Talladega: Winning team interview

Jeff Gordon wins the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Post-race press conference Jeff Gordon and Robbie Loomis (Crew Chief) No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet IT SEEMS YOU HAVE QUITE A DOMINANCE GOING AT THE RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS NOW (4 OUT OF LAST ...

Jeff Gordon wins the Aaron's 499 at Talladega
Post-race press conference

Jeff Gordon and Robbie Loomis (Crew Chief)
No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet

IT SEEMS YOU HAVE QUITE A DOMINANCE GOING AT THE RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS NOW (4 OUT OF LAST 5)

Gordon Well, when you get a car like Robbie and the guys on this team gave me, it certainly makes life a lot of fun out there. This is the most dominating performance that I've ever had on a restrictor plate track. You know, the car really just did everything that I could have asked for it to do. Of course, Talladega isn't a handling race track, so you don't have to worry about the car handling. Just shear speed. But it had it. Man, the engine just ran so, so good. You know, the car just seemed to get through the air so good. Like you said, I've never had a car that I can remember like that. It was just awesome. Not to mention the pit stops were good, so just all the way around, it was a great, great effort.

ROBBIE, TELL US ABOUT THE CAR

Loomis This car is the same car that we won last here with. And when we went to Daytona and tested, we built a new car that the guys really focused on. And it showed better in the wind tunnel. When we went to Daytona and tested, it was real close on which car was the better car. It seemed like the new car was a tenth or maybe 15 hundredths quicker. So, elected to keep it in the truck as a backup for Daytona. And then fortunately we got to leave that at Daytona USA. So, we brought it back out and knocked the dust off it and I think they put a new front fender and maybe a quarter panel on it to maybe slick it up a little bit more. It sure paid off today.

YOU DON'T SEEMED THRILLED ABOUT RACING ON A RESTICTOR PLATE TRACK, BUT YOU HAVE A LOT OF SUCCESS ON THEM

Gordon Well, don't take that the wrong way. Because there are certain things about it that I love: the draft is amazing. It's something that you can't describe what it's like unless you're out there dealing with it. What I don't like about it is how bunched up we get, the big wrecks that we get. Those are the downfalls to restrictor plate racing. To a driver's standpoint, yeah, there are certain things you can do to enhance your chances of winning but you're pretty much, for the most part, your hands are tied behind your back to the car and what goes on behind you on the restrictor plate. So, I've worked really hard over the years to learn as much as we can. I like the rules right now. The rules that we have right now, you can pass but it takes a little bit of effort. It's not like you can pull out and go anytime you want, you've got to have a little bit of help. Sometimes you've got to have a lot of help. And, you definitely have to work that air and work the other cars around you. Today, we had a car that didn't seem to take as much help as what I've had in the past and that's certainly, when we got shoved to the back, it allowed us to push back through there. To me, I feel like this is the type of race in restrictor plates where experience really is key. And, the more than I get used to watching my mirror, using the air and then I get a car like I did today, I feel like I get better at the restrictor plate races, so today certainly was a good day all the way around for us. I felt good about the decisions that were made. Like I said, when we got shuffled back we were able to get some momentum, get a push from behind and really get back up through there.

WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT STEWART DIDN'T MAKE MORE OF A RUN ON THAT LAST LAP?

Gordon Well, yes and no. I mean, he and I really battled hard early in the race and I knew how badly he wanted to win. And I felt like there was a lot of guys gunning at me because we had such a dominating performance and I knew there were a lot of guys out there going 'Anybody but the 24 today because we're so tired of him leading.' But, at the same time, I saw what was happening in my mirror and he never really got the momentum in the run to be able to make a pass on me. I told the guys during the caution, I said 'Well, it's going to be up to me whether I allow those guys to get the run on me' and I worked so hard and kept beating that into my head on the caution as we came to the green. Just keep those guys on your bumper, keep them on your bumper, don't let them get momentum. The #42 had been laying back on the restart, so I got a little bit concerned with him. And then we took off, and then we came off of 2 and I felt good. And then I saw those guys shuffle him out, so I just moved down in front of them the best I could. Their momentum sort of stopped a little bit and that was the best thing that could have happened. When they told me it was the #20 and the #15 and a gap, I knew that it was going to be really hard for them to get the momentum to make the pass.

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF THE GREEN/WHITE/CHECKER FLAG POLICY?

