Jeff Gordon Wins for the 83rd Time; Scores Second Career Victory at Phoenix International Raceway; Team Chevy Scores Four of Top-Five and Six of Top-10 Finishes
Avondale, Ariz - (Feb. 27, 2011) - For the 83rd time in his career, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) champion Jeff Gordon took a trip to victory lane. Today's win was the second time he has won at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) and ties him with the great Cale Yarborough on the all-time NSCS win list for fifth in the order.
Gordon, who started 20th in the 43-car race for the second race of the 2011 NSCS 36-race season, avoided serious trouble in a multi-car accident just 59 laps into the 312-lap race. Despite scraping the side of the No. 24 Chevrolet, Gordon quickly recovered and made his way to the front of the field. He led six times for a total of 138 laps, the most of any driver in the field to end his 66-race winless streak.
Five-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, was third at the finish. Kevin Harvick, who was also damaged in an early race incident, brought the No. 29 Jimmy John's Chevrolet, to the checkered flag in fourth position.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet, finished fifth to give Team Chevy four of the top-five finishers. Kyle Busch (Toyota) was second.
Gordon's victory marked the 15th win for Chevrolet in the 30-race history of NASCAR Cup competition at PIR.
Two-time NSCS champion Tony Stewart brought his No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet to the finish in seventh. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet, was 10th to put six Chevrolet drivers in the top-10.
Heading to Las Vegas for round three of the 2011 NSCS season on March 6, 2011, Stewart jumped to third in the standings. Gordon gained 21 spots in the standings to sit fifth.
Mark Martin, No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, finished 11th today and is sixth in points. Newman is eighth in the points order.
Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet, is ninth in points and Paul Menard is 11th in the standings.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER:
ENDING A NEARLY TWO-YEAR WINLESS STREAK, WELCOME HOME. "Are you kidding me? Pinch me man, pinch me."
MORE MEANINGFUL TO DO IT THE WAY YOU DID IT TODAY, LEADING THE MOST LAPS TO END THE STREAK? "I don't really care how we do it, we just want to get to victory lane. But to do it that way and to see the fans reaction .. I mean we beat Kyle Busch. We were the only one's to beat Kyle Busch this weekend and he's so tough to beat. What a race car. Just so thankful. Alan Gustafson and this entire Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, gotta thank them. Pepsi and DuPont, man what an awesome, awesome feeling it is when you've got the car right like that and they give you 20 (laps) to go and its your job to go get it done and you've got what you need to go do that. I thought even if i catch him what am I going to do with him? We caught him, he got loose and I got underneath him. I didn't know what to expect. I got into (turn) one and he was right on my door and I got loose and got up into him, they said clear, I went because I knew I needed to get away from him as fast as I could. God it feels so amazing. I can't tell you how amazing this feels. So thankful to Rick Hendrick, all that he does. It's been a long time I know. I'm going to savor this one so much, but I've got to say thanks to the fans. I mean not only the fans at home .. I've been tweeting lately for the first time and all of the stuff that people have been saying, the motivation has been unbelievably inspiring and then to see that crowd stick around to see my really lame burnout because i stink at them but they love that show. Man we hope we can give them some more shows like that this year. That was awesome, thank you so much."
TALK ABOUT THAT LAST 20-LAP SEGMENT, THE PIT STOP AND GETTING AROUND KYLE BUSCH. "I thought it was going to be a green-flag run in the end and our guys had a good stop. I got held up a little bit getting to pit road and I saw the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was coming and that he had a good head of steam. I didn't know that the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) was out there. I was just trying to get the tires and get some heat in them to see if I could run the No. 18 down and I knew it wasn't going to be easy and then the caution came out and they said the No. 14 is on two (tires). But the caution came out and I knew Kyle would get a heck of a start against Tony's two. I've got to thank Tony Stewart. He was very gracious. He could have fought me a lot harder. He knew that I think that me and Jimmie were the only ones that had a shot at Kyle. He let me get going and I just started clicking the laps off and just trying to see where Kyle was slipping a little bit and then off of (Turn) 2 we seemed really be able to make some gains and then we started making gains off of (Turn) 4 and eventually I was able to put some pressure on. That's the thing you know. When you've got a race car like that and you can put pressure on a guy it makes the race a whole lot different and that's something that I haven't felt in a long time and I'm just so thankful to (crew chief) Alan Gustafson and this whole team and all my teammates and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports especially Drive to End Hunger. This is huge for them. I know that they took a chance coming here but I don't think they ever had any idea that it was going to be quite like this."
HOW ABOUT THAT PASS FOR THE LEAD? "Gosh, you know, I'm going to have to go back and watch it on TV. I drove in deep into (Turn) 1 and got to him and I could tell he was having to really get after it right then; and then I got underneath him and got off of (Turn) 4 and I knew coming down the front straightaway that he was going to kind of pinch me down into (Turn) 1 and he did and I got a little loose. Then I just drifted up the track and I didn't know what was going to happen at that moment but when they said we were 'clear' then I just went. We had a great car and catching him was one thing and passing him was going to be a whole lot different deal. And it worked out."
YOU HAD AN ACCIDENT EARLY ON AND THEN THE TEMPERATURES GOING UP. TALK ABOUT THAT. "I thought we were done. I went to the outside and saw all the wrecked cars. I saw Carl Edwards' car torn up and I went to the outside myself and said, 'I don't think this is a good idea'; because I thought he really might have some serious and he did. Sure enough, when we got into Turn 3 he just drifted right up into me and put me in the wall. It wasn't his fault. He had a left-front tire going down. But it was just wrong place, wrong time and I hit the wall hard. I thought we were done. But I hit it square. And these guys just did a fantastic job repairing the car and then we went back out there and then the track position and the pit strategy actually ended up falling in our favor. Here I found myself up there in the top three with a car that was capable of winning. It was unbelievable."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TIE CALE YARBOROUGH FOR 5TH ON THE ALL-TIME WIN LIST? "Oh, my gosh. I'm such a huge fan of Cale's. And one of the first conversations I ever had with anybody when they came to the Cup series was Cale Yarborough. He wanted me to drive his car and I actually tested his car. A lot of people don't realize way, way, way back. He's just an amazing race car driver. I'll be honest. I didn't know if we were ever going to get pas2 82 (wins). The way things have been going the past couple of years you lose a little bit of that spark and you wonder what it's going to take to get to victory lane. But I can tell you after today that it takes a team like this and a race car like that and we're having a blast man. I cannot wait. We qualified 20th and I thought we were in trouble. But boy after today, I am really excited about this season. We are going to enjoy the season and savor this one because of anybody out there, we've won a lot of races over the years but it's been a while and when you go through that kind of a run without winning, it makes you appreciate it that much more."
ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET -- RACE WINNER:
CONGRATULATIONS! IT TOOK TWO RACES AND YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO VICTORY LANE "Whew, I'm speechless! That was a tough day, man. The guys on this Drive to End Hunger Chevy did an unbelievable job getting wrecked early and all kinds of problems. We lost the gauges half-way through the race and Jeff (Gordon) just drove the wheels off it. Kyle (Busch) got in front of us and Jeff ran him down, man. That was Jeff Gordon right there. So we've got to thank Drive to End Hunger, AARP, DuPont, Pepsi, Chevrolet of course; the best cars in the world man. What an awesome day!"
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S / KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET -- FINISHED 3RD:
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAY: "It was a good day for us. We didn't get the pre-season testing in that we had hoped. We had some weather hold us off and I'd say we've been working hard this weekend just to understand our new equipment. And throughout the day today we pitted often and early and Chad (Knaus, crew chief) made some great calls on pit road and got the car back underneath me and from there things went well. So I'm happy to see Jeff (Gordon) in victory lane and the more of these Hendrick cars that are running up front, the smarter we're all going to get as a company."
YOU WEREN'T VERY FAST IN QUALIFYING, PRACTICE OR THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE BUT HERE YOU ARE FINISHING THIRD, WHERE DID THE SPEED COME FROM? "Well we worked on a lot of new stuff over the off-season and we tried to test but we had some weather keeping us from testing. With that and the way our sport is now, not having any preseason testing, we've been testing all week and even the first half of the race. I've got to give a lot of credit to Chad (Knaus, crew chief) being aggressive, coming to pit road often, big changes to the car and we woke it up. I'm happy to get this finish. needless to say I'm happy for Jeff (Gordon), happy for Hendrick motorsports to win. The more we all run these new car and the new style set-ups we're developing the better we are going to be and one of them won today and one finished third. We're off to a good start. Very happy for Lowe's and Kobalt, Chevrolet and we'll go to the next one."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 JIMMY JOHNS CHEVROLET -- FINISHED 4TH
SEEMS LIKE YOU WERE BEAT-UP AND TURNED AROUND EARLY IN THIS RACE. "Yeah, we had a great Jimmy Johns Chevrolet today. Like you say, we got ourselves a little bit behind and then got in a wreck and just had to fight through there at the end. So it was a good day for everybody. Everybody did a great job keeping the fenders off the tires. I wish we could have had the car straight there at the end to race with those guys, but we'll take a top five and get out of here."
YOU HAD TO STRUGGLE THROUGH SOME ADVERSITY, HOW BAD WERE YOU SMELLING AND SNIFFING THAT WIN KNOWING THIS TRACK IS GOING TO CHANGE NEXT TIME WE COME BACK HERE? "First off I've just got to than everybody from Jimmy Johns and Budweiser and Chevrolet and everybody from RCR for everything they do. We had a weird day. We wrecked once and about wrecked again and then got into it with a couple of cars and caved in both front fenders. I wish we could have raced the car and not been tore up. All-in-all everything went good. The guys on the pit crew can do it, we just got to get the consistency there and we'll be right where we need to be."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET -- FINISHED 5TH:
HOW WAS THE DAY FOR YOU TODAY? "The restarts were crazy to start with but it was a good run for the Tornados Chevrolet today. I'm proud of all the guys. We didn't have the greatest stops but we fought back and fought hard and came home with a top five finish. It was a good points day for us and we'll go on. But good, consistent finishes for us and the next few races will really make a big difference for our season."
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, FINISHED 7TH:
"Once that caution came out we were done. The two tires gave us good track position, but we took them under green and once that caution came out there at the end, any advantage we had was gone."
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/AMP ENERGY CHEVROLET, FINISHED 10TH:
TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY: "We still have a little ways to go but we had a pretty good car. The biggest problem we had was qualifying poorly, trying to overcome that all day. We had a good enough car to run with them guys and kind of proved it in a couple of instances. But, you have to get by them. You get stuck behind them and it's hard to really show how good the car is. Every time we passed somebody, we just left them. The car was pretty good. I want to thank AMP and National Guard and all of them. Steve (Letarte, crew chief) did a good job. The guys did a good job in the pits. Everybody helped prepare the car all weekend. We did pretty good. We just have to keep working hard and thinking like we are and just try to do better. But, definitely, a step in the right direction. We had a lot of cars wreck out of this race too that we would have obviously been fighting with for track position. I was real happy with last little run and the competitiveness of the car.
"I'm really happy with the way we finished and the way we were able to finish the race off. The guys worked hard and gave us a good strategy to keep us in position all day long and did they best they could. They gave us a good opportunity to get a good finish. We worked with the car all day long and Stevie improved it. The guys had great stops and worked hard on pit road. They prepared hard for this. We would like to do a little bit better but for the National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet we will take a top-10 today."
DID YOU HAVE A LOSE WHEEL LATE IN THE RACE? "One of the wheels got real bad. It was about to come off. I tried to hang on as long as I could, but going through the tri-oval, I didn't know if it was coming off or not. We had to come in and get that fixed."
LAST YEAR THAT WOULD HAVE DOOMED YOU, YOU HAD BAD LUCK AND MAYBE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO OVERCOME IT: "Oh, I know. I had a little bit more comfort with this car and was able to get out there and run hard and hope for the cautions to swing our way and they did. We really didn't undo that mess by ourselves. We had a little help there with that caution there. We were good to go to the end and I don't know where that would have ended up. We would have probably finished around 13th or 14th with those old tires and those guys coming in and getting new tires, they would have probably run us down pretty quick with 30 to go. The car, we worked on the car and there were some times when it got better and there were some times when I didn't like the way it felt and the adjustments they were doing. But, right there at the end, I think we had it the best. It had good grip and even though those guys had just put tires on so we didn't have too much tire on them at the end. I think we were faster than the No. 22 (Kurt Busch), the No. 43 (A.J. Allmendinger) and those guys in front of us. You have to be there to race them all day long and can't expect to pass them in the last five laps as hard and competitive as it is."
WITH WHERE YOU QUALIFIED AND HAD TO WORK YOUR WAY UP THROUGH THE FIELD FROM, HOW DID YOU MISS ALL THOSE WRECKS? "I don't know, just luck. I just got through there luckily. A lot of guys didn't. A lot of good race car drivers didn't make it through there, we were just lucky."
JEFF (GORDON) BROKE HIS WINLESS DROUGHT TODAY, HOW FAR AWAY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? "I was nine spots behind him. That is about how close we are. (LAUGHS) I don't really know, you know. We need to keep doing this. We need to do this a little bit better, we have to keep making up big ground. We have to keep this up. I haven't run good here for awhile, I really haven't. So I was pretty happy with the way the car worked. The car can always better. We ran a little bit different than the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) so we will look at what he did and talk to him all week and see what's up. We really studied hard trying to do good and we had a result. We will try again next week."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, involved in 13 car accident on the backstretch on lap 66 after being involved in earlier multi-car incident on lap 59:
WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE? "It looked like the No 83 (Brian Vickers) had some trouble on the outside. It was pretty slick on restarts and it looked like he got really loose and the field behind and everybody bottled up. I don't know if he was second or fourth but he was right up there. The whole field was behind him and just nowhere to go."
ARE PEOPLE BEING TOO AGGRESSIVE OUT THERE? "I guess you would have to say yes. Really frustrating for us. I thought we had an incredibly fast car today. It seems like we can't do anything right right now. We'll keep our heads up and keep diggin'."
CLINT BOWYER SAID THEY ARE RACING WAY TOO HARD WAY TOO EARLY, BUT IT IS A SHORT TRACK: "It's too hard if people are wrecking, you know what I mean. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. We all race. It is early in the year and everybody is trying to get what they. Certainly is people are wrecking then it is too aggressive. There is no question about that. I can't control other people. I can only control us. I'm real proud of how we ran today. I thought we had a car that could win this race. We are sitting here in the garage, just really disappointing."
WHAT HAPPENED EARLIER WITH CARL EDWARDS AND KYLE BUSCH? "The No. 18 (Busch) kind of had the same problem as the No. 83. He was really loose up high. I don't know why he was loose, I didn't see that part. When he did, he came across and ran into the door of the No 99 (Edwards) and it was on from there."
WHY DO YOU THINK EVERYBODY WOULD BE SO AGGRESSIVE SO EARLY? ARE THEY TRYING TO MAKE UP POINTS LOST IN DAYTONA? "We are certainly in that group. At the end of the day, it is what we do. We race hard and obviously when people are wrecking it s too hard. But that is what we get paid to do. We get paid to race hard. It is a long race, we haven't even gotten to 100 laps yet and to have two big wrecks less than 100 laps. It is ultra competitive. I mean it is really really competitive. Track position means a lot and I think everybody is just trying to get all they can on restarts."
IS THERE ANYTHING INTENTIONAL GOING ON OUT THERE? "No, no, no, no, no. The No. 18 - that wasn't intentional. He was just really really loose before all that happened. The back of the car was around and he was trying to get it saved up. To me, I don't think it was anything intentional at all."
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS / TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET - Involved in 13-vehicle accident on lap 66
ARE YOU ALL RIGHT? WHAT HAPPENED? "Yeah, I am good. I saw the replay in the infield care center. It looked like the No. 83 (Brian Vickers) cut a tire down. It's really tight back there (on the race track). It's really tight back there. It's a bad place to have a wreck because there is nowhere to go. But I was the guy who got slowed down and whoever was behind me just wasn't able to. Once you get hit from behind that hard you just along for the ride."
IS THE DRIVING REALLY CRAZY OUT THERE?
"Yeah, it's just typical. Normally you get those long runs and it gets calmed down. But when you get different pit strategies and guys on different sets of tires or two tires or four tires or no tires, there's a big discrepancy in speed. The restarts are when you get all your passing done. But that was just one of those deals where the No. 56 (Martin Truex Jr.) and the No. 83 got together and cut the No. 83's tire down and they were in the first four or five cars and it's just a big wreck. But I don't know that it was people being over-aggressive.
"You had guys on new tires, some of them two, some of them four. Normally at Phoenix we get long runs and it kind of settles in. With the way the cautions the way they fell, everybody was on different strategies. There were guys at the front that weren't quite as quick as guys at the rear. When I saw the replay of the wreck, it just looked like the No. 56 (Martin Truex, Jr.) and the No. 83 (Brian Vickers) touched and cut the No. 83's tire down and that isn't really anyone's fault. Just kind of one of those deals. There is nothing you can do about. It is so early you didn't even really break a sweat. It is frustrating but there is not a lot you can do about it. We are going to try and get our car fixed and get back out there. The only fortunate part is that there are a lot of really good cars sitting in here [garage] and so when you view the points you got guys in here you will be racing for the Chase."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 33 CHEERIOS/HAMBURGER HELPER CHEVROLET -- Involved in 13-vehicle accident on lap 66:
WHAT HAPPENED FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE? "They were driving like it was the last lap! Man, if we keep this up we'll only about four cars to end all these races. I have no idea what happened. Everybody was checked-up all over the place and running into the back of us and we got crashed. But it's just stupid. To be racing this hard this early in a race; we're all smarter than this."
WHY IS EVERYBODY RACING SO HARD? PEOPLE ARE SCREAMING ON THE RADIO. IT'S JUST CRAZY: "I have no idea. Like I said, we're all smarter than this. We're all better race car drivers than this. We're driving like idiots. Everybody is taking two tires, four tires; everybody is on complete different agendas right there and we never could get going. It's just stupid."
-source: team chevy