JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media and discussed Steve Letarte heading into the Chase, racing at Kansas, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, and more. HOW WAS YOUR PRACTICE? "Pretty good. We had one ...
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media and discussed Steve Letarte heading into the Chase, racing at Kansas, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, and more.
HOW WAS YOUR PRACTICE? "Pretty good. We had one problem with the ignition box and that got us a little bit behind for one run. I feel like we're a little bit better, I think we ended up tenth. That was pretty good so far."
LATELY I'VE BEEN GETTING A LOT OF CALLS ABOUT EITHER STEVE (LETARTE) OR YOUR PERFORMANCE, IT'S REALLY YOUR FANS THEY LOVE YOU BUT THEY'RE GETTING UP ON THE EDGE OF THE WHEEL, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? "You got to love them for that but at the same time it's a competitive sport. We focus on everything from how internal communication is, how people are doing their jobs. If making a change was going to fix it then there might have been changes, but that's not the issue. I think Steve Letarte is doing an awesome job. I feel like last week was not a great performance for us. We've had that happen this year. It's just been one of those years. I believe in what we have. There's areas where we're looking to getting stronger and better. The fans have to just be patient and I remind everybody of what we did last year.
"We were an awesome race team last year. Had one of the best years that I've ever had and Steve was the guy that was guiding that ship so I believe one hundred percent in him. Your confidence gets down and a lot of things happen. Performances aren't always there and it's the toughest thing to rebound from that and that's kind of the situation we're in right now. We're working really hard. We tested this week in Kentucky and we just continue to work hard at it."
HOW FAR OFF YOU? THEY SAID THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE FAR OFF TO BE WAY OFF. "Not with this car. You can actually have a good car and just lose track position and be done. That was a combination of what happened to us last week. We weren't very good there at the beginning on the long run and then we had the radio problem. We lost a lot of track position and it's just so hard to make it up. We didn't have enough cautions to work on the car.
"All those things contributed to the type of day we had not to mention Robby Gordon spinning me out on the last lap. My favorite part about it was Mark Martin sending me a text, he said hey man we had a tough day but its tough days that make you appreciate the good ones a lot more. You know he's so right and I appreciated that very much. That's the way we think and focus."
IS THERE ANY ONE THING THAT CAN HAPPEN FOR YOU GUYS TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER? "Again, even though we've been hit or miss this year, I feel like those last ten races are all good tracks for us other than Texas. Texas is a track that has been our Achilles heel and we're going to work hard to try to fix that. When you're looking at a deficit of eighty or ninety points going into it from the way Kyle Busch has been running this year, that's a lot to overcome. We know we need some bonus points before we start that Chase and all our focus is on is racing hard and trying to get those wins and get the best finishes that we can."
CAN YOU TAKE A GAMBLE OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS IF THAT WIN IS THERE FOR YOU? "No, we're not in a position to take a gamble right now. We're in a tricky position right now because we have one or two bad finishes where we could find ourselves very easily slipping back and not be secure going into Richmond. We want to be secure going into Richmond and so these next couple of weeks if we put good finishes together then we might be in a position to take some more risks. I say risks, it's experimenting with things that you're testing, its taking gambles on pit strategy calls, those types of things."
HOW MUCH ARE YOU WATCHING POINTS NOW? "I pay attention to it. I try not to get too caught up in it because it doesn't change how we approach things every weekend unless you have a big points lead or if you're on the outside of the top twelve. If you're on the outside of the top twelve you're going for broke right now. You're taking gambles. When you're up front, you got nothing to lose. We were in that position last year. Right now we're pretty much just kind of doing what we normally do which is go out there race hard, clean and put the best average finish we can together."
KANSAS ASKED FOR A SECOND DATE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A SECOND DATE AT KANSAS AND IF SO WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE LOSE ONE? "I don't want to see a second date anywhere. I think we need to go everywhere once in my opinion. I don't know. Kansas has been good to me so it's not like they don't deserve it or we wouldn't like going there. That's up to them."
REGARDLESS OF YOU'RE FINISHING POSITION, WHEN YOU GET OUT OF THE CAR SUNDAY WHAT DO YOU NEED THAT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE MAKING PROGRESS AND HAVE SUCCESS ON SOME OF THESE BIGGER TRACKS? "I think that it's being able to get to the front. I feel like if you're talking about us being in championship position we got to go out there and lead a lot of laps and being in contention. It doesn't necessarily mean we have to win the race which we do need the bonus points. We need to be out front, competitive, contending for the lead and then plan the pit strategy right. All those other things have been good for us, pit stops, communication and the pit strategy. We just lacked a couple of things, track position.
"If you have a car that's working good you could take a few more gambles to maintain the track position. If your car is not good enough then you've got to work on it and put four tires on it. That's what we need this week is a good enough car to be able to stay out or take two tires and do some of those things that are paying off for those other guys."
IS THAT MORE HANDLING OPPOSED TO HORSEPOWER? "When have we ever complained about horsepower? Horsepower is not an issue with us, not at all. Power is good."
WE SEE JIM LONG HERE THIS WEEK, IS HE HERE HELPING YOU GUYS? "Jim comes to a few races a year or several races a year. I'm not really sure on that one.
He's a part of our research and development team so I'm guessing it's important that they come and pay attention to what happens at the race track as well. Sometimes you get caught up in your world of testing all the time. You've got to see what guys are doing here at the track. So I'm guessing he's just kind of eyes and ears for Hendrick Motorsports."
HOW TOUGH IS IT GOING TO BE TO BEAT KYLE IN THE CHASE? "I tell you last week impressed the heck out of me. What he did in Sonoma didn't impress me as much because they hit the caution just right, he had the track position. Last week he beat one of the best there is out there in Tony (Stewart). He was solid all day long. That shows me what kind of team they have and what kind of driver Kyle is. They got their momentum back. I was saying prior to the race weekend and I wasn't trying to stir anything up I was just pointing out the way that things were going that I felt like they had lost some momentum but they got it all back in a hurry last weekend."
DO YOU BELIEVE JUNIOR'S TEAM HAS LOST THEIR MOMENTUM IN THE LAST MONTH? "They've been consistent all year long and they continue to be consistent. I would really like to see them, as high up in the points as they've been at times, I'd like to see them going out there and doing what I'm talking about, leading more laps and being a little bit more dominant. So I don't really feel like they've lost anything."
WHEN NASCAR SHOWED YOU THE BLACK FLAG LAST WEEK DID YOU KNOW WHAT THE PURPOSE BEHIND IT WAS? "You know what. I knew exactly what it was because I hadn't heard anything on my radio for a while and last I heard was pit in five laps. Usually I hear alright two more or one more or something like that and I hadn't heard anything and I came by and I saw it. I immediately got on the radio and said can you hear me and I knew that's what it was. We got lucky.
"The car stumbled coming through the bus stop or whatever they call that on the back straightaway and we were lucky just to make it. Even after we left pit road it was stumbling like it was low on fuel. That cost us so much time last week. It was a terrible day don't get me wrong but had that not happened it was going to be a terrible day where we finished fifteenth not twenty-ninth."
THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT ADJUSTMENTS TO MAKE ON THE CAR AT THAT POINT DID THEY? "The last they had heard from me I was talking a little bit about where it had been loose but it had gotten tight big time on me toward the end of that run. The last comment I was making was about being tight and they were actually making me tighter. That's why we came in and made those major adjustments on that one pit stop. It was just one of those days. When I got hit on the last lap by Robby (Gordon) I didn't even say anything because I was just like this is just one of those days that nothing really goes your way."
IS BRISTOL LESS OF A WILD CARD THAN IT USED TO BE? "Yeah, anytime you go to a one-groove race track, especially on a short track, you're going to have kind of a little bit of Russian roulette. But now, we've got multiple grooves there. To me, I love it. I think the racing is three times better. It's just the crashes don't happen as much, so if you love crashes, you're still going to see them at Bristol but you're not going to see them as often or as much as you used to, because basically when the guys got frustrated with the car in front of them, they just took them out. And that's not racing, in my opinion. That's more bumper-cars. Now, we're going to Bristol and we're racing and I love it. We haven't been as good there since they re-did the track, so I'm anxious to get there and be better, but I do like what they've done."
LESS TEMPERS THERE NOW? "A little bit. The tempers are only because a guy cheap-shots you, you know. That's more where tempers come from. The tempers just don't come from driving around Bristol."
SINCE WE'RE IN DETROIT, DO YOU THINK MUCH ABOUT THE MANUFACTURER BATTLE OR IS THAT JUST FOR BOARDROOMS? "We definitely have it on our minds. We like to represent them the best we can every weekend. But when you're here, I think there is a little bit more pride on the line because you know there is more pride on the line for them being near Detroit."
WHAT SORT OF IMPACT WOULD IT HAVE IF TOYOTA GOT THEIR FIRST CUP WIN HERE? "They've been winning plenty this year so I don't think it would be any big surprise to any of us."
WHAT SORT OF TEAMMATES DO YOU THINK TONY STEWART AND RYAN NEWMAN WILL BE? "It's going to be interesting. I think that what I look and see now is you take Tony Stewart and you make him a car owner; and look what kind of talent he starts attracting, from drivers to personnel to crew chiefs and car chiefs. It's just amazing how somebody like Tony Stewart can motivate and change the whole attitude of a garage area to making that into a team worth working for and attracting top people. I think that's how you get results. That's how you build a top quality team. So, the fact that we have a partnership with them, we're only looking at is as a positive."
