Martinsville: Winning team interview, part 1

Jeff Gordon & Robbie Loomis post-race press conference NO. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Martinsville Speedway YOU OVERCAME A LOT TODAY. HOW DID YOU DO IT? Gordon: It's never one things. It's always a combination no matter what, whether you have...

Jeff Gordon & Robbie Loomis post-race press conference
NO. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
Martinsville Speedway

YOU OVERCAME A LOT TODAY. HOW DID YOU DO IT?

Gordon: It's never one things. It's always a combination no matter what, whether you have trouble or don't have trouble. Obviously, with the wheel coming loose, there was a big obstacle for us and Robbie.when he gets here maybe he can explain a little bit better what happened. I just know that I picked up a vibration and it got worse and when you have a vibration, things get worse and it's not a good sign. We came in right as the wheel was probably getting ready to come off and lost two or three laps that we came in and had to fix the problem that was making it come loose. Three laps down. Luckily it happened fairly early in the race. Our car was so good that we were able to get good track position on the leaders and then get ahead of them and make up a couple of the laps and then work our way back up there to get the lucky dog. Certainly that didn't seal the deal for us. Being in the back of the pack, the tail end of the longest line on the lead lap when we did get that lap back, and it was just an incredible race car and good pit stops. I mean, the car was just so good all day long. Robbie made some adjustments but really, I don't think we needed to make any adjustments. It's just trying to keep up with the track. It might change a little bit. Good fortune and like I said, good race car really helped us get that victory.

WE'RE ALSO JOINED HERE BY ROBBIE LOOMIS. ROBBIE - DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS TO ADD?

Loomis: He probably covered it good. I missed it. I've had to go to the bathroom since about lap 80 when we had the wheel loose!

ROBBIE, TELL US WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE WHEEL

Loomis: Well, actually, we've got to look into it a lot. We broke a wheel last week at Bristol and there is just so many parts and pieces to a race car. The hub, the studs, the spacers in the wheel.you know I don't want to call out one thing to any one area. Today when we had the failure there at about lap 50, we knew we had to do something serious to fix it. And that's why we lost that other lap there on pit road, taking some spacer off trying to get back or we had some better threads where hopefully.it's just a miracle that thing stayed tight the rest of the day. Usually when it happens that early, you're in trouble for a long day.

WAS IT THE RIGHT FRONT?

Loomis: Yes, it was the right front tire.

I KNOW YOU DON'T WANT TO FORGET THE PEOPLE THAT WERE LOST IN THE ACCIDENT LAST FALL, BUT DOES TODAY KIND OF CLOSE THE BOOK A LITTLE BIT ON THAT?

Gordon: Well, I think that definitely was on our minds, coming here. This being the first race back since all that happened..it's one of those things where those memories are never going to go away. The thoughts of those people are never going to go away. But, there's just some extra meaning, I think, that comes to Martinsville for us every time we come here that those thoughts are in our minds and this being the first one back I know it was an emotional win for all of us and Rick Hendrick poking his head in the window and being emotional tells you how much it meant to him and his family as well. We're excited to be able to pull it off for Hendrick Motorsports. It's an honor.

JEFF, YOU'RE ONLY FIVE VICTORIES BEHIND WHAT DALE EARNHARDT HAD IN HIS CAREER. YOU NOW HAVE 71 WINS AND HE HAD 76 WINS

Gordon: That's unbelievable when I think about that. I remember in Daytona when we won that one and that was 70, I was just amazed. Through all the wins and all the experiences I've had, I feel like it's been such a whirlwind and it seems like it's happened overnight. I feel like I really haven't had the opportunity to really spend time and think about what all I've accomplished, what we've accomplished as a team and sitting here at 71.I think that Daytona was one of those moments where it kind of hits you.Wow! You know, 70. Here at 71, it's incredible. I look forward to that day, I always say, one day I really look forward to in my life is sitting in that rocking chair on that porch and thinking about all those wins and moments and even going back to what got me into the Cup Series. A lot of great wins and things that happened to me then, too, that are great memories. And to do anything, coming close to anything that Dale Earnhardt accomplished is always something that means a lot to us as drivers and me personally.

ROBBIE, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT EXACTLY A SPACER IS? ALSO, WHEN YOU SAID YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING SERIOUS TO FIX IT, CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE NATURE OF THE REPAIRS?

Loomis: Actually what we have is.we have the hub which has the five studs go through it. What slides over the studs is a hat. And when the hat slides over it, we have bolts that go on there. And then there is the spacers that go on the outside of that. Steel spacers. When we had the loose wheel and put it on there under green, we started having the trouble there again. I think we had a caution then quick. And we knew the studs looked really bad. Corey looked at them and he said, 'Hey, we've got a problem, these studs look really bad.' We knew we weren't going to make it, so it was actually like putting a longer stud in there. What we did is under green we came in and we used a battery-powered drill and took the bolts out, took the ¼-inch spacers off and got back to more stud and then it held on the rest of the day.

That's why we were being real cautious on all our pit stops with the right front. It took longer because we had a lot more threads it had to go down on, and also we were being real conscious to make sure they were tight.

DID YOU GET A SENSE THAT ON YOUR VICTORY LAP THERE WERE MORE CHEERS AS OPPOSED TO PEOPLE ROOTING AGAINST YOU IN THE PAST?

Gordon: Yeah, I don't know what brought that on. I just know that when I got out of the car, there were an awful lot of cheers. It feels good. For years I hear a mixture of boos and cheers and even going out for driver introductions today, I know they make a lot of noise and that's great but you see and lot gestures and you hear a lot of things and you hear the good and the bad and you try to block it out. When you with the race, I think.I didn't know if it was because we came from three laps down and had a great race or because it was also in the back of their minds about the tragic thing that happened here last year.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH RICK HENDRICK AFTER THE RACE Gordon: I think that's what makes today so special is that when you've got a guy like Rick Hendrick that you respect so much and you've seen what he's been through.the ups and the downs in his life and especially here last year, for him to poke his head in there and just thank you, thank you, thank you, and with that tremble in his voice, that impacts you. That tells you how meaningful this was. You get so caught up in the moment of driving the car and just trying to win the race, that kind of pops in your mind once it's all over. When he poked his head in there, it hit me like a ton of bricks of what this meant today.

Loomis: I think Jeff hit the nail on the head. When I came down off the box and there was Mr. Hendrick.you know he does so much for all of us in this sport, especially Hendrick Motorsports and all the employees. You know, everybody in that garage loves him. From all the competitors, drivers would especially like to be in those cars. You know it was more a moment of silence with each other. You know, it's the same thing as Jeff said that he's thanking me and I'm just blown away. It was just an incredible day.

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS COMING UP ON KURT BUSCH AFTER YOU HAD TAKEN THE LEAD?

Gordon: Just when you think you've got this one.Um, I didn't know what he was going to do. It didn't surprise me that he was upset. We were racing hard. I certainly didn't want to get into him. He had a good car. You know, he had a car capable of winning today. You know, it was two guys just going for territory that neither one of us wanted to give up. I knew he was one of the guys to beat and he probably knew that I was one of the guys to beat as much as what we had fought through and overcome. At the end when I was leading, I'm sure in the back of his mind was, 'I'm upset at this guy and the last thing I want is for this guy to win this race after what happened' and you always have your sides. I'll have my side and he'll have his side. I don't know what his intentions were-I was a little bit nervous because I got a run up underneath him coming off of turn 2, and he wasn't going to let me go to the inside of him. He basically just turned right down across my hood and made me go to the outside of him. At that moment, I knew I had to go to the outside of him if I was going to pass him. But I didn't know what he was going to do to me. Sure enough he ran me up the race track and then down the front straight he just drove.turned right into me. I was concerned it was going to cut the left side.left front or left rear tire down. So, with all that, I let him go in the corner and I didn't know what he was going to do from that point on. I looked in my mirror thinking, 'How many laps do I have to mess with him before the guys catch me?' Had somebody been behind me, it could have cost us the race. So, we were really fortunate that we finally got by him and there were no issues after that.

ROBBIE WHAT WAS THIS WEEKEND LIKE FOR YOU AND THE CREW, COMING HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Loomis: I just think we were just very, very focused and believed in one another and the only thing that changed for me is that I had my Dad here. It's the first time he's been at a race live with us. So, that was kind of cool taking him to victory lane. We're just focused. We all believed in one another and it stayed that way the whole day.

JEFF, WHAT ABOUT THE WAY JIMMIE JOHNSON CAME BACK

Gordon: Yeah, definitely. I was impressed about that because I saw they were struggling a lot throughout the day. Not only did they have a rough weekend and qualifying, they were struggling throughout the day. They just never gave up on it and to get back in the top 10, was pretty amazing. I think they were one or two laps down. I think they went one lap down, got it back, went another lap down and then got it back. I always have my eyes on Jimmie anytime I can see him, see what's going on. Not to mention he's one of the guys to beat every weekend. I know Martinsville hasn't always been his best place even though he won here last time, so I'm certainly proud of him and it was a great effort.

HOW MUCH ANXIETY DID YOU HAVE ABOUT LOSING THOSE LAPS?

Gordon: I think I only lost it one time. We had the loose wheel and I came in, we changed it, went back out and I felt it start to come loose again and I asked Robbie what happened the first time and he said the wheel was loose. I screamed at him. But that was it-just that one time. Then it was over. Because, even at that moment that I was upset about what was going on and didn't understand it, I knew how good our car was. I think that's probably why I was most upset about it.I know we've got a car to win this race, so how in the world are we going to come from this far back and we can't have any more issues or problems of coming in and losing that lap in the pits to fix it. Instead we'll just continue to try to stay on that lap and probably not get it fixed completely and I think that's why we were able to get ourselves in a position to get two laps back and then get the lucky dog later.

ROBBIE, WAS THERE ALSO A FLAT TIRE THAT LED UP TO THAT VIBRATION AS WELL?

Loomis: No, there wasn't a flat tire.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Robbie Loomis
Teams Hendrick Motorsports