JEFF GORDON AND ROBBIE LOOMIS NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO Note: Gordon went 31 races without a win, and has now taken two wins in a row - Bristol last weekend and Darlington today. This was Gordon's 60th Winston Cup career win and...
JEFF GORDON AND ROBBIE LOOMIS NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
Note: Gordon went 31 races without a win, and has now taken two wins in a row - Bristol last weekend and Darlington today. This was Gordon's 60th Winston Cup career win and he moved into 2nd place in the point standings. This also marked the 29th win for Chevrolet at Darlington Raceway - more than any other manufacturer. "Oh, that was awesome. What fun we're having right now. These guys gave me an awfully good car - especially on new tires. These guys have come alive. We've heard it before. If these guys get a win, watch out. We're coming up on some tracks that suit us. We didn't capitalize on Bristol or Darlington the first time around, but we sure are making up for it now.
"What an awesome team. We got a little bit behind one time. The car wasn't perfect in the beginning and it was real tight. In traffic, I was awful. On new tires, I was unreal. I just blew by those guys on new tires. I just had to keep the thing in clean air. My guys kept me in clean air and made great adjustments. Robbie Loomis (crew chief) and all the guys were just incredible. What a great day.
"We had a good car all day, but we were real tight in traffic. Robbie Loomis mentioned something about getting into clean air and the guys busted off a great pit stop there and got me up to third. The car was just unreal on new tires. When the pressures were down, we could just really smoke around the bottom of the racetrack. I got by (Ryan) Newman and got up there next to Sterling (Marlin). I couldn't believe I was passing them because I saw how strong he was all day. And then I just checked out from them. I thought I was using up the equipment too much, but the DuPont Chevrolet was just awesome all day. These guys made great adjustments. Once you got in clean air, it was just adieus. On that last set of tires, Robbie (Loomis) made a little bit of an adjustment and made it even better."
WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE CAR AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE?
"Well, that's what happens when it rains. The track changes a lot throughout the day and it just kept coming to us and coming to us. I was just so tight; I couldn't even drive in the corner. I couldn't even get on the brakes or anything. I just had to let off real early because the front of the car just wanted to go straight in the wall. Once we got that thing freed up, it just started coming to life. It took a while, because it still wasn't perfect in traffic. But once we could see those guys and get a whiff of them, it was just watch out."
ON WINNING 5 SOUTHERN 500's:
"I'll tell you, that's awesome. It's just incredible. We're just tickled. This is just such an historic racetrack. It's just a special day for us. We couldn't believe we were in Victory Lane last week and here we are here again today.
ON MOVING INTO 2ND PLACE IN THE POINTS:
"Wow. We're gaining on it. It's not easy to gain on Sterling (Marlin). They run good at a lot of different tracks. We're doing all we can do. We're leading laps and fighting hard. Two wins, back-to-back, is going to do a world of good for us. I can't wait to go to Richmond."
ON TYING CALE YARBOROUGH WITH 5 WINS OF THE SOUTHERN 500 AND 60 WINSTON CUP CAREER WINS
"As overwhelming as these eight days have been, Darlington has been an awesome place for us. Throughout the years of us winning here, I've learned more and more about the history and the prestige and the list of names that have won - especially like Cale Yarborough. Anytime you ever saw an old race here, Cale was just wearing them out. To do something that ties him for a record at a place like this where he was so good, is just incredible. Before winning Bristol, I knew we had won 58 times, but I wondered how in the world how we won 58 times when we couldn't even win one race. And now we've won back to back. So now I understand a little bit more how we did that. The Southern 500 is very special."
ON HIS SUCCESS AT DARLINGTON
"It's like any other place where you have the right combination. The guys have always given me good cars. We normally qualify well here. Starting up front today certainly helped. Robbie (Loomis) and I communicated real well and made perfect adjustments - especially that last one. I like Darlington. I like the two ends of the race track. I've done a pretty good job of staying out of the wall here. It's not easy to do. It's funny because it's changed over the years. The cars have changed. When I first came here, the tires went away in three laps. You just held on real tight and had to be real smooth. The smooth guy was usually the guy who rose to the occasion.
