Daytona II: Jeff Gordon - Thursday media visit, part 1

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Jay Leno, typically rainy weather in Daytona, charities, sponsorships and the economy, racing in the Rolex 24 Hour, season to date, the new race cars, the importance of track...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed Jay Leno, typically rainy weather in Daytona, charities, sponsorships and the economy, racing in the Rolex 24 Hour, season to date, the new race cars, the importance of track position and much more.

Q: Talk about Jay Leno

JEFF GORDON: I mean, I think he's always been kind to me, he's been very kind to our sport. I certainly love the show. I think he does an awesome job.

Q: Can you talk about being on the show?

JEFF GORDON: I think, you know, being on Leno, being on Letterman, highlights my career, because it's more a symbol of what you've accomplished in your life, in your sport. To get the opportunity to go on a show like that, you know, there's a lot of pride for the sport, pride for your team and your sponsors. Certainly very proud of what I've accomplished to get that opportunity.

Q: (Question about charity work.)

JEFF GORDON: Well, I think, you know, there's a couple things that really stand out in my mind. Obviously Ray Evernham's son was diagnosed with leukemia, that's what really inspired me, to see somebody close to me going through something so tough like that. You get close to it, your heart breaks for them, and you want to know how you can help.

So, you know, that's what started a lot of the work for the leukemia, lymphoma society, bone marrow transplants.

You know, Geoff Bodine, I give him a lot of credit for being one of the pioneers in bringing the Make a Wish for children here at the racetrack. I've had an opportunity to meet a lot of kids from Wake a Wish over the years. When I started my own foundation in 1999, I made that one of the charities that I wanted to support and continue to meet kids out there.

Q: For those coming down to Daytona, can you talk about this event, how it differs from February?

JEFF GORDON: Obviously, the temperature's a lot hotter. So the track is much slicker. It's hard to get ahold of the surface. The cars are slipping, sliding around. So I think the driver plays more of a role. And the setup, you know, what the team puts out there is crucial.

You know, it's not just about having a slick car in the wind tunnel and power under the hood, you know, it's hard to hold the pedal down and, you know, put the power to the ground.

So, you know, I think that makes it a pretty exciting event, and one that I always look forward to.

Q: You guys had to deal with the rain last week. Is that much of a concern coming down here?

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, you know, you always have these late afternoon thunderstorms, so you never know what you're going to get, whether you're going to get practice in, whether you're going to get qualifying in, or how much of the race you're going to get in. So strategy-wise, that's certainly what the crew chiefs are going to be thinking a lot about, especially, you know, when you saw what happened last week.

You know, I think that everybody's in different situations. You know, we're in a situation right now, and the points are so tight where we're at, we can't afford to take those kind of big risks. You know, I felt like the 18 car was really the one that lost that race last week. They were in a position to take big risks, and for whatever reason didn't do that.

And you know what, the 2 car was in a position to do it and it worked. And if you can be in that position, if you're outside the Chase or you're comfortably into the Chase, you can do that. For those of us who are like 5th through 12th or 14th, you know, you got to be careful taking some of those risks.

Q: You've had very solid sponsors. Do you ever worry long-term not so much about your own situation but the sport in general?

JEFF GORDON: You know, I've been so fortunate. Not only have we had solid sponsorship ever since I came into the Cup Series, but it's been the same sponsor, you know, with DuPont, and even Pepsi's been with us a long time, Chevrolet. You know, we've been very, very fortunate.

And you go through -- the economy goes through tough times. You know, a company goes through tough times. And you never know. And that's one of the things I love about Rick Hendrick, you know, he's a great businessman, you know, but he's humble, he's thankful, and he really considers those types of situations. And there were times where we could have maybe pushed the issue and put DuPont, you know, in sort of a tough position maybe to negotiate against another sponsor. And, you know, that's the type of leader and owner Rick is. You know, he was like, You know what, we've got a great company here. He's been supportive and loyal to us. We're going to be loyal to them. We're not going to put this thing out there and try to negotiate it. We're going to make it work for them and for us.

You know, when you look around, you see teams struggling and you see, you know, the economy struggling, I tell you what, we're very thankful, especially this year, to just sign the extension with DuPont. You know, that's a tough thing to see happening right now.

Q: You raced the Rolex 24. Did you enjoy that experience? Would you ever consider getting back in that series at all?

JEFF GORDON: I loved it. It was awesome. The car was so amazing to drive and a lot of fun. You know, I did not do it for years just because of the commitment that it takes, the practice that I wanted to get behind the wheel and put the laps in because I wanted to be competitive. And, you know, I'm really proud that we finished, you know, third that year that I did it.

But, you know, to do it during a Cup weekend, I mean, everybody kind of knows how I feel about racing the Nationwide Series on the same weekends. I feel the same way about the Grand-Am Series, especially after seeing Jimmie last year in the shape he was in. He got really dehydrated. His drink system failed in the car and he got really dehydrated. Man, I don't know if I've ever seen anybody in that kind of bad shape. And that was, you know, what was that, two nights before the race.

You know, I certainly wouldn't want to put myself in that position either.

Q: Are you any worse off this year than you were going into the second half and into the Chase now?

JEFF GORDON: I wouldn't say that we've got the confidence or the momentum that we had this time last year, but I feel like our teams are still really solid. I just think that we've gotten a little bit behind versus the competition competitively. You know, that's something that we're working hard on. You know, last year, as strong as we were going into the Chase, you still had no guarantee once you got into the Chase what was going to happen.

As it turned out, we had an incredible run really throughout the whole year. You know, this year, who knows how it's gonna turn out. You know, we might get in the Chase and all of a sudden be on fire. I hope that's the case. But we won't know till (indiscernible).

Q: (Question about working out all the kinks.)

JEFF GORDON: If we knew, we'd fix it in a hurry. There's really nothing wrong. It's just finding all those little pieces to make the car, you know, go a little bit faster. You know, like last week in New Hampshire, we ran just like we did last year. You know, it wasn't an issue. We were strong and good, very competitive, very happy with that.

You know, it's really been more the mile-and-a-half's that we just need to work on. And we've been doing that. We've tested at Kentucky. First time I've ever even been to Kentucky was a couple weeks ago. And, you know, I hope that we can continue to, you know, find things at tracks like that that make us better. If we knew the answers, we wouldn't be struggling.

Q: You're going to tracks that haven't raced the COT yet. Are there any concerns with that?

JEFF GORDON: I mean, any time you go to a track that you haven't been to with this car, then you're always gonna have questions, you know, what's gonna work, what's not gonna work. The 88 did the tire test there. You know, so we've got a little bit of information from that, which is helpful.

But, you know, until we go there, it's really hard to answer the question. You know, it's a flat track. It's a fast track. So I would imagine that track position, you know, is going to be extremely important there, as we've seen at a lot of places.

Q: How do you think this car is going to race here Saturday night?

JEFF GORDON: I feel like it probably does better at this track and at Talladega than any track that we go to. So, you know, I so handling is going to be important as it always is here. That's what we're going to go to work on right here.

Q: Is there anything you do different with this car in terms of strategy than you would have with the old car?

JEFF GORDON: At this track?

Q: Yes.

JEFF GORDON: You need to ask the strategist, (crew chief) Mr. Letarte. I leave that in his hands. We haven't really talked strategy. I think it's going to be very similar. It just depends on tire wear, fuel mileage, track position, how important track position is.

Track position was pretty important here in February. I would think it's going to be really important again. But maybe a little less so. I think handling is going to be really important. If you have a good-handling racecar, you might be able to make some moves.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Ray Evernham , Jay Leno