NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 10, 2022
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by two NASCAR Hall-of-Famers and the members of the ownership group for today's winning team. That is owner of Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick, and the vice-chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, Jeff Gordon. Gentlemen, obviously a huge win for Chase personally with this being his home track, but it really seems now that potentially after a lot of parity, Chase may be the championship favorite. What do you think about this win and his prospects as we head to the Playoffs in seven races?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, he's on a roll. Awful close last week, and then bringing this one home. You know, we're excited.
I think they've gained a lot of momentum and they had some rough luck, and now it looks like they are really poised to move on.
We've just got to keep it going. This is a tough, tough business. These cars are so close. Anything can happen in a pit stop and you're in a big jam.
I know it means a lot to him to win at this track, to him and his family, so this was a great day.
JEFF GORDON: I just saw a look in his eye today all day. When we saw him this morning you could just hear in his voice over the radio, he was just very focused and determined, and you get there from already having a couple wins under your belt. The team is starting to gel, leading the points, coming to your home track, sponsors like NAPA, hometown for them, Hooters.
I think just a lot of motivation behind it and confidence coming into it, and now I think the confidence is only going to build among him and the team. That's a great combination to have at this point in the season.
Q. Rick and Jeff, 25 years ago Jeff won his second Winston Cup here at this track, and here we are today. Chase already has a NASCAR Cup and gets his first win at home. Just talk about how Hendrick is still one of the most if not the most dominant team in NASCAR today.
RICK HENDRICK: You know, it's all about the people, and if you go back and look at Victory Lane, this guy picked me up, so I thought it was pretty impressive that he could do that.
You know, it's all about the people. We've got young people, we have people that have been there a long time, guys like Jeff that win championships and helped build the organization, and I think we just keep that competitive spirit.
We want to be there every year. We know we can't win all the races and can't win all the championships, but if you keep the core together, I think you're going to at least be there every year to participate, and I'm really proud of our guys.
This is the best all four cars have ever -- crew chiefs have ever worked together. I think it's going to be a great year for us, and I hope we can keep the momentum going into the Chase.
JEFF GORDON: I just think it starts with the foundation. I think of the first day that I came to Hendrick Motorsports and the foundation that Rick had already built there. They had great people and engineering and race cars and drivers, and it was just all about putting it all together at the right time like we did in '95. It just seems like since 1995, this organization has just been on an incredible roll of realizing what they're capable of and just building on that.
The foundation is still incredibly strong. It's a little bit deeper now, too, because of all the years of success.
But I think Rick nailed it; we've got I think the best group of drivers, crew chiefs, engineering, staff, just depth throughout the organization. It's the best that I've ever seen. And the communication on top of that, the way they're sharing information.
Listen, we came into this year with so many unknowns, coming off of a dominant year with building our own cars and understanding what it took to have that kind of success, and we just had no idea what that was -- what those ingredients were going to be with this type of a car, and the nice thing is it's still all about the people and the foundation.
Q. Following up on that, just want to know what the number 287 means. That's how many career wins now for Team Hendrick.
RICK HENDRICK: That means I'm an old man.
No, we put all the wins on the wall. We've been doing this a long time. I remember when he was like 20, and now he's 51?
JEFF GORDON: Next month.
RICK HENDRICK: But I think it's just a pride and -- I never thought we'd get to 150 and I didn't think we'd be able to catch Richard's record, and now it looks like we might be able to get to 300 here one of these days.
But it's a heck of a feat to get wins like that in this series.
Q. Chase's performance today, it seemed like maybe he had the best car, but it seemed like he was making the best moves. Talk about how you would evaluate him as a superspeedway racer.
JEFF GORDON: Well, I just go back to the focus that I saw in him before the race and just listening to him on the radio. Got to give a lot of credit to Eddie D'Hondt, too, his spotter, giving him a lot of good information. Those two guys are really in sync, also great calls in the pits to try to get the best tires, manage the fuel mileage as well as track position which was obviously very important.
But I think it was pretty obvious early on when he could get up into those first couple rows, he had a car that if he made the right decisions and moves, he could get to the lead and kind of control the race.
Clearly he had a lot of confidence in his car and in his abilities today, but man, it's always a team effort. I know we say that all the time. But even in Victory Lane, I looked at him and said some things to him that you don't always say, and it's just because he to me gave me that feeling, all of us on the team, that feeling, even on the box when it was all over, Alan Gustafson was immediately going, how about that guy today, how about that guy today.
They clearly give a lot of credit to the job that Chase did today. He's an amazing superspeedway racer.
But I think here, what I like about this track is that you've got the little bit of combination of superspeedway and handling, and so I think it almost even plays a little bit better into somebody like Chase Elliott's hands and the way he likes to race, but he's clearly good at Talladega and Daytona, as well.
RICK HENDRICK: He's a smart driver. Really smart. He knows when to make the move. Sometimes you're thinking, hey, I think it's time to go, and he'll sit there, and then when he sees it, it's the right time, he makes it. Very seldom does he make a mistake.
JEFF GORDON: And didn't panic when he did lose the lead there. Those were intense restarts. I know how we were feeling up on the box. I can only imagine what it's like inside the car, but he stayed so calm in those situations to get himself back to the lead.
Q. After William's win here in March you said probably six is the limit in terms of how many superspeedway style races. You get the win from Chase, but you lose the 24 and the 48 and the 5 is involved in a crash. How do you look at a day like that?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, it's always bittersweet when you have cars that are all running really well and you come away with one. But only one can win. They'll have their turn.
Look, when you look up and you see one of your cars backwards in a wreck destroyed, you feel for those guys because William had a fast car, and he just has had the rottenest luck, he and Alex both. So has actually Kyle, too.
But if we come with speed, we're going to win a few. It is really tough when you see cars go out of a race.
But winning is what we're here for, so we celebrate with Chase, and we know the guys had speed and we'll go to the next race.
Q. Speaking on the success of all four teams this year, how has Chase Elliott's last few wins reignited the fire that kind of got burnt out there a little bit after Byron has kind of just fell off, and how is the organization as a whole going to team up and work as making one goal as a championship?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, the crew chiefs are working together better than I've ever seen them before, and the drivers sharing information in the meetings. Doing a race, a rain-out, they go together and come up with a plan, and they're going to race all the way to the end that way. They did last year with Chase and Kyle. When one of them -- when you can take two to the Final Four, then you've had a really good year, and you know one of them has got a good shot to win.
Our job is just to give them the best equipment, and they know that when you get in the Chase, don't quit doing what's gotten you here; that's sharing, working together. As long as we do that, I think we'll have a great opportunity to end up in Phoenix.
Q. I know you guys are focused on the win and this moment, but I wanted to ask you guys about Corey because I know Corey reached out during his free agency about a potential ride. What do you think about him as a racer? Even in defeat today he had great things to say about Chase and said wins are important and we all had to go for it.
JEFF GORDON: I like Corey's attitude and I like his drive. He's got a lot of passion, and he showed that today. It was unfortunate with the way it ended up for him, but I thought he and the team and the car showed a lot today.
You know, you want a guy like that who has the pedigree that he has, has the passion that he has and with the work ethic to get the opportunity that he's searching for. But I think today will certainly go a long way. We've got a great relationship with Spire. It was a lot of fun watching him racing hard but also working together there at the end. I kind of wish it could have been a one-two instead of the way it ended up.
But he's a guy that's been around the sport a long time and knows the ebbs and the flows, and I think his performance today is going to do more for him than maybe what the result will show.
Q. Rick, following up on that, you've talked about people in the sport and relationships. Obviously you've had a relationship with Corey's dad and maybe a little bit with Corey, but the bottom line is to win for your organization, but to see Corey up there, what was it like for you from a personal standpoint?
RICK HENDRICK: I was proud. I was excited. If we couldn't win, I really wanted him to win. We do the motors for them, we do a lot of things with them, and he's a great guy. I think a whole lot of Dickerson and those guys. That was a Cinderella story, and I would have loved -- if we couldn't win, I wanted him to win because he drove a heck of a race and did a heck of a job. He looked as good as anybody in this field out there today.
Q. Jeff, this season has all been about unpredictability and ups and downs, and for as strong as your organization is, the 9 team seems to have had maybe more consistency than just about any other team out there this year. What is it that you see or what are some of the things that they're doing well or are going well for them that they're kind of not having this up and down that even some of the top teams have from week to week with this new car and limited practice and everything else?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, you know, as you guys are saying that, it makes me think back to earlier in the year when they were very consistent but not getting the wins, and everybody is putting the focus on guys like Byron and others that were getting the wins, and it was, well, where are the wins for the 9 team, and now all of a sudden the wins are coming.
But the consistency has kind of been there from the beginning for them, and now I think they're on more of a roll as far as figuring out how to get their car in position at the end of these races to get the wins, and everything has kind of come together, the pit stops, everything, so you're constantly working on that.
You've got to think of Alan, the years that he and Chase have been together, the team in general, just not a lot of turnover within that team, so they're a very solid group. They showed it two years ago when they won the championship, showed it again last year going all the way to the Final Four and battling for the championship, in position really. That race could have gone any which way at Phoenix there in the closing laps.
I think they're just following up the consistency that they just have as a group who works together, and I think it's showing up on the racetrack.
Q. Jeff, you won a number of times at your home track. This is the first time that Chase has won a Cup race at his home track. I was wondering if you could talk about the psychological advantage behind winning at your home track compared to other tracks.
JEFF GORDON: Well, he has a great fan following everywhere he goes, but here there's no doubt, it's something special to him. He's a hometown kind of guy. You say my home track, that was my adapted track, right, if you're talking about Indianapolis. Everybody talks about, well, you had multiple home tracks; which one was it. He's got one. It's here in Georgia. He's a Georgia guy through and through, from the sports teams to living here, his family legacy.
I know this one meant a lot because he's been close a couple other times, and I've seen the hurt when it doesn't come through of what it meant to him to not get it done.
I know today, and you could just see the way he interacted with the fans because he knew how much this one meant to him as well as to his fans.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports