Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway. He discussed running the Impala SS full time next year, going to Eldora for the Prelude to the Dream event, what they learned from Max Papis...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway. He discussed running the Impala SS full time next year, going to Eldora for the Prelude to the Dream event, what they learned from Max Papis testing at Virginia International Raceway earlier this week and other topics.
IS THAT KIND OF LIKE THE TEST SESSION THAT YOU DIDN'T HAVE, THAT FIRST PRACTICE, THE ONE THAT YOU MISSED BECAUSE OF THE DARLINGTON RAIN OUT? "Absolutely. You know we stayed in qualifying trim just because we didn't get a chance to test here. So we don't really know a lot about what we're going to have for the race until tomorrow, but I am real proud of the team because I feel like we have come a long way from the first time that we took this car to the tracks and what to expect especially Bristol. We were way off there, when we went there to test and had to make big gains. Today I felt like we were pretty close right from the start."
DO YOU THINK THAT THIS RACE IS WIDE OPEN? "Definitely, I think that it is going to show which teams did their homework at home. It is all about getting good information to come here to the track and which teams work together well in the heat of the moment, in that hour and a half or how ever long that practice was, just a very short timeframe to get it figured out."
DOES IT TAKE EQUAL PARTS OF TEAMWORK AND DRIVER ADAPTABILITY? "Well it is always a combination when the teams are successful, it is never just one thing. It is always a combination of people, resources, teamwork and all those things and communication. I feel like Hendrick is really on top of their game. We have got four really great drivers, four great crew chiefs. We are really utilizing the resources that we have and we are coming to the race track well prepared and we are hoping to just build on that because of the good communication going on between the drivers and the crew chiefs and the whole team."
ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF THE IMPALA SS YEAR ROUND NEXT YEAR? "I am, now that we have gone ahead and accepted it. The more we seem to run it, the more I get a little more comfortable with it. Obviously we run well with it so that is also good but to me, for these teams, the financial side of it it has been very confusing to the media and the fans and to the teams somewhat to go back and forth. I think that we are all ready. We have seen good results. For the most part we have seen good results. Still wish we would have run this car in a mile and a half race before they made that decision to really see if we needed to make any adjustments to it. For the most part it has been received well, it has gone over well and we need to just put it in at every track for financial reasons and competitive reasons as well."
IN THIS DAY AND AGE IT IS KIND OF AMAZING THAT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAS WON ALL OF THOSE CAR OF TOMORROW RACES: "It is amazing that we've won Car of Tomorrow races and just races in general that we have won. We have always known that Hendricks is strong but to have things rolling for us the way that they are rolling for us right now is pretty amazing. It is awesome to be a part of it. Everything happens for a reason. I am a big believer in that. We have worked hard and luckily we have worked in the right direction and it has paid off. Last week you know to get number 25 into Victory Lane with Casey and those guys. They did it on fuel mileage. To see how things are working for all four teams is really pretty extraordinary."
THERE WAS A PICTURE OF CASEY HUGGING JIMMIE AND HE HAS GOT TEARS IN HIS EYES: "Yeah, I saw his chin quivering a little bit. That is very cool to see. My first win came at Charlotte and of course the tears were flowing pretty heavy that day so I can relate. I know how special and how meaningful that was to Casey to win that race. I wish I was there. I left because we were out so early and I really missed being there and experiencing that with him because I know how much it meant to him and his family and everybody on that team."
YOU ARE GOING TO ELDORA AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT YOU BEING THERE. TONY WAS IN THE MEDIA CENTER TODAY AND HE IS SO CRANKED ABOUT YOU GOING. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT IT? "I am excited. I am going to go into it open minded to have a lot of fun. It has been a long time since I have been on a dirt track. It has been a long time since I have been to Eldora. I have never been in a dirt late model before. I think that you are going to see all of the guys that are there having a blast. Of course when it comes down to it, we are all competitive so we are all going to be trying to go fast but I think that there are some guys that have an advantage over us. I can't wait. I am excited. I am looking forward to it. It is for a great cause so you just can't beat it. I have got friends that I am bringing and team members and stuff just because they are so jazzed up about seeing it."
WHO IS GOING ON YOUR TEAM? "We are bringing a whole team plane up so I don't know, we are going to see. I told the guys.I had a few guys tell me that they wanted to come and see it and I said to Steve (Letarte), put a list together and I am getting the Hendrick plane and we will see. How ever many want to go."
HOW DO YOU VIEW THE TRIP UP TO POCONO? "It is a very unique track; now that we don't shift it is not as unique as it used to be. Speaking of the Car of Tomorrow and all of the races next year, that is going to be probably the most interesting one probably of all of them, is going to Pocono. It is already challenging as it is, with that car it is going to be extremely challenging. We ran pretty good the last Pocono so I am looking forward to going back there."
IN REGARDS TO THE CAR OF TOMORROW AND THE CHASE, ARE WE GOING TO SEE A DIFFERENT TYPE OF RACING? "I don't think so. I think that you are going to see a lot of the same thing. I think that the characteristics of this track will always play out. It is a concrete race track that is fast, big corners. I think that this car is kind of an unknown to a lot of us. Until we get through practice tomorrow we won't really know what we have got for the race and how hard it is to pass. We have got a pretty good wide groove here. I think that it should be a good race."
DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS TRACK WILL BE THE TRUE TEST OF WHAT THIS CAR IS CAPABLE OF? "Well I thought that Darlington was probably the biggest test that we have had. Once we got through Darlington I think that just about anything is possible with this car. We did some road course testing this week. I think that Pocono is probably going to be one of the biggest challenges next year when we run there. I think that this is a very challenging race track no matter what car you have here. I think that the thing is that you have got to be really careful, you cannot over attack the corner here, which is what we used to be able to do with the older car with the Monte Carlo. I think that you are just going to see some guys that get a good handle on it and get their cars working well and some guys that aren't. I think that this car in some ways closes the gap when you look at the speeds in practice, they were very close. But I think in other ways, when it comes to the race, there is going to be a big difference between the guys that hit it and the guys that don't."
WHAT DID YOU GET OUT OF THE TEST AT VIR ON THE ROAD COURSE EARLIER THIS WEEK? DID YOU GET ANY TIPS FROM MAX PAPIS THAT WERE HELPFUL? "Max has been a big help. Most of his help was leading up to that test. He has done some testing for us, which was nice when we had Max there with us. It allowed us to compare our notes and his driving styles and the things that he learned to what we are doing. So it was very comparable which was great because that means that we are getting good information from him. I was pretty happy with what we saw there. It is so hard to tell because everybody is on such different tires, nobody has the same tires. I mean the tires that we have are like two years old and aren't close to the tires that we are going to be running. I don't know how competitive we are but it was pretty much what we expected. You cannot over drive the car into to the corner, it just won't get into the corner the same way that the Monte Carlo would. It just wants to lock the tires up and things like that. Other than that, I thought that it was pretty close."
ON THE FACTORS FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS' SUCCESS THIS SEASON AND WHAT IT IS LIKE WORKING TOGETHER WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON: "I am in a very unique situation. Probably more unique than any other driver out here. I have been able to have a lot of success at one organization. I have seen this organization grow, I am an equity owner in it, so I want to see it grow. I want to see it continue to be successful. I think that by sharing as much information that I can, it only makes our whole organization stronger which is only going to help me in the long run and help our race team. I think that concept has been able to go that No. 48 team and in return that No. 48 /No.24 has been able to adapt that also to the No. 25 and the No. 5 team and now they are doing it and they are experiencing the same thing. It is no surprise to us on the inside, why our team is as strong as it is today, because the whole organization is communicating better than they ever have, sharing more information, better information. We have really closed up a lot of gaps where we were missing some links in information sharing. It is paying off."
ON WHAT SHOULD BE DONE, IN REGARDS TO TIRES AND TESTING AND WHAT IS FAIR: "Well anybody that says that it is not fair doesn't know what they are talking about. All we did was last year when they set the test rules, we bought up a bunch of tires. Everybody else had that same ability to do that. Give Hendrick Motorsports credit that they planned ahead. I think that is what should be said out there. Yeah, we are on Goodyears but they are two-year- old Goodyears. We bought them last year, they had already been sitting in a warehouse for a year. I don't like what we are seeing as far as the fact that we had basically an open test square, where you have got almost every team is going to go to VIR to test for Sonoma or maybe Road Atlanta, and that NASCAR and Goodyear are not releasing tires to us. I think that they should be treating those tests or I don't understand why we did not have a NASCAR- sanctioned open test somewhere on a road course to get this car ready for a road course. It is in their best interest, it is in all of our best interests, it is in Goodyear's best interest. That is where they put us and so we had to find ways to get tires. We planned ahead last year and other teams are doing what they have got to do whether it be Hoosier tires or Michelin or BF Goodrich tires. They are doing what they have got to do to get laps and try to find something consistent. The only thing that I will say I know that Roush has made some comments on things, the difference is that we have a test team, a designated test team because we have four teams out there racing on the track. His test team is his fifth team that is already out there on the track, doing it every weekend, racing on the tire and getting way better information than what we are getting. I don't know where they are coming from on that. We have had test teams for years that have not given us good information and we have used just 10 percent of it. Now we have gotten a really strong and solid test team that really has come along and given us the value that we are putting into that. That is what I am excited about. I think that is where the sport has been heading for years and where it is at today. Give credit where credit is due in my opinion."
WOULD YOU CHANGE THE TESTING POLICY AND HOW? "Well I mean if NASCAR truly wants to cut out testing then they can do it. All that they have got to do is say.If we find out that you have tested anywhere besides these designated tracks, then that hundred thousand and hundred point penalty is not even close to what we will come down on you with. That is what I would say. If they truly wanted to stop it they could stop it. They know they can. They have the power to stop it. I do think that the cost is getting a little bit out of control, even for us. We have resources, we have money, but everybody has their limits and we don't want to see the costs continue to go up. We want to stay where they have been. We also know that we want to stay competitive and continue to move forward and staying competitive. We are doing everything that we can within the rules that we find is as fair to us as it is to anybody else and we are just doing our jobs."
WOULD IT BE CONSIDERED AN UPSET IF SOMEONE OTHER THAN A HENDRICK DRIVER WON A CAR OF TOMORROW RACE? "That's funny, I guess it would. It wouldn't be to us. It might be to you guys (the media). We feel like Gibbs has dominated Car of Tomorrow races, just haven't gotten the victory. I think that I'll be surprised if Gibbs doesn't step up to the plate again this weekend, show a lot of progress, as well as Childress. The Penske cars are getting better as well. We don't feel like we dominated any of these Car of Tomorrow races this year, maybe Martinsville. Other than that I feel like those guys have been the guys to beat, we've just gotten the victory. We feel fortunate but we feel like we got work to do."
ON IT BEING 16 YEARS SINCE HE RACED ON DIRT: "I haven't thought about it a whole lot until recently with everything coming up at Eldora and it's been very exciting to think about getting back on it. I look back through my career and everything was a stepping stone to get to the next level and dirt track racing was a huge part of my learning curve to get me where I am here today and I'm excited that the opportunity has come up to be able to get back. I wish it was in a sprint car but I'm looking forward to driving a dirt late model for the first time."
ARE YOU AFRAID YOU MIGHT NOT BE AS GOOD AS YOU'D LIKE TO BE? "I don't expect to go out and be strong. I've never driven a dirt late model ever. These things are quite a bit different. If we were running winged sprint cars around Eldora then I got a shot at those guys but it's a lot different. Just because it's a dirt track doesn't mean anything. I think Bowyer and Stewart probably have the advantage of most of the guys out there."
HAVE THE RACES CHANGED AT ALL SINCE TONY STEWART MADE COMMENTS COMPARING NASCAR TO PRO WRESTLING? HAVE THERE BEEN LESS DEBRIS CAUTIONS? "No, I don't think so. I think a lot of those comments were made out of frustration and I don't think that anybody's ever really agreed with those comments. I certainly don't. I think NASCAR has a very tough job and I do think they need to get a little bit more consistent with some of their calls but I feel like they've made a lot of right calls. You look at sports in general whether it's a referee or any kind of judge, you're going to get it wrong sometimes and somebody's going to criticize you."
HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT SUNDAY'S RACE? "Today we just worked on qualifying but I'm excited to be here in DuPont's backyard. We had a great DuPont day yesterday and a lot of employees and big fans that are excited about us racing this weekend and I think we've got a great shot at another win here."
WHAT MAKES THE MONSTER MILE DIFFERENT THAN OTHER TRACKS? "It's a very fast race track and there's a lot of action on this track. It's not an easy to track to get around especially with this new car. It's going to make it very challenging for all the teams this weekend and the drivers. I think most of all though you're going to see a great, exciting race as usual."
-credit: gm racing