Indianapolis: Jeff Gordon - Friday media visit

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed the prestige of the Brickyard 400, aggressive driving, Jimmie Johnson, Pertussis and other topics. JEFF, WOULD YOU SAY THIS IS THE...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed the prestige of the Brickyard 400, aggressive driving, Jimmie Johnson, Pertussis and other topics.

JEFF, WOULD YOU SAY THIS IS THE KIND OF TRACK WHERE YOU BRING YOUR BEST STUFF? WOULD YOU CONSIDER IT A FAIR RACETRACK? IS THAT A GOOD ASSESSMENT? "Fair racetrack? I've never known a fair racetrack. You know, I think that this is a racetrack where we can shine for sure. And I feel like track position is going to be very, very important. So I think that qualifying and pit strategy, it's important that if you get out there you've got to maintain it. I don't know. I have to talk to Ray (Evernham) to figure out what he means by that fair racetrack. I think that right now this racetrack say go back to '94, back in '94, with the aerodynamics the way they were, you can kind of hang with a guy in the corners and you need really big horsepower. And it's kind of a battle between us and the 8 that year in '94. So much has changed since then, the aerodynamics that we have, getting through the corner, and how you seal up the bottom of the car, get the car down. The straightaways don't seem to have near as much of a draft that you would think that they have. And it's hard to get an advantage behind the guy to really make that sling-shot move. We're going to be focusing hard on putting a great race car out there, but most importantly, I think qualifying is something that we're really going to have to do well."

HOW DUE FOR A WIN ARE YOU? "I never say that you're owed a win or you deserve a win unless you go out there and you work hard at it and you race the competition. That's what it's all about. I feel we've got to do our jobs better than everybody else and we'll win the race. We've put ourselves in position many times this year, and you know, in just having sealed the deal and having finished it off. So is the timing kind of coming into play here for us? Maybe. You know, we're on a streak of Top 5s and I've always said you get a streak of Top 5s and you're going to be in Victory Lane. So I hope this streak that we're on will lead us to a victory this weekend. Because I can't think of a better time or place to have a victory than right here."

DO DRIVERS HAVE TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE TO RIDE UP FRONT TODAY THAN THEY DID TEN YEARS AGO? "Yeah, because you push harder these days. You push harder from lap one to the end of the race. There were times I can remember back in '95, '96, if you wanted to go up there and lead, you could but you're probably going to burn the tires off. You're probably going to use up the equipment. And the other guys might sit there and be more patient and go, oh, I'll let him go and do that. But these days you can't do that because track position is so important. You're fighting for every position all of the time from lap 1 all the way to the finish. You might give it up a little bit at the beginning of the race, but once you get to about halfway, it is a really, really tough fight for those positions, especially in the lead."

HOW IMPRESSIVE IS JIMMIE WINNING TWO IN A ROW OF THREE OR FOUR HERE? "You can't say enough about Jimmie's performance here or anywhere else. The guy has been extremely impressive. Especially when he really focuses in on something like he did this year for the road courses. This is a racetrack that he's worked hard at and has paid dividends. You know this guy's winning it -- right now with the streak that they're on, even though they've had some ups and downs this year, they've still gone to Victory Lane what, four or five times. And I think when you know you're coming to a big event, you've got to keep your eye on those guys because they know how to rise to the occasion. Which reminds me a lot of what we did back in the mid to late '90s, we used to do those things, and that's that kind of confidence and streak that they're on of doing those types of things. But I think you're going to see there is going to be some tough competition this year at this race. We saw what Juan Pablo did here last year, and I think they've got the makings of doing that again. Jimmie, I know, tested, I think Juan also tested here for Goodyear, and they both showed a lot of speed."

DID YOU OR DO YOU GEAR UP MORE FOR THIS RACE? "We do. We did two debriefs. So communication has been more than usual, preparing for this race. And that is just what's on top of everything they've been doing back in the shop with the seven posts and doing some shock testing and our simulation models and all those things that we do can to prepare for a race especially having an off weekend. I think it allowed the teams to definitely put a lot more effort into this race, which we would like to do and we're able to do."

HOW DID 1994 CHANGE YOUR LIFE? "Yeah, it changed everything in a big way. You I had won at Charlotte, and that was huge. But winning here, you know, and then going to Disney and it being Indy and the first race here, my life changed quite a bit. I think from that point on my face definitely was more recognized, my name was more recognized outside of racing. It kind of catapulted my career to get us in position to win the championship in '95. It gave me the confidence, gave our team the confidence that we needed. And you know to follow that up with a championship in '95 is good time for me. We rode that wave for a long time and still today."

