Daytona Duel: Race two winner's press conference, part 1

JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS, and Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS, made it a Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS sweep with victories in the Gatorade Duel at Daytona. The two 50-lap,...


Tony Stewart, No. 20 Home Depot Monte Carlo SS, and Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS, made it a Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS sweep with victories in the Gatorade Duel at Daytona.

The two 50-lap, 150-mile races set the field for Sunday's 49th running of the Daytona 500.

Stewart's win was his third Duel win in race number one and logged the 100th victory for his Joe Gibbs Racing organization.

Gordon's win was his fourth in the Duel and his 13th career win at Daytona International Speedway.

The Daytona 500 is scheduled to start at 3:15 p.m. EST. The 250-lap, 500-mile race will be broadcast live on FOX with radio coverage on both MRN Radio and Sirius Satelitte Radio. February 15, 2007

THE MODERATOR: We're pleased to be joined in the media center by the winner of our second Gatorade duel, that's Jeff Gordon, and he, of course, is the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. Jeff leads all active drivers with 13 victories here at the Daytona International Speedway, and he'll be gunning for his fourth Daytona 500 come Sunday. Jeff, talk about your run out there today. Nice job.

JEFF GORDON: Thank you very much. Obviously it was very exciting, those closing laps. For most of the race, our race was pretty calm compared to that first one, and just kind of riding there and feeling with the car was doing and seeing if any shuffling or momentum was going to come and sort of trying to stay in position getting towards the end, which wasn't exactly easy. I got shuffled back.

Early on there I tried to get a run on somebody, actually Montoya got a run on me, which was great for him. I thought he did a good job. I hated to see him have his problems, and he had a strong car as well as David Stremme.

Then when he had his problems, I got kind of caught in the middle there, and when the caution came back out there late, obviously it was about making decisions, and Steve and I were on the radio discussing that if the guys ahead of us stayed out, we'd come in, and if they came in, we'd stay out.

So obviously taking those two tires made a huge difference, and of course it helped a lot to get those pushes from Yeley and Stremme there at the end, and probably somebody else, too. I can't remember, a lot went on those last couple laps.

Q: What would it mean for you to win Sunday and tie Dale Earnhardt for the most wins in the modern era?

JEFF GORDON: I've been getting that question a lot lately. I'd just like to get another win. Just like going to victory lane today, it just feels amazing. There's no greater feeling than winning a race. Of all the competitors out there, you want to be the first one to cross the line. We did that today. It felt great, and hopefully we can do that again on Sunday, and if we can't this Sunday, we'll try to do it another Sunday.

I think it just ?? because of being at 75, one away from Earnhardt, I think that it makes that next one that much more special, and I can't think of a more incredible place to do it than here in Daytona.

I get asked a lot about it so it's hard for me to get away from because I'm trying not to think about it that much because I've never really been one to go off of stats and try to match a number or beat a number, it's just that you're out there as a competitor trying to win.

Q: With everything that's happened this week with all the stuff that's happened with NASCAR and the penalties and the suspensions, was it kind of nice to get back to racing? And how much more racing are we going to have to get to finally get this behind us where we're talking about racing and not cheating?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, that's up to you guys and the guys that are ?? have gotten themselves into trouble. I mean, we've been a part of it in the past. Most people have. But I think NASCAR continues to try to set the precedent to prevent it from happening, and the fines go up, the penalties are more severe, and yet we still continue to see it.

You know, obviously this week has been pretty mindboggling when you look at the severity of it and the consequences that come along with that. I mean, even the 55 being in the race, which that was ?? they did a fantastic job today to get all three cars in the race. I think that even with that, they're behind the eight ball when this race is over because he's already lost 100 points.

That certainly has gotten a lot of attention for a lot of the teams out there, but it was nice to get out there and just go racing. I mean, I've been glued to the TV as much as anybody else waiting to see what's going to happen, and between that and Anna Nicole Smith, I just can't seem to get myself away from the TV (laughter). And I complain about it, too. I'm like, "Why am I watching this? This is silly. This is not anything important in life, but yet I'm watching it."

So I look forward to us all moving away from it. I think until we get out of Daytona, maybe at the end of Sunday night when we have a winner of the Daytona 500, maybe then we'll get past it, but who knows, it might take a while.

Q: Watching Juan Pablo Montoya in the first 23 laps, did you see any mistake or something that could be a disadvantage for him on Sunday?

JEFF GORDON: No. Everything I saw, he did very well. He passed me. I feel like I'm one of the harder guys to pass out there. I'd like to think so, anyway. He got a really good push from some guys behind him. I was watching my mirror really good, and I saw him with the momentum, and I was going to try to use his momentum to make some passes, and instead I got shuffled back.