AS A CAR OWNER, WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR TONY STEWART? "I'm sure he's going to be a lot more involved. His name is on the marquee. It comes first. My name is way down the list. He's going to take on a lot more responsibility than I am. Mine is more for the future. I think that Tony likes to be involved. That's the biggest challenge as a driver and an owner of not letting those headaches outweigh the focus on driving the race car. There is nobody out here that I think could do a better job than what Tony can. He'll do fine. It's the obvious distractions and issues that can come from trying to operate that business and drive at the same time."
YOU ARE GOOD AT WEATHERING TOUGH TIMES BECAUSE YOU'VE SEEN IT BEFORE "Yeah, as I get older, it gets a little bit more difficult. Every race, every year, is crucial and important and you want to do well and you feel like you've got the team capable of doing well and it's always frustrating. It's just how you show it. I feel like if I go stomping my feet and throwing things around here, it doesn't make me run good. It doesn't make it any better. So going back to the fans talking and calling in and stuff, the reason why I don't really respond to that is because we respond to it internally. We deal with it internally, like any good business should. When you start getting into trying to explain to outsiders, it doesn't make it any better. I only hope that our fans support me and Steve and the whole team, and I know that they are. They just want us to do good. The funniest thing happened to me in 2000. I had a fan come up to me and said you need to tell Robbie Loomis he needs to get that thing going! And I said, 'Hey, trust me. We've got as much on the line as anybody.' And he goes, 'I'm losing a lot of money on all my bets every weekend, because I pick you every weekend.' And that's when it hit me how far the fans take it and why they take it so avidly for many different reasons. It could be that type of situation or it could be just that they've been a longtime fan and their pride is on the line. But I still promise you, we all have a lot more on the line than anybody else."
HOW IS DALE JUNIOR AS A TEAMMATE? "He's been great. I've had a great time working with him. He's funny, and he knows a lot about the cars. I've been able to learn first-hand what a great driver he is."
WHEN YOU HAVE A WEEK LIKE LAST WEEKEND, HOW NICE IS IT TO GO HOME AND ELLA DOESN'T CARE IF YOU HAD A BAD DAY? "Yeah, yeah...it was that times ten. She's been teething this week, so not only does she not care how I ran, but it's very quick how you don't even think about what happened at Watkins Glen because all you care about is her trying to get her naps in and eating and having a temperature and all the things that come along with teething. Not to mention I was testing in Kentucky and had a full production day for Pepsi. So, between all those things, I haven't thought a whole lot about Watkins Glen this week."
YOU SAID YOU DON'T STOMP AROUND. IS THERE EVER A TIME WHEN THAT MIGHT BE NEEDED FOR A TEAM? "No, I meant I don't stomp around and throw things out here (laughter). I do plenty of that. Don't worry. We handle things the way that I feel like is productive. And you don't just turn the other cheek. You don't deny what's going on. You face it head on. Everybody handles it professionally and you can only have the type of relationship like Steve and I have, where we don't take things personally. He can criticize me and I can criticize him and we only want to get better and know that he's the leader of this team and I'm the best tool that he can possibly have to help make the car better. And I have a responsibility; he has a responsibility, and that's where our focus is."
WHAT'S COOL IS THAT YOUR TEAM ISN'T EATING ITSELF UP ON THE INSIDE "No, we're very fortunate in that sense. We're not having a terrible year, you know? It's frustrating because I know we're capable of running better and we should be. But we still are sixth in the points. We've been outside of the Chase before, so we've had worse years. So it's nothing that we need to start quitting our jobs and moving to other teams and all of that type of things. It's nothing like that. And we're fortunate that when we do have tough seasons that our guys don't leave. We're still able to continue to get quality people at our organization and that's what gets us through the tough times."
ARE YOU SURPRISED AT KYLE BUSCH'S SUCCESS THIS YEAR? "No, I am and I'm not. I always knew how talented he was. But keeping his head on straight and not making mistakes and being able to handle the pressures and all those things are what were unanswered questions. And this year, so far, he's handling himself extremely well under the pressure. I'm surprised not as much by him, but I'm more surprised at how good that team is. I think it shows just how good they really are by how well he's done. He did well with us, but now with that team, they've both gone to a whole other level."
DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS HAVE SOMETHING TO COMPETE WITH GIBBS FOR THE TITLE? "Well, we're certainly wanting to find that. So far, no. I think Jimmie (Johnson) has, at times. And Carl (Edwards) has, at times. But other than that, nobody has. And we've got some work to do before we can."
-credit: gm racing