Jeff Gordon ...
Jeff Gordon #24 DuPont Chevrolet
WE'VE HEARD STORIES ABOUT YOUR RECENT SIGNING OF 'TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME' AND THERE HAVE BEEN MANY OPINIONS AS TO WHAT HAPPENED. WHAT IS YOUR VERSION OF THE STORY? Well, I mean, my version is that it was pretty awful. I admit that. But, there was no alcohol involved and I knew the words. It had nothing to do with that. It really had everything to do with being in the booth and it's a lot harder than it looks because the fans are signing and there's a delayed reaction. So, I just got off of the words and was trying to catch back up and just ended up looking like an idiot. I went there to throw out the pitch and I wanted to do that and I was excited about that. To throw out the first pitch, you have to sing the seventh inning stretch. I know I'm not a singer and wasn't thrilled about but I knew I was going to have, but no matter how good I did, I was still going to be awful.
IS THIS ONE OF THE FEW TIMES YOU'VE NOT BEEN ON YOUR GAME? Not that it hasn't happened, but I went into it thinking: I know the words, I've heard the song many times and it shouldn't be that difficult and I expected it go a little bit better than it did, and then it just really flopped. So, I definitely was thrown off. That's a tough crowd. Honestly, not only could I not hear them signing, but I couldn't hear the booth, either. I knew they were there, because people told me about it, but I couldn't hear a thing. I was expecting to kind of get it started and then sing along with the crowd and then walk away. I couldn't even sing with the crowd because I couldn't really hear them.
DID YOU GET BRIEFED BEFOREHAND? No, I had the words long before I ever went. You know, knew the song, knew the words and even knew it was called Wrigley Field, Wrigley Field. I knew that you had to say, 'Root, root, root for the Cubbies' instead of 'the home team.' I even knew all of that. But, it had nothing to do with that. They asked me if I wanted to practice it one time, and I said, 'No, let's just do it' and I wished I would have practiced.
TWO TEAMS CHANGED CREW CHIEFS OVER THE PAST WEEK. CAN 10-11 RACES BE ENOUGH TIME TO JUDGE A CREW CHIEF AND TEAM CHEMISTRY? Well, I'm not there. I'm not there day in and day out and on the radio. It's tough for me to judge based on what's going on with other teams. I don't know if that's enough time and I think what strikes odd for me looking from the outside is that you know, they really made a lot of gains in the points over the past four races. And went from way back up to the top 10 and then made the change. I know they're 11th or 12th now, but hey, only Junior and those guys on that team only real know what's going on. I have no idea.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR YOU AND ROBBIE TO GET COMFORTABLE WITH EACH OTHER? It took half the season. You know, we had a common respect from the beginning before I even hired him. Just a guy that I could work with and have respect for. He had been a crew chief prior, too, and had experience and skill. It took the two of us half a season before we really started to gel and communicate and understand one another.
CAN YOU RELATE THIS TO YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CREW CHIEF I think the difference there is that we never fought, we never argued. I knew that if the car wasn't giving me the feel I wanted and I think he knew that we weren't where we needed to be. Those cars had all been built prior to him getting there. And we had teammates to get information from that had cars built a little bit different. It took us halfway through the season not only for he and I to gel, but to get our cars where they needed to be also. Where is it now? I have (respect) for Robbie. I think that the guy really understands me. I think we have a common perspective. I think it's an important thing between crew chief and driver because you're going to have heated moments, you're going to have times when the car is great, the car is fast, all sorts of things are going to be thrown at you, and if you don't have respect for one another, then it's all going to fall to pieces. And I think that's something that Robbie and I have always had. And I've actually had to push him sometimes to be harder on me. Not think of me as Jeff Gordon, champion, but think of me as any other driver out there. Crack the whip when you need to crack the whip.
IS HE HAPPY WITH THE ARRANGEMENT AS WELL? Oh, yeah. As far as I'm concerned. I would love to see Robbie have a long future at Hendrick Motorsports, whether he wants to be a crew chief or whatever level he wants to be at. I think Robbie has a lot of talents that we haven't tapped into yet. I think, how long does he want to be a crew chief?
COMMENTS ON THE TRACK SURFACE AFTER GRINDING Not so good. I think that, from what I'm understanding, they didn't grind the bottom of 1 and 2, which I think is a mistake because now we only have one groove down there instead of two. Even though we're on the outside groove, you can't really get to the bottom and pass down there. 3 and 4 is pretty good. During testing I ran the outside of 3 and 4 and then here last weekend all we did was run around the bottom and it seemed like the bottom was the fast place. So, I'm hoping that changes by the end of Sunday night's race. 3 and 4 should be good. I don't think 1 and 2 are going to change a whole lot.
STILL AS CHALLENGING? It's still a challenging race track. I would say the straightaways are almost as challenging as the corners now, which is hard because these cars ride and they didn't grind the straightaways, so we're losing traction down the straightaways. And you saw a lot of wheelspin on the restarts the other night. That was probably one of the most challenging parts was just trying to not spin the tires on the restarts. There are still some pretty big bumps going into 1 where you get to where they started grinding. But as far as where they ground, I think they did a great job with it.
Robby Gordon #7 Fruit of the Loom Chevrolet
It's a fine line here. I'm excited about how quick we are, but it's only practice. If I can comeback and qualify for the race and inside the top 10, I'll be really, really happy. But, we've been working really hard within our team. Working hard on our cars. Brought in new people about three weeks ago. And I'm seeing progress and that's exciting for me and my team. For us to be fractions of a second out of the pole, I'm ecstatic. It's a new engine program with Menard Engineering, we're new building cars, we've had a really tough season with missing some races. So, kind of our goal is to make the race, more than being on the pole.
Kevin Harvick #29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet
ON THE PRACTICE SESSION We struggled quite a bit in practice in the beginning and then made quite a few changes there at the end and got our car faster. We should be decent in qualifying and we definitely made huge improvements from the start of practice.
ON THE NEW TRACK SURFACE The new surface is really smooth and really fast. It's just not very conducive to racing. It's hard to race the cars side-by-side. Hopefully as the grip level wears down it'll get better, but we'll just have to wait and see.
HOW DOES THIS CAR COMPARE TO THE CAR YOU RAN IN THE ALL-STAR RACE, WHICH IS THE ONE YOU ORIGINALLY PLANNED TO RUN IN THE 600? This is the car we raced at Darlington, which was the only time we've raced it. We fixed it and it'll be fine. It drives good.