NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference Bristol Motor Speedway
An Interview With: MARTIN TRUEX, JR. and JEFF GORDON
THE MODERATOR: Our third place finisher is Jeff Gordon. He drives the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Jeff, talk about the race out there this evening. Certainly you had a car that was up front just about the entire evening.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it was an awesome night for us with the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. We started up front. We had a good -- great pit stops, and man, we just had a fun night. It just felt so good to be that competitive.
I mean, we've been competitive like that for several weeks now, and I'm just having a blast. Can't wait for the next race when you're running good like this and you have a team that has confidence in you and you have confidence in them and you're getting along the way that we're getting along, it's a lot of fun out there. Yeah, it was an awesome performance.
I hate we came up short. We just couldn't quite get after it the way we needed to being on the inside lane on that last restart, and you know, I almost was clear of Martin when we were running hard there together. It was a great race between me and him and couldn't quite clear him. And I knew at that point we just didn't have enough laps to get back by him or get up to the 2 car.
Q. You talked a lot about the competition you were having with Martin and Jimmie all night long. Sometimes you have those races where it seems like you're racing around the same guys all night. Was there a time during this race where you looked up and said, Can't I just race somebody else instead of the same guys I've been around all night?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I don't know. I was wondering where the 1 car came from that one time. He was really strong and had a good race car, as well. You know, definitely me and Matt, and actually me and Matt have been racing a lot lately. You look at the Brickyard, Michigan, a lot of racetracks me and Matt have been really battling. I guess that's a good thing because Matt has been running up front a lot this year.
You know, I saw Martin running in practice and his car looked good, and the last time that we were here, or this race last year, they were really strong, and we raced with them, as well.
You know, I was hoping that I could get up to him a little bit earlier than I did. The longer that you ran, the less the two tires -- or four tires -- had an advantage, and he was running a great line up there on top holding momentum.
I kind of picked up some lap cars there one time and thought I was going to get him but he stuffed it in there three wide and that was it. Once I didn't get by him there, I kind of used up my stuff, had to kind of ride in there behind him, and took one last shot on him on the last corner and couldn't quite clear him. It was a great battle.
But yeah, any time you're racing -- I was surprised we weren't racing with Kyle Busch tonight. I was expecting him to be up there. But Jimmie Johnson certainly wasn't a surprised. Keselowski, man, those guys are on a roll. They're running strong. We have to keep an eye on him because he's strong.
THE MODERATOR: Joining us right now is Martin Truex, Jr. He's our race runner up. He drives the Number 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Martin, as Jeff alluded to, you raced strong here last time at Bristol and had a good car tonight. Talk about your runner-up finish.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, thank you. It feels good to be finishing up front. It's been a while. We've had some good races here lately, fourth at the Glen. So trying to build a little bit of momentum here towards the end of the year. The guys on the NAPA Toyota have been working really, really hard, all the buys at the shop, working hard on our stuff and just got to thank them for sticking with it and working hard.
As Jeff said, we had a strong car here in the spring, but only for the first half of the race. And we led the most laps, and halfway the car just went away, and we finished, I think, 18th or 19th just struggling to stay in the lead lap.
We came here this weekend really trying to focus on being better the second half of the race, being better in the long run when the track really got rubbered up, and it worked out for us. I was a little concerned yesterday after practice going into the race, but Chad Johnson, my crew chief, and all my guys did a great job getting the car ready and made all the right positions and we were close all night.
We fought track position most of the race, but once we were able to get up towards the front, you know, we had a strong car, it was really good.
Just thank them again. It feels good to finish off a weekend with a strong run.
Q. Jeff, you mentioned Brad and how strong they were running. They were 25th in points at Charlotte and now have three wins and 11th in points over the last 12 races. Are they serious championship contenders now? And the second question, when you were trying to get around Martin did you kind of think back to Watkins Glen and the promise he made there?
JEFF GORDON: Watkins Glen? Oh, Sonoma. We'll get to that in a second. I only remember he promised. I remember begging for mercy (Laughter).
Let's see, yeah, I don't know what more to say about Brad and the 2 team. They're strong and you put them in position at the end of the race and they're going to pull off the wins. They're, to me, as strong of a team out there that there is right now.
I think it's really ironic that he had the issue at Road Atlanta, and ever since then he's been on fire.
I think he proved to all of us he's tougher than we thought he was, and we always knew he was a good race car driver, but he's stepping it up, and that whole team, so you've got to give him a lot of credit.
As far as Martin and I at Sonoma, I made a huge mistake, and it didn't matter to him whether I made a mistake because it ruined his day. But I think tonight I wanted to prove to him that I could race him hard and race him clean for position.
Now, if we would have been racing for the win it might have been different. But racing for the position we were in, I raced him hard, we rubbed, we banged, but we had a lot of respect for one another, and he finished second, I finished third, and that's pretty much how we've raced one another ever since Sonoma.
Q. Martin, how much do you credit the surge to the change in crew chief, and how much is it just things getting better?
MARTIN TRUEX JR.: I think it's a little bit of both. You know, Chad has definitely brought a lot to the table for our team, and the communication between us has gone really well. I feel like he's the right person for me to get the most out of me and ask the right questions and make sure he's giving me what I'm looking for.
The communication, the relationship has been great for our team. He's a great leader. The guys really respect him, and he really fits in our system and the way we do things, the way we set up our cars, the way we go through all the sim work and all the stuff that we do, he's really on top of his game. He's done a great job.
And, you know, at the same time, it's a team effort. Everybody at MWR has been working hard and all has a part in the runs that we've had here lately.
We're not out of the woods. We've still got some work to do. I feel like the mile and a half, two-mile stuff is still where we're behind and where we need the most work, and we'll just keep plugging away at it. And hopefully finish off the season strong and be prepared for next year.
Q. Jeff, you mentioned something about pit road after you got out of the car out there. Is it more of a bonus to have a good pit stall like Matt did tonight? What exactly is the problem with having the pits on each side like this?
JEFF GORDON: Well, don't get me wrong. We had a good pit stall similar to them. I don't know if there's a little bit more of an advantage on the front straightaway than there is on the back straightaway, but to me the whole purpose of having timing lines and pit road speed is to make it as equal and fair for everybody as you possibly can. And they've got some work to do at this pit road. The racetrack is awesome, but the pit road is terrible.
When a guy can run 60 miles an hour down pit road and the pit road speed is, what, 35, then something is wrong with the system. We were able to do something similar to that on the back straightaway, so I don't really feel like that's what cost us tonight. I did have a couple cars coming down pit road that were going slow when I left my pit stall that held me up a little bit, but we qualified good, so we had one of those stalls.
But even when you have one and you see the other guys have one, it's a joke that somebody can leave pit road and run that fast down pit road and then slam on the brakes. Kenseth drove by four cars and so did the 2 car when he left his pit stall. I just don't understand it.
But that is the way that it is here, and it puts a huge premium on the pit stall and qualifying up front.
Q. Following up on that, technology exists, or GPS units I guess you can put in these cars, that can tell you instantaneous speed at any point on the racetrack or at any point on pit road. Instead of using lines where people cheat, would you have in favor of something like that?
JEFF GORDON: I don't understand why we don't have a button on the steering wheel, just hold it and takes us pit road speed and we just run it all the way down pit road. You'll have to ask NASCAR where why we don't have that technology. We have the technology to do it, but why we don't incorporate it into the cars, and there might be good reasons why we don't.
I think the time lines are a big improvement over what we used to have, but there are certain tracks -- you look at Michigan last week, they redid pit road, and they completely redid their pit road lines, and there was no stall that had a big advantage at that track because they segmented them in equal segments all the way down pit road. And that's what they're going to need to do here eventually, as well.
