NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Lenox Industrial Tools 301
Topics: Lenox Industrial Tools 301
June 28, 2009
LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE
THE MODERATOR: We are joined in the media center by today's second place finish driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon. Tell us about your run.
JEFF GORDON: It was a great run. I was so proud of the team, I didn't feel like we were that good yesterday, and just some great calls that Steve made on the setup, a great call today. We were not very good on the restarts. So we had to fight real hard or give up two spots, but man, our car was so strong after we got ten laps on the tires.
And you know, there at the end, we were running second and we just had an awesome pit stop, got stopped first, well not first on the track but ahead of the guys who were racing. I was wondering why the guys were racing me really hard. I thought they were lap cars and we were actually racing for position and that cost me some time and Kurt started catching us.
I saw the rain coming and I pushed it the first lap or so and it started getting pretty slick and started backing off and Kurt really gained on me and then Steve told me -- was actually the leader, at that moment my heart sunk that we didn't have a shot at winning it and I was hoping we would run out of gas if it wane. I was pushing real hard to keep the engine going around the caution laps but once it started raining hard it was over.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by today's third place finisher, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Kurt Busch. Tell us about your run.
KURT BUSCH: It was a solid day for us. I felt like we made good adjustments in the pits and overall, my biggest downside today was restarts, slipping the tires, and just couldn't get the car to stay low. And then just with our pit crew, we had some off stops but then we had some on stops, kept bouncing around a little bit.
But when time came to push hard, the car was there and the crew gave me a great stop and we were reeling in what I thought was the leader, I thought the 24, and at the same time, LeTarte told him he was in second, and Pat told me I was this third and if was as if he just took the wind out of the sails. The rain was there and I was catching Jeff, but we just ran out of time.
Overall, last year, to drive into victory lane and do it in a rain shortened race and today to have it where we were fast enough to win and not get the win, you know, that's how this sport evens itself out. You have your good and your bad luck, and overall it was a great run for the Miller Lite Dodge.
Q. Jeff, talking about trying to get him to run out of gas, it looked there y'all were giving us kind of some of the best yellow-flag racing we have seen in a while. Could you sort of describe in detail, there was one time you went under him and he come down and cut you off, and were you trying to keep him from getting to the bottom to shake it and feed his pick up, or can you kind of tell us what you were doing in detail.
JEFF GORDON: No, he was shutting the engine off and not keeping up with the pace car. I was just running pace car speed and it allowed me to get to the outside of him and make him start his engine and use some fuel and he didn't like that. So he moved up, so I couldn't get to the outside so I just went to the inside. I didn't want to push him, and I didn't want to back off, because that was our only shot was for him to run out of fuel. You know, he did exactly what he needed to do.
I was just running the pace car speed, so it looked like I was maybe trying to pass him, but he was just shutting the engine off.
Q. One time, though, he just cut hard down in front of you when you were under him; did y'all come close to bumping on that?
JEFF GORDON: No. I think we just came up on some jet dryers or track cleaners. It was nothing.
Q. Can both of you talk, the reason he had enough fuel was because he brought out the ninth caution and pitted. How whacky is it that a spin actually put him in position to do this, and also, I think they added one lap to this race two years ago, and they haven't finished one yet. Maybe they should take off a lap?
JEFF GORDON: I don't know about that. But you know, like Kurt was saying, you win them anyway that you possibly can.
I've won because we made a great call and stayed out and it rained. Kurt's won them. You know, I was telling Lee earlier that when they spun, when they had to come down pit road, as much as that put him behind, it also gave him that opportunity and you've got to be smart enough as a crew chief to be able to fill it up with fuel, put four tires on it, and play the only strategy that you have at that point, which is, you know, to stay out, and if you're watching the radar and you see that rain is coming, you just basically -- they had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and it's a lot easier to make that call when you're in that position, and it was a gutsy call.
But at the same time, it was I think sort of a no-brainer for him. You know, the only thing that wasn't going to work out was if they ran out under caution because they were going to lose a lot more positions than they would have if they could have come in and topped off.
KURT BUSCH: What's ironic is we had this race, I don't know how many years ago, where we stopped racing back to the yellow where we created the "lucky dog," and I think he got two of them, maybe three of them today. You take a car that's not able to stay on the lead lap and get the lucky dog and pit and make it enough fuel to get to the end, it's funny how it happened here at this track, and we had a smart crew chief to take advantage of the situation.
It's just one of those things. You win some, you lose some, and what's tough, congratulations to him. He's the youngest winner, but it takes away from Kyle, my little brother who is the youngest winner in NASCAR history. A little sentimental history, but hey, when you win, it's a win. And I've been on the other side of the fence, so I can't complain.
Q. With Tony extended his lead and Jeff pulling away, how bad did you need this finish to tighten things up among the top four?
KURT BUSCH: I think consistency is important, and you have to continue to do that if you want to make the Chase. But if they stretch it out, no matter how far they stretch it out, as long as I'm in the Top-12, then we are going to make the Chase. If we but if we got a win today, those extra ten points would carry into the Chase. That was my mind-set, try to go for the win and if they finish ahead of us, they slide away with more points but as long as I keep my cushion on 12, that's the most important part.
Q. Seems like this is the first race where double-file restarts really had a big role on the action. Can you talk about how that changed the complexion of the race, and Jeff, at one point you took umbrage with Kurt on some moves, does it change the way you race at this track?
JEFF GORDON: This place is really tough on restarts anyway. I was here with Goodyear when we did a tire test and they softened the tire up a little about. I thought it was a little bit better, but I feel like we could go turn further and a lot of it was more falloff at the end of a run, as well as getting up to speed a little bit and having a little bit more grip on the restarts.
With that said, my car, I felt like I was on ice out there. I took the outside lane. I could get a good start, but you know, it's funny that Kurt was saying he wasn't very good on the restarts, because I felt like he's a lot better than I was. I couldn't even run in the bottom lane and he could get down there but he couldn't quite clear me and the one time I don't know if he just slipped or what, but pushed me pretty wide, and it almost got a little ugly.
At that point, you know that whoever gets out front seems to have a huge advantage, and that's why I was fighting as hard as I was on the inside, and while he was fighting as hard as he was on the inside.
KURT BUSCH: The track here at Loudon has always been slick on restarts and with double-file restarts, you have to keep in the back of your mind, even on Saturday's practice, you have to have a car good on a long run, but now you're going to have all these restarts, you might want to focus a little bit on short runs, as well.
It's a tough balance, and this track really challenged the double-file restarts, and it was after 150, the race would have been complete, I actually had raindrops on my windshield, and so I pushed the go button, over stepped the line, rubbed Jeff a little bit and knew the boundary line that I crossed. But yet if I was on the outside and he was on the inside re starting, he probably would have slid up into us. It's just a slick track. You need five or six laps to start get going and then start racing.
JEFF GORDON: If I was on the inside I might never have made it. (Laughing).
Q. Do you guys come away from this race muttering about what might have been because of the way Joey wins, and that's ten bonus points that are off the table now, or do you just say, hey, we got second and third and that's as good as we go and you move on to the next week. ?
KURT BUSCH: It's tough for me to really feel awful about a third place finish, because of the way we won here last year, under the same circumstances.
Yes, we had a fast car today. That's the big picture for us. We look strong heading into this race in September. That's the best that we can take out of it.
Yeah, ten points, he didn't get them, I didn't get them, so I call them a wash, and we'll come back here and race in September.
JEFF GORDON: I agree with Kurt. I'm disappointed we didn't get the ten bonus points because we had a great shot at it with a great run but it is a bit of a wash, because at least nobody else that we are racing right now in the championship or in the Top-12 or 14 got them, either.
So, yeah, it's like nobody got ten bonus points kind of.
Q. One of my esoteric questions. You've been in a lot of races, especially you Jeff, of the weird finishes you've seen here, would you be able to qualify this one as the weirdest, all things stacked together?
JEFF GORDON: I don't know. I thought Kurt's last year was pretty weird. I think I was more disappointed in that one than I was this year. I don't remember where we finished but it wasn't very good.
I've got such a bad memory to recall those races that I've run here, but it seems like the ones here recently have been pretty strange.
Q. Earlier in the race there was a radio exchange about how hard Kurt was racing you, Jeff. Is that just part of racing, to make comments like that over the radio, does it get relayed to you guys and how do you adjust going forward?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, we did talk about this earlier.
Q. If you did, I'll get it.
JEFF GORDON: Okay.
Q. It's not necessary to re visit it. And at the end of the race, Kurt, you were cutting some gap off Jeff. Jeff, how good was your car at the end and Kurt how good was yours compared to how they were earlier?
JEFF GORDON: My car was really good there at the end. We came up on some slower cars. It seemed like it took me a little bit longer to get through them.
I was trying to be careful. The honest thing is I didn't realize I was racing those guys for position, and I wasn't sure who was a lap down and who was on -- who was stretching fuel, what was going on. But I thought it was interesting that some guys that we were racing were racing really hard.
And it took, you know, a little bit out of my car to push that hard behind somebody, because when you get up behind somebody, you lose the nose and it makes the car kind of -- tires go away a little bit. Once I got by him, I felt like I could pull Kurt, but then it started raining, and you know, it got to where it was raining pretty hard down in 3 and 4 and I started checking up and being probably a little bit too cautious, and he was being real aggressive.
You know, for all good purposes, I felt like we were racing one another for the win, you know, hoping that the 20 was going to have to either pit or run out. I basically checked up and when he got to my inside, it was going to be another race like it was on those restarts. It was going to be a lot of eight tires are better than four and we were just seeing how it turned out.
KURT BUSCH: To continue, it was funny, the fact that he thought that those cars were lap cars, because we thought the same thing. My crew chief didn't relay to me the information about the 07 or the 00 or the other cars that ended up finishing strong, because I thought I was just aiming for the 24. And we really were even in 1 and 2, but I was reeling him in in 3 and 4, because I didn't have raindrops on my windshield. It wasn't raining from where I was standing.
JEFF GORDON: He was looking through the raindrops.
KURT BUSCH: So we were trying to real him in. I had no idea the 20 car was the leader. I found out they were throwing a yellow and the 20 was leading at the same time, so kind of a bummer.
Q. That's kind of my question. Kurt, you had moved your car just inside of Jeff right when the caution came out, and were either of you aware at that time that you were actually running for second and third? When did you find out in relation to the caution coming out?
KURT BUSCH: When I drove into 3, catching him big time, the crew chief radioed in and said, "20 is the leader." It almost startled me. I forgot where the brake pedal was or the steering wheel because it was like wait a minute, I thought I was racing the 24. It came out simultaneously for me. I think we were behind on communication.
JEFF GORDON: I knew a couple of laps before that that it was the 20. I said I'm getting raindrops down here on 3, and Steve was kind of urging me on the radio, "The 20 is the leader, the 20 is the leader, just keep pushing him, keep pushing him," and we were catching him pretty fast.
And you though know, I saw the next lap coming through, I gave up some time to Kurt and he made another comment about, 'hey, you're racing the 24 and the 20 is the leader,' and I said, well, I'm about to wreck, so I'm just going to try to keep it going straight, and right as we -- I think as we came off of 2, you know, is when Kurt really got a run on me there and the caution came out.
Q. Last year's 300 was ended early because of rain, and the Daytona 500 ended early because of rain and it seems that the 2:30 start times of these races contributed to that. Should NASCAR think about pushing back start times to like 1:00 PM?
KURT BUSCH: You want that one, Jeff?
JEFF GORDON: No, it's all you. It's all you. (Laughter).
KURT BUSCH: I've thought long and hard about this, actually. When you go to a baseball game or basketball game or NFL football game, they are always starting at 7:00 or the football games they start in the afternoon at 1:00 and the later games start at 4:00.
If we had a consistent time for our day races and a consistent time for our night races, that would be better for our fans, and I think that that would create more viewership, knowing that they knew when to find the race. You just have to know if it's a Saturday night race or Sunday race and you have the odds-and-end races like Memorial Day, Labor Day weekend and some of the time zones where we are bouncing East Coast to West Coast.
If we did go back to those one o'clock starts, how many laps could we have gotten in today, we probably could have finished the race because I remember starting the engine at 2:07.
JEFF GORDON: Unlike Kurt I've spent zero time thinking about this. Only thing I know is they can't control Mother Nature. Until we put a roof over these racetracks we are always going to deal with it. I know when we go to Daytona, there's afternoon thunderstorms, and maybe that's why they have a night race there now, I don't know. But I have not spent much time thinking about it to be honest with you.
You look at the radar and you run the race until it's over and until they call it.
THE MODERATOR: NASCAR agrees with Kurt, we like to have more consistent start times, as well.
JEFF GORDON: So it's not NASCAR, is what I heard.
Q. You leaned in Joey's car and said it doesn't matter how you win. Does that take you back to your rookie times? Is it something maybe Dale said to you or some other driver when you got your first win?
JEFF GORDON: No. It's just that, you know, when you go back to the stats and you look at the wins, there's no asterisk next to rain-shortened. It's, you got a win.
I've won a bunch of races in this series and I've been very fortunate to do it at times by having the best car, the best pit stops. You know, sometimes I can say that I out-drove the guys. But there's plenty of those wins that came because of a two-tire stop, gas-and-go, rain-shortened, a lot of different ways. I'll take them any way I can get them, that's for sure.
So I just poked my head in there and congratulated him. He didn't want me to jinx him because he didn't think it was over yet but it was pouring down rain, and I was pretty sure it was over. I said, "Great job and great call."
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you and congratulations.
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