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February 28, 2010

Jeff Gordon

Kevin Harvick


THE MODERATOR: We're joined pie today's second-place finisher, Kevin Harvick. Kevin, tell us about your run.
KEVIN HARVICK: It was a good day. For us, I put us behind on Friday when I smacked the wall there in practice. The guys did a great job fixing the car. We just got behind from that point and were able to make up ground today. That to me is the most promising thing we've been able to do the last two weeks, is go to the back and come to the front.
It was tough to pass today. We were able to get the track position that we needed at the end of the race. Just came up one spot short.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Some days do you feel like 'best in class'?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, you know, I feel like the beginning of the run they got out from us. I felt like at the end of the run we were just as good as they were. It's just a matter of we got a little bit looser than we had been all day long the last two runs.
We can run with them and they know it.

Q. Kevin, you took two tires on the last stop. Were you surprised that Gordon did? They seemed to have the field covered. Jimmie took four. It appeared that was the difference in the end. Were you surprised by that?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't remember if the last caution was the caution where they had all the lap cars in between. But, you know, I think, yeah, it all just depends on how your car is handling. The balance of our car didn't change when we put two tires on it or no tires on it. Our car was fairly consistent all day. I don't know exactly what they were fighting.
Sometimes if you're a little bit loose you put two tires on and the thing will tighten up a little bit. I don't know what the characteristics of his car were at that point.

Q. If you had a better starting position, better Friday, do you think you could have given the 48 a run for his money?
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, we had the opportunity there at the end and just kind of got -- we were fifth or sixth there on the restart, kind of lost the same distance that we were behind at the end of the race.
You know, having a better Friday would have been very beneficial for us to keep our track position where we needed it to be there at the end. If we had been second or third, I think we could have run with him.
Do I think we could have beat him? I don't know. But I think we would have at least had a shot.

Q. Can you have any idea what was going on when the caution lights malfunction? Did your team explain what was going on?
KEVIN HARVICK: I saw it come out the first time. Nobody said anything. Nobody was slowing down. Well, we'll just keep going till somebody tells me to slow down. Second one they came on, spotter didn't see the flag come out of the flag stand. The flagman turned backwards, What's going on? We knew they were having some issues. You just had to run a little bit longer than you would normally when you think you see the caution lights until the spotter said something. We were very dependent upon him today.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin, thank you and congratulations.
We're joined by today's third-place finisher, Jeff Gordon. Jeff, tell us about your run.
JEFF GORDON: Well, obviously it was a great day for us, dominating performance. The car was awesome, everything was good. Very disappointed to get beat by a two- versus four-tire stop.
You know, Steve and I talked about it all weekend long, going into today. We came here to win. You know, we knew we were going to have to take chances and risks, and we did throughout the day, and it paid off for us. I think we just thought more people would take two tires. It just didn't work out.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. You ever have a day where you ask yourself, Why did I bring Jimmie to Rick Hendrick?
JEFF GORDON: Today I do. You know, five, 10 years from now when I'm cashing in on it, I'm not (laughter). You know, somebody once told me that, you know, if you're gonna get beat, make sure you're getting a piece of it. You know, that's one positive to take out of it.
You know, it doesn't matter to me who it is out there, whether it's our own teammate or whether it's a competitor, you know, you want to go out there and compete against the best and you want to beat the best. And I feel like, you know, our best days with our 24 team over the years, we're going up against Mark Martin when he was at Roush, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. when he was at Childress, you know, Dale Jarrett at Yates.
So while it's coming in-house, it's still another competitor. And it drives us. It inspires us. It motivates us. You know, the reason you saw us perform and dominate the way we did today is because of those guys pushing us. We don't take that lightly. You know, we're just like every other competitor out there: we are pissed off about it.
We came here today on a mission, and we did it all day long. Unfortunately, you know, the two-tire stop just didn't work out for us.

Q. Can you just go through the last couple of laps and why the car maybe started giving out.
JEFF GORDON: The last couple laps? I mean, I knew we were a sitting duck when we got into first. I got a great restart, which was our only chance that we could possibly have, knowing that Clint was on old tires. So I got a good restart, got by him.
But, I mean, it was just a matter of time because two versus four, and I was so tight. Had we freed up the car a little bit more, and we did free it up for the two tires, but I just think we needed to do more of it. Maybe, maybe, maybe then we had a shot at it.
I ran so hard trying to get his car to tighten up behind me, you know, with dirty air, and I blocked him. I did everything I could, and it just took everything out of the right front tire. Took everything out of the right front tire, built the right front tire up so much I was just plowing it at the end.
I knew when Jimmie got by me, we were probably going to lose second as well. While I ran a few laps that slowed Kevin down, where I ran in front of him on the bottom, I couldn't maintain it.
You know, we were just fading.

Q. Can you sort of talk about the decision to take two versus four tires, why you went with that instead of taking four.
JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, if we won the race we'd look like geniuses, Steve would have. The fact that we lost the race, now Chad looks like a genius. That's how it goes sometimes. When you're leading, that's the toughest position to be in, to make that call.
I talked to Steve briefly after the race. He's pretty upset obviously. I think he just felt like more people were gonna take two tires. Shoot, we were thinking for a split second to stay out. If we'd have done that, I think we would have finished 10th.
You know, I felt like we needed to come in and get some tires, but I felt like two tires was the right call, too. We just needed the 48 to take two. They did the opposite of us. That won the race for them.

Q. Jeff, on some Saturdays, do you feel a little bit like Kyle Busch last year, leading many laps and then only to lose it at the end?
JEFF GORDON: I'm disappointed, but at the same time, you know, we haven't dominated like this in a very, very long time. So, you know, I'm disappointed that the opportunity got away that we dominated so much and that we had the car to win the race. Very disappointed in that.
But at the same time, you know, I'm very really excited about this race team. You know, I've been saying it all winter long. Even the first two races, I've been trying to say it. If you don't have the results, then it doesn't matter.
So today we showed what we're capable of. It gives us a lot of momentum to go to Atlanta. So I think we've got more of what we showed today that, that we're going to show a lot more. I think we're just starting to tap into it.

Q. Jeff, you had the field covered obviously all day. On that last stretch before the final pit, Jimmie was gaining ground on you every lap. Was that a factor in taking two? Did you think you didn't know if you could hold him off even if you took four?
JEFF GORDON: No, I had no doubt in my mind we could hold him off with four tires.
Between the two cars, the 48 and the 24, whoever got out front at the end of that race was going to win the race if you had equal tires. I mean, we were very, very equal. They were better at certain stages of the run, but he couldn't pass me. But, you know, I'm very confident, if he had taken two, I'm confident we would have won this race. If we'd have taken four and got out front of him, that's the only factor. If we took four and they beat us out, you know, then it would have come down to the restart. Who knows what would have happened on that.
Had we been out front with four tires, I mean, he could catch me, but he didn't have anything for me once he caught me. You know, we were that good and they were that good and the track was real fast today. It was real hard to pass.

Q. Everybody is going to write tomorrow, Jimmie is out of the gates, give him the championship. What is it going to take to beat Jimmie? Can you talk about some of the drivers that can give him the battle like yourself?
JEFF GORDON: I don't like giving those guys bonus points. That's something you don't want to give them. They already are very strong, especially for those final 10.
But I'm kind of hoping they peak early this year and that some of us can gain the momentum as we get to the Chase. It's gonna make us all work really, really hard, you know. But who knows. They're very good. You know, they haven't had a lot of turnover in people and changes. They're the team to beat.
But, you know, we showed today that we can beat 'em, and that's what I'm more excited about than anything else.

Q. You've touched on this a little bit already. I know it's frustrating to lose. You look at the board today, Hendrick 1, 3, 4, Junior 16. Do you feel you have picked up right where you left off at the end of last year? I know you work hard in the off-season to try to keep it up, but you never know until the other cars get on the track where you stand.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, the Childress cars have shown a lot of strength early on already, so I've seen where they've made big improvements. The Roush cars at times were really strong today. And you never know within our own organization whether you're working on the right things over the off-season, coming to the track, if you've done every single thing that you feel like you could do to be competitive.
But we've shown already this year that we're very strong. I feel like our team's much stronger than we were last year. So you know, I feel really good about that. I think that we've stepped up a notch. I feel like the 48, it's hard to get much better than they were already, but they've maintained that. You know, the 5 is very strong. And we've elevated up the 88.
I do think with this car and with what's going on with the economy and everything, our organization has been able to maintain a pretty high level of competition. It's nice to know we're doing the right things.

Q. Does it ever cease to amaze you that when it comes down to a decision between no tires, two tires, four tires, the 48 always seems to have that right?
JEFF GORDON: You know, that's what makes a good team. I mean, when you're a good team, like last week, people were talking about, Man, look how lucky they are. That's not luck. You do everything you can as a team right, and when everything is clicking, good things happen. And that to me is not good luck; that's you creating, you know, things around you to work in the right direction.
I've been a part of it before myself with our team. So that's to me just a really well-prepared team that executes very well when it comes to race time. You know, that all came down to a decision. You know, it was a very good decision.
The thing is, when you're in the position that they're in, they're so strong, they've won so many races over the last several years, that it just gives them a lot of confidence, and that helps you continue to make good decisions. When you've dominated the way that they have, you know, it's easy to take a little more risk and, you know, when it doesn't go your way to go, Okay, that's all right, the majority of the time it does go our way. It just helps you make better decisions each time you come down to that.
You got to give 'em credit where credit's due. They're very strong, a very good team.

Q. Jeff, as long as that green flag was up to the last yellow, had we continued green closer to the end of the race, would that have changed the call in any way between the two and four tires?
JEFF GORDON: I think the more laps we ran, the more two tires would have made sense. I think there were just a few too many laps for the two tires. I think that's the only thing I see that maybe went against us.
Again, if more guys had taken two, I think we were in good shape, you know. So the fact that we only had, what, us, and I think Jimmie or Harvick came out behind me, so just a couple of us that took two that got ahead of Jimmie, we needed four or five guys to be ahead of the first car on four tires, especially a car like the 48 that ran so well.
Had we come down closer to the end, we probably wouldn't have come in, you know. That would have got things very interesting, too, because half the lead-lap cars probably would have come in, some of them taken two or four, probably four. But, you know, from a leader's standpoint, you know, it's so tough to make that decision.
We've seen this so many times. The leader comes down pit road at the end of the race they usually get beat because the other guys just do the opposite of whatever you do because they don't have anything to lose, and it usually works in your favor to be second, third or fourth or fifth.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff, thank you and congratulations.

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