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The Hard Way


MARTINSVILLE, VA.- - Jeff Gordon's 71st career victory was anything but easy. He rallied from 3 laps down to score the win in the Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Gordon started 16th and worked his way into the top-ten by lap 40. However, a wheel problem sent him to pit road for an unscheduled pit stop on lap 47. He lost two laps, and later lost a third lap as the crew inspected the wheel threading. On lap 66, he was in 39th position and had his work cut out for him. But, as any casual fan can atest, Jeff Gordon thrives on a challenge. He got one of his laps back after lining up on the inside and passing the race leader on a restart. On lap 134, he got another lap back by surging ahead of the race leader on a restart. He remained one lap down until lap 275 when he was in position to get the free pass for being the first car one lap down. With just over 200 laps to go, he restarted in 18th. The race was just beginning. On lap 300, he passed Sterling Marlin for 15th and moved ahead of Rusty Wallace for 11th on lap 317. He entered the top-ten on lap 325 and steadily made his way through traffic. He entered the top-five on lap 413 with an outside pass on Bobby Labonte and moved up to 3rd on lap 429. After three cars stayed out during the final caution period, Gordon restarted in 6th. He quickly passed Elliott Sadler for fifth place and moved in on Kurt Busch for fourth. Heading into turn three on lap 446, Gordon dove to the inside. Busch entered the corner and came down into Gordon's line. The contact sent Busch spinning into the retaining wall. Undeterred, Gordon continued the charge by passing Ryan Newman and Mark Martin to move up to second place. With 36 laps to go, he tracked down and passed Marlin. He held off Kasey Kahne for his second victory of the season.


Jeff Gordon/Robbie Loomis post-race press conference

JG: "There's something special about this place and we lost so many incredible people out of this organization and the racing community. I think it's only fitting for us to get this victory today. I know how much it means to Rick Hendrick and his family and all those other families. It means a lot to this race team. What a great, great race car this was today. It was incredible. We just never gave up that fight, you know? That's what it takes week in and week out, especially here at Martinsville. We had a problem where we got down, but we fixed it and we never lost sight of winning this race. I'm really excited to get another one of those grandfather clocks.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAR EARLY ON?
JG: "I'm not really sure. We just had the right front come loose. Maybe we didn't have enough threads over there on the right front, maybe had it spaced out too much. But all I know is they fixed it and didn't have that problem again the rest of the day. I knew before how our race car was and I just knew that if there was anyway we could get those laps back.one thing about running here and winning here, it takes a good car, it takes a good team, all those things, but it takes luck. And we were pretty lucky today to get those first two laps back and the positioning of the cars and the track position just worked out for us."

WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE CONTACT BETWEEN YOU AND KURT BUSCH?
JG: "I'm sorry that I hit him. I didn't mean to get into him. I think we were just going for the same territory. And it was late in the race and battling hard and I dove inside of him and I felt that I had my car inside and I'm sure he would say the opposite. You know, we're just two people fighting for one position and neither one of us was going to give it up."

YOU OVERCAME A LOT TODAY. HOW DID YOU DO IT?
JG: "It's never one things. It's always a combination no matter what, whether you have trouble or don't have trouble. Obviously, with the wheel coming loose, there was a big obstacle for us and Robbie.when he gets here maybe he can explain a little bit better what happened. I just know that I picked up a vibration and it got worse and when you have a vibration, things get worse and it's not a good sign. We came in right as the wheel was probably getting ready to come off and lost two or three laps that we came in and had to fix the problem that was making it come loose. Three laps down. Luckily it happened fairly early in the race. Our car was so good that we were able to get good track position on the leaders and then get ahead of them and make up a couple of the laps and then work our way back up there to get the lucky dog. Certainly that didn't seal the deal for us. Being in the back of the pack, the tail end of the longest line on the lead lap when we did get that lap back, and it was just an incredible race car and good pit stops. I mean, the car was just so good all day long. Robbie made some adjustments but really, I don't think we needed to make any adjustments. It's just trying to keep up with the track. It might change a little bit. Good fortune and like I said, good race car really helped us get that victory."

TELL US WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE WHEEL
RL: "We've got to look into it a lot. We broke a wheel last week at Bristol and there is just so many parts and pieces to a race car. The hub, the studs, the spacers in the wheel.you know I don't want to call out one thing to any one area. Today when we had the failure there at about lap 50, we knew we had to do something serious to fix it. And that's why we lost that other lap there on pit road, taking some spacer off trying to get back or we had some better threads where hopefully.it's just a miracle that thing stayed tight the rest of the day. Usually when it happens that early, you're in trouble for a long day."

I KNOW YOU DON'T WANT TO FORGET THE PEOPLE THAT WERE LOST IN THE ACCIDENT LAST FALL, BUT DOES TODAY KIND OF CLOSE THE BOOK A LITTLE BIT ON THAT?
JG: "I think that definitely was on our minds, coming here. This being the first race back since all that happened.. it's one of those things where those memories are never going to go away. The thoughts of those people are never going to go away. But, there's just some extra meaning, I think, that comes to Martinsville for us every time we come here that those thoughts are in our minds and this being the first one back I know it was an emotional win for all of us and Rick Hendrick poking his head in the window and being emotional tells you how much it meant to him and his family as well. We're excited to be able to pull it off for Hendrick Motorsports. It's an honor."

YOU'RE ONLY FIVE VICTORIES BEHIND WHAT DALE EARNHARDT HAD IN HIS CAREER. YOU NOW HAVE 71 WINS AND HE HAD 76 WINS.
JG: "That's unbelievable when I think about that. I remember in Daytona when we won that one and that was 70, I was just amazed. Through all the wins and all the experiences I've had, I feel like it's been such a whirlwind and it seems like it's happened overnight. I feel like I really haven't had the opportunity to really spend time and think about what all I've accomplished, what we've accomplished as a team and sitting here at 71.I think that Daytona was one of those moments where it kind of hits you.Wow! You know, 70. Here at 71, it's incredible. I look forward to that day, I always say, one day I really look forward to in my life is sitting in that rocking chair on that porch and thinking about all those wins and moments and even going back to what got me into the Cup Series. A lot of great wins and things that happened to me then, too, that are great memories. And to do anything, coming close to anything that Dale Earnhardt accomplished is always something that means a lot to us as drivers and me personally."

ROBBIE, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT EXACTLY A SPACER IS? ALSO, WHEN YOU SAID YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING SERIOUS TO FIX IT, CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE NATURE OF THE REPAIRS?
RL: "We have the hub which has the five studs go through it. What slides over the studs is a hat. And when the hat slides over it, we have bolts that go on there. And then there is the spacers that go on the outside of that. Steel spacers. When we had the loose wheel and put it on there under green, we started having the trouble there again. I think we had a caution then quick. And we knew the studs looked really bad. Corey looked at them and he said, 'Hey, we've got a problem, these studs look really bad.' We knew we weren't going to make it, so it was actually like putting a longer stud in there. What we did is under green we came in and we used a battery-powered drill and took the bolts out, took the -inch spacers off and got back to more stud and then it held on the rest of the day. That's why we were being real cautious on all our pit stops with the right front. It took longer because we had a lot more threads it had to go down on, and also we were being real conscious to make sure they were tight."

DID YOU GET A SENSE THAT ON YOUR VICTORY LAP THERE WERE MORE CHEERS AS OPPOSED TO PEOPLE ROOTING AGAINST YOU IN THE PAST?
JG: "Yeah, I don't know what brought that on. I just know that when I got out of the car, there were an awful lot of cheers. It feels good. For years I hear a mixture of boos and cheers and even going out for driver introductions today, I know they make a lot of noise and that's great but you see and lot gestures and you hear a lot of things and you hear the good and the bad and you try to block it out. When you with the race, I think.I didn't know if it was because we came from three laps down and had a great race or because it was also in the back of their minds about the tragic thing that happened here last year."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR INTERACTIONS WITH RICK HENDRICK AFTER THE RACE?
JG: "That's what makes today so special is that when you've got a guy like Rick Hendrick that you respect so much and you've seen what he's been through.the ups and the downs in his life and especially here last year, for him to poke his head in there and just thank you, thank you, thank you, and with that tremble in his voice, that impacts you. That tells you how meaningful this was. You get so caught up in the moment of driving the car and just trying to win the race, that kind of pops in your mind once it's all over. When he poked his head in there, it hit me like a ton of bricks of what this meant today."
RL: "I think Jeff hit the nail on the head. When I came down off the box and there was Mr. Hendrick. He does so much for all of us in this sport, especially Hendrick Motorsports and all the employees. You know, everybody in that garage loves him. From all the competitors, drivers would especially like to be in those cars. You know it was more a moment of silence with each other. You know, it's the same thing as Jeff said that he's thanking me and I'm just blown away. It was just an incredible day."

