NASCAR Transcripts: Jeff Gordon – Press Conference – 03.24.24

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Hendrick Motorsports’ Jeff Gordon.

We’ll start with questions.

Q. Jeff, you were pretty confident about the team’s chances earlier. How gratifying is it to see the 24 dominating the road courses again?

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, no, what a weekend they put together. The race car that Rudy and the guys brought, the way that William drove it. I mean, just watching him qualify, how smooth he was. Same thing throughout the race. Just seemed to put the car in all the right places.

I never saw him make a mistake, which is what it was going to take to win today in the closing laps because Bell had the faster car with the fresher tires. Any big lockup into a corner, I think it would have been a different outcome.

A lot of credit to William in doing that great job. Takes the whole team, the pit crew, everybody. They’re truly on quite a run here to start this season off. Can’t wait to see where they take it next.

Q. Jeff, how do you feel about the development of William? You look at his career, such a quick study. He’s finding a little bit of domination, what he did today. Talk about how you feel about his progression. He’s the top winner at Hendrick Motorsports.

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it’s been incredible. Certainly when you look at history and some of the best of the best throughout the years, certainly since I’ve been a part of NASCAR, you just don’t see somebody with this progression or this path to succeed at this level the way that he is, yet he’s defying all that.

Honestly, it’s making us look at young, up-and-coming drivers that might be the next stars because even though we got a young line of them, you do have to be thinking about that and planning for it.

It makes you kind of look at what’s out there, what are options, what does simulator racing mean? Guys that don’t get into cars at 5 and 6 years old, what are they capable of? That’s what we’ve seen with William.

I’ll say he makes up for the lack of experience he had prior to coming to the Cup Series through the way he focuses, the way he preps, the effort he puts in.

Don’t discount what he’s done to get here because it’s not always the stuff that’s just on track. There’s a lot more to it. That’s what he’s proven, is working to get him to the top right now in this series.

Q. Did that 24 out front, domination on a road course, bring back anything from your past performances? I was thinking about Watkins Glen, the day you had the perfect day.

JEFF GORDON: I mean, yeah, a little bit. But we did it with better brakes and better cars, better a lot of other things, too (smiling).

I mean, I do think that when you find a combination with the whole team, then magical things happen. I feel like that’s sort of what we had.

The cars are all so equal now, it’s much harder to find an advantage with your car and your setup. I think that to me is what makes this even more impressive.

Q. Once again, you find yourself with the bitter and the sweet. Sweet with the win with William, but bitter with Bowman. He raced a good race, but what was going through your mind talking to him?

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, yesterday was huge, right? I remember sitting on the pit box with Rick at Watkins Glen last year during an Xfinity race, and I think we dominated that race and didn’t get the win.

I remember Rick hearing over the loud speaker how Hendrick Motorsports had never won an Xfinity race on a road course. I remember the look in his eye, how fired up he was. I’m quite certain that day is when we started adding more races to our Xfinity program (smiling), and also with the 17, how special that number is. That was truly special.

Bowman, yeah, when he gets on a roll, he gets his confidence up, there’s no telling what they’re capable of doing. I’m really happy for them. Two top fives in a row. They’d had a couple rough weeks, so they needed this.

Hendrick Motorsports is tough, right? Four of the top drivers and teams out there, and there’s a lot of pressure on you. If you’re winning, there’s pressure to continue. When you’re not winning or you’re not at the same level as your teammates, there’s a ton of pressure that you got to get there.

I’m proud of him and Blake, the way they’ve been working hard together to get some good finishes. Now I can’t wait to see what they do next, as well.

Q. From your perspective, what do you feel is something we can take away from this first road course race of 2024? Obviously the 24 and 48 had a lot of speed here, but the Toyotas were right there. Bell was closing late. What can we take away from what we saw today?

JEFF GORDON: I honestly, even though the 24 got the pole, really thought it was going to be a Toyota-dominated race. They’ve got a lot of speed. It’s one thing when one car has speed, it’s another thing when a group of ’em have speed. That tells you a lot about what they have, what they’re bringing to the racetrack. It’s certainly on our radar in a big way.

It also to me is that much more impressive of what the 24 and the 48 were able to do today. I thought the 9 had great speed, too. Please don’t get me started on track limits and my thoughts and feelings on that, how that needs to be policed. I’ll save that for another day. You guys can argue that if you want in the media (smiling).

Even the 5 I thought had a solid car, with the spin, having to let the whole field go by. You just can’t make that up when the race flows the way it did, which is kind of surprising. We normally at this place see cautions. Once you get a couple of those random cautions, especially in the late stages, then it just gets wild and crazy down into turn one.

Maybe the restart zone helped a little bit with that on the stage breaks. Yeah, you just couldn’t make up time. I thought all four of our cars had good speed.

Bell at the end had the speed. They played a pretty good strategy. I actually heard some of our guys talking about that strategy of staying out and just kind of doing a two-stopper, and didn’t end up going that route. We were all anxious to see how it worked out for Christopher.

I think he had a fast car all day. Certainly with the fresher tires at the end, it showed how much that was really mattering, as well, along with a good car.

Q. The strategy that the 48 team did with pitting a lap before everybody else did propel Bowman two spots. Were you impressed with that strategy? Almost kind of worked for him, other than the balance.

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, I want to dissect it and dive into it a little bit more with Blake and the team, do some of that on the flight home when I leave here, as well as tomorrow in our debrief.

Yeah, I mean, it seemed like it was the right call. At the same time they were a little bit short on fuel. I don’t know if they didn’t get it full or they were using more than they anticipated. It was going to be really, really tight for them, even if they could have held off Gibbs and Bell.

As soon as those guys got by him, they started saving. So yeah, I don’t want to comment too much on it till I get a little bit more of the information from those guys.

I mean, getting a top five I think was huge. It was a good call to obviously get the track position. Who knows, that may have helped the 24, as well, because they had to get by the 48. That takes a little bit of time to do that.

Q. Bowman’s fourth consecutive top five. Something about this place and Bowman.

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, Alex is one of those guys where the bigger the challenge, seems the like the better he does. I’m going to leave here and try to find more ways to really challenge him even more.

He’s a great race car driver. It just takes the whole combination. They didn’t qualify well, but they had a good car seemed like all weekend. I think his confidence in the car, especially once they dropped the green flag, it showed. Blake called a good race.

THE MODERATOR: Jeff, thanks for the time.

JEFF GORDON: Thank you.