THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Jeff Gordon, vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, which is with the winning team, the No. 48 of Alex Bowman and the Ally Chevrolet.
We will open it straight up to questions for Jeff.
Q. Jeff, did you guys expect to kick off with this new car so strong, winning two of the first three races?
JEFF GORDON: You can never predict that. This car has been really unpredictable of the unknowns that come with it. Every track we've been to there's been a new challenge.
I thought our testing showed some strengths, but again it was hard to really pinpoint whether or not we could be the strong.
Actually even today, our practice times were incredibly strong. I thought we were actually going to be a little bit better throughout the race. But the guys had to overcome a few different challenges along the way. I'm really, really proud of that effort. Every one of our guys had to fight back from something.
Alex winning the race, he had to go to the back of the pack with the issues on pit road.
You just never know with a car that is so similar to your competitors because of all the spec parts on this car, you never can tell whether or not you're going to be able to have consistency of running up front.
I'm really proud of what they're doing on pit road as well as today, the strategy calls, the fast race cars. What I really loved seeing is all four of our cars being so close out there on the track. It shows you the kind of information that they're sharing, how much they're in sync with one another back in the shop when they're building these cars, setting the cars up.
The Chevrolets looked really strong again today, but so did the Toyotas. They kind of had it there at the end. So it's kind of a bummer to see what happened to them but I was proud of our guys for taking advantage of it.
Q. Do you think the talk that Mr. Hendrick had with the drivers this week played into how they raced those final couple laps?
JEFF GORDON: They raced really, really hard, I know that.
I mean, when I came to Hendrick Motorsports it was: Race hard but don't wreck your teammates. That's what you do. You want to go race your teammates for wins and settle it among yourselves.
I thought they raced one another clean but very aggressively. I talked to Kyle Larson there at the end. He said he was just trying really hard to get to the outside, stay on the outside of Alex, maybe even pushed it a little bit too hard, got the car tight.
Alex, I was talking to him in Victory Lane, he's like, I drove in there as hard as I possibly could. I wasn't sure if it was going to stick, and it did.
The conversation that Rick had with us was really more pertaining to what happened at the end of that race last week, those similar types of scenarios, blocking, also working through when things like that happen how you work through it internally.
Q. Do you need all three cars to take two tires to make that work at the end and keep anybody with four at bay? Is that an easier decision with them being fourth, fifth, and sixth rather than first, second, or third?
JEFF GORDON: Greg and I were talking in Victory Lane. I think it's a little bit more difficult decision for him because he was the one furthest up, maybe four tires. They had a strong car, were in a good position. Four tires might have been the right way to go for them to still have a shot at winning.
I'm really glad that all three of them chose to take two. I don't think it was planned out. I'll let Greg answer that. I don't think that was planned out or discussed, but maybe it was.
I just know that by having all three there, as well as the lane choice that they chose. I particularly look at the 24. By him choosing the outside in that second lane, it put that 18 -- I think it kind of caught him off guard a little bit too, but it put the 18 down that inside lane. We all knew he was going to try to go three wide going into the first turn but he never got a run. Those two guys got a good launch on the front, he didn't get the run. Then it sort of blocked him in there by having the 24 on the outside.
Those two guys on the front row were able to launch good and go settle it amongst themselves.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by the race-winning crew chief, Greg Ives.
Q. Not to harp on the talk that Rick had, but Kyle defined it as he set his expectations, he made clear his expectations. Did he need to do that?
JEFF GORDON: You just don't want anything to fester. You want to really get on top of it right away. As much as we love racing one another out there on the racetrack, there's also lines that you have to draw as teammates.
I've been a part of both sides of that throughout my career. When we spoke right after the race on Sunday, we knew -- it wasn't just the two of them, it was all four drivers, all four crew chiefs, getting the clarity about how we intend to compete with one another in the closing laps of a race.
It wasn't that we didn't want Chase to go try to take 'em three-wide to win the race. You got to go try to win the race. You just got to have as much awareness of your teammates in those situations to not cause damage, and hope that you can just go settle it in a way where guys are both battling all the way, both of you, all the way to the finish line.
Q. Greg, after Mr. Hendrick had that talk, how did you see those final two laps between teammates?
GREG IVES: Ultimately, I addressed the four teams and said there's nobody I cheer for more finishing second to us than those three teams.
That's how tight-knit that group is. As much talk and whatnot, these guys drive hard, but they also try to encourage and push each other.
Ultimately Kyle ran us hard, Alex ran him hard. Ultimately it came out it was a good race, good drag race till the end.
For us, I think they all know where the limits are. Ultimately what happened last week was something that can be marred as maybe a mistake or whatnot, not something that's definitely intentional.
Amongst the crew chiefs, this group we have with Cliff and Rudy and Alan, it's really tight-knit. We're not going to let anything break us down. Even if the drivers had a little riff on the track, we're going to figure out, we're going to have these teams go out there and compete each week to be in the top four. Whoever wins that race, we're just as proud. I was just as proud last week with the 5 winning. I'm sure it's the same way with us winning.
That's how we operate. That's how Mr. H likes it.
Q. One thing that's really stood out the last three races is guys that are normally mid pack guys are now much closer to the front. What has done that? Ross Chastain led 85 laps today. He led 75 his whole career.
JEFF GORDON: I think that was one of the intentions of going to a car like this. I think it's been refreshing to see.
I think we've seen great racing. I think we've seen cars coming from the back to the front, front to the back. We've seen where they can race hard. But the cars are on the edge. The drivers are definitely having to show their talent and ability.
I think that was the intent, too, was to have a car that was on a more level playing field, and also a car -- I'm proud of NASCAR going with the lower downforce, higher horsepower for these types of tracks because it does put it more in the drivers' hands.
When you see guys spinning out by themselves, we haven't seen that in years. You see guys catching it, but yet you can tell they're still pushing and driving hard.
I'm incredibly impressed and optimistic about what this car has to bring throughout the season as these guys continue to work on it.
Yeah, it's also great to see fresh faces and names up front. We saw it with Tyler Reddick last week, Erik Jones. This week Ross Chastain was incredibly impressive.
I hope we see more of that. I think that's what the sport needs to continue to grow.
GREG IVES: It's an opportunity I feel like. If I was sitting there, maybe in the situation where you talk about some drivers sitting in the mid pack, this is a new opportunity. That's kind of how I look at it, too. It's a new opportunity to utilize the resources we have at Hendrick Motorsports, but also you look at some of those guys with Chevrolet partnership. The teams that they have built around, not only Hendrick Motorsports, but RCR and Trackhouse, it's a teammate, right? Ultimately that's the overall goal.
It's not surprising that some of these drivers are up front because of the talent they have to make it to the Cup Series. I think leveling the playing field, like Jeff said, with the car allows for those guys to maybe wheel it a little bit more. Guys who like it on the edge, can balance that really well. I think Ross has always been that way, and some of these other guys.
Ultimately I'm just happy for our team and know that coming off of a four-win season, our job and our goal was to be consistent. Had a fast car in California. Ultimately didn't finish where we needed to be. This week brought another fast car and were able to close it out.
Q. Jeff, with Hendrick leading 51 laps, there's another $102,000 for the donation. Are you part of that? What are your thoughts on that situation?
JEFF GORDON: We're extremely proud to be able to support Samaritan's Purse seeing what's happening in Ukraine. Rick this week reached out to all the teams, PR, marketing departments, said, I'd like to get this going for this week. The cars had already left the shop. Obviously some more work had to be done to get those decals, especially the one on the TV panel of the 5.
Everybody in the world is watching what's happening there and wants to support that. So I think that was a great opportunity for us to be able to be a part of that. The guys would have liked to have led a few more laps. Hey, we raised a lot of money for a great cause today. We'll continue to look at opportunities like that, how we can do more of that in the future.
Q. Greg, have you found any nuances with this car yet that you can benefit and parlay as you go forward?
GREG IVES: Yeah, I mean, it's just one of those things, it's details oriented. It continues to be that way. The guys at the shop at Hendrick Motorsports, whether it's the engine shop or the fab and body shop, they're putting these cars together. It may be considered a task where you buy the panels and put them together. Ultimately these guys still put the detail into them. Those are the nuances, right?
It's about putting the best race car in the truck. It's not about putting together a car and getting the job done. I like to pinpoint and say it's one thing versus another, but these cars are very similar each week we come to the racetrack, the differences that we need speedway racing, you want to get the blade out of the air; downforce racing, you want to put the blade in the air.
Those are very simple things that every race team on pit road knows about. But maximizing that and getting it right every week, it comes down to the guys in the shop.
I'm fortunate to be a guy that gets a great race car from Hendrick Motorsports. Alex gets to drive it. Our guys get to work on 'em and pit 'em. Without those guys at Hendrick Motorsports it wouldn't be possible.
I also want to say, Mr. Hendrick, his generosity is always, always there. You'd say it's never surprising that he always steps up in the right situation at the right time for the right cause.
Really appreciate being able to lead laps today. I wish we could have led some more. Ultimately he's the reason why Hendrick Motorsports is so great and why these race teams work so hard.
Q. Greg, the final yellow comes out. How are the wheels starting to spin? Are you prepared for this?
GREG IVES: I've been prepared since 2020 for this one (smiling).
Another late caution, Alex was fast. Him and Ryan Blaney were having a good battle. Caution comes out late, and we all elect to pit. Some guys stayed out. We made the wrong call. I made the wrong call.
We've talked about this redemption for a long time. It's something that never goes away. I may get the years messed up, the time messed up, but I know 10 years from now it's going to be the same. I made a bad call, redeemed myself a couple years later on it.
We talked about it a little bit on the radio. Like Alex says, I'm a little bit of a wriggler. This is what we talked about. We didn't really want to say exactly what we wanted to do, but I feel like him in the car wanted us to stay out, me thinking everybody was going to come down and at least take two tires, and ultimately that was the right call.
I got lucky maybe with that call and lucky that we have Alex driving that thing, picking up on the restarts. He had a lot of confidence on restarts all day. It doesn't come down to the last restart and say, Yeah, I got confidence now. It comes down to every restart he was confident in the race car, in what he was capable of, and slowly got us to the point where two tires he wasn't going to lose.
Q. Did Alex talk to you about the restarts?
GREG IVES: Yeah, for sure. He talked about his restarts, how good he felt. There were a couple times we lost some spots, but not to be one way or the another, just circumstances.
Ultimately, yeah, I've been thinking -- you think about the mistakes more than you think about the victories, I feel. That's where ultimately this decision is. Coming down to five to go, I'm prepping my guys, We're making another stop. Get stretched, get ready, we're doing something, whether it's two tires, four tires, we're getting ready to go.
I'm running fourth. Would I have been happy with fourth? Maybe, maybe not. Not with the car we had today, no, right?
I was playing that scenario in my mind. Caution is going to come out, we're going to have to make a decision. The decision was two tires. Guys executed. Alex did a great job on the track.
Q. It wasn't a plan for all three Hendrick teams to take two tires?
GREG IVES: No, it was not at all. In that moment you don't have any plans with anybody but yourself. You get as selfish as you possibly can to win a race in the last three laps, green-white-checkered.
Ultimately when it came out that way, you try to figure out who you can work with and who you can't. Ultimately for me it was the front row. If we didn't get the front row, we weren't going to win the thing. We might have finished 2nd to 20th. That was my mindset. It wasn't planned. We don't have time to plan that well for all that.
Ultimately I know the situation, the 5, how Cliff thinks. Like I said, we work together. He's got a win. He's going to gamble. He's going to either take two tires or stay out. He pitted. I knew two tires were coming. Same with Rudy. Trying to win the race. We have great cars. We have the speed capable of giving us a front row and winning the thing.
Ultimately, like I said, we came out on top, but there was no plan between all of us, that's for sure.
JEFF GORDON: I have to chuckle here real quick. We've had many scenarios where I've been in meetings after the race, he goes, If all four of you had stayed out, a Hendrick car would have won.
One of the crew chiefs would say exactly the same thing. Yeah, but we would have finished worse.
As much as you'd like to plan some of those things out as a four-car team, you can't. Not on short notice. I'm just proud of these guys that it worked out the way it did today.
Proud of this guy, too. It was an awesome job of Alex Bowman driving the wheels off of that thing.
GREG IVES: The showman in the house.
JEFF GORDON: He was making me nervous, two guys side by side, going through the corners. I was like, Oh, God, oh, God.
ALEX BOWMAN: Almost had to have another talk.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff and Greg, thanks for joining us.
GREG IVES: Appreciate everything you guys do for us. See you guys next week.