An interview with: JEFF GORDON JEFF BURTON THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jeff. We're also pleased to be joined by our runner up of today's race and that's Jeff Gordon, driver of the ...
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jeff. We're also pleased to be joined by our runner up of today's race and that's Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet. He is now ninth in our point standings.
Jeff, you battled a lot of things out there today, the weather, each other. Your thoughts about the outcome of the race, and your performance.
JEFF GORDON: I was trying to figure out why my car had no grip out there the last several laps. Then I got out of the car and I understood why. Man, we were racing in the rain. I knew it was spitting on the windshield, but I had no idea just how bad it was.
Our car was unbelievable the first half of the race. And we played some pit strategy that I really felt like was the right call. We took four tires as soon as we could make it on fuel, but the car never took off.
I was just really spinning the tires that whole last run and could never make any moves. And Denny took two and that really seem to be the good call. But, you know, we started making some gains on those guys and finally got up to second place. So pretty good day for us, all things considered.
We could have been a lot worse. At one point, we got in that wreck and went they'll way to the back. It was pretty interesting from that point on.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q: I noticed before the race you were stretching quite a bit. I mean, physically how was it to race in this cold weather?
JEFF BURTON: This was great for us. I'm sure it's miserable for the fans, but for us this is one of the easier Martinsville races that I've had in a long time.
I think this is one of the most physical races we go to. I mean, today is pretty, pretty not easy but easier compared to what Martinsville normally is.
I'm just stretching cause I'm old. The older you get, the more you got to stretch.
JEFF GORDON: I hear you, man.
Q: For Jeff Gordon. Do you think people will finally shut up about Hendrick after today?
JEFF GORDON: I guess not. We didn't win.
Q: You had four in the top seven.
JEFF GORDON: Well I, I mean, if any track's a good one for us, this certainly is one of them. You know, it's pretty awesome to have all the cars up there running that good.
You know, I never really paid attention to a whole lot of that stuff anyway because I felt like our team is good and our cars are good, and we're going run good at some tracks, better at some than others.
We had some problems that put us behind in the points. I think somebody told us we're in the top ten now so that's good. We're moving the right direction. And, you know, we got a great result out of Martinsville which we were hoping for. Now we can take this momentum and move on.
Q: I guarantee you that the I'm going to get mail and comments from fans and from readers over the fact that near the end of the race there were two lap cars that impeded the progress, seemingly irrationally, of trying to catch up with a driver who was in the same brand they are. Do you think that is plausible that McDowell and then Kyle Busch had in mind who the leader was and who he drove?
JEFF BURTON: I thought Kyle got out of the way. I thought Kyle actually hung a left on the front straight away and moved out of the way. He never impeded me, and I was second most of the time. So I never felt like Kyle impeded me. The 00 did. Why he did that, you know, you got to ask him that. I can't answer that.
JEFF GORDON: But he did it all day long from Lap 1 to Lap 500.
JEFF BURTON: At least he's consistent.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, he's consistent with it.
I think that's going to be a rookie trying to learn patience and understand; you know, when and who you race that hard. I mean you got to race for position, but, you know, when guys are racing for the lead, I mean, that's kind of crazy, especially on restarts.
JEFF BURTON: No one expects anybody just to move out of the way all day long. But there is a time when you do move out of the way, and there is a time that it's okay to move out of the way. And, you know, he didn't do that.
Q: Jeff, could you just talk a little bit about what a difference a year makes. Last year you finished second, you beat your teammate's bumper off, and you were extremely frustrated. And after the work you had to do this year, you were very pleased with finishing second.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, every circumstance is different. When you feel like you've got the car to win the race and you run down the leader and you get inside of him, you know, and you don't pull it off, you're frustrated that you didn't get it done. And plus, you know, you got to kind of race your teammate a little bit different.
If it had been somebody else, I might have had to lean on them a little bit harder. But, you know, I would have leaned on Jeff a little bit harder. (Laughing.) I would have raced you the same way you always race me, which is, you know, hard and clean.
But, no, I think that this year, you know, with all the different circumstances of going all the way back to, whatever, 30th and coming back up through there, you got to be pretty pleased to come home 2nd after, you know, a day like that.
So, you know, everything's relative to performance and what you have out there. I know we had a great car today. But second half of the race, you know, we just we knew it was going to come down to pit strategy, whether we would get it done or not.
I am a little frustrated, but I'm just frustrated that last set of tires, for whatever reason, the adjustments we made or whatever, just didn't really work out for us.
Q: Jeff, couple things. You mentioned you thought Denny got two tires on that last stop. He said in Victory Lane he did not take tires. One, does that surprise you that he was able to go that long on an old set of tires. And, two, for both of you guys, Denny and Jimmie just seem to, at various points today, come up through the pack. So, really, was track position that big of a deal because everybody was able to come up through some early issues?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it's my mistake. I thought he took two tires. But, you know, the fact that he didn't take any tires is even more impressive, you know, because he was really able to go up there and pass cars.
So, you know, I honestly question new tires. I don't know, for whatever reasons our new tires were not you know, they had no grip. So I'm not sure what was going on there, but something to think about and look at in the future.
But track position was important. But Denny drove up through there and passed those guys, and especially if he had old tires on, it shows that they had a good car, good strategy and deserved to win the race.
Q: Jeff Gordon, I heard you salute the fans out there for sticking it out. Can you when you stepped out of the car today, I mean, can you recall a, you know, a race where, you know, the conditions were as cold and maybe as unpleasant as they must have been for the people who did stick it out?
JEFF GORDON: I've seen worse conditions, but I've never seen worse conditions that we actually were running green flag laps.
You know, when you get out of the car and you feel how cold it is and steam's rolling off your body and, you know, it's visibly raining almost like sleet, you know, and you look up in the grandstands and those folks stuck around. I'm just glad they got to see a good race. That was a really good Martinsville race. It was a lot of different passes and action and lead changes, and that's why those folks stuck around. So, you know, pretty cool that they did and shows what kind of loyal fan base we have.
Q. Jeff, you had, obviously, very good runs this year. Are you surprised that you guys have run as well as you have? And is there any one thing that you guys are doing better now than you were at the end of last?
JEFF BURTON: Every team works hard to be better. We have worked hard. Richard Childress Racing has looked at all the departments trying to be better.
You know, to be honest, I don't think we're running as well right now as we did this point last year. Last year we were really fast, led more maps, then we kind of fell off. We got where we weren't as competitive toward the end of the year.
But we've been, you know, either way, my assessment is we've run anywhere from third to tenth. You know, that's been kind of it. We haven't really been the best car anywhere, but we've been in the top ten everywhere. So we've got to be better.
We know that everybody's going to step it up. If we continue to run the way we're running come July, that will be running 20th. So we've got to find a way to be better. I don't know how we're going to do that, but we're continuing to work, and, you know but we have a lot of room to grow.
I mean we've been we haven't had, you know, knock on wood, we haven't had a catastrophic day that a lot of people have had. Certainly that has a lot to do with where we are in the points. But we have to we've got to find a little more speed. Again, I don't think we're quite as good at this point this year compared to last year.
But this is the best we've run here in a long time so I'm glad of that.
Q: What challenges did the cold weather today and the wet, of course, have as far as keeping your cars set up to run as fast as you did compared to the other guys? When you set them up originally for 75 degree weather to qualify.
JEFF BURTON: We all knew I mean, you watch the weather, and we all knew it was going to be pretty cool today. Like Jeff said, it was slick at the end. I mean, there wasn't much grip. You know, certainly it was raining harder than I realized it was raining. So I don't know, I thought the speed of the cars didn't fall off as much today as they did here last year on runs. More people could run well. Mean, I don't know how many cars we had on the lead lap but had to be a bunch.
You know, when it's cool, it's cool for everybody. When it's hot, it's hot for everybody. So I don't think it has as big an impact as people think it does.
Q. Martinsville's a physical track and Sadler made the 500 laps with a really sore back and he can't even squat. Can you tell me how you guys feel now, and what do you think about Sadler going through all 500 laps?
JEFF GORDON: It's kind of like Jeff said, I think if he was going to be able to get through any Martinsville race it was probably today because it was really cool, you know, which makes the temperatures really good for us.
But still, you know, you got to give the guy lot of credit. I mean pushing on that brake pedal a thousand times out there like that is not easy no matter what the conditions are like. And I've had some back issues, you know, in the past. Not quite that bad. But here and the road courses, places you don't want to go to with a sore back.
That's why us old guys stretch. He's starting to get up there, too. He needs to remember he's starting to get up there a little bit, too. He needs to start stretching a little bit more.
JEFF BURTON: I want to hear the story how he hurt his back. I bet it's pretty good. (Laughing.) That's y'all's job. Go get it.
Q: The top 12 cars today were Gibbs, Hendrick, RCR, Roush, all 12. I know it's only six races into the season, but can we expect that you four teams have really broken away from the rest of the field and are going to stay there this year? Do you see anybody else with the potential to move up?
JEFF GORDON: I'm not trying to be arrogant, I'm just saying weren't those the same teams that were the teams to beat last year, and the teams pretty much every weekend that are up there. Sometimes there's surprises. Sometimes there's, you know I mean, I guess we all would think that maybe, you know, Penske would also break in there, which they have early on.
But, you know, those are the teams to beat right now in this sport. I mean they just truly are. And they're all, no matter what the circumstances, they're going to be tough. They got good drivers, good crew chiefs, great resources, and, you know, they're putting great cars and teams out there. So, you know, I think that it's just something that you are going to see a lot of. And, you know, those are the ones you are probably going to see battle it out each and every weekend and for the championship.
Q: Denny was feeling really jinxed a few weeks ago, feeling things weren't going his way. What's it like when you finally get a win and get that behind you?
JEFF BURTON: He'll get that feeling back. Just hang around long enough, it's going to come back.
JEFF GORDON: Sounds like a guilty conscience to me.
JEFF BURTON: I know how it works. You know, it's that's how this sport is. When things are good you enjoy them, and you don't, you know, take it for granted. And when things are bad you have to understand that, you know, you can't flip out about it, you just have to focus on how to be better and learn from mistakes or whatever.
But, you know, when you run well continually, you're going to get your wins and you're going to get your top fives, if you run well continually, and that's what they've done.
I mean, every one of those cars in every race has run well, and they'll continue to do that. So it's just you just got to look at what the next race is, not the last one.
JEFF GORDON: Us old guys, we can talk about once you've been in the sport long enough it all goes up and down, up and down, and you just kind of realize how to get through the, you know, those peaks and valleys and just try to stay consistent. So he probably just being a little hard on himself.
JEFF BURTON: The only difference is you got about 60 more ups than I do.
Q: Going into Turn 2 there, I don't know, 55, 60 laps go looked like you kind of lost the nose and lost ground to Denny and that gave him some breathing room. Did anything happen there, or did you just overdrive the corner or what happened?
JEFF BURTON: We were talking. I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.
Q: Going into Turn 2 with 55 laps to go, the nose of your car, you slid and you lost ground, and Denny got away from you a little bit. What happened there? Or was it just one of them driver errors?
JEFF BURTON: I don't mess up. You know that.
Hell, I don't remember. I believe the I don't remember what happened, but I'm sure it was my fault, and I was driving it, and I got in too deep I'm sure. But, you know, just trying to make ground up.
Wait a minute. Hold on a second. I just realized, if I was really a Carolina fan, I would have blamed the refs. (Laughing.) Could have blamed it on NASCAR, because it couldn't be my fault.
Q: Jeff, you have been around Junior this year and he's been so close to getting in Victory Lane, and today had a really good car, as you did. Have you sensed any frustration he is not getting there yet?
JEFF GORDON: No. I've only sensed excitement. He might be frustrated. I'm flying home with him so we'll talk about it.
We had a great race out there. I had a lot of fun racing with him out there. And I did I really thought he had the car to beat today because, you know, he was strong. He could pass me, get out in front of me, and looked like he lost a lot of drive off there towards the end of the race and was struggling with that. But I don't sense any frustrations. Maybe today because he had that good of a car.
But, you know, I mean he's pumped and excited and just, you know, happy to be running good and being competitive. And, you know, they just it's like the rest of us, you just know that you got to work hard. It doesn't matter, if you win the race this weekend you just got to keep working, you know, as hard as you can as a group, as a team to keep it going. Or you got to work hard to get better, you know. And it's just a constant thing that you think about.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, guys. Thanks a lot. Good job today. Have a good week.