JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO TALK ABOUT THOSE HARD LAPS AT THE END "Well, I'm proud of the DuPont Chevrolet team for the job they did all night long. We had great pit stops and an awesome race car. We made some big ...
JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
TALK ABOUT THOSE HARD LAPS AT THE END
"Well, I'm proud of the DuPont Chevrolet team for the job they did all night long. We had great pit stops and an awesome race car. We made some big adjustments to really get the car where it needed to be. I'm happy for Jimmie and that Lowe's team. But we made a mistake and it cost us the win. We came back and fought back to third. Mistakes happen. I've made them. Everybody makes them. But right now at this time in the game in this championship, that cost us a lot. We've got some work to make up in Homestead."
DID YOU HAVE A CAR GOOD ENOUGH TO WIN TONIGHT?
"Oh, absolutely. We just needed to be in clean air. We needed to be out front. We proved that throughout the day and the night. We got so far behind there on that one stop that I was just struggling behind them. We needed a real long run or we needed to be in clean air. One of the two."
YOU'RE ONLY 21 POINTS BEHIND BUSCH. IS THAT WHERE YOU WANTED TO SIT GOING INTO HOMESTEAD?
"Yeah. I'm just disappointed right now that we didn't get a win. I felt like we had the car and that we had a shot at winning the race. You just don't get that opportunity that many times. I was glad to make up some points. We led a lot of laps. We've got a shot at this championship at Homestead. We're hungry and I'm glad I'm mad right now because I'm looking forward to going to Homestead really mad."
HOW HARD WERE YOU RUNNING AT THE END?
"It definitely changed a lot throughout the day. We started off the race pretty decent. We got real loose and had to make some big adjustments. I was really proud of the guys and what they accomplished because we fell way back and then worked our way back on those long runs - I think up to third. And then with some great pit stops, came out first. We were in control of the race and had the car.
"Unfortunately we made a mistake or something happened in the pits. They said the car dropped on the air hose and cost us the win and some points in my opinion. I'm a little bit disgusted right now with that. I know we all make mistakes. It's just this late in the game, those types of mistakes can cost you a championship and even throw a championship away. I wanted to win. I saw an opportunity there. We had such an awesome car. I wanted to win. I'm happy for Jimmie. He's been so good these last 10 races and all year long really. They deserve to be a part of this championship and I'm happy to be a part of that. I'm just disgusted right now with the fact that we've kind of ruined our chances."
WHEN THEY ANNOUNCED THIS FORMAT, WOULD YOU HAVE THOUGHT IT HIGHLY UNLIKELY THAT THE SAME GUY WOULD COME OUT AS THE POINTS LEADER EVERY RACE FOR THE 9 RACES RUN SO FAR?
"No, I definitely wouldn't. I would have thought it would shuffle around more than that. Kurt (Busch) has been consistent and that's why he's been where he's been the entire time. They had one slip-up in Atlanta and it's closed us all in there. And now, we just race. Before, they could ride just a little bit but now we're just racing hard. We're racing for wins just like we did tonight.
"That's what we've got to do at Homestead. It's anybody's race with the few points that are between us - even back to Junior. I know he didn't gain like Jimmie and I did, but it's going to be exciting and interesting and we had a good test at Homestead. I can't wait to go there."
ON THE SUN IN TURN 3
"They should never have a race at the time that they had this race ever again. It's dangerous. Regardless of the sand blasting of the windshield, the angle of the sun is so bad that I even put tape in my car to put over my visor. And it didn't matter. You couldn't block it. They need to either start the race much sooner or much later - one of the two. They cannot race at a track like this with that type of sun in your eyes. I couldn't even see the wall. I couldn't see the race track. I couldn't see anything going into Turn 3."
AS CLOSE AS THIS POINTS CHASE IS, IS IT A MATTER OF NOT WHO WINS IS BUT WHO LOSES IT IN REDUCING THE FIELD AND WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT SOMETHING LIKE THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN?
"That's very possible. As far as I'm concerned, all you can do is go out there and race hard and race to win. If the other guys finish ahead of you, then obviously you've done all you can do. But my goal is to try to get a big enough gap between us and those guys and not pay attention to whether they make mistakes. It's all about us not making mistakes. What can you do? Pit practice a whole lot this week and just try to focus to try and do everything. It's not just on those guys. Yeah, they made it tonight but we all make them. It's about not making them at the crucial moment. I want to make sure I don't make any mistakes at that moment. I know Robbie Loomis feels the same way as do all of us. All we can do is go out there and put the best race car on the race track that was can and do our best and try not to make mistakes.
"For us, we're behind. We're racing two guys who race for wins - not to mention Junior in the same boat. So we don't really have a choice in our strategy. Every weekend, your job is to go as hard as you can with the best car and not make mistakes. We're going to do that again next weekend and hopefully get a little bit better results than we did this weekend."
ON THIS BEING THE LAST SOUTHERN 500) "I don't quite understand why - even if they move the date - that this can't be the Southern 500. I think if they have one race here, it ought to be called the Southern 500. But I'm glad we still have one race here next year. I like racing here. It's been a good track for me. I'm not sure what determines what the race will be called. But that's my opinion."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN AT YOUR TEST IN HOMESTEAD?
"The track has definitely lost some grip from last year but it's still really fast. You really can abuse the tires a lot there because the speeds and the grip there are really good. My car was too tight so we're going to go back there and try to free the car up over a longer run without giving up too much at the beginning of a run. It's a beautiful facility and a great race track. I love it. I'm certainly looking forward to going there. I think we're going to put on a great race. And I can't think of a better place to go to wrap up the season and this championship."
WHEN THE CAR CAME DOWN ON THE AIR HOSE, WERE YOU IMMEDIATELY AWARE OF IT?
"I've got a little mirror on the left side of the car. You're paying attention to how fast the stop is. I saw the guy running around the front of the car and I immediately looked in my mirror for the guy on the left rear and he wasn't there. I knew we were in trouble. And I finally saw him come around. But I had no idea what the delay was or what happened. I just know we lost a lot of spots. We got very fortunate that second caution came at the end of the race because it allowed us to come in and get another good stop in there and get four tires on and I feel like we made positions up because of that."
YOU WERE THE FAVORITE IN THE CHASE DUE TO EXPERIENCE, BUT YOUR CREW HAD SMALL MISTAKES HAPPEN. TALK ABOUT ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES MIGHT BE WITH ALL THIS PRESSURE GOING ON
"My disadvantage is 21 points. That's the biggest thing. That, and that we didn't win tonight because I felt we had an opportunity to do that. I think our experience certainly pays off when frustration kicks in and things happen like what happened to us tonight. We're able to stay calm and stay in the game and re-group and get the best finish we can. We don't fall to pieces.
"Even when our car was a loose as it was at the beginning of the race, that's where our experience comes in to where we're able to fine-tune and get a car that's still capable of running up front and even winning like we did tonight. But I remember in 1995 going for a championship and everybody was pulling for Earnhardt as the guy who was the favorite because he had all the experience and won so many championships and we just put better race cars out there on the race track and didn't make as many mistakes and that's what's going to have to happen next weekend. It's all about who puts the best race car out there and doesn't make mistakes and finishes ahead of the other guys."
ON RUNNING AGAINST JIMMIE JOHNSON AT HOMESTEAD
"We've always talked about it. Jimmie and I have always raced each other the same. We're going to be sharing information all year long just like we did this weekend. It benefits us as much as them. We bounce ideas off each other. Jimmie is a hard-charging driver and we have a lot of respect for one another. Regardless whether we're racing for a #1 spot, we're also racing each other for a #2 spot. So we're going to be battling one another no matter what. We really didn't get a chance to race each other tonight. We were on opposite spectrums there. But it could happen. If it does, we're going to race each other like you would anybody else. You respect each other. You try to get the position and you do everything you can to pass the guy or not get passed and hope that no contact is made."
WILL IT TAKE A WIN TO WIN THE CHASE?
"If those other guys finish 5th or 6th.....I'm only 21 points down and I'm only three points behind Jimmie. So I've got to finish in the position that they give me 21 or 22 points on Kurt Busch and three on Jimmie. So basically we're racing to win - just like we did this weekend and last weekend. As good as Jimmie runs and Kurt runs and Mark runs, we have to get a win. We really do. That's why I'm so disappointed with tonight's finish because I felt like we had that opportunity to go to Homestead and have the confidence and momentum and everything going our way. It was still a good finish for us but not what I felt we were capable of. Next week is one race - go for broke. We have nothing to lose but to go out there and give it all we've got and hope we come out on top. I don't want to do it by somebody having bad luck.
"I want to do it because we outraced them. I hate that it comes down one race. There are definitely some races I'd like to have back in this Chase. But the facts are the facts. We've got one left and we'll try to do it."
CONSIDERING THE PRESSURE RIGHT NOW, HOW AMAZING IS IT THAT JIMMIE JOHNSON IS WINNING SO MANY RACES?
"Oh yeah. It's absolutely amazing. No matter what's on the line, it's still amazing to win that many races in one season.
They had big problems and felt at one point that they were out of this Chase. And those wins have not only put them back into the Chase, but have gotten them momentum and everything on their side to win this thing. And so the pressure is on all of us every weekend right now. It's hard for it to get any greater than that right now. But they're executing their jobs and it's impressive without a doubt."