Press Conference on the Plaza Highlights JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (IS INDIANAPOLIS YOUR FAVORITE HOMETOWN TRACK?) "I don't consider it my hometown track but I'm glad you guys do. We could say IRP or Bloomington. I love...
Press Conference on the Plaza Highlights
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
(IS INDIANAPOLIS YOUR FAVORITE HOMETOWN TRACK?) "I don't consider it my hometown track but I'm glad you guys do. We could say IRP or Bloomington. I love coming here. To me it's really such a special thing that I don't think Indianapolis Motor Speedway their home track. But I certainly have a huge fan base area from just racing around this area."
(YOU SEEM TO HAVE MANY ACTIVITIES HERE AND A SPECIAL CONNECTION WITHIN THE COMMUNITY) "Oh, yeah. But it's very surreal for me to look at myself racing here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I would know a lot more people and be even more comfortable if we were out at IRP. That's really where it all happened. But one of the reasons I feel like my racing took off is because we moved here to Indiana. We had a shop in the back and various race teams would come and stop and whether it was a drag race car or sprint car or whatever, we just got to know a lot of people. Everybody was just very understanding about allowing me to pursue my dream. In Vallejo, California, when I lived there, they thought me driving a race car for a living was about the craziest thing they ever heard of."
(HOW MANY SCEPTICS DID YOU FACE WHO WONDERED IF A SPRINT CAR KID COULD MAKE IT IN THE NASCAR WORLD?) "To me, the coolest thing about the stock cars was that when you got behind the wheel of one and you went fast, they recognized the talent and they didn't really pay that much attention to your background. If you could go fast then they were going to give you a chance. That, to me, was the total opposite of anything I'd ever felt coming into Indy Car races and pursuing the open wheel racing. They really looked more at your background and what you brought to the table besides talent. For me, I went down south and went to that driving school and just happened to meet some people that wanted to give me a chance. It wasn't a top team or anything like that. But we took that little team and put together some pretty cool people that are still in the sport today. It opened some doors and some eyes for us."
(DID YOU OPEN SOME DOORS FOR OTHER USAC GUYS TO COME THAT ROUTE?) "I don't know but I hope I did. I think you open your own doors based on your own talents and whom you've met and what you've accomplished is what's going to give you the opportunity. Doors just don't open by themselves. I think maybe because of what we accomplish."
(WAS THERE A SURREAL QUALITY TO WINNING THE FIRST BRICKYARD 400 IN 1994?) "It was a surreal moment. It's still unbelievable when I look at it. You dream about getting to a certain level, but it's almost like it's too much to ask - too big a dream for me. Just to be able to drive a race car around this race track and compete was it for me. To go on to Victory Lane, to be honest, that whole moment was a blur for me. I have no idea what went on our how it happened. Thank God it was on television because I can look back on that. But it was absolutely crazy. I couldn't believe I was living that moment. And I've had a lot of moments in my life where I couldn't believe I was the one experiencing that because I'd always thought it happened to other people but it happened to me. And it continued to happened."
(ARE YOU MORE ON YOUR GAME RIGHT NOW?) "Just like anything, when you're successful it's not just one thing it's a combination of things. When you're not successful, it's the same way. The reason things are going well for us right now is because that combination of the communication with the team and the race cars they're putting out there, and I'm feeling on top of my game. I'm focused. I'm feeling good. When we get to the race track, we're all happy to see each other and looking forward to the next race. That's pretty darn good."
(YOU'VE WON HERE THREE TIMES. IF YOU WIN AGAIN, WILL IT STILL BE AS EXCITING?) "Oh, yeah. It's exciting every time. I love coming here and will be excited about that every year."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH CHEVROLET:
(HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE DEFENDING CHAMPION OF THIS RACE? HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED?) "I don't know that my life has changed. It's very special for me and the race team to win here at the Brickyard. We put a lot of effort into this race and Daytona. Growing up an Indy car fan makes its really cool for me to put that in the record book and have the trophy sitting on my mantle."
(ON BEING A YOUNGER DRIVING AND WINNING THIS RACE): "I think Jeff (Gordon) would get mad that you're saying he's one of the older guys at 33 (laughs). To put your name in the history book with the very few people that have won this race in stock car is really cool for me. Just to be a part of it is something you'll always remember and will always be at the top of everything we accomplish in this sport."
(ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BRICKYARD 400 VS. THE DAYTONA 500): "I think in stock car racing the Daytona 500 is definitely the marquee event for our division. For me personally the two are pretty close. If you had to pick one over the other, I don't think you could. I think they are both pretty even."
(DOES NASCAR ATTRACT A BROADER SPECTRUM OF FANS?) "When you go to a baseball game you can't be around the players and the team. The best you can do is the grand stands. With NASCAR the people are right in front of you. They're in the garage. They're in the grand stands. They feel like they're more a part of the sport than they are in baseball or other sports."
(ON BEING 10TH IN THE STANDINGS WITH RICHMOND APPROACHING): "It doesn't matter. You have to go out and race hard and do what you have to do. If it falls, it falls. If it doesn't, it doesn't. That's the way you've got to approach it."
(ON LAST YEAR BEING A SPOTTY SEASON AND THIS EVENT BEING THE JEWEL THAT STOOD OUT): "It wasn't too spotty. From Sears Points on, I don't think we've finished out of the top five more than four or five times. If that's spotty then we can have another spotty season like that."
(HOW MUCH OF A ROLE DOES THE PIT CREW PLAY?) "You're only as good as the people that are around you. A couple of weeks ago we had a great race car and made some mistakes in the pits. We had a car that was capable of winning and finished 13th. If you don't put the whole day together you can't win a race. It's everything on pit road. You have to have a good car on the race track. If you're not feeling comfortable you don't have a chance to win the race."
(ON THE HISTORY OF FEUDING AND FIGHTING IN THE SPORT): "I think in any sport there is going to be feuding and fighting. The competition means a lot to everybody. Tempers are going to flare up. People that take it for what it is are right now are the people that are winning. The people that want it and want to go out and get it are the people that mean the most to it. If something happens or goes wrong, it's going to make you mad. If it doesn't make you mad then you're probably not into it as much as you need to."
(HOW DO YOU ENSURE THE RISE IN POPULARITY OF THE SPORT ISN'T SHORT LIVED?) "I don't really know how to answer that. I just try to concentrate on my job and drive the car and do everything I have to do for the sponsors. That's up to NASCAR. They can try to dictate that."
(ON THE POINTS SYSTEM): "I've gone by the rule of thumb that it's really hard to evaluate it until we get to the end of the year. I really think that the guy that has the best year is probably not going to be rewarded for having the best year. As far as the entertainment factor I think for our sponsors and TV ratings it will make it more entertaining at the end of the year."
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES CHEVROLET:
(ON THE EXCITEMENT AT THE BRICKYARD): "It's cool to come up here and to see all the fans that show up. Not just for a day like today, but for the race on Sunday. You ride around here in the pace car for the first time and there are 280,000 people. It really is a neat deal. This is huge for all of us. A lot of guys nowadays can say four years ago they were racing a dirt track or short track somewhere. I can say 15 years ago I was racing at Kelly Speedway? in front of 1,800 people for $500 a night thinking that's the best you're going to be. This is a big deal. It's exciting and neat to see everything that goes on."
(ON THE BRISTOL RACE): "You can have something happen here just like you do at Bristol. I've been to Bristol before and have been knocked out. I've been tore up and still finished the race. Everybody gets tore up. I've been there before without a scratch on the car and finished third, fourth or fifth. It's just a place where a lot of things happen pretty fast and you might not be able to avoid something. If it's not your day, it's not your day. Bristol could be your day or it might not be."
(SHOULD BRISTOL BE IN THE FINAL TEN RACES?) "It doesn't really matter to me. It depends on how you look at it. It probably doesn't need to be in the final ten. It is what it is. It's an exciting race track to go to. Unfortunately it's easy to get caught up in stuff."
(ON IF HE HAS MADE ANY CHANGE IN COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE TEAM): "Not totally but it wasn't going like it needed to be for the whole operations getting in place for a total team effort, especially for three teams next year. We're building for the future. Right then we weren't quite going the right direction that we needed to be going in to be better for the future."