Brickyard 400 Winner's Press Conference Sunday, Aug. 8, 2004 Jeff Gordon Rick Hendrick Robbie Loomis MODERATOR: We've been joined by team owner Rick Hendrick, who I know this has to be a particularly gratifying moment for you and for the ...
Brickyard 400 Winner's Press Conference
Sunday, Aug. 8, 2004
MODERATOR: We've been joined by team owner Rick Hendrick, who I know this has to be a particularly gratifying moment for you and for the 24 team. Fourth-time winner at Indy in the Brickyard 400. Why don't you give us your sentiments and feelings?
You know, I remember the first time I came up here, and the heritage. Then when you see it with all the people in the stands, it's pretty special. To be able to win it one time was just neat and unbelievable. I don't know what, today was so special. It felt to me better than the first one. I guess a lot of emotions and things because of my family, but it was a really good win, and Jeff did it in a dominant fashion. All I could think about was Martinsville when he hollered, "There's debris, we're done." I think that's what he said. I could see the hole in the fascia, so I never dreamed he would be able to hold them off. I think he was just as determined today as I've ever seen Jeff Gordon.
MODERATOR: Questions for Rick.
Q: He tied A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser, four time winners here at this track. Jeff has done a lot of historic things, but now we're talking some serious history. When you put your name alongside those guys at this racetrack, that's out there. He did that in cars you owned. I know how much you know about racing, how much you care about racing. At this track, how unbelievable is that for you?
HENDRICK: You know, it's really hard to put into words, you know. You think about it more tomorrow morning and the next day. When you see the trophies, you look back, you know, you kind of grow up never even thinking you'd get to go to Indianapolis. I mean, that's the deal. So I don't know, I think it will all sink in. I really like these trophies, I tell you, these are neat. You know, you'd like to think at the end of the day you worked all your life. My dad and I, since I was five years old, I remember going to Wilksboro in dirt and watching Buck Baker, Buddy Baker, Lee Petty, Richard Petty in a match race, and Junior come in there with a Dodge on the back of a flatbed, that tells you my age, doesn't it? Then to see what the sport's done, but then to be a piece of it, then to be be able to win or win championships, win these deals. It's something that you've done all your life and you love and you live for. I mean, you know, it's really neat. Now my son's coming along. I like to think about how the organization, you know, can do. I mean, I used to be the youngest guy on pit road, now I'm the oldest. So the guys behind me, I hope we can keep this thing going, then look back one day. I mean, you know, our 20 year book and all, I look back at some of those old pictures of (Geoffrey) Bodine. It's kind of humbling when you get old, when you think about it. But to be even mentioned with Mears and those guys, it's unbelievable.
Q: When Dale Jarrett was in here, somebody asked him the same thing about it took 60 years for a four time winner, Jarrett's response was, "That's because Jeff is probably as good as any driver that's ever raced here." The fact that some people have been able to come in here and really excel, talk about that fact.
HENDRICK: Well, Jeff, I've seen some phenomenal things he's done at this track. I remember the day he qualified, I thought he hit the wall off of (Turn) 4, left those black marks and still set on the pole. He can answer this better than I can, but this is a special place to him. You know, it's one of the places he lived, is from, and he dreamed about being here maybe in an open wheel car. I know when I lined up that Formula One deal, it was Formula One, but it was here at Indy, and it made a big difference. But he's just got so much talent. I told somebody out there, I mean, I told him on the radio when he said, "We're done," I said: "I've seen you beat people with two tires, I've seen you beat people with four tires, you the man." I knew it was going to be hard to pass, we didn't know how bad it was. But you guys seen a lot of guys drive, but that guy's unbelievable here.
MODERATOR: We'll switch over to Mr. Loomis here, Robbie Loomis, crew chief who also has had the chance to enjoy the fruits of victory at the Brickyard. What does this mean to you? We were talking tradition and history. Tell us what this means to you.
ROBBIE LOOMIS: Winning the Brickyard is extremely special. I mean, I remember the first time I came here with the King and we took a parade lap around, then I think they took the car and put it in the museum. Just the history of Indianapolis. I mean, anybody that's involved in motorsports as a kid, you grow up, I think about racing at short tracks, Indy is one of the places that you always respect. I know when I walked in here and we drove in the tunnel, you look at it and you can't see much unless you get out there. But it's extremely special, and to be able to do it for a second time, and with Mr. Hendrick, the things he gives us makes it a lot easier, the tools he gives us. Put Jeff Gordon on top of that. Jeff came to the drivers' meeting this morning, he was extremely quiet. I knew it was something special. He was on a mission, for sure.
MODERATOR: Before Jeff settles in here, let's talk about the race itself. Your car obviously not only was strong throughout, but your car also had the ability on restarts to pull away. Why don't you take us through as crew chief your feelings about what transpired over the course of the day.
LOOMIS: First let me say the man has entered the house (laughter). But, yeah, the restarts are something that, you know, really got to give a lot of credit to the engine shop, Brian with the gearing. When we test up here, sometimes it's pretty stressful for me, but we spend time working on things like that for the restarts. That's one thing that Jeff is extremely good at. I know that a few weeks ago we kept trying and trying, and we wound up coming home second. So today it was really good to close the deal, especially a place as special as the Brickyard.
MODERATOR: Your concerns after Jeff ran over the debris on the track, what was your communication between each other? What were your immediate concerns?
LOOMIS: Well, I was extremely sick to start with, and then I just knew that our only shot of winning was to stay on the racetrack. That was the simple part, as long as the tires were up. What I didn't know is how the tires were, how much air pressure was in them. I had binoculars and could see the nose, knew we had some damage on the right front. I figured being up front the car might balance out a little bit with the clean air. Fortunately with Jarrett behind us, we knew he wasn't the strongest car. Hate to be in that situation with a couple of the other guys out there lined up behind us, but with Jarrett's car behind us, I knew we were a little bit stronger than him anyway. It was pretty clear we had to stay out there. We got real fortunate. Actually did cut a right rear tire. After the race, the thing had five or six pounds of air in it. It was one of those days that was just meant to be.
MODERATOR: Questions for Robbie.
Q: You say it was town down to five to six. What would it normally have?
LOOMIS: Typically you'll start anywhere Goodyear's recommended pressure is 36 pounds. It will build up to 10 or 12 pounds of air in that right rear. I think over there we had to put like 30 something pounds of air to get it up to what it would be for inspection air.
MODERATOR: We'll start with Jeff now.
Q: Jeff, I don't think you answered this yet, but when the piece of whatever it was hit the car, and after you got back under green, did you feel a huge difference in the car? If so, what was it doing?
JEFF GORDON: Well, luckily it wasn't a huge difference. I mean, I was really upset at the time, you know, because it was so significant, such a significant piece of debris. It wasn't just something small, it was something pretty big. All I could do was envision Martinsville all over again. I remember how torn up that right front was. I didn't know if it cut a tire, if it damaged anything up underneath the car. I knew the air dam had some damage, but after we came by, they said the air dam didn't look too bad. You know, I drove it. I felt it around a little bit under caution, drove it down into turn one. I think it may have knocked the toe out a little bit so I did pick up more of a push. But other than that, it didn't drive that bad. I was quite surprised that it drove as good as it did.
Q: Jeff, when Dale Jarrett was in here, somebody asked him about how long it took for a four time winner here at Indy. It's taken you 11 years to become a four time winner of the Brickyard. Jarrett's response was "That's because Jeff is probably as great a driver that's ever run here." When you hear another driver like Dale Jarrett say that, how do you feel about all that?
GORDON: You know, I have a lot of respect for Dale Jarrett, so it means a lot because I think he's a great driver, as well. You know, I think he's a very gracious guy, and he's very good at giving credit, you know, to his team when they deserve it and to other people when they do. You know, I think that means a lot coming from a two time champion of this race. So, you know, it means a lot. I mean, I think he knows as well as we all do that we're the ones behind the wheel of the cars, and we get a lot of the publicity, you know, that comes with it, but if we don't have the team and the car and everything behind us, then we're really not going to stand out. And when we do, you know, we look like we're the heroes out there.
Q: Do you agree with his assessment?
GORDON: I'll always say, and I've said this for many years, that I don't think anyone will ever know who the best is because I just don't think there's any really fair way to figure that out. I know there are guys that I've raced with that have done, you know, better than anybody that I've ever seen. To put myself in that category, I try not to because all I care about is winning races and being behind the wheel of a race car that allows me to do that and allows me to be with a team that gives me that. That's all that really matters to me.
Q: Could you have ever imagined four? Where would you put yourself among the other four time winners at this place?
GORDON: I'm blown away with four. I can't believe it really. You know, the thought went through my mind a couple times during the race today when we were really strong, we were out there running up front. I kept having to shake it off, going: "Stop thinking about that. Stop thinking about that." Even there toward the end at the caution there at the end, I knew that we had, you know, three laps to go basically, I felt how special it was. It was starting to really get to me. I was like, "You know, wow." I didn't realize how much, you know, this really meant to me, to win four. Then I had to shake that off because I had to get it done first (laughter). You know, I don't compare myself to Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt, Al Unser. To me, the Indy 500 is always something unique and totally different than the Brickyard 400. You know, I just will never allow those comparisons. I'm very proud to be a four time winner, but I just will never allow those comparisons to really put us among equals with those Indy 500 winners.
Q: What sort of statement does this make for you and your team today toward the championship this year?
GORDON: I think it's a pretty loud statement (laughter). You know, this team, man, they are just really on top of things right now. It's just so much fun going to the racetracks when you know that you've got a chance at winning, just pretty much every weekend you feel like you've got some kind of a shot at it. You know, the guys, they're together, the chemistry's there, the communication's there, the momentum's there. I mean, just things feel really, really good. You know, it's such a unique championship this year that it doesn't matter how those things feel right now, it's nice to have it, and we're going to try to continue and keep that momentum. But, you know, it's really all what we do in those last 10. I think that's what makes this so sweet today, you know, really it's not about points, it's not about a championship, it's just about winning, and that's what we came here to do. It's really cool to pull it off.
Continued in part 2