Charlotte Motor Speedway
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed strategy for the 600, recent safety issues, the All-Star race, Race Control, and more.
WHERE DO YOUR ALL-STAR RACE WINS RANK IN YOUR MIND WITH ALL OF YOUR WINS? “They are definitely big. The way I look at big races is if you are fortunate enough to win one, the only way to truly appreciate it is to see where it came in your career. If it came early in your career and then you’ve had time to go and run in that race and see how challenging it is and learn the history about it and struggle at trying to win it again, then you appreciate it a lot.
HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR ODDS TOMORROW AND WHO DO YOU THINK IS A FAVORITE? “I don’t think you really know. I feel like there is a new tire. Anything is possible. We practice during the day. You can look at the speed charts and say oh, this guy looked fast, this guy looked good. I think Jimmie (Johnson) runs really strong here. You look at guys that are running good, Carl (Edwards), the Roush cars look strong. I don’t know. To me, that is the great thing about the All-Star Race is really it can be anybody’s race. I don’t think there is a clear-cut favorite at this point. Ask me that question in the break tomorrow.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. INDICATED HE LIKED THE SHORTER SEGMENTS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON IT? “I prefer a few less cars and shorter segments. I think it is more exciting. When I look at all the different formats I’ve run. Let’s be honest, it is a 10-lap shootout. So, it is just whatever process gets you to the 10 laps. The four different segments to me seems to be pulling and stretching things a little bit and then we continue to make rules on when we can pit and when we can get tires and what lap and all those things.
“So, to me, I really like the format where it was, I don’t remember how many laps, 25 or 30 laps, then they took a fan vote on inverting the field and they always inverted pretty much the most. Then you ran 25 or 30 more and then ran 10. I liked that, I thought that was pretty cool. But you can’t have 18 or 20 cars in that format. I mean, you could, but these days as tough as it is to pass. I think that the guys that are quick, you’ve probably taken too much from them if there are 20 cars out there.”
WHAT WOULD YOU THINK ABOUT ADDING A NATIONWIDE OR TRUCK ALL-STAR RACE TO THE PROGRAM? “Yes, sure, absolutely. Those are all great ideas. You definitely want to give the fans their monies worth for being here and you can’t bring them here just for 10 laps even though I think that would be the best show. (LAUGHS) But, in my opinion, is what the All-Star event is really about is just an incredibly intense 10-lap shootout. But, people come from a long way, they pay a lot and you want to make sure they are entertained so there has to be some other ways to keep them entertained throughout the day and night getting them ready for that shootout. That is why there are four segments.”
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT THE 600 AS THE LONGEST RACE? “To me what is so difficult about the 600 is 1. You are pretty much are practicing during the day to try and get ready for a night race. You start the race in the late afternoon, early evening. The track temperature is still pretty warm and it cools down quite a bit as you go into the night so the track conditions change dramatically. Your setup has got to be flexible and then it is a very very long race so hydration and just trying to stay up with the changing conditions of the track to me are the most challenging part of the race”
DO YOU FEEL THE EXTRA 100 MILES? “Yes, you do but it depends on what kind of a night you are having. In order to be good at the end, we’ve struggled at the beginning at times and that just makes that first 100 miles go by so slow. It seems to me when the sun goes down the track conditions get better it seems like the laps start clicking off and then the whole race goes better.”
WHEN YOU WON YOUR FIRST RACE IN THE 600, DID THE LENGTH SEEM LONG THAT NIGHT? “I remember the first few times I ran the 600, I remember asking how many laps have we run? How many laps to go? And I remember every time they told me, I wished I didn’t ask that because it just to me it just seemed like the race was so long and just seemed like it was never going to end. Of course, that night, I couldn’t wait for it to end because we took the two tires and we knew Rusty was going to run us down if we had to go too long so I’m glad that one ended when it did. But, every year, 600 miles is still a long way. I think over the years, you learn how to adjust and be patient and not rush things and know that because it is a long race, a lot of things are going to happen and a lot of it is about survival.”
IS THERE A MILE MARK OR A POSITION OF THE SUN ON THE TRACK THAT YOU LOOK FORWARD TO FOR THE PEAK PERFORMANCE? “I don’t know the mile mark that it is, it’s just when the track temperature gets to a decent temperature you see it cool down and start to plateau because that is the kind of condition you have to win the race in and that is when you want your car to be the best. But you can’t get too far behind when the track is hot and slick.”
... that is when you are going to learn the most,
IS THERE A DIFFERENT MINDSET WHEN BETWEEN THE COKE 600 WHICH IS THE LONGEST RACE OF THE YEAR AND TOMORROW NIGHT WHICH IS A LOT OF QUICK BURSTS? “The All-Star race is about being aggressive and you have to fill that gap. On the restarts the guys are extremely aggressive, and not that they aren’t in the 600 because they are and you would be surprised how aggressive guys are in the 600 and even in the race. But in the All-Star race its taking it to a whole different level. And that aggressiveness and intensity only builds as the race goes on at the end.”
CAN YOU HAVE RACE STRATEGY FOR THE 600 OR IS IT TO JUST BE AROUND AT THE END? “I think the strategy is to get to halfway and be on the lead lap. I think that is the key. When you are on the lead lap at the halfway point, then that is when the race begins. You know 300 miles is a long way, and as long as you are on the lead lap I feel that you have a real shot at winning the race and tuning on the car and getting it where you need to be and be fast at the end.”
REGARDING SAFETY AND SOME ISSUES THAT HAVE HAPPENED OVER THE LAST COUPLE WEEKS “You look throughout the history of racing and you can do all the crash testing that you want to do, and preventive measures but until you are in actual race conditions in those types of crashes, that is when you are going to learn the most. And we have been fortunate here recently that there haven’t been any injuries in those incidents and we can learn from them and make them better. I know that after Vicker’s incident…….because he actually rode home with me and he told me about it and I was concerned. And then NASCAR came out with something the next week talking about the webbing on the window net and we were looking at the mounting of that window net and keeping it separate from the sheet metal so I think we have already made some gains there. The incident at Dover…..it’s a rare one but it’s a scary one and I know that I feel a lot safer being in the type of seat that I am in, in an incident like that. The carbon fiber shell. But even with that said you know, both of those incidents……we have to look at an NASCAR has to look at and find what could have happened and how we could have prevented it. I feel real confident that those two incidents taught them a lot to whether or not we need to do something or that it did what it is supposed to do. That is what we learn from these types of crashes.”
HAVE YOU BEEN UPDATED ON THE RICHMOND TRACK SINCE YOUR CRASH THERE? “No, I’m just still confident that there’s going to be a change. I’ve not heard anything.”
YOU’VE BEEN IN RACE CONTROL. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE AND DID THAT CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE? “No doubt. It gave me a better perspective on how many jobs are happening. It seems like everything is pretty calm and then all of a sudden there’s one incident where things get really chaotic and that they’ve got a lot on their plate, but they do a really great job analyzing each situation and trying to make the race pace go along but be as fair to the competitors as possible. And probably the biggest thing to me was probably pit road speed. I mean you go over to a computer and there’s basically two guys over there analyzing that computer and it’s either red or it’s yellow or whatever it is. If it’s read, you’re speeding and there’s no mistaking it. It’s all done by computer programming. And when I saw that, I’ve never questioned when they’ve called me for speeding since.”
YOU’VE ONLY BEEN THERE ONCE? “I was just up there at Talladega.”
I wanted to see was the pit road program ...
LAST YEAR? “Yeah, last year.”
SO WHY HAD YOU NOT GONE UP THERE BEFORE THEN? “To me, I don’t know why. I wish I would have gone up there before they did the pit road speed that way because then I would have really been encouraging (that) you need some new software (laughs). But I’m not really sure. I don’t know if I really felt that I was invited; even though I probably was. But it seems like in recent years it’s been kind of an open policy now that if you’re a driver and you’d like to come up, (just) let them know and they’d love to have you. So, I probably let a year or two go by when I knew that before I did it. But the opportunity opened up on a Saturday afternoon and I didn’t have a lot going on. I was watching the race. I sent a note to Mike Helton and he said he was going to be going up there in a little bit and to ride there with him.
“I just wanted to see their process, especially at Talladega, analyzing the yellow line and how they police that. I hate that it didn’t happen because I would have loved to have gotten in the mix of giving my opinion on it, but it never really happened when they had to penalize anybody. But then the clean-up crew; and how they’re communicating with the clean-up crew and then the biggest thing I wanted to see was the pit road program, the computer program that they have.”
-source: team chevy