JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 3rd: YOU LED BRIEFLY, BUT DIDN'T SEEM TO HAVE IT AT THE END. WHAT HAPPENED? "We had been adjusting all day long to free the car up. I was awesome on new tires early in the day, but I...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Finished 3rd:
YOU LED BRIEFLY, BUT DIDN'T SEEM TO HAVE IT AT THE END. WHAT HAPPENED?
"We had been adjusting all day long to free the car up. I was awesome on new tires early in the day, but I was so tight on the long runs. We just kept freeing it up and freeing it up, and unfortunately it came down to a shorter run. That definitely wasn't to our liking. That third-to-last restart when I got the lead, I took off and I said, 'we're in great shape. Even if they catch me, hopefully they'll use it up by the time they get to me.' I was hoping that the pressures would get up and I could get to the outside and just set sail. That caution came out and I knew we were in trouble. Kurt [Busch] was so good down in Turns 3 and 4 there early on a run. He could just drive down in there as deep as he wanted. He got down there to my bumper and there wasn't anything I could do after that."
DID YOU SEE STERLING FADE ON THAT RESTART?
"I knew he was one of the guys to beat. He was really good. I didn't know how good he was going to be on the short runs. I did see him fade, but I was happy to have some breathing room between me and the guy behind me, not necessarily just Sterling [Marlin]. I didn't know what happened, but I thought that it would certainly help us out a lot. I knew I was a little free on new tires in the first couple of laps. I needed some distance between me and the guy behind me. If it had gone green all the way, who knows what would have happened.
YOU SEEM TO BE ON THE VERGE OF LOOKING LIKE YOU COULD WIN ANY WEEKEND?
"I'm trying to be like Bobby Labonte and get a top-five every weekend. You just get what you can. Every weekend you're trying to win, and you're doing everything you can. That effort put out by my team today was certainly a winning effort, and I'm a little bit disappointed right now that we didn't get the win. Those opportunities don't come very often, to be in that position. We're certainly doing what we need to do for the championship and I'm real happy about that."
STERLING MARLIN LED MORE THAN HALF THE LAPS TODAY BUT FADED AT THE FINISH. HOW FRUSTRATING IS THAT FOR A DRIVER?
"I had one at Dover like that. I led almost every lap and then Bobby Labonte won it on fuel mileage, so I've been there. I'm sure Sterling is disappointed. I don't know what happened to him on that restart. He still had a good car and it looked like he was coming back there at the end. It looked like a couple of guys had new tires and went through there to jumble things up. When he was leading and I was second, he was taking off from me. He put a straightaway on me at one time."
IS IT TOO EARLY TO START THINKING ABOUT THE POINTS? ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT MATT KENSETH'S POINT LEAD?
"I think as long as he keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to be tough to beat. Not to wish anyone bad luck, but he hasn't had any. It's really how you come through the tough times and those bad-luck days is really what determine whether you become champion. They've got the team, Matt's a great driver, they've got the performance going for them. They're smart and obviously putting great, reliable race cars out there for him. You get a guy like that who has those kinds of finishes, you're not going to beat him. Even if you win races, you're really not beating him because he finishes right behind you. It really comes down to that bad day instead of all those good days. If he keeps doing what he's doing, it's going to be hard to catch him. You have to think that the percentages will catch up with him, and then it's our job to capitalize on it if it happens. We're not even halfway through the season yet, so we'll have to see what happens."
YOU HAVE A BRAZILIAN DRIVER IN THE RACE TODAY AND THERE'S TALK OF ANOTHER MANUFACTURER COMING INTO THE SERIES. IS IT NATURAL WITH THE POPULARITY OF THIS SPORT THAT THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN?
"I think that is a great way to measure the success a sport is having when foreign manufacturers want to get involved and be a part of it and drivers from other types of racing want to come in a be a part of it, people from other parts of the world. It's certainly becoming more and more recognized worldwide all the time, which is great for everybody. I'll be very interested to see what happens if that foreign manufacturer ever gets into Winston Cup, because it's going to open up a lot of things. They still have to build a car within NASCAR specifications and rules, so that's the thing it looks like Toyota is interested in doing, even though they don't build anything like that."