Jeff Gordon remembers his first race at Dover

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Team Chevy Racing

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed his first time coming to Dover, the lack of cautions in 2012 and other topics.

Jeff Gordon, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE RESURGENCE OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AND HOW THE CONFIDENCE HAS GROWN OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS AND HOW YOU FEEL COMING INTO DOVER THIS WEEKEND: “It seems like all of us got off to a slow start obviously some of us slower than others. We have had some moments where we were really strong, but just not putting the races together. The last few weeks just seeing Jimmie (Johnson) get the win at Darlington and then Kasey (Kahne) last week. You know our car was really strong last week as well. I hope there is more of that to come. My car felt really good here today too. We definitely are working in the right direction with our set-up’s right now.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE FIRST TIME YOU CAME TO DOVER? AND MENTION BEING BACK IN THE LUCK Y DUPONT UNIFORM THIS WEEKEND? “Lucky, let’s hope so. Let’s see no I can’t remember it was so long ago (laughs). I ran a Nationwide car here I guess first back in ’91. I was driving for Bill Davis at the time. They really ran well here. I remember the car got through the corner really well. There is just no comparing this place. It is just unlike any other track you will ever go to. I ran some very high banked fast race tracks in the midgets and sprint cars prior to coming into NASCAR. Even those tracks don’t really prepare you for how you drop into the banking here. It is a very unique place. I know it is one that I enjoyed right away because I like a big, fast, challenging race track like this. We have always had pretty good success here. It certainly was a track that I liked right away. I think it used to be pavement when I drove here back in ’91. That certainly has changed things a lot, the concrete.”

DO YOU AT ALL LOOK AT THE THINGS YOUR TEAMMATES HAVE DONE AND THINK IF THEY CAN DO IT WE ARE CAPABLE OF GETTING BACK IN TOP-10 CONTENTION? OR DO YOU JUST CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON YOUR OWN TEAM AND IMPROVING AND NOT REALLY LOOK AT THEM? “Well our reason for not being in the top-10 has nothing to do with the way we have been running in the races it is the way we have been finishing. There is nothing that you can, no information you can get from your teammates that can stop you from having a blown tire at Darlington, cut tire at Bristol and blown engine at Kansas. For us we are always sharing information with our teammates and trying to get better and when they have a good weekend like Jimmie (Johnson) had at Darlington, Jimmie (Johnson) had at the All-Star Race, Kasey Kahne in the 600 then we are definitely paying attention and learning from it. Like I said, I had one of the best cars I’ve ever had in the 600 this past week. Unfortunately, we had to pass about 50 cars to get there to that seventh-place finish just because we got caught out on the green flag stop there. That got us way behind. Then we all knew that the two tire stop was a risky stop there at the end because we were the last one on two tires so that didn’t work out either, but we really rebounded that last run. We are running good enough to certainly be in the top-10 in points. To get that resurgence we just have to start continuing to put finishes together just like we did last week. I think we are capable of getting some wins before this Chase. Hopefully, we get enough to get us into it.”

CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHEN YOU WIN A RACE AND THEN YOU GO BACK THE FOLLOWING YEAR? NEXT WEEK YOU ARE THE DEFENDING CHAMPION OF THAT RACE AT POCONO BUT IT’S A WHOLE DIFFERENT ANIMAL WITH THE CHANGES THAT THEY MADE WITH THE REPAVE. CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR MIND SET GOING IN? “I am definitely not thinking about being the defending champion of that race at all just because there is nothing to compare to with a repave. I think there is very little that were probably going to have in our set-up that would compare to what we had there last year. I think no matter what Pocono is going to have similar challenges just because the shape and the banking of the turns haven’t changed. It’s just how much grip level it’s going to have and the smoothness of the track, so how aggressive you are going to be able to get with getting the car sealed down to the race track. Then just how aggressive you are going to be driving the car, those types of things I think will still play out. If you like that track and you run good at that track then that can still be beneficial to us. I think that is going to be about 10-15 percent of what we are going to have to do to win there this time. There is really no comparison. Even when a track doesn’t change, tires change a little bit. Just like this race. Goodyear brought different tires and the track is acting a lot different and it’s got a lot of grip. It’s really fast and you’ve got to adapt your set-up. If nothing changed at all not tires or anything, the same set-up you had a year ago probably won’t even be good enough. If you dominated the race it wouldn’t be good enough that is just the competition that is just how this sport evolves every year.”

IN THIS STRETCH OF CLEAN AND GREEN RACING THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS ONE OF THE THEORIES NOW BEING TALKED ABOUT IS THAT GUYS ARE JUST BEING MORE CAUTIOUS BECAUSE OF THE POTENTIAL DAMAGE TO THE POINTS IF YOU WRECK. I’M CURIOUS IF YOU’VE SEEN ANY DIFFERENCE? “I’d love to know which driver said that. (Media Response: (Denny) Hamlin) I don’t know why any driver is saying that because I don’t see that. I just think guys are racing smarter. When I look back through the years of my experiences in this sport there have just been certain drivers that you always seem to see in cautions. I think the quality of the drivers and the way they are using their heads, the cars certainly have a lot of grip in them so they don’t get out of shape maybe quite as much as they used to. To me there is plenty of side-by-side racing last week and opportunities for wrecks to happen and they didn’t happen. I know it wasn’t from me being cautious. I wasn’t being very cautious. I can certainly tell you we are not points racing. Maybe (Denny) Hamlin is and maybe that is contributing to that but that is certainly not where we’re at. I think that is the case is throughout the field there are guys that are in position to be more aggressive than other guys in position to be less aggressive. I don’t see that is any different than 10 years ago, 20 years ago throughout the history of this sport.”

THIS USE TO BE A STRETCH OF RACES WHERE YOU RAN 600 MILES AT CHARLOTTE, 500 IN DOVER, 500 IN POCONO AND 400 IN MICHIGAN, CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT IT WAS LIKE BACK THEN TO GET THROUGH THIS GROUP OF RACES AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO RUN 500 MILES AT DOVER? “It’s actually more demanding now than it used to be. The difference is we’ve got these cool systems and better ways to hydrate. We’ve gotten smarter on the physical side of it, working out more. So, I think the drivers are in a little bit better physical shape than what they used to be as far as preparing for the races. So, if it was hot, then yeah those races could certainly get long and be an issue, but you didn’t drive the cars as hard either. You really just had to pace yourself. The car’s limit was just so much less. A lot of times you were getting top fives, top tens, and sometimes even wins based on attrition, based on being patient, based on not over driving the car. Now, if you don’t push the car to the extreme and over drive it you’re not going to find yourself in a position to win. We’re not seeing as much attrition as we used to. Because of that you don’t pace yourself, you just push, push, and push as hard as you can. Then it’s working your body a lot harder and harder. I think it all kind of balances itself out.”

CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE NEW TIRE HERE AND ITS BEHAVIOR? “First of all, I’m just thrilled to get a question from you (Dick Berggren) in your final race here. Thank you for everything you’ve done for all of us in the sport. I think maybe this next practice we might get that opportunity to see the groove widen out. We’re still kind of learning this tire and what it’s going to do. Usually when a tire has more grip, that’s going to make us go around the bottom a little bit more, so we need to see more laps run before we start to see if there is some fall-off. The tire is not wearing a lot. Goodyear found a way to bring more grip here with a tire that doesn’t give up and wear out as much. It always amazes me when they’re able to do that. I certainly hope so; I love to see the groove move up to the top. To see Dover at its best, which to me is when there, is a top groove, middle groove, and a bottom groove and just great racing all the way around this race track. I know that typically when rubber gets laid down on the track we start searching and pushing that groove up and up and up. I think that is one of the great things that we’ve seen here at Dover over the last couple of years and I would think that would continue.”

YESTERDAY RAY EVERNHAM SUGGESTED THAT WITH THE ADDING OF THE 2013 CAR, IT ALSO GIVES NASCAR AN OPPORTUNITY TO OPEN UP THE BOX AND GIVE CREW CHIEFS MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOME CREATIVITY. WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF THAT AND DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD BE GOOD FOR THE SPORT? “I’m shocked that Ray Evernham said that. (laughter). I think that would be awesome. I definitely think that is something that we are missing right now in this sport. The area that we have to be creative with its just strange things we have to do to this car to make it stick to the race track and try to find an advantage. I think it would be great. I don’t know what that area necessarily would be. Maybe Ray has some suggestions on that too, that would be great. I love to see the crew chiefs get together with NASCAR and kind of collaboratively come together on some areas that they think could create that more creativity and that gray area that they can work in. I really think that things have changed so much though over the years. Now we look at the aerodynamics, how we seal the car down to the race track. I saw NASCAR cutting the skirts off of cars, instead of baby steps. But, we’ve lost the mechanical grip side of the cars over the years and have gained so much aerodynamic grip in the cars that I would like to see us go back to less aerodynamic grip and little bit more mechanical grip. But, I’m not the smart guys that work on these cars like the engineers and the crew chiefs. I think it’s a great idea, and I’d be all for it if it came from the teams and the guys that work on these cars and build these cars every weekend that they came up with something together. Because that’s where I think we miss a little bit sometimes. The competitors know these cars and how to build them and make them go fast better than anybody. So, a lot times they get frustrated and really don’t accept changes when they come from outside of that group, but if they were all to sit in a room and create that box or that area themselves, I think it could be something that everybody gets behind and really gets excited about.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, gordon, hendrick, monster mile