JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS, WEEKLY TOP-10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT Q. On problems with his car: "We have had some things happen to us and they're all things that we at Hendrick Motorsports outsource, nothing that we're building.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS, WEEKLY TOP-10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT
Q. On problems with his car:
"We have had some things happen to us and they're all things that we at Hendrick Motorsports outsource, nothing that we're building. We're putting a list together through convenience or saving a buck here and there where we outsourced it to maybe focus on some other things. We're putting that list together so we don't continue to have these problems. Right now we need to be focused on dialing the car in, working on setups, making the car go faster, not needing to worry and focus on one little thing here and there that can cost us positions like what happened to us in Richmond and Charlotte. What happened in Charlotte, the 48 was about six to 10 laps away from having the same problem. It's an issue really throughout the garage because it's a company that builds things for all of us. It's not the company's fault. It's what we're doing now with the cars that are putting more stress on that part so now we got to go back and research a little bit more."
Q. How frustrating is it that little things like that keep you from getting over this hump?
"We're much more concerned with the competition, with going faster and trying new setups and making gains there with downforce. Those little things are going to happen. We're definitely putting a team of people on that to make sure those things are happening but our primary focus is still just speed. We're really getting there. I'm glad we're under the radar because when we hit it, we're going to hit it big and everybody is going to say 'Wow, where did they come from?' We're not going to talk about it. We're here to go out there and do it. We're working our butts off, this whole team is, to put that out there on the race track. For us what might seem like only three or four positions on the track to everybody else are additional steps in the right direction."
Q. Do you think you are ready to win a championship this year? Do you think you are you equipped to do so?
"Team-wise I think we're definitely ready. We've got a great team - the morale of the team, the way everybody is on the same page, the pit crew. Everything focus-wise, communication-wise is there. We just got to get that competition and performance up a couple of notches and we'll absolutely be ready to win a championship. It's a lot different now with the Chase. Right now is like experimental time. There might be guys out there wining races and running faster. Our job is to catch up to them and pass them when it comes time for the Chase."
Q. What is your timeline for that? Is it this week?
"Trust me, if we could have figured it out yesterday we would have. We're not putting a timeline on it. We're just working as hard as we can to get there. There's no doubt there are some guys that have gotten ahead of us. It's our job to get out there and catch 'em and find those things that we need to beat them. It doesn't matter to me when it happens as long as it happens before the Chase or right as the Chase starts."
Q. What are you looking forward to in going to Pocono?
"That's the exciting thing right now is going to the tracks and being more competitive and trying new things that should make us better. For the longest time I've loved going everywhere. The last couple years I've dreaded going places like that because we've been so far off. It's no fun to go places that you know you can run good at and be doing all you can to try and get in the top 10. When we start getting ourselves up in the top five and battling for wins, you're going to see us excited about going to every track. Pocono has always been one of my favorites. I love the shifting that we typically do there and the three different corners. I enjoy that. I'm looking forward to that. Right now we've got some exciting things happening with the team and I'm really looking forward to going everywhere."
Q. When you are running 24th during a race, what is going through your mind? What is the mindset of your team during those situations?
"The thing you've got to understand is track position is so important. Like last week, we stayed out and we took off and ran away from the field and we led the whole time. Obviously you know that clean air is extremely important. Downforce is important and we proved that our car is much better than a 24th-place car. It's all about fine-tuning on the car to try to make it better. You've got to tune the car for passing in traffic then you've got to make the car (better) for getting out front and being in the top five. These cars change so much. When you're in the top it's just unbelievable. Last week we were dealing with a tire, a new surface and some different things that we've had to deal with in the past and track position was even more important. That's what the most frustrating thing about last week is that we finally got ourselves in a solid position, the car was feeling good and we were looking forward to those last two runs. I think that we had a shot at getting up at fifth or sixth but we were definitely an eighth place car at the time."
