Daytona Duel: Race two winner's press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Going back to the decision on the final caution to go with the two tires, obviously you're trying to win this race, but also, are you trying to figure out with the new tires what you can do in that situation...

Continued from part 1

Q: Going back to the decision on the final caution to go with the two tires, obviously you're trying to win this race, but also, are you trying to figure out with the new tires what you can do in that situation for Sunday? Are you trying to figure out what's the right thing to do if you're going to be faced with something like that?

JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. That was another one of the things that Steve Letarte and I talked about on the radio during that caution, and he said it. He said it's kind of something we'd like to check out to see how it will work for us. Somebody had said, and it might be just rumor, that Junior took two in the first race.

Obviously it depends on how many laps there are to go, who you've got pushing you, all those things. But it was definitely something we were glad we got an opportunity to try, and you'll probably see a lot more of that happening on Sunday.

Q: Obviously the two tires made a difference, but where were you during the early part of the race? What problems did you have and what put you in the position to get that last pit stop?

JEFF GORDON: Well, when we first started the race, we kind of tucked in there at like third or something like that, and like I was mentioning earlier, Juan Pablo got a run and a push from behind, I think it was by the 5 car, and he took advantage of that push and he made a pass and I got shuffled back a couple stops.

And then later when Juan had his trouble and I went to the inside and Kyle went to the outside, as we got past the start finish line, the 2 was able to get to my inside, so I got shuffled back again on that one. Then the caution came out.

You know, we were in a position ?? you know, everything depends on position. I mean, we were sitting there, what, sixth or seventh, and that's a great position to be in to be able to make a call like that. So it really worked to our favor. And in the Daytona 500 on Sunday, if we're in that same position it can work out, as well, but there's going to be a lot more cars out on the track. It just depends. This one worked out for us because a lot of guys came behind us and we had fresher tires than guys ahead of us. I'm glad we tried it now and glad it worked out today.

Q: The way things played out at the end of your race, the tire situation, it looked like there was a great deal of difference between the handling between the cars that pitted or didn't pit. If a scenario like that plays out the middle of the 500 or towards the end of the race, do you get the feeling that the race is going to get really dicey and treacherous in those kind of situations given the difference it looked like out there tonight?

JEFF GORDON: I can guarantee it's going to get treacherous no matter what kind of tires we have on the car. When you've got the Daytona 500 out there at stake and everything riding on the line, guys go for it, and the guys that go for it are the ones that are either going to win or they're going to wreck. So we've seen ?? I know in just about every one of the Daytona 500s that I've ever won you had to take some risk and make some bold moves that could have worked for you or might not, and I think that even that pass today was a little bit riskier than I wanted to be in the closing laps of the 150 because I wanted to make sure we had the car in one piece, but at the same time I had the momentum and I didn't want to stop it and I wanted to win.

I think you're going to see a lot more of that. But I know what you're saying with the closing rate and all that if the tires are working a little bit better. The tires definitely played a role in allowing me to make some moves there, but at the same time it was more of the push that I got from behind by the 40 car who stayed out. So I think that you'll see that whether guys take tires or not.

Q: With that finish you think of the difference between 1st and 2nd, obviously you always want to win every race, but with the new points system, is that something that you're a fan of, and do you think that's something that is going to be a big difference this year?

JEFF GORDON: Oh, I always love rewarding wins. I think that it's definitely a good thing. You know, until it plays out, I'm going to kind of wait and see how that works. But usually NASCAR has models that they punch in stats from previous years, and that's usually where they come up with some of those decisions. I'm guessing that they saw some things that they liked, and I think that it is incentive to try to take more risks and win, even though I don't know what more we can do to try to win. We're doing it every weekend.

It could make for a little bit more excitement, we'll see. But I think that the only thing that I'm not sure about is if you're leading the points, there's a possibility you could be 12th in points after the Chase, when the Chase starts.

I don't know if I agree with that. I think that if you're going to do that, give some bonus for leading the points at race 26. Give us something, whether it's money, points, something to be a bonus to be leading the points. I think the leader at that point should still be the leader, no matter how many races he's won.

Q: Tony Stewart certainly has grabbed a lot of attention with the win so far early in Speed Weeks. From your seat in the car, is that truly the best car out there, and what is he doing that's put him up there, and what do you have to do over the next couple days to kind of even that field up for Sunday?

JEFF GORDON: No doubt about it, I think he's the guy to beat. I think they've got a really well?handling race car. Tony is a great driver and he does well in the draft. I think that he's been ?? he's showcased that for the last several years. Daytona is a handling racetrack. It's so much different than Talladega. Talladega, not saying he wouldn't be just as strong there, but he's strong here at Daytona because you've got to drive the car, you've got to get the car handling well with the crew chief and the team, and if you notice, he didn't qualify spectacular. Usually that's a sign that he's probably got a little bit more drag or downforce in the car, which might make the car drive a little bit better.

