Jeff Gordon Finishes Second at Darlington and Climbs From Ninth To Sixth in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Standings -- Six Monte Carlo SS Race Cars Finish In Top 10 JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 2nd: ON HIS RUN: "It was a...
Jeff Gordon Finishes Second at Darlington and Climbs From Ninth To Sixth in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Standings -- Six Monte Carlo SS Race Cars Finish In Top 10
JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS - Finished 2nd:
ON HIS RUN:
"It was a good run. I'm very happy to be up there battling for that win obviously. It's been a little while since we've been able to do that. It's back to old-school Darlington - worn out, bumping and slipping and sliding around. That's one area where we shined. Gosh, it was just so close. I wanted it so bad that I was a bit disappointed there at the end when we came up on the lap car and I just felt like I could have let it go a little bit more. But hey, that's the way it goes. Had I not hit the wall down (turns) three and four when I passed Matt (Kenseth), maybe it wouldn't have mattered. (It was) just a great run for us, so close and momentum that we can carry into next week and the next couple of weeks at Charlotte. I'm very happy."
HOW BADLY DID YOU FEEL YOU NEEDED A WIN? IS IT EASY TO SETTLE FOR SECOND AS WELL AS YOU WERE RUNNING AT THE END OF THIS RACE?
"I'll tell you we needed a top five just as bad as a win. I think that with the last couple of weeks and the way they've gone, a top five is fantastic for us but when you're that close to the win you want it really bad. It's not about needing it, it's about wanting it and the fact that the team put out the effort that was capable of a win. I thought our pit stops were phenomenal tonight. I thought that the adjustments and the communications were also fantastic. We kept making the car better and better as the night went on. To me that's a sign of a great team. If we just could figure some of these setups out on these 1.5s, this team is going to shine. Tonight was very good for us."
WAS YOUR CAR THE BEST OF THE NIGHT AT THE END?
"No, we were a little bit too loose, I felt like, when we took off on that last run. I asked for an adjustment and I know they made it, but as soon as we got on the track I said, 'Man, I wish you would have made a bigger adjustment.' Matt (Kenseth) got by me right away and the No. 16 (Biffle) pulled away. And I just really tried to run the car straight and hoped they backed up to me, and sure enough, about 20 laps into it they started backing up to me -- 30 laps, maybe. I got by Matt and right then I was free -- I was kind of loose. And they were still backing up to me and I was just trying to drive the car straight. I got (Turn) 3 too hard when I got by Matt one time and I got in the wall and it tightened the car up from there too much, so I was really shocked that I was even able to run Biffle down after that."
BECAUSE IT IS SO UNIQUE, DOES FINISHING UP FRONT AT DARLINGTON MEAN MUCH FOR ANY PLACE OTHER THAN DARLINGTON?
"That's the only problem I have right now. The set-up we have in this car doesn't exist at any other track that we go to. We've got to figure out what we need at these other tracks. We're trying awfully hard. But that's the thing. Darlington is kind of like Martinsville. You run a set-up for grip and then you've got to really finesse the car around the race track and run it straight. You just drive the track different than you do any other track. And you set the car up different than you do any other track. So, the momentum for us that comes out of here is the momentum as just a good run. And we take that with us. We had a great test at Charlotte. I hope we carry this momentum and have a good run at Charlotte."
IT APPEARS THAT THE FRONT END ON YOUR NO. 24 CHEVY WAS SOMEWHAT HIGHER OFF THE GROUND THAN THE OTHER COMPETITORS. IS THAT SOME TYPE OF NEW AERODYNAMIC APPROACH TO RUNNING AT DARLINGTON?
"No, that's what you call the old approach. Everywhere we go, everybody talks about the attitude of the car and the air dam being sealed down to the ground and when you have a high speed race track where you have all that downforce, and the tires don't give up, then you can get away with that. But at a track like this, we chose to do the exact opposite and run everything really soft -- shocks, springs, and have something that didn't abuse the tires. That's why we didn't take off that great. But over a long run -- and we were fortunate they were long runs tonight -- our car was probably one of the best ones."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SCHRADER INCIDENT WHERE HE HAD THE LINE YOU NEEDED OR WHATEVER HAPPENED TO GET BY BIFFLE THERE AT THE END?
"Yeah, we're coming up to take the white flag and the two leaders are battling and we got a run on him and you would just expect like the other lapped cars that we came up on, to give a little bit more room. And he gave plenty of room to the No. 16 (Biffle) and I carried it in there on the outside of him. But I needed to be able to go up to the wall and then turn down and come back down to the bottom. That was my line I ran all night long. I'm not saying he (Schrader) knew that, but I felt like (with) a little bit of extra room there, I would have been able to do that. Actually, by him running alongside of me -- you can't see it obviously -- but just the air off his car was pushing my car into the outside wall. And it killed all my momentum and made the car push even worse up in the wall. So I lost every chance that we had. That was probably my only chance. But like I said, if I hadn't gotten into the wall earlier, that might not even have been a factor."
WITH YOUR SUCCESS HERE WILL THIS GIVE YOUR TEAM A SHOT IN THE ARM TO PILING UP SOME WINS AND TOP THREE FINISHES?
"Well yeah, but you hope that anywhere. You hope to have a good finish anywhere we go. Knowing that we haven't quite perfected or figured out some of the set-ups on some of these other tracks that the No. 9 and the No. 20 and some of those guys have figured out. So we knew coming into this track that we were going to take that old approach and hope that it paid off. It did. And now we go into Charlotte. We had a good test at Charlotte. We've got a rock hard tire there and a brand new surface. The set-up that we had in the car there in testing I thought worked really well. We'll find out during the All-Star race and hopefully take some momentum from that into the 600."
WHO CAME UP WITH THAT OLD-SCHOOL SETUP?
"It's a modified version setup of what we ran here last year and we finished second. We've had setups not too far from this in our books for a long, long time at Hendrick Motorsports. Every year you try to improve on it and I think our car improved on it as well."
DID TRAFFIC PLAY ANY ROLE IN ALLOWING YOU TO CATCH GREG BIFFLE?
"Traffic always plays a role. I think traffic actually helped me catch him too. The (Ken) Schrader incident hurt me a little bit but the fact that we came up on some of those lap cars seemed to have hurt him as well because I didn't even think I was going to get to him with five or six to go. Then all of the sudden, boom, I was right up on him with two or three (laps) to go and I wasn't expecting that, so it goes both ways."
YOU FINISHED SECOND HERE LAST YEAR AND YOU FINISHED SECOND TODAY. WHAT IS YOUR TEAM GOING TO HAVE TO DO TO WIN HERE?
"Just be out front when the checked flag waves. That's the key. I thought our pit crew was good. I'll tell you what. We got a little bit too far back early in this race in my opinion. Had we had a little bit better track position for the second half of the race we might not have had to work so hard to get up there to have those long runs. We were in a great position there at the end.
"Not scuffing the wall there in (turns) three and four would have helped. I don't know. I think when you're that close to it, it just comes down to very, very small things and trying not to make mistakes and hoping everything goes right. We were obviously capable of winning tonight. We're going to take that with us into the next time we come back and use that as a factor and again just keep modifying that setup."