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November 1, 2015
THE MODERATOR: We're going to hear from our race winner. That's Jeff Gordon. This is Jeff's 93rd win in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, his ninth win at Martinsville, and probably more importantly, he will now be competing for his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in a few weeks at Homestead‑Miami Speedway.
Jeff Gordon, congratulations. Talk about this win here today.
JEFF GORDON: I'm telling you, I keep going through these moments where I'm hearing you say it, and still it's not registering because I can't believe it. I cannot believe it.
This is turning into one of these just incredible storybook finishes to this year, to this career. Of all years, I mean, of all years, I cannot believe this. I'm so excited it's happening in this year.
That was clutch. That was huge. Yeah, we had a few things that fell in our favor. But you got to be there and be ready for that moment when it comes, and we were.
Our car was pretty solid all day. Our restarts were pretty good. We fought through some things. Our car was good on the long runs. We were having to make some adjustments there.
Yeah, we still had to go battle. Jamie is real aggressive on those restarts. Kyle and some other guys there. We had to battle it out with them. Whew, man, it was tough.
Gosh, this feels amazing. Feels amazing to be able to go to Homestead and go battle for that championship.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions now for Jeff Gordon.
Q. You've mentioned in the past several times although you've won four championships, you don't think you've ever won a Sprint Cup championship. Now that you're in a position to do that, would that make this the most memorable and most important championship of your career?
JEFF GORDON: I was going to stop Kerry when he was talking about the fifth championship and say exactly that. You mean, go for my first Sprint Cup championship.
The format has changed completely, the trophy is different, the banquet is completely different, the competitors are completely different. Everything's changed since I won a championship. It only makes it that much more meaningful to me, that it's been this long, that it's been in this format.
I will say I like this format. I liked it last year, and I like it better this year. I think it suits me personally. I think it suits our race team better. It's because of this racetrack right here that I feel that way, because this is a track that if we get here, and we had to still earn our way to this round, and we did, but I knew if we got here, we'd have a shot not only at just having a chance of winning, but even getting the points that we needed to advance and go do it over the next couple weeks.
This was huge. That's a huge moment and opportunity. Trust me, we are not going to take that lightly, that opportunity that lies in front of us. This is not, Okay, cool, we won Martinsville. We get to be one of the four at Homestead. We're going to watch them battle for the championship.
No way. No way. This team is way better than that. Nobody is more driven and excited than this race team is right now. Every resource we have, we'll be putting towards what we have to do to go be competitive enough to win the championship in Homestead.
Q. You've enjoyed the thundering crowd at Indianapolis, the crowds at Daytona after wins. What was that like to be up on stage with this crowd, and why did you go into the crowd at the end?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, gosh, I wish everybody could experience what that was like from my standpoint. It was unbelievable. I don't know what it feels like to be a rockstar, but that's as close as it can get I think. That's a rockstar moment right there.
There's so much on the line. I already have a tremendous amount of fans that are here pulling for us. But I think a lot of people that maybe aren't my fans are kind of looking at my career, the respect, just winding it down, what it means.
I was going to do a burnout. I was. I thought about it. First I'm going to stop here, get out, get the checkered flag. Then I saw that reaction. I'm not going to go anywhere. This is awesome. It was incredible. They didn't stop there. They just kept going.
That's why I went into the stands afterwards, because it just was non‑stop while we were in Victory Lane. People were just staying there. Who knew if we were going to run this race today with the weather, then it getting dark. I mean, they saw a heck of a race, that's for sure. If they wanted drama, they had it today. They just kept chanting the whole time while we were on the stage. It was way cool. I wanted to go say hi to them.
Q. What were your thoughts in the car when you saw the checkered flag on your cool‑down lap?
JEFF GORDON: There was so much screaming and yelling going on from my spotter, Alan, myself, it is just unreal. It was just unreal. I mean that: unreal. I couldn't believe that. I thought this could not be happening.
I mean, it's not that unusual for us to win a Martinsville race. That's not what I'm talking about. It's to be able to do it when so much is at stake, when you know that this is how you get to Homestead, to be one of those final four.
For us to be a team that nobody, nobody, had picked to be able to make it to Homestead, I love that we just keep proving them wrong and finding a way to move on.
I think that hopefully when we're at Homestead, people will give us a little more respect of what kind of depth our race team has.
Q. Was that an upset today?
JEFF GORDON: Well, yeah. I mean, look, Martinsville, you can't ever count us out at Martinsville. But I got to tell you, the 2, the 22, the 4, man, they were strong today, stronger than I thought they were going to be.
The 22, I knew he was good on short runs, but I felt like we have him covered on long runs. The first run we did that, but they made some adjustments and he was really good.
Then the 2, I mean, I was saving my stuff, running my line, just doing what I felt like I needed to do. My car was working pretty well. He just came up and smoked me, blew me off. I was like, Wow! At that point we became an underdog.
