Charlotte II: Jeff Gordon - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORODN, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS REGARDING TALLADEGA? "I'll be honest. I haven't been involved with a lot of that. I've been just sticking with my program...

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORODN, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:

WHAT HAS THE REACTION BEEN AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS REGARDING TALLADEGA? "I'll be honest. I haven't been involved with a lot of that. I've been just sticking with my program and my team and everything. I'm happy to see Brian (Vickers) win a race. We know the pressure he's been under and that entire team and what they've gone through. We all know we didn't want to see it done like that and neither did Brian. I spoke to Brian and I know he feels bad about what happened. It wasn't exactly how anybody hoped or planned that it would go and it took out two good cars. I think the toughest thing is on Brian now. He's got a lot of people out there against him right now and he's really going to learn some valuable lessons through all this because he's going to be feeling a lot of heat and getting a lot of attention and not the kind of attention he'd like to get on his first win. So there's nothing really that we can do or say. I hate it for Jimmie (Johnson). He had a car in a position to win that race and came out of there in 23rd or 24th and that's a real shame."

"I'll tell you what I told both of them. And I said this on Sunday. If NASCAR does not stop bump-drafting, those things are going to continue to happen. They are not doing anything about bump-drafting. And because the track had more grip and the cars were more under control, they thought oh, okay, maybe it's okay that they do it. And I think some things are taken out of context with Junior. I was just trying to point out to NASCAR that Junior was probably the most obvious one and so I thought, hey guys, look at what he's doing and we need to stop this or it's going to get out of control. In my opinion, if they had stopped the bump-drafting earlier in the race, Jimmie may have had to settle for second or third in that race. Maybe he wouldn't have gotten a push like that from Brian. But it would have calmed things down tremendously and that kind of a push would never have materialized and I don't that wreck never would have happen."

DALE JUNIOR SAID YOU NEVER COMPLAINS WHEN HE PUSHES YOU FIVE TIMES TO THE LEAD "That's not true. Ever time I've ever said something about it is when he is pushing me because I don't have a problem when a guy wants to push you and you're trying to get momentum on the guy behind you. But he's pushing you all the way through the corners. And then what happens is that he gets in a position and you're the leader and he just pushed you in the corner and he turns right underneath you. If that's the way he wants to race, then we're all going to be forced to race that way and I think it's just going to cause more incidents and he's doing that because NASCAR is allowing it to happen. It's not because he's doing anything that anybody else wouldn't do, it's just that he's taking it to the next level. I don't blame him for that; I blame NASCAR for not stopping it. They need to step in and make sure that kind of stuff doesn't happen. Listen, Junior is one of the best drafters out there and I don't want to throw him under the bus. And I think the thing was misled into me just complaining about Junior. I was just trying to make it obvious to NASCAR about what kind of bump-drafting was going on out there. I think things get said back to him and he's disappointed and then I hear some things that he says and I'm disappointed. I know how many times his teammates have pushed him to wins. And I've had teammates push me as well. But we always race good out there together. I'm more concerned with the bump-drafting that goes on at Daytona and Talladega.

"So that's it about Daytona and Talladega. I'm done with that now. Let's move on to something else."

ON THE POINTS, WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU STAND AFTER LAST WEEK? "I thought we were out of it. After seeing what happened to all the guys in the Chase, we actually are still in it. I'm happy about that. We've got to put six solid races together and we've got to race eight or nine of the guys now instead of just five or six. And so it's not going to be easy by all means."

DO YOU HAVE TO BE BEST FRIEND WITH YOUR TEAMMATES? "I think you have to know when to leave your friends off the race track and leave racing on the race track. I don't think there is any doubt that an innocent mistake was made, by Brian, but it just was bad timing. He was kind of in a similar situation with me at New Hampshire. I don't necessarily think that he did anything wrong. It's just bad timing. You've got guys that are in the Chase trying to win a championship, and Brian is in a unique, difficult situation. He's with this team until the end of the year. He's with a different team next year. And he's focused on himself and on his team to do all they can to shine. I don't think those efforts are always focused on trying to contribute to us winning the championship.

The crew chiefs and all the team members are working very, very well together. And Brian and Jimmie and I have worked very well together at times, but it just seems like in the heat of the moment it just hasn't worked out the way we'd hoped it would. But that's not his priority right now. And I'm not saying it should be. He's in a unique situation. It's a tough call for him.

"I've talked to Brian at length. There's not an issue with that. It's about decisions that are made on the race track. Those decisions that happen on the race track are what's going to patch it up and mend those wounds."

"The track is pretty good. The tires are still hard. They softened the left side up a little bit. I feel like I'm slipping and sliding out there. But it's going to get better and better as the weekend goes along. And really, the next race we have here I'm hoping to see some really good racing. It's a little uncalled for to have the smaller fuel cells that we have here. But I guess that NASCAR is looking at hey, we're going to small fuel cells next year with the COT anyway."

SHOULD WE HAVE TRAVELING SAFETY CREWS LIKE BILL ELLIOTT MENTIONED IN HIS BOOK? "On some sides of things, I think Bill has some legitimate things that he's brought up. NASCAR, until recently, has not been very proactive. But they have made some big, big gains in being more proactive these days. You can't go back in time and fault things that have happened in the past. You can only hope that from this day going forward, that they're doing the right things. I see them working hard to do the right things.

"I probably don't know enough to comment. But I would like to see guys that are specially trained that know the teams, the drivers, and the cars. I agree with the local medical staffs that know the local hospitals and doctors and things like that. But as far as what is being taken care of on track, and getting them to the hospital or to that next stage, I would like to see a designated safety team that travels. I think that would be a good thing."

HAS THERE BEEN A NOTICABLE CHANGE IN THIS TRACK SURFACE SINCE MAY? "Not much. Very little. There is a little bit change in the tire. Goodyear has got a little bit softer left side tire. So we're not slipping and sliding out there quite as much as we were the last time we were here. I think the racing is going to be good. The groove is going to widen out. The place is going to be pretty fast tonight for qualifying. I'm really looking forward to next May and next October and seeing the track mature that much more. But it might take a couple of years. But it seems to have already gotten better and will continue to get better."

TALK ABOUT GOING TO MARTINSVILLE NEXT WEEK "I always love going to Martinsville. We run so well there. We've got some things we're working on that will hopefully take us to that next level. We're trying to continue to raise the bar in the performance of the cars and the teams and we're having a lot of fun doing that."

WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE HAVING TERRY LABONTE AS A TEAMMATE? "It's been awesome. Somebody asked me to come to a dinner that they're having for him at Texas and to come up with some stories about him. I'm sure they want to roast him and all that, but I don't have anything I can get him on. He's a true competitor and a champion. And he's very quiet. And so I don't know if I've ever had an issue or run-in with him on the race track. Maybe he's got different stories, but I certainly don't. I battled with him for the championship in '96. It was just a great experience. It has been a thrill for me to be a teammate of his for those years."

ON THE CURRENT POINTS SYSTEM "I think it's pretty good. There are some minor changes that maybe could be made. Maybe we could see some more points added to the top. I'm more concerned with taking points away from further back. I'd like to see the points paid down to about 25th or 30th and pay the same amount of points all the way down to 43rd. It's just like last week, there were calls out there running around at the end (with) engines blowing up and parts flying off the cars because cars had been torn up and damaged and there is just no reason for those cars to be out there to try to finish 35th or 36th and make up three more points."

IS THERE ANY BENEFIT TO CUP DRIVERS RUNNING IN THE BUSCH SERIES? "I saw today guys jumping out of their Cup cars and they had to run as fast as they could over there to the Busch garage and get signed in and all that and go (practice). There is no way that is adding to their Cup program. There's no way. That's a crucial moment for me to get out of that car and spend that time with my team and my crew chief in dissecting what we need to go out there an qualify better. But some of those guys have made it work - especially Kevin (Harvick). My hat's off to him. But it doesn't change my opinion on it at all."

IS IT ALL ABOUT THE MONEY? "I know it has a lot to do with that. I'm not saying there aren't things that you can learn to help you out. But I think it's more of a hindrance to your Cup program. Most of the guys who are running are doing it because they're either trying to start their own Busch team or Cup team some day, or their Cup car owner needs that Cup driver in there to keep the sponsorship that it takes to have that program. It really is no longer a training ground for young, up-and-coming drivers. It's unfortunate (because) it should be. But all those Cup teams and owners and drivers are out there working the Busch Series and it's going to take away from finding that young talent that we're all searching for. We might be able to find crew chiefs and crew members, but fewer drivers."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon