Q: Jeff, in the past you've always talked about how important it is to get a win early in the season, you've been a big proponent of that. Now that you have that off your back what does that allow to you do and how can that help this team move forward and grow that maybe you didn't have that situation last year? Can you compare and contrast that? Forgive me, I don't know if I've heard this story about Cale Yarborough.
JEFF GORDON: All right. Where do I start? What was the first part of your question? I'm somebody who's really big on winning early, and the reason I say that is because to me, there was a lot of pressure on us not just this year winning early but going back the last 66 races that we have not had a win.
So there was a lot of pressure. When you get it out of the way early, what it allows you do, you're already just trying so hard to win, but to have the added pressure of, you have not won in 66 races. You hear it from the media, you hear it from the fans, and it's hard to ignore that. It's on all of us. I think that when you've had the success that we have had in the past – I guess every racecar driver knows that there's going to be that time in their life when they are not going to go to Victory Lane again and you don't know when that time is going to come. I was so hoping that time was not for me now.
I felt like I still have it in me. I know how passionate I am about it. But things have changed in the sport. The cars have changed. Tires have changed. Competition has changed. So when you go through a streak without winning, you think, "OK, is it me or what is it?" Days like today allow you to gain that confidence in yourself, just keep doing what you're doing, what's gotten you to Victory Lane in the past, keep giving that good information and when the tools around you and the chemistry is there throughout the whole team and good decisions are made, days like today will happen.
As far as Cale, when I was racing for Bill Davis in the Nationwide Series, I got a call from Cale. And he asked me if I would test his car at Charlotte, the Phillips '66, I think it was a Pontiac. And I ask Bill Davis because I was sort of under contract at that time, this was before I went to Rick. Actually I think it might have been my first year in Nationwide, not sure exactly when it came out. But I was flattered, thought it was really cool to get the opportunity. And he wanted me to drive his car at North Wilkesboro two or three weeks after that and I said, I'll test for you. And I told Bill that was the deal, can I just test and feel what a Cup car is like? I couldn't race for him, Ford would have had issues anyway. He said go get some experience.
I spun out on the first lap and Schrader came over to me and said, 'I think that thing is bombing out, make sure they raise it up, I think that's why he spun.' So we raced it and I didn't spin the rest of the day. I got that call from Cale, which blew me away and then the interaction with him as a team owner, testing his car, and I'll never forget that moment, that opportunity was something that I was very proud of.
Q: In terms of just the drought, if you want to call it that, how much did that weigh on you?
JEFF GORDON: It has not been fun, I'll be honest with you. Going to the racetrack and being competitive and battling for wins, that's been my whole motivation throughout my career. I've been so fortunate to be in that position to go to the racetrack with a shot at winning races on a pretty consistent basis, and that's what I love about racing. I don't love going out there and finishing 10th or 15th or 20th. I'll be honest, it's depressing and I know that might not come across the right way but when you've won 82 races, and you've worked for Hendrick Motorsports, that pressure is there and there's expectations not only from the outside but the inside.
When you go on that kind of a streak and drought, no doubt about it, it's frustrating. And it has not been a lot of fun going to the racetrack. And today, you know, man, that's what made it so sweet, this victory, is to be able to – it's not like we lucked into it. We battled and we worked and we outraced them and it was just so cool to experience that. It's got me excited about the rest of the season, as well. I think we can do this at other tracks, too.
Q: If I got the numbers right, you had eight runner-up finishes during the win-less drought, curious how the communication between you and Alan today differed than what it did with you and Steve Letarte during crunch time of a race? You were obviously in that situation a lot with Steve, not that one is any better or worse, but how is it different?
JEFF GORDON: I can't say it was a lot different. I mean, today I felt like we had the car to do it. Like the last time we were here, I thought Steve – the last time we had a shot at winning here, I guess a year ago, we had about a fourth or fifth place car that day, and Steve made the call to win the race. It was a great call and I messed it up on the restart. But the conversation wasn't really any different. Now Steve talks more than Alan does. And Alan threw out some things today, like pumping me up and just saying, "Man, we have got Jeff Gordon in the car" and stuff like that. And that's cool.
But we had the car to back that up. I felt like the last time we were in this position, we really didn't, and then I think back to like Martinsville when last year we were coming to the white flag; again that was kind of a pit call. We didn't really have the car. When I think of ones that got away I think of Texas and Vegas last year. We had the car to win the race and it just didn't happen. Just wasn't meant to be I guess. But Steve is a great crew chief. He and I really click. We get along and we are great friends and for whatever reason it just wasn't meant to happen for us. I think he's great for Dale Jr. and those guys are going to do very well together. This is kind of a win-win for all of us. And I just think that it's all about having the right setup with the right car at the right time and today was that.