JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway to discuss new baby Leo Benjamin, racing at Michigan, racing at Bristol and more. HOW'S YOUR NEW BABY, LEO BENJAMIN? "Oh it's so amazing. It...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway to discuss new baby Leo Benjamin, racing at Michigan, racing at Bristol and more.
HOW'S YOUR NEW BABY, LEO BENJAMIN? "Oh it's so amazing. It was a great, great, great week. I can't say enough. I'm thankful that everything went as planned and everybody is healthy and doing well. Just everyday you just smile bigger and bigger because it's an amazing experience."
WHO DOES HE LOOK LIKE? "It's hard to say at this stage. I don't know; it's too early to tell."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT MICHIGAN--IT'S A TWO-MILE TRACK, YOU'VE BEEN CONSISTENT ALL YEAR LONG. IS THIS WHERE YOU FIND YOUR FIRST VICTORY? "Well we certainly hope so. We feel like we were pretty good the last time we were here but we feel like we learned some things that can make us a lot better the second time around. We struggled a little bit there in qualifying practice, but we did a race run and I thought our car was really, really strong. We certainly feel like this is a track that we can win on and get that first victory. We're certainly closing in on the Chase so we realize how important it is to get those bonus points right now."
DID YOU NAME THIS BABY WITH A FAMILY NAME OR DID YOU PICK OUT THE NAME? "No, it's just picking through names, talking to friends, people giving suggestions and different things. We had a different name and Ella blew it with Nate and Jenna, but we weren't set in stone on that name and so obviously it changed."
IT WASN'T JEFF GORDON, II? "No. It was none of that. [laughs]"
DO YOU SEE ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT LEO THAT YOU FANS MAY LIKE TO KNOW? "He looks really a lot like Ella did when she was a baby. Ingrid and I are both really anxious to see just what characteristics change because they change so much. I look at Ella now at three and how much different she looks than when she was born. You start to see more--I think right now we're starting to see more of Ingrid in Ella, but I still see some of me. I'm just more anxious than anything else. It was really truly just an amazing week; it was so much fun getting in the car and driving home from the hospital with all four of us. Ella was really excited, talking about how much fun it was. The three of them were sitting across the back seat together, and so I was driving. It was fun. We're a foursome now."
DO YOU THINK THAT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU APPROACH THE RACE MENTALLY--TO KNOW THAT THEY ARE SAFE AND HEALTHY? "I mean, that was definitely weighing on me. Last week at Watkins Glen I tell you, every time the caution came out I was wondering how things were going with them and how disappointed I would be to miss that. That's why I said, I'm so thankful that everything went well on Monday. We were pretty much scheduled to have it on Monday, but you just never know. There were some tests that were being done over the weekend that I wasn't there for that could have induced labor and that was the thing that was scaring me. It's such an amazing experience, there is just nothing like it in the world, and I wouldn't have wanted to miss that."
WHERE DID THE BABY NAME COME FROM? SOME PEOPLE SPECULATED THAT THE NAME 'LEO' WAS AFTER THE ASTROLOGICAL SIGN LEO? "Well I mean that absolutely doesn't hurt anything. We love the 8-9-10 birthday. It's just through some friends and you talk names a lot when you're pregnant for nine months. My wife talked a lot about names with friends and just people come up to her asking about the pregnancy, asking about names, and Leo was one that came up and we loved it. We started working the Benjamin in there as the middle name. You know, Gordon is not the easiest name to put a name with--it's just not. You need a single syllable really. It's either a single or triple syllable name to make it work, and then you start running into the initials and you've got so many issues that come along with names. You have no idea how much goes into this. LBG--We're good with that."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON ALL OF THE SCHEDULE CHANGES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE OVER THE WEEK WHILE YOU'VE BEEN DEALING WITH EVERYTHING THAT YOU'VE HAD GOING ON WITH THE NEW BABY. "Yeah, you know I'm really looking forward to seeing the actual full schedule for next year so I can digest it all. I'm a big fan of Atlanta, I like going there and I love racing there. It's just unfortunate that it hasn't been supported financially from the fan standpoint for two races, to be able to keep two races there. It's obvious. We go there and the stands are empty and for whatever reason, I'm not sure of the reasons. I don't go through the process like a fan does of traveling to an event, dealing with traffic, the expenses, all of those things that it takes. It's unfortunately because I love Atlanta. I'm glad that we're still going there at least once. We tested in Kentucky and it's a great track. Unlike Atlanta, it seems to have a tremendous amount of fan support. That's going to be great. I think they're going to be really excited to have a Cup race there and we look forward to going there. To have Chicago as the first race of the Chase, that's certainly something that will be a bit of an adjustment, but I like Chicago so that should be good. What other changes--California. You know I look at California the same way I look at Atlanta except that I just really love racing at Atlanta, California is a nice track but the race is not as much fun there. It is dealing with similar things it's just not getting the support to handle to races out there. Kansas, I think just like Kentucky and Chicago those are tracks that just seem to do well. Those mid-west tracks always built a nice track, and it seems like the true racers as well as the central location, it seems like it draws a great crowd so that's awesome."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT'S INTERESTING ABOUT THIS TRACK. THE FANS WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A BRISTOL OR A TALLADEGA EVERY WEEKEND AND YOU SIMPLY COULDN'T TAKE THAT. YOU COME TO TRACK LIKE THIS, WHAT MAKES WATCHING A RACE LIKE THIS AT MICHIGAN GREAT AND EXCITING? "This is one of my favorite tracks. From a driver's standpoint, it's just so much fun to go to a track where you carry this much speed into the corner. You can be three-four-five wide and have plenty of room to race on. You can run the bottom around the yellow line, you can move up a groove, it seems like there is multiple banking here even though they didn't set out to do that, it just seemed to work out that way. It's just a fun racetrack. That doesn't always make for the sparks to fly because if you're faster than the guy in front of you, you move down a groove or move up a groove to pass him seems to happen more, the side-by-side racing happens. We don't see the cars wrecking into one another as much, or the tempers flaring as much. From that standpoint, it may be a little bit less exciting, dramatic for the race fans, but from inside the race car, it's just a phenomenal place to race. I love it, I love coming here."
JEFF IT'S PRETTY WARM HERE, WHAT DO YOU DO TO STAY COOL HERE AND HOW DOES THAT CHANGE FROM YEARS PAST? "Every year we work on our seats and cooling and the helmets and fans and blowers without adding too much weight to the car, so there's a compromise there. Hydration--it's just about making sure that it's what you eat, what you drink throughout the week to prepare for a hot weekend like this. A big, fast track like this we can move a lot of air in and around the car. Nothing to me is as hot as Indianapolis. Indy is for whatever reason, maybe because it's so flat and surrounded by grandstands, there's just no air that really moves around that facility. When it was 90% humidity and 95 degrees there, woo! that was a tough race to get through. Here it can be a little warmer and we can deal with it a little bit better."
TALK ABOUT GOING TO BRISTOL: "Bristol has been tough for us. We've struggled there ever since they changed the track. I just feel like I had a knack for that place; a grove and a feel and a setup that the cars really worked well for us. Ever since they changed the track, none of that seems to work. It is about re-inventing yourself as a driver from myself trying to find a different groove that works as well as giving good feedback to the team to get the car to work the way we need it to. We feel like we get a little bit better each time we go there"
TALK ABOUT A DRIVER HITTING THEIR MARKS AT A TRACK LIKE BRISTOL: "There is visual and then there is just timing of getting out of the throttle and getting on the brakes and then as you feed the wheel and you get down the straightaway, you just want to turn off into the corner at the right time and aim the car for certain spots on the track. Sometimes what happens you hit on it and it does everything you want it to and then it is about doing it consistently. Bristol is the type of track where you get into a rhythm there because the straightaways are so short and it is such a quick lap time that you find yourself, if you get it right, it can be really fun. But, if you keep missing it lap after lap, it can be very very frustrating."
TEMPERS RUN HIGH AT BRISTOL, HOW DO YOU KEEP THEM IN CHECK? "Anytime you have a 15-16 second lap with the banking you have a Bristol, you take a big heavy stock car, put 43 of them out there on a track that is a half-mile in length and go 16 seconds a lap; you are going to run out of real estate, you are going to run out of patience and you are of going to cause a lot of tempers to flare. Even though they have made changes and made the track have more, wider grooves, it's still not enough. We'll continue to see that at Bristol. It seems like the second race gets a little bit more intense there rather than the first one."
HOW DO YOU WORK ON KEEPING YOUR EMOTIONS IN-CHECK? "Nothing. You can't always control. You just go there trying to be patient. Try to put yourself in the right positions and not allow yourself to get taken advantage of. Or, put yourself in position that you can upset somebody else or get yourself turned by somebody. I think you have to play as much offense as you do defense. Having a fast race car is the thing that you have to think about the most. That is what we try to do. Having a fast race car solves a lot of issues."
HOW IS JEFF DICKERSON, YOUR NEW SPOTTER, WORKING OUT? "So far, so good. We didn't really get to go through to much because we were at a road course. He couldn't see a whole lot from where they put the spotters. This weekend should be good. I think all the tracks that we have been able to start out at with him are all good tracks to just get a good working relationship and get to know one another. So far, from I can tell, I really like him. Next week, Talladega, definitely the short tracks create a whole lot more of a dynamic and you have to...you will really find out where you are at with the chemistry on those types of tracks."
ARE YOU GETTING CLOSE ON SPONSORSHIP AND KNOWING WHAT IT IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE NEXT SEASON? "Yes. We're getting close to the timing of it. We don't have anything to announce yet. You'll know when we know man, we don't know much yet. We've been continuing to have our conversations with DuPont, Pepsi and everybody. We're going through the processes right now trying to figure out what we are going to do."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF KASEY KAHNE GOING TO RED BULL NEXT YEAR? "It is a unique situation to be in. I think right now Rick's (Hendrick) view has always been to get him in the most competitive car he possibly could. With where we are at Hendrick, it just didn't work out for 2011 and I think Kasey knew that going in. I think it is a good team. It is a good option. Hopefully that goes well for him and then we get him in 2012 and rock and roll."
TERRY LABONTE IS COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT TO RACE AT RICHMOND AND SOME OTHER RACES AND YOU SEE THAT A LOT, DRIVERS NOT BEING ABLE TO STAY RETIRED OR STAY HOME? IS THERE SUCH A THING? "What is his reason for coming back, did he say?
HE DIDN'T, ONLY YOU PROBABLY KNOW: "I've never been retired (LAUGHS). I don't know. I need to know these things so as I plan my future." (MORE LAUGHTER)
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS RETIRE OR DO YOU JUST GROW OLD IN THE CAR? "I think that it's hard to live the life of a race car driver or any profession and just step away from it completely. When I think about it, I would think it would have to have some kind of gradual transition. I think that there are some parts of it that are exciting to be able to step away to do some things that maybe you have always thought about doing. But, at the same time, sometimes you get yourself into that position and you go 'well, that is nice, but racing is my passion. It is what I love, I want to continue to do that'. We always look forward to having Terry. Love Terry. Great race car driver and I am sure it can still get it done even though he has been away from the cars for a little while."
WHEN YOU TALK TO SPONSORS, DO THEY ASK YOU HOW MUCH LONGER YOU ARE GOING TO DO IT AND IS THERE ANY APPREHENSION FROM THEM THINKING, DO WE REALLY WANT A GUY FOR A SHORTER TIME LIKE THREE, FOUR, FIVE YEARS? "I don't think too many sponsors are apprehensive about having a five-year, four or five year commitment because sometimes they might want to make a change after that, too. I think, though, when I was going through some of my back issues, it was 'is it going to be three, four, five year'. I think we have gotten past that hurdle pretty good. But they ask, definitely."
IS IT GOING TO BE THREE, FOUR, FIVE YEARS? SOME PEOPLE SAY YOU WANT LITTLE LEO TO SEE YOU IN VICTORY LANE, YOUR DAD SAID THAT? "(SMILES/CHUCKLES) Well, I hope he sees that this year! (LAUGHS). There is definitely something to that. You know, right now, Ella is three and she is just starting to realize what I do and get into it. Four or five years old is a great time for them to be able to experience that. Even though I feel like I am making a commitment to myself, the team and sponsors for four or five years, that doesn't mean I am going to be winning races four or five years from now. But I certainly hope we continue to be competitive and put ourselves in that position."
-source: gm racing