Notes after the Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard.
“If I could scroll through my phone, and look at the texts I have gotten from Rick that said ‘Call Me’, I can tell you that you sit down when you call him in those instances. It hasn’t happened a lot, but the times that it has it is usually pretty big. I was in the South of France at that time...Ingrid and I had planned a vacation to go over there. I get that text, and I looked at her and said ‘Oh boy..."
Jeff Gordon, Interim Driver
No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS
Started 21st / Finished 13th
A Year Ago When You Raced Here At The Brickyard, We All Thought That Was Your Last Hurrah Here. Today Probably Was. What Was It Like To Say Goodbye To This Facility?
“It was better than last year. It didn’t go very well and it was a fight. Wow. The challenges to be out there against the best, especially on those restarts; I got my butt kicked on those restarts. It was embarrassing. While I will fill-in for Dale Jr., and I hope he’s doing good, I needed a fill-in on those restarts. It was pretty bad. Other than that, I thought it went really well. I really liked working with Greg (Ives, crew chief) and this whole No. 88 team. It took us a little while to get the balance right and the adjustments came to us, he made an awesome pit call to come in early one time. And he called it right as I was going into Turn 4 and that made up a lot of spots for us because we had a fast race car. We just couldn’t get the track position. It was pretty tough to pass. And I didn’t want to see those cautions there at the end. But, I’m going to need some practice on restarts for Pocono anyway. We finally actually there on that last one, got the car where it was decent on the outside. It was so loose on the outside before that and made up a bunch of spots off of Turn 4. On one-hand I’m relieved that this is over and on the other hand I would have liked it to have gone a little bit better. I’m looking forward to going to Pocono. Thank you to Tony Stewart. What a class act he is. It meant a lot to me that he invited me to come and make that last lap with him. It was a special moment.”
What Was That Like?
“Well, Tony and I have gone through a lot over the years. But, he and I have become really good friends. I was with him when he got hurt this year. And to see what he’s done and how tough he is as a competitor; I’ve always known what a great guy and what a great race car driver he is, and now I know more about who Tony Stewart really is. I’m just so proud that I was able to be here and race with him in his final race. Maybe, I don’t know! I thought last year was going to be my final race. You never know with Tony Stewart. But it meant a lot to me to be able to stand in front at the driver’s meeting and recognize him and then do that pace lap here at the end.”
Is Next Week Your Final Race?
“Whew! If it’s this hot, I hope so! My thing is that I can’t wait to talk to Dale Jr. and debrief him on how today went and see how he’s doing. I want him in the car as soon as possible. I’m too old to be doing this stuff. But to come here and do this race and finish a decent 13th, I think I can do better next week for him and then we’ll just go from there.
“Oh, and I was glad I was in the Axalta Chevrolet; that was a lot of fun, and thank Rick (Hendrick) for calling me in France (laughs).”
Did You Enjoy Today?
“I enjoyed moments. When we were up in 12th and Greg (Ives, crew chief) made an excellent call to come in a little early. We got the car much better. I was having fun at that point. This is a challenging, challenging race track. Really hard to get all four corners. There were moments of fun. I didn’t want to see those restarts. I’m horrible on restarts. So those didn’t help us any, but I got a few back on that last one.”
How Did You Work With The Team?
“I thought that went really well. Their communication; their information they gave me to prepare for this race. I think there were many times when I was letting them down with some runs we made in practice, in qualifying, on the restarts today. But they never let me down. They did an excellent job. We had a little work to do in the beginning to get the car better. Greg made an awesome call to come in early that one time and that put us up there in 12th. We had a car that was capable of being up there. I just wish I was better on those restarts.”
On The Last Restart:
“It got hairy on a bunch of them. Seeing them wreck right in front of them, next to me, behind me. You have to understand part of it-the goal here today was not just to get a good finish, but to get points. Those are important. When you see all that chaos going on around you, you are trying to balance being aggressive, and being cautious. That last restart, my car felt pretty good and I was actually able to make a couple of moves. Then they started wrecking in turn three and I passed about four cars so that felt pretty good.”
A MESSAGE TO DALE EARNHARDT, JR.:
“Nobody wants to miss a race, especially the Brickyard 400. He is friends with Tony. I’m sure he would have liked to have been here for Tony’s last race as well. Most of all, I think he should be very proud of his race team. He has an amazing race team. They can’t wait to have him back when he is ready. And, we are all going to work together to do our best to continue to keep that excitement and momentum in the team there for when he is ready to come back, so he comes back and doesn’t miss a beat and can win some races.”