Event: Las Vegas
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with media and discussed his win last week at Phoenix, attending post-Oscar parties, appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, spinning in practice, and more. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT THE WIN AT PHOENIX AND HOW IT HAS IMPACTED YOU COMING TO LAS VEGAS
“It’s definitely been a great week; with a lot of fun things that I haven’t had a chance to experience in a while you know, doing all the media that comes with winning a race. And it’s been awesome and I couldn’t wait to get here to the race track as to follow-up that momentum. Practice didn’t start quite the way we were hoping (he spun out on cold tires) and we had to claw our way back there at the end of practice to get where we needed to be but I’m still feeling good about the weekend and the team and the season. We’re still definitely riding that momentum from last week’s win. That was huge. The whole team is just fired up.”
DOES IT FEEL ANY DIFFERENT NOW THAT DUPONT IS NOT YOUR FULL-TIME SPONSOR? DOES IT FEEL GOOD TO BE BACK WITH DUPONT FOR THIS WEEKEND?
“It feels great to be back in this paint scheme and this uniform. It’s definitely a comfortable feeling because it’s something that, you know, we’ve been with DuPont for so long. I think it felt more different being at Daytona and Phoenix last week with a new sponsor on the car and not being DuPont than it does this week. This week kind of feels like just getting back to the way things have been. So it’s very comfortable. It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside. It’s what that race car does. That’s what your focus is. The one thing that stands out about this weekend and talking about the win at Phoenix is unfortunately for DuPont, our win prior to Phoenix was not in a DuPont car either. It was in a National Guard car. So it’s been a lot longer than 66 races for them since they’ve gone to Victory Lane. So we would love to get them back to Victory Lane as well.”
AFTER PHOENIX YOU ATTACKED THE TRACK WITH THAT BACKHOE PIECE OF EQUIPMENT. DID YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO OPERATE IT?
“I can’t take any credit for it I kind of like that win; Alan Gustafson and that team deserve all the credit for that too, but I was pretty excited about getting the opportunity to go over there and tear into that race track. It was an impressive piece of machinery and it’s obviously a whole lot different than anything I’m used to. It was just two joy sticks and they gave me a quick little lesson. It’s pretty easy to get everything backyards but once you start playing around with it, it’s kind of like a video game. One way makes it go up and one way makes it scoop. So trying to get all those things together gives you a greater appreciation for what those guys do. Luckily I figured it out just enough to pull a big scoop of pavement and dirt and move it over and drop it on the ground. It was cool.”
TALK ABOUT SPINNING IN PRACTICE
“We knew just from yesterday that the first few laps that the car can be a little edgy. It probably caught me a little bit by surprise as to how much that was because I just made about three-quarters of a lap getting up to speed and the car felt really good. We dove into Turn 3 and the car stuck good. So I got back into the gas and it didn’t stick so good off of (Turn) 4. I’m just glad to know I’ve still got a little luck in me. Those saves like that are typically don’t have anything to do with skill. They have everything to do with luck. The only thing I had to contribute was just locking it down and making sure that we didn’t tear it up any worse. When something like that happens, there’s no doubt that it takes a little bit longer for you to climb back up to the speed that you need because you don’t want to put yourself in that position again. We found ourselves really having to tighten the car up a lot. And we heard a lot of other people were doing that too. There seems to be a little more stagger in this tire for whatever reason this time about and I think it’s making the exit of the corners a lot looser. So we tightened up a ton and we were still too loose. We’ve been working around that. And switching over to qualifying trim, it took us a couple of runs to get a good feel for that. But I feel like that last run we made got us pretty close and we’ve got something a little bit more for them for qualifying.”
TALK ABOUT BEING ON THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO AND WHAT YOU THINK THAT DOES FOR THE SPORT OF NASCAR. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR POPULARITY HAS INCREASED THIS WEEK?
“It’s so interesting to me how things have worked this week and how things have worked in my career. We had all these things scheduled and all these things planned way in advance. The folks from Sanofi Pasteur, which is a pharmaceutical company that me and my wife Ingrid do work with pertussis. They had scheduled me on (Jay) Leno weeks ago. And then we were planning, since we were in Phoenix, to try to hit some post-Oscar parties. Ingrid and I had joked in Daytona, because Valentine’s Day fell while were in Disney with the kids and there wasn’t a lot of romance around those couple of days because we were so tired when the day was over. So basically we said you know what? We’ll go out to L.A. and enjoy a couple of parties if we can get in and then we’ll have a couple of days to ourselves. And so we were really looking forward to that. Little did we know that all of that was going to get turned upside down by the win. And somebody just told me this today. It was my 83rd win and it was the 83th Academy Awards. I hadn’t thought about that. That was pretty cool. But the thing that really touched me was my friend John Lasseter with Pixar. I sent him a text when that race was over saying hey, I don’t know if you heard, but we won. At the time I had no idea where he was, but he was at the Oscars getting ready to get his own award. He didn’t know if he was going to win yet, but his category was coming up. And he was so excited. He sent me a text that he couldn’t be happier. He was like hurry up and get here; were going to celebrate and hopefully we’ll win the Oscar. So we got on the plane and flew there. As soon as we landed he sent me a text saying we just won, oh my gosh, this is going to be an amazing night, and can’t wait to see you guys. The whole night was just spectacular to be able to go into that room with that level of celebrity and power and Hollywood and everything. You’re just in awe of it. But then people come up to you and congratulate you. It was pretty cool. And the whole week was like that. And then going to do Leno, it was very, very cool. When I did the pre-interview for Leno, they’re like what’s a funny story? What’s been going on? We know you haven’t won. Boy, it would be great if you could win before you get here (laughter). And I was like nothing makes an interview go easier than when you win. It just made the week even that much more spectacular.”
