DOVER, DE – September 30, 2012 – Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, posted a solid second place finish at the “Monster Mile” today and gained ground in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) point standings moving up two positions with seven races to go. The finish was Jeff’s 22nd top-ten finish in 40 races at Dover International Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, got a lap down early and never got an opportunity to get back on the lead lap and came home 11th. Earnhardt remains seventh in the overall standings after three Chase races. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, battled a loose-handling car most of the day but was able to score a 13th place finish.
Kasey Kahne looked to have a shot at the win late in the race, but a vibration in the car forced them to pit and they had to settle for a 15th place finish. Kahne is sixth in the point standings after today’s finish.
Defending series champion Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, also lost valuable track position when an untimely caution fell right after the team had stopped under green early in the race. They were not able to make up the deficit and finished 20th. Stewart falls one spot in the standings to fifth.
Brad Keselowski (Dodge) was the race winner, Mark Martin (Toyota) finished third, and Carl Edwards (Ford) finished fifth to round out the top-five.
Next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour is Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, October 6, 2012.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED SECOND
KERRY THARP: Let's roll into our post-race for today's race here at Dover International Speedway. Our race runner-up was Jeff Gordon.
Jeff, certainly a good showing out there for you this afternoon. Another strong showing as you are working your way trying to claw back into this thing.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, thank you. I thought it was a solid effort. Our car was pretty good right from the start. We struggled a little bit on the shorter runs. But we got it going. The car was a good top three or four car.
Then we started really struggling on restarts. Front tires, really no grip the first 10 laps. So we started losing positions on restarts. That probably played to our favor because we lost track position and then we ended up coming in and topping off there at the end.
We had a good racecar. Once we got going, then we were good. Gave us the opportunity to not have to save fuel, keep the pressure on those other guys so couldn't conserve as much.
The No. 2 made it. Got a little bit tight at the end. I thought it was going to be a race between me and Mark. I saw him back there. We had a little bit of a gap. My car was working pretty good right there. Started getting tight. Boy, here he come. We knew it could turn out to come down to a fuel mileage race.
Still a great finish. Come home second. This is nice to follow up with what we had last week. We're running good. We were running good at Chicago when we had the issue. I'm proud of this team. Just taking a few steps in the points each week. We got seven more weeks to get it done.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Jeff.
Q. Jeff, it seems like no matter how well you do, your increase in points is incremental. How frustrating is that?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, you guys focus too much on the top guy and not enough on fifth place. We have to look very realistically at this point. It's only been two weeks since we had our incident in Chicago. We've gained a tremendous amount of points on fifth place, sixth place. We did that again today.
We're not going to continue this championship against those guys up front if they keep running the way they're running. The only way we're going to get a chance at them is if they have a problem like we had.
I think our focus is top fives, try to win. If we keep running like this, we'll get the wins. We can't control what the other guys do, we can only control what we do.
To me, the only thing that's frustrating is what happened to us at Chicago. Other than that, looking at the points, it doesn't even phase us.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – FINISHED SECOND
IT’S GREAT TO SEE YOU RUNNING UP FRONT TODAY. IT WAS A PRETTY GOOD DAY FOR YOU TODAY “Yes it was a real good run for the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet and with Chase Credit Card Services being on board, we appreciate them. You know what? Today was a good day; a solid day. The car was good. We were better on the long runs than we were on the short runs. We just couldn’t get going on the restarts. The front tires would just not work. I don’t know; maybe the splitter was hitting or something. So we had issues with that. We were trying to resolve those and it actually worked to our favor because we had to come in and top-off and make a couple of adjustments and then we didn’t have to save fuel there at the end and the car was really good. I thought me and Mark Martin were going to battle it out for the win. He was chasing me down there and those other guys were saving fuel; all but the No. 2 (Keselowski) car and we just came up a little bit short. All in all, it was a great day.”
AS YOU WERE CHASING DOWN BRAD KESELOWSKI THERE AT THE END, DID YOU THINK YOU WERE GOING TO GET HIM? “The car was really working well through the middle part of that run. The race kind of fell in our lap. We fell back on our restart and had some issues just getting going and then that caution came out and we decided to top-off, so it kind of played to our favor, where we didn’t have to save fuel. The car was just really good on that run. But right there with about 15 (laps) to go, I started getting really, really tight. So I saw I was catching those guys, I was just hoping that they were going to have to save fuel. And everybody did but the No. 2. We knew coming into the Chase that the fuel mileage would be a factor and we’ve known that we’ve been behind on that. The No. 2 car, they’ve got something figured out on fuel mileage. Credit to them. They’ve done their homework and it’s gotten them some wins and it got them one today. But it was a great run for this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – FINISHED FOURTH
WHEN YOU HEAR CHAD KNAUS (CREW CHIEF) TELL YOU TO SAVE FUEL AND GIVE UP THE LEAD, HOW DID YOU FEEL? “Well, for starters, we’re not very good at fuel mileage races. So, when I heard that, I’m like man, we’re in big trouble. And he asked me to start saving fuel. And I doubled the distance out of the gate just to make sure that I did enough to get us to the end. So, it’s tough; it really is. But we have a handful of races that come down to it each year and we’ve worked to get better at it. And this is like the second of 15 or something that we’ve attempted to finish in a low fuel situation and got it done. So I’m improving and we’re improving. I wish we could have raced for it. We finally got control of the race, late, but it just didn’t unfold like a normal race here.
“In this sport, with as many races as we have and as many types of races that we have, it’s real tough to control your foot and not stand on the gas and try to keep them behind you. But it is what it is. You’ve got to be good on all fronts and we did a decent job today.”
STEVE LETARTE, CREW CHIEF, NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET – FINISHED 11TH
YOU GUYS BATTLED BACK FOR A DECENT FINISH TODAY WITH SOME GOOD PIT STRATEGY: “It’s the risk you take when you come early and we definitely weren’t the earliest but when you are running with those teams and in those positions, you have to be aggressive and try to make stuff happen on the race track. You can’t ride around and be the last car on pit road the way the tires fall off. So yes, we got a lap down early and could never get it put together and get the lucky dog. There weren’t a whole lot of choices and I think there were maybe three or four after that. We had a good car and we are fine with all we had. I think if we could have gotten on the lead lap we could have run seventh or eighth and that would have been what we needed to do but we just haven’t seen things going our way.”
11TH ISN’T TERRIBLE AND YOU HAVE TWO GOOD RACE TRACKS COMING UP AT CHARLOTTE AND TALLADEGA: “Well, I mean it’s simple. 11th isn’t too bad if you want to run seventh in points, but if you want to try to win the championship or be in the top-five in points you are going to have to win races and run in the top-five. I mean I am proud because we started last in Chicago and came back to eighth and we made some mistakes on the pit box and probably didn’t have a good enough car at Loudon. So to come back here and not be good in practice, and have a good car and feel like we could run in the top-five or seventh…..that’s heading in the right direction. We need to execute a little better some weeks, but this week I don’t think we could have executed any better and I think we just needed a little luck on our side.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – FINISHED 13TH CAN YOU ASSESS YOUR RACE TODAY? IT WAS KIND OF CRAZY WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT PIT STRATEGIES: “Our car wasn’t very good. We got caught with that one caution and that kind of got us a couple of laps behind. We made some good adjustments and got it back to where we needed to, just couldn’t make up those two laps.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET – FINISHED 15TH YOU EXPERIENCED A BAD BREAK AT THE END OF THE RACE WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT IT? “We don’t know what it was yet. We don’t know why I had to pit the first time, but the car just started shaking really bad. I got nervous because it was getting worse and worse. Right before it did that we were fast, we finally got our laps back that we lost early and we were coming on. I could see I was eating (Brad) Keselowski up pretty good and had plenty of fuel. We were sitting really good because we had just pitted and topped off. It’s too bad whatever it was. I don’t know we will figure it out and hopefully we don’t have it happen again.”
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THE EMOTION YOU WENT THROUGH IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT? “Well it’s upsetting. We had been behind all day so we fought hard and got back to fifth. We were catching the No. 2 and everybody was saving gas, so I thought we were in a really good spot and I could run really hard. I felt really good about where I was, but things happen. I was definitely upset about it, but things happen. The bad part was when we came down pit road and they changed right sides and left a lugnut off on one of the wheels then we had to come back down pit road that was what hurt us really bad. That stuff shouldn’t happen.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – FINISHED 20TH WAS IT AS CRAZY FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE INSIDE AS IT WAS ON THE OUTSIDE AS FAR AS TRACK POSITION GOES? “I don’t know. We just got caught behind the eight ball there. We got a lap down and the next run we pitted, and we came back out and the No. 36 car crashes. It was just a domino effect. Every time you’d try to get a lap back it would run all the way to the end. And as soon as we’d pit, the caution would come out again. So, I don’t know what we’ve got to do to change our luck, but that’s just the story of the day for us. It was the best car I’ve had here for a long time. We were definitely the caliber of the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) or the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) or the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson). I have no idea of the running order or how we did at the end. We didn’t have a car for that, but we had a better car than we’ve had here for a long time.”
YOU’RE STILL FIFTH IN POINTS. SO, LOOKING AHEAD AT SOME OF THE TRACKS COMING UP, ARE YOU STILL GOING TO BE IN THIS THING? “Until they tell us we’re not, we’re in it.”
DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET – FINISHED 28TH HOW WAS YOUR RACE? “I would say like normal. I was a little bit slow to start. The car was pretty tight to get going. That is a pattern for sure but it is better off that I start out a little tight and comfortable and we free it up rather than the other way around. We worked our way through it. The last run was decent. We made it better most every stop. That is a good starting place for next year when we get here and that is the point of these races.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO LEARN HOW TO SAVE FUEL IN THESE RACES? “I’m so used to that concept and those techniques that I don’t really have any problem with it. In Indycar that was the name of a lot of games. In Indycar we did that pretty frequently. The frustrating part is that they can’t see what I’m saving necessarily. The point of saving fuel is to use less throttle, but you try and keep a good lap time. If they are using lap times as a judge as to how much fuel I’m saving I don’t feel like it always represents what I’m doing or how much I’m saving. It seems like such an unknown to me I’m sure they know a lot more than I think. Fuel saving for me is not a problem. For me I am good at doing what I’m told and if I need to save fuel I do. Even at the start of the run I said I’m saving fuel already and they told me not to.”
Source: Team Chevy Racing