Our race runner-up is Jeff Gordon.
JEFF GORDON: Could you have fixed that last caution for me?
Q: I tell you, Jeff, yeah. The race runner-up is Jeff Gordon. He drove the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, and certainly, Jeff, as you alluded to here right now, you had that race in your grasp there. That last caution came out, and certainly it was tough to overcome the 5 car. He had a great run on you there.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, he was superfast all day. I mean, those guys they deserved and earned that win today. We had them though. We certainly had the position. We got a good restart. I’m pretty disappointed that I allowed them to get to the outside of me down in one. That is the advantage you have of being second. Just like the restart before that, I had a little bit of an advantage by being in second to get position on him. And I thought that last one that I did everything I needed to do, and I looked in my mirror and I really thought that the inside lane got a good run on Kasey, so I thought all I needed to do was get in here and get the bottom and I’d be good. But, man, he got a killer run and blasted on the outside of me. Caught me by surprise, I’ll be honest. In that case, and in that scenario, it just kills your momentum.
So I feel fortunate to finish second. I feel like we had a great day all in all, and I’m very proud of that. It’s something we can build a lot of momentum on. Yeah, I’m frustrated right now because we had a shot at it. We know how important wins are, but second is a great points day for us as well.
Q. You alluded to this, but as we saw in the truck race yesterday and to a large extent today, being the leader on the restart didn’t seem to be an advantage. Could you just comment on that a little bit?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, the bigger the rear spoilers get on the vehicles, cars, trucks, the bigger hole you’re punching in the air and easier it is for guys to get runs either behind you or stall you on that side. But that wasn’t necessarily the case today for me in that last restart.
I got a good restart. I think I caught them off guard. I took off a little early, maybe. It was questionable. Yet, I got up in front of him and did what I felt like I needed to do, but, obviously, that wasn’t the case.
Yeah, once he got to the outside of me, then that same scenario and aerodynamics really stalled the car out and put me in a bad position going into the tunnel turn. I really just kind of had to give it up at that point.
The caution before that, I was able to get the run and be the car that was in a better position. You know, he did a great job. I mean, that’s all you can say.
Kurt Busch, come on up here and have some fun with me. Come on.
Q: Kurt Busch, the birthday boy.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, absolutely, let’s celebrate.
Q. Kind of following up on what he was asking, Kasey chose the outside on the restart prior to that, and I think most guys were choosing the outside all day long. Was that not a consideration for you because you had taken the lead by being on the inside and choosing the outside wasn’t even a given?
JEFF GORDON: I was terrible on the outside all day. The outside is good if you have the run on the exit, but I was having so much trouble getting in the corner on the outside that I was more afraid of losing it that way. My goal was to get a good restart and have the lane to myself, which I did.
Now, looking back on it, I probably would have rather put him on the inside. If I had known I was going to get that good of a restart, I think I would have rather put him on the inside and then I don’t think he could have gotten to the outside of me.
It doesn’t matter. You’ll go through that a million – I’ll go through that a million times. Listen, I’ve given away a lot more races than I’ve won. So whether it’s restarts – I mean, I’ve missed shifts here before. So I’m happy that we were in position. I’m bummed that it worked out the way it did. I’ll try to do it better the next time, and hopefully it works out.
Q: Kurt, congratulations on a good performance. Kurt’s 13th place, but he’s only 11 points out of that top 10 position, so it gets very interesting now with five to go before we set the Chase field. Kurt, congratulations.
KURT BUSCH: Thanks, Kerry. It was definitely a run that we were able to close the chapter, so to speak, on having a little problems here or little problems there. What I mean by that is we executed really well today with pit strategy, the pit stops, two tires, four tires, and to be in position at the end.
We even, when the 48 had their trouble and hit the fence and threw debris out on the track, we were even able to get into the pits before they closed them and get some tires on the car. So that’s just Todd Berrier, a head’s up call.
The way we made changes to the car, it just seems like the team is flowing really well, and I’m excited for this portion of the season, because we now getting to back to all these tracks a second time, and we have fresh notes of working together on this Furniture Row Chevy team.
What I’m happy about is this group of guys, we’re small, but we can shoot from the hip a lot and make up a lot of ground by being aggressive with going back to a track a second time knowing exactly what we did wrong the first time around.
So even though we didn’t win, I feel good about this third place finish. Even though we didn’t gain points, this was a championship-effort-type day.
Q. Kasey was told something on his radio before that next to last restart, that him and you had different second gears. Is there or what is the reason for that?
JEFF GORDON: Because I wanted the one that I had and he wanted the one that he had. I mean, NASCAR has given us the flexibility to play around with second and third gear. We shift here and that’s probably why. So we felt like we were getting beat on the restarts the last time we were here, so, as a company, we adjusted that and they went a little further than we did. I think it helped me.
