JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO Finished 2nd - he's had five poles and four wins this season.....this was his 8th top-five finish and his 14th top-10 finish. Post-race press conference highlights: "We had a real strong car at...
JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
Finished 2nd - he's had five poles and four wins this season.....this was his 8th top-five finish and his 14th top-10 finish. Post-race press conference highlights:
"We had a real strong car at the beginning and then fell off a little bit during the middle and then had a real strong car there at the end. When they dropped the green, I was very excited because we were passing cars and really driving strong to the front. We got a little bit loose toward the end of that run getting into the corner - and we struggled with that throughout most of the day - but it was a really solid effort by the team. We struggled on Friday in qualifying, but I think we learned some things for when we come back.
"We certainly were good today, but we weren't as good as the No. 97. I made a few attempts there at the end. I got a couple of good restarts and got a run on him and tried to just force him to make a mistake and maybe get too aggressive and put some pressure on him. He did a couple of times and I got my nose underneath him. But he was just so strong I really just couldn't finish it off. There at the end on that last restart, I spun the tires and pretty much took away our chances of getting another run on him. I just tried to tuck in there behind him and pull off a second-place finish. I'm very happy with it."
(WHAT CHANGES DID THE TEAM MAKE FROM FRIDAY TO MAKE YOUR CAR SO STRONG ON SUNDAY?)
"We tried a little something different in the geometry on the front end of the car. We didn't come up here and test. We did that on purpose. We decided to use this as more of a test for when we come back here in the final 10. Race conditions are the best way to learn things. I thought we learned a lot. But we changed something in the front end for Saturday and the car just came right back to life. It was one of those changes that took too long for us to do on Friday, so I was asking for the change. We tried to work around it. We didn't have time because we were the first to qualify."
(TODAY, THE WINNER STARTED 32ND AND THE RUNNER-UP STARTED 24TH. WHAT'S CHANGED?)
"The Bahre's have done a great job with the configuring the track to give us more lanes to pass on. When they changed the banking here, it really changed this race track. It made an outside groove and made a little bit more room for cars to get underneath. At the beginning when I was passing cars, that was the best I've ever seen cars pass. I wasn't the only one, obviously, because the No. 97 (Kurt Busch) and the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth) were coming up behind me as well. I think Goodyear chose a good tire here. I think a softer tire here is good and also the track configuration. Last year we had trouble with the rubber or the surface - I don't know what it was - but we had a little trouble today. It seemed to be real good other than the brake markers down there in Turn 1 - everything was real good for passing and for racing side-by-side."
(DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO EXPERIMENT WITH THINGS BETWEEN NOW AND THE FINAL 10 RACES?)
"We've been saving a lot of our tests for a lot of those tracks in the last 10 races. Obviously we're going to be heavily testing and trying not to wear the team out and trying to learn as much as we can prior to those last 10 races. We're fortunate to be in a position right now to play that strategy because we're pretty solidly in the top 10 and things are going well for us. Obviously we're going to do some things differently when we come back here. We weren't the fastest car, but we were one of them. We got beat pretty bad by that No. 97 (Busch) car and the No. 12 (Newman) most of the day. We're going to change some things there.
But as far as I'm concerned, if there's one of those tracks in the last 10, we're going to use it as test if we're not already testing there."
(ON TRYING TO CATCH KURT BUSCH)
"Kurt did a good job on the restarts because he never did the same thing twice. And that's important when you're the leader and restarts are as important as they are. One of the places where my car was real strong was on the restarts. For a lap or two I could really hang with him and seemed to pull away from the guys behind us. The first couple of restarts, he was leaving early. One time, I anticipated him leaving early and I just poked my nose down there and just got out of his mirror just to make him try to drive in there deeper. And the funny thing is that he made a big mistake down in Turn 1, but the problem was that I made one too. That last one (restart) he did the exact opposite. He actually slowed us way down and I got to his bumper and he then he took off and I spun the tires. And so it was pretty much over right there when it began."
