We’re pleased to be joined in the media center with our race runner up of the Dodge Challenger 500, that’s Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Claritin Ford.
Carl, your thoughts about how things panned out there this evening.
CARL EDWARDS: I mean, first of all, I’m definitely disappointed to finish second; not win the thing. But our whole crew did a great job. We were 43rd on the sheet when we came here first practice. I was down in the dumps. I was feeling terrible. I didn’t like the new surface and I was frustrated.
To come out of here with a second place finish… I mean, Kyle had the fastest car. I mean, he was pretty unbeatable tonight. To finish second, beat the rest of the field, that’s pretty good from where we came from, coming here.
Very proud of my guys for rebounding on pit road. Did a great job. It’s good. I’m not so frustrated with the surface anymore. I was terrible on Thursday (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: We also have our third place finisher in tonight’s race, that’s Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet.
Jeff, your thoughts about your run out there tonight and first time racing on this new surface. What did you think?
JEFF GORDON: I thought it was, yeah, pretty good. You know, for a first time, new surface, new tire, to not have tire problems, you know, to be able to get up and go pretty good on new tires, I thought it was pretty much what I expected. You knew, I knew it was going to be very tough to pass. But guys who had their cars working real good would be able to come up through there, like Carl, and like Kyle when he went to the back.
All we did was we started eighth. Two cars wrecked in front of us. We got to sixth. Somehow some track position worked out. We got in the top five. We just had awesome pit stops all night long. Because we did not have a car that could have driven from the back to the front.
So we know we have some work to do. You know, we’re excited about heading in the right direction.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions now for Carl or Jeff.
Q: Jeff, you’ve been in this game a long time. How do you stop a guy like Kyle? He seems almost unstoppable across three different circuits.
JEFF GORDON: I felt that way about Carl earlier in the season. Now that 18 has come on strong, I don’t know, they’ve definitely between the two of them, they’ve just got the field covered.
You know, you just got to work hard. We were unstoppable last year. We worked hard to get into that position. Other teams worked hard to catch us and pass us really. That just shows you, you know, just how tough and how competitive this sport really truly is.
You know, we’ve been doing everything we can, testing, trying to figure it out with all the tools that we have at Hendrick Motorsports. You know, we’re definitely still missing a little something that we’re going to keep working on.
I can tell you one thing: it wasn’t aerodynamics tonight ’cause Kyle hit the wall. I can’t tell you how many times he tried to give this race away by slamming the wall. His right side was destroyed. So I know it wasn’t aerodynamics tonight (laughter).
Q: Carl, we spoke to you yesterday. You indicated if there’s too much side by side racing, we would see a whole bunch of cautions. You also said that in the Nationwide Series last night. Do you still feel that way? Kyle tore up everything in sight. Nobody could catch him either.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I thought it would be a lot worse than it was. There was a lot of give and take. That was pretty cool. I was thinking, boy, they should invite people from all over South Carolina to come and drive on this racetrack all year round, every day they want, try to get this surface wore out a little bit. I think it would be a great promotion and definitely get this thing, you know, to where it wears out tires.
That was one part that was missing just a little bit. Track position seemed to be important, where before it seemed like tires were huge. But I was impressed with everyone. I thought Thursday this was going to be a disaster. And it was for me yesterday. But today went pretty well.
Q: Carl, I say this facetiously. You have your back flip. Tony has the climb up the flag stand. Kyle has this really embellished bow. What are your thoughts about that?
CARL EDWARDS: I didn’t see it (smiling). I mean, people do whatever they’re gonna do. His brother did the snow angel thing. Hey, here’s the deal. It’s just entertainment. When you win a race, I mean, you’re the winner. You can get out and do whatever you want and it’s okay ’cause you won. People can say whatever they want, but you’re still the winner.
I’m cool with whatever people want to do. I think it’s cool when Kyle gets the smoke going, then all of a sudden he jumps out of the car like David Copperfield or something. That’s pretty neat.
JEFF GORDON: Houdini, man.
CARL EDWARDS: Houdini (laughter). And where the hell is Harrison Ford? He came to a couple races, his face is on the car. Guy could have showed up. I wanted to talk to him a little bit.
Q: Carl, I know that you have repeatedly said that this is your favorite track. It must not have seemed that way last night through much of this race. How important was it for you to finish second at a place that you really like but has been tough? Says a lot for a track to be as tough as this one to be your favorite.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I like this track. And the reason I like it so much is because it seems like the driver can make a pretty big difference. I was a little nervous about the surface because I felt like that took a little bit of it away.
Yeah, still felt like you could make some things happen out there. I think with some age, it will be just the same. You know, it’s still my favorites racetrack. I’m real excited about getting a little age on the surface, though, because it was great before they put the surface on. I hope it gets there.
Q: For both you guys. Can you describe to the fans just how tough it is to make 500 miles running here. Looked like basically every lap was a wreck waiting to happen. We had eight cautions, which some people thought was miraculous. Can you talk about how hard it is to race under normal circumstances and with the new surface how hard?
CARL EDWARDS: It’s a pretty grueling race. This kind of tests you, I think your car and your concentration, going into the turn three especially. But that’s part of it. I think that’s one of the dimensions of this that makes it fun.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, I saw some characteristics of the old Darlington tonight, like getting into turn three, even though you could carry good speed into turn three, get to the middle, the front end would take off to the wall. You didn’t know if you were going to hit it. I saw plenty of people that hit it.
I think you can race this track a lot of different ways. You can drive it, you know, a lot of different ways. And I think it’s still Darlington of old in how you have to do that. But this surface, like Carl said, any time they resurface a track, it’s going to take a while for the racing to get to where we really like it, which is grinding the tires down, having to conserve and run hard on new tires, then having to really drive the car.
Tonight was tough, but it wasn’t the toughest Darlington that I’ve ever driven, just because you really couldn’t even get up to a guy to pass him. You know, lap car had to let me go in order for me to pass him. I don’t know, maybe them other guys were a little bit better than that (laughter).
I was able to keep my car on the wall all night. That’s just what I focused on doing all night, just trying not to get in the wall.
Q: Jeff, you’ve had a lot of success here. This track has really changed over time cosmetically with lights, the facility itself. Could you talk about how much this has changed from six, seven years ago.
JEFF GORDON: Really, you think it’s changed that much? I didn’t think it’s changed that much. I mean, the surface has certainly changed. The lights, you know, that’s certainly a different aspect.
But they do such a great job with the lights these days, it’s almost better driving at night than it is during the day ’cause I think there’s less shadows, the grip’s better.
But, you know, other than maybe some of the big grandstands that you see. And I’m excited that this track is still on the circuit. I hope more than anything that it stays here because to me this place, the fact that it hasn’t changed, just shows all the history. I love seeing the old footage. I know Carl got to run around here with David Pearson. I’ve done the same thing with Cale Yarborough. That’s just cool, you know. That’s what makes this place so great. It’s kind of like Daytona, it’s kind of line Indianapolis. It’s the greats, the video, the history that makes it what it is.
And I’m really glad that they didn’t change this track when they repaved it. They just repaved it, tried to fix the cracks and the bumps. I just hope it does get back to wearing tires out and right back to the old Darlington, because that’s what really makes this place so great.
Q: Jeff, as Kyle’s former teammate, a guy who knows him, he’s pretty widely loathed out with the fans, but yet he’s on this tear, he’s winning. Does he have to find a balance on playing to the crowd, being the villain, still be able to continue his success?
JEFF GORDON: I think if he had his choice, he wouldn’t be the villain. I don’t think he wants to be that. I know Kyle’s a good guy, you know. And he’s an incredibly talented racecar driver. There’s no doubt about that.
He just gets himself into situations, you know, that it just follows him. He just needs to accept it, go with it, but, you know, be himself. And I think there’s an opportunity here for him. Not that he wants to go crashing Dale Jr. very often. I don’t think that’s going to do him too many favors. But having a love hate relationship out there with the fans is not a bad thing. I heard more noise for him tonight than I’ve ever heard for him. And all I can remember when I came into this sport is riding around Dale Earnhardt, and him getting a lot of boos and cheers, and all he cared about was about how much noise they made.
That’s what I’ve always built my philosophy on. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of noise. I didn’t always, you know, know who’s cheering and who’s booing. But, you know, right now, the boos might be louder than the cheers, but at least they’re making a loft noise.
Q: Along the lines of that same question, could you talk about the feeling that Kyle must be enjoying right now about how when you get up on race day you know you’re gonna be up front and running for the wins, having so much success on a week in, week out basis?
JEFF GORDON: No, I’ve forgotten what it was like, so I can’t answer that (laughter).
CARL EDWARDS: I don’t know how he feels. He can answer that one.
I want to say thanks to David Pearson. It was really cool the time I spent with him. He was over here on Thursday. Like you said, the history here, for David Pearson to be able to stand in the garage and tell me, hey, man, if you get into turn three, it’s a little tight, it’s going to be okay in turns one and two. All that stuff. It was pretty cool. Along the lines of what Jeff said, that was a very neat experience. I hope we can keep this track on the schedule, that’s for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Plus you had a great deal with him here last month.
CARL EDWARDS: Oh, yeah, we had a good time.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, guys. Thanks a lot. See you at the All Star.