NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
HOLLYWOOD CASINO 400
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS
OCTOBER 6, 2013
KEVIN HARVICK WINS FROM POLE AT KANSAS
SIX TEAM CHEVY DRIVERS FINISH IN TOP 10
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – October 6, 2013 – Kevin Harvick won the Hollywood Casino 400 in his No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet SS from the pole position in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race that featured a record number of cautions and challenges throughout the 400-mile event. There were 15 caution flags and 71 laps run under caution during the 267-lap race, both of which are track records at Kansas Speedway.
“To sit on the pole and win the race is obviously a great weekend, and controlling our own destiny by doing that, putting ourselves closer to where we need to be with the championship race,” said Harvick. “We’ll just keep having fun and keep doing what we’re doing.”
The win was Harvick’s 22nd career victory in 460 NASCAR Sprint Cup races; his third win and 16th top-10 finish this season. It was his first career victory at the 1.5-mile track. Harvick moved up one position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings to third behind Jimmie Johnson.
Five-time Sprint Cup Series champion Johnson, brought his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS home in sixth place overall; and reduced his point deficit from eight to just three points shy of the leader.
Kurt Busch piloted his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet SS to a second place finish, which also moved him up two positions in the standings. Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, was third in his No. 24 Axalta Chevy SS, giving Team Chevy a 1-2-3 finish. Gordon now sits just seven points behind Harvick in the Chase standings.
It was a rock solid day for Paul Menard, driver of the No. 27 Menards/Splash Chevrolet SS, who finished the race in seventh place; and a strong day for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in his No. 88 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS who posted an eighth place run.
Ryan Newman was not so lucky at the Hollywood Casino 400 when he was involved in an early accident on lap 136, which resulted in his No. 39 Code 3 Associates Chevy SS to be scored 35th overall. Newman dropped five places in the run for the title, and is now in 12 place overall. Kasey Kahne, also a Team Chevy Chase contender, finished the race in 15th position in his No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet SS, and sits in 13th in the standings.
Rounding out the top five were, Joey Logano (Ford) in fourth, and Carl Edwards (Ford) finished in fifth place.
The 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup resumes next Saturday night, Oct. 12th with round five at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS:
KEVIN HARVICK, GIL MARTIN AND RICHARD CHILDRESS NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNER DRIVER, CREW CHIEF AND TEAM OWNER
KRISTI KING: We now welcome our race winner Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet. You called it after qualifying; you said your stats were going to speak for themselves.
KEVIN HARVICK: I said, I hope the stats speak for themselves. Don’t start that.
KRISTI KING: First of all, congratulations on your win today. Your 22nd victory in 460 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Obviously winning from the pole, and of your six career poles you have now won three of the corresponding races including each of the last two, your third victory of 2013, your first victory here at Kansas. Talk a little bit about your win out there today.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, we definitely don’t need to say that we said that because we don’t want the karma police to come get us. I talk about the karma police a lot. We don’t want bad karma to overwhelm us at any point.
It was an interesting weekend to say the least. Obviously everybody was battling the tires and the track, and I think it was like driving on a razor blade. I told them yesterday, we’ve just got to try to get some kind of consistency because that was the thing that for me stuck out the most was our lap times; one would be good, one would be bad, one would be good, and that’s always our strong point where you have that nice curve of lap times.
We just talked about a lot of adjustments that we wanted to make, and kind of eliminated a few things here and there overnight. It was like driving two different cars. Out front it was not even close, and in traffic you were just another one of the cars and had a lot of trouble, so that made the restarts really important. Everybody would get really aggressive on the restarts and try to make up spots because that was the place that you had to do it.
To sit on the pole and win the race is obviously a great weekend, and controlling our own destiny by doing that, putting ourselves closer to where we need to be with the championship race. We’ll just keep having fun and keep doing what we’re doing.