But you know what, you got to be there at the end to win these races, especially here at Martinsville. They weren't there. We were. For whatever reason, we were, they weren't, and here we are.
It wasn't given to us, I can tell you that. But we certainly had some help. That would not be the first time I've had help winning a race at Martinsville. That's kind of how races go sometimes.
Q. What were you thinking when you saw what Matt did to Joey? Is this just always going to be a self‑policing sport when it gets down to it?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I wasn't ready for it, I'll be honest. The way I remembered the wreck, I thought the 2 got into the 20. I couldn't quite see what the 22's role played in it. As soon as I went by, I thought, Wow, did I just see that?
I also put myself in Matt's shoes. I could relate. I could relate to frustration getting the best of you. I didn't blow a right front tire like he did today, but I can relate. I get it.
You might have some regrets later, but I understand why you make that choice at the moment. I think there's a lot of different things that you can look at it because I feel like what you say and how you do it, things that you do, come full circle. That exists on both sides of that. I could relate to being on both sides of it.
Yeah, I was shocked at first because I wasn't prepared for that to happen. Then I was like, Oh, my, this is going to get big. Then there was no fight (smiling).
Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it helped me. I mean, the 22, I felt like we had a better car than him in the longer runs. We weren't going to have a long enough run towards the end of this race, in my opinion, to really take advantage of that.
Yeah, when that happened, I was like, This is our opportunity right here to win this race. Boom, we got to go do it.
Q. You've said many times over the course of the season with everything that transpired you wished at times your fans had had more moments from the on‑track performance to enjoy.
JEFF GORDON: This makes up for all that. I mean, nobody's more frustrated. You turn on the TV, you're watching a racing show, the radio. You know, I mean, I listen to NASCAR on Sirius and stuff. Nothing is more frustrating than when people call in and say, If Jeff Gordon doesn't win this year, it's going to tarnish his career. He's got to get a win. He's going to have to win to make Homestead, all this stuff.
I hear it. I agree. I felt like if we didn't win this year, it was going to take away from it a little bit. I felt like if we points raced our way into Homestead, that would help make up for it if we didn't win. I feel like if you're going to win the championship, you have to win this, not just here, but at Homestead. I'm hoping we got one more in us.
Q. I know you talked about how maybe you guys are underdogs. You're very good at Homestead. Do you think people now have to fear you?
JEFF GORDON: Well, listen, why can't we win at Homestead? That's what I say. I think a lot of people didn't think we could do this, and we have. There's no reason why we can't do it there as well.
I agree with you. I like Homestead. It's a good track for us. We were better last year. We dominated that race, I know. But we were better last year on the mile‑and‑a‑half's than we were this year. There's no secret about that. It's a little bit on us and a little bit of our competitors just being better.
You don't just flip a switch and automatically find some magic. But we've been working on a lot of things. We've been getting better. We showed it at Chicago. We're going to go to Texas and have to step up there as well.
It's an abrasive track at Texas. It's an abrasive track at Homestead. That suits us and it helps. I think that helps a lot when we're on mile‑and‑a‑half's. But I'm still going to tell you that our team is making up for that. I absolutely think that we're just as capable as anybody else that's going to be in that final four.
Q. Compare this win to your first win at Charlotte. And have you talked to Clay?
JEFF GORDON: He already said he's getting me the caboose. I also asked him to include the horn. The train is not the same without the horn (laughter).
This is one of the finest moments I think I've ever had in my career, I'll be honest. It's just because what this year means, that this is my final year, my final race at Martinsville, punching our ticket to Homestead, having my family here, the hard work this team has put together, that reaction from the fans. This is one of my finest moments I've ever had.
Not my most emotional one. I held that back. I've been holding it back. I'm not going to be able to hold it back at Homestead. I hope it's because we're doing something even more special than what we did here today.
Q. Did you allow yourself through the season to think about how this sort of storybook thing is possible? Not a lot of athletes get to go out with the opportunity you have now.
JEFF GORDON: No, I wasn't allowing myself to go there. I didn't want to allow myself to go there coming into Martinsville because I knew we were going to have our work cut out for us today. We saw that earlier this year. I knew we were going to see it again today, and we did.
I just wanted to hopefully seize that moment, then just experience it to the fullest. I did. I'm going to continue that all the way through Homestead. I'm going to eat a lot of these Goody's Powders, I'll tell you that.
This is incredible. It's absolutely incredible. This whole year has been, I don't know, I can't even put it into words. I made the announcement. I was super emotional about it. Then we went to work. We were getting our butts kicked. We weren't competing the way we wanted to. I'm like, Man, this is not the way I thought I saw this season going, the way I was hoping it would go.
I had to check myself. I'm so proud of Alan Gustafson. He put me in check. He works so hard. One of the best crew chiefs I've ever worked with. I'm working too hard to let this slip away from us, and it almost did. That brought us back together as a team, as a driver/crew chief, that communication. We started going to work then. We started getting better and better ever so slightly every single weekend as a race team.
From that point on, I thought, Man, the season's not over. Anything can happen. Let's get ourselves in the Chase. We got ourselves in the Chase. We went to Chicago. That changed everything to me. To run the way we ran at Chicago, to lead laps, have a fast racecar, even though I didn't finish it the way I wanted to, that turned it around for me to go, Wait a minute, they're not even thinking we're on the radar. We are, more than people think. Not only are we capable of being very consistent, but I think we can run better than people think we can, too.
We've proved it the last now seven weeks.
Q. Earlier in the season, did you have a points finish number in your head that you thought you could be proud of going out like that?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I don't want to set my goals too low. Being in the top 16. There was a point when we weren't going to make the Chase. We were close to not making the Chase. At that point I thought, I just want to make the Chase. That trip to Chicago is really special, interact with that group of drivers. It's not easy to do. So that's kind of where it started.
But, again, when we ran as good as we did at Chicago, I was like, Wait a minute, all right, I'd like to see us advance to the next round. We advanced to the next round. Each time you just kind of reset your goals.
I didn't have any preconceived mindset of what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be competitive. That's what was frustrating. I wasn't competitive, not at the tracks I felt like we should have been. The ones we were, we weren't capitalizing on it. This makes up for a lot of it, I can tell you that.
Q. I saw you had your kids in Victory Lane. This is a big win. How was that for you? Did they really get a sense of how big a win this was for you?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I hope that one day Leo remembers this. I think back to when I was five, I remember some special moments, but I don't remember a whole lot when I was five of things like this. But my daughter, she gets it. She made a comment to me, My teacher said she never started watching racing until I came into her class.
She's going to go to school and people are going to probably say they saw her on TV, how did the race go, whatever maybe. She gets to talk about this moment. We get to talk about it all the way home. That's very special.
Ingrid, I love her so much. She so badly wants to see us succeed and be a part of a championship celebration. She's never experienced that. I can just tell she's really excited and proud.
We wanted to go to Homestead. We got a lot of people coming to Homestead, regardless of what was happening with the championship. We had a tremendous amount of people coming to Homestead just to celebrate with us what this career has meant. Making a lot of plans.
It's pretty cool now to see that we're going to get a chance to go there and actually compete for the championship. She's been through all those tough times. I think the wives, sometimes it's tougher on them because they don't have much control on what goes on. It eats them up inside when things aren't going the way you feel like they're capable of or she feels like they are.
Whether you're a crew chief's wife or driver's wife, pit crew member, whatever it may be, or husband, it's tough, because you're sitting there trying to support them but you can't really contribute or do anything other than just support them.
To know she's supported me the way she has, to see that smile on her face today was awesome.
Q. Friday you said your core fans are right here. Did you feel them today?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I told you, I had an event on Thursday night and saw a bunch of them. There were more here today than I thought. It was unbelievable. All weekend long, lots of autographs and pictures. I could tell the heightened sense. Even a lot of fans tell me, This is my last race, last chance I'm going to get to see you. I felt like I was dying (laughter).
I'm not dying, I'll be back.
I don't know, I'm not coming to any more races if you're not here.
To know the kind of support I have around here, to reward them with that, God, that was awesome. It's a great feeling.
Q. Even if you hadn't made the Chase, hadn't won a race, been 40th in points, Homestead was going to be a zoo. Now it's going to be probably out of control.
JEFF GORDON: It was already out of control. Now it's going to really be out of control. Thanks, I was enjoying this moment right here (laughter).
Q. Do you think you're going to have to readjust your thinking going into that week?
JEFF GORDON: I'm thinking now the track and NASCAR might actually allow me to have all those people there (laughter).
Yeah, it's going to adjust and change things, which is cool. Again, this is what I love about this format. Very cool about winning this race. I thought about Joey Logano when he won at Charlotte, how you can plan ahead for the next couple weeks. There's nothing cooler than winning the first race in this round, to know you're going to Homestead so you can think about it, plan for it, you can adjust your schedule accordingly.
I'm going to be 100% focused. Yeah, I got a lot of people coming there, but it's all about the preplanning. I'm 100% focused to go there and do what I got to do with this race team. I can't wait to get to work on that.
I know when I get back on my phone, the things I'm going to be texting and emailing with Alan and the engineers already just from today. I can't wait to get in that meeting on Tuesday and start working on that. I'll be working with my own personal team at JG, Inc., John Edwards to make sure we got everything squared away to make that week enjoyable, but very serious about this championship.
Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF GORDON: The budget just changed for her, I think (laughter). She's going to go add a few things. The banquet dress might change. Doesn't this mean now we actually have to go to the banquet or stay there?
Q. (No microphone.)
JEFF GORDON: It can't get any better than the one we're going to throw. I'm not even going to talk about it. It's going to be fun, cool.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff Gordon, congratulations. We'll see you next week at Texas, definitely at Phoenix, and Homestead‑Miami.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports