Jeff Gordon said he and crew chief crew chief Alan Gustafson are “big boys” and their relationship is fine after an argument over the radio during last Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway.
The audio of their heated exchange came with just under 20 laps left in the race as the duo argued pit strategy.
“It’s intense out there,” Gordon said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. “We had a car far better than what we finished. A little bit of build up with the type of season we’ve had so far. It seems every time we have a car that’s capable of winning or running in the top five, some circumstances come about that takes us out of that and that’s frustrating.”
Gordon started fourth at the track where he has won six times, but finished 14th, just shy of his 2015 average of 15.1. He remains winless this season.
Gordon’s best chances at winning in 2015 have come at Daytona and Talladega (where he earned the pole) and at Martinsville. At Daytona, Gordon was caught in a last-lap crash (finished 33rd). At Martinsville, he was caught speeding on pit road (finished ninth) and Talladega saw a combination of both. A speeding penalty buried the No. 24 back in the pack, which led to another last-lap crash and a 31st-place finish.
“When you’re in the closing laps of a race or coming down to the final pit stops and decision, you’re not always going to like those decisions and you have to play a role in it,” Gordon said. “The restarts weren’t going great, we took a risk on pit strategy and the caution came out. That blew that strategy and put us back. We saw how hard it was to pass and track position being really important, especially in that final run.”
Gustafson wanted to pit, while Gordon thought his car was set up well for the final run.
“I rarely ever question those calls, he’s the crew chief and makes great calls,” Gordon said. “But at that point I felt I needed to stay out and it got a little heated.”
Gordon believes it is a positive that the two had their heated moment and “said some things and got them off our chests.”
The tiff came in the middle of Gordon’s final Sprint Cup season, which has seen Phoenix International Raceway rename itself after Gordon for its fall race, but has yet to see Gordon visit Victory Lane.
The No. 24 team is now focused on this weekend’s Quicken Loans 400. Michigan International Speedway is a track that Gordon has won at three times in 44 starts, including the fall race in 2014. A good performance at the 2-mile track would go a long ways to instilling confidence in Gordon’s team.
“Confidence that we need, not just here at Michigan, but everywhere,” Gordon said. “The team is working extremely hard to make those improvements, to give me what I need to go out there and have confidence and that’s really to me what we’ve been lacking a little bit of. The performance hasn’t quite been there, the confidence hasn’t quite been there. It all comes together when you have those things. It doesn’t happen overnight, but one race can make a huge difference in getting you back there, and I think this is a track that can do that for us.”