JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF RACING THE NEW IMPALA SS FOR THE FIRST TIME, POSSIBLE TRACK REPAVING AT DARLINGTON & BRISTOL, AND WHAT TO EXPECT IN SUNDAY'S RACE HAVE YOU IMPROVED ON THE NEW CAR...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT THE CHALLENGES OF RACING THE NEW IMPALA SS FOR THE FIRST TIME, POSSIBLE TRACK REPAVING AT DARLINGTON & BRISTOL, AND WHAT TO EXPECT IN SUNDAY'S RACE
HAVE YOU IMPROVED ON THE NEW CAR SINCE THE TEST? "Yeah, I think we've made some improvements on it and we're starting to get that feel. We're learning a lot. Today is only about one or two laps. Some guys made some race runs. We did not. I feel like we've got a shot at the pole, so I'm happy about that. I never felt like we weren't going to be competitive with it. But it's just working through the travels and different things we need to make this car feel like the current car."
BRISTOL HOLDS THE RECORD FOR CUP CAUTIONS - 21 ON TWO DIFFERENT OCCASIONS. COULD WE HAVE ANOTHER RECORD NUMBER THIS WEEKEND? "We have to wait and see, really. I don't think we're going to see a much different Bristol than what we've seen in the past. I don't think this car is going to necessarily bring on more cautions than what we've seen in the past. But it's certainly not going to bring on less, either. I was a little bit surprised that more guys didn't have trouble in practice, so I think that's an indication of what we might see. I was having a little bit of trouble getting into the corner. The car was a little bit uncomfortable because of what we had to do to make the car turn in the middle of the corner. And I'm curious to see how that works out in qualifying."
AS BRISTOL'S WINNINGEST ACTIVE DRIVER, ARE ALL YOUR NOTES COMPLETELY WIPED CLEAN WITH THE IMPALA SS OR CAN YOU APPLY SOME? "Well, we're always going to keep notes and apply them to everything we've learned over the years. And even though you might move from some things, in some ways we've stepped back with this car and in other ways we've moved forward - aerodynamically with the splitter and with the wing. But mechanically, with a bigger and heavier car with less downforce, then mechanical grip is important and the travels that we run are important. As a driver, you're still searching for the same thing. You want to get into the corner and roll through the center and be able to carry speed up off the corner. Those things will never change. It's just how we get there.
It's exciting on one hand because it's a challenge, but it's a little bit disappointing because I feel like we've really made some big gains with the current car - not just at other tracks, but even at the short tracks. I would like to have my current car here and see what it feels like, but we're making the most of this new car, the Impala SS. It was a good practice for us and so far it's been a good day."
ON HIS PRACTICE SESSION: "Unlike what we've been doing at most tracks lately where we start with a race set-up and run a race run and then get travels and everything for tomorrow and then switch over to qualifying. We started out straight with qualifying today. Qualifying is going to be extremely important this weekend and it's tricky. If things are with this car with the travels, we wanted to get on top of it right away. I think it's paid off for us because our speeds are pretty good. You saw a lot of guys really thrashing to get some things figured out in a short period of time, but I feel like it worked well for us."
ON THE BIG TEAMS MAKING LAST MINUTE CHANGES "Well of course they are. You have to still run the current car, so you can't forget about that. But yet it's important to get this new car figured out. The bigger teams are able to make more last minute changes because they're constantly learning right up to the last minute before that car gets loaded and leaves (the shop). And, they had a whole day here yesterday going through inspection. So there are a lot of new things we're going through with this car. It's just going to be a learning process until we get a few races into it and then we'll know more."
ON THE BIGGER MEASUREMENTS OF THE NEW IMPALA SS: "It's a little bit awkward. We carry so much momentum out to the wall in turning into the corners and we use up every inch of the race track. And then in traffic, of course you're using every inch. You're trying to find out where your bumpers are and how much room you have. I think you're going to see guys rubbing and banging into each other a little bit more than in the past just because of misjudgment because the car is a little bit wider.
"Even just trying to get through the garage, I'm trying to be extra careful because that splitter and everything that's out there, I don't know exactly where it's at. So it's been a little bit of a learning curve as well. That'll just take time. It's not that big of a deal."
OTHER THAN MESSING UP YOUR SPLITTER, ARE THERE OTHER AREAS WHERE YOU CAN MESS UP YOUR CAR BY BUMPING PEOPLE? "Yeah, throughout my career, anytime I've bumped with anybody, I've felt like it was taking too big a risk. I'm not a big believer in getting out there and bumping and rubbing and leaning on guys.
I like to stay away from them if at all possible. It's hard to say what's going to occur until we go to a race. But as tight as this race track is, we should learn an awful lot this weekend about it."
