Team Chevy Racing
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media today at Kansas Speedway and discussed his 13 race winless draught, repaving race tracks and other topics.
IN YOUR OPINION WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO THE REASON RICK HENDRICK IS ON THE VERGE OF EARNING 200 VICTORIES? “I think anytime you take a multi-car team and you look at its success it’s never any one thing. I think it always starts with leadership and the philosophies that were built into the company early on. About the commitment to winning and putting the best race teams out there on the race track. I think Rick has always been committed to that. While I think at times the approach has been questioned on how Hendrick Motorsports goes about things and building their own engines and chassis’. Now you really start to see it pay off. You have been seeing it pay off for probably the last 10 or 12 years. You take the No. 48 and the No. 24 and you look at their success. Really, that is throughout the whole organization, those two teams having that much success, that many wins, that many championships proves that what you’ve got it working well. Again, it solidifies the approach that Rick started from the beginning. It is an amazing accomplishment, it really is. We can’t wait to get there.”
IS A 13 RACE DROUGHT PRETTY LAUGHABLE? FOR MOST TEAMS THAT IS PRETTY SUCCESSFUL AND YOUR STANDARD IS SO MUCH DIFFERENT FROM MOST OF THE TEAMS. “We look at it a lot different. I feel like we had, Jimmie (Johnson) had the chance to win the race last week. Three of us had the chance to win it the week before. The opportunities are there. We are running very good. If we continue that we will get the win. We’ve got four strong teams right now. Me and Kasey (Kahne) both have gotten off to a slow start, but I feel like that momentum is picking up. That is only going to add to the chances of getting number 200. I think this is an excellent opportunity this weekend. I love this track. Jimmie (Johnson) likes this track and runs very well here. I think all four of us have a great shot at winning this thing this weekend.”
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON WHY WE HAVE NOT HAD AS MANY CAUTIONS THIS YEAR AS IN YEARS PAST? “Well there is one that stands out in my mind that adds up to 20 if you ask me. No, I think you have to go look at the averages over time. Not just from year to year. It’s too early in the season to really gauge. I just think that the way the races have been running worked out that is just the stats right now. There are races we’ve gone to where it’s been slick. Like last weekend the wind was blowing so strong and blowing the cars around. I was surprised you didn’t see more cautions last weekend. Then you go back to the cautions breed cautions. All it takes is a few late cautions and you are going to see more cautions. You saw that at Martinsville, you didn’t see that last week, California it rained so it’s hard to say. I don’t really put much into it.”
GREG BIFFLE SAID THAT LAST WEEK THAT HE DIDN’T WANT TO GET RIGHT UP BESIDE SOMEBODY BECAUSE THE CAR WAS GETTING TURNED AROUND SO MUCH. IS THAT POSSIBLY WHY THERE WERE NO ACCIDENTS LAST WEEK (IN TEXAS)? “I guess that is the difference between me and Greg (Biffle) is that I kind of take that approach to every guy when I’m out there racing. I go ‘okay, this is a lap car, I’m battling for position here, I’m going to give him a little bit of extra room right now’ whether it’s windy or not windy. That is different if you are racing for the win or for a position. When you are racing with lap cars; which they are a little bit more unpredictable, I treat it as if the winds blowing 50 mph anytime I’m around a lap car.”
JIMMIE (JOHNSON) WAS SAYING WHEN THE SERIES GOT TO PHOENIX LAST YEAR THAT A LOT OF THE SUGGESTIONS OR OPINIONS YOU GUYS HAD GIVEN ABOUT WHAT TO DO WITH THE REPAVING OF THE TRACK WEREN’T REALLY TAKEN TO HEART. WHEN YOU ARRIVED, THE TRACK WAS KIND OF SURPRISING WITH WHAT THEY HAD DONE WITH THE NEW SURFACING. IS THERE ANY CONCERN THAT WHEN TRACKS DO REPAVES THEY ARE NOT LISTENING TO THE DRIVERS ENOUGH? “I definitely think that Phoenix did some things that were surprising. I sat down with some of their folks for a short period of time. I didn’t feel like the meeting that I had was going to incorporate all those ideas into the track, it was more of just asking opinions. I heard that from some other drivers that they did the same. It kind of was like they sort of went off and did their own thing. They are entitled to do that. They are the ones that are doing it and paying for it. It’s nice to know when they come to the drivers and let the drivers give their opinions that they are listening.
“The problem is that Bristol (Motor Speedway) did that. Now, the fans don’t like it. The drivers love it. It’s a great race track I think. I thought they made huge improvements. Now we hear they want to go back to the old way. There is as much about cars today as tracks. Tracks are getting too much of the blame or even credit sometimes. This car for the last five or six years has sort of put Goodyear, the tracks, everything into a different box. I’m looking forward to the 2013 car, but I look forward to cars down the road to sort of take some of the things in this car that are in there we can’t take out. It will help the racing; things that are going to help Goodyear to make it better tire that is more suitable for the car. We still need to get some weight out of the cars in order to do that. I don’t know if that is going to happen for 2013, but I think we have a nice aero (aerodynamically) balanced car. They have incorporated a few things in there to help. All these repaves are not going to help. That is going to make some real challenges.
