Continued from part 1 Q</I>: Describe again, if you could, the intensity of those last exciting laps on Sunday. JEFF GORDON: Oh, my goodness. You know, I still have not really seen it on video. I've seen clips of it here and there. There...
Continued from part 1
Q</I>: Describe again, if you could, the intensity of those last exciting laps on Sunday.
JEFF GORDON: Oh, my goodness. You know, I still have not really seen it on video. I've seen clips of it here and there. There was so much going on. Intensity, I don't even know how to describe the intensity level because, you know, one is you got a huge race on the line, you've got a shot at the win, and you're trying to do everything right. You know if you make one mistake, somebody's going to take advantage of it.
I went to the outside because I knew I couldn't pass Tony Stewart on the inside. I knew Dale, Jr. was going to go with Tony, I knew he wasn't going to go with me, but I was hoping some other cars would line up behind me. And it happened to work out that way.
Jimmie Johnson was back there, Scott Riggs, I think maybe even Kurt Busch. You know, there was times when they could help me, times when they couldn't help me. But when Dale, Jr. got by me and then almost got by Tony, I was like, "It's over. I took a risk that didn't pay off, now I've got to figure out how to get the best finish I can." About that time Junior got in the lead and Jimmie Johnson just give me this huge push.
After I seen this one particular clip, I kind of see what happened where Kurt Busch -- Tony Stewart and I were side by side in the tri-oval. It looked like somebody was pushing Tony. He got a little bit sideways, had to move up the track. That allowed Kurt Busch to get underneath him. That put Junior out there sort of all by himself. Now I'm getting a push from behind by Jimmie Johnson. I've got the momentum, I'm going forward. He was stalled out there and it allowed me to get up beside him and get past him and make the pass for the lead. Then, of course, the caution came out and the rest is history.
Q</I>: I read an article about you being the older statesman of NASCAR, with the fact that Rusty is leaving, Martin is going, Terry is going to be gone, a few other drivers. Do you see yourself soon to be in that role or do you want to say, "Wait a minute, I'm way too young, stop"? How do you see this?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I look at it more as the level of experience and time you've had in the sport far more than your actual age. You know, I came in at a young age. I know I'm still young, but I have been in the sport for I think this is my 13th season. You know, to me, that's what dictates where you stand.
I definitely know that I'm no young gun out there. There's some great young talent out there. I'm more comfortable now in the role that I'm playing and the age that I'm at than ever. I'm enjoying it, enjoying be a part of a great team, an organization, and a great sport.
You know, I'm going to play my part as long as I possibly can. It's sad to see some of these guys go because I don't know any other way, I've been racing with these guys ever since I got into it. You know, you just don't think of being out there without them. It just says a lot about where the sport's heading and what's taking place.
I'm excited for them in some ways because I think they're going to get to enjoy their lives in a unique and different way than they have in a long time.
Q</I>: Did you have any thoughts on what went down between Tony Stewart and your driver Jimmie Johnson after the race?
JEFF GORDON: I haven't talked to Jimmie since the race was over. He came and congratulated me in Victory Lane but I haven't really spoken to him. It's been pretty crazy.
But, you know, it's intense. It looked to me like Jimmie slipped the track a little bit, gave Stewart an opening, and he shoved his nose in there, and made a little more room than probably was there. Jimmie and him got together. You know, I'm sure Tony was frustrated because he led so many laps and had a shot at winning.
But, you know, it's a closing laps. A lot of craziness is going to happen. I think what NASCAR doesn't want is when the checkered flag waves, and everybody is slowing down, that actions don't need to be taken out on the cars, on the track, when the race is over. You know, Tony was definitely frustrated, obviously. They kind of got together.
I don't know what happened after that, honestly.
Q</I>: On the pit road stuff, explain to the layman, why can't we just put speedometers in the car? Electronic thing is why we don't do it? Why is it you can't solve this problem by putting a speedometer in there?
JEFF GORDON: Well, that's the real question. I wish we had telemetry in the car to where we knew exactly what our speed was, where we had a digital gauge telling us exactly how we're running. Every other motorsport out there has that. We're one of the few.
Now, obviously, NASCAR has done an amazing job of keeping the technology down and helping the cost of the sport. I think it also keeps competition tighter. But the tachometer is actually more accurate in figuring out the speed limit, the miles per hour. It's just a different way of reading it. So we're getting the same thing. We use tachometers in the car because we're measuring the gearing and everything so much, and it has so much to do with the engine and how it runs, where our power band is. So we really don't have room for a speedometer.
But I think that, you know, there are some other things that we can come up with.
If you put a speedometer in there, you know, it's how you measure what wheels -- it's off of wheel speed. I don't know. I'm not sure if that's something that is in a rule book that said we can't run a speedometer. But it's something that might end up coming and might resolve some things.
Q</I>: Reflecting back, 2004, what is your assessment of everything with NASCAR and NEXTEL, the points structure, having 20/20 hindsight?
JEFF GORDON: I think it's pretty ingenious, if you ask me. I mean, I think it's amazing to see NEXTEL come in and, you know, it just seems so seamless in how they've adapted to the sport. They've done an amazing job. I think it was good timing to do something different in the points system.
It's so difficult because as a competitor, you want one thing. As a series, being NASCAR, they're wanting to continue to keep it interesting, exciting, entertaining for the fans. You don't always make the competitors happy when you do some of those things.
