Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson earn 2nd and 5th place finishes.
FT. WORTH, Texas – Chevrolet swept both the NASCAR Sprit Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series poles this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) and also earned the victory in the Nationwide Series race; but fell just shy of making it a weekend sweep.
The seventh round of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at the 1.5-mile TMS was filled with action. Steady rainfall postponed the start of the Duck Commander 500 from Sunday afternoon to Monday morning, and the 43-field of starters endured ever-changing track conditions throughout the 334-lap race. Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and his No. 24 Axalta/Texas A&M School of Engineering Chevrolet SS team proved they knew how to adapt.
Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson continues to impress. After a second-place finish at Auto Club Speedway just a few weeks ago, the driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS battled throughout the race to earn a fifth place finishing spot.
Paul Menard, No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet SS and pole sitter Tony Stewart, No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS rounded out the top 10 for Team Chevy by finishing ninth and 10th, respectively.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson both had disappointing days in their Chevrolet SS race cars. On lap 12 Earnhardt, Jr. clipped the soggy infield grass. The slight contact resulted in a hard crash for the driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS.
Johnson was running behind his teammate at the time of the crash and as a result his No. 48 Lowe’s ‘Spring is Calling’ Chevrolet SS was pelted with debris resulting in windshield and left front damage. Problems continued as a few laps later with a tire issue. Despite the rough afternoon, Johnson’s team salvaged a 25th-place finish.
Joey Logano (Ford) was the race winner, Kyle Busch (Toyota) was third and Brian Vickers (Toyota) was fourth to round out the top-five.
The series travels to Darlington Raceway for racing under the lights Saturday April 12th.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS:
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA/TEXAS A&M SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 2ND
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED FIFTH (TOP FINISHING ROOKIE)
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by today's second‑place finisher, Jeff Gordon. Ninth career top‑five finish at Texas Motor Speedway. You gambled, took two tires at the end. Talk about the strategy.
JEFF GORDON: It was a great call. I think Allen learned a lot in California when we took four. We felt like that didn't go so well for us. I mean, I think coming in sixth, you're in that position that you can gamble. You're not going to win it with four; you're not going to win it with none. I think that was a good call.
I feel very fortunate to finish second. Joey was the class of the field there the second half of the race. I knew it was going to be hard to hold those guys off. I got a pretty good restart, so I was happy about that. Got through one and two. I was shocked I was leading off of two, to be honest. I wish I would have run a little bit higher down three and four. I'm sure Joey was going to go wherever I didn't. Probably would have been a little bit better off on the top.
Then he crossed over and got into the back of me pretty good. At that point I was just thinking, I just want to finish. Looked out my mirror, those guys were racing hard behind me. A great second‑place finish for me.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by today's top finishing rookie, Kyle Larson, who finished fifth. This is your second start at Texas Motor Speedway. Talk about your run and then at the finish the different strategies playing out.
KYLE LARSON: We were really good today. Pretty much good from the start. Our Target Chevy was average on a short run, but long runs I thought we probably had the best car. Just kept sticking with it, got it better and better each run. Put ourselves in position there on that last restart to get a good finish.
Happy we didn't lose any spots. A little bit disappointed we didn't gain any because we were on four fresh tires. The 24 and 55 had two and beat us. All in all, a pretty good day. Going on to Darlington, a track I really like, and try to do even better.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Jeff, I don't know if you know, there were some odd occurrences earlier in the race from a jet dryer harming some cars, two of your teammates having some misfortune. Were you conscious of that?
JEFF GORDON: That was odd. When we left pit road at the beginning of the race, we drove by the two jet dryers, casually going by it. The last one about blew all of us over. I mean, I thought it damaged my car, as well. It got my attention. When I heard that the two had trouble, I told my guys, I'm not surprised. I thought it about tore the flap off of mine or pushed in the right side. I was concerned.
We all started avoiding that one. I told them to mark that one, let us know if that one was on the track from that point forward. I'm not sure what's more odd, if that happened or NASCAR allowed those guys to repair that thing. Had a piece of concrete fly through my car once at Martinsville. I don't ever remember them letting me repair the car.
I hate that happened with Junior and that Jimmie got caught up with that. I'm not sure, I haven't spoken with either one of those guys to know what happened there.
Q. Jeff, you were joking a couple weeks ago about your restarts being weaker of late. Can you take some solace in the fact that that restart was pretty good, it was more about tires?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, no, I was very happy with it. I mean, it's something that we're focused on. I'm focused on trying to do a better job. California didn't go so well. But I feel all year long our restarts have been really good other than that.
Some of it's in the car, some of it's in the setup, but most of it's on me. Today on that particular one, it was just all about not spinning the tires too much. So I tried to carry a little bit more speed to the line because I knew that those guys had an advantage with the newer tires. Got a pretty good start.
Like I said, I was surprised we weren't four‑wide going into one because it was just so easy with those old left sides to spin the rears.
Q. Jeff and Kyle, the guy on the end said he's excited to go to Darlington next week. Do you share that feeling with him? Have you talked to him about this track at all?
JEFF GORDON: That tells you what kind of talent he has, when a guy looks forward to going to Darlington, rim rides up on the top. Joey is not young. He's young. Joey is like a veteran now compared to this guy.
Yeah, I mean, I think the top guys in the sport, whether it's when they first come in or still today, they look at Darlington as a challenging racetrack, but one they look forward to because of the skills it takes to run good there, run up against the wall. I'm sure this Kyle would say the same thing. I'm not surprised, no.
Q. Kyle Larson, did you answer a question about this being like California there at the end?
KYLE LARSON: I didn't think it was quite as wild on that last restart as it was at California just probably because this track isn't quite as wide as Fontana. There down the backstretch with Kyle and Biffle, the 55, we all had a good run there. I helped Kyle kind of get past the 16 a little bit. I had to drag race 55 back to the line. He edged me out there.
It was exciting, I thought. Like I said, not quite as crazy as California, but still green‑white‑checkered’s are still pretty wild.
Q. I was listening to you on the scanner. I thought it was interesting that your crew chief was asking you at the end of the race, are you having fun? You were like, ‘Yeah, I'm having fun that is what this is all about.’ Talk about how much you're enjoying this. Do you feel like you're on the verge now of getting your first win?
KYLE LARSON: I think so. I feel like we've been a top‑10 car most races. We were good at Bristol, good at Fontana, good here. I think if we just keep keeping ourselves in contention, things will work out late in the races or we might have a dominating car one day and get our first win.
I feel like right now it could come at a mile‑and‑a‑half or a little bit bigger track. Hopefully that comes soon because there's a lot on the schedule.
Q. Jeff, there's still 19 more chances to get the win in the regular season. Is all the pressure very small rising or is it too early to look at that?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, the pressure's always there to win. You always want to win. Winning benefits you whether it's this points system or any other points system. Winning is the ultimate. That's what we are all out there to do. It's important to be consistent because that helps get you in a position more often to win.
Every race that goes by that there's a different winner, the pressure gets more intense. You just got to go look at that next opportunity and try to put yourself in that position to go win it.
I'm real happy with the way our team's performing this year. Feel like we missed a couple opportunities. But we're also running really strong, and we're consistently running strong, I know that opportunity's going to come for us.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much.