JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DuPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 2nd: YOU CAUGHT UP TO ROBBY, BUT IT WAS DIFFERENT STORY ONCE YOU GOT THERE. "Yeah, this is a difficult track to pass on, there's no doubt about that. He wasn't very good compared to...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DuPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: Finished 2nd:
YOU CAUGHT UP TO ROBBY, BUT IT WAS DIFFERENT STORY ONCE YOU GOT THERE.
"Yeah, this is a difficult track to pass on, there's no doubt about that. He wasn't very good compared to us, but he was good in the right places. Where he was the best was coming off Turn 6 going into Turn 7 and then coming off 10 and going into 11. If you can't get a run on a guy there, if you just drive off the track, you're not going to pass him. It's frustrating, because I knew we had a much better car, and I was working hard to get by him, but I gave it everything I had. I ran Robby down, and I came close to making a move on him, and I just saw kind of what he was doing, how he was driving. I said to myself, 'we've got a points battle on the line here. If I get a really clean shot at him, I'll go for it, but if not, it wasn't going to be worth risking it.' I ran as hard as I could to get a run on him, but it just never really materialized. One time I got to the outside of him and thought I had him, but I just couldn't get to the outside in the turn."
WHEN YOU PASSED RUSTY WALLACE, WHAT WAS GOING THROUH YOUR MIND?
"That was a good place to be in, obviously. I didn't know how strong Robby was. I ran him down right away, and I said, 'aw, man, we've got this.' He was all over the place and he finally calmed down and stopped watching his mirror, and he started being smooth enough for me not to really be able to get by him. I got all over him trying to get him to make a mistake, and I saw Kevin come into third place. I started backing off a little bit to cool things down in case Kevin caught us. I wanted to have something hopefully for Robby and Kevin. I was real proud of Kevin. I saw him drive a lot today and he did a great job, made very few mistakes. He was an awesome road racer today. I thought he had the car. When he got by Robby, that was a pretty bold move right there. I thought that he was going to be the guy to beat. If Robby was as fast under green as he did under caution that one time, he'd win a lot of these things."
[IN ANSWER TO A QUESTION ASKED OF HARVICK CONCERNING GORDON'S PASS UNDER YELLOW ON LAP 71]
"That's a bunch of crap right there. Anybody who races back under caution like that...I don't know where his mind is. He [Robby Gordon] did a great job. He won the race fair and square today, except for that move right there. I don't care if they call it a gentlemen's agreement or not, what he did, especially to his teammate, is absolutely ridiculous. If he can be proud and satisfied with himself to go out there and do what he did today, and he's sitting over there in Victory Lane because he knows he passed his teammate under caution, then by all means have it."
YOU MENTIONED YOU HAD ONE SHOT AT ROBBY. WHERE AND WHEN WAS THAT?
"When I got the outside of him going into Turn 11. It looked like he [R. Gordon] kind of locked the brakes up there. I had a run anyway, and I knew he was going to block the inside and so I just tried to get to the outside. I got the outside really, really good and he started slipping the tires and I just missed getting to outside of him. If I could have gotten position on him down that part of the straightaway I think we could have had it. It would have been a heck of a battle or a heck of a wreck."
WAS THAT THE ONLY TIME YOU HAD A SHOT TO THE OUTSIDE?
"He was good off 10 and he was good off whatever that turn is where we are all over the curb and going into 7. He was good in those two areas, the only two braking or passing areas that there are. Other than that, I ate him up pretty much everywhere. You couldn't get underneath him there. It's hard to outbrake Robby, he was driving in there and locking the brakes up all the time. He did exactly what he needed to do to win that race."
WHEN ROBBY BRUSHED THAT STYROFOAM BLOCK OUT THERE, DID THAT CAUSE YOU TO BREAK CONCENTRATION?
"No. I knew that was nothing. You can clip those things all the time and they crumple away pretty good. Other than breaking my concentration a little bit, it was nothing. He ran into the dirt one time and locked up the inside tire one time, and those were the things I was trying to capitalize on. When the tires are that old, it's hard to get that aggressive."
WHY IS IT THAT THE ROAD RACERS WHO COME IN ARE NEVER THERE AT THE END?
"I don't know what happened to Ron Fellows today, but I thought he was going to be the guy to beat when he got that lead. His car looked good. All I do know is one time that he got out of synch with the pit stops. The rest of us came in before that caution came out and we were sitting perfect. He was way in the back because he came in under caution. I never saw him again, so I don't know what happened, but prior to that he was the guy."
WAS WHAT ROBBY DID WORSE CONSIDERING THE DISCUSSION YOU HAD THIS MORNING IN THE DRIVER'S MEETING?
"That was totally not the same situation. What that [discussion] was, was a waving caution on one corner if there's debris or something on the track where it's not a full-course caution, you can pass if you happen to be making a move on a guy and you complete it through that area. In most road-racing situations, you aren't allowed to do that, but NASCAR said today it wasn't that big a deal. But that's not what happened. I saw what happened. I might not have been right behind him, but I saw what happened because he about did it the caution before that. What happened was, the full-course caution came out and just like any other weekend--just because it's a road course doesn't make it any different--we maintain our position and work our way back to the caution. You don't know what's on the track. There's a caution for some reason. What I saw was Robby became an animal as soon as that caution came out because he thought that was his one golden opportunity to get by him. He was all over the place on Kevin, and I'm sure Kevin was looking in his mirrors wondering, 'what the heck is going on here?' I don't know how he actually got by him, but he obviously got on the inside of him going into Turn 11. That's just unheard of, I'm telling you. It doesn't surprise me, but it's unheard of in our sport. You rarely ever see that unless it's coming down to the checkered flag or the white flag or with five to go, but not at that point in the race."
CONSIDERING WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR HERE, HOW SATISFYING IS IT FOR YOU TO FINISH SECOND?
"I'm real happy to finish second. We needed a strong run here. I'm not saying this because I didn't win the race, but I feel more for Kevin than anything else. I'm very pleased with our run today, our whole effort. To come out of here with a gain in the points and a strong finish like that, it was exactly what we were hoping for. With these road courses, anything in the top five you have to be happy with. We got a whole lot more than that today."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT PASSING YOUR TEAMMATE UNDER THE YELLOW?
"To me, that makes it even worse. If me and my teammate were racing out there and he raced me harder getting back to the caution than he did under green and he actually passed me, I tell you what, we'd have a little discussion somewhere. That said, I should probably shut up and not say anything, but I could not believe it when I saw it. I said to my crew on the caution before that, 'can you believe he's trying to pass his teammate under caution?' Then the next time, I saw where he beat him back to the caution, and I said, 'you've got to be kidding me! Did he really pass...' After that, I was like, 'watch out for these two ' You never knew what was going to happen. But that's really what won him the race."
WHAT IS THE RACING PROTOCOL HERE?
"That's the thing here. There are no rules. This has nothing to do with a rule book or black and white or anything like that. What he did can be done and it is and he's sitting in Victory Lane. Give him that. But I'll tell you what, there's not going to be too many guys who are going to have much respect for him. It doesn't matter who it is, you don't do that. You don't pass the guy under caution and then tell NASCAR that's something any different. What this does is set a precedent. The reason we don't race back to the caution is for safety reasons. NASCAR says, 'we're not saying you can't do it, but don't put it in our hands to have to make that call.' That's the gentlemen's agreement. It has nothing to do with letting guys back on the lead lap. If you look at what happened in Texas, I passed Matt Kenseth because guys were trying to get their lap back. If you remember, I let him go right back by me. I didn't want to pass Matt Kenseth, I just didn't want certain people to get their laps back. From what I saw today, that didn't have anything to do with it."
WHAT IS YOUR FEELING ON THE NAME OF THE SERIES CHANGING FROM WINSTON CUP TO NEXTEL CUP?
"We're really proud of where the sport has come to and we give a lot of credit to Winston and R.J. Reynolds, but I think if you look at the way the sport is growing and moving forward and the markets we're moving into, the lack of limitations that a company like Nextel has versus Winston, I think is awesome. I think everyone is excited. It's kind of a wait-and-see thing, but for the most part everybody is pretty happy and excited about it. We're going to miss R.J. Reynolds a lot, but I think great things are coming and we're certainly excited about that."