JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the new testing policy for '09, his 1008 season, Jimmie Johnson's year, the year-end banquet in New York, the season finale in Homestead, and more. ON THE NEW TESTING POLICY: "In...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the new testing policy for '09, his 1008 season, Jimmie Johnson's year, the year-end banquet in New York, the season finale in Homestead, and more.
ON THE NEW TESTING POLICY: "In some ways I think it's great, especially with the economy and trying to do some cost-savings will definitely save the teams. Gosh, I just don't trust the crew chiefs enough, you know? (laughter) I'm trying to figure out which tracks we'll be able to test at and whether that means we'll be testing less but traveling more. I know how these guys are. They want to get track time. They want to get ahead of the competition. If you get behind, you've got to catch back up. You've got to do it somehow. Usually on the track is the best way to do it, so I'm just curious to see how it all unfolds and I'm curious to see a little bit more of the details behind it."
CREW CHIEFS COLLECT DATA, BUT FROM A DRIVER'S STANDPOINT, HOW DOES IT AFFECT YOU? "I don't feel like it affects the drivers nearly as much as it does just the speed of the car and the engineering. There are just so many things that in theory, that the engineers and crew chiefs come up with that until you apply it at the race track and drive it, a lot of times it's just travels and different things rubbing and touching the race track, and we need to map every track to get the bumps and that's why my recommendation was no testing but that on Fridays we would be able to put the telemetry that we all already own, and put it on the cars on Fridays just so we could get all the data from each track and know that the bumps and the travels, and that would take a lot of the guesswork out. I feel like that would still save the teams a lot of money, but I don't think that's going to be the case, or at least I haven't heard that so far. So it's not going to affect the drivers except if you're a rookie. It's going to affect the rookies obviously quite a bit by not allowing them to get much track time.
"And I'm curious to see what they do. Are they going to keep their practice schedule the same too? Does that mean when we get to the race track we're going to have an hour and a half to get ready for qualifying? Sometimes that's not enough. At some tracks, it's too much and sometimes not enough. For a rookie, I definitely think that's going to put them a little bit behind."
DID YOU GO DISCUSS THIS WITH NASCAR? DID THEY ASK YOUR OPINION? "A lot of the teams and drivers talked to Mike (Helton) and John (Darby) about things. That was the one I threw out was being able to put telemetry on the cars. And I think there are a couple of other guys who talked about that too. There are some logistics that make that a very big challenge that I, obviously as a driver, couldn't get that figured out. If felt like if they wanted us to have telemetry, if the teams wanted to have telemetry on the cars on Friday, they'd figure out a way how to make it work."
DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOU FINISH IN THE TOP 12? "Well, when you're sitting over here on Sunday and it's all over and you finished second, at that moment you don't care if you're second or 12th. But when you go to pick up the check in December at the banquet, there's a big difference between second and 12th (laughs). Also, I think that when you're second, like we were last season, it's still a great year. We were very close to a championship. There was a lot of pride in that even thought we didn't win it. And I felt like we really took a lot from that. So yeah, it does make a difference. It doesn't make a difference in the heat of the moment and when it's all said and done right here at the race track on Sunday."
JIMMIE JOHNSON IS ON THE BRINK OF WINNING THREE CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS. COULD HE WIN MORE? "That's what I was saying the other day to somebody, that to me the real story here is I'm sure you'll start hearing right away in December or January about going for four in a row. I think that, in all reality, is probably the mark they're really looking at. Only one other person has done it in the history of the sport with three in a row, and it was a totally different points system, a different era, a different time and I think to really put yourself in your own category and really stand out, it to go four in a row. So you know those guys are looking to clinch this thing this weekend and start thinking about four. And I know the media will start making a nice story about that as well."
SINCE YOU HAVEN'T WON FOR A WHILE, HOW IMPORTANT WOULD A WIN BE THIS WEEKEND? "It's important, but it's not the end of the world. We're working very hard. I think if you look at how we've been performing the last five or six weeks, I think it's obvious just how bad we want it and how hard we're working and trying. If it happens, it happens. You've got to earn wins in this series. They don't come easy. If you look at the only two guys who have been winning here lately, are the guys battling in the championship. It's hard to beat those guys and especially this time of year when that championship is up for grabs. Those guys are pulling out everything for themselves as well and we're going to do the same to try to get that win. But to me, it's more important for us to be prepared and ready to go win races and a championship next season than it is for us to get one win this season."
DO YOU LOOK AT GUYS LIKE JIMMIE JOHNSON AND CARL EDWARDS AND REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE IN THEIR POSITION? OR IS IT ANY DIFFERENT FOR YOU NOW THAN IT WAS THREE OR FOUR YEARS AGO? "You have your good years and your bad years. I think that's the only difference that I see between me and Jimmie. He hasn't had a bad year. A bad year to him is finishing fifth in the points. So those guys have been on an unbelievable streak that I don't think anybody can really compare themselves to and understand. I think we all appreciate it and respect it. I was asked in the last several weeks about the respect level and popularity level for Jimmie and I don't know.
"I kinda feel like, for me, I had to go through a couple of rough years before I really earned the respect of seeing how you claw through those tough years. And I feel like those guys haven't experienced that and in a lot of ways, the competitors, the media, and the fans recognize that they haven't gone through that. But I think this year proves just what kind of championship caliber, team, and driver and everything that they have because they weren't the best team when this season started. So I think there are some ways that this reminds me of this year or that year, but right now I'm really just focusing on our car and our season and our team."
YOU SAID THE NO. 48 WASN'T THE BEST TEAM AT THE START OF THE YEAR "They might have been the best team; they didn't have the best cars and performance going into the season."
WOULD THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO WHAT SOME OTHER TEAMS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO? "Just like here lately, we've been making gains but those guys turned a corner and came from a lot of hard work and testing and it paid off for them. That's, to me, the most impressive thing is to be side-by-side with them at the shop and here in the garage area and to see those guys go from being a fourth or fifth place car or team in the championship to (being) the team to beat, has been really impressive how they've been able to pull that off."
ON RACING AT HOMESTEAD "We've never had this car (new Impala SS race car) here before, so it is going to be unique and challenging. We have no data with this car at this track. So it's going to be a little bit of a guessing game to start off practice here. I'm pretty sure we're in qualifying trim, but I might be wrong. And the thing that's challenging besides the things that are going to come along with qualifying but the things that are challenging about this race track is the way that the transitions in the banking are, really lends itself to building up the right front tire. You get really tight at this race track and so you've got to find a way to get the car to roll through the middle of the corners without getting too tight over the longer runs; without being too loose at the beginning of the run."
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID A WHILE AGO THAT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR THEY WERE WORRIED THAT THEY MIGHT NOT EVEN MAKE THE CHASE "Las Vegas was disastrous for them, like Texas was for us. We were very inconsistent, both of us, and that's always a scare. A lot of it could have been just having to do with the direction and theories that everybody places on this car and the bump stops and loads and wedge and everything that it takes to make this car work well and feel comfortable and go fast. And I think that we were off. They were off; we were off at the beginning of the year. And I'm kind of surprised that we made the Chase, you know, to be honest with you. It really took us deep into the first half of the season before we ever started getting anything done to really go our way."
HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE THIS SEASON? "Other that the focus has been put on the winless season so far, to me this is definitely not at all one of our worst seasons. I look at 2000, and 2005 when we missed the Chase. Those were much worse years and we won races in those seasons. But to me, to know going into last week we were fifth in points, that shows what a race team and race organization and what a turnaround we've had this season and to me, that's certainly not a terrible year. You make the Chase, you're not having a really bad year."
AS SOMEBODY WHO KNOWS SOUTH FLORIDA, DOES THIS SEASON FINALE AT HOMESTEAD GIVE NASCAR A POP? "I think so. I think it's great. This is great exposure to help grow this sport to certainly a different fan base than what we're used to. The weather is fantastic. The competitors like it. I hope the media likes it too. It's a great race track too. This has turned into being one of my favorite race tracks since they reconfigured the banking, it's just an awesome place. I can't think of a better place, really to wind down the season."
WHAT ABOUT THE BANQUET BEING IN NEW YORK? "I like New York. I think New York works for many different reasons. I kind of wish it wasn't in December. The winter is not necessarily the best time to do the banquet in New York, but I think that city and the exposure and trying to make an impact in a city like New York, is really, really important; especially in these economic times. We need to be in front of these major companies as much as we possibly can. And it solidifies our sport and helps take it to the next level as one of the top sports, not only in the country but in the world. And I think to keep it first class and high profile in a major city, it worth it. I hope they keep it there every year."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ELIMINATING THE VICTORY LAP AROUND TIMES SQUARE? "That's a shame. I was always concerned about the weather bringing that to a halt anyway, but it was very cool. I know how much it meant to the people of New York City that got a chance to see those cars, and how unique it was, but did it really make a huge impact for the sport as a whole, I'm not really sure. To me, New York is about gaining the media exposure and in getting the attention to the right people that can impact the sport into the future. I don't think necessarily driving around Times Square does that. That was a nice little perk, but I don't think it was crucial. I am going to miss it."
WHO DO YOU PICK FOR DRIVER OF THE YEAR THIS YEAR? "Jimmie Johnson."
IS THAT BASED ON THE LAST 10 RACES? COULD YOU MAKE AN ARGUMENT FOR KYLE BUSCH OR CARL EDWARDS? "Well, in the regular season, Kyle Busch wins the driver of the year. But to me, when you look at how Jimmie and that team has been able to turn around, to me what really sets a team and a driver apart is not somebody that just started off the season dominant and just finished it off, it's a team that had to find it and that had to work and struggle and I think they're going to earn more respect as a team and Jimmie as a driver, this season, than any season they've ever had because of the way they started off the season. And to me what he's been able to do once that Chase started, those 10 races in themselves have shown me that he's the only candidate I would say between him and Carl, that Carl has been strong all year long and I give Kyle a lot of credit for the season that he's had. But I think Carl and the way he's run this whole season has been impressive. I've really felt like it's been his year. And maybe without a couple of little bumps along the way, he'd be a lot closer to Jimmie right now and we'd see one heck of a battle this weekend. But knowing what Jimmie has done this season, and maybe it's because I'm his teammate and I know what kind of equipment we're all driving, maybe that makes it even more impressive to me."
TALK ABOUT THIS NOT BEING A BAD SEASON. DO WE MAKE TOO MUCH OUT OF NOT WINNING? "Well if I was leading the points in the championship right now without a win, would I be having a bad season?"
YOU'D BE TALKING ABOUT HOW UNFAIR THE POINTS SYSTEM IS "Yeah, (laughs) exactly. We wouldn't be talking about me having a bad season. So that's the way I look at it. To me, it's all about the championship. It's all about where you rank in the points. Last week we had an engine failure and it knocked us out of the top five in points. We're going to try to claw our way back in that top five this weekend. But anytime you're in the top five in the points, you're not having a bad year. And obviously it's been a little bit disappointing this year that we haven't been able to follow up what we did last year and continue that on this season, but there have been a lot of changes with the new car and all the things that come along with that. The competition has gotten tougher. We didn't expect to just come out here and just set the world on fire. We knew it was going to be a tough season and it's been a tough season. But, by no means has it been my worst season."
WHAT ARE YOU DOING DURING THE OFF-SEASON? "I've never been to Brazil so Ingrid and I are going to take a little weekend to ourselves and hop down there and do a little racing for charity and then I don't know. We're going to look at the testing schedule because right now it looks like testing is wide-open in December so we might be doing all of our testing in December."
-credit: gm racing