JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD YOUTH CHALLENGE IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed the start of his season, the impact of no testing, the state of General Motors and more. TALK ABOUT YOUR...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD YOUTH CHALLENGE IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed the start of his season, the impact of no testing, the state of General Motors and more.
TALK ABOUT YOUR START THIS SEASON. "We're really excited about the way things have started off this season. It's been a great confidence and momentum builder for all of us. Half the battle out here week in and week out is putting race cars out on the race track that are competitive and can win. I feel like we've had that every race so far. The last three races I feel like we've had cars that were capable of winning. So it's been very exciting and also I think the team has really shown just how much of a fight they have in them as well. We had the challenge with the tire, our own fault, in Daytona and then last week when I missed pit road and blew the tire and tore the fender off it, the way that they reacted and got the fender cleared and the calls that Steve Letarte made to be able to pull off a sixth-place finish was pretty spectacular. I think that's why we're leading the points right now. It's obviously pretty early to be bragging on the points but hey there's a bunch of other guys that would like to be in the position we are in as well so we'll take it."
PIT ROAD AT LAS VEGAS YOU HAD A PROBLEM, WHAT CAN WE DO TO MAKE IT BETTER THERE AND WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT PIT ROAD IN GENERAL? "Well what's happened is because they moved the start of pit road speed so far back for safety of the crew members which is obviously a good thing, it's made it tougher getting off the track because now we have to slow down more on the track. What happened to me last week was we were following the No. 48 car. He was able to signal coming in there and it was such a late call for us that I got a little too focused just making it to pit road instead of signaling the guys behind me. Because I didn't signal them and you have to do all your slowing down on the track because the apron is a big transition there, I started to slow down and I got to third gear and I looked at my mirror and those guys had no idea I was pitting. If I hadn't of moved on to the apron I probably would have gotten hit and spun and it would have been worse. So I moved to the apron and when I did the car was just carrying too much speed and I locked the left front tire up and missed pit road. I certainly take the blame for not signaling more down the back straightaway when I knew Jimmie (Johnson) was going to pit. I could have done some things to signal. You usually just swerve a little bit left to right down the straightaway and usually the guys know what that means and plus we're working with our spotter to try to signal the guys a little bit more. We're all also trying to get more out of pit road. We're trying to get there faster. We're trying to maximize the speed down pit road, get off pit road, have good pit stops on pit road. There is just nothing you want to leave unturned because it's just so competitive out there and that's kind of what happened with us."
MARTINSVILLE HAS ALWAYS KIND OF BEEN KNOWN AS BEING HOT, HARD ON BRAKES AND EQUIPMENT, WITH TECHNOLOGY AND THE NEW CAR AND THINGS IS MARTINSVILLE STILL THAT BEAST? "It's not what it used to be. I think we have better technology in the brakes themselves and we've gotten smarter about how to cool them and what works well but you can't take that for granted. If your handling is off a little bit you might have to use the brakes a little bit more or if you're back in traffic you got to use them a little bit harder. It definitely can still bite you so we don't take that for granted. We always are trying to get more out of the brakes and we're always trying to cool more. Martinsville is definitely one of those tracks that you have to survive. It starts with getting a good pit stall through qualifying and trying to make good decisions throughout the day and making it 500 laps. You know there will always be that and still is but it is a much faster pace than it used to be which is only really a contribution to how much better the teams have made the brakes and the cars and everything. You can just push that much harder. You don't have to save anything anymore. You do have to recognize when you are in a situation, you can just watch the gauges, water temp, oil temp, all those things go up there's less air to the nose so you can be assured that there is less air getting to the brakes as well."
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON START AND PARK TEAMS? "That's up to them if that's how they feel like they're going to make money or they're going to be able to be out here week in and week out. If that's what their sponsors are happy with. I don't see where NASCAR needs to get in the middle of that. I think that you want to have competitive cars and trucks out there on the race track. At the same time those teams have to be able to survive, it's a business. So they have to do what's best for them. If there is an opportunity for them to do that and it makes sense for them then I don't see where having a few cars or trucks out there that do that really is going to effect the type of racing we're going to put on or effect the fans in the grandstands. I guess I really don't have much of an opinion on it really to be honest with you."
HOW WERE YOUR TIRES IN PRACTICE? "Oh we're going to have issues but I don't know if they're issues with wear. It's called grip, just trying to get a hold of the race track. You know they did this tire test here in December and I heard the track temp. was like 50 degrees, it's over 90 today and it will cool down a little bit for qualifying but there just really was not much grip out there at all. I was surprised because I kept hearing this tire was supposed to have more grip in it. Until we run tomorrow and run more laps I really don't know if I can answer that correctly or give you good information for what we have in store for us on Sunday as far as tire problems. I think that everything I've seen the tire looks good. It's not wearing crazy or anything like that so far but we've only been making one lap at a time thank goodness. That's about all I could make."
HOW MUCH HAS THE LACK OF TESTING BEEN AN IMPACT HAS THAT BEEN ON HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "Well it's been a huge impact financially in a positive way. We've saved a tremendous amount of money by not having to travel all around the country and fly in airplanes and personnel and hotel rooms and everything else like that. In that sense it's been a very positive impact. I love the fact that there's no testing. They are still doing tire testing but still there is no true way to get the most out of knowing what the tires are capable of until all teams are there at once. I certainly would like to see us at Indianapolis with a test to see just really where Goodyear is at with that tire and they feel confident with it during the testing. It's been the same for everybody except for those who have had tire tests so far. I like the fact of seeing the team at the shop on the computer creating some really cool theories and thought process of using their education to map out our plan and utilize the tools we have at the shop and come to the race track and have the cars pretty close. I'm impressed with that and I feel like Hendrick is one of the best out there with it. So it's only been a positive in my mind with us."
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE LABOR DAY RACE HERE, TALK A LITTLE ABOUT NIGHT RACING AND WHY YOU THINK IT IS SPECIAL AT THIS TRACK. "Atlanta Motor Speedway is just so fast. Any time you're running that fast under the lights in multiple grooves its great racing. Does that put this race in the Chase or take it out of the Chase? No it's out so it's going to play a factor still in who makes it in the Chase but I just believe it's really going to be a spectacular event. I ran a race here at night one time, it was not on purpose but on accident because of the weather but to me racing under the lights here is real cool. Just like qualifying in the lights, it's a spectacular place to race in general. You put it under the lights and it only makes it that much better and the cars look that much faster."
WITH THE NEWS ABOUT GENERAL MOTORS AND THE FACT THEY ARE OPEN TO BANKRUPTCY, DOES THAT TRICKLE DOWN TO WHAT YOU GUYS DO AND WHAT'S YOUR FEELING ON THAT? "The reports that I've gotten and what I heard, I haven't heard anybody saying they're open to that. I heard there was an audit done that opened up some information about their viability long term. As far as I'm concerned they're still committed and so are we to offer them all that we can from a racing standpoint hoping that marketing in racing is still extremely important to them. I'm a Chevy dealer. They've got some of the best cars out there that they're offering up to the customers that I've ever seen in the years that I've been in this sport. I think that obviously they're concerned and obviously they should be and so should America in general. The economy is being affected in a big way and they play a vital role in the economy. Of course we all want to see them get things turned around and it's not going to happen overnight. We're just going to support them just like they support us until I hear otherwise and I haven't heard otherwise. So we're just going to stay on track and keep trying to put Chevy in Victory Lane every weekend. We're going to keep pushing our guys, Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet and keep selling Chevrolet's and keep talking to the American public about continuing to support American brands and American manufacturer's especially Chevrolet."
THIS TRACK HAS A LOT OF HISTORY FOR YOU, WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN AS A DRIVER THE FIRST TIME THAT YOU RAN HERE THAT YOU KNOW NOW, NOT JUST ABOUT THIS TRACK BUT JUST IN GENERAL AS A DRIVER? "Well you've got to understand that this track has changed. It used to be just a straight oval and the start-finish line was over on the other side. Now it's flip-flopped. One thing that has always been the same about Atlanta Motor Speedway is that it's always been really fast and tire wear has always been an issue. You always had to manage your tires and search around the race track running high, low. One thing that I take into this race that is a little bit different than most races is just more patience. You see somebody out there running just really hard, putting down some fast laps and you can't let that effect how you're running your own race. I feel like at this track you really do have to kind of run your own race because it is so fast and it is so abrasive on tires. A lot of times those cars that do that, the drivers and teams a lot of times they back up to you so you just have to be patient.
"This weekend is really going to be about survival like I said. I don't want this to be taken the wrong way when I was making the comments on the tires. I believe that this track and this car especially with the temperatures we had today is possibly the most difficult track in the world to build a tire for. So I certainly credit Goodyear for their efforts but it's almost beyond what they can do or any tire manufacturer. I think this is such a tough place especially with this car. We all knew going into this car it was going to be tough on tires and we have our hands full. It is really going to be a white-knuckle, hold on tight survival type of race. I'm actually kind of excited about that. I think that is going to make things really interesting this weekend."
BRUTON (SMITH) WAS IN HERE A LITTLE BIT AGO AND SAID THAT HOMESTEAD SHOULDN'T HAVE THE FINALE, I WAS JUST WONDERING OF WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE JOB THAT HOMESTEAD DOES? "I'm not surprised that Bruton would say that. He's not afraid to create a little controversy here in the media center, we know that. First let me say I love what Bruton brings to the sport. He always gives you guys some good material to write. I think he always keeps things interesting and he builds beautiful facilities, no doubt about that. But I do think Homestead is the place to wrap down our season. I love that track. I love the area. I think that it is a little more challenging to get our core fans to travel all that way to south Florida and it's not in the heart of where our core fans are but there still are a tremendous amount of fans that love this sport down there and they do a great job marketing and promoting the whole championship weekend.
"It's a fun weekend for me and I know several other drivers especially if you're battling for the championship. It's a great race track. To me the changes that they've made to that track over the years has been a huge improvement for stock car racing, for NASCAR because of the multiple groves that it has now. It's just a lot more fun to race on and I think we put on a much better race there which makes it a great place to wind down the season."
-credit: gm racing