NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference at Talladega Superspeedway
An Interview With Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon
KERRY THARP: Clint Bowyer, you won last fall here, you were all of strong here again today. Talk about this race here this afternoon.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. You know, the whole race was fun. BB&T Chevrolet was fast all weekend, the same hot rod that we won with in the fall, and just proud of the guys and everybody at ECR Engines. You can't say enough about their efforts and the job they have done. We didn't sit on the front two rows, but we were up front -- all six engines were up front pretty much all day long. So, proud of their guys. Proud of their efforts and just come up short.
Man, what a bummer. Man, I saw them coming, and the 24 and I were, you know, trying to suck off each other and break each other's momentum and drag racing each other so much, I was like, oh, no, block 'em, block 'em, block 'em. I knew if he dipped down to block them, that we had the race won. But we just come up short. It's frustrating. I know the importance of getting a race win right now is big.
You know that win -- if I would have won right there, it could have put me in the Chase. I was thinking about that. That's going to be important throughout the year, and you know, that was a good shot at it. It just slipped through our fingers.
Q. Could you speak about how much you were able to work with Kevin today, how much you were compelled to work with him and how different it is finding partners and staying with partners in this type of racing than it was in the big pack racing?
CLINT BOWYER: Well, start to with that, it's very difficult to stay with a partner all day long. My partner is Jeff Burton. I hated that we got separated there. It happened -- you know, when the caution that didn't happen; when Ryan Newman spun, everybody lifted. Everybody thought the caution was coming out, and looked out the side mirror and he gathered it up and I looked up and it was still green.
It just slipped through our fingers.
So, I was like, oh, man. Jeff and I were way separated and luckily Kevin had got separated from his guy and still had the momentum I did. We hooked up and were able to go on. I hated that for Jeff; that very spot right there put him back in the field, and I don't know where he finished, but it separated us.
So it was very difficult to keep together. But like I said, when Kevin and I got hooked up, we were able to work well together. We were talking amongst each other. We were down and out -- you know that was the biggest thing about Kevin and I. I was pushing him and his car wouldn't lead at all. We were bad. We went all the way back to 17th there I think with four to go and I was like, we've got to switch, we've got to do something. Everybody was blowing by us and we switched there on the front straightaway and drove all the way back up through them and had ourselves in position. So, we tried.
Q. Throw out the weekend and I guess since Daytona too, there's been mixed reactions about the two-car draft. Junior said all weekend he hates it and drivers that got spun out today said they didn't like it. After that finish, I mean what do you think's going to be the general reaction in the garage?
CLINT BOWYER: Here is the thing. It doesn't matter what happened throughout that race or what your thought was. If you didn't like that finish and it didn't make you forget about the race, you're crazy.
Something about that, it just makes you forget about it and makes it -- if it was a problem, it ain't a problem anymore. You know, it always seems to fix itself at the end of these restrictor plate races. It doesn't matter who is up there.
You know, whether it's ten cars or 43 cars left, it's always a hell of a finish at these plate races, and always comes right down to the wire for whatever reason. You know, that wasn't a green-and-white checkered; you thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be, and it never presented it receive. But it was still, you know, an unbelievable finish.
Q. Any satisfaction to know that your name is NASCAR history is losing by --
CLINT BOWYER: Hell, no, that sucks (laughter). It's never very good to know you made NASCAR history by losing. Sooner or later I need to start making history by winning. That guy's won enough (chuckling).
The only thing that bums me out about that is those guys lagged back all day long. That's what makes it tough, losing by somebody that did that. We were up front for our sponsors and our team and digging all day long. When you get it taken from you at the end by somebody who lagged back all day, it's hard to take.
Q. How much deliberations was put into swapping?
CLINT BOWYER: It really just depended on your temperatures. You know, how you were able to manage that, and once you got together, if you were three-wide, you couldn't manage it anymore. You couldn't duck out. You couldn't get air. As long as you were two-wide and out front, you know, Jeff and I were able to manage it and pretty well push each other the whole time. No different than Michael and I did at the beginning of the race. He never did, you know, switch.
So if you were able it to manage it and your car would do it, if it was capable of it -- the guys have worked hard on making sure that it does that. And some instances, it wasn't even necessary.
Q. I know, but that last swap that you talked about. Did y'all talk --
CLINT BOWYER: It was necessary. No, we got passed -- we found ourselves 17th from the lead. And when that happens, something's wrong. We've got to switch something up.