That was one of my big concerns is that we were qualifying well, we were running really good by ourselves, and I think we got a little bit too little downforce and too little drag in the car, and we've got to really build some downforce to get the car handling just a little bit better.

I would have guessed Tony would have been one of the cars to beat before the Shootout and today's race, and I think that just these last two wins of his just make him that much more of the target on Sunday and the guy to beat.

Q: Is that harder or easier, having that target on your back at Speed Week?

JEFF GORDON: Well, he's got confidence because he's winning, the car is doing everything he wants, he's comfortable, so that's a plus. But at the same time if guys out there want to gang up on you, that can make it tougher. As long as he's got some friends, which he and the 8 car work real well together, and Tony and I have worked well together in the past, as well. But we're all going to try to win the race when it comes down to the end.

Q: You touched on it earlier. Just for fun, you were talking about how in other racing series they do a lot crazier things. Back in your day what were some of the wilder things ??

JEFF GORDON: Soaking tires has always been the wildest and craziest thing. I hear rumors and stuff of guys ?? I've always heard this more with stock cars because guys that work for our team, they're guys that grew up racing late models or modifieds and stuff, and not many of them worked on midgets and sprint cars, and they always talk about soaking tires and big carburetors. It's either horsepower or grip in some way, some fashion. So you hear those guys say, oh, yeah, we used to do this, we used to do this, we used to do this. They just, again, didn't have the restrictions, the rule book and the people governing that like we do here in this series.

It is something that goes on in racing. When the sport is as big as our sport is, it's sort of a ?? it's just something that you don't want it to be a part of the sport. So it's tough because you get the guys with that mentality of bringing that from what they grew up with and then they come in here and they go, no, you can't do that, you can't do that, you can't do that, and they're like, oh, how do I get into that gray area.

I talked to a crew chief the other day that told me it's so tough because I've got management that gets on me if I qualify 30th, but yet if I do things that I think other teams might be doing to make me go faster to qualify up front and I get caught doing it, then I might get fired.

So I feel sorry for these crew chiefs sometimes with the decisions that they have to make because sometimes you're better off getting beat up for some qualifying good than getting fired or getting in trouble for doing something you shouldn't be doing.

Q: You touched on the drafting partners. Obviously you need a partner here. We saw Kyle drop pretty dramatically today when he was hung out, and you have a history of not having a lot of friends. What do you think your condition is for this week?

JEFF GORDON: Well, it's true, I don't have a lot of drafting partner friends out there, but yet we've been able to win some races. You know, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and throughout the race if I can help some guys out early in the race, maybe he'll come back to help me.

You know, sometimes guys work with other guys because they're buddies off the track, not necessarily because they're buddies on the track. Sometimes you've got that going against you or for you. So obviously we'll try to work with our teammates to go the best we can there and maybe make or find some friends ?? just because you have somebody that works well with you doesn't mean you're always going to be nose to tail to be able to make that work and make it happen. And usually somebody is giving up something to be that. I think that's probably one of the reasons why I haven't had a lot of friends out there because I want to be the guy leading, not the guy pushing. I don't mind pushing for certain periods of time until it's time to go, and then I feel like I want to get myself into position the best I can, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to do that on Sunday, and I'm hoping that I don't make any enemies along the way doing that.

Q: Any thoughts on Juan and how he's doing, and have you talked to him at all about I guess the whole season and what to expect?

JEFF GORDON: We've talked a little bit. Every time I see him I ask him how he's doing, and he's like, "great." He's got a positive attitude, he seems to be enjoying himself, and I think it's great.

I think that this 500?mile race here is going to be ?? he's going to learn a lot. I think this is a tough race, hard to be patient, and experience is key. But he already showed with lack of experience, he drove right to the front. I think his talent overrides a lot of the lack of experience that he has, and I think we'll see a lot of that from here to wherever we go.

I mean, it's been two races. So hard to really judge it off that, but from what I can see, he's doing great.

Q: There's a report out there that your car has failed inspections too low. Have you heard anything about that?

JEFF GORDON: No, but I'm sure that I'll get penalized if I did.

Q: What do you think the penalty should be for something like that?

JEFF GORDON: What do I think it should be? Are you serious? That sucks. I don't know. I'm mad about that right now.

I mean, what do I think it should be? It's whatever NASCAR decides for it to be. That's what it should be. I mean, I think I should start the Daytona 500 on Sunday, but where I start will be the other thing.

I hate to hear that, that sucks. That definitely takes away from ?? I'm curious to know how low it is. If we're talking a millimeter, that's one thing. If we're talking a half an inch, then that's something different.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jeff.

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart