JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the spoiler, the possibility of qualifying being rained out, the challenges at Phoenix, up and coming competition at Martinsville, and more. HOW DOES THE CAR FEEL WITH THE ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the spoiler, the possibility of qualifying being rained out, the challenges at Phoenix, up and coming competition at Martinsville, and more.
HOW DOES THE CAR FEEL WITH THE SPOILER? "It feels great. I'm very happy. We just saw some faster speeds and I was thinking that maybe it was the tires because it is a little bit different Goodyear tire, but it could be the spoiler. But everything feels really good."
DOES THE CAR LOOK BETTER WITH THE SPOILER? "Well, one thing we've learned, and NASCAR has learned, is that perception means a lot to the fans and in the media. It's not always about performance. We've had some great racing over the years with the rear wing, but I've never been crazy about the way it looks. But I will say that the spoiler looks really good."
IN A MACHO SPORT LIKE AUTO RACING, IS IT FUNNY THAT THE DRIVERS ARE CONCERNED WITH THE LOOKS? "What race car driver doesn't want to drive a cool looking race car? That's always been important."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MARTINSVILLE TO THE NASCAR CUP SERIES "I think it's important to keep short tracks on the circuit. I think that this is what the history of the sport has been built on. And I think it's some of our best racing and the best action that we have. I'm a big fan of growing the sport and reaching out to new fans, but I also know how important our core fans are in the history of our sport. Martinsville pretty much epitomizes that and I'd love to see it stay with both races."
WILL MARTINSVILLE AND PHOENIX BE GOOD TESTS FOR THE SPOILER, OR WILL THE REAL TEST COME AT TEXAS? "I think Phoenix will be a better test; it's a bigger and faster track than this (Martinsville). I thought the test went really well at Charlotte the other day. There were no big surprises, which I think was something we were all happy about. Until we go to a bigger track and see what it's like driving one another, that's going to be the best test that we'll have."
ON TWO WEEKENDS OFF, CLOSE TOGETHER ON THE CALENDAR, IS THAT GOOD OR BAD? "Oh, I don't think it affects our team in any way. It's fine by us. If I had my way, I'd like to see us have an off-week after Daytona for two reasons. Daytona is really long for all of us and we need a break, but also to spend a little more time marketing the winner of that race and being able to ship him all over the country and not wear him out before he gets to the next race, and then go for a few weeks before we get an off-weekend. But I'm just happy to have an off-weekend, so I'm not going to get too involved with it."
ON GETTING INTO COMPETITORS' HEADS "I think that if you focus on that, you're the one that can get messed with the easiest when things aren't going your way. That's not a way I've ever approached it. If you just go out there and win and do your job and just keep focusing on doing that, then I think that's going to win your respect as well as keeping you focused on the important things with your team. There's no doubt that when someone has been as dominant as they've (Jimmie Johnson and No. 48 team) been, you sit there and scratch your head and say man, what do they have? What are they doing? What do we need to do differently? And they're just that good of a race team. If I ever question anything, it's just how do we make small little changes to our team and our race cars to be that good. I see all the data. I see everything. And those guys know how to put themselves in position and capitalize on it when it counts the most. And they've just built confidence. There's no doubt that they have a lot of confidence in their program and what they're doing. Jimmie does in his driving and Chad (Knaus) does in his ability to be a crew chief. But nobody is invincible out here."
FOR A LONG TIME, THAT GUY WAS YOU. GETTING INTO PEOPLE'S HEADS, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? YOU WERE THE ONE WITH THE BULLSEYE ON YOUR CHEST "To me, it just made us work that much harder to try to stay on top of it. Those were the easiest weekends I ever had in this sport. When you have things going your way like that, you just go to the race track and it doesn't matter where you're at on the board. You feel like you've got a shot at winning the race. And you just focus on that and the cars are driving so good. It seems like the decisions that are made are always the right ones. At the end of the day, you're driving into victory lane going, 'Wow, we won another race!' And you win the races that you shouldn't be winning and you're winning the ones that you should be winning. And it's an awesome feeling. But I've never focused on how that affects the competition. I just really focus on how do we maintain that."
ON THE PROGRESS OF RACE TEAM THIS SEASON VERSUS LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME... "I feel like we've definitely made progress, and that most of the progress has been on the communication between myself and Steve and our engineers. That's what we focused on the most over the off season was really talking about how we dissect everything that we talk about over the radio throughout the weekend. We talked about how we go through data, adjustments, and everything before qualifying or after practice or even during a race. I feel like we've really made some gains there. Even last week at Bristol we had a moment where we started to lose position and we got it back. That's what I'm most proud of with this race team even though we haven't had the results to show for it yet other than at Vegas. I feel like it's something we're capable of doing."
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT COMING TO MARTINSVILLE? "The racetrack. I love this track. It seems like a natural fit for my driving style. Our race cars are always fast here. I love qualifying here and it seems like we always have a chance at the pole. I'm not sure that we'll get that opportunity today unfortunately, but I hope we do. I just love the challenges of this race track and what it presents to a driver--how hard to drive into the corner without over driving the corner, what you have to tell the team to get the car to work through the corner and off the corner, to try to go out there and win the race. It's a fun track to tune [the car] on."
WHAT EXPECTATIONS DO VETERANS DRIVERS HAVE ON HOW THE UP-AND-COMING GUYS ARE GOING TO RACE THEM? "I think with a young driver you expect them to go through lessons like all of us did going up. If you see a guy that is disrespecting you or not learning those lessons, then you want to make sure that they do. Sometimes you do thing on principle just to teach them because we've all been there. I don't think it matters who you are; you have to have respect for your competition. We push and shove out here and that's competition. I just treat people how they treat me. So if it's a rookie driver and I feel like I'm faster than him and I make several attempts at passing him clean and he keeps chopping me, well then I'm going to show him why you shouldn't do that. I have to pick and choose those battles with myself as well as with myself."
HOW DO THEY MANIFEST THAT DISRESPECT? "It's tough; when you're young you want to come in and prove to everybody that you have what it takes. You're kind of trying too hard at times to show that and it forces you to make mistakes. A lot of times you see guys get into other competitors and upsetting guys. I went through it and there isn't a guy out here that I know of that didn't go through that to some extent. It's tough. You have to put yourself in their shoes, realize they're rookies and that they're allowed to make mistakes. When it happens consistently, over and over to with the same guy, then it's your duty as a veteran to school that person."
HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO TALK TO THEM, OR IS THAT A LESSON THAT NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT ON THE TRACK? "Sometimes you talk to them. I remember talking to Kurt Busch when he was first coming along about some things at Daytona at Talladega. There are certain drivers that you know have what it takes and it's worth the effort to sit down with somebody. It was just Kurt being real aggressive, which he is and certainly was when he first came along. It's tough with the schedule changes to really find time to really find guys and sit down with them and talk with them. We used to have practice in the morning on Saturday, and then a break with another race, and then practice in the afternoon. You used to have time to go sit down with NASCAR or you could go find another driver; you could go do a lot of things. Now we don't have that [opportunity] anymore."
TALK ABOUT LUCKY DOG, OR THE MARTINSVILLE DOG "I'm not a fan of either (laughs). I know that the Martinsville dogs are famous and everybody on my team loves them. Hey listen, I used to eat more hot dogs and corn dogs than probably anybody else in this garage area. I don't do that anymore. And for some reason, the Martinsville dog was never appealing to me. But the Lucky Dog? It's great when you need it. But the rest of the time, it's not the greatest thing."
WOULD YOU BE UNHAPPY IF QUALIFYING IS RAINED OUT AND YOU HAVE TO START 11th? "I'll be disappointed because I feel like we have a shot at the pole and I like to qualify here. Looking at the radar, I'm not getting my hopes up that we're going to qualify today so we're already looking at strategy for pit picks and trying to get something that will work for us on Sunday.
YOU'RE NOT STARTING IN THE BACK, BUT NOT UP FRONT EITHER "What are we, 11th in points? That's not a terrible place to start. We can manage that. But you look at the competition you're going to have to race, and qualifying gives us an opportunity to try to get ahead of some of those guys that are ahead of us in points, which we'd certainly like to get that opportunity. But it's not the end of the world."
ON PHOENIX, WILL THE ADDED MILES MAKE A DIFFERENCE? "It's interesting to see how it's going to affect the race from a fuel mileage strategy standpoint. And you won't know until you get into it. It just depends on how the cautions fall as it does in most races. From a reliability standpoint, no big deal. I love that race track, but it is a very challenging race track. Both ends of the race track are completely opposite. It's sort of like a one mile Darlington without the banking in my opinion; just in the way of it's impossible to get both ends of the race track to work perfectly. And I like that challenge in a race track. It's a fun track. I've driven on that track since I was like 18 years old. So, it's one I always look forward to going to."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON NASCAR CHANGING TO FUEL INJECTION? "I don't have a big opinion on it. It's been a long-time coming. From talking to some of the engine guys, it's not a full-blown fuel injection. It's kind of like a semi-modified carburetor-slash-fuel injection. I think that we have some ideas on how we can make it really more efficient. But I think this is a good step in that direction and I'm happy that NASCAR is going with it."
SIZING UP THE FIELD, DO YOU SEE ANOTHER DRIVER THAT IS READY TO MAKE A MOVE TO CHALLENGE FOR THOSE TOP SPOTS? "I'll tell you, Juan Pablo (Montoya) was really strong here the last time and he looked good in practice today. I expect if anybody is disappointed with qualifying possibly being rained out it's probably him because he's not very high up in the points and he's strong, and I think he had a shot at qualifying up front and running good here. He's still going to be tough in the race. But I would say that he's probably toward the top of the list. You got any other names? I just know the last time I battled really strong and hard with Juan Pablo and it's just a sign of how they've turned their program around and how he's really learned the tracks on the circuit."
-source: gm racing