Jeff Gordon - Saturday media visit

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JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed practice, qualifying and rivalries and other topics. Full transcript:

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE FRUSTRATION OF RACING LUCK?: “I guess I have a different opinion. I feel like you control your own luck based on having a fast race car, having a solid team, having good communication. Maybe it doesn’t change all your luck, but it adds to it greatly. I look at Bristol and we were off. We were off on our setup -- we salvaged the best finish we could out of it and I was proud of that. That’s why we finished 14th. I look at Daytona and where we finished at Daytona and what I could have done to have prevented getting caught up in that wreck. Some people would look at that as bad luck, I look at it as I could have done a couple things to maybe help. A blown tire at Vegas, I don’t know if that’s bad luck. I feel like there are things that make a tire blow. Sometimes it’s the tire and sometimes it’s you contributing to it. Sometimes it’s both. I guess I’ve always looked at it different. I think you can make your luck better by being a really good race team.”

HOW WILL THE WEEPERS IN THE TRACK AFFECT YOUR TEAM WITH THE SHORTER PRACTICE SESSION?: “We had so many issues in that short practice that the weepers were the least of our issues. I definitely felt the seams were playing havoc, but if we did our job right then I wouldn’t have to be worried about the seams. I did see how I could have gotten into some water down on the apron and the white line in the middle of three and four and I think that’s what happened to him. The biggest thing is just how limited we were on time. For us, the unfortunate part is that we were off and we needed to make some fairly significant changes and we didn’t have enough time to do that. We’re just kind of rolling the dice for qualifying. Then with the new qualifying line-up, it’s a double whammy. We have to go out early so we’re shortened on time preparing. It’s been a rough morning or day so far for us.”

SO THE TEAMS THAT ARE STRONGER WILL GET MORE TIME VERSUS THE TEAMS THAT STRUGGLED IN PRACTICE: “It’s important to show up right. We worked so hard to make sure that we got everything right, but sometimes there’s things that you can’t predict. We just missed some things. Sometimes it’s the tiniest little thing that makes a difference. Absolutely. To qualify on the pole and up front these days, what you have to do is you have to be, especially your last run or your last couple runs in practice need to be close. When you go to qualify you have to step it up. You need to be able to go back to your trailer and talk to your crew chief and your team about the fine tuning adjustments that need to be made to go faster, not huge changes.”

IS IT TOO EARLY FOR THE WILD CARD TO BE PART OF YOUR THINKING?: “We’re not -- I don’t even look at the points. I’m not even thinking about points. Obviously, we’re happy to have a win and a lot of benefits come along with a win. Momentum and confidence in the team as well as having that win in case you need it for that wild card. If we have to go off the wild card, I don’t think that we’re really good enough to win the championship anyway. That’s just my opinion. We’re not trying to fall back on that and certainly not thinking about it at this point.”

HAVE YOU TALKED TO BRAD KESELOWSKI AFTER LAST WEEK?: “He sent me a text and I was so busy with my family and traveling this week. There’s no need to have a conversation. I think I was pretty clear on TV that while I might race him different if I’m three laps down, I also understand that it’s a short track and he had to do what he could to get those laps back and it worked for him. I don’t think he intentionally got into me. I just think he was driving in over his head and trying to get those laps back. I’ve got no issues with Brad (Keselowski).”

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE THIS WEEK IN CALIFORNIA OUTSIDE THE RACE TRACK?: “We had a bunch of stuff going on. I did Ellen because we’re doing some promotions around the Cars 2 movie that I have a small role in. California is a state that Pertussis is really bad in. There’s been an epidemic here, an outbreak of sorts that has really affected the state so I was doing some media around that. Also some work with my foundation. We come out west and we try to take advantage of the time that we’re here and get as much in as we can. It was a busy day yesterday, but a good one.”

DO YOU ENJOY DOING SHOWS LIKE ELLEN?: “I get nervous for it, don’t get me wrong because you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen and what to expect. You kind of have an idea of where it may be headed, but you never know. They throw you a curve ball. I think it’s very cool to be on the show. I think Ellen and even Jay Leno, I did that earlier a couple weeks ago and they were awesome. It definitely has an impact on the things that we’re promoting and talking about. I thought it was good. I like Ellen a lot. I did her show one other time and really enjoyed it -- it’s a good show.”