Gordon I've always said and I'm going to stick with it that green/white/checker is fine everywhere we go except for restrictor plate racing. I don't agree with it. We only had about 16 cars out there. If we had a fuller field, there probably would have been another wreck. I just think that restarts, as much as we're bunched up, it's just that you don't have a choice but to bump draft and do things that I don't think.it certainly offers the fans a lot and is exciting for them. But from where I'm sitting, that's my opinion.

RACING IS STRESSFUL BUT YOU HAD THAT 45-MINUTE DELAY

Gordon It definitely went through my mind when were just sitting there. I felt that we had momentum, I felt that things were going our way. You just don't want to break that-you want to keep it going. And it felt like I was just feeling the moment, feeling the vibe of everything going on around me. I definitely feel that I was taken away from that. But, more than that, it was just hot. Because we have to shut down all the batteries and everything in the car. I have a little blower system that blows a little bit of air in the helmet and around my seat. You have to shut all that down to keep the batteries from going dead so you can start back up. That was the biggest thing, kind of laughing watching those guys fix the wall. Because there was like 50 of them, and I think only one welder. And then it was just hot.

RE: RESTRICTOR PLATE SUCCESS WITH TEAMS RUNS IN CYCLES

Gordon I think Robbie can answer this as well as anybody. We certainly put a lot of effort into the wind tunnel. I know the engine shop has always been known for their restrictor plate program. You know, to me running good here is just a combination of all the details that go into the body-getting it as slick as possible. Making as much power with the restrictor plate. Gearing and transmission. All those little things. It takes a lot of effort and really almost a designated group of people to focus just on that and I feel that we've got one of the best groups to be able to do that. I think Robbie can tell you more than me.

Loomis I think he hit it right on the head. The big thing is that there's 43 cars and they're so close, with everything that we check on these cars for rules and even the engines. When you do get an advantage, it's real small areas you're getting an advantage in. You're looking for one or two counts of drag in the wind tunnel every time you go. You're looking for one or two horsepower, you're not looking for eight or 10 horsepower gains. So when you get a four count drag advantage or a three or four count horsepower, it takes a while for guys to catch up and a lot of work to get there.

ON THE RESTART, LOOKED LIKE YOU WERE BLOCKING TWO CARS

Gordon I don't remember. I just remember the #42 being behind me and the #38 being behind him. All I remember is taking off and seeing the #42 in my mirror. He was laying back and I was just trying to keep him from getting too much momentum. But, I don't remember where the #29. When they get side by side, you've got to keep your car in front of the car that has momentum. What you have to do is watch your mirror. I was watching my mirror more than I was watching what was going on in front of me. And, so, when you start to see a car surge forward, you hop up in that lane and try to slow their momentum down or make sure that when their momentum comes forward, it catches you and carries you along with them. So, you'll sit there and hop back and forth, or sometimes you'll sit there and hop back and forth just to keep them side by side. So, you're staying out there all by yourself in clean air and you just go back and forth and hope that you just stay there side by side. The best thing that could happen is them being side by side, because once they brake loose of that, they've got a ton of momentum coming in. Then you really have to block them. You've got to block them in a way where they're going to hit you. You really don't want them to even get to your bumper. You want them to get about a foot or so off of you. And never let them get any closer than that. That's all I can remember and think of what happened there is maybe they got side by side and it was just moving around different lanes.

WITH A DOMINATING CAR, PEOPLE TALK ABOUT TALLADEGA HEADACES

Gordon Well, I got a headache. It's not as bad as I've had here in the past. It's more a headache when you're sitting there three-wide in the middle all day long. So, I was fortunate that I was able to get out front and stay out front. That definitely helps soothe the headache.

LOOKS LIKE FOR THE WHOLE RACE YOU RAN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRACK

Gordon If you notice, I ran wherever the guy behind me was. If he ran the bottom, I ran the bottom. If he ran the top, I ran the top. If he ran the middle, I ran the middle. I mean, if I turned in the corner and they would follow me, I'd choose middle to bottom. I'd prefer the lower line. McMurray, for some reason, loved that outside lane and was trying to get some momentum on the outside. The #8 car did as well and so I was forced to run up top there for a while. I didn't like it because to me it just opens the bottom up so much. It allows guys to get up there to you. But, I could run anywhere I wanted to. It just seemed like maybe the middle, I could watch them in a little bit better in my mirror and protect the inside and the outside if I had to and it makes the track longer, which keeps the RPMs up.