YOU JUST SAID ON THE PA THAT TOWARD THE END OF YOUR TIME WITH RAY (EVERNHAM) THAT YOU WERE ITCHING TO PROVE IT WAS A LOT TO DO WITH YOU NOT JUST RAY. IF YOU WERE IN JIMMIE'S SPOT RIGHT NOW, WOULD THAT STILL BE THE SAME SENTIMENT, YOU THINK, IF YOU WERE IN THAT SPOT? "Well, there are two sides of it. Because while I say that, I also say what would have happened if we could have just worked some things out and stayed together? And I really give Jimmie (Johnson) and Chad (Knaus) a lot of credit because it's well documented they have their disputes, you know, and there's been times where it was like, man, I see the writing on the wall. I was there with Ray, and opportunities as well as butting heads because we both start getting more experienced and know what we need. And so, you know, you try to see how long can a great combination like that stay together? And if you can work those things out and keep that chemistry, man, you're going to have a lot of success for a long time. So I give those guys a lot of credit for really communicating well and working through those things and staying strong like they have. But there's no doubt that I would think that for Jimmie and probably even for Chad, they want to prove. I'm sure just like we want to win a Brickyard 400, they'll win multiple Brickyard 400's, they want to win a championship, they win multiple championships. They start knocking the list off, and the list gets shorter and shorter. Then something that's going to maybe come up on the list, if it hasn't already, is all right, now I want to go do that with another driver or another team, or now I want to go do that with another crew chief. I'm sure it's on the back of their mind, but why mess up a good thing is more on their minds right now."

AS THE YEARS HAVE PASSED, THE PRESTIGE OF THIS RACE WENT UP. IS IT STILL AS PRESTIGIOUS AS IT WAS? "It is to me. I don't know. I can't speak for every driver. But it is for me. Coming here, looking at this media and just the hype that's around this race. Is it as big as it was in '94? I don't know. That's hard. They had a test session, and I was still bummed that I wasn't able to go to the first time, and they had thousands of people here for that. Qualifying date first five years they were just packing the grandstands. Has some of that worn off? I think a little bit. But I still think the sport brings in a heck of a crowd and this track and its history still makes it very, very prestigious certainly for the competitors it's as prestigious as it's ever been."

YOU'VE WON FOUR TIMES HERE, JIMMIE'S WON THREE TIMES, TONY'S WON TWICE. IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT THIS RACE TRACK? "I don't know. I think you look at the driver-team combination, and the good ones, you know, this is a place that is a little bit tricky to get dialed into. It's not an easy track. It takes patience. It takes times when you need to be aggressive but it takes a great feel, no doubt about that. So I think the guys in the sport that have a great feel and can communicate that back to the team and the team can provide them with the right equipment, they're going to do well here. I'm proud of those four that we have for obvious reasons. Tony is an obvious candidate so is Jimmie. It still surprises me that Juan Pablo was as fast as he was here last year. You hope that's a trend that continues at a track. That's what makes it prestigious. It's not just the event, it's look who has won the event."

COULD IT BE MORE AGGRESSIVE THIS YEAR? "The only thing really different is the spoiler. What's going to make it more interesting is the double file restarts. That's for sure, that always makes, onb^0x0011- and the green/white checker. Maybe we had it here last year, but it definitely makes the racing more exciting and challenging. From an aerodynamic standpoint, you can never take back what you've learned. We've all learned how to get our cars lower and more sealed to the racetrack. That means less air getting back behind the car, which means in traffic, you know, they're harder to drive. But that means you work that much harder to get out in front in clean air."

I KNOW THE ATTENDANCE STORIES THAT DRAG ON. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU WORRY ABOUT AT ALL AS A DRIVER AND PART OWNER? "I still see we have great crowds. So when you look at other sports and the numbers, we've always been this huge number, you know, averaging over 100,000 fans. So we get knocked down to averaging 95,000, and we're still doing pretty darn good. So I think that when you come to an event like this, you certainly expect to see a good crowd. I can't figure this out and I try not to think about it too much because there is so much to focus on, and that's not my job, is to say what is contributing to it? Is it the economy? Is it fuel prices? Is it some of the prestigiousness of the event has worn off? I don't know. I still see avid, incredible fans that are supporting us. So the numbers are down a little bit. Are they ever going to be what they were? We'll see. But I think the racing is about as good as it's ever been."