KRISTI KING: Also joining Kevin is crew chief Gil Martin, climbing to third in points, only 25 behind Matt Kenseth. Talk a little bit about your strategy and moving ahead with four races down in the Chase looking towards Homestead.
GIL MARTIN: I mean, obviously the only strategy you can have is do what we did today. It’s very hard to do. But coming into this weekend, we knew we had a test day. We brought a brand new car and we knew we had a lot of things to put to bed on Thursday and thought we had a pretty good handle on it, but the track completely changed on Saturday, so we had to undo a lot of that stuff.
And then in the race today, like Kevin said, it was two completely different race cars. Out front we made adjustments overnight hoping that we would stay out front most of the day, and then when we got back in traffic, some of those adjustments were not very good for us, so we had to start undoing those as much as we could during the race. Luckily the way the cautions worked out and the way that we were able to get through traffic, it worked out good today.
KRISTI KING: Also joining us, owner Richard Childress, your third victory of 2013. Talk about your season thus far and being this far ahead in the Chase and looking ahead, as well.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Like Gil said, we’ve just got to keep doing what we did today to be a contender. I don’t think top 10s will win a championship when you’re racing Jimmie Johnson and the group of guys that’s up there. We’ve been there before, and hopefully this time we can pull it off.
You know, today Kevin did a great job. It was one of them deals you had to position yourself when you had that last pit stop to be out front or close to the front to have a good day.
Carl was fast all week from the time we got here.
Q. I’m going to ask the same thing to you, Kevin, as I did to Jeff Gordon earlier. How did you like the right front tire used in today’s race, and would you like to see it ran at more racetracks next season where a lot of issues with that occurred?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I don’t think there were any issues with the tire. I think the issue is the pavement and the things they keep repaving these racetracks with that put Goodyear in a box. It’s not Goodyear’s fault; they have to make a tire that’s not going to blow out. So when you’re running an average of 187 or 185, whatever the average speed is, they have to make the tire durable.
The outside of the tire would be 10 degrees hotter than the inside of the tire because they’ve done a good job of making the inside of that tire durable. But they continuously put the tire company and the competitors in a box that we’re in with the type of asphalt that they keep putting on tracks.
I think Goodyear h
as done a fine job with the tire, when you have the cards that they’re dealt.
Q. Kevin, you won the pole, you won the race, and I think you led the most laps. Did you have any issues this weekend aside from a second car?
KEVIN HARVICK: We had a lot of issues. Honestly, we thought we did, but as you talk to everybody, so did everybody else. I think for us, it’s the same kind of thing we went through last week. Everybody was fighting the same issue in the center of the corner at Dover. After the first session I was really frustrated, they were frustrated, and we just said, we’re not going to work on that problem anymore because it exists for the whole field. Let’s make the other two parts of the corner better, and this weekend we kind of did the same thing. We said we knew it was going to drive like crap in traffic. We knew that it was going to be edgy to drive, so let’s just try to do the best we can and make it as good as possible, and it’s not going to feel good. You just have to accept the fact that the car is not going to drive like a slot car. It’s not going to feel good; it’s not going to be comfortable.
That’s kind of how we approached the weekend. After the first practice it was good. The second practice it wasn’t. Qualifying trim we had two really good runs and two really bad runs, so we went through what we thought was the best set of tires and the best circumstances to put on the car. We gambled as to what the conditions were going to be and everything worked out. It was just an interesting weekend.
Q. Kevin and Gil, I know you guys never considered yourselves out of this thing, but do you consider yourselves more in this thing now after the victory plus maybe the issues that some of the others had?
GIL MARTIN: Well, I mean, there’s no way you can ever consider yourself out of it. The first race of the year at Daytona I think we came out of there 43rd, and in 10 weeks we were back up to around 10th or 11th, so we made up a lot of ground, not only just by running well. Other guys had problems, too, and with six races to go, I mean, there’s so many things that can happen. You’ve still got Talladega and Martinsville that everybody considers to be tracks that shake everything up, but today we were at what everybody considers to be a non‑eventful mile and a half, and you saw what happened today. So there’s a lot of things that can happen in the next few races, and we’re just going to have to capitalize on them. But by no means do I think we’re out of it.
Q. For Kevin and for Gil, was your win at the 600 kind of foreshadowing a little bit? You guys are the only ones other than Gibbs drivers to win at 1.5‑mile tracks and a lot of people made a point about how many there were in the Chase. Was that kind of an indicator maybe at that time that you might have something more along the lines of what they had towards the end of the year?
KEVIN HARVICK: For me, I think today is more positive for us than any other race we’ve been to all year, just for the fact that we were at a mile‑and‑a‑half racetrack that had a lot of circumstances, and being comfortable, more comfortable than everybody else I guess you could say, driving the car and having the speed that it had I think shows the gains that we’ve been able to make since that race.
You know, I think the confidence in the team and the car and the mile‑and‑a‑half stuff is good.
The bottom line is you can have fast cars, but it’s going to come down just like it did at the 600. You’re going to have to have the right strategy to go along with everything as the day unfolds.
GIL MARTIN: That’s just it. It is extremely hard to win on these mile‑and‑a‑half tracks because you’ve got to be looking at gas mileage; you’ve got to be looking at where you’re going to be at the end of the race. Today with about 100 laps to go I told him we were thinking about this like a road course because you had to just start backing it up knowing when could you make it. Luckily a couple of times there where we had 10‑lap tires on we were up in the front. Most of the time you would feel like you were a sitting duck. But I knew today from practice all you’ve got to do is go out on stickers, come back into the garage, let them sit a minute and then they had a lot of speed and the same characteristic was there today. We found ourselves in that situation a couple of times.
When we go to Charlotte, when we go to Texas there’s going to be a completely different set of circumstances, so the things you did here today are not going to be there, so you’ve got to be open and ready for whatever kind of change happens.
Q. Does it say anything that there’s just a small group that have done really well on 1.5’s this year?
KEVIN HARVICK: Can you tell us who’s won on the mile‑and‑a‑half tracks?
Q. Only Gibbs drivers and you guys.
GIL MARTIN: I mean, I didn’t know that, either. But I mean there are too many good cars out there. You’re not going to stop the 48 from winning at these places, and it’s not going to say that they’re behind and we’re all so far ahead. It’s just circumstances happen. The thing of it is I think in the past where maybe some of the different guys dominated; everybody else just hasn’t caught up to them. Well, now you’ve got a lot of cars that are running equally as fast.
So it’s coming down now to just strategies and how things work out, and that’s making a huge difference in just how you set up for the race. The biggest thing is whenever you go into one of these things whatever game plan you have you’ve got to be ready to change it because it’s probably not going to be the right one.
KEVIN HARVICK: Constantly evolving.
Q. Kevin, you said it was like driving 10 different cars there. How did you guys attack that with the changes, and also did Kurt doing the tire test help you guys at all, give you data you could use for this even though the temperatures dropped 30 to 40 degrees today?
KEVIN HARVICK: I didn’t even know Kurt did the tire test. Obviously everybody is an asset to what we do, whether it’s the 31, 27, 78. You try to build on everything that you do. But it was two different cars; not 10, two. We had one that was really fast out front and we had one that was really sometimes tight, sometimes really loose in traffic.
The first time we got in heavy traffic we adjusted on the car, and as we got out front the car was freer, and then the second lane started to open up, and that really ‑‑ when I was behind the 2, I had to try something different. That really allowed us to find another groove that we really didn’t have to use anymore. But that second groove for us was really fast and really good, but in the middle of the pack it was ‑‑ yeah, it was everything. Mostly tight, but depending on how close you would get to the car in front of you and where you were at in the corner. So you had to try to manipulate the car to make it through the corner, and they did a good job of freeing the car up and still being able to drive it when it was out front.
Q. What’s the answer to the fact that you have had two very different cars? When you come back here next April or whenever the next race is, will it be the same, or is there anything that can be done?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think that obviously they need to work on the tire, but the bottom line is you just have to wait for the racetrack to age. That’s the box you’re in. And I don’t know how to fix that. It’s just a tough box to be in.
I didn’t watch the race or see anything, but there sure were a lot of cautions. That seems to be what everybody wants are wrecks and cautions.
RICHARD CHILDRESS: Except the owners. (Laughter.)
Q. Kevin and Gil, this is a mile‑and‑a‑half. Next week we’re going to a mile‑and‑a‑half. But the challenges here at Kansas Speedway seemed far greater. Is it as they appeared? And how did you make the changes, Gil, from when he was behind some, because he didn’t look like he was ever hindered in any way when he was up front on a restart. The car just seemed to be like a rocket ship.
GIL MARTIN: Well, the biggest thing you’ve got to do when you know you’re going to be in traffic, you have to free it up. You don’t have a choice because it’s going to be so tight. But then as you start working your way back to the front, even though you know you don’t need to, you’ve got to start tightening it back up at the same time. It’s kind of a gradual process that if you know that you’re in 20th, you know it’s going to be extremely tight. If you’re in 10th it’s going to be another level of tight, and then when you get to about 4th it’s a different slip stream in the front and the cars actually start getting freer. So you’ve got to start preparing for that.
Little by little, it’s hard to do, too, when you’re just putting on two tires or gas only. We did gas only, we made an adjustment at the same time when we did that, but we were continuously making tire pressure adjustments, and today that was a struggle for everybody a little bit, too, because the tire being such an unknown, we weren’t 100 percent sure how the tire was going to react. We’ve got data on it that we use, but a lot of times that data doesn’t do exactly what it says it’s going to. You have to do what you’ve done in the past and what we consider sometimes old school racing and just do with the tire pressure what we know needs to be done, and that’s kind of what we did today.
KEVIN HARVICK: If you look at the tire temps and the wear sheets, you’d think the tire was going to blow out and you’d think you were doing everything backwards. That’s the biggest thing is I don’t think everybody really understands exactly what we need to do with this tire. It’s no different than changing a spring rule or changing something else. I think as everybody goes home and goes through it and thinks about it and says, you know, we need to try this, this and this, it’s no different. I mean, if you gave them a week or two, these guys would go home and sit with the engineers and go through all the data and the notes and say, we need to do this different next time.
So it’s no different than that. But it’s just a different ‑‑ when you look at it, you’re like, this isn’t right. But it’s just different, so you’ve got to approach it different.
Q. So will Charlotte be easier next week?
KEVIN HARVICK: Heck, I don’t know. It’s like he said, every week is a different challenge. You just never know what you’re going to deal with. It’s like today, we went from 86, 87 degrees to 60 and 55, whatever the temperature is out here today, and totally changed the whole balance of the car. You don’t know what the weather is going to be. You don’t know what the tire is going to be. There might be a jump going into Turn 1, who knows.
Q. Richard, Kevin is leaving from your team next year. Kurt Busch is leaving for a new team next year. How are these guys able to finish one‑two today, and can you talk about how they’ve kept their focus and their attention on your team and not peeking ahead?
RICHARD CHILDRESS: You know, we just talked about it, and we’re committed to try to win the championship. We owe it to our sponsors and our fans to give them 100 percent, and that’s what we agreed to do, and that’s what we’re going to do until Homestead. No matter what happens between now and then, that’s our goal is to go after the championship. What a great way to go out.
KEVIN HARVICK: There’s also, how many people you got, 550? Those guys are going to work on the cars whether they’re running first or last, and that’s really ‑‑ whether I agree with him or he agrees with me, it doesn’t really matter. Those guys that are down there in the shop and digging on the cars, those are the ones that you look at and you say, you know, you owe it to them to go out and do what you have to do.
It’s business, but it’s also you have a sense of pride, and your ego just has a hard time taking the fact that you did it like everybody else. I think that’s what we talked about. You don’t want to do it like everybody else. You want to go out with a sense of success and everything has gone well.
Q. Kevin, you made a comment to the effect during the race that you’d gotten screwed by smoke and duct tape. I was wondering how frustrating it was getting to deal with all those cautions and the restarts; especially at least one of them was pretty strange with the grass catching on fire behind the track.
KEVIN HARVICK: I didn’t even really know what to say on the second one. I knew Gil was in full meltdown mode on the smoke because the first caution was for a piece of tape, and we just started the green flag pit cycles, and sometimes it runs through the cycle, and then they throw the caution to pick up the debris and not really change the outcome of the race, but today it was a caution. For us it fortunately worked out.
And then we’re leading the race, and ‑‑ I think we were leading.
GIL MARTIN: We were leading and trying to stretch it about 20 more laps and we did not need a caution.
KEVIN HARVICK: And then there was smoke. What was on fire, mulch? Duct tape and mulch were our best friends today.
Yeah, it’s frustrating. Obviously the first thing you think of is man, I got screwed up there or somebody is screwing us, and they were just calling the race, and us sitting in the car, it’s frustrating sitting on the pit box or sitting watching the race. You always think everybody is out to get you. But luckily today it all worked out.
Q. Kevin and Gil, you’ve been around a while. I’m not making an old age thing about this, but you were around when they transitioned from bias plies to radials. Can you compare the change, the difference now, how much you’re going through, and does more information help you or does that help you to have more information?
GIL MARTIN: I’ll tell you, it’s just funny you say that, I was talking to Dale Inman yesterday, we were watching the cars go through inspection, and I just looked at him and said, what has this come to, and he was like, if I had to keep up with all this way back, I don’t know what I would have done. There’s just so much information now that it’s overpowering, and that’s the thing that we have to wade through every week because you can get focused on one little piece of information because you can study it all week long and you have to break it up into so many different people doing so many jobs that they can analyze it and they can come to you with the pertinent stuff in there.
But the hardest thing about it is three guys can look at the same piece of information and have a different conclusion. So you really have to know the people that are looking at the stuff to make sure that they don’t have an agenda to make things work.
You have to weed through so much stuff now, and that’s what we went through this week. We went through all of our test stuff from Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and you sit at the hotel and you drink whatever, Budweiser, and you eat pizza, and you do it until your stomach is killing you because you’ve got so much that you have to go through to come in on Sunday morning. You apply it to the car and you hope that it works, and that’s what you’ve got to do.
Q. Can you put in perspective for no
n‑technical people; can you compare this to the transition from bias, how much difficulty?
GIL MARTIN: Oh, yeah, most definitely, because when that transition took place, everybody was trying to do everything they could with adding camber to the tire because we lost the ability to have stagger. So then everybody was trying to do camber, and Harry Gant obviously won all those races because they were one of the first ones to get on that, and Richard can speak more about that with Dale, but I think that was one of the toughest things, that you couldn’t hang the cars out when the radials first came out like you could with the bias plies, so there was a tremendous learning curve.
That’s what we’re going to go through with this tire because you’re going to get into a situation where you’re running on both compounds if you don’t have your geometry right or whatever you’ve got going on the car, and it’s going to make the cars handle just differently.
KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING/DENVER MATTRESS CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED SECOND
KRISTI KING: We welcome Kurt Busch, our second place finisher today, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Denver Mattress Chevrolet, currently 7th in points, 47 points behind the leader. Talk about your race out there today.
KURT BUSCH: Wow, what an unbelievable drive. Kansas Speedway has been a great track over the years, and for us to finally knock off a small little check box, and to that what it means to me is a top 5. Today is a small little victory in my own mind. I don’t know how much it counts for anybody else, but this is the last track that I needed to get a top 5 finish on, and now I have a top 5 at all the tracks. So a small little feather in the cap.
We battled hard to come from 41st. We did this in a backup car. It just shows the strength of this team. There are all these reports or stories and opinions about how small this team is, but Barney Visser deserves a lot of credit. We got back out on the track after our wreck in Saturday’s practice at the same time that Kyle did, so it show that a team can turn a car around just as quick as the Gibbs team; that’s important. Those are numbers that don’t rank anywhere, but they rank in my mind. I’m just so proud of this team, the way these guys have worked all year. They deserve a win, and sorry I couldn’t deliver a win for them today. Our teammate at RCR with Kevin Harvick, they won today and congratulations to Kevin.
We finished second. We’ll take it. We haven’t quite had the start to the Chase that we wanted, but overall we have two top 5s out of four races. That’s not bad.
Q. Talk a little bit if you can about what this team did once the green flag waved, because you all were way back in the pack, and it just seemed like you made steady progress, slow at times but steady progress to get where you got to.
KURT BUSCH: You know, the way you have to work through these treacherous races where it’s cool out and the tires don’t quite have the heat, you have to be patient. But at the same time restarts were where we could pass guys. I found some patterns in the way that restarts were shaping up, and I was able to apply it. With where we were, when you’re stuck between 8th and 14th, it’s like everybody is back there with machetes and everybody is just whacking and hacking, and once you can clear that, then it’s not smooth sailing, but then you seem like you’re in a little bit more of the clear.
Q. Can you kind of talk a little bit about your emotions representing ‑‑ the pride you take in this one‑car team operating out of Denver and not in the heartland of NASCAR, Charlotte, yet you’re leaving them, too, and going to Stewart. How do you balance that?
KURT BUSCH: It’s just going out to the racetrack and smiling and having fun and working hard with these guys. You know, the way that they’ve been developing the team over the years, I just so happen to hit it right with them putting together Chase‑quality cars and having setups that are as fast as they are. The pit crew has had its troubles this year, but overall to have as many top 10s as we do and top 5s, there’s no reason to stop once we made the Chase. We’ve put up statistics to run right around 4th to 7th this year, and I want to just go out as strong as I can for this group.
This might be just a David versus Goliath story, but at the same time, this Furniture Row team has put in the investment into the cars, into the people, and here we are posting top 5s. But most importantly I want to win for these guys. I want to drive our Chevrolet into victory lane by the year’s end.
Q. Would you classify what happened with Jeff Gordon as just good hard racing, and also when you had kind of fallen back to about 20th did you think you were that close to coming back and finishing second?
KURT BUSCH: You know, we had a good battle with Jeff. There was a restart where he was on our outside through 1 and 2, and just didn’t quite give us an inch and dumped so much air under the rear of our car where I was on banana peels sliding up onto the exit of 2, and he thought I was trying to pinch him. I was like, man, I needed an inch instead of you taking that inch. So I returned the favor by putting my nose close to his rear bumper and took away that inch instead of giving an inch and got back by him.
It was a battle. Could it have been cleaner? Yeah, but at the same time the track is so treacherous on restarts that it’s hard to pass once you get strung out and everybody is running the same lap times. Everybody was getting aggressive on restarts.
Q. Kyle Busch called this speedway the worst track he’s ever driven on. I don’t suspect you feel the same way. What do you think about his comment?
KURT BUSCH: Well, it’s his toughest track on the schedule, and so he’s going to say that, plus he had a rough day. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Here he is, he’s raced 30 or so races this year, he got into the Chase where he didn’t last year, and then he started the Chase off strong this year and was a championship front runner.
Now it’s gone, so he’s going to be frustrated. You guys dog pile all you want.
Q. How confident or how worried were you considering the track conditions, the fact that you were starting in the rear to almost have to try to miss everything on the way through?
KURT BUSCH: It was tough. We started 41st, and the wreck on the first lap, there was cars and shrapnel everywhere, and just with the combination with the cold temperatures, the tires, it made it treacherous when you were around other cars. We always hope we can have more grip and be able to race side by side and have a comfort level to reproduce a show where fans want to come out and we see sellouts, and we need to put on a better show on the track. And for that to happen, we just have to have Goodyear, the drivers, the teams, the tracks on the same page. Right now we’re close, but I think we swung and we missed on tire combo this weekend.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED THIRD
KRISTI KING: We now welcome our third place finisher in today’s Hollywood Casino 400 here at Kansas Speedway, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, currently 4th in points, only 32 points now behind Matt Kenseth. Talk a little bit about your run out there today.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it was a great day, obviously a great finish for us. We had what I thought was a tire issue early in the race, and I made a big mistake. The car got real, real tight on me, and I came down pit road and probably jumped the gun and should have waited maybe a lap or two longer because we got caught under the cau
tion after we made that stop. So we were playing catch‑up the rest of the day.
The nice thing was I knew we had a good race car. We came in and had four tires, were in the back and I think drove up to all the way around 10th or possibly better. So I knew we had a good race car. That gave me confidence.
Then it was just all about trying to get the strategy right. I actually made another mistake because I thought they said if nobody comes in, come in, so I came in when nobody else came in, and he meant ‑‑ no, he actually said, if everybody comes in, come in. I got lucky. We got lucky. That one actually worked in our favor because we got four tires and fuel and then were anal to just come in and put two tires there at the end and come out in, what, second or third.
It was a good day for us. Car was good and finished third. Man, we’re happy with that.
Q. How did you like the right front tire used in today’s race, and would you like to see it ran at more tracks next season where a lot of issues occur with that?
JEFF GORDON: Well, you’ve got to understand, every track is different and every surface is different, and so the biggest thing that I have going on right now with repaves is talking to the companies that pave these racetracks and talking to them about looking at the surface. It’s not a Goodyear issue. Goodyear is doing the best they can. They’ve got a tough job. These surfaces are too smooth, and we don’t want bumps. I’m not talking about bumps; I’m talking about the abrasiveness of the racetrack. It doesn’t dissipate heat, doesn’t wear the tires, and all it does is cause friction and heat and failures, and then Goodyear has to build a very hard, durable tire.
I applaud their effort for trying to do this duel tread zone whatever you want to call it. I mean, for me the issues weren’t as treacherous for me. The grip level wasn’t as good as I would like it to be, and the falloff wasn’t as much as I’d like it to be, but some guys seem to set their car up a little freer had bigger issues on the restarts than we did. My car was a little tighter so it would take off halfway decent on restarts. It didn’t get up to speed good but it was at least comfortable.
To me it’s really the surface. We’re paving these racetracks with what we’re paving new highways with. This is not a highway, it’s a racetrack and it’s a race car and a racing tire. It needs to be looked at differently. We have the same issue in Phoenix. Darlington, we’ve had the same issue, every repave that we’ve had over the last six, seven years.
Q. I’ll say this carefully: Over the course of the year you looked to have become the driver you were again back in the early 1990s. It’s like you’re far more enthusiastic than you’ve been over the last couple of years. And today’s effort seemed amazing, as well. Are you feeling more confident with each race this year?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, yeah. It’s not this year, though. Earlier this year I was probably as frustrated as I’ve ever been in a race car. We just were missing something, and then the times when we hit on it, like Texas, for instance, and we had a failure with the left front hub. We’ve had a tough year. Last year was tough enough, and then this year I thought that we’d gotten all that out of our system and we didn’t seem to have.
But I’ll tell you what, we never stopped working and trying to get the cars to suit my liking. And when the cars are solid and giving me good feedback and I can get aggressive with it, then my confidence goes up. And right now my team has been bringing great race cars to the racetrack, not just in the Chase but about three, four races I think prior to that, we just really started making some gains on some things, and it’s shown up week in and week out. I’m having a lot of fun right now.
The confidence and how you feel about it is all in the performance of the car. And it’s a team effort. You know, I feel like I’m as responsible for that as anybody else on the team. And I take it hard just like everybody else on the team.
I’m just proud of how we fought through a lot of the things we’ve gone through this year, and now when it matters most, we’re making the best of it.
Q. Wanted to get your follow‑up kind of on what Kurt’s assessment of the race was about how he felt like it was too treacherous and if there was more grip and more side‑by‑side racing that produces a better show. Do you kind of assess the quality of today’s race the same way or is there any silver lining where a record 15 caution flags can produce all this adversity? Can that still be compelling for fans or do you feel like it has to have that side‑by‑side stuff that Kurt was talking about?
JEFF GORDON: I find every race compelling. I do. When you’re sitting in the seat where I’m sitting, there’s so many challenges that you’re faced with, and there’s pit strategy, there’s pit stops, there’s fuel, there’s trying to make your car better. There are restarts where you’re on the edge, the car is sliding around and you’re trying to make it stick. You know, I wouldn’t say that these are the kind of conditions that I prefer because it’s hard to really feel the car and you are on that razor’s edge, and I think if we had, as I mentioned, a little bit more abrasive racetrack and a tire that suited that, I think that we’d see the groove widen out and have a little bit more side‑by‑side racing like we used to see here at Kansas.
But at the same time, you might not see as many cautions. Sometimes side‑by‑side racing and multiple grooves doesn’t always mean you’re going to have the most exciting race, and to me I think these days we all know cautions make for much more exciting racing, and we certainly had plenty of those today.
Q. Did you find yourself at all looking behind going, okay, where’s Matt Kenseth, what’s the points now, when you realized he was not one of the drivers you were chasing?
JEFF GORDON: I knew that Kevin Harvick and I were tied going in and he was running ahead of me. I knew that.
You know, you’re just really pushing to get all that you can get. We were in second, and I felt like our car was a little bit better on the long runs, and I was really hoping to go green there all the way to the end, and I was hoping that maybe Kevin wore his right front tire out like he did earlier in the race. That was kind of the only sort of strategy that I had as a driver is trying not to push mine too hard and see if that would work out.
And it didn’t. He was fast all the way to the end. The caution came out, we fell all the way back to third and then we were battling with Kurt. I don’t even know where we’re at in points right now to be honest. I know that it was a good day for us. That’s all I do know.
Q. I guess you guys are okay, but could you take us through that sequence of events with you and Kurt, and another follow‑up question, can you tell me what percentage you guys were running throughout the race up until that last 20? Was it 80 percent, 75?
JEFF GORDON: There’s only one way, and that’s 100 percent. I don’t know any other way.
Let’s see. I think that, first of all, with Kurt, it was really just hard racing. I was fine with all of it up until he drove into my door on the back straightaway. There was just no reason for that. And these cars are so aerodynamically sensitive these days, every little thing like that makes a difference, and when he did that all of a sudden my car started pushing really, really bad, and luckily we got to fix it on the next couple pit stops.
I just wanted to let him know my side of
what I saw, and hear his side, as well. I wasn’t trying to get in a fight or anything, but we kind of agreed to disagree, and Kurt and I get along fine, and I just wanted him to know to have a better reason than that to run into the side of my car.
Q. Charlotte, mile‑and‑a‑half; Kansas today, mile‑and‑a‑half. How different is the challenge going to be next week versus this week?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, to me this is the track that ‑‑ one of the tracks I was really worried about. And again, it’s the repave. When they repaved this track, it just didn’t suit my style, and we really struggled. I mean, I spun out qualifying here.
To come out of here with a third place finish, boy, I’m excited because we ran really good at Charlotte earlier this year, and I think our mile‑and‑a‑half program has gotten so much better since then. The big challenge is qualifying. We’ve got to qualify strong at Charlotte, and I know we’re going to race good there. I’m looking forward to next week.