NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Brickyard 400
Topics: Brickyard 400
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by team owner Rick Hendrik, who I know this has to be a particularly gratifying moment for you and for the 24 team. Fourth time winner at Indy in the Brickyard 400. Why don't you give us your sentiments and feelings.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I remember the first time I came up here, and the heritage. Then when you see it with all the people in the stands, it's pretty special. To be able to win it one time was just neat and unbelievable. I don't know what, today was so special. It felt to me better than the first one. I guess a lot of emotions and things because of my family, but it was a really good win, and Jeff did it in a dominant fashion. All I could think about was Martinsville when he hollered, "There's debris, we're done." I think that's what he said. I could see the hole in the fascia, so I never dreamed he would be able to hold them off. I think he was just as determined today as I've ever seen Jeff Gordon.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Rick.
Q. He tied AJ Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser, four-time winners here at this track. Jeff has done a lot of historic things, but now we're talking some serious history. When you put your name alongside those guys at this racetrack, that's out there. He did that in cars you owned. I know how much you know about racing, how much you care about racing. At this track, how unbelievable is that for you?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, it's really hard to put into words, you know. You think about it more tomorrow morning and the next day. When you see the trophies, you look back, you know, you kind of grow up never even thinking you'd get to go to Indianapolis. I mean, that's the deal. So I don't know, I think it will all sink in. I really like these trophies, I tell you, these are neat. You know, you'd like to think at the end of the day you worked all your life. My dad and I, since I was five years old, I remember going to Wilksborough in dirt and watching Butch Baker, Buddy Baker, Lee Petty, Richard Petty in a match race, and Junior come in there with a Dodge on the back of a flatbed, that tells you my age, doesn't it? Then to see what the sport's done, but then to be a piece of it, then to be -- be able to win or win championships, win these deals. It's something that you've done all your life and you love and you live for. I mean, you know, it's really neat. Now my son's coming along. I like to think about how the organization, you know, can do. I mean, I used to be the youngest guy on pit road, now I'm the oldest. So the guys behind me, I hope we can keep this thing going, then look back one day. I mean, you know, our 20-year book and all, I look back at some of those old pictures of Bodine. It's kind of humbling when you get old, when you think about it. But to be even mentioned with Mears and those guys, it's unbelievable.
Q. When Dale Jarrett was in here, somebody asked him the same thing about it took 60 years for a four-time winner, Jarrett's response was, "That's because Jeff is probably as good as any driver that's ever raced here." The fact that some people have been able to come in here and really excel, talk about that fact.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, Jeff, I've seen some phenomenal things he's done at this track. I remember the day he qualified, I thought he hit the wall off of four, left those black marks and still set on the pole. He can answer this better than I can, but this is a special place to him. You know, it's one of the places he lived, is from, and he dreamed about being here maybe in an open-wheel car. I know when I lined up that Formula 1 deal, it was Formula 1, but it was here at Indy, and it made a big difference. But he's just got so much talent. I told somebody out there, I mean, I told him on the radio when he said, "We're done," I said, "I've seen you beat people with two tires, I've seen you beat people with four tires, you the man." I knew it was going to be hard to pass, we didn't know how bad it was. But you guys seen a lot of guys drive, but that guy's unbelievable here.
THE MODERATOR: We'll switch over to Mr. Loomis here, Robbie Loomis, crew chief who also has had the chance to enjoy the fruits of victory at the Brickyard. What does this mean to you? We were talking tradition and history. Tell us what this means to you.
ROBBIE LOOMIS: Winning the Brickyard is extremely special. I mean, I remember the first time I came here with the King and we took a parade lap around, then I think they took the car and put it in the museum. Just the history of Indianapolis. I mean, anybody that's involved in motorsports as a kid, you grow up, I think about racing at short tracks, Indy is one of the places that you always respect. I know when I walked in here and we drove in the tunnel, you look at it and you can't see much unless you get out there. But it's extremely special, and to be able to do it for a second time, and with Mr. Hendrik, the things he gives us makes it a lot easier, the tools he gives us. Put Jeff Gordon on top of that. Jeff came to the drivers meeting this morning, he was extremely quiet. I knew it was something special. He was on a mission, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Before Jeff settles in here, let's talk about the race itself. Your car obviously not only was strong throughout, but your car also had the ability on restarts to pull away. Why don't you take us through as crew chief your feelings about what transpired over the course of the day.
ROBBIE LOOMIS: First let me say the man has entered the house (laughter). But, yeah, the restarts are something that, you know, really got to give a lot of credit to the Indian shop, Brian with the gearing. When we test up here, sometimes it's pretty stressful for me, but we spend time working on things like that for the restarts. That's one thing that Jeff is extremely good at. I know that a few weeks ago we kept trying and trying, and we wound up coming home second. So today it was really good to close the deal, especially a place as special as the Brickyard.
THE MODERATOR: Your concerns after Jeff ran over the debris on the track, what was your communication between each other? What were your immediate concerns?
ROBBIE LOOMIS: Well, I was extremely sick to start with, and then I just knew that our only shot of winning was to stay on the racetrack. That was the simple part, as long as the tires were up. What I didn't know is how the tires were, how much air pressure was in them. I had binoculars and could see the nose, knew we had some damage on the right front. I figured being up front the car might balance out a little bit with the clean air. Fortunately with Jarrett behind us, we knew he wasn't the strongest car. Hate to be in that situation with a couple of the other guys out there lined up behind us, but with Jarrett's car behind us, I knew we were a little bit stronger than him anyway. It was pretty clear we had to stay out there. We got real fortunate. Actually did cut a right rear tire . After the race, the thing had five or six pounds of air in it. It was one of those days that was just meant to be.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Robbie.
Q. You say it was town down to five to six. What would it normally have?
ROBBIE LOOMIS: Typically you'll start anywhere -- Goodyear's recommended pressure is 36 pounds. It will build up to 10 or 12 pounds of air in that right rear. I think over there we had to put like 30 something pounds of air to get it up to what it would be for inspection air.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with Jeff now.
Q. Jeff, I don't think you answered this yet, but when the piece of whatever it was hit the car, and after you got back under green, did you feel a huge difference in the car? If so, what was it doing?
JEFF GORDON: Well, luckily it wasn't a huge difference. I mean, I was really upset at the time, you know, because it was so significant, such a significant piece of debris. It wasn't just something small, it was something pretty big. All I could do was envision Martinsville all over again. I remember how torn up that right front was. I didn't know if it cut a tire, if it damaged anything up underneath the car. I knew the air dam had some damage, but after we came by, they said the air dam didn't look too bad. You know, I drove it. I felt it around a little bit under caution, drove it down into turn one. I think it may have knocked the toe out a little bit so I did pick up more of a push. But other than that, it didn't drive that bad. I was quite surprised that it drove as good as it did.
Q. Jeff, when Dale Jarrett was in here, somebody asked him about how long it took for a four-time winner here at Indy. It's taken you 11 years to become a four-time winner of the Brickyard. Jarrett's response was "That's because Jeff is probably as great a driver that's ever run here." When you hear another driver like Dale Jarrett say that, how do you feel about all that?
JEFF GORDON: You know, I have a lot of respect for Dale Jarrett, so it means a lot because I think he's a great driver, as well. You know, I think he's a very gracious guy, and he's very good at giving credit, you know, to his team when they deserve it and to other people when they do. You know, I think that means a lot coming from a two-time champion of this race. So, you know, it means a lot. I mean, I think he knows as well as we all do that we're the ones behind the wheel of the cars, and we get a lot of the publicity, you know, that comes with it, but if we don't have the team and the car and everything behind us, then we're really not going to stand out. And when we do, you know, we look like we're the heroes out there.
Q. Do you agree with his assessment?
JEFF GORDON: I'll always say, and I've said this for many years, that I don't think anyone will ever know who the best is because I just don't think there's any really fair way to figure that out. I know there are guys that I've raced with that have done, you know, better than anybody that I've ever seen. To put myself in that category, I try not to because all I care about is winning races and being behind the wheel of a race car that allows me to do that and allows me to be with a team that gives me that. That's all that really matters to me.
Q. Could you have ever imagined four? Where would you put yourself among the other four-time winners at this place?
JEFF GORDON: I'm blown away with four. I can't believe it really. You know, the thought went through my mind a couple times during the race today when we were really strong, we were out there running up front. I kept having to shake it off, going, "Stop thinking about that. Stop thinking about that." Even there towards the end at the caution there at the end, I knew that we had, you know, three laps to go basically, I felt how special it was. It was starting to really get to me. I was like, you know, wow. I didn't realize how much, you know, this really meant to me, to win four. Then I had to shake that off because I had to get it done first (laughter). You know, I don't compare myself to Rick Mears and AJ Foyt, Al Unser. To me, the Indy 500 is always something unique and totally different than the Brickyard 400. You know, I just will never allow those comparisons. I'm very proud to be a four-time winner, but I just will never allow those comparisons to really put us among equals with those Indy 500 winners.
Q. What sort of statement does this make for you and your team today toward the championship this year?
JEFF GORDON: I think it's a pretty loud statement (laughter). You know, this team, man, they are just really on top of things right now. It's just so much fun going to the racetracks when you know that you've got a chance at winning, just pretty much every weekend you feel like you've got some kind of a shot at it. You know, the guys, they're together, the chemistry's there, the communication's there, the momentum's there. I mean, just things feel really, really good. You know, it's such a unique championship this year that it doesn't matter how those things feel right now, it's nice to have it, and we're going to try to continue and keep that momentum. But, you know, it's really all what we do in those last 10. I think that's what makes this so sweet today, you know, really it's not about points, it's not about a championship, it's just about winning, and that's what we came here to do. It's really cool to pull it off.
Q. Can you talk a little about this season, the way that the 24 and 48 have run, how your organization has responded this year?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I really -- Jeff and Robbie can help me, but I think we started rebuilding back in 2000. We said at a media tour, we're going to win together and we're going to lose together, but we're going to be together. And every crew chief and every driver that's come into the organization since then, and everybody that's been involved in a management-type position, we've had the goal of working together, sharing information, and making it work. And Jeff, when we put our heads together and he saw Jimmie run that race in Michigan, said, "That's the guy we got to get." You know, to Robbie's credit, I've never seen four crew chiefs work together. Everybody talks about it, but our guys really do work together. And the engine shop, chassis shop, the chemistry's the best I've ever had in 20 years, at least the 18 that I've run multiple cars. I think that's paying off for us. I think that's hard, when you look at teams and you ask yourself, "Are they really working together? Is it an open book? Are they sharing?" I think right now the chemistry, these guys can tell you what they think, but from where I sit, I think it's the best chemistry we've ever had. I owe a lot of it to these two guys. Jeff has been the dominant guy. He didn't take the attitude in 2000 that "It's all got to be for me." He wanted to build the whole organization. I think it's really paying off for us today.
Q. With everything you've been through in the last couple weeks, is this one even more special?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, it really is. Well, it is. You know, I can't tell you how humble my family is for the cards and the letters and all the fan support that other teams' drivers and guys like Richard Childress that showed up today, you know, it just really humbled all of us. I don't remember racing without my dad. I told these guys earlier, some of you weren't here, since I was five years old, I mean, we've been together. I took off time earlier this year to stay with him. And then I don't want to get emotional here, Stevie Waltrip said today that his heart's here, and you got his heart. That to me means more than the race. But every time that we have success now, I think it's like I'm doing it for him or we're doing it for him. Jeff and Robbie said that today. We got some great memories. It's a lot of emotions and a lot of things that have happened. But this sure makes you feel -- it just gives you almost a sense of fulfillment. We'll try to take it on to next week.
Q. NASCAR's first attempt at the green/white checkered, prolonged it by an extra lap, but did that kind of add to the tension level for you guys?
ROBBIE LOOMIS: Yeah, it definitely added to the tension level. We would have liked it, four laps, would have been over. But we were fortunate the way the fuel window fell. We had about five laps extra of fuel. That's why we just tried to get some clarification if that green/white checkered was going to be it, was that going to be the end of the race. You know, fortunate for us, that didn't happen. Everybody got to see a finish. I think that's the first time that's happened that I know of in NASCAR. So that was exciting to be a part of that, too.
JEFF GORDON: I mean, we all knew it was going to happen eventually. I was unclear, and I was kind in the same boat that Robbie was, just hoping that, you know, we'd just get the checkered eventually (laughter). But I was unclear when they said, "We're going green/white checkered, running one extra lap," if that meant that that was the official green/white checkered. That's something that we're really going to have to get clarification on in the future. We all know there's only one opportunity to get the green/white checkered. I mean, I'm glad that we finally got one. You guys can talk about it. We're the ones that won it. It worked out. I mean, I think it is really cool for the fans and for us, the teams, to see your car come across there under green flag conditions and those checkered flags waving. It does mean more. It just takes away a little bit when you come across there under caution.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, I remember we did a lot of racing in the Truck Series. I won a lot with the green/white checkered, I lost a lot with that. I get so nervous when I think we got an opportunity to win a race anyway. One more thing thrown on it won't make any more difference with me (laughter). I'm thankful because it's been that way ever since I won my first race. You never count 'em till they're done. Last night was great. Today was great. You don't count 'em till it's over. I think it's better for the fans. I think it's going to be much better for them.
JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, in the heat of the moment, your adrenaline's flowing. You're leading one of the biggest races of your life, and you see something -- you're running a hundred and, whatever, 60 miles an hour, and you don't have time to react. You just hit it. I mean, one is I was worried I was going to hit it and it was going to put me in the wall. The other is that it was going to take us out of contention to win. You know, I just remember I reacted, I was very upset that as big a piece of debris as it was when I hit it that nobody saw it, that nobody even no it was there until we came through there. That's because I'm in the heat of the moment. I don't know how long it was there. I don't even know what it was. But I do know I looked in my mirror, and Matt Kenseth certainly got the worst of it. I don't know how in the world that piece of debris went through, underneath wherever it went from my race car, then got him the way it did, and didn't get us. But I was, you know, pretty animated on the radio about that I felt like somebody should have recognized that. I think any time that there's a piece of debris on the track, it seems like we get cautions when there's debris that really doesn't seem to be much, and then when it's really significant, sometimes it doesn't come out as soon as we'd like it to. You know, we got fortunate. Matt was very unfortunate. I feel bad for them and for what they had to go through. And I don't know, I'd like to know how long it was out there and whether or not we could have prevented all that from happening.
Q. Not to open up a can of worms, although that pretty much is my job...
JEFF GORDON: Don't be doing pit bull on me here in the media center.
Q. What strikes me about this whole weekend, some of the things you said here, we heard guys talk about how much they enjoy not racing, having to worry about points, just coming here to try to win the big race. I guess the philosophical question I'd like to ask you is, wouldn't it be a good thing if it was like that every week?
JEFF GORDON: Well, in a way it is. I mean, more so for us right now because the way the points system is, and where we're at in the points right now. You know, when you start the season, it's like that. When you are battling for points positions that are critical, it's like that. But for us, we're kind of in a comfort zone right now over the next five or six races. I know what you're saying. I mean, in a way we do go out there to win every weekend, but when there are points on the line, we do watch a little bit more of how much rpm we're going to turn, how aggressive we're going to be on the setup, is this going to be a day that we can use as a test, you know, for down the road. To me it just seemed like this weekend we're feeling very little pressure as far as the points are concerned and more just pressure of just to go out there and perform and to win. It would be nice to have that every weekend. But that's part of a championship in general. You know, it doesn't matter -- if you're in the Super Bowl, you got a seven-point lead, you protect your seven-point lead. But it's just kind of the nature of the game and the business and the sport that we're in. We all want that championship. But right now I do like it. I mean, I like the position that we're in. It's awesome. Let me tell you, when it comes down to those last 10 races, it's not going to feel anything like this.
Q. I'll open up a can of worms maybe. When three other wins here, did you forget where Victory Lane was?
JEFF GORDON: I must have. I think it slipped my mind. I thought Victory Lane was where those bricks are out there. You know, you just react. I went down there, you know, thinking about a burnout or something like that. I stink at burnouts, so I just locked them up on the bricks and, you know, told the team to get out there. You know, your emotions are just going, and you're excited, the adrenaline's flowing. You know, I'm sure I'm going to get in some kind of trouble over it. But, you know what, right now I don't care (laughter).
Q. There was a lot of cautions, 13 cautions. You had a little time to think. Did you think during any of those, "Is there going to be another Martinsville? Is it going to get me?" Did you have a premonition?
JEFF GORDON: You mean, the debris?
Q. The debris that you eventually hit. In the back of your mind, during the cautions, did you think that it could be another Martinsville?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, yeah. Heck, yeah. Every lap I was rolling around there, I would wiggle the wheel back and forth just to make sure the right front tire was still up. Honestly, when it happened, I thought we were done.
Q. That wasn't the question.
JEFF GORDON: I'm confused because all I know in Martinsville, we hit a piece of debris and we were done.
Q. Today during the cautions when you were leading, did you think it could be another Martinsville, and then, boom, it happened?
JEFF GORDON: No (laughter). I never, ever think about hitting a piece of debris on the racetrack until I hit it.
Q. Is it important at all to catch Jimmie and be leading going into those last 10 races?
JEFF GORDON: It's worth five points. That's about it. I mean, five points are five points. I mean, the championship can be won or last by five points. You know, right now I think that we're in the mode of getting all that we can get and really I want to go into those last 10 breathing down those guys' necks, leading laps, showing that our pit crew's the best, that our cars are the best, that we are the team and the guys to watch coming into those last 10. Now, you know, once we get in those last 10, you know, I think there's going to be a little bit more strategy than what we think. Obviously, you know, we're all going to try to win races, but the first five -- how the first five or six are dealt with versus the last four or five is going to be very interesting as to where we're at, what position we're in and everything. You know, I mean, I look at this points championship, and I shake my head at it all the time, about I don't know how in the world we came up with this. Then there's times I look at it and go it's the greatest thing I've ever seen. I really don't know what to think. I think that David might get his wish. We might just be charging hard every single lap of every race all the way to the finish. You know, I guess when I said that, when I said we came here just focused, thinking of winning, it's not that we really tried any harder, it's just that we didn't have that pressure. We just didn't have that on us. If any decision came about in the setup, the gear, all those things I mentioned before, or decisions I made on the racetrack, I never once was thinking about points, I was only thinking about getting the position and trying to get the win. We're out there doing that a lot, but there is just that thing in the back of year mind that thinks about the points, if this is a typical year. That will be the case when we get down to these last 10.
Q. Can you remember the first racetrack in Indiana you won a race on when you came from California? Can you remember the first time you came to the speedway?
JEFF GORDON: I wish my stepdad was here right now. I think the first track that I ever won on was in the quarter midget, it was either at Big Z or Kokomo, something like that. There was a quarter midget race that I ran back here in like '81, '82, something like that. I have no idea where Big Z is, I know that was the name of the track. The coolest thing about racing midgets in Indiana is it paid money to race. I was just blown away that you could get 30 bucks if you won the feature. We'd run two classes. I'd run, you know, an A and a B class, little bit different horsepower. If I won them both, I could get 60 bucks. I remember I won that trophy and I won that $60. I think we won both of them one time we were back here.
Q. How about your first visit here?
JEFF GORDON: First visit here? Would have been around the same time. I remember the very first time I came here, I don't remember who won the 500 that year, but we didn't come to the 500, we came here the day after, and I went to the museum and rode around on the bus. I remember seeing the names of all the drivers and their teams painted on the wall, kind of like they do it now, but they had the fuel tanks still there. I thought that was just the coolest thing. "Oh, man, that's where AJ Foyt was pitting his car." But it had to be around '81, '82, as well. And then I came here, I think the first race I ever saw here was when Sneva won. I think that was also the same year when -- was Unser Jr., rookie that year? Yeah.
Q. Robbie said something about a left rear tire was down severely.
JEFF GORDON: Right rear.
Q. Were you aware of that? Did you ever feel it at any time?
JEFF GORDON: I didn't. It could not -- I just don't see how it could have possibly been going down before that last caution, you know. I'm wondering. I don't know. Maybe I ran something over after the race was over or something. The car felt normal, as normal as it could be, with the right front crushed to me. I mean, I was pushing. I wasn't loose. If the right rear tire goes down, I would have thought I would be real loose. I don't know. It had air in it when I came off turn four, that's all I know, because I made it to the finish and it didn't do anything weird.
Q. Was there any concern when Jimmie's motor let go?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, what's crazy is, you know, all weekend long, I've just been raving to Randy and our engine guys about our horsepower, just how great of a job that they did coming into this race, how the engine just felt so good and everything. When you get out there in the race, every little thing that vibrates, that rattles, you just think the motor's getting ready to explode. Anyway, regardless of whether the other engines have trouble. So when they told me that Jimmie blew up, every little vibration, "Oh, here it goes." I was watching the oil pressure, the water temperature, everything I could because I just knew. And even on those last restarts, I thought I was running out of fuel. When I took the white flag, I went into three and the motor did something weird. I was like, "Am I blowing up? Am I running out of fuel?" I don't know if it's just my mind playing tricks on me or what, but those things definitely weigh on your mind when those things happen. I didn't realize till Robbie just told me that he spun, and when he spun, you never know, sometimes when you spin, those things can damage the engine. Jimmie is the absolute best at not hitting anything. A lot of times because he lights the rear tires up on the thing, I'm not saying that played a role, but it could have.
Q. Greg Maddux just won his 300th game as a pitcher. These accumulate one by one. Your next up is 70. The next guy on the list is a fellow named Earnhardt. Do those things run through your mind at all?
JEFF GORDON: Not until you mention it. You know, I never really pay a lot of close attention to statistics until after the fact. I mean, like I wasn't thinking about it till you mentioned it, then I'll go home tonight and I'll usually get a rundown sheet or something from the race today, then it will start to kind of pop in my mind about how many wins that we've accumulated over the years, how incredible it's been, what a great run. I knew that Earnhardt was the next one in line. That's something that I'd love to accomplish. I'll take it one at a time just like Greg Maddux does. I'm looking forward to going to Watkins Glen this year. What's amazing is every time we win, we do back to back. I can't think of a better place than to come out of here and go to Watkins Glen with an opportunity to do it again.
JEFF GORDON: Oh, I'm out there (laughter). I'm out there. You have no idea.
Q. I'm going to go fishing here. I don't know what I'm going to get. When you were running around here in the Sprint car in Indiana, did you ever in your mind sit in class and doodle, "I'm AJ Foyt," anything like that? Were those guys idols of yours, stuff like that?
JEFF GORDON: They were, but it was almost -- to me they were too far out there for me to even comprehend. To me, you know, racing at that level and at this speedway, I mean, that was just something I couldn't even comprehend. To me, if I thought about somebody that I wanted to be or somebody that I wanted to race with, it was Steve Kinser. You know, I was so heavy into Sprint cars and the midgets and everything at that time, that's really what was on my mind. In high school, I thought I was going to be a Sprint car driver. I was very happy and content with that. I thought, man, that was the ultimate, is to be on the World of Outlaws circuit and race with those guys week in and week out. Then this thing came around called Thursday Night Thunder. A guy named Rollie Helmling, who had a midget, and Bob (inaudible), who was building them, they just said, "Hey, we got this opportunity. Are you interested?" I can remember being in Brownsburg, Indiana, sitting in that seat, getting a seat fitted in that car on whatever day it was, it was probably like a Friday, and then we went to the night before the 500, which was Saturday, went out there and set a new track record, won the race. I'd never even been to the track, never been in the car before. That was on ESPN. From that point on, my whole thought process of where I was headed and what I was doing started to change. Then I started thinking -- see, I was racing Outlaws, Sprint cars stuff, those guys at that time, especially Indianapolis, racing IndyCars, all that stuff, that wasn't even anything that you wanted to do. It wasn't till I got into USAC, that was when I started being around guys that said, "I want to be at Indy one day." I think it's because they were racing pavement. They were racing pavement in Sprint cars and midgets. Them pavement drivers, you didn't want to have anything to do with them. It was like separate classes. All I know is that we wanted to race -- I loved the pavement, I thought it was fun. We started winning. Then we did it on TV. All of a sudden my career took off. All those Sprint cars are going, "We didn't even get on TV in those USAC races."
Q. Probably young people look up to you as a hero, given the historic nature of this. You were talking about people that might have been your heroes, now the shoe is sort of on the other foot.
JEFF GORDON: Well, I always try to remember in the back of my mind how important first impressions are and how we are role models through our actions and our words. You know, I have to remind myself from time to time of that because I know the first time I met Steve Kinser, I just thought he was the coolest thing ever. And the first time he came to me and congratulated me because I won a race or told me, "Hey, you're going to go on to do good things," to me my world ended right then. Then when I came here, whatever year it was I came to the 500, we were at carburetion day, I think Rick Mears was on the pole that year, and I was just a kid sitting on the fence with a T-shirt, I think that T-shirt had a list of all the different winners on the back of it, who had won four times, he hadn't at that time, and I yelled at him, and he came over and signed that autograph. He like had somebody grab the T-shirt, he signed it. Back thin they didn't have Sharpies. I wore out that shirt. My mom would have to (inaudible) every time she washed it. I remember moments like that. As difficult as it is, you know, to be out there with the big crowds that we have here and whether it be qualifying or whatever, hear the screaming, yelling, everything, you want to do something like that for everybody. But that's why I probably focus more on the kids because I know what kind of impression that made on me. I would love to be able to do that for others.
Q. Rick said he has to go to NASCAR. Were you invited to stop by?
JEFF GORDON: No. I let him handle those type of things. I heard he was invited. It doesn't surprise me. The funniest thing is the whole time, you know, I mean, one I just enjoyed the moment. I didn't care. I will care tomorrow when we find out what happens, but now I don't. As soon as he walked away from the front straightaway, I was like, "Are we okay? Are we okay? Are we in trouble? Are we in trouble?" Everyone went, "No, it's fine, it's fine." After the adrenaline started to wear off I was like, "This could be good." You know, I mean, everyone has their sponsorships to take care of. I think that there really needs to be a meeting of the minds to work this out because I don't think it's being worked out in everybody's favor. It just seems like -- you know, we all need to understand what it's worth to one another, you know, because there's things that are worth an awful lot to our race team, that mean a lot to our race team, and there are things that mean a lot to NASCAR, as well. We need to figure out what those meanings are and what those numbers are and how to come up with an understanding of it. And I told Mike that when I talked to him about Jimmie's fine, let's be creative, let's work together, let's think about how we can accomplish what we all need to accomplish here. I think there's a better way of doing it than what we're doing it. I didn't do that purposely, to go out there and cause that and stir that up, and to make sure that Powerade bottle wasn't on my car. I went out there because that's where I wanted to celebrate with my team. To me, too often these days, as big as the sport has gotten, and I understand that it wouldn't be as big as it is today and we wouldn't be able to, you know, race at this level without all the TV, the media, the fans, the sponsors and all that, but to me we take away so much from these victories when we pull into Victory Lane and all about getting the interview and it's all about putting the hat on, it's all about mentioning the sponsor. I want to just, you know, jump up and down and hang out with my guys. I lose so often, and I try to get it back, and today I did.
Q. Talk about the thrill of victory, after Talladega, amongst other things, there was Sonoma where the crowd genuinely appreciated you. How did that feel to you today? Does that balance the books for Talladega?
JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. Even though I did see a couple bottles thrown, there still are diehards out there, it feels amazing. I mean, to go through the whole weekend and hear the applause and the cheers. One, just to see how big the Brickyard 400 is, how the people supported NASCAR here I think is awesome. But the support that I get and our team gets is just incredible. We really don't get that many places. So, you know, I can't think of a better place to have that than to have it here. You know, the fans here are loyal. They're loyal to their Indiana natives and to those adopted. It's just awesome to be able to give them back a great day and a victory like today.
Q. Do you kind of feel like the situation at the end of the race, you're going to be portrayed like Emmo drinking the orange juice instead of the milk in '93?
JEFF GORDON: Except I think I've got a lot more people on my side on this one than Emmo did. You know, there are certain traditions that you need to stick with. But, you know, I think what the people watching at home and the people here want to see is they want to see the real, you know, emotions and feelings of what it's like to win a race that's this big. They understand commercialization. They know. They see it all the time. Even though we live in that world, you know, every once in a while it's nice to break the rules and it's nice to just show that raw emotion. And I think that's what people got. It wasn't about, you know, orchards in Florida, oranges in Brazil, versus milk and dairy. A little bit different.
Q. A little while ago you were talking about your early career, some turning points that you had in your career, where your career could have gone a different direction if something hadn't happened. You developed a relationship with Frank Williams. How much money did Frank offer and how big of a pay cut would it have been? More seriously, if something like that had come up 10 years ago, do you think your career might have taken a completely different direction?
JEFF GORDON: Well, there's two ways to answer that. One is that 10 years ago that would have never happened. I think the only reason that there's been any conversations or interest or spark in the media, any of that, is because Formula 1 wants an American driver, but they don't want an American driver that's unknown. So 10 years ago, it wouldn't have done him much good to put me in there, whether I had the ability to do it or not, because I was really basically an unknown. What they're asking for is a known name that's been brought up doing the exact opposite type of racing that exists in Formula 1, and that is going to be next to impossible to pull off. Number two is that Frank and I never got to numbers.
THE MODERATOR: In closing obviously a hugely historic day, we'd like to congratulate you and the folks at NEXTEL would like to congratulate you on a wonderful day.
JEFF GORDON: Yes, it was. Thank you.
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