ARE PEOPLE STILL BOUNCING IN THE CORNERS? "No, not nearly as much as during testing. I think everybody was just trying to figure out your travels and being on these bump stops, you know. You've got a lot to work with. You're trying to maximize the splitter and the downforce. Getting those travels right is extremely difficult. We don't have a machine at the shop, really, that can duplicate this kind of condition like we can at smoother, faster places."
WHAT THINGS DO YOU NEED TO HAVE ANSWERED BEFORE QUALIFYING? "The biggest thing is travels. This car really doesn't have the front downforce like out current car, so we struggle to get the car to turn through the center of the corner. And yet, at the same time, it makes for a very light car getting into the corners. It's about trying to get the car freed up as much as you possibly can to really roll in the center of these tight corners without loosening the car up too much for the entries."
HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO THE CURRENT MONTE CARLO SS? "I feel like we have a lot more tools to work with to free the car up here in the past and we had the downforce to make up for the entry. Now, we don't have the downforce and that splitter is sensitive when it leaves the ground and when it compresses close to the ground and the track. And so I feel like we're a little bit more limited on our tools to work with. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, it just makes it more challenging."
CAN YOU GO BACK TO YOUR OLD NOTES? "Like I was saying earlier, we have some new technology with things that are more current with the splitter and the wing and we've learned so much about riding on bump stops and getting the most out of the aerodynamics, but this car won't allow you to do near as much as what we do with the current car. So, in some ways we're stepping back in time and maybe that's a little bit better for some of the older school drivers, but I don't think so. I think it's going to come down to the good teams that pay attention to detail and build a solid car and really know how to apply everything to this car and a driver who feels the car well enough to go out there and drive around. It's the same thing we deal with every weekend.
"But I do think there are only certain teams out there that have really figured out how to get their bodies to maximize the downforce and still get through inspection with the current templates. And this car eliminates that a lot. I do think it's going to close up the competition in some ways, but in other ways it challenges those guys even more to where you could see some really tight times for a lot of guys and some guys will be way off."
ON THE SPEEDS "I don't know if aerodynamics are going to play a big role in this car at this track. So I think the speed difference will be no different than normal; it'll actually make it a little easier to pass some cars. I'm more concerned with the cars that are running about the same speed - maybe a little slower - and then you come up behind them and then you don't have the aerodynamics to make the pass. I'm more concerned with that."
ON THE TALK OF REPAVING DARLINGTON AND BRISTOL "We're finding out a lot of things about these race tracks, like the shape of the track and the angles and the banking. If they asked my opinion, I gave my opinion. Darlington is such a great, historical race track, there are some very minor things that they can do to maybe make some improvements. But unless you want to tear the whole place down and do a whole new race track, which I don't think anybody wants to see that done, I think they're really going to just get in there and fix some of the pavements issues where its breaking apart. Here, it's kind of the same thing - except that you're dealing with concrete here. I think there are some forming and different transitional things that they can do to make more side-by-side racing here to make it not only more exciting, but more competitive. I'm very curious to see how things turn out with this track and I've met with them a few times. The problem is you're working within these walls. Those outer walls can't be moved so you have to work around that and that challenges the engineers a lot. I'm happy to give my feedback and I hope other drivers are. I wish that every track that is either repaved or where they are building a new track that they would sit down with as many drivers and crew chiefs and tire engineers and NASCAR officials that they possibly can before they decide what they're going to do."
ON BRISTOL COMPARED TO MARTINSVILLE AND WHAT TO EXPECT WITH THE NEW CAR? "I think Martinsville should be a little bit easier to adapt to because we don't have the loads and banking and drop-offs transitions we have here. So I think we should see a fairly typical Martinsville and a typical Impala SS. It's a lot of what we're dealing with here."
ON THE BIGGER TEAMS BEING ABLE TO GET A HANDLE ON THE NEW CAR FASTER "Well I feel like Hendrick Motorsports is so on top of everything right now. When you look at all the teams out there, I think we're doing as good or better job than most. That doesn't just relate to the current car. It relates to new projects, the new car and everything. We're excited because we know we're bringing good race cars to the track. And we're really excited with the DuPont Chevrolet team right now. Good things are happening. We're having a lot of fun. We're competitive and I don't think that's going to matter whether it's the current car or the new car. We're having a good time."
ON THE IMPALA SS RETURNING TO NASCAR? "I think it's very cool. I've never driven an Impala on the race track, so I'm excited about it. I think it's very unique marketing that the manufacturers are doing by splitting up the brands. It's a good opportunity to take the new car and turn it into the Impala SS and keep the current car the Monte Carlo SS. I think it's brilliant and we're going to make the best of it."
-credit: gm racing