Q. You kind of touched on it right there, but is this an issue that we see at more than just this track? You mentioned Michigan repaving, but are other tracks just as bad or is this just the worst on the schedule?
JEFF GORDON: This is the one I'd say that's most noticeable. But Martinsville -- there's a couple of them. Everywhere we go we look at timelines and see where there's big gaps in the timelines and try to take advantage of them. And sometimes it's more risky than others because you might be pitting in between two other cars, so you'll pick a spot or a pit stall right on a timeline to gain that advantage, but you might be blocked in.
Where here, at least the one that I had and the one that Matt had, when we were -- we were wanting to be third in qualifying really, really bad because that's where that last -- that pit stall that Matt had was the cutoff. We knew that the top three would get the best three pit stalls, so we got the next best one, and it had advantages like that.
But I think Matt's seemed to have a little bit more of an advantage. So this is probably the worst one.
Q. Obviously all the talk is about the excitement with Brad maybe being a contender for the Chase, but how much do you feel like you really yourself could be right up there to challenge your teammate Jimmie this year to actually get another title for yourself?
JEFF GORDON: I'm excited about our race team. We've been running really strong, been leading a lot of laps, running up front at the big races. To me the most impressive thing about my racing was what improvement we made from the spring at this track to this evening. We were out to lunch earlier in the year, and I just think we've come a long way as a team, communication, confidence, and what we've learned together on how to make our race cars better and how to communicate better to get the most out of the cars.
I'm having a blast right now, and when you're having fun it means you're competitive on a fairly consistent basis, and I hope we can keep that going because we can definitely do some damage and give some guys a real run for their money in the Chase.
Q. Jeff and Martin, could you talk a little bit about the racing tonight? Jeff, you talked about on pit road racing the 17 and 48. Would you ever have imagined to be able to have that kind of racing here at Bristol where you guys had plenty of room to almost go three wide quite a bit, and also Martin, if you would just talk about the same thing in regards to when you were racing and holding off Jeff.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Yeah, I mean, since they redid the surface here, that's kind of the way it's been. You've had options, you've been able to run three, four different grooves and move around the racetrack and it's made for, I think, more fun racing for us drivers. I hated the old Bristol. I mean, I won on it, but I hated it. If you were faster than the other guy, you had to knock him out of the way, and that's no fun. That's not how we grew up learning how to race and that's not how you race with respect to the guys you race with every week.
So this is more fun. You have some options you can race with some guys. I think tonight it took a step probably a little bit too far where the top groove was better than anywhere else on the racetrack and it made it a little bit difficult to pass. Last time here I thought the bottom was a little bit easier to finish passes on the bottom, and if your car was really good, you could run down there.
Seemed like tonight nobody could really make any ground. If you went down there you could make ground for five or six, laps and then your tires would be overheated and you'd have to move back up. I think they need to work on that a little bit more still. But again it's a lot more fun when you have options and you're not stuck in one groove. I've enjoyed the track since they've redone it for sure.
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I agree. I love racing here with the multiple grooves. I know there's not as many cautions and there's not as many guys upset at one another after the race is over, which makes for a good television show, I guess. But for us as drivers, it's very challenging to try to make a pass. You've got to set a guy up, and you've got to work him over and over and over, and sometimes you make the pass, sometimes you don't.
You know, I wonder -- Goodyear came here earlier in the year with a little bit softer tire, and they had to change it because we wore through it. If they could get that tire to lay some rubber down, that would probably be a better tire to allow us to -- kind of what Martin is alluding to, where it would have a little bit more grip.
This tire, it seems like you sit up on top of the racetrack and slide it around a little bit and you can overheat it real easily, but it doesn't wear much. So I think that maybe Goodyear could look at that a little bit.
And I know they'd prefer to have that other tire, they just got scared because it wore so quickly. So if there's a way to keep the rubber on that tire, I think the compound would make the racing even a little bit better than it was.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, thank you, and congratulations on your performance tonight.