But looking back on it, you know, I think that it was an amazing finish to the year. So many people were part of the championship battle till the last lap of the last race. I think for the sport, it's definitely a good thing.
Would I like to see a few little adjustments? Yeah, maybe. You know, minor things, though. I think the shootout, the 10 races to go, I think it's awesome.
Q</I>: Your team worked very hard during the winter to get that car prepared for the 500. You worked really hard to get it to Victory Lane. Was it then hard to hand over your 24 to Daytona USA for a full year?
JEFF GORDON: Not at all. All that hard work, it took about five to six months to build that car, wind tunnel tested, fine-tuned, all the things, all the little rubbing and things that you do to get that car ready for that 500. So it is a lot of hard work. But you work that hard because you hope that car is sitting over there in Daytona USA.
It's going to be tough when we got to Talladega, we go back to Daytona in July. I don't know if we're going to have time to build another one that's going to be as good as that one. But we're going to do our best. That's the only motivation for those guys to build another great one like that, so we can keep it going.
I think our team has enough depth to be able to pull another car out of our stable or build another one and be ready to go win some more races. But to me it's an honor to have it over there.
Q</I>: As you get ready to move on to Fontana this weekend, how much adjusting does the Rainbow Warrior Team have to make from going from that restrictor plate track onto a non-restrictor plate race?
JEFF GORDON: We've been in Daytona for 10 days and doing nothing but focusing on restrictor plate racing. We get to Fontana and it's going to be the exact opposite. It's going to take horsepower, it's going to take downforce, balance of the car, handling, as well as the total team effort of a pit crew and everything else.
I mean, to me, this weekend's a true tale of who is going to be strong throughout the year. I'm looking forward to that opportunity. I think we've got a great car and a great team. I'm just hoping we use this as momentum and keep up the great work.
Q</I>: Tony Stewart is obviously a lightning rod in the sport. Do you find him to be good for the NEXTEL Cup Series over all?
JEFF GORDON: I find Tony to be extremely entertaining, in a positive way really. You know, the guy is passionate about what he's doing. He wants to win as bad as anybody or more out there. He's talented. I think he's one of the most talented drivers that we have on the circuit, one of the most talented drivers I've ever raced against. You know, he's got a short fuse, and it shows up sometimes. But it's only because he cares. You can't knock a guy for that.
Q</I>: You've had a great career at Daytona. That's your third victory. You've had five top fives, seven top tens. One stat that really jumped out at me is that you've only lead 29 laps. Are you surprised at that?
JEFF GORDON: That I only led 29 laps yesterday, Sunday?
Q</I>: I believe that's for your whole career at Daytona, that you've only led 29 laps, if I'm correct.
JEFF GORDON: Definitely not correct. We've led quite a few laps there actually over the years. I think maybe I only led 29 laps there the other day, on Sunday.
Q</I>: Up here in Canada, we watched the race. We had a record number of fans watching that Daytona victory. We're used to watching Champ Car because we have Canadian drivers. It seems if you don't have a good position, if you're not in the top two or three rows, you have a hard time winning a race. In NASCAR, it seems anything can happen. Can you describe the mayhem of NASCAR, that it doesn't really matter where you place, you always have a chance to win?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I think it has a lot to do with the type of cars that we race. We're total opposite of an Indy car or CART car. We have very little downforce compared to the amount of tire we run. I think that allows the handling and the driving of the cars to be crucial, not to mention as long as our races are, we have a lot of pit stops so there can be a lot of shuffling going around.
I think the biggest thing, though, is we're on oval tracks. I think what makes great side-by-side racing, what makes cars come from the back to the front, is oval-track racing. When we're on the road courses, you see a lot less overtaking, cars moving from the back to the front, even though it still does happen, but you don't see it near as much.
I think that's why our sport's taken off the way it has. I think in the near future, maybe seeing us racing, we got to build a track up there, we don't have one yet, but we need to be up in Canada. I think staying within North America is important. We're going to Mexico, at least the Busch Series is. I think the next step would be Canada.
Q</I>: Considering all that you've accomplished throughout your career, both on and off the racetrack, it was mentioned earlier about Rusty and Mark and Terry saying good-bye to the sport, when it's all said and done, what would you like for your legacy to be?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, boy. It's not something I put a lot of effort into thinking, you know. Right now I'm just so focused on driving, trying to be a part of a great organization that provides winning cars and championship-caliber team out there.
But, you know, obviously I've accomplished more than I've ever dreamed of. To have the career I've had, grow up at such a young age, racing quarter midgets, go-karts, moving onto midgets and Sprint cars, having success along the way, winning big events. Then getting into NASCAR and the Cup Series, knowing that I've won three Daytona 500s, four Brickyard 400s, four championships, a lot of other races, I mean, to me there's nothing really that I have left that I feel like I have to accomplish. I've accomplished more than I ever dreamed.
I guess I just want to be known as somebody that put their heart and soul into driving every lap to pull off victories, that played a role at Hendrick Motorsports and in the sport, being a part of it as it's taken off to a whole new level.
DENISE MALOOF: Jeff, thanks for joining us today in the middle of what I know is a very busy schedule. Good luck out there in California.
JEFF GORDON: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
DENISE MALOOF: For all the media, Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, will make a major business announcement today at 2:15 p.m. eastern time. The call-in number for the media is 1.888.694.4739.