Continued from part 1 Q: You're in the Top 10 now. Do you take into consideration at all from week to week ?? last year you didn't make the Chase, but do you take that week to week and race to race? JEFF GORDON: You have to take it week...
Continued from part 1
Q: You're in the Top 10 now. Do you take into consideration at all from week to week ?? last year you didn't make the Chase, but do you take that week to week and race to race?
JEFF GORDON: You have to take it week to week because we want momentum, we want to keep it going, but we just need to understand that you can't look too far out ahead. Obviously we're looking at Indianapolis because we're going to be testing there this week and thinking about it, but it's probably more up to this guy right here to think out ahead.
For me I think week to week because to me it's easier ?? you've got to put the win ?? like this is great, it's awesome, I'm excited, I'm happy, and by Wednesday of this week, this is going to be long gone and forgotten about and going to be thinking about next week.
If we have a bad week just like we did last week at Daytona, we had to put that behind us right away, too. You've got to put the bad days and the good days behind you and just focus on the next week and just keep going week to week.
Q: Jeff and Steve, you've kind of touched on it. You've won four championships, Jeff. How is the pressure of in, out, in, out of this Chase deal different and how is it making you all approach each race differently?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I'll probably hand it over to Steve for that. For me it's frustrating. It's frustrating not to be more consistent. I feel like there was a point where we could have been pretty far up there, but you can say what if and all that stuff, would have, could have, should haves, but right now it's just all about week to week, getting the most out of it that we possibly can and getting ourselves more ?? we're going to have to fight from here until the end of the season, regardless.
There's some guys up there in the points like Jimmie and Matt and a few guys that can maybe ride a little bit here and there and not take as many chances or not worry about things as much. For us, we're hungry, we've got to fight hard because we've got some guys that are tough around us that we're battling, and then if we make it into the Chase, we're going to have to battle a bunch of really tough competitors for the championship.
STEVE LETARTE: As far as the team strategy goes, I'm just really trying to simplify it. I get all my guys together, and anybody that says the could haves, or should haves, or if this wouldn't have happened, we're just making excuses. The simple fact is everybody goes to the same races week in and week out. If you run better than the next guy, you're going to make the Chase.
That's how I present it to the team because I want them to be fired up. I don't want them to feel they have excuses to fall back on. They've rose to the occasion week in and week out. Every week we bring a better car I think than we did the week before. I think that shows in the maturity of the team and the building of the team. I'm really proud of the guys. The big goal for us is championships are nice and the Chase is nice, but the simple fact is we need to get to the point where the 24 shows up week in and week out and has a chance to win.
We've strayed away from that the last year, and I think this proves to where ?? we were very good at Sonoma, we were good in Michigan, we went to Daytona and we were good, got caught up in an accident, happy with the car. Came here, and now we get to go to Loudon and maybe redeem ourselves for how we ran at Phoenix. We look at every week as a new opportunity and we want to get back to week in and week out everybody has to look at us when it comes to the time charts.
Q: Jeff, I'm no mathematician, but it looks like for Mark Martin in 6th all the way down to Casey Mears in 15th, there's a little tight pack of you guys fighting for those last five spots there. How well do you expect to get to know those guys over the next eight weeks?
JEFF GORDON: That's pretty much what I was saying. We've got to fight every weekend. We can't afford to have things happen to us like what happened to us in Daytona last weekend. I'm glad we don't have any restricted plate tracks for a while so we don't have to worry about that kind of stuff happening, but there's still going to be tracks that incidences can happen. I think all we can do is just like Steve said, just get ourselves where we're running good and put our best effort out and let everything else kind of fall in place.
It doesn't mean that we've got to do what we did here today. We'd like to do that, but for the most part, it's just about putting the best race car out there and best pit stops and everything that you can, strategy, and hope that we come out of there with top 5s and Top 10s.
We're not really racing points right now. We're racing particular guys. As we get closer to Richmond and we have to do that, then we will, but for right now, we're just trying to get the most out of our stuff and get the most points.
Q: Is there a day that you might have been maybe just a fraction more polite and then kicked yourself afterwards? It's gotten so competitive. Do you feel like one day you might have been more polite in that whole thing?
JEFF GORDON: Maybe, but not anymore (laughing). I guess I realize how difficult it is to win and how those opportunities just ?? you never know when they're going to be there and when they're not going to be there. The aerodynamics of the car these days, it's a lot harder to pass, too, and the competition is tougher.
You know, I'm not saying ?? I didn't knock Matt out of the way just so I could get the win. I was definitely going to try to move him out of the way, but he ended up spinning out.
To the Tony Stewart thing, I'll say this: He's a guy that if we get down to the end and we're racing, he just should expect I'm going to race him really, really hard, and I'm not going to give an inch because I know he didn't give me an inch. Anybody who races me like that, I'm going to race him the same way.
Right now we're in a position to where if we can get the win, we're going to go really hard for that win, especially right now we need the momentum ?? after last weekend, there's no better way to do it than to run like we did here today and to win, and I hope we can be in a position ?? I recognize that same thing, when the guys behind me and I'm leading the race, I'm going to understand how that works, and there's certain guys you've got to race really hard and block, and there's other guys you've got to give them a little bit more room.
Q: You were decent but not great all weekend. When did you get your first indication that you had something special today.
JEFF GORDON: When they dropped the green flag. I had no clue we were going to run like that.
Yeah, we were just kind of mediocre yesterday, and we went and had a great meeting after practice. We met it all the other team members, drivers and crew chiefs, and we've been doing that lately, and I think there's a little bit of that that pays off.
I don't know, I keep asking Steve what he did to it because I'm not sure what he did to it because it doesn't seem like it's the same car as it was yesterday. Just right from the drop of the green flag it was doing everything I wanted it to do, and it's been a long time since I've had a car like that where you drop the green and you drive by two or three guys, and you're like, wow, I've got a great car, must be great on new tires, and it just keeps on going, just keep picking them off one by one.
When he told me I was in 4th place, I told him you've got to be kidding me. I knew I was passing cars but I had no idea we had passed that many.
This is the car we had in Michigan and we knew from Michigan it was a good car, but this weekend there's nothing that has shown up for it to be spectacular until today.
Q: Conciliation may not be the best word, but do you kind of take conciliation in the fact that Matt didn't rush you in victory lane, Robby didn't go over by Steve, nobody went to the hauler? It was a race incident, like you said.
JEFF GORDON: I think in Matt's mind, it's probably payback for Bristol, so if he would have come and shoved me, then everything would have been good. It would have been a clean slate. I think that those guys are racers and they understand what happens when you're racing hard for a win late in a race like that.
Q: Completely off topic, could you give us your reaction of Juan Pablo Montoya coming to NASCAR?
JEFF GORDON: I think it's extremely exciting. I've spoke to Juan Pablo a couple times at some of the F1 races that I've been to. He and I, when we swapped cars at Indianapolis a couple years back, and I thought he did a great job in my car then. It showed me that he's got a lot of talent and he's going to bring a lot of talent. I think that he brings a lot more than that.
I think that it really to me ?? I don't know if there's ever been an F1 driver leave F1 for NASCAR, especially a top guy, and I think that I respect him, number one, a lot for making that kind of move. That's a huge challenge. It's going to be a big challenge for him because driving his car, since I drove it, it's so much different than our cars, and it was one thing to drive it on a road course, him driving my car on a road course. It's a whole other deal when you get on oval around 43 other cars.
But I respect the fact that he knows that, but he knows he's talented and he's got a team that's committed to him. I think over time you're going to see him really come to ?? it's going to be a long road, but I think he's going to do a fantastic job, and I think it's great for the sport.