JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Daytona and California, his first car, and more. ON THE DAYTONA 500 AND THEN COMING OUT TO CALIFORNIA "I think we made the most out of the 500, and with...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Daytona and California, his first car, and more.
ON THE DAYTONA 500 AND THEN COMING OUT TO CALIFORNIA "I think we made the most out of the 500, and with the rain-shortened event, we've got to be pretty pleased. If you look at some of the guys that had trouble and the guys that we were racing and everything, so it was all in all, I felt like it was a very positive and good Speedweeks for us. Winning the Duel was definitely something that this team needed that spark, that confidence builder and we got that. We had an incredible car, speed-wise. When we were out front we were as good as anybody. We had some issues with wearing out the inside of the right front tire when we got behind other cars, which we take responsibility for. And we came out of there 12th after having some trouble and having to pit.
"We would have liked to go the rest of the distance because I think we had a car that could compete for the win, but I'm very happy for Matt Kenseth and I think that was awesome to see him win that Daytona 500. I know he's probably been having a great week and he's certainly a well-deserved competitor, and Roush too, to be able to pull off that win."
NOTHING TRANSLATES FROM DAYTONA TO HERE, BUT IS THERE ANYTHING YOU LEARNED ON THE TRACK ABOUT YOUR COMPETITORS OR THE CAR ITSELF WHILE IN DAYTONA? "I think the only thing you can take out of Daytona is momentum and points. You can see which teams are well-prepared and executing well. All I can really say is that our goal through Daytona was to make improvements in how we performed, whether it's pit stops or communications or speed on the track and I felt like we lived up to all those things. Coming out of there 12th in points, I felt like it was all-positive for us. And then looking at our competitors, some guys obviously got caught up in that big crash and they're going to be playing catch-up. Then you've got guys like Kenseth and Harvick and a few other guys that end up coming out of there with some gains on a lot of guys. So you know you're going to be competing with those guys throughout the year.
"So it's just one race. Other than that, you really can't take much out of Daytona, being a restrictor plate track and this is going to be a handling track. And so I'm excited to be here this weekend to see what we've got. Without testing, I think everybody is very anxious and optimistic and ready to get out there on the track to really see.
You could call it testing or not testing, but all the work that's been done back at the shop with the engineers in computer simulation on the seven post test, wind tunnel, and all the things we've been sort of masterminding as an organization and our team specifically throughout the off season to bring it here to the types of tracks that we pretty much compete on most of the time."
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR? 'My first car was a 1980 Chevy Stepside Chevy Pick-up truck. It was pretty beat up and rusted up. It was in Indiana. And me and my stepfather looked at is as a project to fix up. And I won't go into the long story. But it was three-on-a-tree and it had a column shifter. I'd never driven one of those before and he dropped me off to pick up the car and told me it was a stick but didn't tell me about that part of it, so I had to figure it out on my own. It was a long ride home, let's put it that way. If you took pictures of that truck when I first got it, and then when I got it ready to go between the work that me and my stepfather did, it was quite a change and a fun project."
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST DARING MANEUVER ON A RACE TRACK? "Most people would remember the move at Daytona going for the win, I think it was in '97 for my second Daytona 500. So it was 1999, before the yellow line rule that they have now. Maybe I could take a little bit of credit for that yellow line (rule) being there today. But I basically went as far down to the grass as I could find to make that pass on Rusty (Wallace) and I think we actually ended up being three wide. But it was sort of a move that won the race.
"At the time, I didn't think it was that daring. I just thought it was what I needed to do. But looking back on it and looking at some of the video and listening to some of the commentators getting excited about it, I guess it was a little more daring than I thought. But I can tell you I've made a lot more daring moves that were not hear as spectacular or weren't wins and that scared the crap out of me that nobody will ever talk about or hear about, and I probably don't even remember all the details of them. It happens every weekend (laughs)."
THERE WILL BE SEVEN, OR EIGHT, OR NINE MAKESHIFT TEAMS IN THE FIELD ON SUNDAY. DOES THAT DIMINISH THE SPORT? DO THE REST OF YOU LIVE IN TERROR THAT ONE OF THOSE GUYS MIGHT FINISH IN FRONT OF YOU? "That's a good follow-up there (laughs). With this car, there has never been a better opportunity for teams with less funding, maybe less personnel, to be able to pull off some spectacular finishes and maybe even a win. While the economy has affected some of the teams further down in the field, the teams that were strong last year have only gotten stronger and that in that sense, it's only going to be more competitive toward the front of the field. I think for a lot of us, we're not seeing that. Unless we go to qualifying and look at the lap times and qualifying speeds and maybe you'll see a little bit bigger gap in the qualifying speeds from a year or two ago. But I think once you go in the first half of the field, I think you're actually going to see actually see it tighter and faster and more competitive. We don't like to get beat by anybody and I think that a lot of times you're probably more comfortable getting beat by a team. You're happy for them because usually it's a huge notch in their belt.
"Plus, you're thinking that well, maybe I'm not battling with them in the championship so it's not like I'm losing points to a championship contender. I'm not staying that couldn't happen. Maybe some of those teams are newer teams, they might just be teams that will surprise us. But in the past that's the way that I would have looked at it."
DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS OF HOW TO SELL MORE TICKETS OR MARKET AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY BETTER? "It's such a tough call and I feel like I have enough things to think about and worry about throughout the days and weeks (laughs) and that's probably not one I spend a lot of time focused on. I have so much faith in NASCAR and the job that they've done over all the years at the race tracks and I kind of leave it in their hands. But it has been interesting ever since we've been coming out here, for somebody who is from Southern California, it's exciting to come out here and compete; especially on an oval because we've been on the road course for so many years. So when this was all announced to come here, I just thought is was fantastic. I don't know how many fans there are in this area. But it happens from time to time in certain markets and I think this is probably one of those unique ones that stand out, that there are just so many forms of entertainment for this area. It's hard to get the interest in our sport. Even though there might be a lot of race fans that don't end up coming to the race track that follow NASCAR and like it and maybe watch it on TV. But to come here in person, may choose not to because they have other options.
"There are other things that are going on. And that's not something that we have say in the Midwest, where we just pack the stands. You go to those tracks and you see the excitement and everybody, and you see so many fans. That's the way I've always seen it throughout my whole racing career of when I was racing Sprint Cars. Same thing. You go to these small towns in the Midwest and a Saturday night event is the biggest happening thing that's going on and everybody is there to be a part of it. And that's just not necessarily the case here in Southern California. You can put a lot onto marketing. And try to promote the heck out of it. Is it going to change it? I'm not sure. But it do know there are a lot of fans out here. There are a lot of fans. And also, they've kind of been snake bitten by the weather from rain to 105 degrees. Maybe the schedule change will help for the second race. And the economy is affecting everybody everywhere we go, and it's certainly going to be affected here as well."
DO YOU THINK THERE HAVE BEEN TIMES WHEN DALE EARNHARDT JR. HAS BEEN TOO NICE ON THE TRACK? "Man, I hadn't really thought about it a whole lot. Usually, when I'm on the track and I want somebody to be nice, they're not. And when I think they shouldn't be, they usually are. So it seems things always fall the wrong way for me (laughs). But I certainly don't expect anybody to be nice out there on the race track. We're competitors. We're out there to win. I've always seen a fire in Junior. I think there's a difference in patience and being nice. There are times when you need to be patient and times when you shouldn't.
"At that point in the race, being down a lap and not being the first car to get the lucky dog, and rain on the way and all those things factoring in, you had the leaders who were probably wanting to be a little bit more patient because they're in a much different scenario; and they the guys a lap down that are fighting like it's the last lap. And that's usually when crashes happen."
-credit: gm racing