Phoenix: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: During this period, you had not won since Chicago last July, other than the Earnhardt part of it which obviously was a big factor, was there something in your mind about the fact that it seems like you've had a lot of...

Continued from part 1

Q: During this period, you had not won since Chicago last July, other than the Earnhardt part of it which obviously was a big factor, was there something in your mind about the fact that it seems like you've had a lot of shots at winning during that period and didn't get the win, and was that bothering you at all? You won a lot of races over the years, you haven't had many long stretches like this without a win.

JEFF GORDON: Oh, yeah, it bothered the heck out of me. As far as I'm concerned every time we have a car capable of winning, every time Steve and those guys put me in position to win, we need to win. And I don't like giving up wins.

And you know, plus, in the last couple of years, I haven't had many opportunities to win, so I really didn't like giving them up.

But I've had more opportunities to win so far in, what, how many races are we in, seven races into the season? Eight? I've had more opportunities to win already in eight races than I've had the last two years.

So, you know, I'm not as frustrated this year as I have been maybe, you know, in past years, because I know that we're bringing awesome race cars. We've got a great team. Everything is clicking and we're going to be in position to win races.

But, you know, my job as a driver is to get that -- when the opportunity is there, it's my job to finish it off. And these guys count on me just like I count on them to help us get there. And you know, I want to do my part every single time. When I don't, it's frustrating. Last week, I was very upset with myself.

Q: You said you wanted to make sure people took things the right way with the flag. I guess who did you kind of go to to get their blessing that that would be all right, and secondly, this sets you up for maybe passing Earnhardt next week at Talladega; are you concerned about what the reaction might be there?

JEFF GORDON: I better carry a flag there, too. They might not throw things at me. I think I might just carry the flag around for the whole race. (Laughter).

Well, I mean, obviously, you know, John Edwards and I -- I can't remember who all talked about it. It went back and forth when it first -- when somebody first came to me, and I can't remember who it was and said, hey, you know, if you get to 76, would you like to do this. And at first I said no. You know, I don't want people to take it the wrong way. I respected him so much that I didn't want it to disrespect him in any way.

But the more we talked about it, the more that we thought, no, no, it would be honoring him and it would be a good thing. So I don't remember; we all talked about it last year. It hasn't been talked about more a long time, I can tell you that.

Q: Did you talk about it with Earnhardt Junior?

JEFF GORDON: No.

Q: Just among yourselves?

JEFF GORDON: Just among ourselves. You know, you don't want to say, "Hey, guys, we're carrying this flag so that when we win the next race, we're going to put it out the window, do you mind?"

I think they would be like, "Hey, make sure that Gordon doesn't win because he's got this flag ready to go." You know, I didn't think that we had to take it that far.

And you know what, I may be wrong and John Edwards might be able to answer a little bit better because I think he may have talked to a few people -- oh, Beave (ph) talked with Junior? So the guy that handed me the flag, Aaron, he had actually seen Junior out and mentioned it to him and he said, "No, I think that would be cool." So I forgot. I forgot that we had talked to him about that. I hadn't personally, though.

Q: A lot of people over the years, including I'm sure some of your fans and some of the Earnhardt fans, all wanted a fierce rivalry to develop between you and Senior, and now you and Junior. That never has really happened. In fact, you seem to have extremely good relationships with both. Has the sport missed something not having you racing head-to-head, side-to-side every week with those guys and a really hot rivalry developing from it?

JEFF GORDON: It would probably spice things up a little bit more if Junior and I didn't like one another and crashed one another a couple times.

But I think it spices things up no matter what when we're battling with him. There's certain guys, you know, that kind of have that kind of aura about them, that the fans go, oohh, I don't think these guys like one another or whatever they perceive, like say, Stewart or Junior or maybe Harvick or stuff like that.

As long as the fans get fired up and excited about what's going on out there on the track, you know, I saw it last week at Texas when Junior and I were battling, I could see the reaction from the fans. They were loving it. They love it whenever he takes a lead no matter who it's from.

I will say that Senior and I, we did have a rivalry on the racetrack. We loved to beat one another. We battled hard on the track and he certainly didn't mind shoving me around. You know, I just think that he was very good at not carrying that off the racetrack, and because of the way he treated me off the racetrack. Then I kind understood that you know, where the boundaries were and felt pretty fortunate. And I think most guys do that. Most guys keep what's on the racetrack on the racetrack and don't get wound up with it off the racetrack.

Junior and I, it's a totally different situation. You know, I can remember him racing a late model Young at North Wilkesboro and talking to him about coming up through the ranks and stuff. There's just never been any of that on the racetrack. We've hung out as friends before away from the racetrack.

And, yeah, we know the reaction that the fans have, but unless we're at a racetrack where both of us are running good, we're just -- we have a lot of respect on the racetrack as I did for his dad. You know, it kind of ends there.

Q: You have greatly sort of -- inaudible -- comparison -- it's not a credit to you -- inaudible. The way this season is going, do you think that's all put behind you?