NOBODY'S WON FIVE RACES HERE. IS THERE A SIGNIFICANCE TO WIN FIVE BRICKYARD 400'S? "Yeah, because it is the race that's come canning up this weekend, and we have four so far. So the significance of it is huge for us. We're trying to win our first race. We've won four, five would be incredible. But I'm really not even thinking about five. You know, it's really more about thinking about getting our first win. What's ironic about this event is that all year long, everybody's focused on, oh, No. 24 hasn't won, and the No. 48's won five. Hamlin's won four. All we have to do is win this race, and all of a sudden we'll be the favorite for the championship. Based on where we're at in the points and that big of a win. That's how big this weekend is for us."

YOU SAID EARLIER THIS THIS WEEK THAT YOU NEEDED TO TALK TO NASCAR TO FIND WHERE THE LINE IS. HAVE YOU TALKED WITH THEM YET? "I haven't had a chance to do that yet, sorry."

DO THE PENALTIES GIVE YOU A CLEAR SENSE? "No, the penalties definitely because earlier when carl got into Brad and he went upside down in Atlanta, I don't think there was anything other than, hey, try not to do that. You know, I think that this definitely sends a clear message that there is a line."

IS ARIC ALMIROLA GOING TO BE YOUR BACK-UP DRIVER? "Not this weekend, no. That's the plan for Pocono, and then Watkins Glen we've gotb^0x0011- which I'm excited about, is Scott Pruett."

WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON WHAT DAVID REUTIMANN BEEN ABLE TO DO AND HOW FAR THAT TEAM HAS BEEN ABLE TO COME? "You know, it's definitely impressive. I think certainly what they've showed last year. I always felt like Truex (Martin, Jr.) coming on board there was going to be a big gain for them. I think the significance of him being there I think is bigger than what people would probably give credit to. While David is a great driver, it's important that as an organization you have more than just your own data to back up to. When you put a driver like Truex in that car and running as well as David and his team are doing well and also with (Marcos) Ambrose. They've got three strong drivers and teams, and it's helped elevate the whole organization up and give them that opportunity to go win like they did at Chicago. Certainly were impressive there. They had the best car. You know, for whatever reason maybe in the past they've had times like that where they were really strong, but just couldn't get it to the end, and he's had some problems with engines this year. So I think they've got a heck of a shot Milwaukee this chase the way they're running with the momentum on their side right now."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING THE SPOKESPERSON FOR PERTUSSIS AND WHY THAT IS IMPORTANT? "It's really important. It was something that was eye opening to me when I found out about it and got to be part of the program. But Pertussis is something thatb^0x0011- and my involvement is promoting the adult vaccine, the TDAP booster that is for adults. It's not about children's vaccinations, and some controversy that goes along with that. It's about adults that are going to be around infants that could possibly transmit the disease of whooping cough or Pertussis to the children. The numbers are up. There is an epidemic in California right now on how many cases as well as deaths from it. So I certainly got my Pertussis shot. My wife will be getting hers as soon as the baby is born. My parents got it, you know, and it's something that I'm really proud to be behind and spread that word out there. We actually have a family that's here with us this weekend, I believe, from Fort Wayne or Southbend area that lost their child because of it being transmitted from an adult."

WHEN YOU HEAR ABOUT THAT, DO YOU DO THE RESEARCH YOURSELF? I GUESS YOUR DAD TOLD YOU ABOUT IT? "We've got incredible connections from hospitals from Riley to our hospital, the Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital in NorthCarolina, as well as our involvement with Cure Search, and Leukemia Lymphoma Society. We have connections with enough experts to say, hey, what do you think of this? As well as our own pediatrician that has been Ella's pediatrician. To say, hey, what do you think about this? And amazing how quiet it's been and all of a sudden here it comes. It seems that this is something that was years ago that nobody really talked about, and now all of a sudden it's back. I guess it goes in waves for whatever reason, and there's a lot of different theories on that. So we did our research in that way certainly before I'm going to put my name, as well as Ingrid, that we're both the spokesperson for Pertussis this year, and Pertussis day is coming up August 5th in New York City, so pretty cool things. But it's a message that once you learn about it, it's easy to get behind because it's a great program to get that word out there to tell more parents to open their eyes up like it he opened up my eyes."

DENNY HAS WON FIVE RACE THIS IS YEAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY'RE DOING BETTER TO LEAD TO TO THEIR SUCCESS? "I think Denny was strong. That 11 team showed a lot of strength in the final ten races last year. So I think a lot of teams that do that carry the momentum. We did it from '06 to '07. We showed in the last five or six races how much better we were. And because we weren't a factor in the championship, we were able to really go in a different direction and try to get some things sorted out for the next year. Paid off for us in '07. And Denny and those guys came on strong last year. I expected them to be really strong this year."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Scott Pruett , Jimmie Johnson