Continued from part 1 Q: You've done so well here. Did you feel like today was that drivable a day? Was the car performing seemingly like it had been in the past here? JEFF GORDON: The car was good, especially in the braking zones.
Continued from part 1
Q: You've done so well here. Did you feel like today was that drivable a day? Was the car performing seemingly like it had been in the past here?
JEFF GORDON: The car was good, especially in the braking zones. My goodness, we've made some improvements there. In that scenario we needed to make improvements that the team really focused on. The first run took me -- we had a horrible start there in turn 2. I don't know what happened but the guys were just all over the place. I lost like four spots. I was trying to run through the first lap in my mind, and in my mind I was thinking about making up three spots, not losing them.
So that was pretty frustrating. It got dicey and I had to be aggressive at times, and we started making some passes and I was feeling good about it. Then all of a sudden me and Stuart and Robby Gordon kind of stayed there, we didn't really go forward anymore. I was nervous at that point. We made some adjustments, and the adjustments just didn't work and the car was getting looser, and then the last adjustment was just dead on. It was a great adjustment and made me better on the right and better on the left, and then I was able to -- we were definitely the best all day long on that last set.
Q: What made you so confident this morning to proclaim you were going to win? And for you or Steve, a couple strong performances in a row, how does that build momentum? It starts all over again at Daytona next week and the following race, so how does one thing carry over? You hear some guys say there isn't much carryover.
JEFF GORDON: Maybe it's different for everybody, but for us, it's not so much that it definitely carries momentum, it's just you want it to and you feed off of it, and for us to have not -- I guess we're a solid team, and so when you go to victory lane, I think sometimes it impacts us. As good of an organization and team as we are, sometimes we just need that spark to get the confidence going.
We've been making gains in a lot of areas that maybe I feel like we are given credit for within the organization, but outside people maybe don't always see it.
So when you can add that to the momentum of a good run in Michigan and a win here, and if we can go to Daytona and take some momentum here and we run good at Daytona, so obviously it just builds confidence, and hopefully that builds some momentum, as well.
You know, I'm feeling good. I guess I've been holding onto a secret for a month and it was nice to get that off my chest and let the world know. I was excited about that, and the car has just been so good all weekend long, ever since we tested, really. When we tested VIR, we tried some new things, and man, it was just working so good that I couldn't wait to get out here to begin with.
Friday we were awful and I was so disappointed, and then Saturday, yesterday, the car was just amazing. I had that feeling. I don't know, sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't, sometimes you win races when you don't have that feeling, and sometimes you finish dead last when you do.
That's why I say, even when I've felt that before, I never do that. I don't know why I felt like doing it today, but I did, and I'm glad it worked out.
Q: Steve, you mentioned the car you've used three and a half years. Is this the same car that Jeff won with two and a half years ago here? And Jeff, how hot was it out there today in that car?
STEVE LETARTE: Yes, this was the same car we won it two years ago. We sat on the pole and won in 80 laps or so. It's been a successful car for us. It's won here and at Watkins Glen.
JEFF GORDON: I'd like to know how hot it was because I was hot (laughter). I was fine until they threw that red, and sitting out here -- typically Steve tells me turn off all your fans, we don't want to run the battery down, but there's no way I was going to sit out there without the blowers and fans on me because it was hot, real hot. I made a comment on the radio, I said, this is the only time I know that it's a bad thing to be leading because I was the last one that they got to with the water. I sat there a long time. I was trying to be patient and knew that it was going to take patience to run those last however many, five or six laps.
I'm in so much better shape physically now than I was a couple years ago when we won this race and I was exhausted. Most of it is through finding better ways to hydrate myself and it gets you through the day. I did get a few cramps today, but other than that, it was good.
Q: Jeff, was there moments in this race when you found you were actually able to relax, maybe just the last lap, or was this pretty tense all the way through?
JEFF GORDON: I would say the last lap was about the only -- Newman got in second on that last lap and I knew he was pushing really hard. I've got to give him credit. I haven't seen him be a challenger on the road courses in recent years, and that was an impressive run for him. So I think a lot of us are going to be taking a look at him going forward.
You know, I guess the last few corners and that last lap, I just kept telling myself don't miss a shift, don't wheel out, just don't do anything dumb. Sometimes you can over-think it, but everything went smooth.
