JIMMIE JOHNSON TAKES TEAM CHEVY TO VICTORY LANE AT MARTINSVILLE
Chevrolet Drivers Bring Home Three of the Top Five Finishing Positions in STP Gas Booster 500
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 7, 2013) – Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS team brought Team Chevy to Victory Lane for the third time in the first six races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Hendrick Motorsports now has 20 victories at Martinsville Speedway, the most of any organization. The win marks Johnson’s eighth trip to Winner’s Circle at the 0.526-mile short-track, placing him in third on the all-time track win list; more than any active driver on the circuit. The No. 48 Chevy SS dominated the competition leading 346 of the 500 laps and now retakes the point lead by six markers over second position. Chevrolet has now won the last five straight races at Martinsville Speedway.
Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, posted his 33rd top-10 finish in 41 races at Martinsville Speedway. The solid run moved Gordon up six positions in the point standings and into the 12th spot. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, recorded his third top-five finish at the circuit’s oldest track. Kahne gained two positions in the point standings and now occupies the fifth position. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Novo Nordisk Chevrolet SS, recorded his 11th top-10 finish in 21 starts at Martinsville Speedway. His seventh-place finish is his best run thus far this season. McMurray moved up three positions in the point standings to 13th.
Stewart Haas Racing driver Danica Patrick, No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet SS, made a valiant run after recovering from an early spin to record a 12th-place finish in her first start at Martinsville Speedway. Patrick is the only woman to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway and was the top finishing rookie. Richard Childress Racing’s Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, came home 13th followed by Tony Stewart, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, in 17th. Virginia native Jeff Burton, No. 31 Childress Institute of Pediatric Trauma Chevrolet SS, finished 18th followed by his Richard Childress Racing teammate Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Pittsburgh Paints Chevrolet SS, in 19th.
Clint Bowyer (Toyota) finished second and Kyle Busch (Toyota) rounded out the top-five with a fifth-place finish.
The series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next week for the NRA 500 on Saturday, April 13th.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, CHAD KNAUS (CREW CHIEF) AND RICK HENDRICK (TEAM OWNER), NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNERS
KERRY THARP: Let’s hear from our race winning team, today’s 64th annual STP Gas Booster 500 here at Martinsville Speedway. Our race winner is Jimmie Johnson. He drove the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. He’s joined up here by his team owner Rick Hendrick. This is Jimmie’s 62nd NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. This is his eighth win at Martinsville Speedway. That’s third all‑time in the history of the sport.
For Hendrick Motorsports it’s their 20th win at Martinsville Speedway, most of any organization in the history of the sport. Not only do you guys win, but you make history. Congratulations on that today. Chad Knaus, crew chief has joined us, as well.
Jimmie, we had the conversation Friday about winning that eighth clock, and certainly you put the hammer down and went after it and got it.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, we had a great weekend and I know that the stats clearly show that. But probably the most calm, relaxed thought‑out weekend that we’ve had as the 48, and mature weekend we’ve had. We really fell back on our experience and stayed committed to that, and Friday was easier to stay committed because qualifying trim, Chad and Dave and everybody gave me just a way fast race car.
Made that easy, but as we got into Saturday and race practice, this track can play some games with you, and there were times where we could put up a fast lap but we didn’t have what we thought ‑‑ it wouldn’t look competitive compared to other guys on track and guys adjusting their cars to the current conditions.
We stuck to our game plan and knew what we wanted to have in the race and stayed patient, and it was tough to do at times, but it certainly worked out well.
And in the race, we had to adjust on the fly. The track changed more than we thought it would, and Chad put some great changes under the car. It’s kind of the time when the 18 and the 20 got to us, and we were able to get our car dialed in. I’m not sure where they went following that, but and the 15 and 24 showed up and I still had my hands full.
Just a very well executed race, or I should say weekend, and clearly the race today, by the whole 48 team.
KERRY THARP: With the win today Jimmie takes over the points lead, six points over Brad Keselowski, 12 points now over Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Chad, just talk about the work that goes into a weekend like this and then how, as Jimmie alluded to, experience, you’ve got a blueprint for success here, how all that plays out.
CHAD KNAUS: It’s funny you say that like that because I was actually talking to my father last week when we were coming to the racetrack, and he said, man, you guys have got a really good setup for Martinsville, you ought to be in pretty good shape, and I said, well, we did until they changed all the rules, and unfortunately all the rule changes and with the new car and everything that we had coming in here with the new tire, we really had to dig in deep. And the off weekend gave us an opportunity to really look back over some past history and draw some conclusions that we were hoping were going to work out.
So my father, he’s like, well, how do you know where you’re going to start? I said, well, I guess we’re just going to guess. Fortunately enough we guessed right.
It was a great race. It was a lot of fun. I do want to put out there that I think Goodyear did a really good job with the tire that they brought. Obviously it’s difficult for them to figure out what it is that they want to bring to the racetrack because when you do come here and test you don’t necessarily get the same conditions that you always have in the race. And this tire was good. I thought that it made us and forced us to come in and take four tires, and I thought that was pretty fun for the fans. It was fun for me to watch how somebody that would come in and take tires, they could maneuver up through the field and pass race cars. I think that was a big contributor to a great show today.
KERRY THARP: Rick, 20 wins at one racetrack. There are a lot of organizations that would like to have just 20 wins overall, but 20 wins at a racetrack, and certainly maybe just talk about obviously the latest one today, but 20 wins here at Martinsville. Congratulations.
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, this is a ‑‑ I was looking at that scoreboard over there, the first time I ever came to a Cup race was here with my dad. We’ve been very fortunate to have some great drivers, and this track has been awful good to us.
I knew we were tied with Petty I think the last win, and he’s dominated this place for so long. But really proud of these guys and proud of the organization because they all ran good today. Junior had some trouble, but I was worried that we were going to end up like we did this race last year when that caution came out because I didn’t know who was going to take tires and who was going to stay out.
But played out, and it’s been a great day for us.
Q. Jimmie, what was going through your mind after that red flag came out?&n
bsp; It had to be a little bit anxious with Clint on your tail there.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it was. I mean, I had a real nice comfortable lead at that point, and didn’t want to see a caution at all and give those guys another chance at me, to get alongside of me.
But over the years, I feel like I’ve learned that there will be cautions, that things you do inside the car to kind of preserve the life of the tire, and then also how to restart and run your best laps, best five, ten laps, whatever it is, on old tires. It’s not an easy thing to do. And I’ve given away a few races over the years, really lost them to Jeff with his great experience here and how awesome he is at this track, and I’ve learned to adapt.
I think from a setup standpoint, too, Chad knows what kind of changes we need to make as the race goes on and the sun starts to set, and then for the short run, there’s always a bunch of short runs at the end.
Again, I think experience plays into it, and I felt like if I could get two or three corners and maintain the lead on Clint that I could stretch it back out. Again, looking back on just one other thing, the most concerned time I had was during the red, wondering who was going to pit and not pit, and then when everybody stayed out, I didn’t have to worry about any tires coming, I felt a lot better about things and then knew I just needed a couple of good corners to get away from Clint.
Q. Are you as comfortable with your notes for any other track in the series, and where does Texas rank in your comfort level?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, there’s just a rhythm and feel here. The reason we laugh is my note‑taking has gone downhill in the last few years. You can’t read what I write anyway, so I’m even sure why we take notes.
But there’s a feel to this track, and the history we have, 10, 11 years now of coming here and doing this, we just draw on and fall back on. For me to roll in here off of vacation and literally got home the day before and first lap out on the track put it up on the top of the board just tells me how good of a car I had. It was really up to me to not mess it up as the weekend went on. I usually need four or five runs to shake out the vacation stuff.
KERRY THARP: How about Texas, where does that stand as far as your comfort level and how you
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I feel good about it. We ran really good at Vegas, and California didn’t go as well as we wanted, but it’s a much different racetrack than what we have at Texas. I would say that Texas and Vegas are closer together than Texas and California. We’ll go there and see. We’re still learning this car on the big tracks. Fontana we were certainly trying some things, and smarter leaving there, and I know that these guys will work hard and give me a great car this coming race.
Q. Clint came in here and he said I thought Jeff Gordon was going to be the car to beat today, and Jeff looked at him and said I thought you’d be the car to beat today just because of what they saw on Saturday. What happened between Saturday and today that made you guys so dominant?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Saturday is just a different day. We have very little laps on the track at that point. The truck race changes it, and then our race is so long the track continues to evolve and change. It’s kind of a moving target.
I was looking at the scoreboard wondering where Clint was. I expected him to roll right up there with how awesome he was yesterday. And Jeff on the longer run probably had the car to beat. Jeff has a really good line here on the long run, and he started catching me before the last caution, and I was thinking, man, if this stays green this could be a Jeff Gordon day, and when the caution came out I knew it was swinging back my direction because we had such a good car on the short run.
Q. Was yesterday nerve‑racking at all after the contact with Joey, and were you nervous at all today on that one restart where you fell back to sixth and the caution came out so you ended up being back up front?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, there was some oil down in 3 and 4 so that’s why the caution came out. I went into the turn and the car just went straight. I’m not really sure what happened. Caution was out, fortunately I was still leading and I got to hang on to the lead.
But the contact with Joey, I stayed in the car so I didn’t get to see it. Chad was ‑‑ we saw another set of stickers left, so Chad looked at it, the guys were working on it, and we were already discussing what changes we wanted to make for that last sticker run. So I could tell right away that it was more cosmetic and nothing really bad. I hate that the contact happened but it luckily didn’t hurt our car or move the splitter around. That would be the tough part is if ‑‑ luckily it hit the bumper bar and smashed that in instead of bending the splitter up or down.
Q. This question is for Jimmie. Jeff Gordon was on pit road during his post‑race interview and kind of joked around saying when you guys qualify 15th or back in the pack you kind of gave them a chance to win. What’s the advantage of getting that No. 1 pit stall and doing it two times in a row, the pole in the fall, winning the race, and doing the same thing here in the spring?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, you make your day so much easier when you qualify up front, qualify on pole and get that first pit stall. Jeff sent me a funny text Friday, you’re tough enough to beat when you qualify 15th, now on the pole it’s going to be impossible to beat you. I got a good laugh out of that.
There’s four or five cars that we race with here that I don’t want to see them get the pole because it could be that little advantage that gives them a chance to win. We all could see how bad it was to start in the outside lane, and if you can come off pit road first and not second, it makes all the difference in the world. Even third versus second, you’d much rather be third than second.
Q. I heard you say I think to Chad on the cool‑down lap something to the effect of we looked like we knew what we were doing today, which is kind of amusing when you consider this place has been hosting Cup races for more than 50 years and the only guys with more wins than you are Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip. I know it’s tough to put that in perspective, but can you talk about being third all‑time here by yourself, no other active driver has eight wins? Do you ever sit back and think about that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I think the fact that we had just such a calm weekend was the biggest part. I mean, it’s easy to start chasing things here and get yourself off track.
We always race well, and fortunately here you pit a lot and you can make big changes to your race car to get you in the ballgame. We’ve won races where we were just terrible to start the race, having no fun. Chad is throwing spring rubbers in the car and track wear is coming up or down, wedges in and out, all those huge, huge changes, and we get ourselves in contention.
I don’t know where we were ‑‑ someone said the worst I was on the track today was fourth. We just executed from the first laps in practice to where we were at the end of the race, and that was fun. That’s what I meant by that, that we weren’t chasing a setup or track conditions or a variety of things that we’ve done in the past.
Q. Chad, after the race Denny tweeted or told somebody, this was a lay‑up win, the inference being he wasn’t out there so y’all had a pretty easy time of it. Is that the kind of thing you’ll remember in October when you come back or do you not need bulletin board material to get your team up for a race?
CHAD KNAUS: I guess I am glad I don’t tweet. (Laugh
You know, I don’t really pay ‑‑ I don’t know. Denny, I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s not Denny, it’s the Gibbs cars. If you look at Matt Kenseth, he couldn’t get out of his own way when he was in a Roush car here, and he went out there today and was making it happen. I think it’s probably more car than driver here for that team.
But Denny does a really good job here. He’s fantastic at the short tracks here, Richmond, a lot of those tracks, and I hate it that Denny is hurt. That’s not the way we want this stuff to go down. But I still think that they’re going to be in the Chase and I think they’re going to be in contention for the championship.
Q. Rick, you’ve seen Jimmie win so many times here. Just from what you watch, what do you think makes him so good here?
RICK HENDRICK: Just watching him in the car and the feedback he’s giving Chad and then the way he’s taking care of the tires and kind of feeling the race unfold, I watched him today, I like to go to the front stretch and watch the cars come off the corner nice and straight and don’t bobble, and he does an excellent job with the throttle. I was talking to Gordon about it, and he said that you will master it looking at the traces and figuring out how to run the track. He said he’s sorry he ever showed you one of his.
Q. Rick, which would you have predicted today, Jimmie winning the race or Danica finishing 12th? Which surprises you more?
RICK HENDRICK: Danica. I thought he was going to win the race, when we got sitting on the pole. His track record here. I didn’t realize she finished 11th. That’s a great job. But I’m definitely ‑‑ I don’t know how to answer that. I’m not surprised that he won the race. I’m surprised she finished 11th. Is that what you said? That’s what you asked me. Yeah. Okay.
Q. Chad, since now we’ve had two of the short tracks and at this point in the season, where do you see the work that needs to happen with this generation of car and maybe a critique at this point, best and worst, good performing versus one you need to actually do a little bit more work to?
CHAD KNAUS: Honestly I think the car is performing really well to be quite frank with you. I think that Goodyear needs a little bit more time with this car so they can get us the tires that we need to continue to race. They did a great job with this tire that we’ve got here. We actually knew that they tested last year with this tire with the 2013 car, and I think that they came very, very prepared, and I think the more that they can do that, the more experience they get with the Gen‑6 car is only going to help the racing as a whole because as the tire falloff increases I think the racing gets better. I think we saw that today, and I think that we’ll see that next weekend going into Texas. It’s pretty abrasive and difficult on the tires so I think you’ll see some good racing there just like we did at Fontana.
The more the tracks that we go to where the tire falloff is lower, the racing inherently is not as good because the line selection is minimized.
So I think that from a car standpoint, I don’t think we need to mess with it a whole heck of a lot right now, just kind of let things shake out and let Goodyear get to work and see what they can do with the product.
Q. Jimmie, from your perspective, Jeff called it kind of like more old school Martinsville with the tire falloff. Most drivers seem to like that. What did you think this weekend and do you feel that it’s heading in the right direction, kind of like Chad said?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I agree with what Jeff said, and Chad’s point of view, as well. The competitors have been asking for a tire that falls off, and with changes in the vehicle, this Gen‑6 car is allowing Goodyear to comfortably make some adjustments and change. Their green tire that they’ve introduced naturally wears out differently, and seems to wear more, which is good, and creates that falloff.
So I think directionally we’re going the right way. I do still feel that there are some surfaces that just ‑‑ the type of surface that’s put down doesn’t put on good races, and we need to be smart when we resurface tracks.
But tire falloff is what we’re all after. The competitors have been saying that for a long time but Goodyear was afraid to do so with some of the loading and things that we saw with the other car. They still want it to last. The last thing they want is four or five blown right fronts and drivers climbing out of the car mad and hurt talking about the tire not doing its job. So they’re walking a tightrope. It’s easy to beat up on them, but they do have a tough job.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED THIRD
DANICA PATRICK AND TONY GIBSON (CREW CHIEF), NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 12TH
KERRY THARP: Danica Patrick has joined us, too. She had a strong 12th place showing her first trip here to Martinsville Speedway. Certainly Danica driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Stewart‑Haas. Outstanding job out there today. Maybe just talk about your experience driving at Martinsville and how you thought things went.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. I had a spin at the very beginning. I don’t know how many laps in, 10, 20, something like that, and felt like I kind of got pinched down but I also got in pretty hard. When you’ve got the momentum going that way, it was sort of a perfect storm.
But I learned my lesson to make sure that you just don’t go in too hard because they’re going to be holding you tight, and there’s going to be nowhere to go, nowhere to slide up, and you get into them and it’s a lot ‑‑ if you’ve got wheel in it you’re probably going to come around.
Learned that lesson early. We were two laps down at one point, so I’m probably most proud of getting those two laps back and then running strong until the end there on the lead lap.
You know, it was just nice to have a good weekend after having so many that weren’t good since Daytona. Yeah, it was a fun little track. I was told that if it goes well, you’ll be like, I don’t mind this place at all, let’s come back, and if it doesn’t you don’t ever want to see it again. Today was one of those days I had a good car, and Gibson has got a good track record here, obviously Newman won this race last year, and he’s always run really well.
I think the team has a lot to be proud of. The stops were good. We had a little right front damage from early in the race so it was a little bit of a pain in the butt to get that tire off and then back on for stops. But it was good to get the Go Daddy car up there, and Hendrick did a nice job all weekend.
Obviously I had to start from the back because I decided I was going to go from 4th to 3rd and coming up to speed on my out lap in practice, and that’s not the normal progression. I got 11.4 on the revs, and they were like, we should probably just take that out. Unfortunately I had to start from the rear.
But Hendrick gave me another really strong engine, and I felt like we had decent speed in practice, and it was nothing different today.
Q. How do you feel about your performance today?
DANICA PATRICK: I guarded down into 3 on the last lap, and then the 55 hit me and got me loose and pushed me up the track, and then I held it next to him, came off the corner, and then Harvick is on the very inside so we were three wide coming to the line, and then for some reason the 55 just spun all the way ‑‑ like big smoke going into 1. I don’t know if that’s what you were talking about. I don’t know what happened. I have n
DANICA PATRICK: Okay. I’m such a rookie.
You know, it was ‑‑ we just answered how the day went. More than that, kind of what Clint said about the sport being exciting, a lot going on. I hope the fans enjoyed that late red that made for a chaotic last seven or eight laps there. You know, it was good to look up in the stands and see it full. It was good to see people with their shirts off. Summer’s coming, so I’m ready for it. I’m sure y’all are because it snowed here on Thursday.
Things are just going well, and for me it was just really nice to have a nice weekend since Daytona because we haven’t had ‑‑
KERRY THARP: Jeff Gordon has joined us. Jeff finished third today. Jeff drives the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, and Jeff, talk about your run, certainly battling for the win out there, but how did it look from your seat?
JEFF GORDON: It was an exciting day for us. You know, same thing kind of what Clint said, we were a little bit tighter when the race started than we anticipated, but we also burned the rear tires off of it the first couple runs.
Luckily that improved, and I made a bonehead move and overshot my pit stall and cost us a bunch of positions. I was just sitting back there not passing anybody, not going anywhere thinking, uh‑oh, I’ve really screwed us up. The long run we made a couple of adjustments and freed the car up and the long run came and our car was unbelievable in that long run. I obviously didn’t want to see a short run there at the end, but you know it’s pretty typical; it’s going to happen at Martinsville. I think third was a great finish for us, and happy to bring home third.
We needed the points. We needed a good solid run. The 48, you give him that No. 1 pit stall at Martinsville, and I mean, it’s almost near impossible to beat him.
Q. Danica, they say that the toughest thing about your first race here is getting comfortable. At what point ‑‑ was there a point in the race where you felt that comfort level grow, and when you did spin, were you thinking, okay, everything everybody said about this place was right, it is a little hard to get around here?
DANICA PATRICK: I think it was just the circumstance, but it just got me on my toes when I was inside of people, making sure I didn’t slide up into them and them kind of help turn me sideways. Honestly I felt pretty comfortable from the get‑go. When you have a decent car, things just are a lot easier. I’ve had a lot of other worse weekends, like Fontana, I’ve been there a bunch of times, but it was misery until the race.
It was just a good car, so we were steady all weekend and we just kind of kept improving. We also improved in the race, which is always really important. We ended up getting really good power down by about halfway through the race and no matter what I did I could really get on it well coming off the corner.
I would say that I learned pretty early, I was backing up my corner and kind of going it easy and trying to kind of save everything. I was getting really loose doing it, so once I finally got back to going in hard again and loading the front up like I was before, it seemed like the car got really balanced again.
I learned that kind of easy, and that’s kind of what helped me get more comfortable in race runs.
Q. Danica, you were five spots ahead of Tony Stewart and many more ahead of Ryan Newman. How did it feel to be first in class for Stewart‑Haas Racing today?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I mean Ryan Newman had an issue, and he was really nice out there. There was one time he let me in when I was stuck up high, so that was really helpful of him. And I felt a little funny kind of racing really hard for position there with Tony at the end, and then to get in front of him, that was a little victory for me because he’s so good.
I’m going to go over to his bus after this and see what he has to say about it. But no, it was really fun. Gibson just prepares nice cars for Martinsville. It’s not about being first on your team, it’s about being first out there overall, and you work towards that the whole time.
Q. And then also, is this place ‑‑ you’ve had success at Phoenix, at Milwaukee, at flat short tracks like this. Does this place remind you of either of those and is that why you got so comfortable so quick and got that rhythm?
DANICA PATRICK: No. I mean, I just think there’s less risk in finding the limit on a track that you’re not going as fast on. I think that’s a little bit a part of it as opposed to when you’re at Fontana and it’s a tricky track and you’re carrying a lot of speed, and the consequences seem a little bit bigger when you try and find the limit there than at a short little track here like Martinsville.
I think that might be kind of it. I’m not 100 percent sure. All I can say is that I know that a car that’s comfortable to drive always makes a huge difference.
Q. As a follow to what you just said, when you were racing Tony for 16th with about 35 laps to go, did it enter your mind at all that maybe it would be a good idea to let him in, or is he just another driver on the track at that point?
DANICA PATRICK: No, we were racing for position, so it didn’t cross my mind to let him in. I went underneath him to go by him. No, all that crossed my mind is that I just ‑‑ I’d be fair and give room and run hard, and if I get the spot, great; if I don’t, you lost it to a guy like Tony Stewart.
But no, I’m out there to race, and I don’t think Tony would want me to lift.
Q. Jeff, with the victory today with Jimmie, that gives Hendrick Motorsports its 20th victory, breaks a tie with Petty for most all‑time here at Martinsville. You and Jimmie have combined for 15 of those victories. Can you talk about the dominance Hendrick has had here and what it means to hold that milestone?
JEFF GORDON: I’m guessing Hendrick has got something figured out pretty good here. You know, I mean, the first time I drove for Rick, I knew how good their equipment was everywhere we went. The teams, they just do such a good job from the entire ‑‑ through the depth of the organization, from the engineering and how we build the chassis and everything that we do. We hit on some things years ago for us here, but they had success prior to me getting there, and then I think the 48 has been able to take that success that we had and really build on that, as well.
And Jimmie, he just has really figured this place out. There’s just certain tracks where the drivers that Hendrick has had over the past as well as now and just our race cars, it just really suits that. Like I said, qualifying up front really can be huge here. You get a driver like Jimmie and a team like the 48, or ours, as well, or the 15, you put them on the pole in that No. 1 pit stall, it’s going to be really, really hard to beat them.
The next thing we’ve got to work on now is trying to qualify better. But that’s awesome. I’m so proud to be a part of Hendrick. Happy for Rick. I got to see him out there, and I know that these types of stats and records really mean a lot to him, you know, and he deserves it. They’ve got an awesome organization and work very hard at it. It’s great to be a part of that.
Q. Jeff, finally it seemed like there was that moment where it was like, oh, man, we’re going to have a bad day and then you managed to battle back. How important is that just looking at the season as a whole to have that kind of turnaround today?
FF GORDON: Yeah, when it happened I was pretty disappointed because I made the mistake, and we know how ‑‑ you’ve got to be flawless at a track like this, and it just seemed like it was tough to pass. When you get that far back in traffic.
At first I was disappointed in myself, and I thought, well, we’ve got a good car, we can make it up through there, and they dropped the green and I went backwards and I wasn’t passing anybody, and I thought, uh‑oh, I’ve really put ourselves in a hole here. Luckily we had a long run, and like I said, we made some good adjustments, and we just started picking them off one by one, and the car was unbelievable on that long run.
You know, we can’t afford to do those things. I can’t be making those mistakes, and we can’t have those mistakes made, and that’s just how crucial it is in the sport today as competitive as everybody is and how close the cars are. You know, we kind of got fortunate today.
Q. On Friday you said that you didn’t quite know about Martinsville. Do you like it now? What’s your feeling about it?
DANICA PATRICK: Turn left. Left, brake, left. You know, as I said earlier, we did kind of answer this, but ‑‑ or I did, I had a pretty good car from the start, so it was comfortable, wasn’t really fighting anything huge. A little loose in.
But I didn’t know what to expect, but I said that I feel like finding the limit on a short track where you’re going a little slower is a little bit ‑‑ there’s a little less penalty there, a little less risk than finding the limit on a really big track where you’re doing 200 miles an hour and you get sideways and you don’t always catch those. I guess that’s probably the comfort level for me.
I felt like it was kind of traditional passing here, setting it up and getting your nose in there, a little bit more road course style, so that might have some effect because I’ve done so much of that.
But good car, steady day. I got a lot of advice on keeping my head cool and just letting things go. Nobody has straight fenders after the race, although Jimmie might. Does Jimmie have all of his fenders straight?
Q. On her rookie battle between Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
DANICA PATRICK: Actually I decided I’d fly back to Chicago and he’s going to drive back. That was the plan all along. But if he’s not back at the bus when I get back there, that means he’ll be mad.
You know, you have good days and you have bad days, and we’ve definitely had our fair share of bad days the last few weeks, so it was nice to have a decent one.
Q. Jeff, on pit road you mentioned something about this being like old school Martinsville. Was that in reference to the tires? And it seemed that many of the people who raced yesterday and today seemed to like the falloff of the tires. Do you think that’s headed in the right direction?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I do. I didn’t like it at lap 60 on the first run because it seemed like some others had it figured out a little bit better than we did. But as the race went on and the wear got a little bit better, then it seemed like ‑‑ and the adjustments we made, we were very competitive. I do like the falloff. I like how you’ve got to manage how hard you push it at the beginning versus ‑‑ and the grip level, how it goes away and you’ve got to really use your foot to keep from spinning the tires.
So that is kind of old school Martinsville that I grew up with, and I do like that. I think it brings more of the driver into play, even though it seemed like air pressure kind of helped that. I think we all started maybe a little bit too high on rear pressure. But yeah, that was fun.
I’d like to see that more. Durability is a big deal, especially on the bigger, higher speed tracks, and so they’re limited on what they can do, especially on the repaves. But on these older tracks, it’s kind of encouraging to know that they can build a tire that can withstand long runs but does fall off and wears a little bit. I’d like to see more of that.
Q. Danica, did you talk about what happened when you had contact with Junior? Did Vickers get inside of you and did you feel like you were giving Vickers enough room there and also at the end?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, we were lined up on the inside of 1 and 2, and Vickers hit me and hit me into Dale, and Dale got sideways and then went down the back straight and Dale was trying to put me down in the wall on the inside, and we got into 3 and he went around sideways and spun.
I wasn’t trying to lose any friends out there, that’s for sure. It was tight, like it is, bumper to bumper, and I just got hit from behind. Yeah, 55 found my bumper again at the end. You know, it’s Martinsville, right. Three wide, coming to the start‑finish line, it’s all exciting.
Q. You’re not mad?
DANICA PATRICK: No, I wanted to make sure Dale wasn’t mad. I wasn’t trying to hit him or anything. We were just lined up on the inside of 1 and 2 and we were all running tight and I got bumped and I got bumped into him and was able to get alongside of him. Why wouldn’t I take it? He came on the radio and said he wasn’t mad. I didn’t do anything wrong.
KERRY THARP: Thank you very much. Good luck next week at Texas.
TONY GIBSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET SS:
DID YOU IN YOUR WILDEST DREAMS THINK SHE COULD FINISH 12TH HERE IN HER FIRST ATTEMPT?
“Nah I’ve never. I figured if we could finish top 25 and be a couple of laps down it would be a miracle. I never dreamed. I knew after Saturday and Friday that we had a good car. I knew she was capable of doing it, as far as speedwise and driving. To be able to go through all that beating and banging and survive and finish 12th – she did a great job.”
IN REGARDS TO LISTENING AND ADAPTING:
“Going to Little Rock was obviously huge. Going there and just king of getting in that mode of braking and working on a couple of things setup wise to help her. Martinsville is one of those places where if you can road race, you’re going to get around here pretty good. Obviously, she’s a pretty good road racer so having that straight line braking mentality and finesse of not just overdriving the car, that helped her the most coming into here. She definitely did a really, really nice job all day. She got aggressive when she needed to at the end.”
HOW HAPPY WERE YOU TO SEE HER GET AGGRESSIVE AT THE END?
“It was great to see that. I was worried about that. I knew that with 30 to go the restarts were going to get more and more aggressive, and that’s why I told her it’s not going to get any easier. I was really, really happy to see how aggressive she got. You know, being able to be on the defense. They would bump her and she wouldn’t get flustered and shake her out. I was really, really impressed with that. That was the biggest thing I was nervous about – how she would do in a situation like that. It will help her gain some confidence. Obviously, this is the worst case scenario of where we go for a restart. To come out of her proving she can do it…on these restarts be more aggressive and do what these guys are doing and hopefully build some confidence that will help her down the road here.”
HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DOES THIS GIVE YOU GOING INTO TEXAS?
“It’s big. We ran really good there with her last year towards the end, and that was our first race with her. We had some confidence out of there and into Phoenix. So it’s awesome to come out of here with some confidence and a little momentum going into Texas and coming up on some tracks wh
ere I think we can run really good at. It’s huge right now for us.”