But today, I was as aggressive as I could possibly get. We were so good on new tires. When they dropped that green flag and when I got the lead - when I was sitting in third and passed those two guys - I was just hammering that thing as hard as I could. Now, I certainly wore the tires out in the long run. There at the end I had to be careful."
WHAT ADJUSTMENTS DID YOU MAKE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE RACE?
"The car was really good in yesterday's practice. We started the race and I guess with all the rain, the track changed quite a bit. We fell back. But Jeff has the ability to tell us exactly what he needs in a race car. We were kind of hit and miss with it the first half of the race. And then we started making the right adjustments and feeling some things that Jeff really liked. We went more and more in that direction and got us where we needed to be."
IS YOUR SLUMP OVER, OR DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER STEP TO GO WHEN YOU GET TO BIGGER, AERO RACE TRACKS?
"We won't know for a couple of weeks, anyway. I'm looking forward to going to Richmond. This really is a handling race track. If you knew the springs and shocks we have underneath this car compared to mile-and-a-half race tracks that are smooth and not as abrasive, they're quite a bit different when it comes to how soft we can run the car and look for mechanical grip. Darlington is still a place that calls upon that and I felt good about coming in here. We're working real hard for Kansas City and places like that right now. We're doing some things in the wind tunnel and these guys are just working their tails off to get our aero package better at these bigger tracks. We've just got too much momentum and too many great things going on. We've got these guys thinking about us for the championship. We've moved up to second. We've got to keep the ball rolling. Last year, we had a fire in our eye when we were going to that championship, and we lost a little bit of that for a little while, but we kept the faith in one another. Now, not only that, but we have the fire back. That's pretty cool. It's awesome to go to the race track when you've got that in your eye and you see it in the other guys."
ARE YOU THE GUY TO BEAT?
"We've done everything to be a threat for the championship except perform real well in certain places and take advantage of the tracks that we had run real well at. We just hadn't gotten the wins. When we were here last time, we had a top five car. We got caught up in a wreck. All these places where we probably shoulda-coulda had wins, we didn't. For whatever reason, the last two weeks it's happened for us. When you look at what it takes to win a championship - finishing races, finishing on the lead lap, and being consistent - we've been all those things. This to me legitimizes our threat for the championship and legitimizes us in the garage area with the other competitors. That doesn't mean they're just going to stand down. We've still got a lot of work to do. We're still the same team we were two or three weeks ago, but now we've got a little more confidence, momentum, and fire in our eye. (YOUR CAR LOOKS PRETTY CLEAN - DID YOU EVER HIT THE WALL?) "As far as the car, I did touch the wall right here in the middle one time. It wasn't much. I don't even think I lost any time. I just slid in there a little too hard. My guys put some nice door bars over there. They don't stick the body out any more, but they stay against the body to not let it collapse and flatten the side so you have to come in and pull the fenders away. For me, my car worked better without going all the way to the wall. In the past here, I had to get right up next to the wall. That was my fastest line around here. Today, for some reason, if I got up there the car really wanted to push and it would get the front end over to the wall - mainly in turns three and four. I think I got a couple of little tire marks from racing with some guys, but it's a pretty clean car for racing at Darlington."
DO YOU ENJOY THE ROLE OF CHASING SOMEBODY DOWN FROM BEHIND - BEING THE HUNTER?
"Oh, absolutely. I love that. You've got nothing to lose. There are advantages to both sides. You've got the points lead, you start to conserve and protect and it puts you in a different mindset. When you're the team that needs points and needs to win, you go for broke. You take risks. That can either pay off or bite you. Right now, we're enjoying the role we're in. We're happy to be a threat at all."
WHEN YOU PASSED STERLING MARLIN, WAS IT ALMOST MORE OF A PSYCOLOGICAL MOVE?
"I wasn't thinking about that at the time. I was just thinking that he was the guy leading the points and that you certainly didn't need for him to win today. I knew it was going to be hard to gain many points on him anyway because he had a good car. At the beginning of the race, the car was just so tight. By the end of the race, it seemed like the track came back to the way it was yesterday in practice. We were really good in practice. We freed it up and got better and the guys did great pit stops. Robbie made some good calls. But we were good on new tires all day. I'm usually horrible on good tires and good on old tires here at Darlington.
"My guys got me out third on that one stop. They dropped the green and I got a great re-start. All three of us did, really (Marlin, Newman, & Gordon). Newman poked his nose inside Sterling and my car stuck so good on the bottom that I just drove in there underneath him. I drove down into (turn) three, behind Sterling, and I thought, 'Wow. This thing is incredible on new tires.' I hadn't been around Sterling all day, so I didn't know how good he was on new tires. But I wanted the five bonus points and I wanted to get the lead and get it out in clean air. I got a run off (turn) two and got by him. I really was afraid that as hard as I was running that I would wear out everything and he'd just come back and blow by me. But it just kept on going. Once I got out in clean air, I realized why he had been out there all day leading. What a difference it made to be in clean air."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE GORDON'S DEMEANER DURING THE FRUSTRATING TIMES?
"We all know what a winner is and he's the one all along who kept us calm. A lot of drivers have asked me what the difference is between Jeff Gordon and other drivers. I think that having won four championships; Jeff has confidence that runs way deep. Myself, and a lot of guys on the team, don't have that confidence that runs that deep. But Jeff tells us everything is going to be okay and to believe in one another and keep working together. We had a little trouble today with a lug nut on one of the guns and he went from like third to 11th. He got on the radio and he gave the guys the confidence and said to just gather it up and get right for the next one. The next stop, I think we went from 8th to third. He's under total control when he keeps us calm that we can think about the things we need to do. When he panics, I'm upside down myself."
HOW MUCH OF AN ADVANTAGE IS IT THAT YOU HAVE WON 4 CHAMPIONSHIPS AND STERLING MARLIN HAS NONE?
"There is definitely some advantage because we have a team of people that have been there and seen a lot. I have too. I think it makes a difference. But Sterling has a strong team right now. That's why they've been leading the points. When you come to Darlington and run well and lead that many laps and come home with a top five, it tells you a lot about your team. But we're certainly going to try to make them think about some of their decisions and choices right now. We need to put pressure on these guys. We haven't been putting any pressure on them. Nobody has. We'd certainly like to do it and I hope we can keep some things going our way and put some pressure on them. They're going to be in it all the way to the end. I don't see them buckling under the pressure or anything like that because they haven't won a championship. It's just really all about getting the cars working and the pit stops - it's all about the chemistry of the whole team. Right now, our chemistry is extremely high. In that sense, maybe we have a little bit of an advantage on them right now."
IN A CHAMPIONSHIP RACE, DOES THE MOMENTUM CARRY ITSELF?
"The momentum definitely goes along way. Jeff taught us this last year when we had our pit road accident in Charlotte. When things are going good for you, it's real easy to get over-confident and just expect it to happen. Now, we were so beat up before Bristol, getting that win and now this one here at Darlington, it put us at a level where we need to be. I think we can finish out the year strong believing in one another."
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON'S RUN TODAY
"I was pretty proud of him. I knew that he had gotten up to 3rd or 4th and that's when we were struggling a little bit at the beginning of the race. We made a green flag stop and I didn't see Jimmie. I thought maybe they had a bad stop and I looked up there and he was leading. I thought that was awesome. It's hard to think of him or Ryan (Newman) as rookies. They perform at a very high level and have very good teams underneath them. The pressure or lack of experience doesn't ever seem to be a real issue. We couldn't be more proud to have him as a driver at Hendrick Motorsports."