NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
SAVE MART 350
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 26, 2011
Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer Bring Home Top-Five Finishes at Infineon; Chevrolet Continues to Lead Manufacturers’ Cup Standings After 16 Races
SONOMA, Ca. June 26, 2011 – Jeff Gordon, who holds a record five wins at the 11-turn, 1.99-mile road course track in Sonoma came from behind in powerful fashion to put his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet in the runner-up finishing position in today’s Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup (NSCS) race at Infineon Raceway. The strong showing catapulted the four-time Series’ champion up three positions to ninth in the standings.
Gordon’s finish extended Chevrolet’s lead in the NSCS Manufacturers’ Cup standings after 16 races.
Clint Bowyer in the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet finished fourth to give Team Chevy two of the top-five in the finishing order. Bowyer, who started ninth, now sits eighth in points.
Five-time defending NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson scored a hard-fought seventh place finish behind the wheel of his No. 48 Lowe’s/Jimmie Johnson Foundation Chevrolet to regain to positions in the standings. He is now third in the points order.
Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Rheem Tankless Chevrolet, had to rally back through the field after receiving damage in a multi-car incident to take the checkered flag in ninth place. He remains second in the point standings, 25 points behind the leader.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, was relegated to the 41st finishing position after getting caught up in a multi-car accident that punctured the radiator and damaged his engine. The disappointing day resulted in his falling to seventh in the standings.
Ryan Newman, No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, now sits 10th in points after an on-track incident landed him in the 25th finishing position in the 110-lap/ 218.9-mile/350K race.
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, battled from his 20th-place starting position to the lead before his day ended after contact sent him into the tires in turn 11. The two-time NSCS champion now sits 12th in the standings.
Kurt Bush (Dodge) was the race winner, Carl Edwards (Ford) was third, and Marcos Ambrose (Ford) finished fifth.
Next stop for the Series will be July 2 at Daytona International Speedway.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET – FINISHED 2ND POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Jeff Gordon.
JEFF GORDON: Like I said, I’m going to be 40. There are some advantages. Today it paid off.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions.
Q. When Kurt stayed out, did you think this was playing in his hands? JEFF GORDON: You have to ask somebody that actually could see the front. I know it wasn’t me.
Q. Jeff, you mentioned before the beginning of the race your car wasn’t as good, then it was way better in the second half the race. What was the biggest difference you made or maybe the way you were driving to get up to second place? JEFF GORDON: We made a lot of adjustments. Gosh, rubbers in the rear, track bar, wedge, everything else. You know, I didn’t really think any of those things were making a big difference. But we also were never in clean air. There at the end, that was the furthest forward we had been all day. I really think the adjustments we made really did work on just helping the car turn into the corner a little bit better and getting us pointed up off the corner so we could drive off a little straighter. I was just so tight getting in the corner. Because I had so much wheel when I went into the throttle, I wanted to spin off. I was really slow through the fast sections as well. We struggled in every aspect. Normally when you’re off a little bit, there’s normally one corner you’re good in. There wasn’t one corner I was good in. There at the end, I don’t know if the track came to us, what happened. It seems like that setup, the adjustments we made, being in cleaner air, started working for me. I had enough grip to really use the curbs. By using those curbs, I could get up off the corners better.
Q. Kurt Busch said at the end of the weekend he was put off by the fact you didn’t apologize to him last year; you apologized to other people. Have you ever used something like that as a catalyst to come back and kick everybody’s butt? He had a phenomenal race. Have you ever used something like that to kind of push you to have a day like the day Kurt had today? JEFF GORDON: Well, no. I make a bonehead move and mistake on a guy, a guy like Kurt Busch who ran me off the track on a restart, then I ran him off the track on the next restart. But I did it far more. I didn’t feel like I owed him an apology. He’s done things to me over the years that I didn’t get any apology on. That’s just the relationship I have with Kurt. If it’s Carl (Edwards), certain guys out there have certain relationships. If you have that kind of respect on the track for one another, you apologize. I don’t think that exists really with me and Kurt, so I see no reason to apologize. Those guys have been on a mission here lately. I would say their motivation is how bad they ran earlier in the year. I think it was pretty well documented how much they struggled, some of the comments that were made. Whatever they’ve done since then, it’s been working. They’re fast on ovals, fast on the road courses. They were strong all weekend long. To me, that’s why he’s in Victory Lane, ’cause he’s a good driver and he had a great racecar and team today.
Q. Can you give us an idea what you thought when you saw the 14 car. It’s not often that we see a car kind of in that position, so to speak.
JEFF GORDON: I’ll tell you what I thought. Did you see the wreck in the Grand Am in Elkhart Lake? That’s what I thought. Throttle stuck or brakes went out. You got to be traveling at a high rate of speed going backwards to get up on the tires over there and keep it there. From what I heard, he had a little help getting there.
Q. From up here it looked like things were crazy on turn 11. Lot of action. In your past experience with this race, was it more than usual or anything different about turn 11 or just the way luck is? JEFF GORDON: I mean, I made a comment one time on the radio, it was nuts, just crazy, crazy. You guys are seeing turn 11. It’s crazy from the time you drop the green going into one, two, three. I mean, it’s just the buildup to get to turn 11. The problem is turn 11. There’s two places you can pass on this track, going into seven and 11. You couldn’t really pass going into seven today. It was so slick, you had to be so careful. So everybody gets to turn 11. Because you’re racing one another, it seems like guys, you know, really block the inside lane and force guys to go around the outside lane. So it builds frustration. You get in a position where this is your only shot for that entire lap to try to make a pass. So, you know, either somebody gets aggressive and drives in there too hard, makes contact, or they just get frustrated and start using the bumper. It’s hard to say. But it was pretty crazy from where I was sitting. I know that.
Q. Jeff, you alluded you didn’t feel you needed to apologize to Kurt from last year. You apologized to a few of the others. Did you come into this race planning to run it differently than you did last year? JEFF GORDON: Well, I didn’t plan on going into it last year that way. It just kind of happened that way. I was not proud of some of the things that I did last year. You know, it’s not my style. It’s not the way I like to race. Like I said, there were some instances where it was a mistake on my part. Juan Pablo is behind me. He’s the king of the late-brakers. He would be a long bay ways behind me, yet he would still drive down inside me. When I crashed Martin, I was blocking Juan Pablo and made me go into Martin. It wasn’t like I was trying to do anything towards Martin. There were times today where we didn’t have the car and I gave up the spots. I wasn’t going to try to push the issue. I guess that’s good and bad. I didn’t have a car that could even try to pass anybody or block anybody down in turn 11 for most of the race. So I had to give up a lot of those spots and bite my tongue and hope that we could get it fixed or get track position, which it worked out. I certainly didn’t want to make as many enemies as I did last year, because I made a lot of ’em coming out of here. So it’s nice to come out of here and that not happen. I don’t think I really touched anybody today. So that feels good. CARL EDWARDS (Finished third; also in the room): You really pissed me off passing me at the end (laughter). JEFF GORDON: But I didn’t touch you (laughter). CARL EDWARDS: I felt bad after that race. Then I heard how mad everybody was at you and it made me feel better (smiling).
Q. You might not want to talk specifically in the first person, but talk about retribution and what you need to do if someone gets you earlier in the race. With Vickers and Stewart today, they seemed to have the bad blood. I’m sure you’ve had problems with other drivers in a particular race. Talk about that in general because NASCAR might be listening. CARL EDWARDS: I don’t think I’ve ever gone out and tried to get somebody back. Have you? JEFF GORDON: Never. And I have a terrible memory. I never remember those instances where I got into a wreck with somebody so I forget about it later. CARL EDWARDS: I think NASCAR has this ‘have at it’ mentality, the statement they made. I think in the end will be better and safer for all of us. You know when you’re out there, if NASCAR is going to let things be settled on the racetrack, I think people will respect each other a little bit more on the racetrack, and that’s good. JEFF GORDON: The only thing I’ll say is if you’re going to try to win a championship, those types of situations are, in my opinion, going to hinder you from doing that. If you start getting into a battle with a guy, especially if it’s somebody that is not in championship contention, you know, then what happens is you’re not going to win. It’s going to be a lose for you and everybody. If it’s somebody that’s in the championship, then you guys have to figure out how to settle it, whether it happens on the track or off the track. I think it just depends. If you’re that upset at what happened, and you see that guy again before the race is over, you’re still upset, depends on how your fuse is. Some people have short fuses and some people have long fuses. I got into a battle with Tony Stewart before. That’s not a guy I battle with anymore. We had our situation. I’m so glad that we resolved it fairly quickly. Nobody has more respect for one another out there than me and Tony because I’ve been on the other side of it with him when he can get mad. He’s not a guy that you want to have gunning at you. He’s a great racecar driver, he’s smart, he can get really mad. We’ll see how this one turns out.
Q. Jeff, does it ever get old winning in your neck of the woods? Probably not. JEFF GORDON: I hate winning and I hate finishing second. It’s awful (laughter). You have to understand my emotions throughout this day. Carl can relate because I know he was back there with me. I never thought for one second we were going to finish second today or anywhere in the top 10. So to come back and do what we did was incredible. I love coming out here for so many reasons. You know, the family, the friends. But I love this track. It’s a very challenging, but fun track to drive. It’s the first road course of the season. That’s unique and different for us at this point in the season. I get to bring my family out here. Ella’s birthday is this past week, so had a birthday party for her. There’s just one thing after the other. I have the wine that’s out here. There’s so many reasons I love coming out here. So to me it’s only added pressure to try to do well on the racetrack. And I’m just shocked with all the distractions that we’ve actually been able to be as successful as we have. I was up the 4:30 in the morning two days this week. I was dead here on Friday. Luckily my wife was very considerate to let me get a lot of sleep the last couple days. I don’t think we would have run as well as we did today.
Q. What were you doing up till 4:30? JEFF GORDON: I was up at 4:30 with Leo. That was six or seven years ago (laughter).
Q. When you see something like what went on with Vickers and Tony, Vickers may come back at him and vice versa, how aware of you are that while you’re trying to run your clean race? How do you handle that? JEFF GORDON: You have to understand, neither one of us even saw that. I don’t know what happened. I hate to comment on something I don’t know what happened. I was purely pointing out an instance with me and Tony. It sounds like there was a situation, I don’t know what it was. I was kind of using that as a reference. But I have no idea what happened. I think something may have happened earlier that led to that. But I have no idea. I don’t think it’s really something I can comment on.
Q. Jeff, your fans out here are pretty crazy. They just love you to death. How do they compare to fans around the country? Are they as enthusiastic? JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, you’ve got the really avid core of fans that are kind of based back east or in the southeast that are very avid fans. The difference is I’m from here. Because I’m from here and we’ve had so much success out here, the avid fans that are out here are as big of fans as there are anywhere else in the country. It feels so good to go to driver introductions and get the reception that I get. Even just walking through the garage area. Again, another one of those reasons why I love coming out here, because it is not the same other places that we go. I have an incredible fan base, but it is a little bit unique out here because Vallejo being so close.
Q. After the race, Jeff, you came into the winner’s circle and congratulated Kurt. Did that have anything to do with what went on here last year? CARL EDWARDS: Did you apologize? JEFF GORDON: I’m still not apologizing (laughter). No, had nothing to do with that. The guy did a great job. He drove a great race. They’ve been running well. To me what happened here last year, what happened at Martinsville, is behind us. I’ve moved on from that. I think we’re pretty even. Was just congratulating him on the win. Had nothing to do with anything else. I think it was his first road course win. Is that right? So a guy really who is as talented as he is, every guy that competes in this series has won on ovals wants to win on a road course to kind of prove something to themselves and the rest of the competitors. When you do that the first time, I know how much it means. I know it meant a lot to him. I wanted to congratulate him on it.
Q. Jeff, you talked about that you haven’t been real good on the road courses. What does this do for you now? You were right there at the end. JEFF GORDON: I have a question for Carl. I want to know what you were thinking when you decided that you were going to fly all the way across the country from California during the middle of the season for that race. CARL EDWARDS: I like to race a lot, okay? JEFF GORDON: I know you do. CARL EDWARDS: We had so much fun last there, man. Have you raced there? JEFF GORDON: No. When you left last year, I was like, He’s crazy. So I take my hat off to you for doing that. CARL EDWARDS: Thanks. JEFF GORDON: I mean, I think I may have answered that question, as well. CARL EDWARDS: Are you going to write this article on Tuesday (laughter)? We’re just messing with you. JEFF GORDON: I don’t remember the specifics of your question. But we struggled throughout this day and we really were able to turn it around with some adjustments as well as track position there at the end. So kind of contributed to a great finish. THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for your time. Congratulations.
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