DO YOUR KIDS RECOGNIZE YOU IN THE CARS 2 MOVIE?: “It’s funny because Ella sees me on TV and she hasn’t quite figured out why I’m on TV. She understands the race car and that’s what I do on the weekends. When I left she was like, ‘Good luck, go win the race.’ All these cool things. As far as seeing me on TV, she doesn’t quite grasp that. I think with the Cars 2 movie, it’s not going to be my face, it’s going to be my voice so it’s going to be interesting to see if she recognizes my voice in that movie. If she doesn’t, I’ll be sure to tell her it’s me.”

WAS IT FUN TO DO THE CARS 2 MOVIE?: “Oh my god yeah, that was very cool. Again, it’s a small part, but becoming friends with John Lasseter -- he is a huge NASCAR fan. He loves this sport. You would be so shocked to know how much he follows this sport. I think he was one of the most excited people when I won Phoenix. And told him that I was coming to L.A. He was so excited. So to see him and work with him in his environment, he is so good. I totally understand how and why those movies are so good and so well done and so successful. He’s so passionate about it. I got directed by him while I was doing my stuff and the things that he got out of me was stuff I could have never gotten out of myself. It was really cool to be a part of and to see. And see him in his job -- I have really only seen very little clips of the movie. All I saw was very rough so I am really looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.”

WILL MARTINSVILLE BE DIFFERENT WITH THE NEW NOSE?: “I think it will be very minimal on a short track. I think it is a much bigger deal on the bigger tracks. Even on the bigger tracks, I’m not so sure that we’re seeing much of a difference with it. I’m certainly looking forward to going to Martinsville as always.”

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO BEAT JIMMIE JOHNSON AND DENNY HAMLIN AT MARTINSVILLE?: “It’s just trying to learn from what you did the last time, what you had as a setup and what you could have done better. All the conversations that we have with Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) when we prepare for a race and we debrief on the last race, we talk about the next race and we talk a little about the upcoming race. Next week we’ll go into further detail about Martinsville. We discuss all those things about what each car in our stable has as a setup, who was good, who was not and try to break it down as to why. That’s all you can do is try to give as much good information as you can to try to make sure you can go there and be sure you were better than you were the last time.”

HOW IS ALAN GUSTAFSON MAKING YOU THINK DIFFERENTLY?: “He does some things a little bit different, but what he’s inspired me to do is just work harder. He works very, very hard. I was joking with him the other day, he had a new pair of sunglasses and he was talking about some book that he read to his son and I was like, ‘When do you have time to do that man.’ We go into a meeting and he knows every single word and every note that is 30 pages deep and that is just one set of notes and then they flip to another topic and he knows everything. He says that he reads this and knows this, but yet he also finds time to do things with his family and says he shopped online. It’s inspiring. He’s a very smart guy and he works really hard and I want to give him everything I possibly can. It doesn’t change how I diagnose what I need. Those things are still the same, it’s really more about how they plan to fix those issues or address those issues.”

WHAT MORE CAN YOU DO?: “For instance, they debrief a little bit different on Tuesdays -- he and his engineers get in a room, they’ve got a projector, they’ve got video, they’ve got just a lot of data, a lot of information. Tire data, you name it. I’ve tried to make it into those meetings and in the past that would happen on the phone or sometimes it would happen with Steve (Letarte), but it is more in depth and it’s more time consuming, but I think it’s time well spent. I’m scared about learning more -- it seems like the more I learn, the less effective I am. Sometimes I just want to be dumb and drive fast cars.”

HOW DO YOU THINK THE NEW TALLADEGA PLATE WILL AFFECT THE RACING?: “If they keep making it any smaller we’re going to be two car drafts down pit road. All it does it just make the two car draft more predominant. The smaller you go on the plate it just makes you push even more. I think that they have to do it for speed, it’s a speed thing. I think NASCAR knows that if they want to try to break up the two car draft we have to actually have a bigger plate. The problem is that there’s a chance of going 220 mph when you’re hooked up with another car. I think it’s more of what we saw in Daytona with a lot more room on the race track. I think it could be very exciting.”

HOW MANY MORE GAINS HAVE YOU MADE ON THE CARS SINCE OCTOBER?: “The gains that we’ve all made is in the cooling. It’s just about being able to push without having to change or swap or disconnect from one another. The last time we were in Talladega, if you remember, guys could push for maybe two or three laps and they kind of all waited till the end of the race. This time, I don’t think we’ll be waiting. It will be a lot more like Daytona.”

WHICH HALF-MILE TRACK DO YOU PREFER?: “I love Bristol it’s one of my favorite tracks. I just haven’t performed as well there in recent years as we used to. They changed the configuration and the cars have changed so whatever those changes are just doesn’t seem like I have quite the feel and the knack to get the car the way it needs to be to be faster there. Not much has changed at Martinsville and it seems like all the things that I’ve done over the years at Martinsville still apply and still work well there. I think we’re very capable of winning at Martinsville this year.”

DO YOU CONSIDER MARTINSVILLE TO BE A WILD CARD?: “Not necessarily. It’s tight racing and it’s a short track. You have to be careful not to overheat the brakes and use up your equipment. I think if you run well and you have a good race car, you can drive away to work yourself through some of the wrecks and things you see that gets guys in trouble. It’s a small, tight race track and we’re running inches away from each other so anything is possible.”

HOW HAVE RILVALRIES CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?: “The only thing that I see -- when you think of rivalries, you think of (Dale) Earnhardt always comes up in that conversation. Whether it’s me or Rusty (Wallace) or Terry (Labonte) -- the guys before me -- Darrell (Waltrip) or maybe even Bill (Elliott) a little bit or Mark Martin. It seems like the common denominator there was Dale. When I think of Dale’s driving style and his personality, he was very aggressive and he rattled peoples cages and those types of things. I don’t know if we really have anybody out here that does it quite like that. You might have some guys that are real aggressive and do things because of driving aggressive that make other guys upset, but rarely are they doing it intentionally and thinking they can get away with it. I tell them all the time that is still blows my mind to think that Dale Earnhardt Sr. got away with it. If I go back, the difference is that these days it’s very hard to loosen a car up. You can’t just get on them and get close and loosen them up. You almost have to hit them. When I first got in the sport, the art of learning how to loosen a guy up by getting up on him was perfected by Dale. A lot of times he would loosen you up and send you up the race track and you might even spin out and wreck and he never touched you. You go back and look at the video and you go, ‘Man, I thought he wrecked me, it was my fault, it wasn’t his fault.’ He was a master at it. It created a lot of rivalries, upset a lot of people and felt like that was rubbing people the wrong way. He did it so well that he won a lot of races and a lot of championships and everybody wanted to try to beat him. Nobody seemed to be able to do it quite the same way as he did. I don’t think we have anybody out here, including myself, I would say the next -- it’s between maybe a (Kevin) Harvick and I think Harvick has the makings of that. He’s a good driver, he can be aggressive, he can be dirty, but a guy like Kyle (Busch), he has some of those same things as well, but most of the time he’s just being real aggressive. He’s got a lot of talent. I don’t think of Kyle as a dirty driver and I’m not saying Harvick is a dirty driver, but he has it in him. He can be that way. I don’t know. I just don’t think -- it’s all about that personality, driving style and just persona gets built up and that creates the potential for rivalries.”

WHERE IS YOUR AGGRESSIVE DRIVING STYLE THAT WE HAVE SEEN IN THE PAST?: “I’m aggressive, I race people the way they race me. If somebody races me real aggressive then they are going to be raced aggressively back. It’s just hard to explain. I was brought up, when you race you do everything you can to find a way by that person as clean as possible. I’m not saying that I’ve always done that, but those are my intentions. Then when that doesn’t work, I go to the next, but Dale (Earnhardt), that was his last intent. He would move them out of the way and if that doesn’t work then he would try the other thing. Some guys just have that style and some guys don’t.

-source: team chevy

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jeff Gordon maked an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" on Friday, March 25th. He reveals the reason why his daughter wants to be a racecar driver.

Ellen: I heard that Ella told you she wants to be a racecar driver?

Jeff: I get asked this all the time. Do you want your daughter to be a racecar driver? I just want to approach it the same way that my parents approached it with me and my sister. Whatever opportunities or passions you see as a parent your kids interested in, pursue that and see where that takes them. That's what happened with me. We found racing at a young age. My parents introduced me to it and it just took off. I hadn't thought about it a whole lot, certainly with my daughter, and we were driving down the road the other day and out of nowhere, she said, "Papa, I want to be a racecar driver." And I said, "You do? Why do you want to be a racecar driver?" [She said] "Because I love you." It just crushed me and at the same time, I thought, "Oh, now I'm going to have to get a racecar." Laughs

-source: the ellen degeneres show

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags fontana, jeff gordon, nascar, sprint cup