JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed racing at Richmond, racing at Darlington, the Royal wedding and other topics.
IS THERE ANY ADDED EMPHASIS ON THE NOTES FROM THIS WEEKEND FOR THE FALL RACE?: “I feel like we do everything we possibly can each time we come to the race track to gather information. We go into that track to be the best that we can be, to get better as the weekend goes based on what’s happening and then to gather the best information for when we leave there so that we’re even better when we come back. To say that we put more emphasis because this could be a make or break track for making the Chase, I don’t think we can do any more than what we’re already doing. Then it’s going to be more about where we’re at position-wise, where we’re at coming back here and the effort that we’re going to have to put into this race knowing that we gathered all the information that we possibly could leaving that race, do we need to go test somewhere? Do we need to go build a car different? That will be based on the information that we gather here. If we come out of here with things going well, then that’s going to give us some confidence and give us some really valuable information to stay strong and hopefully be even better when we come back here the next time. If we come out of here with a poor performance then obviously, we will heighten up our efforts knowing that this could be very important.”
HAS ANYTHING CHANGED ABOUT SHORT TRACK RACING?: “The only thing that’s changed is the cars. The setups within the cars -- when I started here we weren’t running on bump stops around the corners so in that sense of it, yes things have changed, but other than that, no. Short track racing is short track racing -- you have to get the balance of the car right and there’s springs and shocks and sway bars and track bars and all those things that make the car go fast around a short track and brakes and those such things that we still have emphasis on.”
IS AGGRESSIVENESS THE SAME ON SHORT TRACKS?: “Absolutely, absolutely.”
WHY IS DARLINGTON ‘TOO TOUGH TO TAME?’: “I think it’s because that track can just reach out and bite you so easy and you have to race the track. It’s a one-groove race track typically so it’s not one of those tracks -- it’s just one of those tracks where you can be riding around by yourself and just make the slightest little bobble and you’re in the wall. We’ve seen it just eat up race cars and competitors over the years. It’s just one of those tracks that you have to stay on your toes at all times because it can be a very tough track. It’s not as tough these days as it used to be when the pavement was extremely worn out. You were really on the edge. As the pavement wears each and every year, it starts to get back more and more to the too tough to tame.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT DARLINGTON?: “Staying out of the wall. It’s definitely one of those tracks that challenges your nerves. You have to be really committed. It’s a fast race track, but you have to be really committed to the line that it takes to go fast around there, which is right up next to the wall. You have to be committed to the gas, especially qualifying. To me, you just have to be able to go for it there and then just to get the balance right you have to keep that car on the edge through the corners and then compromise because one and two is totally different than three and four for what it takes to get the car through the corners.”
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH WHERE THE TEAM IS FOR THE NEXT THREE MONTHS OF CONSECUTIVE RACES?: “I’m not happy with where we’ve been, no. I’m pretty happy with where we’re headed. I feel like Texas was a big wake up call to us that we felt like we were better than what we actually were. We got through Texas and we said, we’re not and we have to go in a different direction and work totally different than what we’ve been working at. I really love the direction that things are going in and the things that Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the team have found since Texas to make us better. Some things in the wind tunnel and then we went and did a tire test in Dover, did a test on a few of those things and made some gains so we should have some things to make us a lot better when we get to Darlington and start to get to some of these mile-and-a-halves that we’ve struggled at.”
...it is nice to come here to Richmond and know that you can play a big role in the speed of your car.
DO YOU ENJOY RACE TRACKS WHERE THE DRIVER IS IMPORTANT TO SUCCESS?: “I think Darlington you can throw out of that mix because now it’s about the car at Darlington. It’s such a fast track and smooth now that the driver plays an important role everywhere, but the car to me outweighs it at Darlington. To me these days the cars are outweighing it at most tracks, but it is nice to come here to Richmond and know that you can play a big role in the speed of your car. It still is a short track and it’s a fast short track, but it’s still a short track. I like that, but I also like it when we go to places and the car is really good and we’re fast. That’s all that really matters to me is that we’re fast no matter where we go. It doesn’t matter if it’s Texas or Talladega or Darlington, here at Richmond, a road course, wherever.”
DID YOU GET AN INVITATION TO THE ROYAL WEDDING?: “Ben Born got one. His girlfriend, she went to school at St. Andrews so they went. He’s just a friend of mine.”
DID YOU WATCH THE WEDDING?: “I saw the highlights this morning. I thought it was really cool. It’s something that you don’t get to see very often. I don’t really remember when Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married so this is definitely something that I’ll remember. Now to be able to see how their relationship grows and hopefully one day to see Prince William as a King, that’s pretty cool.”
WOULD YOU SPEND 35 MILLION DOLLARS ON YOUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING?: “Oh no, definitely not. No prince and princess wedding happening there. Why do you have to get me all stressed out about that now. I’m already worried about it.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR MOTHER’S INFLUENCE ON YOU: “My mom was just the greatest mom and still is to support her children the way she did. Especially, my racing and seeing her as a grandma today. We took Ella over there and had a sleepover with her and my stepdad, John, last week prior to Easter. They just had a ball. It’s always nice to be able to really honor the moms at Darlington and their efforts and all that they do. Can’t thank them enough and I love having my mom there.”