(IN WHAT WAY IS THIS A GLIMPSE OF WHAT WE MIGHT SEE IN SEPTEMBER?)
"Other than weather conditions, I would say as long as Goodyear keeps the same tire we should see a lot of the same thing - other than Jimmie Johnson, I think this is one of his strongest tracks and he'll be a lot faster when we come back. But obviously we learn every race. You'd be surprised at what a lot of teams will learn and how they'll be stronger when they come back. The No. 97 and the No. 17 - those Roush cars were strong and those are the guys we're going to have to beat - plus the No.12 car."
(WILL YOU BRING THIS SAME CAR BACK IN SEPTEMBER?)
"I don't know. I'm not sure if we have plans to take this car anywhere or now. If we have plans to take it somewhere, we'll still take it there. We've got good race cars and we can duplicate a car to make sure we bring a good one back here. But I don't know the answer to that question."
(DID LOSING THOSE BRAKE MARKERS IN TURN 1 HAVE ANY AFFECT ON THINGS?) "Not as much as I thought it was going to. Luckily for me, I had a Rev Limiter in the car so I just used that as my brake marker. So if I didn't get off Turn 4 very good and I waited for the rev chip to hit, I'd be in trouble (laughs). I like having reference points out there. I would have liked to have had just a mark on the wall. We asked for it several times - just put a paint stripe or something on the wall. I understand why they wanted to pull them off because they were falling off and causing cautions. But we don't want to take too much time in those cautions to replace things like that or fix it. A stripe of paint would be easy to do and quick."
(WITH THE WAY THE RACE WAS GOING DOWN, WERE YOU CONCERNED THERE MIGHT BE A GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED AT THE END?)
"Yeah, I was. If you look at the way it ended, it was basically a five-lap shootout anyway. It kind of worked out to be the same thing. I was thinking to myself that the first race we have the new rule we'd have it end that way. I think that because we go single file with those closing laps it helps on the restarts not to have as many cautions. When you go double file with those lapped cars, that's usually where the wrecks happen. I was hoping it would stay clean all the way to the end."
(CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH YOUR PASS ON THE NO.12 CAR?)
"When the No. 97 (Busch) got inside of him (Newman), I dove down into Turn 1 and I was following the No. 97 but saw the No. 12 car get on the brakes real hard and cut left like he was going to try to go back underneath him, and when he tried to do that he got really loose and slid up the track and I was able to get by him."
(IF YOU HAD QUALIFIED BETTER, YOU WOULD HAVE HAD A BETTER FINISH?)
"The No. 97 won and he started further back than we did. Yeah, that would have been nice because you can do a little bit different set-up that way. We started really loose to be able to maneuver through traffic and pass because you really get tight behind other cars here. I would like to have started a little bit tighter. But every time we did that, it hurt the middle of the corner and it didn't seem to help the entry and exit where we needed it. I know we didn't drive up there fast, but by New Hampshire standards we drove up there pretty quick.
"I felt like we were a fifth or sixth place car. When we got up to second, I didn't know if we were going to be able to hold them off. But I realized that track position is still really crucial here. I don't know what could have happened if I could have gotten in front of that No. 97. I don't know if I could have held him off."
(THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED DIDN'T SEEM TO HAVE AN IMPACT TODAY, BUT DO YOU THINK IT WILL IN THE FUTURE?) "It's going to be an impact somewhere. Today we had something close to that with the five-lap shootout. It's going to happen. It might not change the outcome of the race, but it might. We'll just have to deal with it when it happens."
(HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO RUNNING OUT OF GAS TODAY?)
"I hope we were in the green to make it. They were telling me when we first put fuel in it to really save a lot of fuel. So you run around there in fourth gear and take it out of gear and do a lot of things. But at this track, you really have to scuff your tires a lot. You have to get a lot of heat built up because cold tires are tough and tricky. What you try to do is scuff your tires and when you do, you use a lot of fuel. I was trying to ride around there in fourth gear and not scuff my tires until the last second and then scuff them really hard and go back racing."