JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS , Started 2nd, Finished 7th: YOU CAME HOME SEVENTH. IT WAS A DIFFICULT NIGHT BUT A GOOD FINISH: "Yeah, that's a hard-fought seventh. I couldn't be more proud of this team and the effort they're putting...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS , Started 2nd, Finished 7th:
YOU CAME HOME SEVENTH. IT WAS A DIFFICULT NIGHT BUT A GOOD FINISH: "Yeah, that's a hard-fought seventh. I couldn't be more proud of this team and the effort they're putting out there and with good communication. We're not getting close enough. And we're getting beat. It was a pretty disappointing day right there. We want to be fighting that hard for wins and up there battling in the top three. You've got to take your hat off to Jimmie (Johnson, race winner) and those guys. They did an excellent job. They won the race and their pit strategy and car and all those things were right where they needed to be. We got the car really good there at the end, but it was too late by then."
YOU ARE 30 POINTS DOWN IN THE CHASE WITH TWO RACES TO GO. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "Thirty isn't much. The biggest thing right now is that we're just getting beat and those guys are winning races. We've got to go put some pressure back on them and out perform them. We thought our qualifying run we had there was going to get us the track position we needed but we just couldn't maintain it. And Phoenix is a good track for us and we'll go there and fight hard just like we did tonight. Hopefully we can get those points back."
ON STRUGGLING WITH THE CAR: "The car was good there at the end. We just couldn't ever get it right earlier in the night. I'm disappointed with that. But we gave it everything we had and came home seventh. That's all you can do."
THIRTY POINTS IS STILL CLOSE: "Yeah, it's still close, but they're spanking us. They're putting it to us. I don't like it. We're very competitive and we're just getting beat. We've got to go to work. We've got to get it back. Those guys have done an excellent job coming from behind there a little bit when we won those couple of races, and now here they are with three in-a-row and they're on a great roll. We've got to answer back. That's all there is to it."
YOU'VE GOT ONE MORE RACE IN THIS TYPE OF CAR. THE LAST TWO RACES YOU'RE REALLY STRUGGLED THROUGH. LOOKING AHEAD TO HOMESTEAD, WHAT DO YOU NEED? "Yeah, that's a good question. We were great at Charlotte and we were great at times in Atlanta. This is really probably one of my worst tracks. This place is just so finicky. I have a real hard time trying to judge what we need to go fast here. And I'm glad to get out of here with a seventh place finish, to be honest with you. There were several times I thought I was going to be backed into the wall. Homestead, we've been great there and we've been terrible there. So I don't really know. I think the car is capable of doing it. We've just got to get the right set-up that makes me comfortable."
HOW IMPORTANT IS A STRONG FINISH OR EVEN A WIN NEXT WEEK AT PHOENIX, JUST FOR MOMENTUM'S SAKE? "You know what? All we can do is go out there and perform the best we possibly can just like we did tonight and hope that it's enough to be ahead of the guys we are racing like Jimmie. We can't control when they're doing what they're doing. They're doing a great job. And you can't take anything away from that. It's hard for anybody right now to step up and beat them, let alone us. If it comes down to that then, I don't know. It's going to be tough to beat them.
"I think we might be able to beat them next week (Phoenix) if we're just talking sheer performance. But he's pretty tough there too. I don't know. If it comes down to that, I think we've just got to keep playing it smart and being consistent and keep doing the things that we've been doing all year long."
HOW SIGNIFICANT COULD HAVE BEEN HIS PASS JUST IN THE LAST COUPLE LAPS IN THAT BATTLE WITH MATT KENSETH? THAT'S 15 EXTRA POINTS "Yeah, that's a lot of points. I don't know what happened there. I knew Jimmie had fresher tires and when I saw that on the restart I pretty much thought he was probably going to be able to pull it off."
THE REAR END ISSUES ON THE CAR YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT ON THE RADIO, IS THIS THE SAME THING YOU WERE FIGHTING IN PRACTICE YESTERDAY? "Yeah, we never hit it right from the time we started race practice. We were awesome on Friday. We just never hit it the rest of the way. There at the end (today) we were pretty good. So we've got to look at it and evaluate some things. Once you get back in traffic here, it's almost impossible to read what the car is doing. This is a very aero-dependent track and the aero push and turbulent air back there is terrible. Once we couldn't maintain that good track position up front, we had to go to work on it and it was a fight. But I'm pretty proud of the fact that we came back to finish seventh. It could have been a lot worse than that."
WHEN YOU SAY YOU'RE GOING TO LOOK AT SOME THINGS, DO YOU MEAN NEXT WEEK FOR PHOENIX? ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT WENT WRONG THIS WEEKEND AT TEXAS? "Oh no, no, no. Nothing applies to anywhere else other than right here in Texas. It might apply a little bit to Homestead, but I mean where we could have been better here and what we could have done differently. And even with that said, we've got the Car of Tomorrow here next year so it won't matter because it'll be so much different."
IT WAS A HARD RACE BETWEEN JIMMIE JOHNSON AND MATT KENSETH. SOMEBODY COULD HAVE LOST IT. IS THAT AN INDICATION OF HOW IT'S GOING TO BE TO THE END? "No, there is not enough of a point deficit happening right now for anybody to race other than to race for a win. Nobody is trying to protect points. But you've got to be smart at the same time. Jimmie is an excellent driver but he's smart and knows what he's doing. I saw him get it sideways a couple of times and just moments like that could have been devastating. But we all deal with that every weekend and you've got to manage that and when you get yourself in position to win, you've got to pull it off."
IT SEEMED LIKE THERE WERE A COUPLE OF TIMES THERE WHEN JIMMIE DID GET LOOSE AND TOOK A STEP BACK. ON TV, THEY WERE SAYING HE WAS COOLING HIS TIRES TO SET UP THE NEXT RUN. WHAT DID THAT MEAN? "His car just started off really loose on new tires. So he just couldn't push it but that's what made him so strong on the long runs. Once they started getting the track position and he got to where he could figure out how to maintain it at the beginning, because I watched him a couple of times, it looked like he was going to lose a lot of positions. But then two laps later, boom, he was going right back to the front. That was the exact opposite of what we had. We could run pretty good for a couple of laps and then we just struggled from there."
YOU'VE BEEN LEADING THE POINTS AND ALSO CHASING THE LEADER: "It's no different. We've been battling as hard as we can to get the best finishes we can. It's disappointing we've gotten beat the last three weeks. All we can do is go to the next race and hope that we can turn it around and get some momentum back on our side. There is really no other way to put it other than they've been performing excellent. And we haven't stepped up where we need to. If this thing comes down to performance, they've out-performed us. If it comes down to staying out of trouble and being smart, I still think we've got a great shot at it."
PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SAYING IT'S GOING TO COME DOWN TO JIMMIE AND JEFF WITH CLINT BOWYER KIND OF HANGING IN THERE. HE HAD A BAD NIGHT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT COMING DOWN TO YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATE?"Even with Bowyer there, one of us was going to have to have trouble because with Jimmie running as good as he's running, we're always solid with top five's and top 10's and it's hard to gain over 100 points on either one of us, so you're pretty much looking at both of us having to have trouble for those guys to have been a factor. I think now that he had trouble tonight, it really is going to come down to one of the two of us."
AND YOU HATE GETTING BEAT "I'm just mad that we sucked tonight, that's all."
WHAT DO YOU DO NOW? DO YOU PUT IT IN THE HANDS OF STEVIE (LETARTE) OR WHAT? "I'm going to celebrate my anniversary of being married for one year, and my wife's birthday, and go to Phoenix."
MARTIN TRUEX, JR., NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS MONTE CARLO SS, STARTED 1ST, FINISHED 3RD:
"It was a great day for us, we finally got to finish one off. I have to thank all the guys on the crew of my Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet; they really did a great job. Our car wasn't as good as it could have been all day but they never gave up and we got a decent finish. We have had good cars every race and we just haven't been able to finish where we have ran, so it feels good."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S/KOBALT MONTE CARLO SS, STARTED 8TH; FINISHED 1ST:
"This is amazing. Wow what a car race car. We didn't have a great race car at the start of the race. We just kept working away at it and working at it until we got what we needed there at the end. Chad's (Knaus, crew chief) four-tire call really worked out well for us.
"I was really disappointed that Matt (Kenseth) was able to hang on so long with two tires. But we were able to battle him for the win and put on a hell of a show for the fans, just great hard racing. When I got close to him the first time and he pulled out ahead of me, I knew I had to drop back and regroup and start again, a get momentum because he had the advantage on the bottom. He let me go and drop back behind him, then got a run on him and got him cleared off of two.
"I don't want this groove we are in right now to go anywhere. So hopefully we can keep things together and be the champion again this year. Regardless of what happens, Hendrick Motorsports is such a great organization and give us this opportunity. There are two races to go, 30 points can come and go pretty easily. Not a big margin by any means but better than being second."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIEL'S MONTE CARLO SS, STARTED 29TH, FINISHED 19TH:
"I felt a vibration on lap 247 and thought was a loose right rear wheel but turned out to be a loose left rear wheel. We pitted twice and lost two laps, and there just wasn't enough race left to get track position back. I am disappointed and frustrated for everybody on this Jack Daniel's Chevrolet team; my guys have fought hard all season.
