Talladega: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: YOU TALKED ABOUT DISCOVERING JEFF. RH: "I was thinking about that right after I finished talking about our success. You look at the wins and I'm just fortunate that I was able to hire Jeff. He came into the ...

Continued from part 1

Q: YOU TALKED ABOUT DISCOVERING JEFF.

RH: "I was thinking about that right after I finished talking about our success. You look at the wins and I'm just fortunate that I was able to hire Jeff. He came into the organization and the talent he has and the leadership he has. absolutely. If I hadn't been at Atlanta that day and hadn't seen him - he didn't have a contract - a lot of things have fallen our way like that. When you look at all the wins. it doesn't seem like it was that long ago to put that many wins together but I think he's done a lot to change the sport. I know one thing he's done a lot is to build our organization so we're very thankful to have him in the car."

Q: COMMENT ON WHAT YOU SAID AT THE DRIVERS' MEETING:

JG: "I think the thing that NASCAR struggles with the most is that they want to police it but they also know that it's hard to stop it. I think that if you look at the Busch race yesterday, you just had guys slamming into one another through the corners and just doing silly things. Getting a run from 10 car lengths back and carrying momentum and never checking up and driving into the back of a guy and turning him into the wall. I think my whole point was that even though I knew it wasn't going to stop bump-drafting altogether, I was hoping that it would make guys in NASCAR think about if they see someone being aggressive that they get on top of it right away and as drivers, we can use our heads to do it in a softer manner, to do it not through the corners or tri-oval. I saw a lot of that today. But I can also tell you that you can say all that and do all that all day long and with five to go, that's all out the door. It's going to happen. It's just part of restrictor-plate racing, part of Talladega and you're probably going to see some accidents because of it. I can tell you that when it comes time to get that push to win the race at the end, absolutely I want it to come. But as long as NASCAR does not stop that then it's going to continue to happen and that's the way you're going to have to win the race.

I'm just glad that all the way up to maybe the last lap or two, guys really used their heads very well and realized that you didn't have to slam into the guy ahead of you to make a pass, to make a good race out there."

Q: HAS THIS BEEN AN UGLY WEEK FOR THE SPORT? WHAT HAS BEEN THE EFFECT OF THIS WEEK?

JG: "Personally I think it's an issue that we have in America and the world today period. Controversy draws more attention. Look at the shows on TV - reality shows. It's the way our marketing and entertainment world is changing. Let's be honest. To us, this is hard-core racing but it's still entertainment. People are looking for ratings; people are looking to get the attention. I don't think that was necessarily Tony Stewart's intentions with some of the things that he said but to me the downside to a lot of this is that because it's gotten so expensive - the whole sport in general - we have to have companies that sponsor this sport and they need to get their value worth of it and it's got to be entertaining. Sometimes, unfortunately - and it seems to be more and more - controversy is drawing more attention than anything else. I wish more than anything, great finishes like what happened at Martinsville is what got the most attention and people doing positive things in the world instead of the people that do the negative things. I don't think that's in our control. It's whatever people want to see and want to hear and what gets ratings."

Q: HOW FRUSTRATING IS IT TO WIN UNDER YELLOW? SOME PEOPLE WERE SAYING THAT THEY WERE FRUSTRATED THEY COULDN'T FINISH UNDER GREEN

JG: "I think maybe you're talking to the wrong people. NASCAR makes up the rules and it used to be that the first caution would have been the end of the race and we would have never even seen a green/white/checkered. I commend that NASCAR had at least given us one opportunity do a green/white/checkered and put on a show and put on a green flag finish for the fans. That was attempted and that didn't work out either. I think eight times out of 10 it might work out. At restrictor-plate tracks, maybe not so much. It's tough with as tight as these cars are down at the finish. I think they're doing the right thing. If we had multiple green/white/checkereds, who knows how many cars would be tore up before we leave here. I think NASCAR has a good balance on it and sometimes it works in their favor, sometimes it doesn't."

Q: IS KYLE BUSCH ON A BAD ROLL?

JG: "I don't think yesterday was his fault at all. I don't know what happened to him today. The toughest thing for a young, talented guy like Kyle is the frustration level and sometimes it gets him eager and wound up. But that's his personality and I'll leave those things to Rick. Rick's the best at dealing with the young guys. What are you going to do, Rick?"

