HOW DO YOU MANAGE BEING IN A LATE-SEASON POINTS RACE? "You try not to think about it or talk about it I guess. To me, it all comes down to performance. It comes down to getting the best race cars out there on the track. That seems to solve a...
HOW DO YOU MANAGE BEING IN A LATE-SEASON POINTS RACE?
"You try not to think about it or talk about it I guess. To me, it all comes down to performance. It comes down to getting the best race cars out there on the track. That seems to solve a lot of problems and gets a lot of the pressure off of you.
"We like to do a lot of testing late in the season. We do a lot in the beginning and not much in the middle and a lot at the end. We tested at Rockingham last week. We're testing at Phoenix next week. We feel like we're pretty much out of the points, but we want to win races here at the end of the season. But we can gather a lot of information for Jimmie - just like he gathered a lot of information when he did all his tests earlier in the season for both teams. But I really think that's the way you handle it. Late in the season you've got to perform. You've got to be careful with what you say. If you start talking too much about points or start over-analyzing it, you can get yourself in a position where it adds pressure to you.
"I like to approach it by getting out there on the race track and do what we do best and not talk about what we're going to do. All those things can get you in trouble if you don't live up to them. You always need to communicate with the team about what they're feeling and what you're feeling and what's going on. You need to come together on what you think you're going to need at the end of the season to be on top."
ON BEING PUT IN THE CATEGORY WITH ALL-TIME GREAT DRIVERS LIKE PETTY AND EARNHARDT
"It's a little overwhelming and somewhat uncomfortable. I wish there was really a way to judge drivers and their skills. Or maybe I'm glad there isn't. I don't know if it's really that important (to know). To me, it's such a team sport. You're dealing with a machine and there is so much that machine relies on as a driver.
"Earlier in the season, we were one of the fastest cars. We came back here thinking we should be close. We showed up here yesterday and I was 31st in practice driving the heck out of it. Is that the driver or is it the car? You tell me. I've always said I don't want to be the one to judge that. If somebody puts me in that category, I'm extremely honored. I didn't really get a chance to race with Richard (Petty). He kind of went up in a ball of flames that day (Gordon's first Winston Cup start at Atlanta 10 years ago). But I raced with (Dale) Earnhardt. And in my opinion, he is definitely the best driver I've ever raced against. But there were places he was a lot better than others. But was it the car, or was it him? I don't know because I always thought he was the best there was. There are guys out there that several years ago I would have thought they'd ever win a race. But then when they get in the right situation, they win.
"It's just hard to say who's the best and who's not the best. If you put me in that category because it's just statistics, that's fine by me. I'll take whatever you want to give me. But I'm not going to tell you I deserve to be there."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TODAY TO BE A RACER?
"I find it hard to believe that the majority of guys out here these days aren't racers. We all pretty much grew up racing as kids on short tracks. Yeah, maybe a real true racer is the guy who towed his own car to the track and put every nut and bolt on it. I used to know a lot about Midgets and Sprint Cars. They're a lot easier. There's a lot less too them. But I didn't know anything about a stock car until 1991. I didn't even know what a stock car was. I came into it pretty blind. When you get to this level, you're expected to do more things than just learn the car.
"I believe we're really all racers because we had to cut out teeth to get here. None of us were just handed in on a platter. Some guys like (Ken) Schrader and Tony (Stewart) still like to be involved in other stuff. Maybe they are considered racers because of that. I don't know. I love all that, but I don't see where they find the time to do it.
"Maybe I'm more of the (type) guy who likes the media and the commercials and some of that stuff. Maybe it's taken me more down that path, where those guys would rather just get behind the wheel. I don't care if you consider me a racer or not. I just care if I win races."
WHY DO YOU THINK THE GIBBS CARS ARE SO DIALED-IN HERE?
"Bobby (Labonte) has always run well here - even with the old configuration. I wish I knew. I was thinking about this the other day. We had a test here with Goodyear a couple of years ago. It was Bobby (Labonte), Mark (Martin), and myself. We started swapping cars. As soon as it was time for me to get in Bobby's car, it mysteriously blew up. I'm not really sure. I would have liked to have been behind the wheel of that car to see what it felt like.
"This is one of those places where you've got to have a certain feel. It's extremely fast. For this race, we brought the car we won with at Kansas City. A car that worked good on a mile and a half race track should work good here. But this place is it's own beast. It's a momentum track. It's a fast track. The same things don't always apply. Those guys (Gibbs) obviously have a good package. Other than on short tracks, the driver/crew chief communication on springs and shocks is much more important. When you get to these places, it's all about aero. It's all about engineering. And I think that's what it takes."
-team monte carlo-
Jeff Gordon Breakfast Club, part I