Q: It was a long, tough afternoon. A couple of red flag periods, almost 25 minutes, about 50 minutes of yellow flag. Did you think it was ever going to end? Is it the toughest win you've had here at Infineon?
JEFF GORDON: Well, because I'm better hydrated these days and I think the team does a better job of keeping me cool inside the car with some hoses and blowers, you know, it wasn't the most physically demanding race on me personally that I've had in the past.
There were some challenging moments out there where I was concerned about the handling of the car being good enough to win. There were some challenges from some other competitors out there with Newman trying to take the lead. There's never any guarantees, so until I saw that checkered flag wave, I wasn't giving it up or relaxing at all.
Q: Will Steve keep you advised where your chief competitors normally are on a road course, Robby Gordon and Tony and Kurt Busch and the rest? There's quite a few good road course racers here this weekend.
JEFF GORDON: No doubt. I battled for a long time, passing and passing back, and I was so happy to get by him, and then he battled back and got back by me and I was pretty disappointed.
Right from the start with Stuart and Robby getting by me, those were the two guys that I was -- all I could think of is -- one thing I've got to do is keep those two behind me, and they got by me in the first corner. That was not too good. I thought the No. 2 car was going to be the guy to beat besides that. There were a lot of guys that were tough. I mean, we brought our best package and it was good, and I took advantage of having a great car in the right places.
I'll tell you, we were sitting there at 6 and I had just come on the radio and said, man, I'm loose here, I'm tight here, I don't know, I don't know, and we threw the caution and we sat under caution -- we went back green, and I was getting one a lap. I wasn't expecting and these guys weren't expecting it, and I was just like, wow, maybe we're better than I thought we were.
Q: A lot of the people who are competitors of yours today sort of self-destructed. A lot of people made mistakes. Do you think winning on a road course, the precision and keeping your cool and making sure you don't make mistakes is more important than on another type of track?
JEFF GORDON: I don't think it's more important. It's important everywhere you go, but I think there are more opportunities to make mistakes here than there is on an oval. You have so much more going on from shifting to braking, turning left and right, curves, dirt, a totally unique Pit Road. It's really easy to stall in the pits. You're in first gear, Pit Road speed, so it's kind of a unique situation.
I can go on and on with all those things. Even though at times we weren't just driving to the front, I just kept telling myself, hey, we've got to come out here, solid finish, solid finish, keep it on the track, be smooth, don't make mistakes, and Steve was reminding me of that quite a bit.
We talked about that before the race, as well. We knew we had a car capable of winning, but it's as important or more important that we come out here with a top five finish or a solid finish and make some points up and capitalize on a track that we run good at.
Q: A two-parter. First of all, Jeff, today's race according to the broadcast was the 100th in the Cup Series history. How convenient was it that this win for you, not only was it the 100th in the series, but your 74th career, your 5th win here, your 9th overall, and the fact that this is essentially your home track?
The second question is for you, Mr. Hendrick. Overall how significant was it for you to have Jeff win today?
RICK HENDRICK: It was really special. I guess July five years ago Ricky won Kansas in the Track and then it went to the cars. We came out here to try and run this race, 17 was the number. So we decided we'd make the car look like Ricky's and all the crew that worked on his car was there. So it was a real special deal, real emotional deal, and I think we had fans up there that started chanting, "We love Ricky," and it was a pretty emotional deal for all of us.
And then to come back and have Jeff won here after we felt like we let him down the last two races -- I don't know if it was the last two, we had the leakage problem and then a gear break and leading the race both times. So it was a sweet weekend for us. That will be -- it's a bittersweet deal to see that car, but it was neat to have all the pit crew and all the guys that started with him there yesterday.
JEFF GORDON: For me it's not about the stats. One day I'll look forward to looking back at those stats, but when you're here right now it's about feeling that energy that comes. There's no greater feeling in the world than going to victory lane and all the hard work and effort that's put into it, especially when you haven't been there in a while. You appreciate it all that much more.
Ever since I was five and a half years old, I think maybe six years old is when I had my very first win. That's all I've ever raced for is to get that trophy, get to victory lane. He pays me a lot of money to do it, so he might say yeah, yeah, whatever. But I think everybody knows what drives me and this race team is to do that right there, to experience that. There's not enough money in the world that you can give to buy that feeling and to buy that opportunity. We just feel very fortunate to have gotten there today.