Continued from part 1 Q: Can you talk a little about this season, the way that the 24 and 48 have run, how your organization has responded this year? HENDRICK: You know, I really ... Jeff and Robbie can help me, but I think we started ...
Continued from part 1
Q: Can you talk a little about this season, the way that the 24 and 48 have run, how your organization has responded this year?
HENDRICK: You know, I really ... Jeff and Robbie can help me, but I think we started rebuilding back in 2000. We said at a media tour, we're going to win together, and we're going to lose together, but we're going to be together. And every crew chief and every driver that's come into the organization since then, and everybody that's been involved in a management type position, we've had the goal of working together, sharing information, and making it work. And Jeff, when we put our heads together and he saw Jimmie run that race in Michigan, said, "That's the guy we got to get." You know, to Robbie's credit, I've never seen four crew chiefs work together. Everybody talks about it, but our guys really do work together. And the engine shop, chassis shop, the chemistry's the best I've ever had in 20 years, at least the 18 that I've run multiple cars. I think that's paying off for us. I think that's hard, when you look at teams and you ask yourself, "Are they really working together? Is it an open book? Are they sharing?" I think right now the chemistry, these guys can tell you what they think, but from where I sit, I think it's the best chemistry we've ever had. I owe a lot of it to these two guys. Jeff has been the dominant guy. He didn't take the attitude in 2000 that "It's all got to be for me." He wanted to build the whole organization. I think it's really paying off for us today.
Q: With everything you've been through in the last couple weeks, is this one even more special?
HENDRICK: Yeah, it really is. Well, it is. You know, I can't tell you how humble my family is for the cards and the letters and all the fan support that other teams' drivers and guys like Richard Childress that showed up today, you know, it just really humbled all of us. I don't remember racing without my dad. I told these guys earlier, some of you weren't here, since I was 5 years old, I mean, we've been together. I took off time earlier this year to stay with him. And then I don't want to get emotional here, Stevie Waltrip said today that his heart's here, and you got his heart. That to me means more than the race. But every time that we have success now, I think it's like I'm doing it for him or we're doing it for him. Jeff and Robbie said that today. We got some great memories. It's a lot of emotions and a lot of things that have happened. But this sure makes you feel it just gives you almost a sense of fulfillment. We'll try to take it on to next week.
Q: NASCAR's first attempt at the green-white-checkered, prolonged it by an extra lap, but did that kind of add to the tension level for you guys?
LOOMIS: Yeah, it definitely added to the tension level. We would have liked it, four laps, would have been over. But we were fortunate the way the fuel window fell. We had about five laps extra of fuel. That's why we just tried to get some clarification if that green-white-checkered was going to be it, was that going to be the end of the race. You know, fortunate for us, that didn't happen. Everybody got to see a finish. I think that's the first time that's happened that I know of in NASCAR. So that was exciting to be a part of that, too.
GORDON: I mean, we all knew it was going to happen eventually. I was unclear, and I was kind in the same boat that Robbie was, just hoping that, you know, we'd just get the checkered eventually (laughter). But I was unclear when they said, "We're going green-white-checkered, running one extra lap," if that meant that that was the official green-white-checkered. That's something that we're really going to have to get clarification on in the future. We all know there's only one opportunity to get the green-white-checkered. I mean, I'm glad that we finally got one. You guys can talk about it. We're the ones that won it. It worked out. I mean, I think it is really cool for the fans and for us, the teams, to see your car come across there under green-flag conditions and those checkered flags waving. It does mean more. It just takes away a little bit when you come across there under caution.
HENDRICK: You know, I remember we did a lot of racing in the truck series. I won a lot with the green-white-checkered, I lost a lot with that. I get so nervous when I think we got an opportunity to win a race, anyway. One more thing thrown on it won't make any more difference with me (laughter). I'm thankful because it's been that way ever since I won my first race. You never count 'em till they're done. Last night was great. Today was great. You don't count 'em till it's over. I think it's better for the fans. I think it's going to be much better for them.
GORDON: Well, you know, in the heat of the moment, your adrenaline's flowing. You're leading one of the biggest races of your life, and you see something ... you're running a hundred and, whatever, 60 miles an hour, and you don't have time to react. You just hit it. I mean, one is I was worried I was going to hit it and it was going to put me in the wall. The other is that it was going to take us out of contention to win. You know, I just remember I reacted, I was very upset that as big a piece of debris as it was when I hit it that nobody saw it, that nobody even no it was there until we came through there. That's because I'm in the heat of the moment. I don't know how long it was there. I don't even know what it was. But I do know I looked in my mirror, and Matt Kenseth certainly got the worst of it. I don't know how in the world that piece of debris went through, underneath wherever it went from my race car, then got him the way it did, and didn't get us. But I was, you know, pretty animated on the radio about that I felt like somebody should have recognized that. I think any time that there's a piece of debris on the track, it seems like we get cautions when there's debris that really doesn't seem to be much, and then when it's really significant, sometimes it doesn't come out as soon as we'd like it to. You know, we got fortunate. Matt was very unfortunate. I feel bad for them and for what they had to go through. And I don't know, I'd like to know how long it was out there and whether or not we could have prevented all that from happening.