STEVE LETARTE: Well, I think Chad and I just are different personalities. I think each team has their louder personality and more reserved personality. I think between Jimmie and Chad, Chad is definitely the more outspoken person; it's just his personality.

Between Jeff and I, it's just Jeff. It's the characteristics of our personalities, and I think that's why they complement each other so well. I said -- I've said this to quite a few people; if I was Jimmie Johnson's crew chief we wouldn't win near as many races as they have won. And I think if Chad was Jeff's crew chief, I don't think they would have won as many races as Chad has won with Jimmie.

I think that's where Mr. Hendrick comes in. He's a wonderful leader of pairing people up that he feels will blossom together as a group, and that's kind of the toughest part of the sport you is can't see the guy in the face. You have to do everything over the radio, which makes it very, very difficult to communicate.

Chad and I are great friends. We worked together in 1995 when we won the championship with Jeff. We're just different people. There's really no comparing us. I'm excited when they win, I'm happy for them because as much as everyone made such a big deal about setups at Martinsville, what the media doesn't understand is that's a 38-race -- that's a 38-race system. 38 weeks a year, Chad and I will sit in one another's motor homes and go through each other's notes and each other's setups piece-by-piece.

There's no stone unturned between the two of us. And when we start the race, I mean, he knows I want to beat him as bad as the other 41 other guys out there. But from Monday to Saturday and even Sunday morning, you know, it's completely open book.

Q: Last year, actually the last two years, you've kind of talked about how if you never got the fifth championship, let alone seven, you were okay with that. Do you maybe want to start reconsidering after the way you've been going this year so far?

JEFF GORDON: I never said I didn't want it. I just said my career as far as stats are concerned, I never thought I would get one Cup win. So I'm way ahead of the game. You know, anything from this point on is just bonus.

But I think that may have been mistaken -- and I see that a lot, that people might take that as not being driven enough to want it more and not -- engine fires up, I get in that car, there's nobody more driven than me. There's nobody that wants it more. And when the car is right for my driving style, you know, we're going to get the most out of it.

And that's what Steve is bringing to the table right now. The thing I love about what he's doing is he's recognizing setups that it could be from Jimmie, it could be from Kyle, it could be from Casey Mears, whoever, that he knows what works for me and what doesn't work. He's in a great position. He's seen two other, you know, really good crew chiefs, greats in this sport work with me, side-by-side. And he's seen those guys, you know, what worked and what didn't work, and he's able to learn from that. And he knows me better than probably anybody because he's been there listening for so long with what goes on.

You know, right now, because of the type of race cars that we've got coming to the racetrack, it's got me extremely fired up and I've always -- I've always wanted to get that next championship. But it's just not what I use for motivation. I go week-to-week, and lap-to-lap. I'll probably always do that. I know that we've got what it takes to do it this year. I just hope we can keep this going with what we've got right now because it's awesome.

Q: Tony Stewart (spoke about) the unbelievable pressure to win and when I asked, where did the pressure come from, he said "from ourselves." Now, this is your first win this year, either you're not feeling the same pressure or you're covering it so?

JEFF GORDON: I won, Claire. (Laughter).

Q: So you're happier now, but have you been under that kind of pressure, that unbelievable stress he said, with the Car of Tomorrow, the testing?

JEFF GORDON: Like I said, Tony, you know, he has his personality and I have mine. We have different personalities.

It's just how you handle things and how you show things. You know, last -- I think I just hide my emotions a lot more. You know, when I'm frustrated, when I'm upset, I try to contain that or keep that for myself privately or keep it with the people I'm close to.

Yeah, I've been frustrated and yeah, I've felt the pressure. But again -- well, we don't -- just like Tony, Tony is not getting pressure from his sponsors; he's not getting pressure from Job Gibbs. He knows they want him to win. They want you to win every race, and the team as well. He's a great driver. He knows he's capable of winning and he wants to take advantage of every opportunity that he get to win, just like, you know, I do.

And so we just have different ways of showing it, that's all. But I think that we've -- I carry that pressure, as well. I just might have a little bit -- a little bit taller boiling point. I think for me to crack and really go out and say things that I wish I hadn't said, I think it takes a little bit more. He's got a short fuse; I've got a long fuse. They have their pluses and minuses.

Q: How tough would Denny had been to catch had he not gotten that penalty?

JEFF GORDON: He would have been strong. He would have been strong. I can't believe -- talk about Harvick. Harvick got out there and he came from way back and he was incredible. I don't know, for some reason, when he got into second, his car just wasn't as good and he fell back. But Denny -- you know, between Denny, he and Tony, man, they had strong race cars. So yeah could have been tough.

Q: Finally what do you miss the most?

JEFF GORDON: Had I not hit the wall last week, it would have been tough for Kenseth and Burton, too.

Q: What finally, what do you miss the most about Dale Earnhardt?

JEFF GORDON: The things that bug me the most about just him running into you for no reason, coming up.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Casey Mears , John Edwards