Jeff Gordon Phoenix II Friday media visit

Team Chevy Racing press release

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with members of the media today at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed the new surface at Phoenix, Kyle Busch’s penalty and other topics.

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE NEW SURFACE HERE AT PHOENIX PRESENT? “The challenges that are going to come along with the tire that Goodyear brought here and the surface and who can react the quickest to getting the speed as well as not making mistakes. I really commend the race track for their efforts coming into this weekend as we’ve been able to follow -- they drug the tires and running all the laps with the different types of cars around here to help widen out the groove and get the grip level where we need it to have some very exciting side-by-side racing this weekend. I’m looking forward to getting out there on the track and seeing the changes that have happened from when we were here at testing to here today.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT JIMMIE JOHNSON’S FIVE CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS IF HE DOES NOT GET A SIXTH CHAMPIONSHIP? “Yeah, it’s been incredible. It’s something that I don’t know if you’ll ever see done again in this sport. I said this a while back that before they won a championship they were just right on the edge of winning that championship and I said that once they win one, watch out, these guys are going to go on quite a roll. Now I didn’t anticipate five in a row and I don’t think anybody could have. It’s just to me a sign of a great team. When the chemistry is there and you’ve got great equipment like we have at Hendrick, you’ve got a great crew chief in Chad Knaus as well as Jimmie Johnson being a great driver among the other members of that team -- they have come together and click like they have. They go on quite a run. It’s something you only see every so often. I don’t know if we’ll ever see five in a row, but you will see from time to time where a team is just that good for a long period of time. I think this will be a year where they learn a lot, they grow a lot from and they might even make them stronger.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A CHAMPION ONE YEAR AND THEN NOT THE NEXT YEAR AND HAVE TO NOT SIT AT THE HEAD TABLE AT THE BANQUET? “It’s been a while since anybody knows what it’s like to see anybody else up there. My wife just thought it was the Jimmie Johnson event because ever since we’ve been married he’s been the champion. I think it’s going to be unique and different for everybody to see somebody else up there on that stage. We’re seeing a heck of a battle for this championship right now and it’s going to be exciting to watch the next couple of races. It’s hard for me because I didn’t win five in a row. I think it’s a little different when you win five in a row and then you have to adjust. There’s no doubt that I think that Jimmie is very appreciative and that whole team is of everything they have accomplished, but at the same time, I think it’s hard for you not to become accustomed to being the man at the banquet, which is a great place to be. You get treated like a king. As I mentioned, this will be a growing season for them and experiences that are either going to make them hungrier and stronger or could be that thing that stops them from continuing on. I think that they are the kind of team that is going to come back strong.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK IT IS LIKE FOR CARL EDWARDS TO SEE TONY STEWART COMING ON SO STRONG IN THE CLOSING RACES OF THE CHASE? “Sometimes that can be the down side to having the start of a strong season. It seemed to me that Carl (Edwards) started the season really, really strong and it seemed like some other teams caught up to them, but they’ve been able to maintain consistency and be strong with that being the case. I think everybody is surprised by Tony Stewart. I didn’t think anybody expected Tony Stewart to be -- I don’t think any of us would say, ‘He’s going to win four of the first eight races.’ When you saw that interview that Tony did where he said, ‘I hope somebody else is in the Chase and not us because there’s other guys that deserve to be and we don’t even deserve to be in it.’ I paraphrased that and probably didn’t get the quote exactly right, but close enough. I think he meant that. I think that they felt that way at that time and that was leading into the Chase. Whatever they found, whatever they’ve done -- you just can’t ever count out a great driver and champion like Tony and that team. It’s been pretty impressive and I think it’s been very surprising to Carl (Edwards). I think last week surprised Carl a lot. I think he expected not to do well at Martinsville and came out of there with a top-10, which he was pretty happy about, but I think that he expected to go to Texas and be the dominant car. Yet, Tony was the dominant car. I think that sent quite a message and that’s why I say these last two weeks are going to be very interesting.”

DO YOU THINK KYLE BUSCH’S PENALTY WAS FAIR FROM NASCAR? “I kind of ran through my head to try to figure out what the different between what Jeff Burton did and what Kyle (Busch) did. I think that the difference was that Jeff Burton wasn’t on any kind of probation earlier in the year or the year before or the year before. He wasn’t a focus -- he’s a driver that doesn’t do things like that very often and he didn’t have a track record. I think that we kind of were able to settle it sort of face to face on the race track and there was nothing done from that point on and I was fine with that and I think Jeff was fine with that. We understood the situation. I think in this situation it’s a little bit of history as well as they were carrying a little more speed at the time and the cameras were all right there on the situation. I think that to me, it’s just more than anything, it’s the incident itself as well as kind of trying to make a statement. It doesn’t seem like there’s been enough to get Kyle’s attention to say this is unacceptable. I’m not saying he’s ever done exactly that before, but other things before that probably led into it to say to NASCAR, ‘This can’t happen again.’ There’s also a lot of talk about safety right now in motorsports. I think the timing of it as well as how it was handled as well as past history all kind of accumulated to that stiff of a penalty. At Martinsville we expect those types of things. It’s Martinsville. It’s a short track and guys are bumping and banging and tempers are flaring. Those things happen. The other thing is that it happened under caution. That’s a big deal. When the caution is out, NASCAR takes that very, very seriously. Track workers or vehicles could be moving onto the track putting other people in danger as well as a driver, you don’t prepare yourself to get into a wreck once the caution comes out. You sort of relax. I think they took all those things into account.”

IS THERE MORE RETALIATION WITH THE CAR RATHER THAN IN THE GARAGE?: “I don’t know. I feel like when you’re in a race car and somebody hits you, you’re ready to hit them back. It would be no different than if you were walking down the street and somebody came up and shoved you, you’re going to shove them back. If somebody punches you, you’re going to punch them back. It’s just kind of your instincts. It’s no different when you’re inside a race car.”

CAN MOISTURE UNDO WHAT HAS BEEN DONE TO IMPROVE THIS RACE TRACK? “Yeah, it’s a concern. It’s something that we don’t need -- rain. I think that what they have done definitely seems like it’s an improvement. I won’t know until I get out there on the race track. Just watching a little bit of what went on yesterday and today, it seems like there’s a lot more room for error, which in the test there was very little. That’s a good thing. Hopefully, if it does rain, it’s doesn’t rain hard enough to wash that away.”

CAN KYLE BUSCH LEARN FROM THIS INCIDENT AND TURN IT INTO A POSITIVE?: “First of all, it would be a huge loss to the sport if Kyle Busch is not out there. I don’t think that’s going to happen. He is extremely talented and he’s entertaining. You have to give him not only the fact that he can win races, but he can do it in an entertaining way and I think that if this doesn’t teach him the ultimate lesson than nothing will. I would certainly have to believe that this would be an eye opening experience. Sitting out Saturday and Sunday and seeing the magnitude -- I’m sure at first he was pretty shocked at the magnitude of this incident. I think once he saw that -- it had to have gotten his attention.”

IS IT STRANGE TO HAVE A TRACK CHANGE THIS MUCH IN THE MIDST OF A CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE? “I think all of us, we all say, ‘Why not do it after the season?’ We don’t know the circumstances. There’s a lot of decisions that are made and it’s not just on a whim. People, they think about it at the track and NASCAR and everybody, I’m sure came together trying to figure out the best time to do the resurfacing. Obviously they made a decision that it needed to be done. They had to do it and with having two races spread out the way that they have it, I guess they felt that during the off season it wasn’t the right time for them. I’m sure it’s something that many of us would disagree with, especially with how much it is going to change things for the championship, but I think it’s their choice and they’re decision that we all don’t know all the input that went into making that decision so we live with it.”

WAS IT INEVITABLE THAT A PENALTY WOULD HAPPEN AND THAT A LINE WOULD APPEAR WITH THE ‘BOYS HAVE AT IT’ RULING? “This is the thing that I disagree with and I guess it’s for debate is this, there’s no clear line. Yes there is -- you just saw it. Your just saw, that was the clear line and there is a clear line. When you know that you didn’t do the right thing then you know there are consequences. I think NASCAR -- when the caution is out, that’s one. The next one is when you’re on a mile-and-a-half race track running 190 miles per hour. I think that for that incident (Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski) -- I don’t know why it was handled, but in my opinion, that was a clear line. I’m not saying, to me that is clearly something that I know if I do that, there’s going to be a penalty. There was a penalty, it’s just wasn’t very severe. They parked the 99 I think at Atlanta when that happened. The incident at the next race, the Nationwide race, that was pretty deliberate, but you could still kind of say they were racing. The caution was not out on either one of those incidences. To me, the caution flag being out is a huge part of crossing the line. There’s plenty of times when guys deliberately wreck one another -- it happens all the time. But a lot of times when that happens, it’s a judgment call. It’s not a judgment call when the caution comes out.”

DOES THIS PUT MORE EMPHASIS ON THE IMAGES IN THE SPORT WHEN A SPONSOR THREATENS TO LEAVE? “I guess you could call it image -- to me, sometimes we think we’re bigger than the sport and sometimes we think we’re bigger than our sponsors and we are not. That is very, very clear. I think in this instance, Kyle’s (Busch) emotions just got the best of him and that’s the thing that I think is the line here is that Kyle’s going to have to learn to control those emotions in those moments or it will cost him his sponsor and ultimately will cost him the ride because I can tell you who’s going to come first. It’s going to be the sponsor, especially when it’s a sponsor of the caliber of M&M’s/Mars. When you have a company like that who wants to step back, that’s going to get everybody’s attention and this is an expensive sport. You cannot afford to lose sponsors, especially to that caliber. I think that this is pretty much the final draw right here in how Kyle’s going to make decisions going forward because I think the next step will be that they’ll lose a sponsor and I think the driver is going to go -- and I’m not saying just this case, but any case. Driver is going to go before a sponsor. We used to always say crew chiefs go first, then drivers -- let me tell you, sponsors go last. They ultimately make the decisions.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Carl Edwards , Brad Keselowski , Chad Knaus , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Tags avondale, chevrolet, gordon, hendrick