JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed his season to-date, the Chase, cycles of teams and drivers and other topics.
TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON SO FAR: “We’re having a really good season and it seems like we are gaining momentum and getting stronger as the season goes on. It certainly has me extremely excited about these next couple of races and the 10 weeks that follow that for the championship. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our group have done an awesome job this year getting me comfortable; getting me the confidence I need to go out there and step it up. I think last week at Bristol was a great sign. I was thanking those guys this week for revitalizing me at Bristol. That felt awesome to be that strong and run that good. We have a lot of confidence in what we are doing. Hopefully we can keep that going.”
DOES THE SPRINT SUMMER SHOWDOWN MAKE THIS RACE LEAN TOWARDS A WILDER FINISH OR WILL IT BE A TYPICAL ATLANTA? HOW MUCH WOULD GUYS LIKE YOU LIKE TO BE A SPOILER FOR THE GUYS RUNNING FOR THE THREE MILLION EACH? “I think that it is obvious there is a lot on the line. To me there are so many great storylines this weekend and next week, especially this week when you thorough in the sprint showdown million. Obviously those guys that are running for that million have a lot of motivation and are going to be very eager to get themselves in position to win this race, so you know they are going to be pushing the envelope. It is just dangling a larger carrot out there for them. You can expect that to create some fireworks, if this race comes down to a battle with one of those guys at the end. I think absolutely, we all want to be spoilers in that. We are also trying to get yourself seeded even better in the chase by getting a victory or two here before the chase starts. You have guys that are trying to maintain their place in the top ten, you have guys that are trying to get in on wild card, plus you have those that are already in the chase that want to be starting as high up in points as they possibly can when the chase starts, plus the million. I think there are a lot of great storylines and certainly when you look at all of those factors it should make for some exciting racing here, not to mention this place is big, its fast, and boy is it slick. The tires have grip for basically one lap and after that you are sliding all the way to the fence.”
WE ARE COMING UP ON THE TEN YEAR ANNIVERSITY OF 9/11. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THAT WEEK THAT FOLLOWED AND WHAT WAS THE ATMOSPHERE LIKE WHEN EVERYONE WENT TO DOVER TO FINALLY GET BACK ON THE TRACK AND RACE? “It was just such disbelief and still shock I think. From the day of and days to follow just trying to understand it, why this happened and how it happened and how does it get prevented, where is our safety at. I think it was obviously a smart call to not race that weekend but to go to Dover. What was amazing that when we got to Dover, was the American spirit, everyone showing support for our country and how proud we are to be Americans, how we’re going to stand up, were going to push back, were going to show everybody what we are made of. To go from a sporting standpoint and an entertainment standpoint and go and perform with all those things happening to me was important and it felt great.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI HAS ALL OF OUR ATTENTION THE WAY HE HAS RUN THE PAST FOUR WEEKS. ONE THING THAT STANDS OUT TO SOME OF US IS THAT HE HAS NOT RUN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES. YOU’RE A GUY WHO HAS LARGERLY STAYED AWAY FROM THE NATIONWIDE SERIES. WHAT DO YOU THINK HIS ABSENCE FROM THE NATIONWIDE SERIES HAS HAD ON HIS CUP EFFORT? “Well I guess we will find out this weekend, but I don’t know. I think under the circumstances it was smart for him with the incident that happened at Road Atlanta, it is not very smart to push the envelope. I think we are all impressed with what he has been able to do in the Cup car since then. To step away from the Nationwide car was really smart from a physical standpoint, but you have to ask him where he was mentally from not being in the racecar on Saturday, or even physically because I think it is more just his ankle. To me especially on those really hot weekends like this one being fresh and ready to go on Sunday in a long race that is already tough to stay hydrated, there could be a little bit of extra fatigue for those guys that run the Nationwide race. I think you have to understand they picked up their program. They started the season off not very good in both Nationwide and Cup. They have stepped it up in a big way. Obviously those programs are sharing some great information that is helping them out on the Cup side, as well as, the Nationwide side and they have a very strong race team and they have been performing very high lately. I don’t know if it would matter if he was in the Nationwide car or not in the Nationwide car. I think a lot of it is just routine, whatever you are used to doing and the routine that you have if you keep doing it, and then I think that is a good thing. For me, my routine has been not to do the Nationwide races, and when I went and did five or six several years ago it was a total disruption and to me it was not worth it. The running back and forth from one garage to the next, it was not something I really enjoyed a whole lot. Obviously there are some guys that do enjoy it and it works well for them.”
WHEN YOU WERE WINNING ALL THOSE CHAMPIONSHIPS AND ALL THOSE RACES, CAN YOU THINK BACK TO WHAT THE REACTION IN THE GARAGE WAS FROM YOUR COMPETITORS AND OTHER TEAMS? I DON’T KNOW IF INTIMIDATION IS THE RIGHT WORD, OR HOW YOUR SUCCESS IMPACTED THEM? NOW DO YOU SEE THE SAME TYPE OF IMPACT FROM JIMMIE, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT EVERYONE ELSE? “There is no doubt you want to have as much of an advantage with your racecars on the race track as you do a mental advantage as well as going into the race. Ray (Everham, Jeff’s old crew chief) used to always say, a lot of times we would go to a track and have the competition beat before we ever got on the race track. A lot of that was because maybe we had just won three in a row or we were just dominating races in the season. I think you have more than just the edge of the performance on the race track, if you can really perform at a high level consistently then you get the competition looking at what you are doing, and paying attention and sometimes taking them off of their game and what they are capable of doing and that is another advantage. The 48 team has certainly been able to do that, everybody has their eye on them, everybody watches them and even right now, while they are not the stand out they have won one race and they have run good not quite the dominance they have had. I don’t think there is anyone in the garage that is counting them out. They know when that chase comes around what those guys are capable of doing, and that is because of what they have done in the last five years.
FOR GOLFERS WHEN THEY ARE IN THE GROOVE THEY DESCRIBE THE HOLE AS A MANHOLD COVER THEY JUST CAN’T MISS A PUTT OR BASEBALL PLAYERS TALK ABOUT THE BALL COMING UP IT LOOKS LIKE A PUMPKIN THEY JUST KNOW THEY CAN HIT IT. WHAT KIND OF ANALOGY COULD YOU EXPLAIN TO RACE FANS WHEN YOU TEAM IS IN THE GROOVE? “I don’t think there is an analogy that can compare the ones that you just gave. It is just about confidence, when you are in the race car and you believe in your racecar and your race team before you get on the race track it allows you to drive the car into the corner knowing that it is going to stick and then when it does it just builds that confidence even more, especially when you go from race track to race track and then you back that up with good performances. The team gains confidence in what you are telling them and it is just one building block after another that allows you to go to the race track and feel like you can win week in and week out. That takes time, it does not happen overnight. I don’t know what the analogy is for that.
DOES IT FEEL LIKE THINGS SLOW DOWN, LIKE THINGS ARE JUST SO EASY, I GUESS IM NOT QUITE CONFIDENT IN WHERE I AM GOING WITH THIS THING. “I am glad you are confident that I am going to follow it up though”
FOR DRIVERS WAS JUST CURIOUS IF THINGS SLOWED DOWN AND THINGS JUST BECAME EASY? “Well, there is no doubt it slows down, but every weekend is a new weekend. The first lap on the track, things are moving fast. As soon as the car gives you the feedback that it sticks, everything slows back down. In a race everything slows down because you are going 200 miles per hour lap after lap after lap and that has always been the case. When the car is not handling good it feels like you are moving a million miles an hour. You are white knuckle, not having fun, not relaxed, when the car is doing what you want it to do, you are relaxed you are able to fine tune the little things and give great feedback in one little small area to make you go just a little bit faster. Yes, things do slow down, but I don’t know I’m probably just not the best one to ask that question to I guess.”
EARLIER IN THE WEEK WHEN THE NEWS RELEASE CAME OUT YOU WERE NOT LISTED AS THE CLINCHER IN THE CHASE AND THEN LASTER YOUR NAME WAS ADDED. I WONDER WHO CALLS YOU UP AND TELLS YOU OR YOUR SO GOOD AT MATH YOU HAD ALREADY FIGURED IT OUT AND IF YOU COULD TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT? “I am not that good at math Claire. I was at a Pepsi-Max photo shoot, Wednesday I guess and a Hendrick representative was there and got the news. I will be honest I was in the middle of everything. I still have not gotten clarification as to what happened. My first thought was YO, John Edwards, what’s up with that? He is always the guy that could tell you if this happens, if this happens, if this happens you will clinch prior to the race. I was surprised that he did not pick up on that prior to the race.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS NOW THAT YOU KNOW THIS? DOES ANYTHING CHANGE AT ALL IN THE STRAGETY? “It doesn’t change anything. I mean, we are having a great year. Things are getting stronger and stronger for us. We were very fortunate to be able to move up in the points the way we have the last several weeks and put ourselves in a pretty comfortable position to not have to worry about those types of things. Now oh course drastic things can happen and I have seen it happen in racing, I guess there is a little bit of comfort knowing that we can go out there and take risks, try to get those extra bonus points. That is really what it is all about for us. Continuing to build momentum and be up front trying to put ourselves in position to win and hopefully get those wins.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI SAID THAT THEY WERE IN AN UPSWING AND THAT THERE WAS ALWAYS A CYCLE AND HE HOPED THEY DID NOT HIT THE DOWNSWING AT A BAD TIME. DO YOU BELIEVE IN THAT CYCLE THEORY AND IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU COULD DO ABOUT THAT? “I definitely believe in the cycle, but Brad has not been in the sport long enough to experience the cycles that I think about. To me it is going through the cycles over 19 years. In going through the goods and the bads, during a season I don’t know if I agree as much with cycles, I think that when you are strong, you are strong. When you are not, you’re not. I believe that through hard work, working in the right direction, having team chemistry and having just good people working with you, you are able to overcome the cycles. I think that when you are not doing the right things with your racecars, when you are pushing too hard, trying to make up for something that is not there you get into a bad cycle. If that is what you want to call it, I have always been a firm believer that you make your results in this sport based on how good your racecars are, how hard you work, and the chemistry among the team.”
YOU TALK ABOUT THE TRACK BEING FAST AND SLICK TOMORROW NIGHT, HOW FINE IS THAT EDGE AND WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR TO MAKE YOUR CAR THE BEST IN THE RACE TOMORROW NIGHT? “We still do not know exactly what the race conditions are going to be like tomorrow because our practice was a little bit earlier in the day, even though we had a later practice last night. We might know about what it is going to be like when the race starts. It was still really slick; one thing that I love about this race track is the abrasiveness that it has the multiple grooves and how hard you are going to work throughout the whole night. You are going to bounce back and forth all night long between being loose and being tight and slipping and sliding around. Being in the top grove , the middle groove, the bottom groove, so it is a great place to race but the line I can tell you is a very thin line, at these speeds, with the way this track is abrasive wise, it gets your attention in a hurry. It can snap around on you really quick.”
LAST WEEK YOU HAD SOME COMMENTS ON THE PIT ROAD SITUATION AT BRISTOL, NASCAR MADE SOME COMMENTS THAT THEY ARE GOING TO LOOK AT THAT AND MAKE SOME CHANGES, YOUR REACTION TO THAT A WEEK LATER. “I just think that if there is going to be a pit road speed, they need to have a speed limit. To me timing lines was the next step to what we were used to have, but we have the technology now to be able to have a pit road speed limit. I think when you look at from a safely stand point, you should not have guys driving 10, 20 miles an hour over the speed limit coming into their box sliding in, I don’t think that is safe. I don’t think that is necessary leaving as well. Plus, I think that to me we always look at this sport to keep it as equal as possible, you look at how they govern the rules and the things that they do with the templates and all that but yet they make us have huge advantages with pit stalls by not having equal segments. I think it is just the next evolution of things. That has been going on for years at Bristol. It just stood out because the top four cars last week were all in pit stalls that had that advantage. I actually had one of those stalls and that is why I said that didn’t cost us the win we had one of those stalls, but it still stuck out in my mind as something that should not be happening. When I look at our sport today, you look at track; I think it is defiantly something that needs to be addressed. We are going to have the same thing at Martinsville. They have some big timelines there too, so we will see a little bit more of that at Martinsville. I don’t know exactly what the cost is and what the effort is to put in these timing lines. I just know at Michigan they repaved pit road and they fixed it. They have equal lines all the way down. There is really no stall that has an advantage more than say the number one pit stall. You know if you qualify on the pole and just have to roll to the camera. Other than that it was equal. That is a big long pit road and they changed it. I don’t know if they have to repave the pit roads in order to do that or if they just go in and cut into it to put in whatever the receiver is or the line, the cable that goes along there to trigger it. I don’t know what that process entails, it is not up to me, I just think that it was pretty obvious last Saturday night that there was some big variances, and again I just go back to speed limit. If there is a speed limit there is a speed limit, we should not be breaking the speed limit, but we do because we know how to take advantage of the lines.”