"We are down but not out in the Chase. There is no give up in this team. We are going to take it a lap at a time, race at a time and keep fighting until the checkered flag falls at Homestead."
GIL MARTIN, CREW CHIEF, NO. 07 JACK DANIEL'S CHEVROLET, Started 29th, Finished 19th:
"Obviously the wheel was loose from the stop before because we had taken two (tires) the last time. We gambled and just took two (tires) right there and it was the left rear that was loose. It's just one of those deals. The car was good tonight. We were capable of running up front once we got there. We had pretty good strategy, got there when it counted. That's a tough night. These guys have done a great job the whole time. I can't fault them for that. Especially in the rear. We've had zero problems in the rear and chances are you're going to have an issue sometimes. It just came at a bad time."
DID YOU THINK THE ISSUE WAS ON THE RIGHT SIDE? "Yes. The left-sides had been on there for almost 28-29 laps and the right-sides had only been on there for three laps. I guess after the restart when we spun the tires, it loosened the left-rear up enough to start vibrating. It came loose. Since we just pit, we just hoped it was the right-rear. It wasn't so we had to come back. In hindsight, I wish we had taken four (tires). We didn't. That's all you can do.
WAS IT FRUSTRATING FOR CLINT BECAUSE YOU WERE IN GOOD POSITION AND THE CAR WAS SO GOOD? "It was frustrating for everybody. I mean we've had such a good run every week for him. We had another good run tonight. We'll go to Phoenix and do the best we can do. Now, it's just a mathematical longshot I'm sure. I haven't seen what it is."
HAVE YOUR GOALS CHANGED? "I don't understand why our Achilles heel has been qualifying. We've raced so well and qualifying was so well for us. Now, qualifying has been our downside. Tonight we had to gamble too many times. It worked, but we had to gamble too many times for that track position. It's so hard to pass here. I think when this happened, we were seventh or eighth, right up front. Not starting up front has killed us the last three weeks in a row. We've managed to get there, it's just taken us all race long to get there.
IF THE TWO TIRES WERE RIGHT, WAS THERE TIME TO GET BACK TO THE FRONT? "I think if the right-sides had worked for us and that would have been the deal, if it had stayed green, everybody would have had to pit and we would have had been only one lap down. We were plenty fast to get that back.
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT & T MONTE CARLO SS, STARTED 27TH, FINISHED 6TH:
"We just couldn't gain any ground towards the end of the race. We had a fast car in the beginning of the race and were gaining ground on the leaders but we just couldn't capitalize there at the end. We were tight through traffic and it made it hard to pass other cars. But, its another top-10 finish and we'll take it and go on to Phoenix."
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS FINISHED 14th:
"We did the best we could with a car that just wouldn't cooperate. I can't carry that thing on my back all day. We couldn't have been any better than we were in the practice session yesterday, but the car and the track were both different today. Even when we were leading or were running up front, we never found the balance and I knew were nothing but a moving target for the faster guys to avoid. It's hard to explain: it was loose.... it was tight... it was slow. It ain't no fun to run like that but we hung in there and stayed on the lead lap. We made an extra stop (on lap 276) for fuel-only, and we thought we might sneak in there on the fuel-mileage game, but when the next caution came out, that was it for that game!"
DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX KINK'S MONTE CARLO SS, STARTED 7TH, FINISHED 29TH:
"It's just the story of our Chase. I was driving hard. I was driving a lot harder than I probably typically would at that stage of the race. The car was good and I felt like track position was going to be key on any lap. I wanted to be the first car on pit road, so I had the best shot of being the first off pit road. It bit us in the end, I just misjudged there with Matt (Kenseth) I didn't mean to do that, just one of those days. I am happy about the way we ran, we were doing well, we just can't finish where we run."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 SHELL-PENNZOIL MONTE CARLO SS, STARTED 4TH, FINISHED 10TH:
"My Shell-Pennzoil guys did a great job in the pits today. They gained me positions on the track the whole night, but I just never quite got a car that I could drive up high or in traffic. Todd Berrier and the guys worked and worked all day to get us to another top-10 finish."
JEREMY MAYFIELD, NO. 66 BEST BUY CHEVROLET- FINISHED 22ND, two laps down-
"We eventually got the car handling better than it was in the early going, but we were already a couple of laps down by that point. We're still working to dial things in, and I really think we're making some big strides in a short period of time, but it's not going to come overnight. We'll be patient and head to Phoenix and continue to try and improve every week."
-credit: gm racing