Q: The moment you took the checkered flag, did you feel more joy or relief?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, no. It was all joy. Trust me. But maybe the joy came from a little bit of relief, but I got – shoot, with two or three laps to go, when I started pulling away from Kyle, and I knew that all I had to do was pray that that white flag would come out before the caution, you know, and just put laps together, you know, I mean, I started having all kinds of thoughts and emotions and things, because it was just one of those roller coaster rides today. And it's been a roller coaster ride for the 24 team the last couple of years.
And you know, it just seems like all of that gets bottled up. You work so hard and it means so much; because of those moments and those times when you didn't get the wins. I didn't know what the reaction, what was going on in the crowd. I knew we put on a good race. But I was just – I was just feeling a lot of emotion, because it's just so cool. You know, it's just so cool to get back to winning and that kind of – have a dominating performance like we had today with all of the issues. Just over the off-season, talking to Alan, talking to Rick, with the changes, and just seeing the things that they were doing, I just felt like we were doing the right things. But then we showed up here and qualified 20th and I was like, 'Oh, man, that was a little bit of a letdown.' But when they dropped the green today, I was like, 'Ahh, that's what I thought it would be like.' To pull it off it's awesome, it's a great feeling.
I have to be honest with you, when I did the burnout, which I know wasn't a very good one, because I'm not very good at it; if we win some more, I'll get better at it. And I'm sorry, Rick, I think I hurt the engine or something because I spun around there and it would not start up again. (Laughter) But I got out of it down there in the grass, and I looked up, and I mean, I didn't see an empty spot.
And then I was like, that's cool and I mean, I was feeling the emotions but to see them react like that. And then the push truck pushed me around and to see them all the way down doing that, I was like, I don't know if I've ever experienced something like that. And that to me made it all worth it right there to have that feeling.
Q: Did you cry at all?
JEFF GORDON: Well give me your definition of cry. There were no tears. The chin was shaking. I had to check myself. You've seen the boo-hooing. There was no boo-hoo crying. When I saw my wife, because you know, she has not been able to experience all of the wins.
And so you know, to go through a lot of things with her and the conversations that we've had, when I saw her, I knew that that was going to get me. So that got me a little bit.
And then seeing Rick that, got me a little bit. When I saw him, I was just excited. That was just cool. So you know, I guess when you go that long, and you work that hard, you expect to have that. I do, anyway.
Q: Did the two of you in the off-season do anything to kind of solidify your relationship? I know you guys have known each other for a long time, but to try to get that communication going between the two of you before you actually got into competition, did you guys do anything like that?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, gosh, to me, I was just highly motivated. I mean, the thing happened pretty fast. I think Rick could probably talk about it more than I could. But it happened pretty quick. And I've always admired Alan, always respected him. I go back, probably even when Kyle was driving for us, I remember having conversations with Alan about things that they were doing and I was like, you know, he just – I like the way he talked about things, I like the ideas that he had and the things that they were doing.
And I liked him even more, because this is a young Kyle Busch. That's what we always say around Hendrick Motor Sports, that's a young Kyle Busch. Young Kyle Busch was a handful. I could remember every weekend, they would be fast and he would hit the wall and they would spend most of their time fixing the car in practice. To see him go through, knowing they are building fast racecars, but to be able to handle himself the way he handled those situations with a young Kyle Busch, was impressive.
So I've always admired him. And then when I got a chance to be over there and I came in and he's just business; I mean, here's what we are doing, what we are working on, I've got an idea on seat and dash and we are going to test here and we are going to test here. And I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm on board, man, whatever you need. Whatever you need.'
And to see the whole atmosphere in the shop, that solidified it for me. I didn't think he and I had to have some sit down conversation about, hey, here is how I talk and here is what I do. To me, it was just more about the work that was being put into it.
Q: Alan, you've won with Kyle, you've won with Mark Martin and now you win with Jeff.
JEFF GORDON: It's him.
Q: It's like you're a troubleshooter. Rick Hendrick can really plug you in anywhere and you can identify whatever's going on, and you seem to have a knack for fixing the issue.
ALAN GUSTAFSON: I think it's this practice, because I've won with all three of them here. That's probably the only place that I've done that. To me, to say you've won with Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin, I think you're pretty lucky you know what I mean. If I would have won with somebody who has never won, I think that's probably a bigger accomplishment.
I thank Mr. Hendrick for putting me in position to work with drivers of that caliber. There are a lot of people there who are going to work their whole lives and never have opportunities like that. I think it's awesome that I've got those chances and to work with Kyle and Mark and now Jeff, they are three Hall of Fame drivers, arguably three of the best ever to drive these cars, and I'm just ecstatic that I've got those opportunities.