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR FIRST TRIP TO DARLINGTON?: “That is a long time ago. I remember going there and liking it. It reminded me of Winchester Speedway and Salem Speedway a little bit where you run up against the wall at those places. I wasn’t worried or nervous or scared about that. We ran really fast and something happened to us. I don’t know if I got a flat tire or something happened, but I think I had a great run, but not a great finish. Other than that I don’t remember a whole lot.”
HOW DO YOU WORK THROUGH A PROBLEM WITH A TEAMMATE?: “It depends on what the issue is. Sometimes the issue is something we just ignore it and move on and sometimes the issue can’t be ignored and you try to deal with it yourself. Other times Rick Hendrick has to get involved. That’s when it’s usually a bigger issue than you can handle.”
WHAT ISSUES CAN BE IGNORED AND WHAT CAN BE ADDRESSED?: “If you’re at Talladega and under the old circumstances and one of you left the other out to dry or you made a pass and they didn’t like it or whatever then you just chalk it up and oh well. You move on. If you start bumping and banging and running into one another and talking about one another on the radio then it starts to involved the whole team. That’s when you have to address it.”
You don’t want to cause any quarrel within the organization within the teams, but you’re trying to win the race too.
HOW CHALLENGING IS IT TO RACE AGAINST A TEAMMATE?: “You try not to intentionally wreck them. You’re efforts are there to not intentionally do anything. I think that sometimes it can definitely affect your performance and your finish because you’re trying to dance around the situation and you don’t want to have that meeting with Rick Hendrick. You don’t want to cause any quarrel within the organization within the teams, but you’re trying to win the race too. I guess if you’re leading, you can do everything you can to block and you’ll take advantage of the fact that’s your teammate and they might give a little bit more. It might make them really mad, but you’re hoping to get the win or if you’re trying to run them down, it’s the same situation where you’re sticking your nose in there, but you’re giving them a little bit more room typically than you would a non-teammate.”
IS IT A SIMPLE PROCESS TO RACE A TEAMMATE?: “Accidents happen, but it is pretty simple. You try to pass them without hitting them. I try to do that with most guys, but there’s some guys that if they chop me like two or three times and I’m better than them then the third time I’m not going to give. I’m not going to be so delicate where if it’s your teammate you put up with a little bit more of that.”
WHAT IS YOUR RACE MORNING ROUTINE?: “When I first started in the sport and doing that it was challenging because it was new and trying to get used to it and it’s a lot to think about and go through. I’ve been doing it now so long that it’s just part of the routine and just part of it. I just enjoy it and have fun with it and try to make the most of it and give back to the sponsors as much as I can. To me, it’s about scheduling it in advance and making sure that everything is set and there’s no disruption in that time frame and that there’s no surprises. As long as that’s the case and we’ve got it down pretty good and there usually isn’t, then it’s not an interruption to my focus at all.”
DO YOU HAVE TO ADJUST BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR FAMILY AT THE RACE TRACK CONCERNING YOUR SCHEDULING?: “Absolutely. To me, one of the reasons why my family doesn’t travel with me all weekend is for that exact reason. This is my job, I’m trying to be as focused and relaxed as I possibly can and it’s fun having them here and I enjoy going back to the bus when they are here, but it’s also adding on to the work. It can be a disruption and so we’ve tried to balance it out to where if they’re going to come, it has to fit in the kids schedule and then it has to fit in my schedule, which is usually race day. That seems to be the best balance for us.”
DID YOU EVER WANT TO ‘SHOW UP’ A VETERAN RACER LIKE SOME OF THE YOUNG DRIVERS WERE TRYING TO DO IN LAST NIGHT’S CHARITY RACE?: “I think there’s a fine line because you want to show them that you’re capable of racing with them, you know what it can do for your career if you do beat them, but at the same time you don’t want to wreck them. You feel like then you’re going to look like an idiot. In reality, you would actually look better. Just go ahead and knock him out of your way and don’t wreck yourself and go win the race. Then it shows that you’re not afraid of them. I think we’ve all been in that position. It’s a tough position to be in and usually when you’re trying that hard and you’re pushing the limits of everything, it’s easy to make a mistake. Your initial reaction as a young and upcoming driver is I don’t want to wreck one of these guys that I respect and hurt my racing in the future. You usually get yourself in trouble.”
DID YOU SEE SOME GOOD, YOUNG DRIVERS IN LAST NIGHT’S RACES?: “I thought (Darrell) Wallace (Jr.), he had a shot at winning both of those races. I was impressed with that. You had (Max) Gresham -- he impressed me. I know Chase Elliott, things didn’t go so well for him in the K&N race, but it went pretty well for him in the other one. I tell you who impressed me was Michael Waltrip. Where did he come from? That was impressive to see him run as well as he ran in that Late Model race. Then Frank Deiny, I grew up racing with Frank Deiny -- we raced quarter midgets together and he was a great competitor and one of my rivalries that I raced with as a kid growing up. To see him out there and I know he builds a lot of those cars. That’s very cool.”