Gordon said he is pleased with NASCAR’s attempt to delineate what is – and is not – allowable on the race track, going forward.
“I think we are all relieved in many ways,” he said. “All we have to do is go out there and race hard. I think that statement gets misinterpreted in some ways by people who might not understand this sport as well as the garage area and members of the media that follow the sport, or diehard fans that follow the sport.
“You would think, ‘Oh well, you just race as hard as you can all the time.’ Yeah, we try to go out there and race to win every single weekend. But if you are having a bad day or are not in a position to win the race or the championship, you are going to be a team player. That is part of having teammates. Now, it’s going to get challenging and difficult on those days.
“On the days where you are competing for the win, a Top-5 or Top-10, there is no question. You just go and do the job you love to do every single weekend. That that is the position we are in right now. We have all four cars in the Chase, all battling hard, racing hard for wins and to win the championship. We don’t have to worry about any kind of team order or anything, because all four of us are in it.”
Johnson said he was stunned to learn of NAPA’s decision to end its relationship with Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the season, due to the team’s attempt to manipulate the outcome of the Richmond race.
“The long-standing relationship that Michael has had with NAPA, (I’m) definitely shocked,” he said. “I don’t know what message it sends. Clearly, there have been a lot of things flushed out and discussed over the last couple of weeks, and the sponsor stood up and said, `Hey, this is where we stand.’ In this tough economy, we hate to see sponsors leave. It’s going to be very challenging for MWR with the loss of such a major sponsor.”
Gordon said NAPA’s departure sent a clear message to teams, beyond anything NASCAR could have accomplished through monetary or championship point penalties.
“A sponsor leaving is certainly bigger than those penalties,” he said. “That is hard to replace, especially at this point in the season. That was a very loud message that was sent to MWR -- as well as everyone in this sport -- about what expectations are and what can result if there are negative actions.
“It is unfortunate (to) see a team go through some of the decisions and choices they went through. You want a team to get penalized for those types of things, no matter what team it is. But you never want to see it go to this level where they lose a sponsor. That is really unfortunate.”
Gordon said that while he has a clear understanding of how to race his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, the situation could become more complicated as the Chase rolls on.
“It will get challenging when we get further into the Chase and some of us are not in that (championship) battle,” he said. “How are we going to manage racing as hard as we can, as well as what is happening with our teammate for the championship?
“I think we are not going to do anything to manipulate the outcome of the race, and we are going to do everything we can to race at 100 percent all the way to the checkered flag. There might be instances where it might look like we are helping our teammate, (but) we are not. We are racing them hard, but they are faster than us. That is where it’s going to get challenging. That is where you guys (in the media)… are going to watch very closely how business is being taken care of on the race track, in radio communications and all those things.
“I think not having the digital (radios) has been a little bit new for the team,” said Gordon. “They could talk to a spotter about a plan, or talk to somebody else on another team about what we were going to do on the next pit stop. That has changed things, (but) I think it is also a good thing, because we want everybody to know what we are talking about and what is getting ready to happen at all times.
“I think it only makes a better experience for the fans as well.”