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Jeff, Robbie, and Rick Discuss The Title


(November 19, 2001)- - Jeff Gordon won his fourth Winston Cup title with a sixth place finish in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Immediately following the race, Gordon, crew chief Robbie Loomis, and car owner Rick Hendrick shared their initial thoughts.


JEFF GORDON:
"I want to say what a true class act and champion Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Tony Stewart, all those guys that we battled with for this championship. What a battle it was. All the guys in the DuPont Chevrolet team, they just were incredible this year. They were flawless in the way they prepared these race cars and the way they performed on pit road. The way the engines performed-- that was a back up engine (in the NAPA 500) and you'd never known it today. I want to thank Robbie Loomis it's his first championship. We're really proud to have him on board and give him his first championship as well as a lot of other guys on this DuPont team. Brian Whitesell.... there are so many guys who are crucial to this championship. I want to thank all the fans. I especially want to thank DuPont-- all the folks at DuPont have been great this year. The guys who are giving us the big check right here, RJ Reynolds and Winston. They're great partners of ours and we just love being a part of this awesome sport and it wouldn't happen without all these fans. This has been an incredible year for us. The sport has grown to a whole new level. Every time I hear that number four-- four championships just boggles my mind. I can't believe it but I didn't do it alone. I did it with every member of this race team. They came together and said they wanted to be champions and they proved it. Through the grace of God we were able to do this together as a team. To get through a lot of adversity from last year and just build on that and become a much stronger team this year and come out and win the championship. (Last year) we were testing our patience quite often but I said all year long that the year we had (in 2000) is what made us champions this year. If you don't go through some tough times along the way then you really never find out what exactly you're made of. You can say all day long that you're champions through the tough times and good times, but until you go through it and do it like that and come back and be champions. There were a lot of critics who didn't think we could come back and do it and I'm just awful proud to come back and put this thing up front all year long. And win races-- big races-- and then come here and do it in the fashion we did today is a good, strong finish. I just have to thank God everyday for all the blessings that me and this entire team have been given. Without the perseverance that God gives us we wouldn't have been able to get from last year to this year the way we did. I'm just so proud of them. These guys are just awesome the way they came together. The effort that they put out each week and the racecars they gave us were just awesome. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports is extremely special to me. Hendrick Motorsports has such great resources. A guy like Robbie Loomis has great leadership and he's a great crew chief. He and I click really well. Even though we had a lot of changes, we had new guys that are young that had never been a part of a championship. We also had a lot of guys on there that either had won with us or with other teams. They were able to gel with each other. That motivated me. I had no idea it was going to end up this good, but it's been a great year."

How does it feel to be the only driver to join Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty ever to win four championships in Winston Cup racing?
"It's starting to sink in a little bit. Today was a good day for us. I'm just glad we did it by running up front like this DuPont team is capable of doing. I think it's going to take a little while for that number four to sink in. I look at who had three, who had two, who had one, and then who had seven. It's an unbelievable league of company to be with."

On winning four championships in nine seasons-- could you reach seven?
"I don't know how those guys did it. There's just so much into being champion. It just takes so much out of you. I don't think we're ready to think about seven. Maybe we can just start thinking about five and not try to get too far ahead of ourselves."

On the $3.6 million dollar prize for winning the Winston Cup: "I just can't thank RJ Reynolds and the Winston brand enough. They are very special people and we're really glad they're part of our sport and for all they do for NASCAR. I also appreciate Chevrolet, DuPont, GMAC, Frito-Lay, and all they do for this team."

Other athletes like Michael Jordan want to be the best at what they do. Do you?
"Have you asked them that question? I wonder how they would answer. I'm not one to go out and say I'm the greatest and I want to be the best. I want to have respect and I want people to think I have talents, but I just look at this sport as unique to any other sport out there. It's not like a pitcher standing on that mound. That ball is in his hands. I look at Michael Jordan a little different. No doubt about it that he is the best-- an awesome basketball player. He's the best in the NBA, but he's not winning because the team is not there. When they get more experience, they'll be winning. If you ask him whether he'd rather be a great player or winning, I guarantee you he'd rather be winning. I just want to be a part of the greatest team. We did show that this year."

How did Dale Earnhardt show you how to win championships?
"I got the chance to just race side-by-side with him. I learned a lot from him on the racetrack. In 1995, we went for the championship. Even though I watched him race for championships before, I got to see first-hand what it was like battling with him for a title. He's so good at knowing when to win and when to bring it home for the points. Some guys have a special knack for knowing how to get the most he can out of the car every time they're out there on the racetrack. He looked at the big picture and he wanted to be an eight-time champion. He had seven of them because he knew what he was doing. I don't know how the heck we won that championship in '95. I don't know how we won it. He knew where he could shine and he knew where he just had to get all that he could. He never gave up. I learned a lot from him. Winning races is great, but there's nothing like winning championships."

On being a leader in the garage after the passing of Dale Earnhardt:
"I realized after winning my first championship, that there are responsibilities and expectations that come along with that. Whether you want them or not, they're there. I love being a champion and so I've learned how to enjoy the responsibilities that come along. I want to be a good champion and represent the sport the best way I know how. And I'm comfortable with that. If I wasn't, I'd retire now."


ROBBIE LOOMIS:
"It feels great. This championship like I've said all along is Jeff Gordon's championship. People all along never give Jeff the credit he is and I'm just fortunate to be a part of this. This DuPont race team, Hendrick Motorsports, all the guys at the shop, it's really a shame for Jerry (Nadeau) at the end there. Jerry had a great car all day long. Mr. Hendrick gives us so many tools to work with. Brian Whitesell-- the job he's done all year long. It's just a great team effort. We just came out and put our best foot forward each week-- every practice, every qualifying effort, and every race. We've been very blessed, the good Lord's been with us all the way. We've been doubted all our lives-- I think everyone's been doubted-- but that's part of life. You just have to put your best foot forward and this is a great year for us.
Everybody knows that to be able to accomplish things always starts with a great owner. You look at Rick Hendrick's success away from the track and you can see that he knows how to do it. This is his eighth championship in seven years and that's pretty impressive.

Jeff Gordon is the best. The thing that impresses me is not how he handles days like today, but how he handles seasons like we had last year from his points. It's really something to think this is Jeff's fourth championship since 1995. That is really impressive to be able to do that in that short of time. I can't say enough good things about him. It's not so much as what he does in the racecar as he does outside of the racecar and how he handles people, fans, our team, and NASCAR.

Jeff is not a very tall guy, but when he put on that fire suit and walked up to me when were getting ready to practice at Daytona, he got taller than Michael Jordan. It was pretty intimidating. We just worked together and grew. Through our failures and struggles last year, I think that really got us to the level where we could win races like the September race at Richmond last year. This championship is the first championship that shows so much teamwork. When you have good people and those things around you, it makes your job that much easier."


RICK HENDRICK
"When you start the series you never think you can win one of these things. And then when you win the first one, you never believe it until you've won it. And now to win five (Winston Cup titles), it's unbelievable. These guys in our organization have worked so hard. It's been a heck of a year for us. Eight championships in seven years is hard to believe as tough as this sport it. And it's going to get tougher. Today's racing was some of the best I've seen. If you look at the DuPont team at the end of 1999, the crew chief (Ray Evernham) left, the pit crew left, the head fabricator (Bill Deese) left, the chief mechanic (Ed Guzzo) left. There was really nobody there but just a few guys. Robbie Loomis was man enough to take the challenge and come on. I thought it would take longer than this to build a championship team back. But it just clicked and sometimes it's just meant to be. When I saw Jeff Gordon the first time and I couldn't get it out of my head how he drove that Busch car. I don't know how anybody could ever say that Jeff Gordon and Robbie Loomis are not champions. I see Jeff Gordon at 30 years old and with the chemistry of this team, I think they're going to win a lot of championships. I think it's going to be extremely hard because you see guys out there that are good that show up every week. I think we'll surely be in the hunt next year. I think we're going to come back just like we are now. I think we could win seven championships. That's our goal."

On the $3.6 million dollar prize from RJ Reynolds:
"It's already been spent on these cars. A championship in anything is hard to come by. To do it multiple times is a great. I'm proud of this team. These guys started all over. They came back and did it-- got back to the top of the mountain."

On Chevrolet's sweep this season (WC, Busch, and Truck titles):
"It has been a good year for Chevrolet and I really appreciate all their support. And I think it's going to be an unbelievable year next year. The Dodges really came on strong at the end of the year and you know the Pontiacs are going to be good. They won today. The fans have a lot to look forward to."





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