JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT LAST WEEK'S DAYTONA 500 AND CALIFORNIA RACERS JOINING NASCAR WHY IS CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY SO TOUGH ON ENGINES AND WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT THAT? "The guys in the engine department...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT LAST WEEK'S DAYTONA 500 AND CALIFORNIA RACERS JOINING NASCAR
WHY IS CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY SO TOUGH ON ENGINES AND WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PREVENT THAT? "The guys in the engine department really look at how long you're maintaining that high rpm; and you've just got all kinds of issues with oil pressure and fuel pressure. It's just a lot of wear and tear when turn them that hard. It's a long race as well. We've seen similar issues at Michigan. It's something we try to work on, on the dyno. They guys in the engine department are probably the ones to ask that question. But I'm going to push it as hard as I can and hope that it lives."
THE FANS SAY THE RACING HERE IS BORING. IS THERE A WAY THEY COULD BE MADE MORE EXCITING? MAYBE SHORTENED OR WHATEVER? "Michigan is one of my favorite race tracks. This track was patterned after Michigan and it's not exactly the same, but it's similar. From a driver's standpoint I love it. There are a lot of different grooves to run on. But we haven't seen as exciting racing as we have on some other tracks. And I'm not sure why because I like this track almost as much as I like Michigan. We've had some good runs here and I've seen some exciting races. But on a consistent basis - I think because there is so much room here to race on, we don't see many cautions and the cars get real spread out and sometimes that's not going to be as exciting for the fans."
ON DAYTONA 500 WINNERS AND OTHER DRIVING TALENT THAT COMES OUT OF CALIFORNIA "I think NASCAR is the type of series that looks for talent everywhere. I think it's just more of a coincidence that the Daytona 500 winners have come from California. When you try to become a driver in this series, you realize that the owners aren't asking you to bring money - they'd like that if they don't have a sponsor - but they're looking for the best talent they can get. And then they build a team around that. I think we're just starting to see stock car racing just taking off everywhere - even on the west coast - and you're finding great race car drivers from all over and you're starting to see more from California now when you used to not have many at all."
HAS CALIFORNIA INCREASED THE LEVEL OF COMPETITION? HAVE THE TRACKS HERE MADE A DIFFERENCE IN DEVELOPING TALENT? "I didn't move to Indiana for more competition, there was just more opportunity to race. There were a lot more tracks we could go to, which also meant more competition. I didn't get to do enough racing around California and I did zero stock car racing in California.
But from around Bakersfield south, there are a lot of tracks popping up that are Late Models and NASCAR West and they are really honing in on stock car drivers and see those guys showcase their talents and be recognized by car owners outside of California."
HOW MUCH PRIDE IS THERE WHEN YOU COME TO A PLACE LIKE THIS AND YOU HAVE FAMILY & FRIENDS HERE? "I have a lot more family and friends that come to Sonoma than this one. You do feel like you have a lot of people pulling from you from home. I get a little bit of that here, but not as much as Jimmie Johnson or Robby Gordon or even Kevin Harvick. I think you get a lot of fans out here that pull for the guys who are from California. So there is a lot of pride on the line and you want to make them pride."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR IS GLAD TO GET OUT OF DAYTONA AFTER ALL THE CONTROVERSIAL STORYLINES? "It feels good to me just to get out from restrictor plate racing and have a car that has downforce and be able to drive it through the corners and work with the teams on the handling. That's a lot of fun. And there was a lot of controversy going on at Daytona and NASCAR was probably pretty happy to get away from that and get that behind us."
AS A CHAMPION OF THE SPORT, WHAT DO YOU TELL NEW FANS WHO MIGHT HAVE BEEN TURNED OFF BY WHAT THEY SAW IN DAYTONA? "No matter what, we're going to continue to put great racing out there. NASCAR's job is to keep on a level playing field and govern the rules. People are constantly going to try to push those limits every weekend and when they push it too far, NASCAR is going to put a penalty down on that.
That's the history of racing and will always be the history of racing. The reason why you want to watch is because we put exciting racing out there on the race track - just like that finish at Daytona. There were some lulls in the race, but at the end it came down to a great, exciting finish."
PART OF THE GREAT HISTORY OF THIS SPORT IS THE CHEATING AND PUSHING THE RULES. IS IT HARD FOR NASCAR TO REALLY HAD TO HAMMER DOWN ON PEOPLE THAT BREAK THE RULES?
"There is a difference between pushing the limits and exceeding them. I don't really like the word cheating because I think that really, there are rules in these guy's jobs who build race cars to push it as far as they can. And yes, there are times when they push it too far and there is a difference between it happening before the car goes out on the race track to doing something during the race or when the race is over - especially if they've won. When that happens, you've got to slap a penalty on them when they've broken the rules of even if like me, they've had a part failure. If they don't make it through inspection, you've got to do something. That is always a challenge that NASCAR is always going to have."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO RECOVER FROM COMING OUT OF DAYTONA THE WAY YOU DID? "I'm pretty happy that we came out of Daytona in 10th. Realistically, if you look at it, we're basically eighth in points. With the day that we had, I'm very happy with the results. Points-wise, I was very happy. I wasn't happy with the performance we had in the race and that all started because when we got put to the back because of the failure we had. That's something we've been working heavily on to make sure those mistakes don't happen in the future. We showed up here and the first lap on the track, the DuPont Chevrolet just felt awesome. It's been going well today. This is really where the championship is going to be made, on the downforce tracks. If we can put a good race car on the track this weekend, I'm going to be pretty excited about the type of year we're going to have."
IF THIS IS A GOOD INDICATOR, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE? "All we know is how we tested. We had a fairly good test in Las Vegas. Other than that, it's hard to tell. You can base it off of that, but all I can tell you is that so far since we've been here, the results have been good and I've been happy."
DID ANY PART OF YOU WANT MARK MARTIN TO TAKE THE WIN AT DAYTONA? "Oh, I would have been extremely happy for Mark. I've always been a huge fan of Mark's. He's a fantastic driver and I think it would have been very cool to see. But I don't pull for any other driver unless I'm out of it (laughs)."
ON THE LAST LAP AT DAYTONA, SHOULD NASCAR HAVE THROWN THE CAUTION EARLIER THAN IT DID? "Yes."
WHAT WOULD THAT HAVE DONE TO YOU AS A DRIVER SITTING IN THE SEAT? WOULD YOU HAVE SLOWED DOWN? "What usually happens when a crash like that happens, you're expecting a caution and you check up. But I hit the wall pretty hard there when that wreck started and all I remember them saying is no caution..still green, still green.
"The spotter's job is to keep you updated. So I just put it back to the floor. The race car was torn up and there were cars going everywhere. But it was really and truly a race back to the finish line."
-credit: gm racing