Q: Not to open up a can of worms, although that pretty much is my job.
GORDON: Don't be doing "Pit Bull" on me here in the media center.
Q: What strikes me about this whole weekend, some of the things you said here, we heard guys talk about how much they enjoy not racing, having to worry about points, just coming here to try to win the big race. I guess the philosophical question I'd like to ask you is, wouldn't it be a good thing if it was like that every week?
GORDON: Well, in a way it is. I mean, more so for us right now because the way the points system is, and where we're at in the points right now. You know, when you start the season, it's like that. When you are battling for points positions that are critical, it's like that. But for us, we're kind of in a comfort zone right now over the next five or six races. I know what you're saying. I mean, in a way we do go out there to win every weekend, but when there are points on the line, we do watch a little bit more of how much RPM we're going to turn, how aggressive we're going to be on the setup, is this going to be a day that we can use as a test, you know, for down the road. To me it just seemed like this weekend we're feeling very little pressure as far as the points are concerned and more just pressure of just to go out there and perform and to win. It would be nice to have that every weekend. But that's part of a championship in general. You know, it doesn't matter if you're in the Super Bowl, you got a seven point lead, you protect your seven point lead. But it's just kind of the nature of the game and the business and the sport that we're in. We all want that championship. But right now I do like it. I mean, I like the position that we're in. It's awesome. Let me tell you, when it comes down to those last 10 races, it's not going to feel anything like this.
Q: I'll open up a can of worms maybe. When three other wins here, did you forget where Victory Lane was?
GORDON: I must have. I think it slipped my mind. I thought Victory Lane was where those bricks are out there. You know, you just react. I went down there, you know, thinking about a burnout or something like that. I stink at burnouts, so I just locked them up on the bricks and, you know, told the team to get out there. You know, your emotions are just going, and you're excited, the adrenaline's flowing. You know, I'm sure I'm going to get in some kind of trouble over it. But, you know what, right now I don't care (laughter).
Q: There was a lot of cautions, 13 cautions. You had a little time to think. Did you think during any of those: "Is there going to be another Martinsville? Is it going to get me?" Did you have a premonition?
GORDON: You mean, the debris?
Q: The debris that you eventually hit. In the back of your mind, during the cautions, did you think that it could be another Martinsville?
GORDON: Oh, yeah. Heck, yeah. Every lap I was rolling around there, I would wiggle the wheel back and forth just to make sure the right front tire was still up. Honestly, when it happened, I thought we were done.
Q: That wasn't the question.
GORDON: I'm confused because all I know in Martinsville, we hit a piece of debris and we were done.
Q: Today during the cautions when you were leading, did you think it could be another Martinsville, and then, boom, it happened?
GORDON: No (laughter). I never, ever think about hitting a piece of debris on the racetrack until I hit it.
Q: Is it important at all to catch Jimmie and be leading going into those last 10 races?
GORDON: It's worth five points. That's about it. I mean, five points are five points. I mean, the championship can be won or last by five points. You know, right now I think that we're in the mode of getting all that we can get and really I want to go into those last 10 breathing down those guys' necks, leading laps, showing that our pit crew's the best, that our cars are the best, that we are the team and the guys to watch coming into those last 10. Now, you know, once we get in those last 10, you know, I think there's going to be a little bit more strategy than what we think. Obviously, you know, we're all going to try to win races, but the first five how the first five or six are dealt with versus the last four or five is going to be very interesting as to where we're at, what position we're in and everything. You know, I mean, I look at this points championship, and I shake my head at it all the time, about I don't know how in the world we came up with this. Then there's times I look at it and go it's the greatest thing I've ever seen. I really don't know what to think. I think that David might get his wish. We might just be charging hard every single lap of every race all the way to the finish. You know, I guess when I said that, when I said we came here just focused, thinking of winning, it's not that we really tried any harder, it's just that we didn't have that pressure. We just didn't have that on us. If any decision came about in the setup, the gear, all those things I mentioned before, or decisions I made on the racetrack, I never once was thinking about points, I was only thinking about getting the position and trying to get the win. We're out there doing that a lot, but there is just that thing in the back of year mind that thinks about the points, if this is a typical year. That will be the case when we get down to these last 10.
Q: Can you remember the first racetrack in Indiana you won a race on when you came from California? Can you remember the first time you came to the Speedway?
GORDON: I wish my stepdad was here right now. I think the first track that I ever won on was in the quarter-midget, it was either at Big Z or Kokomo, something like that. There was a quarter-midget race that I ran back here in like '81, '82, something like that. I have no idea where Big Z is, I know that was the name of the track. The coolest thing about racing midgets in Indiana is it paid money to race. I was just blown away that you could get 30 bucks if you won the feature. We'd run two classes. I'd run, you know, an A and a B class, little bit different horsepower. If I won them both, I could get 60 bucks. I remember I won that trophy, and I won that $60. I think we won both of them one time we were back here.
Continued in part 3