Following a weekend when Jeff Gordon found himself in the spotlight for not many the best reasons – retaliation, Gordon would pick up his 87th Sprint Cup Career victory and his first win at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“This is a big win,” Gordon said afterwards. “I mean, we've been really close here in the past years with some good race cars, but just coming up a little bit short. And today we just did all the right things. With the way this team has handled things and fought through things and some great moments and some pretty low moments, to be able to end the season like this, pretty amazing.”
It also marks the first win for Hendrick Motorsports on the Florida track.
“I can't believe -- it's not very often you get Hendrick Motorsports a first for Rick Hendrick,” Gordon said. “We got to do it together, Buddy. I appreciate that."
Though it also marked a special time to have a win as Gordon and DUPONT were celebrating 20 years of being partnered.
“To be able to have a special paint scheme commemorating 20 years together, it's such an incredible accomplishment,” Gordon said. “Then to be able to kind of pay them back or give them thanks by pulling that car into victory lane, I know how pumped they were.”
“It was a great day for us, a great day for DUPONT,” Rick Hendrick said. “You don't have sponsors that come on board and stay with you that long.”
The incident at Phoenix International Raceway last weekend saw Gordon in the spotlight after he wrecked Clint Bowyer late in the race after some contact. That then turned into a big brawl in the pits between both pit crews. Gordon said he tried to just put that behind him, however it played on his emotions all week.
“I just kept going back and forth about the decisions that I made and wishing I had made different decisions to backing up reasons why I made the decisions I made,” he said. “I just kept going back and forth from being disappointed, being angry, feeling that I had a right. I didn't have a right. So that just ate me up all week.”
Gordon admitted on Friday that he regretted wrecking Bowyer.
“I felt like that Clint needed to be dealt with, but that wasn't the right way to go about it, certainly not the right time,” he said. “And what I hate most about it is that other guys were involved with it and it affected their day.”
Gordon also spoke about the line of respect and how he personally goes about handling incidents of this nature.
“Somebody does something to me, I'm either going to -- if it's a racing incident, I'm going to try to race them back in the same way they raced me,” he said. “If something happened by accident, then I'm going to understand that -- I'm going to make them kind of pay the price for making a dumb move, but at the same time, I'm going to be as respectful as I can over the situation.”
Gordon says with that behind them and having the team stuck by his side, it was special to be in victory lane with his guys. He believes it all started with the apology he gave during the team meeting.
“I apologized to those guys for some of the things that transpired that they had to get involved with that wasn't their doing last week,” Gordon said. “I put them in that position, and I apologized to them and I thanked them at the same time for having my back.”
Gordon says that the events over the past week are their whole season wrapped into one week, with them having each other’s back as they’ve each made mistakes this year. There’d been issues on pit road, though also wrecks on track that are simple wrong place, wrong time, or caused by driver error.
In the end, the season saw Gordon finish 10th in points with two wins, 11 top fives and 18 top 10s in 36 starts. The chase didn’t go the way the four-time champion would’ve hoped as he had three finishes outside of the top 15, including a 35th place finish in the Chase opening race at Chicagoland Speedway.
“I feel like this has been one of those seasons where I think we're going to get momentum and things are going to start happening positively and we start to put some races together to find our way up further in the points, something just kind of reaches out and gets a hold of us and kind of knocks us back a little bit again,” Gordon said. “You know, our team has worked so hard this year, and I'm so proud of them. We've had great race cars this year.”
Though now with the win, it is something to lay back on and hopefully carry some momentum into the 2013 season. With the fact that there is a new car coming in 2013, it also has Gordon excited.
“I'm looking forward to the 2013 car,” he said. “I tested it a couple weeks ago. I thought it went really well. I think we've got some great things in store for that. I think Hendrick Motorsports in general has shown how well they prepare when a new challenge is thrown at us like this new car. So I think we've got some great things in store for us for next year.”