Q. What do you think Kyle Busch's issues are? Is he immature or has he not learned what racing is all about yet?
"I think Kyle (Busch) is a tremendous talent and he just sometimes gets a little impatient. He knows that they have a good team and good cars and that frustration kicks in a little bit when you're not able to go out there and show it. He's young and maybe a little immature but it's just that he's wanting all of it right now. He's got to have more patience and kind of understand that nobody is out there trying to get him. Everybody is out there trying to get all they can and he just needs to respect that and understand that. I think he's going to be a tremendous talent and super star of this sport and things like what happened last week are only things that are going to give him more experience and hopefully learn from that situation and move on and be better."
Q. Have you talked to him at all?
"We tested together this week but we didn't talk anything about that situation."
Q. How much has Mr. Hendrick talked to him about the situation?
"That's why I haven't had to say anything is (because) Rick has talked to him. Nobody carries more respect than somebody like Rick Hendrick. When he sits down and talks to you, it gets your attention. I know that he's been talking to Kyle."
Q. Do you think this will be the last time Kyle does something like this?
"It's hard when you 're in the heat of the moment. You're young and your emotions get the best of you. Some people do a better job at containing that than others. I hope that every one of these experiences is a learning experience for him. We all have our moments. I've had mine and he's had his. I think that being a brother to Kurt who has taken a lot of heat over the years doesn't help him out a whole lot either. There's a lot of criticism that comes down on him and he's got to understand and recognize that and his actions need to match up to that."
Q. On being consistent and having it take the edge off and feeling comfortable with your team and your car and how it helps your performance:
"Those are extremely important. It's a lot easier to have a good year when your car is doing all the things you want it to do. This sport is so competitive and setups change constantly. You just got to be able to be aggressive with the car and drive it hard and make sure it's underneath you. When it's not, it's a handful and it's a long race and a long season. I think he (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and I both dealt with a little bit of that last year. That forces you to push too hard, make mistakes and the whole team starts to crumble underneath you. I think that's the thing we really started working on the last 10 races last year. We made some big changes and I think they are paying off for us. I knew it wouldn't happen overnight and it hasn't. I'm looking forward to each and every race right now because we are getting that comfort for me in the race car and the speed is coming as well."
Q. On Tony Stewart and his injury. A lot of his injuries have occurred in non-Cup races. Do you have an opinion on Cup drivers driving in other circuits when you know you make your pay in the Cup Series?
"I don't run in the Busch Series for many different reasons. I don't run there because I want to be more focused on the Cup Series. I don't run there because I feel like the cars are different enough that it's not really helping me for Sunday. I also don't run it because I don't try to take any extra risks. Guys like Tony (Stewart), (Greg) Biffle and other drivers out there, they don't feel that way. It's up to them. It's their decision. Tony got in a bad wreck on Saturday but the wreck he had on Sunday didn't help things either. Those injuries and things like that can happen to you anywhere at anytime. You got to live your life but I think you also have to really understand what your priorities are. For me, my priority is the Cup Series."
Q. Are you anxious to get back in victory lane?
"Yeah, definitely. I think our team is better than we've been in a number of years. I'm excited about the kind of package that we have but our cars still need a little bit of work, our setups (need work) a little bit and getting me more comfortable and getting that speed back. I know we can be in victory lane. I don't think we're as far off as it looks at times because this sport is so competitive. We're getting a little anxious. We'd love for it to come here in Dover. The fact that DuPont is right up the road in Wilmington would be phenomenal for us to get our first win of the season here."
Q. Does the sport's competitiveness lead to greater tension on the track? Is there more tension on the track now?
"Definitely. As the competition gets tougher the pressure intensifies and the frustration can be even greater. You know how crucial it is every lap, every point, every position. When it doesn't go your way man its tough."
Q. Is it tough to control your emotions? Is that something you've learned through the years?
"I've done a pretty good job I feel like over the years. It is tough at times. Sometimes tougher than others. I've shown that at times this year as a matter of fact. It happens to everybody especially when you're young though. The younger you are the more you feel like everything is on your shoulders and you feel the pressure even more."