NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Toyota/Save Mart 350
Topics: Toyota/Save Mart 350
June 23, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with our post‑race interview following the Toyota Save Mart 350 here at Sonoma Raceway. We welcome our second‑place finisher today, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No.24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. What an exciting race out there today. Talk a little bit about your run today.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it was extremely exciting for us. You know, we had a pretty decent car there at the beginning. It didn't take off real good and we lost a couple spots, then we started gaining them back. We were in the top 10, and the rain was coming in and out, and we were going to try to make a three‑stop race out of it and try to keep fresher tires, which we still ended up, I guess, doing that. But we were trying to beat that caution and just missed it by a split second. Right as I committed to come to pit road I saw the red light come up, and I knew that that was going to cost us a lot.
But this team has been faced with a lot worse adversity than that. Luckily we had a fast race car and stayed with our pit strategy, and things went our way. You know, there was a bunch of wrecks that happened right in front of me that I was able to avoid, and we just had a really good race car and were able to drive up through. That part was a lot of fun.
Q. Jeff, coming up through there you had what at least appeared to be a couple of pretty close calls, you kind of nudged your way through some things. Did you ever think you were going to be out of control, spin another car, spin yourself?
JEFF GORDON: There's no guarantees at this place. Those double‑file restarts are just so crazy at this place. I've actually seen them worse than what we had today. Luckily, and this is sort of the strategy that Alan went with, was making sure that we were on the offense instead of the defense on those restarts where we had fresh tires and we could attack and maneuver around some of the slower cars.
You know, it could have gone either way. There were times when we were racing tight with somebody and we bumped and banged a little bit, but that's normal. It's going to happen throughout a race here. And then there were times when other guys had incidences right in front of us that, unlike last week where I felt like I kind of chose the wrong direction, today I was able to choose the right direction. And then follow that up with a race car that just drove really well to be able to come up there.
I know some of those guys had a little bit older tires on us, so that's what our advantage was, was attack, attack, attack. We had plenty of fuel and we could just go hard on the tires at the end.
Q. Last week you had a bad break with Bobby Labonte and crashed out and ended up 39th. How was today different?
JEFF GORDON: I finished second. (Laughter.)
Q. Besides that, making your own breaks, feeling like even with the penalty issue, the fact that you had time to come back?
JEFF GORDON: Well, the thing is unless you're eliminated from competition, you never stop trying. You know, over the years I've had a lot of success, but I've also had my failures as well and you learn from both of them. Sometimes you learn from your failures more than you do your successes.
While the successes help build confidence and the failures break the confidence down, I think one of the things that me and this team are good at is leaving that behind and going and starting clean at the next race and just focus on that race. And that's what we did here.
Some of having a break and coming to a road course I think was a nice way for us to come and focus on something a little different than going to another 2‑ or one‑and‑a‑half‑mile oval with a rock‑hard tire that I've been struggling qualifying on. Instead we get to come here to a place that I have confidence at and the car worked well.
We weren't a rocketship qualifying, but I knew if we were in the top 10 we had a shot to compete with them.
Q. Do the Gen‑6 cars take a little bit more abuse? Has that helped you in this race?
JEFF GORDON: Not necessarily. These fenders you have to be really careful with. They actually can get damaged fairly easily. They have the flares on them, so there's some aerodynamic advantages to that. You don't want to mess those up at all.
In some ways I feel like you have to take care of this car a little bit more.
There's one thing I'm going to talk to NASCAR about with this car. We don't have the body in the right position for the road courses to turn right. When we go to Watkins Glen, as fast as those right handers are, we're going to have some issues. There's nothing to lean on. You have plenty of grip on the lefts because the body still has a little bit of rake on the rights, it has nice sideforce for the right side of the car for those left turns, but on the right turns the cars are just so out of control. I would like to see if there is something they can think about for that. But other than that, I love the Gen‑6 car everywhere we go. It's got good grip and drives well and looks great, and I think other than those fast right handers, I think it was the same here today.
Q. Did you learn any strategies today that you will use next time here in Sonoma?
JEFF GORDON: We shouldn't be giving up all of our strategy secrets, but because the teams know what we did, I can't hide too much of it. But I mean, some guys decided to go on a two‑stop strategy and some went on a three‑stop strategy. We were going to mix it up a little bit based on where our positioning was and how the speed in the car was, but I think when we took off and we were eighth or ninth and had a decent car but just couldn't pass, I think at that time it was pretty clear that we were going to try to do the three‑stop strategy.
Unfortunately we also tried to push it just one step further and beat that caution when we knew rain was coming, and that just caused us to get behind. But luckily we stayed with the strategy of three stops.
Once we knew we could make it to the end and get four fresh tires on, that's what we did. Luckily I think we were the second or third car‑‑ I guess the 22 was the first, the 48 had two tires that he came out with, I'm not sure rights or lefts, I guess lefts, and we were able to get ahead of those guys and be sort of that car that could go and have fresher tires and put the pressure on guys and able to come up through there pretty good.
Q. Jeff, you obviously needed this today. It's a points boost. What can it mean for you in the big picture?
JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, I think that one of the things that we've learned but we need to do more of, me personally, is stop looking at the points because it seems like every time we get close to the top 10 and I start going, ooh, we're close to the top 10, we can make it in the top 10, something happens. I'm going to stop thinking about the points and start focusing on‑‑ not that we're not focused on putting good finishes out there, but need to stop leaving the racetrack and going where are we, what do we have to do next week. We're just going to go and push hard and perform and try to put more finishes like this together.
If we live up to our potential and we don't get caught up in some of these silly things that we have been caught up in this year, there's no doubt in my mind we can work our way into the top 10.
Q. Ninth different race winner here in nine years. How surprised were you to see Truex pull away at the end?
JEFF GORDON: Well, after Bowyer won last year it's obvious that Michael Waltrip Racing has a really good road racing program, and I've raced with Martin here before and he gets around here pretty good. So you put those combinations together, and I'm not surprised. They had a good strategy‑‑ what happened to me early, they had the exact opposite, they made the caution. And that can make or break you. And he does a nice job on the road courses. They had a good car. I don't know whether that made the difference in winning or losing, but it certainly put him in a really good position to go out there and control the race.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff, congratulations on your finish today. Thank you for your time this afternoon.
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