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Jeff currently sits 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, 51 points behind Brad Keselowski, and he boasts an impressive record at Martinsville Speedway, tallying seven wins, 31 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 7.1.
Jeff, you’re heading into one of your best track this is weekend at Martinsville. What are your team’s expectations for the remaining four races in the Chase and the season?
JEFF GORDON: Well, we’re certainly very excited about Martinsville this weekend. We had a great race going earlier in the season. Of course, any time you have a late race, green/white checker at Martinsville, you know it’s going to get pretty crazy and it did. We got the bad end of it.
But we had so many positive things to come out of that race, and Martinsville is one of my best and favorite tracks. Just had meetings with the team today in preparation for Martinsville and feel like we’ve got some really good things to try this weekend to make ourselves even a little bit better. So certainly excited about Martinsville.
Looking forward to Texas which has lately been a good track for us, as well as Homestead. Very solid races and tracks for us. Phoenix is a bit of an unknown. Hasn’t been great for us ever since they repaved, but seems to get better each time we go back there. So curious to see how the summer has affected the newer surface at Phoenix, and hopefully we can be strong like we were before they paved the track when we go back.
So, yeah, we’re optimistic, and hopeful and excited about finishing the season out on as much of a high note as we possibly can with some strong finishes.
Q. I’m curious, what do you feel the impact of Dale Earnhardt Jr. returning on the organization as a whole, and specifically was there any impact on your team and your performance with him being back and participating in debriefs and stuff?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it’s great to have him back. Just continue to applaud him in the decision that he made, and I think he can come back now feeling very positive about how he handled the situation as well as be a positive impact on the rest of us, and how we’d hopefully handle that same situation. Great to have him back.
We had him right at the end of our debrief today. Obviously, he couldn’t add much to Kansas, but that was an exciting race to watch, and we all ran really strong at Martinsville the last time we were there. So it should certainly make for a very positive and interesting debrief session this weekend. I feel like it’s something where all four drivers will get to contribute to get one of us to victory lane.
Q. Will drivers do their own research and be more aware of impact from concussions after what’s happened in the last couple of weeks?
JEFF GORDON: I’m very close with Jerry Petty, Dr. Petty. Any time I see him or speaking to him, it’s something I’m always curious. I want to know as much as I possibly can to recognize the signs as well as make sure that I’m protecting myself the best way I possibly can out there in the car.
I think, yeah, this is definitely something we can all learn from.
Q. Is Jimmie Johnson getting better with age?
JEFF GORDON: Possibly. I think that experience can benefit all of us. Even for me 20 years into this series, I feel like in a lot of ways I’m a lot better than I was than maybe my fifth year in the sport.
So you tend to be a little more patient, make a little better decisions, and then know how to do better at reacting to situations like you have on Sunday. This is a situation where it could easily cost them the championship, and it didn’t. They rebounded very well and came back with a strong finish. That’s a sign of experience. I think that it is possible for him and the team to continue to get better.
Q. Jeff, you’re looking for your fifth championship. What has to happen in the races remaining for you to accomplish that?
JEFF GORDON: I it was about two or three races ago that I said it’s going to take a miracle. It’s going to take an even bigger miracle now for us to win number five. We had the issue in Chicago that got us far behind. But we’re making great strides at coming back. If a couple two or three guys at the front had faltered, then we had a shot at it.
Unfortunately, then we faltered in Charlotte, and we just missed the set-up. I was speeding down pit road, and that ultimately cost us a lot of points. Then in this past weekend a 10th place finish. Those just aren’t good enough results to make up the points that we had lost in Chicago.
So we never give up. We never quit. We go to every race giving it everything we’ve got. But obviously the chances are pretty slim of us winning number five this year.
Q. What did you most like about the reconfiguration at Kansas Speedway this weekend?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, the thing is that all repaves these days maybe with the exception of Pocono, I think that they had a little bit different mix or texture to the pavement they use. But other than that, I pretty much see the same thing happen at all the repaves.
They have a lot of grip, really fast, narrow groove. Come at the Heat that’s generated on the tires and stuff like that. They have to build a really hard tire. We did see some side-by-side racing on the restarts. We did see some passing, so it gives you optimism of what can happen with the progressive banking that they put in there in the future.
I think that it went about as well as you could ask for. We all understand the situation that we’re in on repaves, and now it’s just kind of a wait-and-see thing of seeing what that surface does over the winter and over the next year or two.
Q. What were some of the things that you were surprised on how much this track changed from Wednesday to Sunday at Kansas?
JEFF GORDON: Well, the weather changed was the biggest thing. Throughout the weekend you put rubber down and you clean the racetrack off and that helps widen out the groove. But the biggest change we had from our testing Wednesday and Thursday was that it was extremely cold and very windy on those days. Where on Sunday, it warmed up into the mid ’70s, and there was very little wind. So even throughout the race, we saw at times where the sun was out, and then the clouds came in.
Just that change in temperature from the clouds coming in changed the racetrack a good bit as well. So it’s very temperature sensitive. Still had a lot of grip when we first started in the race. Lost a little bit of that grip, which I think ultimately helped out the racing.