DOES THE QUALIFYING ORDER SET BY PRACTICE CREATE A GREATER SENSE OF URGENCY DURING PRACTICE? "I prefer this way of doing it because I like how the track should be fairly consistent to what we had in practice. It is fresh on your mind about the last run that you made and the things that you feel like you are going to need to go faster. When you have to spend a whole night thinking about it and then the conditions are a little bit different when qualifying starts the next day, it can throw you off just a little bit. I prefer this. But, other than that, it is kind of business as usual. You go out there, you run your practice. Today we had to switch into qualifying trim and tomorrow we will go back into race trim. I think I like this schedule. Last week's schedule to me was more throwing things off a bit and unique and different. I don't know if I answered your question or not."
DO YOU HAVE JUST GO OUT IN PRACTICE AND TAKE MORE CHANCES TO GO AS FAST AS YOU CAN?
"I am always trying to go as fast as I possibly can because you want to see how fast the car can go. You want to look at that board and see your name, your car, your car up there because you are fast. Well that is the lineup for qualifying or not. But I will say that there is probably a little bit of extra added because you don't want to go out first. It is funny the last two weeks, totally different formats. And yet, we are around the same, maybe a little bit better today at 19th. Last week we were at like 26th so, we are thinking about it. But to me it is business as usual."
HOW MUCH TIME DID YOU HAVE TO CELEBRATE PHOENIX BEFORE YOU HAD TO START THINKING ABOUT THIS PLACE? WAS THERE ANY PART DURING THAT WINLESS SKID WHERE YOU STARTED TO DOUBT YOURSELF?
"We do a de-brief every Tuesday. I do one in the morning with Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and his engineers and then we do one with all of our drivers and crew chiefs at Hendrick Motorsports later in the afternoon. I did all of those things in and around the other things I was doing so in my opinion we were thinking about Las Vegas on Tuesday. I am going to enjoy that win for a long time. I mean, yes, I come here and spin the first lap and that definitely brings you a little bit back down to reality but that is not going to make how special that win was go away any time soon.
"There is no doubt that when you go that length of time without winning, you question a lot of things, you know. Is it me? Is it the car? What is it? Is it a combination? I don't care who you are, how many races you've won, you question those things. But, because of the races that I've won and being at Hendrick Motorsports, knowing that the equipment is there, the resources are there, all those things help me tell myself any time we go through that is that I can't change how I drive the car. I can't change who I am, I just have to continue to give the best feedback and information that I possibly can. If there is something that I can think about that I could do a better job of...like if my physical fitness...if I felt like that was off and I was being worn down at the end of the race, if it was something like that, then that is something that I have to work on and get better at. But I feel like these last two years I have put in more effort than I ever have. I think that is the way it works. When you are on top, you can get away with a lot of things. But when you're not, you have got to put in that extra effort because everybody around you is. When you put in that extra effort and it doesn't pay off, it is very frustrating. But there is no doubt that frustration sank in a little bit. A little bit of doubt. It is amazing how that one win can bring that right back to say ok, I didn't do anything different on Sunday. It is funny, people said I was on a mission, that is the Jeff Gordon we haven't seen in a while. No. that car was awesome. When you have a car and you step on the gas and it leaps up off the corner and you close the gap on a guy by one or two car lengths, that's...yea, I'm on a mission because the thing should win. (LAUGHS). When we had that car, like we had that car here a year ago, and we took the two tires. We had that car at Texas and got caught up the wreck. We've had those cars but it just didn't all fall into place. I didn't do anything on Sunday than I have in the past."
WAS PRE-INTERVIEW WITH LENO BEFORE YOU WON? "It was before Daytona."
I KNOW YOU DON'T FORGET WHAT ITS LIKE TO WIN, BUT WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED IN THE LAST WEEK THAT REALLY MADE YOU SAVOR THAT WIN?
"Even the memories that I have of some of the last wins don't compare to that crowd reaction. That crowd reaction, it sent chills up my spine. That was unbelievable. I don't quite understand it to be honest with you, maybe a little bit of a sympathy vote or over these last couple years, I have earned a little bit more respect maybe because I have gone through some tough times. But, to me, when we won a bunch of races, maybe go back to '07, it was like ok Jeff Gordon won again and my fans were like "Yes." But after that Phoenix race was over, everybody was standing up cheering. That was just the coolest thing that I experienced. I love that. That was awesome. Everybody that was there, I thank them so much for giving me that feeling and that experience after that win."
-source: team chevy