AFTER LAST YEAR'S RACE, BOTTLES WERE THROWN. NOT SO THIS YEAR

Gordon Well, it was obvious to me why they threw stuff. One is that Junior wasn't in the mix there at the end. That changes the excitement level maybe a little bit. You know, it was just a controversial finish that people weren't happy with. And as many Junior fans as there are here, they probably felt like their guy got taken out of it by the judgment call and plus, they're not watching it on TV. They can't watch it on slow motion, they can't see who's ahead of who when they froze the field at that time. It was definitely better to see a green/white/checker finish and finish under green even though I don't like to do that in restrictor plate race. I understand it's great for the fans to see it that way. I don't think last year it was so much me winning, as it was just the controversy surrounding the finish.

(LATE HENDRICK ENGINE BUILDER) RANDY DORTON WOULD HAVE BEEN 51 TODAY. TALK ABOUT THAT SIGNIFICANCE

Gordon I had him on my mind a lot today. When we were out there, and that motor was just singing, I couldn't help but think that Randy was just really smiling somewhere. Really impressed with that and proud, because that's his legacy-what's there and what's been left behind and all the hard work and effort in people he trained. They're just continuing it on. I said after the race was over that I felt like he was in there cranking that engine himself. The thing was running so good that I had him on my mind all day. This one really was for him. That was an awesome win. He would have been the guy that would have been there with the biggest smile when that thing was over.

Loomis I think Jeff hit it all. I think everyone knows how important Randy was to us. And not so much as an employee that we worked with, he was a visionary that really had us look farther ahead and could see the bigger picture in life. Sometimes when I got so stressed out about how we were doing, he was the guy I could talk to. He'd call me Sunday night and would get my head back on straight, so he's taught us a lot of things. Jeff Andrews and all the guys in the engine shop have really done a great job of picking up and looking farther ahead. And we've got Doug Duchardt in there helping a lot with all that stuff too. Randy, I felt like he's a part of this right here as much as he's always been.

WITH SUCH A DOMINATING CAR, IT IS STILL A CRAPSHOOT AT THE END OF THE RACE?

Gordon Oh yeah. You know, the whole day, as great as the car was and as dominating as it was, I just could say, 'Man, it's too good to be true.' Something is going to happen. Somebody's going to get momentum and make a move and we're going to get shuffled back and not be able to get back to the front. You know, no matter how good your car is on a restrictor plate track, it really does equal out the competition. To me, experience is just so important at a track like this. You know, Tony and Michael and Junior. Jimmie has really come along as well. But, having experience of being up front and knowing how to get that momentum and make it happen, there's two things going on: I'm trying to prevent the momentum, they're trying to get it. When you've got inexperience against experience, it's obvious to see it. But when you've got two experienced guys, it really can go either way. You don't know how it's going to turn out. I got shuffled back there with five to go. Michael got a run on me. I really thought we were going to do all we can to get back up as far as we can. I really had no idea that we were going to be able to get that lead back. I really wanted that lead and be able to just block those guys and be able to maintain it. And then, a couple laps later we got it back. We had a great car, no doubt about it. It could have gone either way though. I was standing in victory lane, saying to myself that I'm shocked because I really thought, as good as we were, we were still going to get beat. Plus, you never know if everyone is showing everything they really have. Sometimes they get a little bit more aggressive in the end and maybe they try to make things happen they haven't done earlier.

DO YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT HOW FRUSTRATING IT IS TO BE THE CARS BEHIND YOU, CHASING YOU?

Gordon Yeah, I've been on both sides of it. I will say that today was the most dominating car I've ever had on a restrictor plate track. And I don't know if I've ever been able to be on this side of the fence, even though I've won races, don't know if I've ever been on this side of the fence like this before. So, to me when it really, really hit me how good our car was, when I pushed the #8 car to the lead, I was on his bumper, pushing and pushing and pushing him and then I pulled out and passed him, I went 'Wow! This car is good!' When you pass him like that, that's impressive. Yeah, I've been there as frustrated as can be. And Robbie can tell you that I've sat in the truck after the race going, I don't know how we're going to beat those guys. They got something we don't have. And today, we had something that was just unstoppable and it was fun to be on this side of it.

-gm racing-

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