JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the challenges of the 600, driver expectations on the track, the upcoming Pocono race, and more. TALK ABOUT TRYING TO GET A HANDLE ON THIS TRACK IN THE DAY AND THEN FINISH AT ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the challenges of the 600, driver expectations on the track, the upcoming Pocono race, and more.
TALK ABOUT TRYING TO GET A HANDLE ON THIS TRACK IN THE DAY AND THEN FINISH AT NIGHT "Yeah, we certainly hope for cloud cover because this track, when the sun's out with these types of temperatures, it's going to be very challenging for everybody. What you see as far as lap times and what you feel as a driver is not going to be indicative of what we're going to be dealing with in the race. Even though this race starts in the daylight, it's still going to be much cooler than what it is now. We're going to go out there and this is our time to practice and we're going to make the best of it and try not to get frustrated and try to have a good balanced race car and take what we learned the other night, not much in the All-Star race, but the little bit that we learned and apply that and keep trying to get ourselves prepared for this long 600-mile race."
ON THE SITUATION WITH DENNY HAMLIN AND KYLE BUSCH, DO YOU RACE TEAMMATES ANY DIFFERENTLY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE RACE, AT THE END OF THE RACE, OR AT ANY POINT? "Well, certainly with 10 (laps) to go in the All-Star race, I wouldn't. I think in that type of event, you've got to go for it and you've got to do everything you can. But it looked like Denny was fading pretty bad there. You know, when you think of a 10-lap shootout, you really rush everything because you think it's a very short amount of laps. Those 10 laps are actually longer than you think, and a lot more happens than what you can imagine. I felt like Denny definitely knew he was coming and was making his car wide and I think that Kyle was pushing the issue a little bit where you can't expect your teammate just to give you that spot or that space there; certainly not in the All-Star event. But if that was 10 laps into the 600, now that's a different deal. I think both would have handled it different. I don't think Kyle would put himself in that position and I don't think Denny would have been giving up the position a lot easier."
ON WHAT MEMORIAL DAY MEANS TO HIM "It means a lot especially since we've built our relationship with the National Guard and gotten a chance to spend a lot more time in D.C. and with several members of the armed forces. It really has educated me in a way that I'm more appreciative and thankful of Memorial Day today and this weekend than I ever have been. We're really proud to be carrying our version of red, white, and blue colors on the DuPont Chevrolet and to be honoring those men and women that serve our country. They really sacrifice not only their lives but they put their families on the line. There's a lot on the line there for what they do for our freedom. It's awesome to know that we have people like that who have that kind of commitment. Every time I see them I can't smile and thank them enough for that because we certainly wouldn't be doing what we're doing at the race track if it weren't for them."
ON THE FINAL 10 LAPS OF THE ALL-STAR RACE, CAN YOU CONTRAST THAT WITH THE FINAL LAPS OF THE COKE 600, WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY? HOW DO YOU FIGURE OUT WHERE THE GIVE AND TAKE IS WITH YOUR TEAMMATES? "Well there are two things that apply. This is a points race. You want to win the race and you're going to do everything you can to win that race. But you're also not going to want to take yourself out of the race entirely and cost yourself a lot of points. It's always risk versus reward. That's what racing's all about. With these double-file re-starts and the green-white-checkered finishes, it's going to create a lot more intensity and put guys into that position to make mistakes or push the issue. It's still going to happen or could happen in this race, but I think if it's for the win, you've got to go for it, especially with as hard as it is to pass. It's something that you've got to take advantage of when you think the opportunity is there. I think you've got to weigh out the situation at the moment."
WHAT ABOUT BLOCKING IN AND OF ITSELF AND PROTOCOLS THAT APPLY? "Well, let me tell you, I grew up in Open Wheel racing with no mirrors, no spotters, and there was no such thing as blocking. If the guy is there, you don't do anything different unless you can see him. And if you see him, because you're in an Open Wheel car, you've got to give him that space, that room. But that's not the case in Stock Car racing. I learned that early in my career that if they have one-quarter of an inch inside your bumper or outside, they're there. And if the spotter says they're there, they're there. But you know, if we're trying to compare to what happened the other night, that's different. Kyle (Busch) wasn't there. I don't really think Denny Hamlin) did anything wrong and I think maybe Kyle expected something that wasn't there. And I think that's just something you can't do whether you're in a 600-mile race for points, or in a shootout."
ON POCONO, WHICH IS THE HARDEST TURN AND WHY? "Oh, they're all very unique and challenging in their own way and I think that's what makes Pocono so special. I've always said that the Tunnel Turn is one of my favorites but also one of my least favorites because when you hit it right, it's just so incredible and such a great feeling; and it's such a thrill to go through there. But when you hit it right, it's the most physical corner there is on the track because you lose so much momentum and time and you're hitting the steering wheel because you messed it up. And it's such a short corner, but it's really fast. I like that corner. But the most challenging one is probably the third turn where it's just really flat and really fast and it's really difficult to get it right."
HOW HAS POCONO CHANGED OVER THE YEARS IN TERMS OF HOW TEAMS APPROACH WHERE YOU DIDN'T SHIFT THEN DID SHIFT; NOW YOU DON'T AGAIN? "I wish we did. I feel like we'd see a little bit more passing opportunities if we could shift, but I also understand with the rpm's where we were getting in a range, financially, that was getting a little bit out of control. It's still very challenging and a fun track. It really challenges the teams and engineers and there are a lot of different theories right now on what makes you go fast at a place like Pocono that might apply to Indianapolis.
"And I feel like Pocono is one of those tracks where everybody sort of uses it as a test session for Indianapolis because Indy is such an important race and prestigious. You can't apply those long straightaways in that flat last corner to Indy. It seems like if you get yourself right there, it gives you a good opportunity to possibly find something for Indy. But it's always fun and challenging and I look forward to getting back there."
ARE YOU A BETTER SHORT-RUN OR LONG-RUN DRIVER? "I'm a better long-run driver but it's just because that's what we set our car up for. I mean if it's a short run, we set our car up for a short run. We can do that too. But we typically lean towards setting our car up for a longer run. So I think that's something that I like so I guess you could consider me more of a long-run driver. But ever since this car came along, I feel like track postion is more important than it's ever been and so if you don't get that position early, you're never really going to gain it back over the long run. We've adapted some changes there for ourselves to try to maintain that track position being more important than even the long run. It' depends on what track you're at too. If Darlington was the way it used to be, then you want to be good on a long run, not a short run. But now with Darlington being the way it is, the pavement, you just go hard from the beginning and try to maintain and fall off at the end."
HAS THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS CHANGED THAT? "A little. I think double-file restarts, you can't set the car up for double-file restarts because as we've seen, with like Darlington being a perfect example, the caution didn't come out there at the end. Had the caution not come out at the end of Texas, we'd win the race. Just because it's exciting and creates a good show and all that, that doesn't mean the caution is always going to come out at the end. The percentages were leaning toward that early in the season. We'll see how that trend goes. And if that trend continues when we get to the Chase, we'll switch it up. We'll change some things and make sure that we're better on the shorter runs."
ON QUALIFYING AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY "It's a throw-down, white knuckle lap, that's for sure. This place is fast. It just seems like Charlotte has always been one of those tracks where your draw position is extremely important. You want to get the coolest temperatures that you can possibly get on the track. You know that it's going to change a lot from practice to qualifying. And you're going to go for it. You're going to throw it all out there and you're going to see sparks flying underneath the car and your foot is going to be hard on the gas. It's a white-knuckle experience."
WE SAW THIS WEEK AT THE HALL OF FAME HOW MUCH RESPECT BILL FRANCE, SR., BILL FRANCE, JR. GARNERED BEING AT THE TRACK WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT, DO YOU THINK BRIAN FRANCE GARNERS THAT SAME RESPECT? DO YOU THINK HE NEEDS TO BE AT THE TRACK MORE OFTEN? "The marketing side of the sport has changed over the years and I think, if you were to ask Brian, he probably feels like his face time is probably better served with those marketing people and the folks behind the scenes more so than at the race track. I think that is just the evolution of the sport and how things have changed.
"Would it be nice to have him here? Yes. I think that people would say, it would be nice to have him everywhere, all of the time. But, you know, you can only do so much. I don't his schedule or what all he has going on, but I feel like he is doing a good job. If we could see him here at the track more, I certainly would support that. But, I'm not saying it is absolutely necessary."
TALK ABOUT THE DEMANDING PHYSICAL NATURE OF THIS RACE AND HOW FRUSTRATING IT MIGHT BE IF YOU ARE UP FRONT AT THE END AND THEN YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH THREE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKEREDS: "It is a long race, especially if stays warm like this before cooling down at night. I don't feel the physical side of it, if you do what you are supposed to do from a physical standpoint from hydrating yourself, eating right, getting the proper amount of rest, being in pretty good physical shape, that should not play out in a green-white-checkered. It is just whether or not you get the good restart. I know there are some mental mistakes that can happen but, I think when those cautions come out, you get time to rest and you're in pretty good shape. I don't see that really playing a part.
"It is a long race but this track is not as physical as some others. If it goes green for a long, long time, then yes, it could play a factor because you're not going to get the time to hydrate yourself throughout the race. You need those cautions to really be able to hydrate and I even take some carbs in the car, just fueling my body as the 600 miles go. I try to do it every hour. If you miss those, if you go for two hours straight, which I don't see that happening, it you were, then, yes, it would play out."
DO YOU LIKE THIS RACE? "I love this race, I think it is too long, but I just love the race track. I like how things chance a lot during the race. I like the tradition of the 600 miles, but I don't like anything else about 600 miles at any track."
DO YOU THINK INDY 500/NASCAR DOUBLE IS A THING OF THE PAST? "It doesn't affect my decisions on doing it. To me, they could offer a $100 million to run both of those races or win both of those and it wouldn't affect my decision because I'm only going to go there if I feel like I can be competitive. To be competitive, I would need to be in those cars all of the time. This whole Mario Andretti-jumping from one car to the next, to the next, to the next, that doesn't happen anymore. It's not like that. You have dedicated teams with engineers and drivers and that is why they go fast is because of that. I think the only one that has a shot at doing that is Juan Pablo Montoya. Guys want to go run the double, that is great, it is cool. But they are not going to win it.
"The only one at that is Juan Pablo and I've not even talked to him about it. Whether or not he is even interested in it and wanted to do it or what his feelings are on it, but if you took Ganassi over there and over here, you know, seems like they are the only ones that can pull it off."
IS IT LESS LIKELY TO HAPPEN IN THIS ERA BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU WERE TALING ABOUT WITH THE TEAMS? "What are you gains? That is the way I always look at everything. What do you have to gain? We've seen this year how difficult the cars are to drive. A lot of people are wrecking. You have that aspect of it and those are veteran drivers. Drivers that aren't in those cars a lot, I think it could be very frustrating and taxing on your time and your confidence. It is not different than why I don't run the Nationwide races. I try to focus on doing one thing well instead of doing two things half-way good. I just don't think you can do both Indy and the 600 and do them both really well, good enough to win."
JIMMIE (JOHNSON) LED A BUNCH OF LAPS LAST WEEK, DOES THAT MEAN ANYTHING GOING FORWARD THIS WEEK FOR YOU GUYS? "Jimmie runs good here. Those guys are strong. It is going to be a lot different in a 600-mile race but I certainly predict that the No. 48 is going to be one of the teams to beat just based on what we saw the other night and their past history here. We certainly can gather information from what they had and I feel like we were going to be really good the other night too. Unfortunately, we didn't get to show it. So, yes, I think as a whole, I think Hendrick Motorsports definitely has the opportunity to be good this weekend."
CAN YOU COMPARE 600 MILES HERE TO 500 MILES AT POCONO? "They're about the same. 500 miles there is 600 miles here. I think Pocono should be 400 miles. I think it is too long. But, it is a tradition again so I get it. That is why I don't say a whole lot about it. We just go and run the race. I'm not the one that makes those rules and those decisions. So, I go run 600 this week and 500 at Pocono and hopefully we can win them both."
WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE AS THE NEXT PERSON IN THE HALL OF FAME? "I think (David) Pearson is a no-brainer. But there are so many different people that played really important roles in this sport that outside of David, I haven't probably put enough thought into going through the list just yet of who would be my picks. I don't want to just say drivers. I think Cale (Yarborough) is probably another one. But our sport, especially in the first several class of inductees has to recognize everybody that played a role and I thought the first class of five was perfect and would love to see the next class stack up like that class did. And I do think Pearson is a no-brainer but past that, I'm not really sure."
-source: gm racing