“I don’t really understand why they are paving this race track. It looks great out there. This place is awesome. I wish they wouldn’t touch it. I’m not the business person. I’m not an engineer that looks at the construction, foundation all the things that they feel like why they need to do it. Whatever they put in front of us we will just go about it the best way that we can. I feel like ISC (International Speedway Corporation) has gotten enough information and experience paving race tracks that I have faith they can do the right thing. I think Homestead is a perfect example. They did a great job at Homestead. That was one of the only race tracks I can remember being repaved where we came there and raced the first race and it was a fun race. Of course what they had before was so bad, it was easy to improve. What they have here is going to be hard to improve. It’s a great race track. “
IS THE BIGGEST CONCERN THE COAT THAT THEY PUT DOWN THAT IS NOT GOING TO WEAR OUT AS QUICKLY AND THE GRIP LEVEL WILL STAY TOO HIGH TO LONG? “Oh yeah. I don’t think there is any way around that. You can’t explain to them that the new technology they are using out there on the highway. It makes the highways smoother, more sound resistant to the tire and something that is going to last a lot longer. You can’t explain to them why that is not good for racing, because they look at the bottom dollar. I thought Michigan, I was really impressed with Michigan, but it was super-fast. I’m looking forward to Pocono to see what they have done. They have said ‘we are listening; we are listening, at what you have to say.’ I really think a lot of these questions go back to Goodyear. I would love to know what their feelings are. They get a little nervous with abrasive tracks sometimes it wears the tires too much. Then they get nervous with a new repave because it builds too much heat in the tire and they have to make the tire a hard durable tire. I’d love to know where they kind of weigh in on it because it is somewhere there in the middle, that is the perfect scenario for us.”
IS THAT SIMILAR WITH THE 2013 CAR? HAVE THEY CHANGED THE WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION? WOULD THAT HELP TO NOT PAINT GOODYEAR IN SO MUCH OF A BOX? “The only way you are going to put Goodyear in a better position is to make a lighter car with less down force and a little bit more left-side weight distribution. Right now this car still generates a lot of feed in the right-side tires. They gradually been able to make the left-side tires better to allow us to have more grip, but it has taken them awhile to do that. It takes years on the track where they start to do that as well. The teams have done such a great job distributing that weight and trying to transfer it over to the left-side as well. You can’t just take weight out of the car because then we are just going to go faster. It’s a combination of things. I’m not the person that needs to be talking about it because I’m not an engineer. I’m not a car designer, but we have some very smart people on our teams and these other teams that are qualified, I think, to do that. That are somewhat involved in the cars but not really, not enough in my opinion.”
DURING YOUR TIME IN NEW YORK AND L.A. DID YOU EVER HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET DICK CLARK? “That is such a good question. I did a Dick Clark production one time; it was like a bloopers show. I don’t remember if he was there. I don’t think I did. I grew up as a kid watching American Bandstand I can tell you that.”
DID YOU BREAKDANCE TO IT AT ALL? “No that was probably a little bit before my breakdancing days. That is what my older sister liked to watch. I watched what she wanted to watch on Saturday’s. What an icon and certainly our thoughts go out to his friends and family.”
THE TERM ‘RACER’S TRACK’ IS USED TO DESCRIBE RICHMOND. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? “It is challenging to drive. You can only do so much with the race car. It’s a short-track too where aerodynamics are important but not as important as these big mile and a half’s. The driver input not only the driving input on the track but back to the team is very important. I think that is what you fall back on the talent of the drivers a lot of times.”
DO YOU THINK THAT IS WHAT SETS IT APART FROM BRISTOL AND MARTINSVILLE? “No, I think Bristol and Martinsville are also ‘racer’s tracks’. I think the difference is that Richmond has these great transitions into the corner and off the corner where you can run two and three wide. It puts on a great show. It’s a different length race track so it’s a little bit higher speeds. I would say all those race tracks are what I would consider a real ‘racer’s track.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN BRING WHAT YOU LEARNED IN TEXAS OVER TO THIS WEEKEND IN KANSAS? “I think a lot of things can compare from Texas to here, but they are different. That track has more banking a little bit higher corner speeds, a little bit different grip level, but similar. This is not the same car but it as good a car or better than what we had last week. This is one of my favorite race tracks. The thing you have to understand is that for whatever reason there is a different tire at Texas, left-sides, than here. That changes the characteristics of your set-up and how you drive it.”
WE HAVE A GROUP WHERE FOUR OUT OF SIX RACES ARE SATURDAY NIGHT RACES. DO YOU PREFER SATURDAY NIGHT OR SUNDAY EVENTS? “I love the night races, I always have. They are a little tricky because we don’t normally practice at night so to really dial in the car at the optimal track conditions that we are going to be experiencing in the race so there is a little bit more guessing that goes on. I think that Saturday night races make a lot of sense. The schedule is great. I think for the fans it allows them to get home and have a day to themselves before they go back to work. It also opens us up if there is weather to run it on Sunday if we need to. I think the race is more exciting on Saturday nights as well, just under the lights at night time. I enjoy my Sunday at home as well.”