Jeff Gordon Wins Rain-Delayed Atlanta Race to Become Third on All-Time Win List with 85 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Victories; Team Chevy Captures Top-Three Finishing Positions in AdvoCare 500; Jimmie Johnson Take Points Lead
HAMPTON, Ga. (September 6, 2011) - Almost 48 hours after the rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was scheduled to start, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series(NSCS) champion Jeff Gordon streaked under the checkered flag to claim his third victory of the season. Even more significant for the driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet is it was his 85th career NSCS win. Gordon now stands alone third on the list of all-time race winners behind Richard Petty (200 wins) and David Pearson (105 wins).
Gordon, who qualified fifth, had the car to beat from the drop of the green flag, leading a race-high seven times for a total of 146 laps in the 325-lap/500.5-mile race. He sits fifth in the standings, firmly locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup (Chase).
Despite the delay from the original Sunday evening start to 11:00 a.m. this morning and then 25-minute red flag today for rain, plus numerous caution laps for dampness, Team Chevy drivers showed their strength and claimed the top-three finishing positions.
In a battle that had the fans on their feet for almost the final 40 laps of the race, five-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, came across the finish line just 0.598 seconds behind Gordon. With the runner-up finish, Johnson heads to Richmond International Raceway, the final race before the start of the Chase as the points leader with one victory to his credit thus far this year.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, completed the Team Chevy podium sweep after fighting back from some pit road issues that dropped him deep in the running order to finish third. The two-time NSCS champion is 10th in the standings.
Kevin Harvick, No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet, who was locked in the Chase heading into the Atlanta race, finished seventh to give Team Chevy four of the top-10 in the final order. Harvick is sixth in the points order with three wins this season.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 Army Reserve Chevrolet, is now officially locked into the 2011 Chase field. Newman was plagued with handling issues throughout the race and had to settle for a 20th place finish, but it was good enough to lock him in eighth in the standings.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard Military Intelligence/AMP Energy Chevrolet, continues ninth in the points order after finishing 19th in today's race.
The Good Pistachios 400, race 26 of the season, will set the stage for the 2011 Chase on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at Richmond International Raceway.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER:
ON RACING JIMMIE JOHNSON FOR THE WIN: “Not too many people get to do that these days, and I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it either. We got ahead of him on that run before that. The track was really tight after that rain delay, and our car was too tight at the beginning but boy did it come on strong at the end. I could tell the track was freeing up a little bit, but it is hard to make adjustments when your car is that good. I don’t even know if Alan ( Gustafson, Crew Chief) didn’t make any adjustments , but the car took off there it felt awesome and I was just trying to keep a distance between me and Jimmie ( Johnson) because I knew I had to manage the tires a little bit, I was a little bit longer run. But boy did it get loose, when it got loose it fell off in a big way it nearly came around, and Jimmie just drove it really straight and drove me clean. I could hear his wheels spinning and revs pick up when he was underneath me, that forced me to pick mine up and spin a little bit. A couple of times I slipped up and let him get underneath me, but somehow we kept the momentum and was able to stay on the outside of him. I think having that outside lane in one and two was a bonus for us. Great race by Jimmie and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, hi to Rick, that was him on the phone I was talking to. He is excited to have a one-two battle like that
I CAN TELL THIS MEANS A LOT TO YOU. IS IT THE THIRD WIN, THE BONUS POINTS FOR THE CHASE, OR THE WAY IT ALL HAPPENED? “YES ( laughs) it’s just the timing. This race team is unbelievable right now. Those last two pit stops were as good as it can possibly get on pit road. The racecar today was as good of a race car today as you could have asked for. The stuff that we are doing Drive to End Hunger, text 50555, just all of our sponsors, Quaker State , DuPONT, Pepsi, Chevy, were having a blast out here right now. I’m just excited to go to the race track. It doesn’t matter where we go, our cars are competitive, were having a blast out there and I think we have more to come when this chase starts.
ON HIS RACE: “We used it up there in the end and I was slipping and sliding. The track really changed a lot after that rain delay. Our car was real, real tight and we had to free it up. I tell you what, that was a lot of fun racing with him (Jimmie Johnson). I was slipping and he was slipping. The throttle control was very tough there at the end. There were a couple of moments where I really thought he got us. But what an incredible victory for this Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. And I know we spoiled the Sprint Summer Showdown, so I didn’t mind sitting back there for a while waiting to get over here to Victory Lane because it was just an incredible day. This team is on a roll. I don’t care if it’s Sunday or Monday or Tuesday; the NASCAR fans coming out like this to support us and to have a race like that, man, that’s awesome. It feels awesome. Again, I’ve got to thank Drive to End Hunger and DuPont and Pepsi and all of our sponsors. We’re just so thankful and what an incredible day.”
YOU HAD YOUR HANDS FULL BUT AT THE END, JIMMIE JOHNSON WAS JUST AS SIDEWAYS AS YOU WERE TRYING TO HANG ON AND GET A RUN ON YOU “Yeah, when I saw him get real loose off of (Turn) 4, coming to take the white, I could breathe a little sigh of relief because I could kind of maintain down there in (Turns) 3 and 4. I just got so, so loose. And he was rolling a little bit better than me through the middle down in (Turns) 1 and 2. I could maintain the outside, but all he had to do was to get to my inside off of (Turn) 2 and it would have been hard to beat him back to the line because we just lost so much grip there. So, it gave me a little breathing room there and I was able to just be real smooth and easy with it through (Turns) 1 and 2, which wasn’t easy, and then just baby-it through 3 and 4. So he had one or two shots at me that I really thought we were done. I got so loose. But once he got to me and we were able to maintain, I said okay we’ve just got to fight him to the checkered flag.”
PEOPLE HAVE SAID THEY HAVE NOT SEEN YOU THIS CONFIDENT AND THIS AGGRESSIVE SINCE 2001, YOUR LAST CHAMPIONSHIP YEAR. DO YOU FEEL THIS IS THE YEAR FOR FIVE?
“I think this is turning out to be a great year. Alan Gustafson (crew chief) and all the engineers and all the guys that work so hard; the awesome pit crew, man we’re having a lot of fun right now. And when you can drive a race car that drives like that one, it makes me look like a hero but they’re the heroes in my mind.”
YOU ARE THIRD IN ALL-TIME WINS IN NASCAR RIGHT NOW WITH RICHARD PETTY AND DAVID PEARSON AND JEFF GORDON. “I totally forgot about that. I got so excited with the whole win and Jon Edwards (PR) didn’t do his job back there telling me I won 85. I can’t do anything without him. And I’ve got to say hi to Ingrid and Leo and Ella, Ella, I hope you had a good day at school today, baby; it was her first day. And I know how excited they are and I can’t wait to get home and see you guys. But 85, wow, that is unbelievable. I’m just blown away at the kind of day we had and the kind of year that we’re having. I just feel rejuvenated in such a big way. It’s because of this race team and the race cars I get to drive. 85 yeah! I can’t wait to get home and celebrate with these guys and my family. 85…wow!”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 2ND:
WHAT ABOUT THAT BATTLE WITH JEFF GORDON? "Man, that is what racing is all about. That was a lot of fun. I am grateful that I got to grow up racing off-road trucks and buggies because I was dead sideways those last probably 10 or 15 laps there trying to get by him. Just great hard racing. The run before I took off and I think burned my tires off the cars and he caught me and passed me and went on. So that run I tried not to run my tires off at the beginning. I was slowly catching him, but getting by him was a different thing. He was really strong all day long so I have him a ton of credit and his team. Happy to see a Hendrick car in victory lane. My Lowe's boys did an awesome job though. We just started off pretty bad and made some great adjustments on the car and made it very competitive and almost had a shot at winning this thing."
RIGHT NOW YOU ARE FIRST IN THE POINTS, 21 OVER KYLE BUSCH: SMILES AND LAUGHS "Yeh, we're just having a terrible year. So hopefully we can pick things up a little bit. (CONTINUES TO LAUGH AND SMILE)."
I SEE YOUR HANDS TREMBLING A LITTLE BIT. WAS IT AS EXCITING BEHIND THE WHEEL AS IT WAS FOR US WATCHING? “I’m so glad I grew up racing in the dirt (laughs). If I didn’t grow up racing around all those deserts and all those stadium tracks, I think I would have spun out four or five times there at the end. It was just a great effort for this Lowe’s team. We started off the race really bad and made some great adjustments on pit road and the car came to life. We got ourselves up there in the mix and had a little bit more speed on Jeff (Gordon) there in the long haul, but I just couldn’t get my Impala past his. So it was one of those deals. I’m very happy for Hendrick Motorsports and thankful that the fans stuck around some and the ones that watched at home. We’ll go on to the next one.”
IT’S NOT OFTEN WE SEE TWO DRIVERS BATTLING AS HARD AS YOU GUYS WERE FOR SO MANY LAPS. WHAT IS IT LIKE WHEN YOU’RE FOLLOWING HIM (JEFF GORDON)? WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND AS HE WAS JUMPING AROUND TRYING TO BLOCK WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO RUN? “Well, a little bit earlier, the run before, we were racing each other. He ran me down and I got a good feel for where he was fast and I felt like I may have driven the tires off the car trying to get a big lead on that last run. So, when Jeff took off there, I just took my time and hoped that he would run the tires off of his car and I could catch him. And it kind of worked out, but I couldn’t get by him in the end (laughs). So what a lot of fun. Really, to race that hard and to get out sideways at 180 mph lap after lap is a good time. I wish we could have gotten this Lowe’s Impala in Victory Lane but we’ll take second and go on to Richmond.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, FINISHED 3RD:
ON HIS RACE: “Man what a day, I’m really proud of Darian Grub (Crew Chief) and everybody. The Office Depot/Mobil One Chevy was a long day for sure. I am glad the weather stuck around, I want to thank all the fans that stuck around, we know the weather has been crap for you guys for the past two days and you guys stuck it out and we appreciate that.
““It was great to get Huckleberry Pets the “Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot” title today. I wish we could have gotten Kacie two more spots and won her a $1 million, but we did the best we could. We raced a lot with Greg today, so there was a race within a race most of the day.”
MAN, YOU WERE CHARGING IN THE END TO GET THAT THIRD PLACE. HOW DID YOU DO THAT? “It was just a really good Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy. I’m just really proud of these guys. It was a long day, for sure; and we battled a lot of adversity to get back up there. But I’m really proud. They say we gained eight and a half seconds on the leaders on the last run there. You look at this thing (the race car) and look at the front of it and look at how beat up it is. I’m very proud of these guys; they gave me a great race car.”
HOW BIG IS IT FROM A MOMENTUM STANDPOINT TO HAVE THE KIND OF DAY YOU’VE HAD AFTER WHAT YOU’VE BEEN THROUGH OVER THE COURSE OF THE LAST FEW WEEKS? “We looked at today as a day we could gain some momentum back. It’s big, especially going into a week where anything can happen next week. So I’m just proud of everybody at SHR and Hendrick chassis and engines and all the fans that have stood by us. We’ve been working hard at it and this organization never gives up. And we got Ryan (Newman) in today (clinched a spot in the Chase) and I’m really proud of him and his U.S. Army/Tornados/Haas-Automation Chevy. I’m really proud of those guys.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD MILITARY INTELLIGENCE/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET – FINISHED 19th:
TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY: “It was not a good day. We didn’t have a good car we worked on it a little bit and had a couple decent runs where we were competitive, but just fought the car all day long and just couldn’t make anything happen. We lost a little bit of ground (in the Chase standings) and it’s a little bit tighter going into Richmond but we still feel pretty good. But it doesn’t matter if we can’t figure out how to make the car run……it don’t matter where we are.”
TALK ABOUT RICHMOND. IT’S A PRETTY GOOD TRACK FOR YOU GUYS: “I mean we are 26 ahead of Brad (Keselowski) I think. With all the start-and-parks and stuff it makes it a little bit easier on us but we should be able to go in there and make that happen. Seems like we can finish in the top-20 pretty good but that isn’t good enough and I am not happy about that and not satisfied. We have to figure out what it is that we need to do better. This track itself, I will say, is an anomaly. It’s not like the other 1.5 tracks and it’s worn out, rough and you can’t run….I don’t think, the same stuff. You have to run a little bit different stuff to get the car to work more mechanically than you do aero-wise. And we just didn’t do a good job of that I don’t think.
“I am not sure about the points and I still think we are relatively comfortable and doable. You know Brad has been running great and the 14 is always stout so we will just try to go in there and run better, and do better and I am not really worried about it. I don’t have room to worry about it as bad as we have been running. We need to get our crap together and get to running good. Or it doesn’t matter where we are in the Chase and doesn’t matter if we are in or not.”
WAS THAT FINISH ABOUT WHAT YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULD DO FROM WHEN YOU STARTED? “Well, yeah. I don’t know if you guys watched the whole race, but we were a lap down there and we were the first car one lap down and we drove up to 15th spot. The car was good and then we loosened it up too much and I couldn’t drive it. Then we tightened it up too much and then we backed off a little bit and we were all over the place but obviously we have to do something man. We have two cars running really good, and we have two cars not running really good and we have to get four cars running good. That is the job we got, so we will try. I feel confident and you don’t stop trying until it’s over.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY RESERVE CHEVROLET, FINISHED 20th: CLINCHED A SPOT IN THE CHASE
“We’re not proud of our finish, but we’re proud of what we accomplished with that finish. I’ve just really got to thank U.S. Army, Tornados, and Haas-Automation and all the people that jumped on board this year. We’ve got 11 more races to go; a free one in Richmond, but that opportunity to get into the Chase is what we’ve been striving for all year. So I’m really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.”
LAST YEAR WHEN YOU DIDN’T MAKE THE CHASE, YOU SCORED MORE POINTS THAN ANYBODY OUT THERE, SO LOOKING FORWARD WITH RICHMOND NEXT, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? “I like Richmond. We’ve done really well at Richmond before and that’s a stepping stone for the next 10 and we can build a little more momentum after our 20th place finish today.”
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER CHEVROLET – SIDELINED IN ACCIDENT
TELL US WHAT HAPPENED “Oh, I was tight up off the corner and we fought tight the whole run. You can’t race around the jackass. You never can. Anybody in this sport knows what you’re up against when the No. 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) comes up. He dive-bombs the starts and bullies his way up in there and before you know it, he’s in the way and wrecking with somebody; and unfortunately I was the victim this week. It’s just a shame. We’re out here racing for a spot in the Chase. He’s out here racing for nothing. I’m tired of it. Everybody in the garage area fights him. He’s just an idiot.
"He (Juan Pablo Montoya) races everybody that way, that is why he sucks. You can't race that way in this sport, plain and simple and I'll call him out for it. I think that is how about everybody in the garage knows what they are up against anytime that 42 is around. He is like a pinball out there because he is a bully. There has got to be some give and take. You are out there racing for nothing. He dive bombs the restarts and then before you know it he's in the way and wrecking somebody. It is just frustrating. I knew what I was up against anytime you are racing against him. It doesn't help my situation."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE ABLE TO GET BACK OUT? “I don’t even care.”