JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed the groove at Phoenix International Raceway, the possibility of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing on dirt, what it takes to be a champion and other topics.
HOW HAS THE TRACK AGED IN THE ONE YEAR? IS IT MUCH DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS A YEAR AGO? “It’s a little bit different. It’s nice to see a nice wide groove.
There is a lot of rubber laid down which compared to the first race we had here that was pretty rare we didn’t see that until maybe half way through the race.
Really anxious to see how qualifying goes today. Sometimes we get some false sense of security in practice, tires are heated up through the brakes and everything else and you go out there and the car has got good grip.
When everything is cool and you take off to go make that qualifying run and it sticks then I will be happy. I have a feeling we are probably going to be sliding around a little bit for the first half, three-quarters of the lap.
So getting ahold of the track qualifying is going to be tough, but I’m optimistic about multiple grooves in the race right now.”
THE RACE TRACK IN FORT ERIE, CANADA HAS RECEIVED FINAL APPROVAL FROM THE MUNICIPAL BOARD IT LOOKS LIKE IT’S A GO AHEAD IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN SAY ABOUT THAT DEAL? “Well there is still a lot of things, it’s a long process.
I’ve been saying this for a while it’s been a great experience for me to be a part of it from the beginning design stages with Paxton Waters who worked with Rusty (Wallace) on Iowa.
I think we have a great track design and it takes a long time to get all the approvals. That is a great step for us. Now the next step is to put all the funding in place, which has been in the works for a long time and start to make it a reality and see race cars out there one day.
Of course you hope that you can get the NASCAR series there, but you can’t guarantee that nobody can and so I think it’s a great market. I think there is tremendous support of fans and companies there. I think it can be a win for everybody if we can get it done.”
WHAT IS ONE PERSONALITY TRAIT OF MR. HENDRICK THAT CREATES THE LEVEL OF SUCCESS FOR HIS ORGANIZATION? “He is just such a quality person.
You spend enough time with him and you realize everything he does he does it right, he does it first class, he treats people with tremendous respect.
He is very competitive so he doesn’t like to lose which is great in business as well as in racing. He is just so well balanced, his family, friends, working.
He works hard, yet he enjoys life as well. Just that balance of everything he puts together is impressive to see and makes people look up to him and want to make him proud and want to be like him.”
WHY WILL JIMMIE JOHNSON WIN THE CHASE? ALSO, CAN YOU GIVE US ONE REASON WHY BRAD KESELOWSKI WILL WIN THE CHASE? “Oh my goodness, well when somebody has won five straight championships like the No. 48 has that is no fluke.
Even though they didn’t win it last year, they are just a really strong team. They have been through so much and they just know how to grind and battle and win at the right time and put the pressure on you at the right time with two straight poles and two straight wins.
So certainly the pressure is on the No. 2. I think the No. 2 has done an excellent job, Brad has been a great driver and that team has really stepped up and hung in there and kept it interesting.
But, you’ve got to think they are a little bit beat down from what that No. 48 team has been able to do to them throughout the Chase, especially the last couple of weeks.
But, hey every race changes things up so you really can’t predict, you don’t know what is going to happen. I love that the other day I was watching all the elections and things.
I was tweeting about this and I just got such a kick out of it and the fans response to the things I was saying made me really think about things.
I was saying ‘hey wait a minute CNN just came on with breaking news about 30 percent of the votes are in, but yet (Mitt) Romney wins this state or (Barack) Obama wins this state.’
It’s a projection poll. I don’t get this how can they say they won it and then everybody kept saying to me now you know what it’s like when you are watching a race and they are saying ‘oh’ this guys is leading the points right now and we are only 50 laps into the race.
So, these races have got to be run, they have got to be run out to the checkered flag and then we will be talking about it all again after this weekend and see what happens when the checkered flag flies in Homestead.
It’s great to see those two guys battling for the championship and for a race win like they were last weekend.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A CHAMPION? “It’s been so long I’ve forgotten (laughs). It’s a lot different than what it takes today versus what it used to take because of the Chase format.
I’m probably not the best guy to talk to, but usually the same thing holds true.
You have to work hard, you have to be a great team and you’ve got to be willing to risk just about anything to put yourself out there to make the difference up whether it be a win, one position or just to keep yourself in the game.”
YOU’VE BEEN IN A SITUATION WHERE YOU STRUNG TOGETHER A BUNCH OF WINS AND NOTHING IS GOING WRONG ON THE TEAM YOU ARE IN THE ZONE. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE IN THAT ZONE? “It’s awesome. You feel like you just can’t do any wrong.
It makes you just have so much confidence in yourself, in your team, them and you. You just go to the race track thinking ‘okay what little things do we have to do to win this race.’
You’re not thinking about wow we are a half a second off we are missing something. You do not doubt anything.
You are just on this incredible boost of confidence and going into it thinking ‘yeah we can win this race’. Why can’t we? That is a great thing to have.”
DO YOU FIND THAT TO BE MORE STRESSFUL OR MORE RELAXING? “No, it’s never less stressful. It doesn’t matter how good things are going for you. There is still the competition is still fierce. Anything can go wrong at any time.
You don’t want to be the one to make the mistake to cost you what ultimately could and should be your year. To me the stress level is equally as high even when things are going great for you.”
WHAT WAS YOUR CONVERSATION LIKE WITH KASEY (KAHNE) AFTER LAST WEEK’S RACE? “I went to him immediately. I got out of my car and his car pulled up right next to me. I went over to him and I just apologized to him for getting into him.
I think he recognized the situation we were racing hard. At the time I wasn’t sure if the No. 16 got into me or not so he asked me if he did. I said ‘I think he did, but I’m not really sure.’ After looking at the video he did.
I did everything I could to make the pass as well as not get into Kasey (Kahne). When you are racing hard in the closing laps sometimes it happens. I hate it for him; I hate it for us as well.
We were having a great run and a great day. It’s just one of those things that sometimes you have to go through as teammates and I felt like we had a good conversation about it.”
WHAT HAS KASEY (KAHNE) BROUGHT TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? “Well I feel like it’s kind of a team package with he and Kenny (Francis, crew chief).
When you take two guys that have confidence in one another and work well together they can come in and just build the team, build the cars around them that they need to go out and be competitive.
That is the whole thing is when cars are out there, when we have four cars out there that are all competitive that are fine tuning on their cars for qualifying, for the race we are giving much better information to our group.
You are able to take more valuable information which turns into results from that group. So I feel like we have four teams obviously by making all four into the Chase, we have four teams that really have a lot to add and are very competitive week in and week out.”
DO YOU THINK WITH THE UNKNOWNS OF THIS TRACK AND THE DIFFICULTIES IT PROVIDES DO YOU THINK THIS TRACK COULD DECIDE THE TITLE? “I mean I feel like every track we go to can decide the title.
If something big happens, one big swing happens this is a tricky track. I mean it’s hard to get ahold of because of the new surface.
There are multiple grooves so we are going to see some side-by-side racing, I think we are going to see some cautions and it’s going to be intense.
Track position is very important here. That increases the intensity and anytime you increase the intensity and the aggressiveness you increase the chances of some game changer for the championship and for the race.”
YOU WERE AT THE TEST IN AT CHARLOTTE THIS WEEK? “I was.”
DID YOU TAKE PART IN ANY OF THE STUFF THEY DID WHERE THEY REDUCED HORSEPOWER? “I did not.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY IMPRESSIONS ON HOW THAT WENT? IS THAT A GOOD DIRECTION DO YOU THINK? “I think that they have a long check list of things that they want to go through and test and try. That was one of them.
We were doing tire testing primarily with our car. I haven’t talked to any of the guys that drove the cars. I will be surprised if it was good. I personally don’t think that is the direction that we need to be going in to make our racing better.
It never slows the cars down through the corners. I would like to see us get the cars slowed down through the corner that is going to make better racing.
I applaud them they are trying a lot of unique things and different things some inside the box, some way outside the box. I think that the testing that they are doing is very valuable.”
HAVE YOU TRIED LIKE THE HIGH DOWNFORCE STUFF THAT THEY ARE STARTING TO GO TO? “Well when they pulled power away I know one of the times they added downforce at the same time probably a little bit more like a Nationwide package.
But our stuff I would say that the stuff that we had was probably similar to the downforce we currently have with the cars.”
ARE YOU ENCOURAGED OVERALL? “I thought the car drove really good. I thought the test went well. The cars are really… you look around the garage area I’m excited about we are going to be driving some very cool cars next year.
I think that my car drove really well. I think there are still a lot of things left to do before February of next year, but I was very encouraged.”
EARLIER THIS MORNING ROBIN PEMBERTON WAS SAYING THAT ONE OF THE ISSUES IS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE FANS WANT AND IT’S KIND OF A MOVING TARGET. WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY NEEDS TO DO WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FANS WANT TO SEE IS IT JUST PASSING ON 1.5-MILE TRACKS? “Yeah, I think that we need to have four quarters and half-time and mandatory cautions for TV timeouts.
I mean Texas to me; everybody is like ‘wow that Texas race was awesome.’ Well it was awesome because we had cautions and some weeks we have cautions and other weeks we don’t have cautions.
The weeks we don’t have cautions everybody is like ‘wow that was a boring race’. We don’t necessarily need to go back to the mid ‘90’s to make great racing because even back then we had races I remember a race where there was not one caution in the race.
I guarantee you that type of racing we had back then the fans really wouldn’t like today. It’s just far more demanding of what makes an entertaining race, but we all know cautions fix all of that.
To me let’s get the cars driving well. There is a different package for every track because you have some repaves and you have some hard tires that Goodyear has to build for the repaves like this one.
It’s going to take time to build that multi groove race track. So cautions are what is going to make it exciting, but yet you go to Texas, Atlanta and Chicago and you have this track that is worn out, you have multiple grooves, the cars are sliding all over the place is what I think is great racing.
Even Bristol, I like the racing at Bristol, but unless we have cautions to stack us all up and bump and bang a little bit more I don’t think that anybody is really going to be satisfied with the racing.”
YOU ARE NOT IN FAVOR OF BRUTON SMITH’S LET’S HAVE SIX MANDATORY CAUTIONS EVERY RACE? “I’m leaning more towards it I will be honest with you. If that’s what, just don’t do it when I’m on pit road with a tire issue (laughs).
Let me get un-lapped, trust me one thing is going to lead to another. Right now we have lucky dogs and wave around’s and all that stuff. If we start throwing more mandatory cautions we might have to change some of those rules.”
THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT THE TRUCKS RACING ON DIRT AT ELDORA. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NASCAR ON DIRT? “Wow! Really? Well you know I have always found it amazing to see the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) cars at DuQuoin.
I think that is very cool that series does that. I don’t think it’s an easy task for them to do. You have to change the cars around a lot the set-up’s and heating and cooling systems and all that, brakes.
So, but I’m all for it. I think it would be cool to see. I would love to see that.”
HOW MUCH OF AN ADJUSTMENT WOULD IT BE FOR EVERYBODY? “Oh my gosh, huge adjustment. There are a lot of guys out there that aren’t used to driving on dirt.
The trucks aren’t really built to run on dirt, so I don’t know how much they would have to change the trucks. It would be entertaining that is for sure. I would like to see it. I think there will be some guys that will really excel at it.”