If anybody made the mistake, it was me. We never really got far enough into the race to find out what was really going to ?? at that point I think everybody was pretty content with him leading, and I was running third, and then ?? I don't know if maybe Kyle saw where he had some problem or if we just ?? the momentum shifted and we had a run on him.

You know, there's obviously, especially when it comes to restrictor plate racing, there's a lot to learn. I don't know if we were able to teach him anything because he went out unfortunately a little early. I don't know if he got back out there or what happened, I just was dealing with my own race after that.

Q: I know you guys can't go out and intentionally do this, but given everything that's happened this week, how much do we really need, for lack of a better word, a race of the ages this Sunday to kind of really establish some of the integrity for the fans to have them believe that this is a great sport?

JEFF GORDON: Well, we need to race like we have during that second duel 150. I think the outcome would be perfect, too. If it was just like that on Sunday. If we could script that, that would be fine with me.

I'm concerned because we've got a really hard right side tire, and I talked to Goodyear about it, and it's because the bigger the fuel cells, they're able to go further and they had some concerns. So between that fuel cell and this restrictor plate, it's taken away from the racing a little bit, but yet we saw some pretty exciting action the closing laps really of both races.

I'm hoping that we see more of that on Sunday and really give the fans a show because here at Daytona and Talladega are some of the showcase events that we have that put on some of the best most exciting racing. I was concerned coming into this race that we weren't going to see very good racing, and yet we did. So I hope that we continue to see that on Sunday.

Q: In all the various forms of racing you've been involved in, do you mind giving us a sense of how common or uncommon it was to see fuel additives being used, and by contrast, how relatively uncommon I guess that's been at the Cup level and how it's viewed at the Cup level? And then lastly, given that that was at issue with the 55, do you feel the 55 deserves to race in the Daytona 500?

JEFF GORDON: Man, how do you answer that?

Q: Well, other people have expressed an opinion on it.

JEFF GORDON: I don't want to express my opinion on that (laughter). But I will anyway, you know.

Well, I mean, obviously in our series it's been ?? it hasn't been very common. We haven't seen ?? that I know of, we haven't seen anything like that really in the time I've been racing in the Cup Series. I don't know if I've ever seen anybody get caught doing it. There's a big difference between doing it and getting caught doing it.

You know, we're here in Daytona, this is a big race, there's a lot on the line, especially when you take the guys that are not locked in. I think I find it more surprising the guys that did it that were in the top 35 in points. The guys outside the top 35 in points, especially Michael, he's got a lot riding on these three teams, a lot invested in these three teams, making the Daytona 500, and his whole season can revolve around him making this race.

So you can kind of understand why those guys would really go outside the boundaries. It doesn't make it right and it doesn't mean that you're not going to get a big penalty if you get caught. It's risk versus reward, and I guess for those guys, they chose that that was enough ?? that there was a potential reward there to make the Daytona 500 that it was worth the risk, but I'm sure now maybe they're rethinking it.

I hate it for the sport to see the focus get turned to that, but I will say the drama always outweighs just pure excitement. It seems to get more attention. So for that part, I mean, it's drawing attention to the sport. Now I hope, like the last question, that we can now get this attention and get people watching it and now go out on Sunday and put on an awesome, exciting, three?wide battle to the finish. It's going to balance itself out.

What was the second part of the question?

Q: Did you used to see that kind of stuff in midgets or ??

JEFF GORDON: Oh, my gosh, yeah. The difference in other series is that they cheat ten times as much, it's just you don't have NASCAR officials there checking every little thing.

I will say that fuel ?? back when I was racing go?karts, everybody mixed stuff in the fuel because there was nobody really there to check it. You know, through the history of racing, people are always trying to circumvent the rules and get around those gray areas, and I think that a lot of people people's theory is that you're not cheating if you're not getting caught.

NASCAR, that was a pretty severe penalty. Was it severe enough, which is what your question was, I don't know how to answer that because NASCAR is in a very tough position when it comes to these things. They need these teams to be healthy and strong to make it week to week. The business model of racing is not a pretty one.

If you take somebody like Michael Waltrip and his race team that has so much invested, and their sponsors, you know, everything is on the line and they don't race in the Daytona 500, then that team ?? you don't know how long they can survive.

So NASCAR is weighing that out along with making sure that they show everybody that you can't do what they did. I feel like the penalty that they gave him shows that, definitely. It was the most severe penalty we've ever seen, and we'll find out at the end of the year just how devastating it was to that team.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing