wrecked.  That's what it was, and I'm glad that I haven't been the root cause of anything major lately.

Although, I've been in a ton of wrecks.  Seems like each plate race, especially Daytona we are in wrecks and we did that again this year.  So I have climbed out of the car upset at plenty of guys, as well, just part of the game.

Q.  I heard you say on the radio you told Dale, "Next one is on us, brother."  Do you approach the rest of the season differently and try to turn it around and try to help Stevie and Dale Jr?

CHAD KNAUS:  I think we take the exact same approach and see how it shakes out the end.  You have to be aware as to which situation is faster, and definitely today, we would have been pushing the 88 car if Dale had not come on the radio and said, high, guys I don't think we are fast enough the way we are right now, we need the 48 in front.  If we get to Daytona and the roles are reversed that will be it, we will follow him across the line with sparks and fire ablazing.

 

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