Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo Take us through those last laps and your pass for second: "Well that one wasn't very spectacular. It was the battle between me and (Ricky) Rudd that was getting pretty wild out there. I was...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Take us through those last laps and your pass for second: "Well that one wasn't very spectacular. It was the battle between me and (Ricky) Rudd that was getting pretty wild out there. I was giving him the inside and he was taking it. We were having a heck of a battle for that position. But as we were coming to take the white (flag), we drove into (turn) three and Jeremy (Mayfield) really drove in there and slid up there and hit the wall, and Bobby (Labonte) was sideways. I went to the bottom and I had a run on them. When we came down the back straightaway, they said, 'Caution's out, wreck in turn one'. And I was right on Bobby and kind of had a run going on him. We were battling there and he went to the bottom and I went to the top and I had the momentum and ended up getting the pass."
What was the track like after the restart? "It was good for me all day until I hit the wall. I smacked the wall off of (turn) 2 and really blew our chances of a win today. Bobby and I were running really fast there. My biggest problem was on new tires. I kept giving up track position on new tires. I'd get a little bit loose when guys were behind me. That particular set was a really good set. It was running good. I wasn't even loose at the time. I was just trying to carry a lot of momentum off the corner. I got the right rear into the wall and the thing started pushing. I about hit the wall on every lap then. I was pretty disappointed in that. So I was doing everything I could just to hang on to the position there at the end. That's why I was fighting Rudd so hard. For one, it's points. And I knew if I gave up that position I was going to lose a bunch more. So we were really thrilled to come home second."
When did you hit the wall? "About two laps into that. Not the last restart, but the one where I was leading and Bobby was behind me. About four or five (laps) into it."
What are your thoughts on the red-flag with 9 laps to go? "That's pretty much standard these days. It didn't surprise me. Of course as ill-handing as my car was, I didn't want to see it. I only wanted it to be about a three-lap shootout instead of a five or six-lap shootout. It's just kind of standard practice these days. You kind of expect it. I didn't know if the rain was going to catch us or not and we weren't even going to get to restart. You hate to see guys get wrecked and stuff like that after a shootout, but it's exciting. It certainly worked in my favor to finish second instead of fourth or fifth or worse."
With 11 races to go, what are your thoughts on the points situation? "It's still too early to tell you what's going to happen. I wish I could say more. We're doing what we need to do. We're getting the top-fives and we're finishing the races. But I know that it only takes two or three bad races and that lead we have is gone. I don't know how to answer the question at this point in the season other than hopefully we can keep being consistent. We've got an awesome race team now and preparation-wise, we can't ask for more. They've been showing up at the racetrack with fast racecars and a great pit crew. All we can do now is what we're doing. We're not trying to protect points. We're trying to get as many as we can, but we're racing hard to do that right now."
What's the likelihood of you having more than one bad race? "I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know. I have no idea when, where, how it's going to happen. I just know it can. I think that you can make some of your own luck by preparation and by showing up at the racetrack and running hard and fast and getting a good qualifying run and a good place on pit road. This weekend we did everything we could to get the best fortune we could. There's not a lot of tracks that I'm concerned that we're not going to run good at other than maybe Talladega. I have no clue what's going to happen when we go there. And it was good to survive Bristol and come out with a top-five there. Most tracks we run pretty good at and should be able to get the top-fives that we need. Hopefully we can sneak in a few more wins before the season's over."
Did the pit stops help a lot to keep you out front today? "That certainly had a lot to do with it because we had great stops today. We had the best pick on pit road as far as a pit stall. I'm surprised the No. 97 car (Kurt Busch, pole-sitter) did not pick that spot because we picked a spot that he picked a couple years ago and we found out that's not the way to get up front so that hurt us (then) but it helped today.
"We had a fast racecar but just couldn't get it consistent. The clouds were coming in and out and changing a little bit. But there at the end, I just blew it. I hit the wall in turn 2 and damaged the rear end. I think it moved the rear end over just enough to make it push. Our day was done from there as far as winning."
Until that last caution at the end, Ricky Rudd was running with you. Is that typical of the luck that team is having? "They've been having some trouble. I don't know about any kind of wrecks. I know Ricky has had some engine trouble like that belt at Indianapolis. But you know, it's like good luck versus bad luck. I don't know how to create it and I don't know how you just have it or don't have it. Certainly right now it seems to be on our side.
One time, Ricky hit me going into (turn) 3 one time - not because he just hit me but because I didn't give him much room. Fortunately I didn't spin out right there. So, is that luck? Maybe. I thought it was a lot of luck to finish second today. I didn't even know he got caught up in that wreck there at the end."
On Ward Burton's performance today and the meaning of earning a piece of history at this race track "I think it's great. It's certainly a very meaningful race. This racetrack has a lot of history in itself - not just this race, but the track also. I'll tell you, Ward (Burton) runs good here. That team knows how to get it done here. To come from where he came from and to win with a fast racecar with the teamwork and the pit crew and all, they had the whole package today. They did a great job."
On the amount of passing on the re-starts: "That's the only time you really can pass is on either on a restart when the tires are either cold or new, or when somebody hits the wall or makes a mistake. I think the reason you see a lot of passing on a track like this is because it's high-banked and worn out. Any track we go to that's high-banked and worn out, you're probably going to see more passing. When we first started going to Atlanta after they repaved it, we didn't pass at all. Now, it's weathered and worn a little bit and we run up against the wall, run on the bottom, there's a lot of passing. That's just an example.
"Once we got running, it was kind of hard to pass. So you tried to take advantage of any momentum that you had. There's only really one good line around here. So if a guy is passing you and he goes to the inside, he doesn't have the good line going into the next corner. And that's why you see the guy he passes pass him right back. And you'll go back and forth until finally one guy gives up or puts enough of a block-pass on him that the guy can't make the pass back. But it kind of makes it exciting. Sometimes we just do it for fun. Sometimes we do it because we don't want to get passed. Sometimes we do it just to mess with the guy and then he does it back."