Continued from part 1 Q: Jimmie is on the threshold of doing something that only one other driver has ever done, and that's Cale Yarborough. He could win a third straight championship. What would that say about Jimmie and his place in NASCAR...
Continued from part 1
Q: Jimmie is on the threshold of doing something that only one other driver has ever done, and that's Cale Yarborough. He could win a third straight championship. What would that say about Jimmie and his place in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history? Talk about his progression as a driver since he's become your teammate.
JEFF GORDON: I mean, there's not enough I can say about Jimmie and that 48 team. Him and Chad Knaus, they've been dominant, to say the least, over the six, seven years -- I don't know how many years it's been since they've come in. I mean, they've been the team to beat. The last few years, they've shown that with the two championships.
But you can never count them out. This year's no exception. I mean, I thought earlier in the year, it just wasn't going to be their year. Yet here recently they've been on a tear, doing everything they need to do. Even though Biffle has won the first few races, they've been right there, right in the thick of things, putting up a good fight. Those have not been their best tracks. I think their best tracks are coming.
The one thing that I hesitate to really go into too much detail about is the history of our sport and comparing what's happened since the Sprint Cup has come along versus with the Winston Cup or the old points system. There is no comparison. I think you can't really compare history. Even though there's been one three-time champion, that's Cale Yarborough, how he did it and where that put him in history versus Jimmie, this is new history. It's equally as challenging and substantial, but I don't think you can compare the two.
I think it would be an amazing accomplishment and maybe even more so because I think it's even harder to win a Sprint Cup than it was to win a Winston Cup probably because I haven't won one (laughter).
Q: Toyota dominated early. Now it seems like Ford has kind find taken over. Seems like Chevy or GM in general has not found its place. To what do you attribute that?
JEFF GORDON: There's only one difference or maybe two differences these days in manufacturers. One is horsepower. The only real difference in the cars is the engine. Everything else is identically the same. The only other option I would throw in there is technology, engineering, and manufacture backing from the engineering standpoint.
You know, these cars are so identical that it's not about whether one manufacturer's aerodynamic has an advantage, like it used to be. You come out with a new car. I remember in 1995 we came out with the new Monte Carlo. That Chevy Monte Carlo was the dominant car by far. I mean, it wasn't about, you know, who was going to win the championship, it was just which Chevy was going to win the championship. That's not the case any more. So now it's about horsepower and taking the tools that Chevrolet gives us and making the most with them under the hood.
Hendrick Motorsports does a great job in the engine department. Also they give us wind tunnel time. They book testing at certain tracks. It's about taking advantage of those opportunities to try to make the most of the setups and get the most out of the car.
So I don't see where anybody has a real distinct advantage. We've seen where the Toyotas have been strong on restrictor plate tracks. They seem to have something working really well for the restrictor plate engine package. You know, other than that, I feel like our engine and power and everything else at our disposal is equal to all the other manufacturers out there.
Q: Yesterday it was announced that Brad Keselowski was going to run a couple Cup races. What are your thoughts on his ability and what happens if he does prove himself because of the car count being at four?
JEFF GORDON: Well, Brad has done an amazing job. He continues to impress me. He's done a lot of testing for our team. Not only has he impressed me at the test, but what he's been able to accomplish in the Nationwide Series even this past weekend. Even though he didn't win the race, to get behind, have the problems they had in the pits, and to be able to stay calm and come back and have a great finish like that is really impressive. So I think he's got a great future ahead of him.
I'm excited that he's linked to Hendrick Motorsports through JR Motorsports. I think that's what he calls his team. But I think having them at Hendrick for a couple races this year is fantastic. Like I say, he's got a bright future. We've got Mark Martin in the car full-time next year. And I think that having another year in the Nationwide Series with maybe some more Cup races under his belt is going to be something that we're all going to be anxious to see how it goes and look forward to. If it goes well, I think he's got a bright future, not just at Hendrick Motorsports but in the Cup Series in general.
Q: You mentioned how much the testing and the hard work has helped you and the team. Let's face it, you really have had some bad luck this year. Going into the race, how in the heck do you get that bad luck out of your mind?
JEFF GORDON: Well, first of all, I said we've been testing. I haven't said it's been going very well (laughter). I wouldn't necessarily say we've had bad luck this year. I'm just somebody that's not a believer in bad luck or good luck. I believe that you make your good fortune through hard work, through putting the right tools in place, the right people in place. And when you do those things, then the things that you're working hard at are going to go your way.
For whatever reason, we just haven't been able to hit on it this year. Maybe a few times we've had what I think is the best car on the track, and we had some problems along with that that prevented us from going to Victory Lane. So I think we've had a few shots at Victory Lane this year that just haven't worked out. But for the most part we haven't performed. And the reason why we've been where we've been in the points, the reason we haven't won races, is that it's so competitive that these days to win races you have to knock on that door constantly, you have to be up there leading laps, you have to be getting off pit road first, you have to constantly evolve with the changing conditions of the track and also this car, which I play a big role in as well as the team, and make sure you're putting yourself in position, top fives, top threes, and then you're going to win races. We just haven't put ourself in position enough times and we haven't really taken full advantage of these tests and all the hard work that we have put into it.
We've worked as hard as anybody, I know that. Unfortunately we just haven't really seen the results. The only way we're going to see the results is to continue to work hard and hope that we find something that really clicks. And it's going to click for me and our team and our setups on the way that I want the car set up or the theories on how Steve wants to set up the cars, and that's what's going to make it all start to come together. We've got eight more races to go and I know we can win some races before it's all over.
Q: Not all fans might understand the efforts your team allots to changing track conditions race to race. Could you enlighten them on that?
JEFF GORDON: This past weekend at Dover was a perfect example. All the practice that we did on Saturday, the track was constantly changing because rubber was starting to be laid down into the grooves and the crevices that are in the track. And when that rubber gets laid down, it changes the grip level of the track. Same thing happened on Sunday's race. We started that race off out front, clean air. Car was good but it was really loose. And as the runs went on, the car just kept getting tighter and tighter and tighter. Tighter in, looser off. We constantly had to adjust.
The toughest thing about adjusting is while you adjust maybe for one thing, you've got to pick one thing that's hurting you the most speed-wise. For us, you know, we felt like the exit of the corner was hurting us the most. Every time we tried to adjust to try to fix the exit of the corner, it hurt the entry of the corner. Those are the challenges that the teams are faced with every single weekend. It's the team that does the best job of keeping up with those conditions as they change or has the setup that's going to be best when those conditions sort of finalize maybe halfway, three-quarters of the way through the race, that's going to be the team to beat.
Q: Did you notice that Kansas came in quite a bit better last year? Looked like there was a lot more side-by-side racing, better quality of racing, is that correct?
JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. If you look at the surface, if you look at how it's weathered over the years, the banking, the transitions, it's a great racetrack. There's more polymers in some of the newer pavement these days, as we're learning. It takes longer for tracks to age, I guess you could say, for that groove to widen out. So, you know, it's something that Goodyear and the tracks and everybody is really looking into to try to figure out how to go forward in the future with either new tracks or repaves, where right now Kansas I think has one of the most perfect surfaces out there, great racing, great side-by-side, three-wide action. I think you're going to see probably one of the best Kansas races this coming up weekend that you've ever seen just because of how that track has weathered and has improved in what we like to see with the track actually giving up grip and the groove widening out.
Q: You announced recently that you're going to have a new look to the 24 in '09. Can you talk about that, what the timeline is for release of that look, how exciting it is to debut a new car and new look for your fans at the Daytona 500.
JEFF GORDON: It is very exciting. Unfortunately, I can't talk much about it because it's under tight raps with Dupont, our primary sponsor. They would like to release it on their terms. So we're going to stand by that. But it is something that Sam Bass, myself and Dupont have been working really hard on. I'm excited about it. I think the fans are really going to like it.
I wish I could give more details, but I just can't. But I do know that an announcement should be coming in the next few weeks and the unveiling of that car. We'll have to wait and see and we can talk a lot more about it then.
DENISE MALOOF: Jeff, thanks very much for your time today and good luck this weekend.
JEFF GORDON: My pleasure. Thank you.