THE MODERATOR: Let’s roll into our post-race for today’s 44th Annual Good Sam Road Side Assistance 500 here at Talladega Superspeedway. Our race runner-up was Jeff Gordon. He drove the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Jeff, heard you out on pit road talking about the action there in the last couple of laps. You came out on the good end of it, and certainly kept your championship hopes alive. Maybe just talk us through those last laps or so here at Talladega.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, wasn’t looking really good there when we took the white flag, I’ll be honest. I found the restart we had — we had to come in and take fuel which was unfortunate. We had worked really hard to get ourselves up there, and you’ve got to believe there’s going to be more than one green/white checkered, typically so. We had to come and do that.
So we were in a decent position, still up there about 10th or 9th or something. I had the 5 in front of me, and the 18 behind me. It was like, man, we’re looking good. We’ve just got to get an opening, and this group is going to run.
But we took off, and I was pushing from the start/finish line and never stopped pushing them. We weren’t going anywhere. I have no idea. I have to go back and watch the video because I just don’t understand what was stalling our line, but it just was not going anywhere. Then the middle lane, the outside lane, they were just trucking by us.
We started to make a little bit of ground down the back straightaway. We were like four-wide, went into three, and I saw smoke. When I saw smoke, everybody checked up in a hurry, and I hit the 5 and the 18 hit me, and it just turned me right down to the apron and I drove by pretty much everybody but the 17. So we got really lucky there. Like you said, it keeps the championship hopes alive.
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by our third-place finisher in today’s race, that is Kyle Busch. He drove the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Kyle, congratulations on a strong run here today. Maybe talk us through how things went out there today. You certainly had a strong race car, led some laps, competed for the win, and talk about how things went today.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, it was a really good race car. The guys did a good job building that thing and bringing it out here and debuting it for a one and only race here today. That’s the last race for this body style here at restrictor plate stuff.
The guys did a really good job on pit road. I made a mistake there early and got to pit roadway too hot and was speeding there, so we got a lap down. But fought hard all day, made that back up, got back on the lead lap, and we were racing with the win there with everybody.
Got behind Jeff who was behind the 5 who was behind the 15. I was quarter throttle running all over the 24, we just weren’t going anywhere. The outside lanes were kind of going by us, and got to turn three and the wreck ensued. Hopefully Tony’s all right and everybody that got banged up there.
But it turned Jeff just enough to turn me and we got through there all right. It’s good to come out here unscathed and have the car in one piece.
Q. What is your reaction running out there at 190 miles an hour and seeing all of that?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, do we have a choice? I guess we do, but I don’t feel like I really do. It’s just part of racing here at Talladega. You have to accept it. You have to know that you’re going to be going through that at certain times during the race, but at the end, for sure, especially with a green/white checkered. You put a lot of faith in your safety equipment and you kind of white-knuckle, hold on tight.
I can’t even describe to you. Kyle was describing it, I was describing it, but it still just doesn’t put into words what that is like. I don’t know how we made it to the white flag. Coming through that tri-oval, being hit from behind, hitting the guy in front of me, you’re sandwiched in between basically cars. There are cars doing the same thing on that side of you, cars on that side of them doing the same thing.
I really don’t know how we made it to the white flag. It was just insane. But you’re doing all you can to try to move your lane and hope that you make it back around. In today’s case, we did.
Q. You guys knew it was coming, didn’t you?
JEFF GORDON: You’ve got to believe that it’s coming. It always seems — yeah, pretty much. Because what you know is inside the car certainly, but you might see it a little bit as well. You start seeing more cars getting out of control and losing some positions because the aggressiveness just goes up.
We understand we’ve got to make it to the end of the race. There are certain times in the race where you feel I’m going to be a little more aggressive here to try to get to the front. So you’ll see a little bit of that. But at the end everybody’s got that philosophy from the front all the way to the back.
I almost lost it on the front straightaway trying to get to the lead. I saw the 16 got sideways. The 51 was being pushed by the 1, he got sideways as I was outside of him. That was earlier.
But at the end you know it’s going to get aggressive. It started to ramp up, so you’re pretty sure there’s going to be a caution, and then with the green/White checker, you know you’re not making it back to the checkered. You wonder if you’ll make it to the white. You know you’re not going to make it back to the checkered without there being a wreck.
Q. You touched a little upon this, Jeff, but Junior was saying he just does not like this style of racing. Too many people are bunched up. You know the inevitable is going to happen. Is there anything that can change the dynamics of this? I know we’ve gone back and forth with the restrictor plates. Do you guys enjoy this kind of race?
JEFF GORDON: Come on. You want to take that one?
KYLE BUSCH: Nope.
JEFF GORDON: The older, elder statesman has to take that one?
KYLE BUSCH: Yep.
JEFF GORDON: I remember when come Talladega was fun. I really do, and I haven’t experienced that in a long, long time. I don’t like coming here. I don’t like the type of racing that I have to do.
But if I’m a fan, I would love that. I think it is incredibly intense. It’s wild. It’s crazy. You’re going to see it. Sometimes that balance that NASCAR has to deal with doesn’t mean — I mean, I don’t have to be happy and be all excited about coming to Talladega. I don’t expect that.
But I do remember times when the draft and the thought that you had to put into it, the strategy working the draft and the cars in the lines was fun. You had some room in between the cars, and you had to use the air instead of the bumper. To me you could still come from the middle of the pack to first on the closing laps, but just how you did it was different, and it certainly wasn’t what –
I mean, that literally is bumper cars at almost 200 miles per hour, and I don’t know anybody that likes that. Maybe Kyle does. I don’t know. He might want to talk about it. I think he really likes this kind of racing. This is for the young guys, not for the old guys like me.
Q. Did you see on the white flag lap Matt going from the middle lane all the way across, running into the 15 and then coming back across? Did you see that? Were you surprised by that?
KYLE BUSCH: All I saw was text 50555, that’s all I saw.
JEFF GORDON: Yes, that’s perfect (laughing).
KYLE BUSCH: I can’t answer that. I have no clue what the 17 car did. You watch TV.
JEFF GORDON: My sponsor’s going to love you, man. Thank you.
Q. Jeff, did you happen to see that?
KYLE BUSCH: You saw Hendrickcars.com.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I saw Hendrickcars.com. You can’t see anything but the bumper in front of you.
KYLE BUSCH: You can’t see.
JEFF GORDON: And you don’t have a move. It’s not like you can sit there and say, oh, okay, I’m going to switch, go to the outside. You’ve got no moves, man. You’re just sitting there pushing that car in front of you as hard as you can. I couldn’t tell you what was happening right in front of us. I certainly couldn’t have told you that that was happening. But that explains maybe why our lane wasn’t moving.
Q. I guess first part of my question is kind of lost, but as far as what you guys can see. I don’t know if you know, but Tony took a hundred percent blame. He said he cut down across Michael trying to protect position and all. So if either of you guys saw any of that, I’d be interested. But when you’ve got a guy as skillful as Tony Stewart on places like that and he, leading the race, acknowledges causing this massive pileup. Is that even more of an indictment of the way the racing is going here like y’all were talking about? Does that just add to your stating the case for the craziness of it?
JEFF GORDON: Kyle doesn’t seem to want to take any of these questions. First of all, yeah, if you just isolate it to the move, I did see it. If you just isolate it to that, I mean, somehow he got the lead, but then he had nobody. Somehow they went to the outside of him, and they were coming. There is no doubt. The 55 was coming hard, and the 13 I believe was pushing him. They were going to go right by him, and he just made a late move, and, you know, unfortunately, he turned himself and caused a big wreck.
But when you look at the bigger picture is that really what caused it? Because this type of racing and the way the aerodynamics are and the power on these cars, that’s what happens. When you lose that momentum, you lose a ton. You’re going backwards in such a hurry and the other guys are coming forward with so much momentum, it’s inevitable that those types of things are going to happen.
You’re trying to judge making that move, but it’s almost impossible to judge it because they’re coming so fast. That’s aerodynamics, that’s power, and that’s just the nature of the type of racing that we have right now at Talladega.
Tony is a guy that takes blame for things and you’ve got to respect him for that, but I think there is a little more to it.
Q. I know it’s a risky assumption to assume that both of you men will make the Chase next year. But this race next year is two weeks later, leaving you far fewer chances to make up in the Chase for something like what happened today. Does the fact that this is a later race next year concern either one of you?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I think it was a later race last year. Yeah, last year it was a later race, so it’s only moved just because of Kansas and their repaving and stuff like that. Same thing happened last year, so it will just be back to normal. Those air quotes that Michael Waltrip hates.
JEFF GORDON: Does it really matter when this race is?
KYLE BUSCH: No, it doesn’t, to be honest with you. Yeah, it gives you a little less opportunity to rebound. Maybe puts a little more pressure on some guys, but I guess it’s always been later in the year, so it’s always been a Chase race. I don’t foresee that going away.
Q. You said it’s been a while since you’ve had fun at Talladega. Also it’s been a while since Talladega has been full. There were some sizeable gaps out there. Is there any correlation to — I know the economy gets a lot of the blame for attendance and things like that, but do you think the attendance is being hurt by this style of racing?
JEFF GORDON: From an entertainment standpoint, they should be lined up out to the highway out there. That I don’t get at all. That makes no sense to me. So there’s got to be something more to it. If I’m a race fan, I want to see two and three-wide racing all day long, passing back and forth. I want to see guys shoving one another. I want to see the big one at the end of the race because guys are being so aggressive, and knowing that is not something that as a fan you could ever imagine putting yourself into and sort of defying danger.
Why they’re not lined up out to the highway is beyond me because I think they should be.
JEFF GORDON: The gaps in?
KYLE BUSCH: What?
JEFF GORDON: I didn’t see many today. I’ll be honest. Not from where I was sitting, because I raced all day long. Even though I fell back, I never said okay — I did save fuel for about eight to ten laps because the team asked me to. But other than that I pushed every single lap, and I saw everybody else trying to do that too.
Now guys have learned, all right, if you can just push for maybe a lap and a half or two, even though you blow some steam off, you can get up there and get to the front. I remember early on I did that with Kasey. I think I did it with Kasey Kahne and Casey Mears, and then all of a sudden here they come doing the same thing to us. So I moved up to the inside lane, and next thing I know we’re running tenth again.
I saw great racing throughout the day. I didn’t really see that. But I have no idea. I’m only paying attention to what’s going on within my own race and around me. I thought it was pretty exciting all day. If it is, then they just shorten the race because all it really is a 20-lap shootout anyway. They could shorten the race and there won’t be as many lulls.
Q. Now that we’ve thoroughly discussed the type of racing we do here. Can you both take a minute to talk about the performance of your team today?
KYLE BUSCH: Our day was pretty good. I had mentioned it earlier that we had a really, really fast race car and drove up toward the front a few times. We were able to make the outside lane move a couple times. We pushed Junior to the lead early today, and there was a time when I think it was green flag pit stops. And I just did not get woed down near fast enough for the first segment, and I got busted for speeding, so that was my fault.
We had to battle through that. That was probably one of the most tense part of the races for me is having a race for the lucky dog or get back on the lead lap. I probably led more laps at the front of the field without leading those laps because I was the tail-end guy.
But all in all, our guys had some good pit stops, and we gained some spots. We had some fuel-only stuff going on. So typical Talladega day. Just glad and thankful that I was able to get out through the aero with no damage and make it through unscathed.
JEFF GORDON: Our team did awesome. We had a fast race car. Awesome race team, great pit stops, great calls from a team standpoint. It was a great day.
Q. You finished third and second the last three weeks. But I think you’ve only gained five points on the leader. Is that frustrating to you?
JEFF GORDON: After today, it’s a little frustrating. Our team is doing a great job. We’ve been performing really, really well. We can sit there and really get mad about what happened in Chicago, but the reality of it is all we can do is go each and every week and keep trying to put ourselves in position to win and get top 5s. It’s not over yet. It is certainly not over yet. So we’ll see what happens. If we keep doing this, I really think we might have a shot at it.
Q. Do you think with the new car coming, if it will have any effect on the racing or are we just going to be prone to this whenever we come to Talladega and Daytona?
KYLE BUSCH: I wasn’t here testing. Were you?
JEFF GORDON: No.
KYLE BUSCH: We weren’t here testing, so not a question I guess either have us have any experience with. I haven’t driven the 2013 car at a restrictor plate track.
JEFF GORDON: It’s going to be awesome. Start buying your Talladega tickets now.
KYLE BUSCH: Daytona 500 tickets.
JEFF GORDON: And Daytona 500 tickets.
Q. I know one had nothing to do with the other, and I know this might be just a weekend in the life of Kyle Busch. But many of us were following your exploits in another wacky race last night. Was this at least an unusually, I don’t know, strange weekend for you considering the mess in Nashville last night and the mess at Talladega today?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, it’s a good thing I went to Nashville to get my bad luck out of the way, so I didn’t end up looking like Tony Stewart today. But besides that, just a typical weekend of Kyle Busch’s year. Leading the race, five laps short of a rain shortened event, and then they send us back green, and I blow a left rear tire and wreck. Just continues on.
So just stay away from the 18 car for the rest of the year.
Q. I’m not sure if you were asked this, Jeff. And I want to get Kyle’s perspective too because of the crazy save you had in the Daytona 500. On these types of tracks when somebody gets a crazy run on you — I think the 88 is who got the run on you today and turned you completely sideways at 200-however many miles an hour. After you save it, what is that moment like when you realize that you’re not going to clear?
JEFF GORDON: Let’s clarify this first. That happened because Jamie McMurray’s car is wide as that racetrack out there. I’ve never seen anybody run so many lanes in my life. He does a great job staying up front. It’s amazing how he stays up front. But I guess it’s because he just moves so wide that you can’t pass him.
So the 88 had a run pushing me. I mean, we were just pushing. He didn’t have a run on me, we were just pushing. And I’m sitting there going, Which way is he going to go? Which way is he going to go? So he started to move left. So I go up to go around him. He decides not to go down. So at that point I’m having to put wheel into it, and all the 88 can see is my rear bumper. Text 50555 (laughing).
So I did go sideways. I mean, he was doing that all day long. I don’t know. It seems to work for him, so I guess he’s going to keep it up. But it about cost us today.
Yeah, it went sideways, and I thought for sure I was around it caught. Thankfully for that shark fin, I think that must have done it and straightened me back out, and Junior got off of me, and we went back racing.
I caught my breath there for a second. Then I was like, okay, let’s go back racing again.
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