JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with media and discussed the fast speeds at Michigan the upcoming road race at Sonoma, the preparation and expectations of repaved tracks, and more.
CAN YOU ABLE TO GO FLAT AROUND HERE? “No, no. I think qualifying is going to be extremely fast. And you’re doing to need to be as close to flat as we’ll ever come to this place. Some guys might not get all the way out of the throttle, but no; I think you’re going to have to lift a little. But it’s extremely fast. It’s fun to drive, but at the same time it’s a little hair-raising at times when you realize how fast you’re going.”
REGARDING DANGER WITH HIGHER SPEEDS: “I feel like our sport is extremely safe until something goes wrong. And it doesn’t matter if you’re going 220 mph or 150 mph. You don’t want to hit anything. There’s always that dangerous side of it everywhere we go. And this weekend everything is perfectly safe and fun unless something goes wrong. But at these speeds if it happens at the wrong place you know, there’s some unknowns that are out there that are going to certainly; I think the speeds, to me, I’m not looking at it from the danger-side of it. I think it’s pretty cool that we’re going that fast. The cars feel good. They’re certainly stuck to the race track. But there’s no doubt in the back of all of our minds, you don’t want anything to go wrong at that speed. And, that’s part of racing.”
HOW WOULD IT IMPACT YOU EMOTIONALLY TO GO FOUR YEARS IN BETWEEN WINS? “Ahh….(laughs)….yeah, when you go four months it’s tough enough. I think it all depends on the expectations. If you’ve won a lot of races and then you go into a slump like that then it weighs heavy; probably even more heavy on you because you came to not just expect it, but you feel like you’re capable and your team is capable of winning on a more regular basis. So when that all of a sudden doesn’t come, it’s much tougher to handle. But also, if you do get that win, it makes you appreciate it a whole lot more.”
HOW MUCH MORE WORK GOES INTO PREPARATION FOR A RACE LIKE THIS WHEN YOU’RE RUNNING ON A NEW SURFACE WHERE YOU DON’T HAVE A LOT OF NOTES TO REFER TO? “Well we tire-tested here, so I feel like we got some really good information. The track is fairly similar to the way the test went and so I feel like we were able to do our homework. When we come and do a tire test, all that information is shared with our teammates as well; and then allows them to be better prepared. There are very few teams that either don’t have some kind of information about the track from the tire test, or can’t grasp it very quickly just by understanding what a new (surface is), the tire data; everybody gets the tire data, they have a pretty good idea that it’s going to be smooth and it’s going to be fast. And so you just really start maximizing everything on the car to get that speed out of it and get more aggressive with it. So, to me it’s just now little tiny fine- tuning that we do and just find the limits of the tire and the car and the track.”
NASCAR SAID THEY’RE NOT READY TO USE PLATES OR ANYTHING. “What’s the plate talk? I don’t understand. What, because we can’t go 220 miles an hour on a straightaway? We’re not doing 220 through the corner. That’s the difference between Daytona and Talladega, you do 220 through the corner. And while 220 is definitely fast, I think by Sunday that pace is going to drop.
“I think you’re going to have moments and blips of those types of speeds, but it’s going to be hot. There’s going to be more rubber on the track, just like we saw at Pocono. It’s going to be similar to that pace. To me, that pace was almost like a second off immediately on Sunday at Pocono. And I think you’re going to see something similar to here where the pace is going to be down enough where I think we’re going to be fine with the speeds.”
EVEN IF THEY PUT THE PLATES ON? “It would be the worst racing we’ve ever had.”
THEY BUNCH YOU UP AND CREATE MORE POSSIBILITY FOR THINGS… “We’ll go faster through the corners. And then they haven’t done anything. It would be a huge mistake. I think Daytona and Talladega are the only places that should ever have plates and I question them there. So, we certainly don’t want them here.”
HOW MUCH FASTER WOULD THIS TRACK HAVE TO BE FOR IT TO BE TOO FAST? “Oh, it’s right there. I mean it’s right there on the edge of being too fast right now. It’s very, very fast. But too fast for what? For safety? We’ll find out this weekend. Only time will tell. We’re out there running single-car runs. Nobody has lost control or had any kind of a problem or failure, so at this point we’re all good. But until that happens, we won’t really know.”
THERE ARE MIXED OPINIONS BUT YOU SEEM TO BE EXCITED ABOUT IT “I love Michigan. I’ve always loved to come here and go fast. We did the tire test here and we knew it was going to be fast, but if we didn’t have Safer barriers, seats, seatbelts that we have in there, the HANS device, I wouldn’t be saying that. But we’ve made everything safer. And I can promise you, I don’t want anything to go wrong. But if it does go wrong, I feel a lot more confident in what we have out there.
“And I feel like the pace is going to drop when we get into the race. I’m more concerned with what kind of racing we’re going to put on than I am with the safety aspect of it right now. It’s going to be tougher to pass I think than it was last weekend. You’re going to have to really respect the speed, the track, and your competitors out there. If we do that, we can make those speeds be very entertaining and fun this weekend.”
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT BUMPING AT THOSE SPEEDS? “Somebody ‘tweeted’ me yesterday about bump-drafting. I had to laugh about that. We will not be doing any bump-drafting.”
ARE YOU WORRIED THAT IT’S GOING TO BE A BORING RACE? “I don’t think it’s going to be boring. I’ve never been to a boring race, I’ll be honest. From where I sit, it’s never boring. From the spectators’ standpoint, it could happen. But we know that going into a repave. That’s just the nature of a repave, and yet we go to Pocono and that was a great race. I thought we saw some things there that were very promising for a repave. Unfortunately they didn’t use the same pavement here. So this is a little bit trickier. We’re not going to have as much fall-off and groove widening-out as much here. But yet, it’s going to happen. You’ve got Nationwide and ARCA before our race.
“We’ll find out so much more by Sunday. It’s a little earlier to really know how wide the groove’s going to be and what kind of passing is going to happen and what kind of side-by-side racing is going to happen. I can promise you that you’re not going to want to go in there side-by-side at 218 mph. You’re right on one another’s door. That’s not going to be good. So, some guys are going to use that to their advantage, you know? And that’s where I talk about that respect level of at what point do you push that and take it too far? The guy on the inside has got to be smart; the guy on the outside has got to be smart. And it could be a heck of a race. Who knows?”