Part 2 of 2 JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVY MONTE CARLO (winner; first win of season): NO ONE TALKED ABOUT AERO PUSH HERE THIS WEEK: "It's not down the straightaways, it's just in the corners. It's everywhere. You could feel it tonight.
Part 2 of 2
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVY MONTE CARLO (winner; first win of season):
NO ONE TALKED ABOUT AERO PUSH HERE THIS WEEK:
"It's not down the straightaways, it's just in the corners. It's everywhere. You could feel it tonight. That's why the passing was so hard to do. We've got a harder tire yet we're going through the corners faster than we ever have. Anytime you increase the corner speeds you're going to increase the demands of the aerodynamics. It's everywhere."
THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT LIGHTING UP DARLINGTON. COULD YOU STAND TWO OF SE THENIGHT RACES BACK TO BACK?
"Absolutely. I love the night races. I love coming in on a Friday, and qualifying, practice and getting these guys a day at home on a weekend, it's so nice. These guys work so hard. I've always liked races at night, ever since I was racing quarter midgets. I'm all for it. It's important to make sure they do the proper lighting and do it right, because Darlington is a tricky place during the day and you want to make sure there are no shadows. I think it would be a positive in many ways for them. I think it would be a good investment."
OTHER DRIVERS HAVE GONE THROUGH WINLESS STREAKS. DOES THIS WIN GIVE YOU A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON WINNING?
"I had one prior to tonight. I don't know if I've ever taken them for granted. I can tell you when you win six, eight, 10 races in a season, it's not the same. It's a different feeling. When you go as long as we've gone without a win and you realize just how hard it is and how hard you work for them, and just how everything's got to fall in place to get there, you look back and go, How in the world did we win 58 races? When it's meant to be, it's meant to be. And tonight it was meant to be for us. We certainly are appreciative to be there and hope someday to get that opportunity to get back there some weekend."
HOW SURPRISED WERE YOU WHEN KYLE PETTY RAN INTO YOU IN TURN 1? AND DID YOU THINK IT WAS YOUR NIGHT WHEN YOU MISSED THAT BIG WRECK?
"Talking about Kyle. You know what happened was we came up to lap Kyle and in the driver's meeting they asked everybody to go high, lapped cars to go high and lead lap cars to go low. It's one thing if you just stay in your groove and stay in your line. But all of a sudden he moved down to the bottom to force everybody to go to the outside and I just thought that was uncalled for. It made it extremely difficult to pass him. I almost got past because I had to pass him on the outside. I went to the inside one time and he ran me down low. That's not like Kyle. I love Kyle and I love racing with him, but if a guy works with me I'm going to work with him. When it came time to give him his lap back I guess he was just expecting me to move over. I wasn't going to do that. I don't agree with the whole giving laps back anyway. But if a guy works with me I'm certainly going to work with him. After that happened, I said, All right, if he cuts me a break on the restart I'll help him get his lap back. And I tried to; it just didn't work out."
"It looked to me like he was trying to pass me. I eased up too. You never know with Rusty. That whole wreck happened on the front straightaway and he passed the cars. I didn't know what he was doing. I was trying to let up and then I saw him coming and so I had to get back on the gas. I thought Kyle still got his lap back, but I guess he didn't. I was also trying to give Jimmie his lap back right then. I had every intention to try to make it happen."
HOW MUCH DOES THIS MEAN TO FINALLY WIN THIS NIGHT RACE?
"Just like the poll that I saw the other day. What races does everybody want to go to? It's overwhelming that people want to come to the night race at Bristol. Everywhere I go you hear people talk about Man, either they've been to it and said how exciting it was or they hoped that one day they got to come here. Just to walk out and see this place, you're just in awe when you see that many people sitting in the grandstands around a bullring half-mile race track like this. It's very special. This guy sitting next to me right here (crew chief Robbie Loomis), he's been telling me ever since he came to Hendrick Motorsports, Man, I'd love to get me one of them big Bristol trophies. We're pretty excited about finally getting him that one. He got me a night race, what did we get for you, Rick (Hendrick, team owner)? All in one. I didn't tear that thing up too bad, did I?"
HOW DO YOU KEEP THE TEAM FOCUSED? YOU WERE SO CONFIDENT COMING HERE?
"The confidence, that's one thing I felt would be so quick to lose it, but it takes so long to gain confidence. Jeff has really been the one all year that's been the calmer one that calms the waters, soothes us. Whether it would be a bad practice or a bad race, he said, Hey, we've been on this win(less) streak and everybody is freaking out, I was freaking out. He said, Hey, we sat down in December. We didn't talk about winning races. We talked about winning the championship and winning rookie of the year. He kept us looking at that goal of what we were working towards and that kind of calmed us for a little bit."
THERE WAS A NOTE?
"The note had to do with...Everyone knows that I'm real tight with the Pettys; I love the Pettys to death. And they didn't understand why we weren't giving them the lap back. I'd go over there tomorrow and mow their grass if they called me to help make up for it. They sent a note back, saying they understood, he's trying to protect his lead. That's just racing."
ON THE CONFIDENCE?
"You got to tell yourself that, you got to believe. We had a great car in the last race and actually when Jeff and I were in the lounge after the Michigan race he scared me to death because he said the last time at Bristol we sat on the pole, we led laps. If we don't go up there and crush them this time we're in trouble. And I knew he was going to be the driver, so I knew I was the one that was in trouble."
YOU ALSO CAME HERE WITHOUT CONCERN ABOUT AERODYNAMICS. DID THAT HELP YOUR CONFIDENCE? DOES THE SAME THING APPLY IN DARLINGTON?
"Darlington is a big race track. The thing we have going for us there is that track is so wore out that the mechanical grip became such a big important part of it. After you've run 10 laps on tires then really the mechanical part takes over. Handling is the key at all these race tracks. The aero tight is increasingly harder and harder to deal with. Even though it wasn't a good outcome at the Michigan race we learned a lot of things with that nosekick and I think going into Darlington we'll have a little head-start there."
JEFF GORDON: "I think one of the key things for us this weekend was qualifying and we've got to qualify better. Darlington's a place that we qualify good at. I think we can overcome some of the aerodynamic thing that we have been dealing with if we qualify well there. We're going to be working real hard on Friday to get a good starting position, not that we're not working hard everywhere. I think it just proved to us this weekend how important it is."
WHERE WAS YOUR CONFIDENCE LACKING?
"I've never really lost confidence that I felt like what I was looking for and what I needed as a feel that I could win. Maybe it was just a little more pep in my step, just a little added confidence. I don't think it's as much as driving and the team, it's just whether or not it's all supposed to happen and meant to happen. You go through times when you work just as hard and doing everything the same and it's just not happening. You just start to question a lot of things. My confidence in my driving I don't think that I ever really questions that. I think it's just going to put a smile on my face. Maybe that's all that I needed."
WAS THIS TYPICAL JEFF?
"I think any of you that's watched Jeff over the years has been impressed during different races how he worked traffic or found the hole or be patient or not race Junior early on in the race, but tonight was a classic Jeff Gordon race. The car was a little tight in the center at a point where he didn't want to overreact and adjust it. He just wanted to deal with what he had. He was thinking about 10 and 15 and 20 laps ahead of where we were in the race. It was as textbook Jeff Gordon race as I've seen in all the years we've been together. The car was perfect, maybe not perfect. It was awfully good. Robbie gave him and awful good car. It was just the moon was right and he was right tonight."
Winning team press conference, part I