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS COMING UP ON KURT BUSCH AFTER YOU HAD TAKEN THE LEAD?
JG: "Just when you think you've got this one. I didn't know what he was going to do. It didn't surprise me that he was upset. We were racing hard. I certainly didn't want to get into him. He had a good car. He had a car capable of winning today. It was two guys just going for territory that neither one of us wanted to give up. I knew he was one of the guys to beat and he probably knew that I was one of the guys to beat as much as what we had fought through and overcome. At the end when I was leading, I'm sure in the back of his mind was, 'I'm upset at this guy and the last thing I want is for this guy to win this race after what happened' and you always have your sides. I'll have my side and he'll have his side. I don't know what his intentions were-I was a little bit nervous because I got a run up underneath him coming off of turn 2, and he wasn't going to let me go to the inside of him. He basically just turned right down across my hood and made me go to the outside of him. At that moment, I knew I had to go to the outside of him if I was going to pass him. But I didn't know what he was going to do to me. Sure enough he ran me up the race track and then down the front straight he just turned right into me. I was concerned it was going to cut the left front or left rear tire down. So, with all that, I let him go in the corner and I didn't know what he was going to do from that point on. I looked in my mirror thinking, 'How many laps do I have to mess with him before the guys catch me?' Had somebody been behind me, it could have cost us the race. So, we were really fortunate that we finally got by him and there were no issues after that."

ROBBIE WHAT WAS THIS WEEKEND LIKE FOR YOU AND THE CREW, COMING HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME?
RL: "I just think we were just very, very focused and believed in one another and the only thing that changed for me is that I had my Dad here. It's the first time he's been at a race live with us. So, that was kind of cool taking him to victory lane. We're just focused. We all believed in one another and it stayed that way the whole day."

HOW MUCH ANXIETY DID YOU HAVE ABOUT LOSING THOSE LAPS?
JG: "I think I only lost it one time. We had the loose wheel and I came in, we changed it, went back out and I felt it start to come loose again and I asked Robbie what happened the first time and he said the wheel was loose. I screamed at him. But that was it-- just that one time. Then it was over. Because, even at that moment that I was upset about what was going on and didn't understand it, I knew how good our car was. I think that's probably why I was most upset about it.I know we've got a car to win this race, so how in the world are we going to come from this far back and we can't have any more issues or problems of coming in and losing that lap in the pits to fix it. Instead we'll just continue to try to stay on that lap and probably not get it fixed completely and I think that's why we were able to get ourselves in a position to get two laps back and then get the lucky dog later."

WAS TODAY'S DETERMINATION TO DRIVE GREATER BECAUSE WHAT THIS VICTORY WOULD MEAN?
JG: "I don't always know what drives the determination of me or any other on this race team or why we accomplish things sometimes. You know, I can't really put my finger on what that was. Once I get in that race car, I'm thinking about nothing else except driving that race car. I think my determination came from: this is Martinsville, we run good at Martinsville, the car was amazing and I knew that we couldn't give up. We couldn't quit. And every other guy on this race team knew that and they weren't going to quit. And I wasn't either. That's why we came together. Any race, but especially the short tracks, we have a team meeting before the race and we say: there are going to be obstacles, hurdles that we've got to overcome no matter what. No matter how good the car is, whether we're leading the race or whether we're dead last. We think those things are going to be thrown at us to test us. Today was one of those days where we met those things head on and nothing was going to stop us."

HOW CLOSE WAS IT WHEN DALE JR SPUN, AND ALSO WHEN YOU AND KURT GOT TOGETHER?
JG: "That's why I never try to wreck anybody because I always get caught up in it myself. Every time I've gotten mad at somebody and I'm going to take him out, I always take myself out or damage my fender or my bumper or bump and cut a tire. The last thing I wanted was to intentionally get into anybody. I would hope that Kurt would understand that that's hard racing, that I've seen other guys do it, that I would do it and it's just us two racing for that position when we drove down in there, because I drove down in there so hard and tried to avoid him, that I was afraid that when I saw he was coming down and he wasn't checking up, he wasn't going to straighten out and I knew we were going to hit. I just held onto the wheel. The #8 car, I kind of saw him getting out of control and I didn't know which way he was going to go. Also, the #99 lost it right in front of me and I didn't know which way he was going to go either. Yeah, you're always going to have close calls like that at Martinsville, you're going to have contact with guys, you'll have people upset at you. I felt like I drove, for the most part, one of the cleanest races that I have here in a long time or any of the short tracks. But with that said, there is always going to be controversy. It's going to be part of it."

WHEN YOU GET DOWN IN THE DEPTHS YOU WERE TODAY, DO YOU STARTING THINKING YOU NEED TO PICK OFF CARS WITHIN A CERTAIN WINDOW?
JG: "You just pick off the next one in front of you. One of the moments that I thought was frustrating was when we were trying to get the lucky dog back, I think Tony was leading, I think, but I am not sure, the 19 was in second and those two were going back and forth and I was third in line even though I was still one lap down. They started lapping cars. So Robbie would say 'The next guy you have to pass is such and such.' So I would go and pass them and then he would say 'Now you have to pass such and such cause they just lapped him' and it just kept going. Every time I would pass a car, they would pass another car and so we actually didn't get the Lucky Dog back right away because the 45 went a lap down and he got it. So we had to wait until the next time. So that was frustrating because I didn't want to run out of time because I knew how good our car was. I knew we would be going all the way to the back when we got our lap back and were on the lead lap and we were going to have to fight our way through lapped traffic. Any time you get down like that you are going to get frustrated. But it helped with the frustration because we had such a good car. If we couldn't have passed anybody, it would have been a much bigger issue, but as difficult as it was to pass here, we were able to pass pretty good which is an indication of just how good our race car was. But you just focus on the next car ahead of you and run the fastest laps you can. I mean, I wasn't thinking about brakes, tires, nothing. And just going as hard as I could. When we got on the lead lap, I had a little bit of an issue with the brakes, I thought we were going to melt them down. Once we got on the lead lap, I couldn't run as hard as I did trying to get the laps back because I was in a different traffic situation with a much were in a much bigger group of cars running the same speed."

DO YOU EVER RECALL FROM YOUR EARLY DAYS TO NOW EVER BEING BEHIND THAT MANY LAPS AND COMING BACK TO WIN THE RACE?
JG: "No, I don't think so. We were a couple laps down in Bristol and made those up and thought we had a good car but got caught up in the wreck. But no, I can't. In my racing, the early days for me was before Busch, if you got a lap down, you were done. Because we didn't run long races and there was no way to make your lap up. When the caution comes out, you don't get lineup next to the leader and get your lap back, that isn't how it works. So I guess, no, I don't remember ever doing that."

WHERE DOES THIS WEIGH IN COMPARISON TO ALL YOUR WINS WITH THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED TODAY?
JG: "I think they are all special, I think they all have their obstacles. I don't know, the last one was the Daytona 500 and it is kinda hard to beat that one. This one is special but that one was pretty incredible."

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR PASS ON STERLING MARLIN? JG: "I think he either stayed out and didn't get tires or came in and only took two tires. Passing Mark Martin was much tougher. Once I got to Sterling, I knew my car was working better than his because the tires were starting to catch up with him. Or rather the lack of tires that he had. I just remember going into turn one and arcing the car out and getting a really straight shot up off of two and getting underneath him. I think that is what I did but I honestly don't exactly."

JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID YESTERDAY THAT HE PLANNED ON BORROWING SOME OF YOUR SETUP BECAUSE HE HAD BEEN HAVING SO MUCH TROUBLE THIS WEEKEND, DID HE THANK YOU AFTERWARDS FOR HOW MUCH HELP THAT WAS?
JG: "I will guarantee you he wasn't thanking us half way through the race. I saw that they were struggling and I thought to myself that if they were using that setup, it wasn't working out too well for him. Everybody has different driving styles. We talked about sharing setups all the time, and that is why sometimes you might see the 48 car wearing the field out and we might have the same setup and it doesn't work as well for us and vice versa. They did a great job today. I talked to Jimmie there after the race and asked him what the problem was he said, they were so tight and pushing really really bad. They had to free the car up a ton and if we had similar setups which I think we did, for some reason it was a lot tighter for him than it was for me."

SOME OF YOUR HENDRICK TEAMMATES WERE TALKING IN THE INFIELD THAT THEY WERE SOMEWHAT SURPRISED THAT RICK HENDRICK CAME TO THIS RACE, AND IT KIND OF CAUGHT THEM A LITTLE OFF GUARD THAT HE CAME HERE. WHAT IT IS ABOUT HIM THAT HE COULD DO THAT?
JG: "Honestly, I was surprised too. Someone told me, I think it was Robbie shortly before the race that Rick was here and I wasn't expecting it and was surprised. But it was happily surprised. I think one of the things about Rick is that he is such a well grounded person and so down to earth, I think he recognizes how the world works. I think he recognized that this was maybe something that he is the kinda guy who wants to face it head on. I certainly can't speak for him, but if I were to guess, I think that would be his thought process to deal with it head on because that is how he has gotten through life and it hasn't always been a cake walk for him. He has had to deal with a lot of adversity, but nothing quite like this before, but I think it is just that he has that kind of personality and kind of drive within him that he felt he needed to be up here and needed to deal with this with by being here but I am not positive. I wish I had what he has."

THIS TRACK AND TEXAS HAVE LITTLE IN COMMON, BUT THE WAY YOU OVERCAME EVERYTHING TODAY AND WITH YOUR RECENT RUNS AT TEXAS, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN NAIL YOUR FIRST WIN THERE?
JG: "I sure hope so. I thought maybe we were going to get it last year but you just never know what is going to happen until the checkered flag waves. I felt like we were in perfect position to win last year and had an ignition problem So we just go back there knowing what we know now about these cars and hopefully we will be good or better as we were last time. It would sure be nice to get some momentum back on our side. We have been a little up and down here lately, probably more down than up. We are sill riding high on the Daytona win, but that is going to run out eventually. The fourth we had at Vegas was good, we have had great runs with great cars, but haven't put the finishes together so this win today is definitely nice. So hopefully this will give us good momentum to go to Texas and get it done."

CAN YOU RANK THIS WIN BASED ON HOW HARD YOU HAD TO WORK TO GET THE WIN-FOR EXAMPLE, THE 1999 DAYTONA RACE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A RACE WHERE YOU HAD TO WORK ALL DAY LONG TO GET IT. DOES THIS RANK UP THERE WITH THAT ONE OR ANY OTHERS YOU CAN THINK OF?
JG: "Well I think there is a difference between mental determination and physical determination because this is so much more of a physical race than Daytona so they don't even compare there when it come to that. I just know that you have to push and shove, you have to set cars up to pass them, you aren't dealing with a resitrictor plate or any of those things. So as far as I am concerned, there is no comparison, I would have to think about it for a while to think of another race this compares with where we had to fight hard to get the win. They all compare as far as the hard work that goes into each race and none of them are easy but it seems like lately, they have been making us work hard for everything we get."

IN THE BIG PICTURE, YOU WENT FROM 12TH TO 6TH IN THE STANDINGS, HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET THAT BOOST IN THE STANDINGS?
JG: "We talked about before the weekend about trying to get solidly in the top-ten. You don't want to get to race 20 and be teetering on being outside the top ten. This is a step in the right direction for that. A win at this point in the season is definitely going to be taken positively and hopefully we can roll with this and get some momentum going back with us and get away from that inconsistency. And stay up in the points and work our way in the top-five, that would be the ultimate if we had our wish."

WITH JIMMIE'S WIN AT ATLANTA AFTER THE CRASH AND YOUR WIN HERE AFTER BEING THREE LAPS DOWN, DO YOU EVER WONDER IF THERE IS AN OUTSIDE FORCE WORKING?
JG: "Robbie and I talk about that all the time. You never know how things are going to happen or why they happen the way they do. All you can do is concentrate on the things you have control over and we have control over how that car is prepared, the communication that we have, the teamwork that we have and then there are just things that happen you can't explain. I don't know if we will ever have the answers as to why things happen but obviously it was meant to be today."

DID YOU INVITE JIMMIE DOWN TO VICTORY LANE CAUSE HE DIDN'T GET TO CELEBRATE LAST YEAR?
JG: "Jimmie and I are both headed to New York (this week) so maybe we will get together and celebrate his win from last year and mine from today. He came down there to victory lane but I can't say we celebrated a whole lot."



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