JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT 20 YEARS CELEBRATORY CHEVROLET – WINNER
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO END THE SEASON IN VICTORY LANE?
“Oh my gosh, it means so much. This is for DUPONT right here. 20 years. That is a long time to be together with a sponsor. For them to commemorate that with this awesome paint scheme, this silver car means so much. I knew we had a great race car going into the race. At times I didn’t think we had a winning car, but you know what, we played the strategy perfectly, and we had a really good car. It is just unbelievable to experience this. After last week, then to come here and battle like this and end up in Victory Lane, just unreal. Have to thank Drive To End Hunger, DUPONT, Pepsi, Quaker State, Chevrolet. This team is just awesome. I love Alan Gustafson (crew chief). This is a great way for us to end this season. I know it’s about the championship, so turn it over to the champion.”
YOU AND CLINT BOWYER BATTLED AT THE END. IS THIS REDEMPTION AFTER WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK?
“Can you believe that? There was one restart where I had Joey (Logano) and maybe Aric (Almirola) and Clint right there surrounding me. That thing is going to work itself out some way through racing. I felt terrible how I went about it, and I still regret the way I went about it. But, I can’t take it back. But what we can do is look forward and race guys as hard and clean as we possibly can. This is a great way to get some positive things going because this year has been really up and down. It’s awesome to be able to have my family here in Victory Lane. Have to thank Sprint, all the fans. What an amazing turnout this has been for this final race, and the championship battle. I’ve got to take my hat off to Jimmie Johnson and that team. They did an excellent job battling for the championship. I know they didn’t win it, but you know what, they were up against somebody really incredible in Brad (Keselowski). They did an excellent job. Paul Wolfe and the guys. I have got to say congratulations to Roger Penske on his first championship. I know how much that means to Roger being in the sport as long as he has.”
WHAT A SEASON IT’S BEEN. TO GIVE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IT’S FIRST WIN AND YOUR FIRST WIN AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY IS GREAT. DESCRIBE HOW YOU FEEL
“This is just huge. Man, it’s been an emotional week and a hard one; one of the hardest ones I’ve ever gone through just looking back on my decision. So, to come here and focus on trying to win this race on 20 years of DuPont, that’s awesome to have them on the car here in Homestead with this silver commemorative paint scheme and for all that they’ve done. And this is half of my live that I’ve been at Hendrick Motorsports with DuPont. And I’ve got to thank Drive to End Hunger and Pepsi and Quaker State as well. But what an unbelievable week. There were so many ups and downs this week; and to be able to end in Victory Lane with just an awesome team effort was just awesome.”
HOW MUCH DID THE TRACK CHANGE THROUGHOUT THE RACE GIVEN THAT WE STARTED UNDER HOT SUNNY CONDITIONS AND THEN FINISHED AT NIGHT?
“When we took off there, I was a little concerned. My car was really good in practice; especially in slick conditions on the long runs and we struggled a little bit there in traffic and then eventually the car really started coming to me and we started getting in some cleaner air and made some good adjustments and man, we were up there I think as good as the leaders. And then we had a little bobble on a pit stop and some other things that didn’t go our way, but the fuel mileage did. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made a great call by coming in. I don’t know what happened to the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and it was just us and the No. 15 (Clint Bowyer) and I got him in traffic and it was just adjustments there. The car was great and saved a little fuel and it felt amazing.”
WHERE DOES THIS WIN STACK UP IN YOUR CAREER WINS?
“Well, this is huge. We won in Pocono and it was not the kind of way you want to win a race. This is the way you want to win a race, by just going to battle with them and having a good race car and playing it all out really smart. Having my family in Victory Lane means more to me than anything. It’s something that (during) those 13 win seasons and all those things, I didn’t have. So, this is just an amazing feeling to get my first win at Homestead as well as Rick Hendrick’s first win at Homestead. And to do it with this 20th Anniversary DuPont car, especially after what happened last weekend, is incredible. I didn’t think we’d be able to get to Victory Lane this weekend.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET – FINISHED THIRD
THIS IS A VERY SOLID END TO YOUR 2012 SEASON. TELL US ABOUT YOUR RACE HERE TODAY AT HOMESTEAD
“I’m just proud of the guys. We had a horrible short-run car but we had an awesome long-run car. The U.S. Army Chevrolet, four years strong, and we’re proud to represent them and proud of their support and we wanted to finish on a great note. We’re just happy we can end the season on a good note and go into the off-season and build momentum for 2013.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET – FINISHED EIGHTH
ON HIS RACE:
“That was a battle. We just kept working on our car all day, and we were able to get it better. Just pitted at the right time, and were able to save enough gas to get in our pit window. We’ve worked hard on fuel mileage, and it paid off for us today.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – FINISHED NINTH:
ON HIS RACE:
“I just can’t thank the guys enough for putting me in position for a top-five but the balance wasn’t there at the end. We had radio issues and did not have two-way communication and that made it difficult to dial in the car. I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear me. I was not aware of a fuel issue — had I known I could have saved two positions. We ran out of fuel coming into Turn 4 on the final lap. It appears we had a short in the wire. All-in-all we finished the season strong with three straight top-10s and four straight 10 15s. You can’t ask for much more in a short period of time together. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress in six weeks. Some of the handling issues we’ve had have been narrowed down in these six weeks and that’s a big plus heading into the offseason. Congratulations to Brad and Penske Racing.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – FINISHED 20TH
ON HIS RACE:
“We had a pretty good car today, we just battled with the car being really loose on entry and tight through the middle most of the race. Our last fuel run, we saved some fuel and managed to pick up a few positions in the closing laps. I am proud of the effort from all of the guys on the Bass Pro Shops team today and all year. I also want to say thanks to all of our partners on the No. 1 team for everything this year. We look forward to enjoying a few days off and then we will be right back to work focusing on having a strong 2013.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET – FINISHED 21ST
SUM UP YOUR FIRST SEASON WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
“It was a pretty good season really. I mean it could have been better. I could have finished better tonight. I’m more thinking about tonight’s race than the season. I sped on pit road and that lost us a little bit of time there at the end. We just got off, we had to pit more than the other guys. So it is kind of what it is. With Farmers Insurance, Chevrolet, Quaker State, Hendrickcars.com, everybody did a great job. Fourth is okay.”
HOW AWARE WERE YOU OF WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NO. 48?
“I have no clue. I was just trying to learn more about what went on. That last run was forever. So I just had no clue what was going on.”
HE HAD SOME PROBLEMS ON PIT ROAD, A LOOSE LUG NUT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT
THAT POTENTIALLY COSTING HIM A CHAMPIONSHIP?
“Where did Brad finish?”
“So it would have been close, but Brad (Keselowski) was probably saving and stuff there at the end. So it’s hard to say, hard to just blame it on that. I didn’t realize it was that close.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – FINISHED 28TH
ON HIS RACE:
“It wasn’t the weekend we had hoped for or the way we wanted to close out the 2012 season. What a tough year for the Target team. We still have a lot of testing coming up and with the new car and new motors next year I’m looking forward to a fresh start. I’d like to thank Target and all the partners for their support this year and we’ll go chase that championship next year.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 36TH
NOT THE WAY YOU WANTED TO END. PUT A BOW AROUND YOUR SEASON AND YOUR DAY HERE AT HOMESTEAD:
“Definitely a disappointing finish to it all. We were putting the pressure on like we need to. We had strategy on our side. Really in position to make it interesting there at the end. A couple of little problems, well, one problem then a fatal issue got us at the end. We are not sure why we lost the rear-end gear. There is oil everywhere something happened back there. Disappointing for sure, but I’ve got to reflect back on an amazing year and a year where we won a lot of races, led a lot of laps, so I need to thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for their efforts. Lowe’s and their support, my family, Chevrolet and my wife and daughter for their great support too.”
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE THE LAST 20 MINUTES?
“Pretty heartbreaking, you know. We were doing what we needed to, and certainly in position to put a lot of pressure on the No. 2 car. It’s racing. Stuff happens. It’s out of my control certainly. I just have to reflect back on an amazing year. A ton of effort from everybody at Hendrick Motorsports, especially this No. 48 team. Great support from Lowes, Chevrolet, my fan base, my wife and daughter. Definitely not the result we wanted. But, I’m very proud of how we raced in all year long; the success we had on track; the pace we had on track. We didn’t get the result, but that’s life. We’ll come back next year again.”
Jeff Gordon Wins at Homestead; Second Victory of Season
Jimmie Johnson Finishes Third in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Standings
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Jeff Gordon won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2012 season finale’ at Homestead-Miami Speedway to lead five Team Chevy drivers in the top 10. It was Gordon’s second victory of the season, and 87th since making his series debut on Nov. 15, 1992.
“I knew we had a great race car going into the race,” said Gordon, driver of the DuPont 20 Years Celebratory Chevrolet. “At times I didn’t think we had a winning car, but you know what, we played the strategy perfectly, and we had a really good car. … This is a great way for us to end this season.”
Gordon’s previous best finish at Homestead was third in 2004.
“Congratulations to Jeff Gordon on his first victory at Homestead and the 87th of his career,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “It was a strong finish to the season for Jeff and Hendrick Motorsports, who are such great partners with Chevrolet.”
Jimmie Johnson, who went into the race 20 points behind Brad Keselowski in pursuit of his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver’s championship in seven years, encountered problems on pit road and on the track and finished in 36th-place at Homestead, ending up 43 laps off the pace. Johnson, a five-time series champion, dropped from second to third in the standings, 40 points behind Keselowski and one point behind Clint Bowyer.
“Congratulations to Brad Keselowski and team owner Roger Penske on winning the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship,” said Campbell. “Roger is a long-time racer and champion, and the performance of the No. 2 team this season is certainly worthy of a championship.
“We are proud of Jimmie and the No. 48 Chevrolet team that never gave up this year, and all of our Chevrolet teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. We are looking forward to starting the 2013 season strong at Daytona.”
Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, had been running near the front of the field when he had to return to pit road on lap 212 because of a loose lugnut, losing a lap, and then 13 laps later, a mechanical issue sent the No. 48 to the garage.
“Definitely a disappointing finish to it all,” said Johnson, who led three times for 25 laps. “We were putting the pressure on like we needed to. We had strategy on our side. Really in position to make it interesting there at the end. A couple of little problems; well, one problem then a fatal issue got us at the end.”
Kasey Kahne, in his first season in the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, ended up in fourth place in the standings, following a 21st-place showing at Homestead.
Ryan Newman (No. 39 US Army Chevrolet, third), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, eighth), Kurt Busch (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, ninth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, 10th) also finished in the top-10 for Team Chevy.
Chevrolet earlier clinched the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Manufacturers’ Championship for the 10th consecutive season, and 36th time overall.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – FINISHED 36TH IN RACE; 3RD IN FINAL NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES STANDINGS:
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
KERRY THARP: Five‑time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion joins us, finished third in the points.
Jimmie, certainly disappointing finish to the event here this evening. Maybe take us through what happened.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we were in position and putting the pressure on the No. 2 car (Brad Keselowski) like we needed to. I said at the beginning of the week, 15th isn’t a lay‑up, and I certainly had him in position. He made it really interesting here at the end of this thing. It we could have not had the mistake on pitted road and then the gear failure at the end. Didn’t really catch exactly what happened but I know there was oil under the back of the car.
So there was oil under the back of the car. I’m not sure if a fitting busted or was hit by debris or line but something back there allowed the car to puke out gear oil. So as I was saying, there was oil all over under the back of the car, so something happened from either a line failure or a fitting was hit by debris or something and it puked all the gear oil out and burned up the gear. So again, disappointing, and we were right there in position and putting pressure on like we needed to.
But I have a lot to be proud of this year and so does this race team, and I can’t thank everybody ‑‑ I need to thank everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. Every man and woman there put in countless hours giving me great equipment, the support from Lowe’s, my fan base, Chevrolet and my family. We did all we could and came up a little short.
Q. Do you have any idea whether the oil line, or whatever damage occurred, occurred after you had to come back in? Was it something that could have been related to the missing lug nut?
I don’t think so. When I returned to the track, I could smell gear oil, and my experience is you never smell your own, you smell someone else’s. But clearly, I was smelling mine. And maybe something coming down pit road like a loose lug nut or some debris on the apron as I was getting on the track could have. But again, that’s just speculation. I don’t know if a line failed or exactly what went on. But putting a lug nut back on like we had to come down for would not create the problem.
Q. So maybe the mistake on the pit road was irrelevant, maybe your situation was doomed anyway?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I guess if we find out if a line broke, that could be the case.
Q. You came into this thing with people not giving you much of a chance. Would it have been easier to take if you had just never had a chance all day long? Does it hurt worse when you surge and you can almost taste it again?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: In a lot of ways, yes, but ‑‑ I would have hated to come out here and do the trash talking I did to start the week and run 25th all night long. You know, I’m proud of the fact that we went out there and backed up what we said we could do and we put the pressure on. It doesn’t take the sting away from losing the championship. It helps in some ways and stings in others, so it balances out, I guess.
Q. If you could just talk, all of this happened within what felt like a five‑minute period. You were leading, Brad had his trouble, you were ahead in the points, and then boom, the lug nut, and then boom, this. If you could just speak to your emotions, because this all went down in a very tight time frame.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yes, it all unraveled pretty quick. You know, the pit road thing, I was just kind of dealing with it, the first two or three laps I got on the track and trying to think through what was going on. Chad had some optimism left in his voice. I wasn’t sure why or what. Maybe he was just doing a good job of being a cheerleader.
But I ran a handful of laps and then I could smell some oil. And when the gear failed, I mean, there was a lot of shaking in the car. I knew it was big and going to be fatal.
First I thought it was the engine, but it was the gear. It was still running. We came in the pits and I fired up the engine and the engine was running.
Definitely disappointing, but again, I feel that we had the speed; we had 80 percent of the Chase that we needed to have. So it’s hard to be real down on myself or real down on where we finished. These championships are special, and it takes an entire 10‑race ‑‑ clean 10 races to win one of these things. We hurt ourselves in Phoenix, and then today didn’t help.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, I felt so calm and relaxed all day long because I didn’t have anything to protect. But it was as much like a normal race for me as ever. And that’s something that I enjoyed, it allowed me to stay loose in the car and communicate what I needed and we made the car better.
I didn’t see Brad, but I wasn’t ‑‑ I didn’t have the tingles of a championship feeling. I didn’t even know where Brad finished and had to ask Jamie before we went on the air, and at first she said 21st, and about lost my lunch when I heard that. She said, Well, he got to 15th. I said, well, it would have been interesting.
Q. You guys, the crew even after you went to the garage worked until the very end and you wouldn’t get out of the car. Kind of go through what’s going through your mind at that point and what’s that say about the team that they just wanted to get the car back out on the track?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it’s just one of those things that teams do, and certainly the 48 team does, to get back out there and try not to have a DNF. In the event that somebody has a problem or if the 2 did, we could capitalize on it. But our troubles were pretty big, and there weren’t many laps left.
It was more about going through the motions and trying from a pride standpoint to get out on the track and run the final lap of the season.
Q. In Brad’s earliest introduction to this sport, did you have any run‑ins with him at all, and can you talk about the progress he’s made over his three years and just your impression of what he’s done this year?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: No, I haven’t had any run‑ins with him. We were teammates for a handful of years. He was in Jr.’s car, and when you’re teammates with someone you get to know someone on a different level and your guard is down and it’s much more friendly than meeting somebody out on the racetrack door to door for the first time. We had a good relationship then, and I can’t go without saying congratulations to Brad and the entire team. I’ve known Paul for a lot of years, and through my disappointment, I’m happy for him. I’m happy for Brad, and very good friends with Roger and happy that he was able to come out with the championship.
Q. Assuming career‑wise seven or eight championships is something you want to achieve, how tough is it to finish so close this year and come short?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, to be close is just ‑‑ it sucks to be close and not get it. That’s just the way it is. The statement I made about the eight championships is on that big wish list that ‑‑ we all have a wish list. The reality of that isn’t something that motivates me, and I’m not focused on it or think about that number. It was really to give everybody an answer because everybody would ask me, What next?
So I thought it would bide me some time to have to come up with some type of answer.
But I’m just disappointed that we came so close. We had 80 percent of the Chase that we wanted to have, a ton of momentum late in the season, and then those final two races bit us.
Q. You said you almost lost your lunch when Jamie (Little) told you Brad had finished what she thought was 21st. How did you feel when you had the lug nut issue, and is there any sort of consolation that even if you didn’t have that issue that that gear would have broken anyway?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: That’s hard to say on the gear. We lost the oil, so until I understand why we lost the oil or the gear grease, I don’t k
now. But we were in position to win the race. We were ahead of the 24, and the 24 won the race. We had a great strategy, called me to pit road to top off, and it seemed like we were definitely in the catbird seat.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I was eerily calm for whatever reason. Flat lined. Had the lug nut on, came back out and then we had our other problem.
Q. The same strategy that you were on ended up winning Jeff the race, and just wondered if you were surprised or Chad was surprised that Brad didn’t cover your move when you came to pit road to top off.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I was surprised, and they I think were trying for track position and probably a little frustrated with being stuck in the middle of the pack. You know, it’s tough to really race hard when you come down here and you have something to protect. I’ve been through it enough, and I definitely think those guys were feeling it today.
Maybe outside of their game a little bit and going for the fuel mileage perspective, and it gave us an opportunity. It was definitely going to make things interesting. Unfortunately we couldn’t execute at the end.
KERRY THARP: Jimmie, thank you so much. You’ve had a good season, five‑time champion. Thank you for coming in.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 20 YEARS CELEBRATORY CHEVROLET, RICK HENDRICK, TEAM OWNER, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AND ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF NO. 24 CHEVROLET – RACE WINNERS
KERRY THARP: Our race winner is here with us. That’s Jeff Gordon. He drove the No. 24 DUPONT 20‑year celebratory Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. He’s joined by his crew chief Alan Gustafson.
What a way to win here, your 20th anniversary with DUPONT and Hendrick Motorsports, your 87th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, your first win here at Homestead Miami Speedway. You have now won at least one race at every active Sprint Cup Series track except Kentucky Speedway, and the only reason you haven’t won there is because you’ve only raced there twice.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, somebody tell them to stop adding tracks.
KERRY THARP: Listen, congratulations, Jeff. Maybe just talk about the win, talk about how that has got to be special, 20 years with DUPONT, 20 years with Hendrick Motorsports.
JEFF GORDON: There’s a lot of reasons why it’s special. This is a big win. I mean, we’ve been really close here in the past years with some good race cars, but just coming up a little bit short. And today we just did all the right things. With the way this team has handled things and fought through things and some great moments and some pretty low moments, to be able to end the season like this, pretty amazing.
But I think what I’m most excited about is DUPONT. To be able to have a special paint scheme commemorating 20 years together, it’s such an incredible accomplishment, and then to be able to kind of pay them back or give them thanks by pulling that car into victory lane, I know how pumped they were. They were very, very excited, as well as I can’t believe ‑‑ it’s not very often you get Hendrick Motorsports a first for Rick Hendrick. We got to do it together, Buddy. I appreciate that.
KERRY THARP: Crew chief Alan Gustafson, talk about the win here today.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, it was a really good race. To echo Jeff’s sentiments, to be able to win DUPONT’s 20th anniversary and Jeff’s 20th anniversary with that silver car, which I think is gorgeous, it looks really good on the racetrack and even better in victory lane.
It was a good race, had a solid car. I think we made the right decision there pitting. That was obviously a pivotal moment there for us to be able to contend for the win and had a really good car and a solid day.
Big deal for the team. We’ve been through a lot and are in a position that we wish we were in a lot better position in points right now, and we’re closer to contending, but we know to contend you have to win races in the Chase, and we were able to do that today, so that’s a big deal.
KERRY THARP: And Rick, you finished the season, now you have 209 ‑‑ your racing organization has 209 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories. You had the big 200th win earlier this season at Darlington. You finished the year with a big win. Just talk about how special that has to be.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, our goal is to win every race when we can, and the cars all ran well today. Jeff was fast. I think he had the fastest 10‑lap average yesterday.
You know, it was a great day for us, a great day for DUPONT. You don’t have sponsors that come on board and stay with you that long. To look at the number of wins Jeff has, 87 now? 87 out of 209, that’s pretty good.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, that is good.
RICK HENDRICK: But it was a great race. I went over and congratulated Roger and Brad ‑‑ Roger is actually wearing my hat and I’m wearing his. And he’s a great friend. And Brad did a good job, so we’re happy for them.
We talked about it before the race started. We wanted momentum out of this race carrying into next year. And I think I’m real proud of Jeff; he had the bit in his mouth today, and Alan made all the right calls. Good to get one here at Homestead because this is one of the other tracks we never won at.
Q. Jeff, can you take us through the emotions of the week, obviously starting in Phoenix and having to deal with the aftermath, and here you are, victory and having finished second to Bowyer without any incident. Just take us through that if you can.
JEFF GORDON: It’s like our whole season wrapped up in one week. Yeah, you know, I mean, definitely the emotions, and you can try all you want to try to move past the moment, but man, it just ate me up inside all week. I just kept going back and forth about the decisions that I made and wishing I had made different decisions to backing up reasons why I made the decisions I made, and I just kept going back and forth from being disappointed, being angry, feeling that I had a right. I didn’t have a right. So that just ate me up all week. It meant the world to me to have Rick stand here by my side not just in the media center but all week as well as Alan and the team, and I think that
was what was so special today was to go into victory lane. And I think it started in our team meeting before the race; I apologized to those guys for some of the things that transpired that they had to get involved with that wasn’t their doing last week, and I put them in that position, and I apologized to them and I thanked them at the same time for having my back.
That’s the kind of team that we’ve been this year. We’ve had to have one another’s backs because we’ve all made mistakes this year.
And so to be able to celebrate with them in victory lane was very special, very meaningful, and gives a tremendous amount of momentum to go into 2013 with the new race car.
Q. For Rick and Jeff, obviously Jimmie would have had a chance to win if he didn’t have his problems. What’s it like to see him have those problems? You’ve never seen those problems in the past Chases that he’s been in. Is that just the odds catching up to them?
RICK HENDRICK: I think so. A pinhole in that line, that could have ‑‑ something hit it or I don’t know how it happened, but I think about that. I mean, we had to run a bunch of perfect races to win five in a row, and Jeff to win his four, I mean, we’ve ‑‑ I saw Terry break his hand and come back and win a race. And today, this Chase setting we have with the points as tight as they are, you just can’t have a problem, and I know it wasn’t from the lack of effort. We had a lug nut that started and then we had the hole in the line. But that’s just racing.
If you let that destroy you, you’ll never be able to win again, and I think we go back and figure out what happened and try to prevent it from happening on any of other cars again. That’s the way we usually work together.
It’s disappointing, but at the same time it’s racing. The tire blew in Phoenix; you can’t help that. And those kind of things happen. You just have to accept it if you’ve been racing as long as I have. I’ve had a lot of them on white flag and something happens, and you just have to go on and race again the next day.
Q. Kind of following up on that, you came into the day kind of hoping to be in both victory lanes or at least one celebrating a championship. What were the mixed emotions you had celebrating the win with Jeff knowing that the 48 team had kind of blown the championship?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think, again, I feel awful blessed to be able to have won as many as I’ve won, and after a while you just do the best you can and prepare the best you can. And if somebody just beats you, then you know you’ve got to go to work. If things happen outside of your control, then that’s just the breaks of the game.
I thought it was a long shot anyway coming in here tonight. Brad as good as he’s been, he’s run a flawless Chase, and unless he had the same kind of problem we had tonight, and that could have happened with a lug nut or run over something or an oil line or whatever, could have happened to him. So you know what can happen, but the likelihood, the way their year has been going, for that to happen was pretty remote.
It wasn’t a total shock. I thought that the 48 and the 24 were strong and could make it on fuel and we were going to be ‑‑ probably about 10, 12 points, 10, 11 points, something like that. Unless they had the same kind of problem the 48 had we weren’t going to do it.
We talked about this again on the radio before the race with Jeff and Alan, we need to go out and get the job done today, and that’s what they did. So I’m celebrating that one and letting the other deal go.
Q. For Rick, I notice you have the Shell hat on. I understand you and Roger switched hats out there. Did you say anything or can you share what you said with him out there?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, he and I watched a race together not long ago when we were out of town. He’s one of my best friends, and I wanted to congratulate him, and he reached for my hat when I got to him and said, “I want to wear that hat.” And so I was happy to swap with him.
You know, I respect him so much, and he is such a good friend. So I’m real happy for him. I’m very, very ‑‑ he’s paid his dues, he’s won a bunch of championships, and he’s done a lot of hard work in this sport.
And Brad, he was with our organization for a while, and he’s got a lot of talent. So you want to see friends do well. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to ‑‑ this is it, that one is enough. Next year is not going to be that way. We talked about it, we laughed ‑‑ we were actually texting before the race. Keep it in the family; that’s what we said.
If we both get the win tonight, that was pretty good.
Q. Jeff, were you close on fuel at the end, and if you were, how close were you?
JEFF GORDON: You need to ask Alan. He’s the one that gambled on it. I was saving a lot, I know that. I just kept looking at the gap ‑‑ what made me concerned was that the run before that I had gotten really, really tight in the center and loose off, and so I lost some speed at the end of the run, and the 15 was able to run me down, and I didn’t want to see that same thing happen.
And so when he started saying save fuel, save fuel, I said, well, how many laps are we short? He said, no, we’re good, but we want to pad it a little bit. I kept thinking, I don’t want to pad anything because the last run we gave up a lot at the end. But they made an adjustment to the car, the car stayed good throughout the whole run. It was hard to break up the momentum or the rhythm that I was in on my entry and getting to the gas in the middle, but we started working with it and keeping that gap. But I don’t know, how close were we?
ALAN GUSTAFSON: We had probably a lap to be good. We had a two‑second lead, and there was no reason ‑‑ you don’t have to win it by just a foot. So we knew we had two seconds to spare, and shame on us if we’re out there trying to stretch a lead and run out of gas. That’s not very smart. We kept the two seconds as close as we could, and within that two‑second window I had a thought in my mind if he got to one second we’d turn him back loose, but he never did.
Q. This is more of a career question or for Mr. Hendrick: In light of what Mr. Smith said a couple of years ago about Miami and now that you’ve finally won here, could you shed some light or Mr. Hendrick shed light on how over the last two decades NASCAR has changed from a southern
‑rooted sport to one that’s trying to extend its outreach to across borders, across the United States and across different foreign borders?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I think we feel the same way as NASCAR does, that we want everybody to be a NASCAR fan. The more fans, the better reach that we have to bring crowds and entertain them as well as sponsorship opportunities. I think that’s just the way the world is working, certainly in the marketing world, as well, of who the customer is out there.
But definitely this race, I’d say probably the Phoenix race, as well, just really reaching out and broadening the fan base. And it’s great to see. It’s really grown over the years. You see the Latino fans and Hispanic market growing here each race that we come here, and it’s very cool because typically they probably wouldn’t follow NASCAR. But if this track wasn’t here, or the fact that it is here, I think it really displays our racing at its best. It’s a great racetrack. It’s very entertaining. It’s a great weekend of racing with the trucks, the Nationwide and the Sprint Cup Series battling for the championship.
So it doesn’t get much better than this. And the fans that I come across, they just love the fact that they’re able to come here to this racetrack and see NASCAR racing at its best, that they don’t always get a chance to in other parts of the country. So yeah, that’s definitely an area that’s really grown.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, we had two fans from Israel that came, were in victory lane tonight, and we didn’t know them until they spoke to my wife. But they were wearing Gordon stuff, and they were telling us that ‑‑ we were telling them that we visited there a couple years ago.
JEFF GORDON: Was it the couple with the little boy? Yeah, so at the airport this morning, we were at the airport, my wife and my kids and myself, getting ready to helicopter out, and they were sitting right next to us. But they didn’t say anything, and I didn’t really see anything. And then all of a sudden they were walking out to go get on this bus, and the little boy had a 24 backpack on. And so I said hi to him, and I was kind of struck that they didn’t say anything to me or get a picture or an autograph or anything.
And so my wife saw them at victory lane, or outside of victory lane, and she recognized them from this morning and said come up into victory lane. So I’m glad you got a chance to say hi to them and see them and learn more about who they are. I know the little boy was a big fan, so to get to go to victory lane was pretty cool.
Q. Clint was in here a little while ago, and he said it had obviously gone through his mind that you were the one ahead of him and I’m sure it was going through your mind that he was coming from behind. Was there any thought about that, or were you just more worried about keeping your distance to win the race, or were you thinking at all about Bowyer?
JEFF GORDON: I thought a little bit more about him when I was passing him for what could possibly have been for the lead because Alan told me that if this thing goes green, you’re racing the 15. So we came into some lap traffic, and I could tell he was pretty anxious and running hard. He knew the same thing that I knew. I was able to get to the outside of him and get by him. But I had to race with him a couple of times, and there were no issues.
It didn’t matter who was behind me. I’ll be honest, I wanted to win the race, and Alan put us in the position to win the race. We had a great race car, and I didn’t want to give it up to anybody.
But I thought it was pretty ironic. I mean, there was one time where it was a restart, it was me, Joey and Clint, and I’m like, isn’t that just the way it goes. And so we just really tried to focus on our car, our team, our position and get the most out of it.
After it was over, I thought, you know, wow, I can’t believe that we just finished first and second after what happened last week.
Q. Jeff, you’ve been a four‑time champion obviously, and you congratulated Brad after the win tonight. What kind of champion do you think he’ll be for the sport? That’s a pretty big ambassador role, and he’s obviously the first guy born I think in the 1980s to be a champion in the sport and kind of looks at the world a little bit differently. How do you think he’ll do as the lead face?
JEFF GORDON: And I think because of that, he’ll do great. His ability to reach out to the social media and the younger crowd, you know, I think that he’s ‑‑ he’s somebody that takes it ‑‑ wants to take it and wants to be that, and he’ll ‑‑ because of that, he’ll put a lot of effort into it.
He’s entertaining. You know, that’s for ‑‑ you never know what you’re going to get with Brad. I enjoy or look forward to watching him, and I think this experience, he will just mature to a whole ‘nother level because of being in this position and carrying this responsibility. When he sees all that’s involved ‑‑ every champion that I’ve ever seen win their first one, they always come out of it with a whole new perspective on past champions. And I remember when Jimmie won his, he was overwhelmed with everything that comes along with it. It makes you grow up.
If you’re ready for it or not ready for it, it doesn’t matter; it’s there, and there’s a lot to take in, and it makes you really look at things a lot differently and recognize that responsibility that you have.
So I think he’ll do a very good job.
Q. Rick, your season has been unusually erratic. You went 10 races at the beginning without winning, then you won seven of the next 11, then the next 11 without a win and won three of the last four. Was that all just happenstance and the way things happen, or is consistency something that your team needs to shore up?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, I don’t really know how to answer that. We’ve run good every week. We had all four cars in the Chase. Everybody won a race. I think we had 11 poles and 10 wins, and we finished ‑‑ I don’t know where we finished in the points. We could have ‑‑ we had a shot to finish one, three and five two weeks ago, and I don’t really think we’re erratic. I think the competition is pretty stiff.
You look at Greg Biffle, who led the points going into the Chase, and so I just think it’s the level of competition, if you are short on fuel, you go from 1st to 12th. If you have a tire go down or you have to come back in on a speeding penalty, like Kasey, you lead the race and then you end up 20th, it’s just so many good car
s out there.
I don’t think anybody can just be perfect for the whole year. I’d say if I can go every year and get them all in the Chase and win 10, 11 races and 10, 11 poles, I want to win a lot of championships, but if you run like that, you’ll win your share.
Q. For Rick, at one point Brad was in the Hendrick stable with JR Motorsports, and I guess the thought was eventually he may get a ride with Hendrick and he left. But did you see this potential in him back then and any thoughts you wish you could have retained him at that time?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I knew Brad had a lot of talent, and we looked at ways to try to keep him. I told Roger he was on loan. Now he won’t want to come back.
But no, you know, sometimes guys really blossom, and they are really way ahead of the curve and the timing isn’t right, but I wish him all the luck in the world.
And you know, he’s a great talent, and if ‑‑ we worked to get him in the Nationwide car and then his first win in the Cup car with James was one of our cars. You know, if we kind of helped him get there, that’s great. But I ‑‑ you just never know what turns life takes, and I’m happy for him, but I’m happy with our lineup.
Q. That was part of my question. He won his championship in his 125th start, and the guy who did it in the fewest starts is Jeff in 93 starts. I guess that’s an impressive start, and I think it’s impressive because I don’t think anybody thought three years ago that Brad could do that, he was sort of raw and aggressive. Would you agree with that? Did you think that he could turn it around that quickly? And my second question since you know Roger so well, does that guy ever show emotion?
RICK HENDRICK: He was pretty emotional tonight when I was with him. He was ‑‑ he genuinely was happy, Roger was. Brad, and Jeff worked with Brad, Brad, he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but he was very aggressive. But he learned how to control that and how to race, and he did it in a hurry. And he did it almost in a year.
And you know, and I think Paul Wolfe has been a great influence, and that’s a great combination.
You see guys ‑‑ I remember Kyle Busch, and Alan was the guy that had him, first race he ever ran in the Nationwide car, he should have won. When you’ve got a lot of talent ‑‑ a lot of guys you see guys with talent and they get too aggressive or they just don’t know when to race, and he figured it out in a hurry. He’s been very, very ‑‑ he’s been a very smart while he was aggressive racer this year.
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, when he was with us, I don’t know if I saw this much potential out of him, but he certainly had talent. I think he races smart, like Rick said, and a lot of times when you look at champions in any series, you have to have talent and know how to get the most out of the car, but you have to be smart.
To me, and Alan might even be able to talk to this point a little bit, what impressed me so much this year is that there were times when there was some back and forth between whether they were missing something or didn’t have what we had, and those guys went to work, and they made their stuff really strong, and it takes engineering, good crew chief, fabricators as well as a solid driver to pull together like that and make improvements.
You’ve got to give them credit.
Q. You’ve been the champion four times; Rick, you’ve had numerous championships. Could you talk about the mental toughness in Brad to ‑‑ when you guys go full court press, you guys go full court press.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I’ll tell you, I remember just like yesterday Brad sitting in my office, and he eats, sleeps and drinks wanting to be a race car driver, and he ‑‑ when he was with the Nationwide team, he was all under the car, all around the car with the guys, and he brings a level of intensity that I see in very few people, just that determined.
And I think he’s matured in a hurry, and he learned how to race, and race 500 miles and race against guys and know when to race and the gas mileage thing. They figured it out. I guess they were first, weren’t they? They kind of had the gas mileage thing down first. They won a couple races that way where everybody was saying, hey, can they go that far. So that was planning with he and the crew chief, and I think he spends a lot of time over there, and he’s made that whole organization better.
Again, I think like Jeff said, he’s ‑‑ I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anybody mature as quickly ‑‑ not so much mature but learn how to race and accept racing with guys that were champions and looked at as being the best but wanting to beat the best.
He deserves it. They deserve it this year. They had a great year.
KERRY THARP: Jeff, Alan and Rick, congratulations on this win, congratulations on a good season. Happy Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you in Las Vegas.