Darlington: Winning team interview, part 2

Continued from part 1 BIFFLE: JEFF GORDON SAID HE WISHED HE WOULD HAVE BEAT YOU OUT ON THE LAST STOP AND MAYBE WOULD HAVE WON. "You feel like Superman. I'm telling you, when the caution came out I was going into the corner so slow and the...

Continued from part 1

BIFFLE:

JEFF GORDON SAID HE WISHED HE WOULD HAVE BEAT YOU OUT ON THE LAST STOP AND MAYBE WOULD HAVE WON.

"You feel like Superman. I'm telling you, when the caution came out I was going into the corner so slow and the car was just sliding. I mean, I wasn't even in control of it. I couldn't imagine restarting on those tires and trying to make three more laps and I knew that's what they had to drive and I had new tires on it. It was gonna be four seconds a lap faster than what he has, so in three laps he could be 12 seconds ahead of him or more if he happens to slip a little bit. Well, you're not gonna slip because you've got new tires, so I knew that I had 'em beat and Jeff Gordon is totally right. But that's a product of NASCAR making a pit road speed that everybody has to stick to. No more cheating on pit road and I love it. It's just leveled it out. It's like, 'catch me if you can - who gets caught and who doesn't.' You have to go pit road speed, so it's up to how you get in your pit box, how you accelerate off your pit box by not spinning the tires too much versus forward acceleration and these guys putting tires on it. So I like that. I don't like the Mickey Mouse game of running too fast and then slowing up and did they catch me on the stop watch. I like the timing lights because I don't know if I would have beat the 24 out if there wasn't a pit road speed. If he would have sped up just a little bit, I mean it wasn't by much, so that has a lot to do with the outcome of these races now."

WHEN YOU DROPPED TO FOURTH DID YOU THINK YOU WEREN'T GOING TO GET BY THEM AGAIN?

"I was considering that a little bit, but, there again, I saw them in the mirror. They were on me pretty good and I was running my car a little bit harder than I wanted to right at that point, so I decided to let 'em go and let them run out there a little bit and let them try to chase the 12 down, which I knew they probably weren't gonna be able to do. I figured in 50 laps that might play into my hands, so it was kind of a crapshoot. I wasn't gonna keep him back there for 50 laps, so I might as well let him go and have my own race track to race on with nobody around me because then I can focus. Then I could run faster than them about five laps later, but I just maintained that distance behind them and they kept getting worse and worse and worse. I kept slowing up a little bit and then when I finally got within two car lengths of him, I passed him, passed the 24 the next lap and had a full straightaway in probably three laps. I just paced myself to get by them when I felt like it was time and I knew I wasn't gonna catch the 12, but I was just sizing him up. I didn't know if I'd get back by him or not, but I knew we were gonna finish in the top five."

HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR TIRES?

"When you go down in the corner, it's hard to explain, but when you go down in the corner and how hard you're turning on the wheel you feel the tires doing their job so to speak - your speed that you're carrying down in there. How much brakes you use getting into the corner and then how you go back to the pedal. Do you want to be pretty aggressive with it and try to cut a fast lap time? Or do you try to baby the tires as much as you can and just try to nurture it along to have something for later. That's kind of how you do it. The biggest thing is to try and not get sideways or spin 'em. If you start to spin 'em, you've got to let up right away because that will hurt 'em worse than anything is just spinning 'em. The 24 and the 9, the 9 was leaving black marks coming off the corner when he was trying to beat up on the 24. I knew that he was gonna be a sitting duck eventually by doing that."

BIFFLE:

WHAT ABOUT RICHMOND AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU HAVE EVOLVED AS A DRIVER?

"I've certainly learned a lot over the last year and a half. Our race cars have gotten a lot better. We're all parts of the pie - all of us are - and I've learned to manage the car better and manage the tires and we just tested Richmond and we feel like we're gonna be a top 15 car at Richmond - possibly better. When we go back Rusty seemed pretty quick there, so we just got done testing Charlotte. We feel really good about going back to Charlotte, like we're gonna run well there, so I think this team is capable of winning some more races this year. I don't want to speculate on how many, but I think we can win some more races. Your question, we've all been a big factor and getting better at building these cars and we're understanding what we need and what's making them go. Doug is spending a lot of time and he's elbows deep in these cars everyday with our engineer and Bobby, the car chief, and at the wind tunnel and spending a lot of time with them baby-sitting them and that's what it takes. It takes more dedication than you'd ever think to be competitive like we're being right now."

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT A LETDOWN AT RIR?

"I don't think so. Maybe I was being a little too relaxed. Maybe top 10. I guess if I said 15th I wouldn't have a lot to live up to and we'd just go there and see what we could do. I think that we're capable of winning at Richmond. I don't know if that's gonna happen, but I think we can run inside the top 10, top 15. We'll work on the car during the race and see what we can come up with."

ROUSH:

DO YOU EXPECT THESE RESULTS EACH TIME THEY GO OUT?

"I was really heartened by the way that this time came to life in the middle of last year. Greg's got it right. He was a threat to win virtually every race that I recall for the last third of the year. Of course, he came out and won early - three times and we're not a third of the way into the season yet and he's won three times already here. So, yeah. Somebody asked me at the souvenir trailer this morning what I thought about our chances and I said, 'We have five really strong bullets in a gun.' It's a six-shooter gun, so you might come up empty on a chamber, but I felt like we had a really good chance. Greg and Doug are as good a combination of driver and crew chief as I've had for this - my 18th year. Unless I let mechanical parts break, unless we have missteps in the pits that I don't expect, based on the way we train and condition, he's gonna be a factor in the championship - a very serious factor. I'm looking forward to the 48 having a little more of their trouble that we've had and that they seem to always miss. They do a good job with that, but I hope he can be in front by the time we go into Loudon in the fall."

WHY DO YOU SAY THIS DRIVER-CREW CHIEF COMBO IS GOOD.

"It's one of the best. I don't want to throw any rain on this thing, any cold water on it, but I will throw the gauntlet down. You know, these relationships with the drivers and crew chiefs, they go through a period of romance courtship and productivity, which we're into right now, and many times they get to the point they can't help one another. Historically, it's about three or four years that they're really the best for one another and I hope that we don't have that cycle here that I've seen so many times. So for any of the driver-crew chief packages, you look at them and you've got to pick your year because they generally don't start off to be as good as they are in the middle and many times you have to make some changes to get them both into a situation where they can be as productive as they'd like to be. Doug has been doing this for a long time. Greg came to me when he was 28 years old and it took him five years to get here, so that's a long time. That's not a quick study. He's been real patient and like taking control of his car and himself today on the race track. He didn't let the things that were happening in front of him distract him from doing what he needed to be doing. Doug is as heady about what he does as that and I'm real confident that they're gonna win multiple championships before they quit. It was with Randy Goss, who is a great racer, motorcycle racer and I did a lot of road racing with, but Greg won the first Truck championship that Roush Racing had and the first Busch championship. If I'd have been in a position to put him in a Cup car as early as I might have if I'd had sponsorship, he would have been there with Kenseth the first year to compete for that as well. But the stars have got to line up for all these things, but right now it's Doug and Greg's time and I'm just glad to be watching it."

BIFFLE:

ARE YOU GETTING ANY FEEDBACK FROM SHORT TRACK GUYS ACROSS THE COUNTRY?

"Yeah, I hear that from a lot of people - a lot of people I've raced with and a lot of the people coming up below me when I first moved on. Yeah, I think most all of us have come from late model type racing and Friday and Saturday night type stuff. I don't get a chance to interact with those guys as much as I'd like to. Unfortunately, they race the same weekends we race, so I don't get to go many, but every once in a while I'll go to a race on a Wednesday night or something and get to talk with some of those guys, or I'll go to the dirt race at Talladega or Texas and wander around the pits and look at what everybody is doing."

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN TIRES FROM AFTERNOON TO NIGHT?

"There really isn't any difference between night and day on the tires. The track gets slick when it's sunny out. I don't know what it would be like racing here in the heat of the day right now. I don't think it could be any worse than it was tonight. It was tough to manage, but from day to night it's not gonna make a difference on the tires. We saw the same thing in our morning practices as we did qualifying - really as we did tonight. It was real consistent. The tire that Goodyear has brought for this place, and it's the same tire we've been on, is a good tire for this race track."

WERE YOU CONCERNED WHEN YOU TAPPED THE WALL? WAS YOUR CAR AS GOOD AFTER THAT?

"No, it wasn't as good and I was concerned about it. It never was as good the rest of the night. I must have knocked the toe out of it just a little bit. It was close. The race track could have been changing at the same time, but there wasn't a lot of damage to the car. We went out in the same spot we came in with them working on the fenders, so we didn't lose any spots on pit road from it. It was just very minor damage. Later on I drove up beside and looked at the side of the 48 and the side of the 9 to see if they had gotten the fence any and they did, so that made me feel better that I wasn't the only guy that got a little piece of it."

YOU TURNED THE FASTEST LAP ON THE LAST LAP.

"Well, I don't want to give away all of our secrets all at once, but we had some magic on the tires for that last two laps - things that we do. When we got the fenders pulled back out down here, the car was pretty close to what it was. So what I'm saying is that was a pretty long run. I got in the fence. It was a pretty long run. We adjusted wedge and adjusted some other stuff and put another set of tires on it and it was back pretty much like it was earlier in the night, but I don't know if it was exactly the same. We'll get home and check the toe and do some things like that and see what transpired from that."

WHAT KIND OF MAGIC DID YOU DO WITH THE CAR?

"Air pressure. Just bring the air up a little bit. Basically what we do is we bring the tires up similarly to like we were gonna make a qualifying lap. Not quite as much, but with two laps to go, I mean, you're gonna make a qualifying run. That's what you're gonna do, so we brought the tires up a little bit - not much - but a couple pounds. That makes a difference. You don't have to wait for them to build up because we're only gonna run two laps, so don't tell all the other guys that."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon