NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Pep Boys Auto 500
Topics: Pep Boys Auto 500
October 28, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Carl Edwards, good run today, tell us about that run.
CARL EDWARDS: It was not as good as it has been here Atlanta, but did the best we could all day. I love this racetrack. Had a blast. Had a lot of my friends here and just excited that we ended up second. I wish it would have gone a couple laps. I think we would have had an awesome race with Dale and Jimmie. That was going to be a lot of fun. I think Matt had four tires and he was right there so it would have been a heck of a race.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our points leader, by nine points, he finished seventh today, the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet driver, Jeff Gordon. Jeff, points lead dwindling a little bit but you still are it.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah I'm just happy to have a points lead now after the day we had. I knew coming in, and every weekends you know you've got to fight hard every single lap, every position and I'm a little disappointed. You know, we just overadjusted and got ourselves loose, and of course, that's the one time that it was the long green flag run; so it was everything I could do to try to keep it out of the wall.
You know, we finally got it tightened up there towards the end and we were coming to the front there, that long run there at the end, I was concerned whether the tires were going to make it, I had vibration. I started backing off and somebody blew a tire. I was pretty excited to get going on the restart, and my car is really good on short runs there at the end but didn't get a chance to see it -- I don't know what that was, just crazy madness there at the end.
THE MODERATOR: Carl, second place finish, he's fourth in the Chase points. Questions for Carl Edwards or our points leader, Jeff Gordon.
Q. Earlier in the race you were talking in the radio about track position, sounds like it was different from what you were experiencing -- threw you guys off a little bit. Can you talk about what put you back early and forced you to have to play catch up all day long?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, all weekend, it's been different for me. I don't know if tires are a little bit different or if the track, just conditions were different. I'm not sure. I really struggled with it this weekend. We had almost the exact same setup that we had here the last time, and you know, we were really happy with it.
I just never really had the car that I wanted today, and even yesterday in practice. There were times we were fast, but we just couldn't maintain it throughout the whole run.
Chalk it up to us adjusting wrong or track conditions changing, I'm not sure. At the beginning of the race, the only place I was good was up top, down one and two, and the second half of the race, if I had -- I was going straight in the wall because I was so loose in the back end, I would have just spun right in the wall
I'm not sure exactly what you call that or why, but we don't have to worry about it any more, because it will be a whole new ballgame when we come back here in that Car of Tomorrow.
Q. If there's anybody who needed a break today, it's you; does it concern you that you got one?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, we were real lucky and real grateful for how today ended up. Overall it was a good day for us and I am grateful for that. We did not -- in a lot of ways, we did deserve to run second today with the way we performed but it was a great day for us?
Q. You passed a number of cars when Denny Hamlin ran out of gas. What did you see on that?
CARL EDWARDS: I thought, "Man, Denny is waiting an awful long time to get going here."
Then everybody started checking up. I'm so trained, and just like everybody, I trained myself not to turn under people on those restarts and it's just so hard to not turn under them. Finally I'm like, I'm going to run into Reed or somebody and just turned left and I realized they had not thrown the yellow yet, so I stood on the gas. I didn't know what was going on.
Q. Carl, as a competitor, how uncanny is it that the Hendricks' guys always seem to find a way to get high or near the finish, either strategy or luck; how is it for to you think about it that way?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, walking in this morning, I asked Jeff, where did he finish, he said seventh. I couldn't believe it; he was running around 18th last time I saw him.
It was just amazing. All those guys, Jeff and Jimmie and everybody over there, they are just doing a great job. They are on top of their game, and, you know, it's something that's the competition and we have to stand up and be able to catch him.
Thank you very much. See you around.
THE MODERATOR: Third place finisher, Reed Sorenson, No. 41 Target Dodge.
REED SORENSON: We ran about, I think in ninth, pretty much all day. Had a pretty decent car and got pretty crazy at the end as everybody could see. Had a pretty good car all day. Felt like we didn't make any mistakes all day. Just kept tuning on the car, getting it a little bit better. Really good on long runs and didn't need that caution to come out there and we were going to finish pretty good there, pretty good day for us. Pretty happy to do it here in Atlanta.
Q. Jeff, the fact that you and Jimmie both finished pretty well today despite having mediocre cars, is that a testament to why you and the 48 are where you are in the points and why the championship is coming down to your two guys, that your team has overcome adversity?
JEFF GORDON: Depends on the track. I think it's a combination of reasons of why we've had the seasons that we've had, this year, and Jimmie had it last year. Obviously our organization is well put together, good people, good resources.
But I think when you bring a good car to the racetrack, you always motivate people to fight hard and to never give up. That allows you to be a little bit more conscious of making good calls.
You know, I think today, you know -- I think we know that the car has got it in it, and I'm fortunate that they have confidence in me.
So if I'm complaining about the car, which I did a lot of today, you know, they listen to me, and they don't get frustrated with me. They are just frustrated like I am with our performance and they fight to give me the tools to get me out there and get the car back to where we need it to be
I think the same thing applies to Jimmie, for sure, but it all starts with our whole organization back at the shop. We have a phenomenal facility that has only been growing and getting better, and the people, you know, and the support that you get, there's just a lot of confidence among everybody that knows that if you just provide the right piece of equipment, that we're going to go to the racetrack and get it done. That's very comforting and helps you make good decisions.
Q. Reed, obviously this is your home track, you only come here twice a year, you finally got a Top-5 finish here. Can you talk about the significance of being able to garner that Top-5 finish here?
REED SORENSON: Yeah, we had a really good car in the spring here, too, and I think we finished ninth.
We like to run good here, and it's been a pretty good track for us overall. We had our first Top-10 last year here at Atlanta. So we feel like this is one of our stronger tracks. We knew we had a good car coming in to today because it's a car that we've had at Texas that ran really well with. So we're excited to come here and before we unloaded the car we felt really good about it. It was really good in practice, and I mean, to run good in Atlanta means a lot because it's where I'm from and it's always nice to run good in your hometown.
So hopefully we can continue the streak for the rest of the year and build some momentum going into next season.
Q. Obviously you would like to have a 200-point lead now, but with a nine-point lead does it simplify your mission, that you have to just beat Jimmie Johnson over the next three races?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, yeah, that sounds simple. All I can say is that when we had a, whatever, 58-point lead coming in, we didn't feel like we had a lead and the pressure was on
Now we have a nine-point lead and the pressure is on even more. All we can do right now is go out and put up the best numbers and performance that we possibly can on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and you know, hope that it's enough.
I feel like we've got the team and the equipment to do it, but those guys are tough, you know, and they are showing it every weekend. I mean, all I'm really focusing and concerned about right now is trying not to have the bad day. For a little while today, it looked like today was going to be that day. So to me, to be able to fight back and come back and finish seventh, even though Jimmie won, it still was a great day for us I feel like, and a great motivation for us going forward.
So we're just going to keep doing that week-in and week-out. We come out of Homestead and we've got a points lead, then fantastic. If we don't, then we did all we can do.
Q. When you have a restart like that, is there a way NASCAR can waive that and comeback, or is that the way things happen? Should there be a do over to get that screwed up?
JEFF GORDON: Are you talking about the one --
Q. The one where Hamlin ran out of gas.
JEFF GORDON: I thought that's what they did do. I passed four cars and they didn't give me the spot to put them back in fronts of me. I thought it was a do-over other than the cars that got caught up in the wreck
REED SORENSON: I didn't think it was a redo-over because the 99 passed me.
JEFF GORDON: I passed cars and they put them back in front of me. So I'm not sure how that whole deal -- all I know is that we did go green and then the 8 had his problem.
Q. Jeff, you mentioned earlier about the tires; did that make you think about not running the test Monday and Tuesday?
JEFF GORDON: No, not at all. I think that, you know, what we're going to -- I mean, our teams are going to be there. We are going to be getting data. There's nothing that that is going to do to help us win the championship this year. Our focus is to win this championship this year, and that's why we made that decision.
You know, we want to get our guys rest. We don't want to, you know -- we would rather be back at the shop working on things for Texas, for Phoenix and for Homestead, and that's why we chose not to come to the test; knowing that we were going to have Hendrick Motorsports representation here and getting laps and getting information, even though it's not my driver inputs. I think that was a good decision
I think the only reason that they are here is to try to save the team some money because of convenience of location and the fact that we are -- this is probably going to be one of the toughest places with that car next year.
To me, the other thing is, it's more of a test for GoodYear than anybody else. GoodYear needs to design a tire for this car for this track, and I think NASCAR needs to look at some things that need to still be done to that car to make it work well at this racetrack. So to me, that's not a test that's really giving us the information that we need for this track when we come back here next year.
Q. (No microphone. )
JEFF GORDON: How many to go? I would have liked to have seen a caution with about 15 to go, I can tell you that. My car was fast on new tires there at the end because we tightened it up so much, it was really abusing the right front tires in the long run. I would have liked to have seen at least a 10 or 12-lap run
We got ourselves in that hole. We freed the car up too much. We got loose, and we made adjustment to compensate for that and it went the wrong way and we had a long green flag run and we just needed pit stops and we needed cautions and they just didn't come when we needed them to.
But still, we were working our way up there. I was inside Jimmie there trying to make a pass on him at one time, and had it not been for my right front starting to vibrate there toward the end, you know, I probably could have picked up one or two more positions before that caution came out with the 70, I guess.
So, you know, you can't predict how things are going to fall and play out. But when the car is there, you go, and when it's not there, you ride it out until you can fix it and that's what we did all day long. I mean, we didn't do anything different with 50 to go other than trying to get the car where it needed to be
Q. Do you feel like you may have maybe saved your championship lead in a big way today?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I think we dodged a bullet. I think Jimmie dodged a bullet, too. There was times he wasn't really that great. Yeah, we both kind of went through our cycles today and fought our way back up front. And that kind of goes back to one of the questions earlier about Hendrick Motorsports, about these two teams and why we're bound for the championship and the year we're having. It's under over until it's over, and that's why they call it racing.
I mean, we knew that just being around at the end was going to be an important part of it, and we didn't run as well as we would have liked to have, you know, for most of the race. Disappointed about that. But we rebounded the way I thought we could, and I'm proud of that effort.
Q. Jeff said earlier that GoodYear has to design a tire which will work on this track and we saw quite a few drivers retiring or having problems with flat tires. How were the races in the previous years? Did you have the same troubles with the tires here?
REED SORENSON: He's had a lot more races here than I have, but this track always wears tires really bad even in practice. I think after 20 laps they didn't have chords on them. On the Truck yesterday they were a little different tire but still showing chords. A couple times in long runs I started getting vibration and just slowed down after seeing a few people blow tires. But I think the older this track is, I mean, it's getting tough on tires.
For me, I thought the tires had really good grip at the beginning of the run, which usually means they are going to wear out pretty fast and the pace slowed way down from the start of the run to the end of the run. It was going to be close I think all day for people to be able to make a full green flag run without having one of your right side tires on the chords.
JEFF GORDON: I'll just add that this place is like a big Darlington when it comes to the racetrack, and that's one of the things that makes this a great track is how abrasive it is. But it's a huge challenge for GoodYear because we keep making the cars better and faster, so they abuse the tires more when that happens
The concern is with the Car of Tomorrow, with the higher center of gravity on that car with less downforce and the right side weight that's on that car, they feel like it's going to abuse the tires worse with that car, even though we are going a little bit slower through the corners.
So that's something that they are going to be monitoring tomorrow. I don't know how much, you know, they are going to be changing going through different set of tires or if they have a set set of tires that they are planning on going through.
But the nice thing is, there's rubber on the track, you know, should give them an accurate wear reading when this track is green. Like we saw with the Trucks when we first got here and like Reed was saying earlier in practice, you just eat up the tires here. And until you get rubber down the track -- I don't know what kind of issues we had today.
I knew we wore some tires, but I don't think we ever had issues where we were down to the chords or anything like that. But that's definitely a concern at the Car of Tomorrow with a track like this and that's something that's definitely got to be addressed
Q. Could you tell what happened to Junior at the end? I now you were kind of close.
JEFF GORDON: I wasn't that close. I was just trying to avoid it. But it looked like it swapped ends in a hurry. I think he took two tires on that last stop, if I'm not mistaken, I'm not sure. I'm not sure if it had something to do with that or maybe there was contact on that one restart and maybe the tire was cut. I'm not really sure. Somebody coming across the radio thought the left rear fell off -- the wheel and everything? That's odd to me if they only took two tires.
So not really sure what happened there.
Q. (No microphone).
JEFF GORDON: You just have to look at it at times in the race today we were gaining points or times we were losing points. The fact we minimized it at the end, you have to take the positives that you can out of it.
You know, I think that we thought we were going to come out here with a little bit better finish than this. I got excited today because there were times when I thought, man, we've got a car that's better than Jimmie's and even capable of maybe running second or third. And those guys ended up making a great call winning the race and we had our struggles and ended upcoming back and finishing seventh.
You have to look at the positives. I think one of the great things about our race team is it doesn't matter whether we win or whether we, you know, have a bad finish. We erase all of that out of our mind when we move on to the next racetrack and put that behind us. And you can't be overconfident going in. If you've won a race, you can't be, you know, down on yourself. If you had a bad day, you've just got to go on to the next one and keep putting up the fight and effort.
So, I mean, we haven't gone anywhere. We're right here and we're right in the thick of it. You know, if a bad day for us is seventh, I'll be very happy with that for the next three races if a bad day is seventh. You know, it's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
I've always been a person that, you know, you put as much effort into it as you can, you put the best team together that you can. You work hard and if it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen. You know, there's certain things out there that we can control; we control those. The things we can't control, we can't do anything about anyway. If those guys flat-out beat us by five or six positions the next three weeks, I'm going to go and high-five Jimmie and say congratulations. If we can slide our good finishes in there and maybe even get some wins before this thing is over, then we did the job we set out to do.
I don't know, I think it's going to come down to one of us having problems more than anything else, and that's the thing that we're trying to avoid. You know, I don't want to -- there's a lot of ways, you know, to lose this championship, and that's what we want to make sure that we don't do is, you know, be focused so much on finishing seventh and then winning and saying, we've got to win, we've got to win, we've got to win and then we make a mistake or crash or have a problem and just give it away.
So, you know, they are not going to get it easy if they do get it; we are going to make them work for it and they are going to make us work for it, too and that's what's making it very exciting now.
Q. (No microphone. )
JEFF GORDON: Well, they are. They are going to be joining us next year with Junior.
I don't know. It's hard for me to -- not everybody is going to be a fan, not of mine, not of Hendricks, not even of Junior's, I guess. I think you have to respect that we are putting the kind of organization -- I think it's easy to criticize from the outside, oh, they are spending the most money or they are buying this championship. You can't buy a championship in this thing. There are so many guys out there spending a lot of money hiring the best people and trying to beat us and when you put together an organization like you have, you've got great leadership and it's some magical things that are possible.
I've been a part of that in the past and I'm a part of it now, and you know, I haven't been to any other organization, but I've seen them get on their rolls, too, whether it's Gibbs or Roush, even Childers. When you dominate, there's going to be people that are loving it and there's going to be people that are hating it.
All I can say is I know how many Junior fans are out there and they should be anxious about him getting behind the wheel of a Hendrick Motorsports car next year.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.
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