RH: "Going to build two new cars (laughs). He didn't cause those accidents. He was a victim and I think he's done well this year. We've talked to him - Jeff's talked to him. He likes to run flat-out and he likes to lead and that's just part of it. He's figuring it out and I hate he's had the bad luck. I'm glad he wasn't hurt. That speaks a lot for the safety in the cars, to go through what those two. that crash Saturday was a pretty bad crash. What do you say when it's not his fault."

Q: WHAT HAPPENS TO GORDON'S RACE CAR NOW?

SL: "Might have to ask Mr. Hendrick who gets it. He owns all the cars but I think this car will go to Daytona. We have three speedway cars and we destroyed one in the (Daytona) 500 and we chose not to build one to come here and so we re-bodied that one. It's something that Jeff and I will discuss..."

JG: "We're going to talk about that. This car is great for here but I don't know how good it's going to be at Daytona. We need a handling race car at Daytona. We can fix this one though."

SL: "That's the difference. If this car does go to Daytona it won't look anything like it does here. The first thing we would do when we get home is cut the entire body off of it and start over. As they were saying earlier, Talladega and Daytona, they're as different as Martinsville and Bristol. They're both half-miles but they're nothing alike and these are both superspeedways but they're nowhere near the same track."

RH: "I do like to keep those cars but if they need to race it. the chassis is the most important thing."

SL: "It's historic that it's the first time this car finished. Out of six times" (laughs).

Q: CAN YOU FORSEE ANYONE CATCHING UP TO YOU ANYTIME SOON?

JG: "I'm still trying to figure out how I got to 77. If you go through some years, we went through three years in a row where the least amount of races we won were 10. When you have three, four years like that where you win seven to 13 races a year they stack up quick. I think that it's competitive. I've been saying this for years, people ask 'can you win 10, can you win 13 races? Can anybody in a season?' I've always said it, as competitive as things are, that yes, if the right driver and crew chief and team combination get on a roll and have things going their way, yes, it's still possible. Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus have that capability and I think we have that capability this year. There's a time where Ryan Newman and Matt Borland had that combination. I think Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli. there's certain guys that have that combination that can still do that and if they put some years together like that, yeah. Absolutely. Who knows what's going to happen when I'm long gone - there's some young hotshoe that Rick's going to hire and he's going to win a lot of races and I look forward to watching it. I'm just still blown away. I just don't know where they came from. I have no idea. I haven't been able to reflect to even understand where 77 have even come from. It's pretty unbelievable. In the 15 years I've been in this series we've won races 14 season and that's to me, one of the impressive things that we've done and continue to do. Those are what build championship teams; those are what put those win numbers up there. It's been a lot of fun to be a part of it and I hope we can keep it going for a little bit longer. If someone else can do that as well then I'm going to applaud him and enjoy watching him do it because it's been a lot of fun for me to be a part of it."

Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT IS MAKING THE DIFFERENCE FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?

RH: "They're working together and we've been together a long time and we've got a lot of depth and a lot of talent. As Jeff says, when you click and you've got good communication and you're sharing information - and I mean really sharing information - with all the teams - and everything's an open book - I think you see what the engine shop's been able to do with the other cars that are running good and have been able to run up front. We give them the same stuff we have. Our chassis shop - again, a lot of people have tried different things but we've stuck with what we had. Nothing replaces talent. You can have all the money in the world but talent is going to get you there and I think from the depth of the organization. the marketing guys, everybody works hard and I just think it's the chemistry inside and when you've got a guy like Jeff who has kind of set a high watermark and you've got Jimmie in the same shop, and you've got the other two teams working together the same way and everybody sharing and Jeff talking to the other drivers before practice, after practice and the crew chiefs, the momentum is there. I told them I don't think it can be torn down from the outside, it can happen from the inside. So we've just got to stay on course."

Q: YOU SAID YOU HAD SO MANY THINGS WORKING AGAINST YOU TODAY.

JG: "I guess I just meant that the majority of the fans out there I'm pretty sure weren't pulling for us. The other competitors I'm sure weren't pulling for us. Then to get back in the field, when we were anywhere in the top three, four or five, I thought we had a shot at it. When we were sitting back there in 20th and couldn't seem to put a run together or a group of cars to get up to the front, that was seriously working against us, I can tell you that. I knew that if we could ever get to the front we had what it took but I just meant all those factors."

Q: YOU'VE BEEN WITH THE TEAM FOR MOST OF THE WINS JEFF HAS HAD. CAN YOU PUT THEM INTO PERSPECTIVE?

SL: "I've been there since 1995 so I missed a couple wins in 1994 but have been there for most of them. It's different for me because I've got to win at different levels of employment. I was just a parts runner when I started, then I was a tire man, then a mechanic and then a car chief. So they all have different significance to me. But it means a lot. We make a living doing this and I enjoy it. I was kind of raised here. I'm 27 years old and have never got a paycheck from any other company in my life. So to come and win, it's more the winning. When you have someone like Mr. Hendrick who's kind of taken you in and raised you up as a young kid in high school and taught you everything about racing, it's hard to give those guys anything so to win for them, that's really the only thing you can do. I think that drives a lot of the employees at the company and I think that's what a lot of people underestimate. It's motivation from within. You don't have to put prizes or goals up, people want to win because they want to see the people around them happy and I think that's what makes a difference."

Q: HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO CASEY MEARS AND JIMMIE JOHNSON AND FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED? HOW CONCERNED ARE YOU ABOUT THE NO. 25 PROGRAM?

RH: "I did talk to Jimmie and I talked to Casey and Jimmie feels horrible and Casey's team needed a good run and they were getting it. That was a problem somewhere in that organization because everybody knows when we're pitting and we relay that information to the spotters. I think Jeff's spotter and Stevie knew that Casey was pitting that lap and Jimmie said he didn't see his hand and Casey said it was up. They're best friends and I think the disappointment is for me and for Casey and the organization as in Jimmie, is that that team needed a good run. They sat there and watched all the other three teams do real well this year and they're gelling now and they're starting to get their stride but they can't get any luck. I told them this morning that before the race started, I said 'you can't have bad luck all the time'. The blow was that it was our car that took them out. Jimmie could have wrecked himself so it was just a mistake but we're going to work on better communication starting in the morning."

Q: CAN YOU ADDRESS HOW BIG IT IS FOR 77 WINS?

RH: "I think we went through a period where we didn't give him what he needed. We had some changes - Ray goes and does his own thing and Robby comes in. We were maybe behind a bit a little, as an organization. He's got to have the horse to ride to keep that kind of momentum we had going. And then everybody else catches up. There's just so many good teams in this garage area. That's what I see today. Anything could have happened out there and we could have not won this race. I think putting themselves in position to win - you've got to do that every week to get your share. I think a smart race car driver - and I'll tell you who told me that, Dale Earnhardt said to me one day, about one of my other guys - I won't mention a name, and he said he's fast, he just doesn't know how to race. This guy knows how to race. He knew that before we got him. He just doesn't make very many mistakes. I want to say something about Stevie too. There's probably as much pride looking up there on that box and seeing a guy - I can remember, was cleaning up the shop - get up there and call the shots and do what he's doing. And Alan (Gustafson) is that way, Chad (Knaus) is that way. It keeps guys there because they know the have opportunities. Stevie said they've been there from the beginning and I'm super proud of him. He's amazed me. As much as Jeff has, Stevie has amazed me because you don't know if a guy can be a field general if you put him on the box and he gets a little nervous at the end and I'll tell him what he does wrong on Monday but he's amazed me, what he has done as a crew chief as well as Jeff has."

Q: HAVE YOU GIVEN ANY THOUGHT ON HOW LONG YOU WILL KEEP RACING?

RH: "A long time" (laughs).

JG: "I've got to be careful what I say when I'm sitting next to the boss (laughs). No, I don't even want to think about it right now. Life is good on and off the race track. I know that having a child is certainly going to change my perspective on a lot of things and I'm curious to know which way that changes it, whether it only makes me that much hungrier and more driven to do things and appreciate what I have. Opportunities that I have on the race track might make me want to do it longer, might make me want to do it shorter. I'm not really sure. I've always said if I'm competitive and healthy and enjoying what I'm doing out there then I want to keep doing it. I've never put a date on it or an age or anything like that. I do think that careers are shorter today. I think you're gradually going to start careers being shorter for a couple reasons. It's intense on and off the race track. I think the competition is really intense. 38-week schedule and then everything that happens off the race track, I don't think guys are going to have a quality of life that they'd like to have or be able to enjoy some of that which they've worked so hard for as long as they used to. Because we're getting paid pretty darn good now too so we can have this life after racing. Some way, somehow, I always want to be a part of Hendrick Motorsports and I hope that I'm a competitive driver for Hendrick for a long time. I just don't know when that's going to be so I haven't thought about it a whole lot."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus
Teams Hendrick Motorsports