Q. Do you think you would have been any better at the end of the race with Jeff?
CLINT BOWYER: I don't know. Like I said, it was a shame that we got separated. We worked well all day together. Jeff is a great teammate. Like him a lot. I appreciate everything he's done for me and that's just one of those situations where it sucks. You know, you wish that the guy that helped you get there was a guy that, you know, got the reward and unfortunately he did.
I don't know where he even finished. I don't know, but it is -- that's the frustrating part about it.
KERRY THARP: Clint thank you very much. Great show out there. See you at Richmond.
Jeff Gordon drives the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger AARP Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Jeff, certainly a competitive race out there. A lot of cars had an opportunity to win there at the end. Your thoughts?
JEFF GORDON: Obviously very happy with the results. You know, to come back -- to come away with a third place finish, I mean, any time you come to a restrictor plate track, you know, you're on the fence of survival, keeping the car in one piece and try to win.
I feel like we had a great strategy coming in. We played it very conservative obviously and I think it paid off for us for sure. I really did expect there to be some more cautions there at the end, but you know, I feel like Mark and I did a great job working together. We just communicated well. Our spotter did a great job; the whole team.
All weekend you know we put ourselves in position to win. We were leading coming off of four. I'm sure when I watch the video, there's definitely plenty of things I would have liked to have done a little bit different, but I feel like we did a really nice job.
Q. Could you speak to your day-long commitment to running with Mark, and what lengths you went to to maintain that relationship close to each other on the racetrack and how it's different from how you found partners in the big-pack racing?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, we pretty much just had the philosophy coming in this weekend, you know, don't leave your wing man. And I think we learned a lot in Daytona. In Daytona, we kind of said, oh, let's just kind of ride out and see how it goes. We didn't expect everybody to get right into twos as soon as they dropped the green flag.
Based on that, we realized that you have to have somebody that you can count on, somebody that you trust, somebody that you can get on the radio and work; and who better to do that with than your teammates? And in our case, this weekend, was Mark Martin, which I thought -- and this is the first time we've done it. Now going through the experience, we'll be even better the next time. But I thought we did a really good job, and like I said, we put ourselves in position to win.
But I didn't work with anybody else all day long. Mark was the only one. Sometimes I was pushing him. Sometimes he was pushing me. And we were just trying to maintain that gap to the leaders. We got behind one time. You know, they kind of strung out and got more spread out and so the pack picked up pace. And they were not racing as hard so that got us behind one time and made us a little nervous.
But from that point on, we pretty much maintained about a five- to seven-second gap that worked out really well for us.
Q. You and Jeff and Mark were working together there and he was doing the majority of the pushing. Is this something you talked about before the race and did he feel uncomfortable leading with you pushing him?
JEFF GORDON: Well, we had talked, you know, and you can't always control who comes off pit road first and who is going to be pushing or if you're going to be pushing.
So it's just -- it was one of those things where actually, I think he got off pit road on the last pit stop before us. I was in behind him pushing him, and they basically wrecked without throwing a caution down there in three and four, and when they did that, everybody checked up, and I was able to keep the momentum pretty good. And I got in front of Mark, and at that point, he got in behind me. And we had already talked -- he kind of said, you know, hey, I would like to push you instead of you push me.
So you know, it kind of worked out in our favor the way we wanted anyway. Seemed like we did a bit better job communicating in our pace and everything; not speed-wise, but just being able to judge the pace and stay connected with me leading and him running behind me.
Seemed like we did a bit better job communicating in our pace and everything
But at the end, I was just as happy to be pushing him and would have done everything I could to push him to the front just like he did for me.
Q. It wasn't too long ago that bump drafting was considered taboo and reckless and dangerous in the turns, and now things have changed and people bump all the way around. But almost every crash was caused by cars bump-drafting in the turn or the entrance; is there a certain way to do it; do you not push as hard in the turns or not rest -- or just push and not bump? What is the way to do that?
JEFF GORDON: First let's backup, the reason why it was silly to bump draft in the corners before is the bumpers didn't lineup. So you would get somebody that would get aggressive with it, and they would basically wreck a guy in front of them.
But what we learned was the closer you could get to the bumper of the guy in front of you, the faster you wasn't went. If you had the bumpers lined up back then you might have been able to push all the way around. Now we have a car that has a tremendous amount of downforce. There's very little we can do to this car for here versus other tracks like we used to do. We used to come here and not that we don't put that effort into this car; we do, but the cars, amount of down far as difference between our Daytona and Talladega cars versus our short track and intermediate track cars was huge, you know, ten years ago, or eight years ago. Now, it's not near as much as you would think.
So that's kind of the evolution, and you know, I don't know, to me, at Daytona is a little trickier pushing, where you had to be a little careful if you got to the left-rear corner of somebody.
I didn't see any of the wrecks today, what caused them, so I can't really comment, but Mark and I pushed and checked up in front of one another, switched lanes. We did all kinds of things, and it all worked out pretty well for us. I thought the cars were very comfortable here. Usually what happens is somebody breaks the momentum and checks up and you swerve and that guy behind you, because he's basically blind, he tries to follow you and sometimes they hook you.
But I couldn't comment any more on it than that it, because I didn't see it.
Q. After that finish, is there any question that this is the style of racing to go? There are some people that don't like it, but I don't see how you can argue with that kind of finish.
JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, it comes down to a strategy race to try to get yourself in position with 20, 25 to go. And there's more to it than you think. I mean, you know, when you see me and Mark out there riding around, six, eight seconds back to the lead, it's not as easy as you think it is to manage that and to figure it out.
You still are having to watch your temperatures and different things. But let's be honest: In my opinion, Talladega has always been about a 15-, 25-lap race, and the rest is just trying to get to the end. And that's basically what we have now.
If you want to survive and you want to make it to the finish, you know, you have to either choose to try to push to stay up front, or ride in the back. But being in the middle, to me, is not worth it. And we have just had such terrible luck here at the restrictor plate track in recent years that we didn't feel like there was any choice but to go to the back, once we got shuffled back from the lead. And we kind of planned that coming into the weekend and it worked out for us. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't, but that certainly worked out for us. But this two-car draft is here to stay. Unless they drastically change the cars, something is going to take that. The restrictor plate is not going to change that. It would take a whole new revamping of the car to change that. But you know, I kind of laugh at that because that's kind of what was designed, you know, with this car, was to create that.
And not necessarily two-car draft, but you know, to be able to get to the bumper and not spin one another out; have a car that's much boxier to blow a bigger hole in the air. You know, that's what we have to deal with now and that's what's created the kind of racing that we have.
I personally don't have a problem with it actually. I think -- I thought that was pretty fun there at the end, whether I was pushing or being pushed. Those last ten, 15 laps are fun from a driver standpoint.
Q. Having said what you just about did the kind of race to go stay, when we saw the wrecks today, in the past it had been 12, 15, 18 cars at a clip that had gone out. Barring a last-lap kind of thing where there's all kinds of craziness, today there were four or five cars, just a little bit, as opposed to what had been. I hate to put -- is the big one gone in this type of racing with the two-car draft and their separation? Give me your take on that.
JEFF GORDON: You know, just depends on how the cautions fall in my opinion. I thought that everybody did a really awesome job there in the closing laps. I'm surprised there were not more incidents than there was in the caution, you know, with four or five to go, because I was expecting it. Even though we are in these two-car groups, at the end of the race, we are actually in packs of them. You know, and they might stretch out a little bit on the restart, but then it seems like they come right back together.
So it's just as easy to me to have a big one now as it ever has been in the closing laps. I think that -- and I've always felt this, that even with the old car and the way we were all bunched together, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that we were out there pushing and shoving and running three- and four-wide, at lap, you know, 40. Didn't seem to me to be very smart. And I think that with this two-car draft, it forces you to think a little bit more about, you know, how aggressive you're going to get with it.
And there's still some guys that want to be aggressive with it and I think it caught them today. But there's other guys that want to be real patient with it.
Q. How sure advised were you to see Dave Blaney running at the front today and sounds like you're fighting a cold, was it a physical struggle?
JEFF GORDON: I am sick as can be and have been the last couple of days and not having a lot of fun with that. That's the beauty of driving a race car, especially at Talladega, is here, it's not so physical as it is mental. And you know, once they drop the green flag, it was mind over matter and I was so focused I didn't even think about being ill.
As far as Blaney, or anybody in this field, when you're pushing like that, if you've got a decent car pushing you or you're pushing a decent car, there's anybody that can win this race that can go to the front, which is not that much different than the way Talladega has always been. And I thought that was pretty cool to see Dave up there in the closing laps. It just seems to me like you always see that 22 car up there at the front in the closing laps. Doesn't matter who he's pushing or whose pushing him. He seems to know his way up there, and Dave is a great race car driver. Certainly happy for Tommy Baldwin and those guys to run good like that.
KERRY THARP: Hope you feel better. See you at Richmond. Happy Easter.