NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Hollywood Casino 400
Topics: Hollywood Casino 400
October 6, 2013
KANSAS CITY, KANSAS
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 Exalta 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 caution 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's 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.
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