Q. : Certainly Danica driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Stewart‑Haas. Outstanding job out there today. Maybe just talk about your experience driving at Martinsville and how you thought things went.
DANICA PATRICK: Yeah. I had a spin at the very beginning. I don’t know how many laps in, 10, 20, something like that, and felt like I kind of got pinched down but I also got in pretty hard. When you’ve got the momentum going that way, it was sort of a perfect storm.
But I learned my lesson to make sure that you just don’t go in too hard because they’re going to be holding you tight, and there’s going to be nowhere to go, nowhere to slide up, and you get into them and it’s a lot ‑‑ if you’ve got wheel in it you’re probably going to come around.
Learned that lesson early. We were two laps down at one point, so I’m probably most proud of getting those two laps back and then running strong until the end there on the lead lap.
You know, it was just nice to have a good weekend after having so many that weren’t good since Daytona. Yeah, it was a fun little track. I was told that if it goes well, you’ll be like, I don’t mind this place at all, let’s come back, and if it doesn’t you don’t ever want to see it again. Today was one of those days I had a good car, and Gibson has got a good track record here, obviously Newman won this race last year, and he’s always run really well.
I think the team has a lot to be proud of. The stops were good. We had a little right front damage from early in the race so it was a little bit of a pain in the butt to get that tire off and then back on for stops. But it was good to get the Go Daddy car up there, and Hendrick did a nice job all weekend.
Obviously I had to start from the back because I decided I was going to go from 4th to 3rd and coming up to speed on my out lap in practice, and that’s not the normal progression. I got 11.4 on the revs, and they were like, we should probably just take that out. Unfortunately I had to start from the rear.
But Hendrick gave me another really strong engine, and I felt like we had decent speed in practice, and it was nothing different today.
Q. How do you feel about your performance today?
DANICA PATRICK: I guarded down into 3 on the last lap, and then the 55 hit me and got me loose and pushed me up the track, and then I held it next to him, came off the corner, and then Harvick is on the very inside so we were three wide coming to the line, and then for some reason the 55 just spun all the way ‑‑ like big smoke going into 1. I don’t know if that’s what you were talking about. I don’t know what happened. I have no idea.
DANICA PATRICK: Okay. I’m such a rookie.
You know, it was ‑‑ we just answered how the day went. More than that, kind of what Clint said about the sport being exciting, a lot going on. I hope the fans enjoyed that late red that made for a chaotic last seven or eight laps there. You know, it was good to look up in the stands and see it full. It was good to see people with their shirts off. Summer’s coming, so I’m ready for it. I’m sure y’all are because it snowed here on Thursday.
Things are just going well, and for me it was just really nice to have a nice weekend since Daytona because we haven’t had ‑‑
Q : Jeff, talk about your run, certainly battling for the win out there, but how did it look from your seat?
JEFF GORDON: It was an exciting day for us. You know, same thing kind of what Clint said, we were a little bit tighter when the race started than we anticipated, but we also burned the rear tires off of it the first couple runs.
Luckily that improved, and I made a bonehead move and overshot my pit stall and cost us a bunch of positions. I was just sitting back there not passing anybody, not going anywhere thinking, uh‑oh, I’ve really screwed us up. The long run we made a couple of adjustments and freed the car up and the long run came and our car was unbelievable in that long run. I obviously didn’t want to see a short run there at the end, but you know it’s pretty typical; it’s going to happen at Martinsville. I think third was a great finish for us, and happy to bring home third.
We needed the points. We needed a good solid run. The 48, you give him that No. 1 pit stall at Martinsville, and I mean, it’s almost near impossible to beat him.
Q. Danica, they say that the toughest thing about your first race here is getting comfortable. At what point ‑‑ was there a point in the race where you felt that comfort level grow, and when you did spin, were you thinking, okay, everything everybody said about this place was right, it is a little hard to get around here?
DANICA PATRICK: I think it was just the circumstance, but it just got me on my toes when I was inside of people, making sure I didn’t slide up into them and them kind of help turn me sideways. Honestly I felt pretty comfortable from the get‑go. When you have a decent car, things just are a lot easier. I’ve had a lot of other worse weekends, like Fontana, I’ve been there a bunch of times, but it was misery until the race.
It was just a good car, so we were steady all weekend and we just kind of kept improving. We also improved in the race, which is always really important. We ended up getting really good power down by about halfway through the race and no matter what I did I could really get on it well coming off the corner.
I would say that I learned pretty early, I was backing up my corner and kind of going it easy and trying to kind of save everything. I was getting really loose doing it, so once I finally got back to going in hard again and loading the front up like I was before, it seemed like the car got really balanced again.
I learned that kind of easy, and that’s kind of what helped me get more comfortable in race runs.
Q. Danica, you were five spots ahead of Tony Stewart and many more ahead of Ryan Newman. How did it feel to be first in class for Stewart‑Haas Racing today?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, I mean Ryan Newman had an issue, and he was really nice out there. There was one time he let me in when I was stuck up high, so that was really helpful of him. And I felt a little funny kind of racing really hard for position there with Tony at the end, and then to get in front of him, that was a little victory for me because he’s so good.
I’m going to go over to his bus after this and see what he has to say about it. But no, it was really fun. Gibson just prepares nice cars for Martinsville. It’s not about being first on your team, it’s about being first out there overall, and you work towards that the whole time.
Q. And then also, is this place ‑‑ you’ve had success at Phoenix, at Milwaukee, at flat short tracks like this. Does this place remind you of either of those and is that why you got so comfortable so quick and got that rhythm?
DANICA PATRICK: No. I mean, I just think there’s less risk in finding the limit on a track that you’re not going as fast on. I think that’s a little bit a part of it as opposed to when you’re at Fontana and it’s a tricky track and you’re carrying a lot of speed, and the consequences seem a little bit bigger when you try and find the limit there than at a short little track here like Martinsville.
I think that might be kind of it. I’m not 100 percent sure. All I can say is that I know that a car that’s comfortable to drive always makes a huge difference.
Q. As a follow to what you just said, when you were racing Tony for 16th with about 35 laps to go, did it enter your mind at all that maybe it would be a good idea to let him in, or is he just another driver on the track at that point?
DANICA PATRICK: No, we were racing for position, so it didn’t cross my mind to let him in. I went underneath him to go by him. No, all that crossed my mind is that I just ‑‑ I’d be fair and give room and run hard, and if I get the spot, great; if I don’t, you lost it to a guy like Tony Stewart.
But no, I’m out there to race, and I don’t think Tony would want me to lift.
Q. Jeff, with the victory today with Jimmie, that gives Hendrick Motorsports its 20th victory, breaks a tie with Petty for most all‑time here at Martinsville. You and Jimmie have combined for 15 of those victories. Can you talk about the dominance Hendrick has had here and what it means to hold that milestone?
JEFF GORDON: I’m guessing Hendrick has got something figured out pretty good here. You know, I mean, the first time I drove for Rick, I knew how good their equipment was everywhere we went. The teams, they just do such a good job from the entire ‑‑ through the depth of the organization, from the engineering and how we build the chassis and everything that we do. We hit on some things years ago for us here, but they had success prior to me getting there, and then I think the 48 has been able to take that success that we had and really build on that, as well.
And Jimmie, he just has really figured this place out. There’s just certain tracks where the drivers that Hendrick has had over the past as well as now and just our race cars, it just really suits that. Like I said, qualifying up front really can be huge here. You get a driver like Jimmie and a team like the 48, or ours, as well, or the 15, you put them on the pole in that No. 1 pit stall, it’s going to be really, really hard to beat them.
The next thing we’ve got to work on now is trying to qualify better. But that’s awesome. I’m so proud to be a part of Hendrick. Happy for Rick. I got to see him out there, and I know that these types of stats and records really mean a lot to him, you know, and he deserves it. They’ve got an awesome organization and work very hard at it. It’s great to be a part of that.
Q. Jeff, finally it seemed like there was that moment where it was like, oh, man, we’re going to have a bad day and then you managed to battle back. How important is that just looking at the season as a whole to have that kind of turnaround today?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, when it happened I was pretty disappointed because I made the mistake, and we know how ‑‑ you’ve got to be flawless at a track like this, and it just seemed like it was tough to pass. When you get that far back in traffic.
At first I was disappointed in myself, and I thought, well, we’ve got a good car, we can make it up through there, and they dropped the green and I went backwards and I wasn’t passing anybody, and I thought, uh‑oh, I’ve really put ourselves in a hole here. Luckily we had a long run, and like I said, we made some good adjustments, and we just started picking them off one by one, and the car was unbelievable on that long run.
You know, we can’t afford to do those things. I can’t be making those mistakes, and we can’t have those mistakes made, and that’s just how crucial it is in the sport today as competitive as everybody is and how close the cars are. You know, we kind of got fortunate today.
Q. On Friday you said that you didn’t quite know about Martinsville. Do you like it now? What’s your feeling about it?
DANICA PATRICK: Turn left. Left, brake, left. You know, as I said earlier, we did kind of answer this, but ‑‑ or I did, I had a pretty good car from the start, so it was comfortable, wasn’t really fighting anything huge. A little loose in.
But I didn’t know what to expect, but I said that I feel like finding the limit on a short track where you’re going a little slower is a little bit ‑‑ there’s a little less penalty there, a little less risk than finding the limit on a really big track where you’re doing 200 miles an hour and you get sideways and you don’t always catch those. I guess that’s probably the comfort level for me.
I felt like it was kind of traditional passing here, setting it up and getting your nose in there, a little bit more road course style, so that might have some effect because I’ve done so much of that.
But good car, steady day. I got a lot of advice on keeping my head cool and just letting things go. Nobody has straight fenders after the race, although Jimmie might. Does Jimmie have all of his fenders straight?
Q. On her rookie battle between Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
DANICA PATRICK: Actually I decided I’d fly back to Chicago and he’s going to drive back. That was the plan all along. But if he’s not back at the bus when I get back there, that means he’ll be mad.
You know, you have good days and you have bad days, and we’ve definitely had our fair share of bad days the last few weeks, so it was nice to have a decent one.
Q. Jeff, on pit road you mentioned something about this being like old school Martinsville. Was that in reference to the tires? And it seemed that many of the people who raced yesterday and today seemed to like the falloff of the tires. Do you think that’s headed in the right direction?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I do. I didn’t like it at lap 60 on the first run because it seemed like some others had it figured out a little bit better than we did. But as the race went on and the wear got a little bit better, then it seemed like ‑‑ and the adjustments we made, we were very competitive. I do like the falloff. I like how you’ve got to manage how hard you push it at the beginning versus ‑‑ and the grip level, how it goes away and you’ve got to really use your foot to keep from spinning the tires.
So that is kind of old school Martinsville that I grew up with, and I do like that. I think it brings more of the driver into play, even though it seemed like air pressure kind of helped that. I think we all started maybe a little bit too high on rear pressure. But yeah, that was fun.
I’d like to see that more. Durability is a big deal, especially on the bigger, higher speed tracks, and so they’re limited on what they can do, especially on the repaves. But on these older tracks, it’s kind of encouraging to know that they can build a tire that can withstand long runs but does fall off and wears a little bit. I’d like to see more of that.
Q. Danica, did you talk about what happened when you had contact with Junior? Did Vickers get inside of you and did you feel like you were giving Vickers enough room there and also at the end?
DANICA PATRICK: Well, we were lined up on the inside of 1 and 2, and Vickers hit me and hit me into Dale, and Dale got sideways and then went down the back straight and Dale was trying to put me down in the wall on the inside, and we got into 3 and he went around sideways and spun.
I wasn’t trying to lose any friends out there, that’s for sure. It was tight, like it is, bumper to bumper, and I just got hit from behind. Yeah, 55 found my bumper again at the end. You know, it’s Martinsville, right. Three wide, coming to the start‑finish line, it’s all exciting.
Q. You’re not mad?
DANICA PATRICK: No, I wanted to make sure Dale wasn’t mad. I wasn’t trying to hit him or anything. We were just lined up on the inside of 1 and 2 and we were all running tight and I got bumped and I got bumped into him and was able to get alongside of him. Why wouldn’t I take it? He came on the radio and said he wasn’t mad. I didn’t do anything wrong.