Jeff Gordon media visit includes 2011 win at Phoenix

Team Chevy Racing press release

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed the Daytona races, racing at Phoenix and other topics. Full transcript:

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

HOW IS THE TRACK DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU WON HERE AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU DEFEND YOUR RACE WIN? “It was bittersweet to be out there on that backhoe. Knowing that we had just won the race, I didn’t want to see any changes happen to the race track, but at the same time I was excited for PIR (Phoenix International Raceway) and what they were going to be doing here. Obviously, they’ve built something that is very cool. Anytime a new pavement gets laid down on a track you go through some tricky times with tires and getting the surface worn in. It came in really nicely at the end of the race last year and already you can see what a difference that period of time and the amount of laps that has been put on the track. I’m really looking forward to a good race this weekend. We made some mistakes the last time we were here and had some brake issues and dealt with some things that really took us out of contention. We’re pretty excited about being back here. We feel like this is a good track for us and hopefully the things we learned are going to be beneficial this time around.”

WERE YOU BEING SERIOUS OR WERE YOU JOKING ABOUT HAVING A PHONE WITH YOU WHEN YOU WERE FLIPPING IN THE SHOOTOUT? “You know me, I’m never one to be a smart alec. I was being somewhat serious and joking at the same time I guess. I think that the social media aspect of it I thought was great for the sport, great for Brad (Keselowski) and from that side of it; I think that it’s awesome that NASCAR is really being that lenient. I think that the technology of phones these days is growing rapidly that there could be some things that NASCAR might need to pay attention to that might need to keep the phones out of the car.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CRAZY WEEKS FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AT DAYTONA? “You always know that Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) is going to be strong at Daytona so it was great to see him. It was unfortunate that it was him up against the two Roush Fords there because he didn’t have a lot of support there to have a chance at beating those guys. I think really even as strong as they were; I think that our cars were strong enough to battle with those guys. It would have been nice to be up there to give him some more support and be able to work together to try to win that race. Still a great effort by him. We obviously had a disappointing Speedweeks and had one of the best cars I’ve ever had at Daytona. That makes it even more disappointing because you don’t always get those opportunities to have cars that good. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do that again next year. Just a set of circumstances that were unfortunate for the rest of the Hendrick teammates that took us out of being there at the end when it counts most. That’s the thing about all restrictor plate races, but especially at Daytona -- being there at the end is such an important aspect and you saw, that was not an easy task. I’ve never seen so much equipment torn up as what we saw this last week at Daytona. It was incredible. That’s just the tight racing, competitiveness, how easy it is to make a little mistake and cause a lot of carnage and take you out of the race.”

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT LETTING RACE CARS CATCH THE FIELD WHEN THERE ARE SAFETY VEHICLES WITH 200 GALLONS OF FUEL ON THE RACE TRACK? “Here’s my thoughts on that, a couple things. Number one is I’m really glad to see they are already taking measures. I couldn’t believe that guy got out of the truck without a helmet and a fire suit on. Don’t know what kind of harness he had on, but trying to take measure to make that aspect of it safer will be a good thing. I would like to see them think about the structure and how that tank with all that fuel is built in and what’s surrounding it in case of an impact. It doesn’t necessarily have to happen from a race car at high speed, it could happen from a lot of different things. I think obviously a lot of lessons to be learned so thankful that nobody was seriously injured in that. The reason that happened was a failure on a race car. I think that to me is where NASCAR through their inspection process, they always are learning and we’re always pushing the limits. Obviously, there was something there that was causing the truck arms to fail. I think that’s probably where you’re going to see coming up here in the future before we get back to the next restrictor plate track if not sooner of looking at the structure of those trailing arms to be sure. I don’t really know if he was really going as fast as it looked like he was going. A slow speed going by a safety vehicle is 90 miles per hour to us we’re doing 190 -- when you slow down to 90 it feels like you’re standing still and we go by these safety vehicles on a track like that at a speed 90 to 100 miles per hour feeling like we’re reducing 90 miles per hour to 100 miles per hour is sufficient and it is except for when something fails. To me, the key is to make sure that something doesn’t fail. David Hoots really stresses it in every driver’s meeting about slowing down our speed and we are slowing it down, but do we need to slow it down to 50 miles an hour? It’s hard to say and is that something that maybe needs to be monitored even more strictly? Possibly. Had that failed at 60 miles an hour, his car still may have gone in and made an impact.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON NASCAR’S PENALTY ON THE 48 TEAM? “Let’s wait until the appeal and everything is over. It seems to me to be sending a stronger message than I think needed to be sent. I really felt like what they went through at Daytona was a lot. To cut those C-posts off, rebuild the car practically from that side of it -- I thought that was tough enough in itself. I was surprised at how stiff that penalty was, but I’m glad that we’re going to appeal it. I feel like there’s reason to appeal it and we’ll just wait and see what happens with that.”

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE RULE CHANGES TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF ACCIDENTS AT DAYTONA? “No, I thought the racing was good. I feel like that’s just the nature of that type of racing. Last year we had the tandem drafting and there were wrecks that happened with that. Nobody seemed to like it much. I can tell you that pushing a car from behind at 190 miles an hour completely blind other than a person talking in my ear to tell me what’s coming is not much fun. I would rather it be this way. I feel like I have more control over my own destiny, what’s going to happen and what comes along with that -- to me, I think of the wreck in my race or the Bud Shootout, the one that I was involved with. That was just aggressive racing because we’re coming to take the white flag. You expect at those types of tracks for that kind of action to be happening and there to possibly be accidents. That’s part of the excitement of this sport and those types of races. I don’t know if there’s much you can do about that. What happened on lap two or one or whatever that was -- now that’s a little bit different. I don’t think there’s any rule that NASCAR could make that could prevent something like that from happening. What I do like is what they did in December or whenever they went to Daytona for that original test to take the spoiler down and play with the restrictor plate size. I feel like they made some great ground there so maybe just take that and continue to build on that because I feel like the type of racing that we had was really good. Yet we were having cooling -- heating and cooling issues because of how small that opening has gotten now in the radiator opening. It would be nice to figure out a way where we could open it back up, but yet still not push. I think that’s just going to take some more time with the aero package.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN WITH THE NEW CONFIGURATION OF THE TRACK AND WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET FOR THIS RACE? “Somebody sent a tweet to me this week saying, ‘When did preparation for Phoenix start?’ I said, ‘Since the last time we were here and we stunk so bad.’ Obviously, we learned a lot the last time we were here. We were not very good, we didn’t qualify very good, we weren’t very good in the race. We started really making some headway with the performance of the car during the race and then we had brake issues. Kind of our caliper and pad choice is definitely a lot different here this time around to prevent some of the brake issues that we had. Sometimes at a track like this it’s not just overheating, it’s the heating and cooling. You don’t want to get the brakes too hot and then cool them too fast. On these long straight-aways like this it happens a lot. We certainly learned that. The tire that we have for this new surface is a tricky tire and it’s a tough one to find the right balance because the grip goes from being good to bad in a hurry because it’s such a hard compound and the structure of it to be durable. I feel like we did learn a lot. We got a lot of information from our teammates including Stewart Haas that we share data with of what they had in their car as well as now Kenny Francis and Kasey Kahne being at Hendrick -- they won this race so we feel like we’ve got a lot of really valuable information from what we learned as well as what they learned to come back here and be a lot more competitive.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF DALE EARNHARDT JR.’S ATTITUDE THIS YEAR AND WHAT DO YOU THINK HIM WINNING A RACE COULD DO FOR NASCAR? “I think anytime that Junior wins gives a boost so absolutely. It doesn’t matter if he is on a five-win streak and wins a sixth, it would give a boost or if he hasn’t won in a long time and gets the win. I think that obviously being as popular as he is and the attention being on him win or lose, when he wins it’s a positive for the sport. I don’t see his attitude being any different than any other year. He comes into every season pumped up and excited and optimistic just like everyone else. I think that their finish at Daytona definitely adds a little to that so his confidence I think is good and strong right now. Especially after coming off of a decent year last year. I think right now if you look at what happened last year with the Chase and the championship versus all the excitement that happened in Daytona, Junior finishing second and the great battle -- even though it was a ball of flames, it still got a lot of attention, Danica (Patrick) -- there’s a lot of momentum with the sport right now. Whatever is going to keep that momentum going, I hope it’s a win from the 24 car that could boost ratings, but if it’s 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and 24 then okay, I’ll take that too.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR DANICA PATRICK TO WIN IN THIS SERIES? “Obviously, it would be huge. I think that it would be huge for the sport. You see how much attention is on her already as far as NASCAR is concerned. I see this constant debate that’s going on and one thing I want to be clear on is that she’s getting attention for more than just being a female driver in this series. She has a proven track record; she started racing go-karts at a very young age. She’s committed, she’s competed in the Indy Car Series, her finishes in the Indy 500 and all those things to me are enough proof that she’s a qualified driver. Is she getting more attention because she’s female? Obviously, yes. If she were to win then that would only quadruple. When there’s attention on the sport like that then it’s good for everybody.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, hendrick, jeff gordon