But when you get that good start, you’ve got to make the most of it, and that’s where I feel like I let the ball drop there. But, yeah, we did have a little bit different, and we knew that going in. He was having pretty decent restarts all day long. They were very minor. I mean, we’re talking little tiny bits of difference.
Q. How critical was that last pit stop, and you did fight back from that, but did that play out in the end result or whatever?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I felt like our last pit stop wasn’t – it wasn’t great, and maybe it was a little less than average, so it put us behind the 24 and the 39. I was trying to hustle as much as I could on those fresh tires to get in front of those guys, and it didn’t materialize. So when you’re pushing hard early and then you get stuck behind guys, it just adds to some of the ill-handling of the car.
So, yeah, I mean, this is a game where you have to be perfect, and getting on and off pit road is my duty and the time that we spend in the box is the pit crew’s, and we win as a team and we finish third as a team.
Q. Jeff and Kurt, for you guys, we talked on Friday about the inconsistency of all the guys that are in this fight to get into the Chase. At this point, it’s not a win, but just putting together a couple of good finishes in a row and doing that for a few weeks, do you think that’s going to be enough to make up the difference, because everybody can’t seem to get it together for more than a couple weeks in a row?
JEFF GORDON: Well, for us, I feel like we’ve pulled together some decent finishes but it hasn’t been pretty. Today was an impressive run for us internally. Just well-executed, like Kurt was saying, good stops. Everything just kind of went our way.
It’s too competitive. The cars are too tight in how they’re built, how they perform, and everybody’s too good on pit road, and the drivers and the crew chiefs. So you’ve got to execute well.
I feel like we’ve been fortunate to get some of the top 10s that we’ve gotten here recently, and today I felt like we finally actually went out and earned that one.
KURT BUSCH: To follow up, I feel like we’ve been fast every week when we unload and practice, and we qualify well and we start the race decent. We’re just not closing the door. Today was one of those finishes where we closed the door, and it just gets me so excited to know that an area that we’re weak in, we need to polish up on it and fix it. The only way we’re going to make the Chase is to fix that weak area.
The way that you run consistent, even though Jeff finished second today and Biffle finished top 10, Truex, I think, was struggling today and came back and finished 15th. This is a competitive group. The top seven guys, I would say, are locked in. Kahne probably moved himself into a pretty good spot with two wins now, but there is still a lot of see-saw going on with guys. Like Biffle with one win, Stewart with a win, Truex with one win, and me and Jeff are winless, but here we are finishing second and third, so it’s tight.
Q. First of all, you’re top 5 this race is all Chevrolet. So want to talk about your confidence in that manufacturer, and also with Watkins Glen coming up, you talk about a lot of these tracks you’ve come back to for a second race. But Watkins Glen is a one-off. It’s the second road course, but just this one race coming up, you’re both excellent road course racers. Obviously, Jeff you have several wins, Kurt, not at the Glen, but you have a win and you’re a strong road course racer. How much effort are you putting into that race? I know they’re all important, but the notebook is looking for those second visits to the other tracks, but talk to me about Watkins Glen?
JEFF GORDON: You approach Watkins Glen like every track. It’s a track that you have to go perform well at. I think the competition has gotten so much stronger at the road courses than it used to be. Where I used to go to the road courses feeling confident that we were going to gain points and have a shot at winning, these days, I’ve got to fight hard to get a top 10.
But I feel good about our road course program this year. We finished good at Sonoma. Felt like we learned a lot at the end of the second half of the race at Watkins Glen last year. We kind of more did a test more for Watkins Glen than we did for Sonoma prior to Sonoma, so I’m hoping that pays off.
But I’m looking forward to the Glen. This stretch of races that are coming up, I think it’s one of the reasons we made the Chase last year. They’re just good tracks for us, and if we can start to put the execution together with the performance, I feel like we have a shot at staying in the top 10. You always want those wins, as Kurt was alluding to because you don’t want to see yourself just squeak outside the top 10 and then not have the win.
We’re going to be on – the closer we get to Richmond, the more aggressive we get. But I also think consistent top 5s would do it. I think that would get us in. But that’s a lot to ask for. But I think the Glen is a race we can perform well at.
KURT BUSCH: For us, we actually went and used one of our NASCAR tests at Watkins Glen, and I’m glad we did. I feel like there are track that’s I’m good on, and I feel like there are tracks that I struggle on. When we went there, we opened up Pandora’s Box with some braking issues, brakes, so we were able to master that by the end, and I feel very confident now heading back there not to just have speed in qualifying but to have speed throughout the race. It’s an important race. Sonoma is on the calendar in June, and the middle of August is much more important.
Q. Kurt, I saw you guys looking at the replay. Can you talk about the last restart, because it seemed maybe Kasey got a little bit of a slower start and Jeff got a really good one, and maybe you kind of gave Kasey a little bit of a push there?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, man, what’s up?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I was waiting to get out of here before Jeff saw that.
The way it all turned out is Jeff just caught Kahne sleeping. I’ve seen Kahne struggle a little bit on some restarts, and when he did, he slipped the tires at least twice. Then when he shifted to third gear, it was all wrong again, and I hesitated. My front bumper hit his rear bumper, and the only option I had at that point was to push.
I could have went four wide or five wide. I mean, the 88 got to my inside, and at that moment I was just hoping for the best. Who knew Kahne was going to squeak out and get alongside the 24 and beat him down into turn two. So the only option I had was to push him at that point, and it’s just the way that things fall.
It wasn’t premeditated. It wasn’t planned. Gordon went from winning to finishing second, and Kahne went from finishing second up to winning. My car might have had something to do with the draft on the outside lane.
Q. Kurt, you’re up to 13th, 11 points out of 10th. If you top 5 the rest of the way or top 10 the rest of the way do you feel like you’ll make the Chase?
KURT BUSCH: We just need to have nice, smooth races and execute just like today. What’s amazing is we finished 14th last week and gained one point. We finish third this week and gained two points, so it’s so tight.
When you’re running against Jeff Gordon, a four-time champion, Keselowski, a champion from last year is in this mix, Biffle is strong, Truex won earlier at Sonoma, this group of guys are all Chase material. For us, we’re just putting the blinders on and worried about the 78, and I’m just excited to go back to these tracks a second time and execute with the mistakes we made the first time around.
Q. Chevrolets sweep the top 5 today; I think Chevy has had six of the top seven at Indy. These are tracks that are usually indicative of how you guys run it at the big speedways. Is the difference that pronounced? Does Chevrolet have that much of an edge at this point in terms of horsepower and everything?
JEFF GORDON: I’ve never driven a Ford or Toyota, so I don’t know.
KURT BUSCH: Let me answer that. I’ve driven them all.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, go for it.
KURT BUSCH: No, go ahead.
JEFF GORDON: Not driving those, I don’t know. I know we’re making great power at Hendrick. I’m very happy with my horsepower. I think that our cars are really good right now as well. Chevy certainly contributes to that in their research and development in how they work with the teams. I know three of those top 5 were Hendrick cars.
I think Jimmie had an issue, I think he would have finished in the top 5 too. So Hendrick cars last week and this week were pretty strong.
But, honestly, I give Kurt a lot of credit, because those guys ran so well earlier in the year at some of these bigger tracks doing some things that our Spies out there capture, and we had to go to work because we were getting beat by some things that we weren’t trying and doing. We went to work, and I think we’ve made some gains.
Q. Do you have any thoughts?
KURT BUSCH: When I saw the group of Hendrick cars up front, it’s that sheer torque that they have on corner exit. I had the chance to drive the Phoenix Racing Chevy, and it might not have had 100% effort, and what I mean by that is they didn’t go to the chassis dine owe a lot, so some of the power might have been lost in the drive train.
But to experience the low-end torque, it shows up here every time you have a corner exit. In turns 1, 2, and 3, and the Hendrick power just has great power on the low end.
I think where I am with the ECR Engine and Childress’ group, they have great top end, and that shows when we unload, and the track is fast, and we keep the RPMs up. That is just a little difference, and that is just a little difference in Chevys versus the Fords.
The Toyotas the first time here were detuned a little bit, so we were able to take advantage of that the first time. But overall the Hendrick guys last week, there were four of the top 5. It’s a combination that when they start rolling, it’s a tough steamroller to slow down.
Q. Jeff, when you took the lead from Kasey coming off the restart, that was great racing. How hard is it, how fun is it to go two-wide all the way around this track?
JEFF GORDON: It’s not something I recommend, but it was necessary at the time. To be honest, I got a good restart on him on the inside, and I was able to pull in there and get even with him into one. I tried to roll around the bottom to get a good shot off and he slipped. I was pretty surprised I was able to actually get to his left rear and by catching him where I did, sort of like he did with me, it just stalled him out, and I had a good run going into the tunnel.
I was pretty aggressive through there to hold the position. Because I thought if I could get underneath him or stay underneath him going into three, it seemed like the inside was the preferred line. The outside was pretty slick and that was the case. He kind of had to give it up to me when we got to three.
I was driving as hard as I knew how to drive once I got in front of him and when I was up beside him. But at the same time, he’s your teammate. He’s a good friend of mine, and the last thing I wanted to do was wreck either one of us as well. But he was fighting hard, I was fighting hard, and it was fun.
When it all ends up like that and you’re the leader, it’s a lot of fun. I didn’t want to see that last caution that’s for sure. He was better than me. He was going to catch me, whether he could have passed me, I’m not sure.