Phoenix: 2nd and 3rd finishers press conference

Phoenix International Raceway April 10, 2010 An interview with: JEFF GORDON - 2nd place finisher JIMMIE JOHNSON - 3rd place finisher THE MODERATOR: We're joined in the Infield Media Center by tonight's 2nd place finisher, driver of the No....

Phoenix International Raceway
April 10, 2010

An interview with:
JEFF GORDON - 2nd place finisher
JIMMIE JOHNSON - 3rd place finisher

THE MODERATOR: We're joined in the Infield Media Center by tonight's 2nd place finisher, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon.

Jeff, tell us about your run.

JEFF GORDON: Oh, man, it was a hard-fought race for us, for sure. I guess I'm glad that it was a longer race. That definitely paid off for us. What I was real happy with for our team was that we made gains as the race went on and got our car better, got ourselves in position, and those are the things that you look at as a race team and what you're going to need to battle for more wins in this championship.

And I'm real proud of that. And Steve's made two great calls in the pits, and I couldn't get it done for them the last two. So if he keeps doing that, we're going to get ourselves enough experience to get some of these wins.

But I just spun the tires on that last restart. And Ryan got a really good one. We both, I thought, kind of spun the tires and so I wasn't too worried, but, man, all of a sudden he shot forward. I was like, oh, man, I'm in trouble here.

And I thought I might be able to get to his quarter panel off of 2, but it was just too late over there and he was making a run up towards the wall, and so I got in behind him and tried to make a run at him. But came up short.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q: What did you say to Ryan on Victory Lane?

JEFF GORDON: Just congratulated him. It's been a long time since he's won. And I know that meant a lot to him and that team. We have a relationship with Stewart-Haas Racing. So it's good to see those guys win. And he told me it was a great restart. And he said, yeah, I finally got a good one.

Q: What did the extra length of the race, including the daytime, when the track was a little hotter, do to set up for you guys? What did you have to change setup-wise with that?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, we really -- you know, all you can do is tune your car based on practice and past history and your notes. This was a whole different package of a car that we brought here.

We were trying some different things, and so it was kind of experimental for us. We tested this car or similar car to this over at Charlotte and thought we might like it here. And so we brought it here. And even through practice on Friday we struggled with it. And it's just a different animal.

And it took me a little while to understand how it drives. It just seems to be more finicky, but yet we gained on it all weekend. So we tuned the car for the daytime, because that's all we have to really go on, and knowing that we're going to make adjustments as the track cools down. And you usually expect the track to get tighter.

And it did in a way. But, really, it didn't change a whole lot in my opinion. I was real loose getting into the corners early in the day or early in the race. And that seemed to go away. But my loose-off, it never went away. And we fought a little bit, tight in the middle also throughout the whole race, so we only adjusted based on what the car was doing.

Q: Jeff, four tires, two tires thing, you've seen it yourself a couple times this year whether it was right, whether it was wrong. Kyle takes four there, drops all the way back to 8th. Were you surprised that they elected to take four tires?

JEFF GORDON: I really like the kind of calls that Steve Letarte makes. He's gutsy. He's not afraid to take chances. And they've paid off for us, I'd say, more times than not.

And at Martinsville it was the right call, and I still feel like we should have won that race. I felt like it was the right call tonight. I just didn't get a good restart.

And, you know, it was a tough -- in my opinion, sitting in the car, going down the back straightaway, before we were coming to Pit Road or whether we were going to come to Pit Road, I would not have wanted to make that call. Because I knew my tires were really worn out. And if anybody came in and got tires were going to get stomped. With the double file restart, it changes things.

When he called two tires, I thought that was -- I thought that sounded good to me. When we came out first I thought it sounded even better when I looked in my mirror and saw a lot of other guys on two tires. So and my car drove real good. So I felt like it was a great call.

THE MODERATOR: We'll also welcome in tonight's 3rd place finisher, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson.

Jimmie, talk about your run.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: We had a decent night all night long. Worked our way up through the pack. Got to the lead, held on to the lead for a long time. As the sun went down and stayed down the temperature kept dropping. We got a little behind on our adjustments. Definitely not bad, but the 18 came to life and was the strongest car this last maybe two runs, I guess it was.

So we were just chasing him and trying to work on our stuff and make it better. I was excited to see the caution come out because it was an opportunity to win. I decided -- I made the call for four tires. It's the first time that I can remember in a long time that I actually said what I wanted for a pit stop, with the way Martinsville played out and Bristol and last night's race. I knew with the green-white checkered there weren't a lot of laps, but I felt we might get a caution with everybody racing so hard.

So I made the call for four and made the most of it. We got from 7th to 3rd and just did what we could. So not a bad night at all. Excited to see us stretch out the points a little bit and get another top 5 finish here.

Q: Jeff, as you mentioned, you're so close to Victory Lane, but you just haven't been quite able to close the deal. Would you describe your emotions as more frustrated or optimistic with that situation?

JEFF GORDON: Tonight I'm frustrated because I spun the tires on the restart. I felt like we really had ourselves in the right position to win the race and so I'm frustrated right now with that. But I'm really excited the fact that our team I feel like has really improved this year and I like how we get stronger as the race goes on. That's something that we haven't had for a while.

And we're up in the points and we're knocking on the door for wins. I mean, you can't ask for a whole lot more than that. And if you do that enough times, you're going to get yourself to Victory Lane. So that's what I'm excited about right now. And I think we have a lot to look forward to as the season goes on.

Q: You seemed pretty feisty on the radio, especially with the exchange with the 17 car. And that's really a good thing. At Las Vegas, you just didn't seem mad enough at losing that race. And this, it seems to be building for you and building for you. Going to a track like Texas next week, where you're the defending champ, I mean, can you be more optimistic going into a race?

JEFF GORDON: I was mad at Vegas, but two tires versus four tires and Jimmie Johnson driving four tires, I had plenty of time to think about it while that race was winding down, going, We just messed up here.

And so, you know, with the last couple I felt like they were ours to lose, and we lost it. So those are frustrating. But, you know, I mean, I think we have a lot of positives that are happening right now. And I certainly feel like the fight is there in the whole team. And I feel like we're fired up about this season and the way things are going and the way our cars are running.

And I feel like we're only going to get better. With the 17, that's -- I don't know if that's the way the whole year is going to go or if that's just -- just take this for Martinsville, but I really never made too many comments. I kind of figured that was going to happen. He ran in the back of me earlier in the race. And I was like, okay. And then he made sure that it took me about 30 laps to pass him. And I tried to race him clean.

So I don't have to go call him after the race again, which that worked out. But it definitely -- it definitely took a lot of time off the clock for us as we were trying to progress forward at that time.

Q: Jimmie, seems in other sports, golf, whatever, the idea of domination by a player or team seems to be celebrated maybe a little more than it does in NASCAR. Do you think that's the case? Do you think people want to see more different winners?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think our fans are extremely passionate. And their driver, their team, their manufacturer, if it's a product on the car, they want their team or position or whoever it is to win and the hell with everyone else and they're pretty vocal about that.

So I think golf, there's a much different environment and the way they interact. It's just different. So I guess it all falls into that. And I watched this guy be hated for a long time, and I just wish I could be that guy and I've been very fortunate to end up there.

JEFF GORDON: Congratulations (laughter).

Q: Jeff, it seems that crew chief decisions on Pit Road, particularly crew chiefs, the decisions they're having to make are becoming increasingly more important. Would you agree with that assessment that maybe crew chiefs' importance has maybe increased or maybe never been greater? I don't know.

JEFF GORDON: Oh, absolutely. And I think that it's a product of track position, being so much more critical. These cars, I mean, they have a whole grid that sits on these cars. You really can't do a whole lot to make one car, you know, dramatically faster. You'll see guys hit their setup and be a lot faster or a guy on two tires versus four tires.

But when you put everybody out there on the same tires, track position -- I mean, tonight I had a good car. I couldn't pass anybody. It took me -- I mean that was the thing that impressed me about Jimmie as he came up through there. He could get by guys. I had a good car I just could not pass guys, and I was just real loose getting in and getting off. And to me that makes the role of the crew chief and those calls that much more important.

And we've seen that in all kinds of motorsports. As aerodynamics start to play a bigger role and we understand aerodynamics more and more all the time or get confused by it more and more all the time.

It seems like that track position seems to be so crucial. That means what the crew chief does to maintain the track position is crucial.

Q: Both Jeff and Jimmie, could you talk a little bit about this is the second race with the spoiler. Martinsville was such a short track. How did it make the car drive, and is it going to change your impressions going into Texas?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: From my standpoint, I feel that the cars drove very similar to the way that I have in the past. I didn't even think about wing or spoiler on the back of the car throughout the race. It seemed the same.

The final test will be in Texas. And even to Talladega. There's some things with this spoiler that should help the car stay on the ground and change the draft a bit at Talladega. So we have a nice progression in tracks to really evaluate what's going on. But so far I think it's going well and it's driving a lot like it did before.

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I would say the same thing. I didn't really notice a big difference, which I think is a good thing. I think that if we had this big drastic change, you know, I think that that would really throw everybody into a tailspin.

I think the fact that it's pretty much the same, drives the same but looks better -- I think it looks better -- and the fans seem to want it and like it, I think it's still a win-win for everybody.

But, like Jimmie said, the real test is going to be when we get on the mile-and-a-halves and see what it's like when you're in traffic behind other cars. I don't think the cars will drive a lot different by themselves just in traffic there might be some differences there.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Thank you for your time.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing