Jeff Gordon - Bristol II Friday media visit

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Team Chevy press release

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the challenges of Bristol and the CoT, Danica Patrick racing full time in the Nationwide Series in 2012, and more. Full Transcript:

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Ted Rossino

TALK ABOUT LEADING INTO THE CHASE, AND ALSO IF YOU WIN AT BRISTOL THIS WEEKEND, YOU’RE ELIGIBLE FOR THE SPRINT SUMMER SHOWDOWN: “There is a lot on the line this weekend. This is an exciting race track and one that we all like to come to and perform well at. But, when you look at the two things that to me really put a lot of pressure on this event is the Sprint Showdown and that this is the last opportunity to get qualified into that. That’s a big deal. What Sprint has done there, I’ve had the opportunity to see a fan become an instant millionaire before with a program similar to this several years ago. It’s exciting. It’s such a cool feeling to experience that with someone who is so appreciative of it, as well as the money that goes to the charity. It’s a great program. It’s one that we all want to be a part of. You have to be qualified in and this is the last chance.

“And then the other thing is just trying to get yourself set-up for the Chase. And while I don’t think this track really does anything to prepare you for the Chase. What it is about right now is momentum. You know that Kyle (Busch) is going to be tough this weekend. So you don’t want them to get any extra momentum. And you know how tough they’re going to be to beat so you’re going to have to step it up as well as gain momentum for our team by getting a strong finish or even a win here would be huge for us. I don’t want to say ‘we’ in this case because I feel like it’s ‘me’. Since we’ve gone to the CoT, I have not performed well at this race track; especially since they reconfigured the track. It’s a personal goal as well as a team goal for us to step-up our performance here.”

HOW REALISTIC DO YOU THINK IT IS THAT THE GUYS WHO ARE GOING TO START THE CHASE IN THE ‘BACK-HALF’ HAVE A DECENT SHOT AT ACTUALLY WINNING? “The cool thing about the Chase format, and you can look back at the history of it and yes the majority of the time it’s the teams that are up front have been strong all year long; but the beauty of it is that because it’s a 26-race sort of pre-championship season, it really allows a team to gain momentum and put themselves in position to win the championship; even if they didn’t start the season out as strong as maybe some others. I still think that right now you’re looking at certainly Kyle (Busch). I think Kurt (Busch) has shown at times to be really strong. You can’t ever count out the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson). As far as Carl (Edwards) and (Kevin) Harvick, they are kind of hit or miss. I would still think that those guys are still the ones to beat though. For us, I feel like we’ve shown that we can win this championship at times, but to do it consistently over those ten weeks, we’ve got to step-up our game a little bit. So, we’re very close. I don’t know if you consider the top five in points, the top six in points as factors for the championship, but I’d like to be considered as one of those that can get it done. But more importantly, I’d like to go out there and prove it; and when the Chase starts, show that we can do it. Knowing that we have two wins, where we’ll be seeded is going to be interesting to see what happens over these next few weeks. If we could get one more win, to me that puts us really in a place that really puts us towards the top and a real factor for this championship. But with two wins, we’re kind of in the middle there. And I do think yeah, anybody can win it. But I still think that you’ve got to look at the teams that perform well, especially over the last 10 or 15 races. And that’s where I throw ourselves in there. We’ve been one of the best, from a points standpoint, one of the best over the last 10 or 12 weeks.”

WHEN YOU MOVED FROM THE NATIONWIDE SERIES TO CUP IN 1992, THERE WAS A BIT OF FANFARE; NOT TO THE LEVEL WE’RE SEEING WITH DANICA PATRICK. AT WHAT POINT DOES THE HYPE NEED TO END AND THE PERFORMANCE NEED TO BEGIN? “Please don’t take this as any disrespect, Danica, but I think that the hype for me didn’t have anything to do with me being popular. I was not that popular at the time I made my move. But I was winning races in the Busch Grand National Series. And so, to me, if there was any hype, which I didn’t think there was that much hype, but if there was any, it was more of just from a performance standpoint. And I think Danica still has to prove herself from a performance standpoint. She’s, I think, impressed a lot of people in some of her performances this year. But I think she still has a long way to go. I think she’s great for the sport. I think it’s awesome to have her making that announcement to be full time. And so I think we’ll just have to wait and see how she does in a full time season and in those Cup events that she’s planning on doing. So it should be very interesting. To me, it’s far more challenging for her than it was for me because I didn’t have that kind of hype and expectations and that many eyes on me, even though I felt like I did, I know I didn’t. The most challenging years in my racing career was definitely my rookie year in Nationwide and my rookie year in Cup because you feel like you have so much to do to step it up and to live up to any expectations that there are. She certainly has a lot to live up to.”

HOW NERVE-WRACKING IS IT TO PIT HERE UNDER GREEN AND TRY TO REMEMBER WHICH PIT ROAD IS YOURS? ALSO, ASIDE FROM THE RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS, IS THIS THE PLACE WHERE YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO LOSE RADIO COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR TEAM DURING THE RACE? “How fitting that you ask that question of somebody who has missed pit road here a couple of times, and exited the wrong side, and did it about as wrong as you can do it. You definitely get into a rhythm here. When you’re pitting on at one entrance under yellow versus a different entrance or it could be a different entrance under green, it definitely can challenge you. And so, I think that is more challenging here than at any other track just because it’s such a short lap and because of the rhythm that you get into and the intensity. We prepare a little bit different for those green flag stops now to make sure that I don’t screw it up because while you’re listening a lot of times on the radio, sometimes you’re not always paying attention. And so they’ll tell you don’t forget to pit on this side, but you’re so focused on what’s going on that even then sometimes it doesn’t sink in. So, I think now, making the mistakes I’ve made here under green flag stops, I think I’ve got it down now.

“You don’t want to lose radio communication anywhere, in my opinion. But yeah, this place, there are definitely some adjustments that need to be made to the car trying to figure out when to pit, I would not want to lose radio communication here.”

REGARDING STRUGGLING SINCE THEY BROUGHT THE NEW CAR IN, CAN YOU EXPAND ON THAT? ALSO DALE JUNIOR SAID HE THOUGHT THE REASON THE RACING HAS CHANGED HERE IS BECAUSE THE NEW CAR COINCIDED WITH THE REPAVING. DO YOU THINK THAT HAS HAD AN IMPACT ON IT? “It was definitely a double-whammy. The combination of the two; we’re just now starting to get this car to where we can rotate the middle the way that you could with the old car. So one of the biggest challenges we’ve always had with this car is that it’s just real, real tight in the center of the corner. I still think it’s something that we’re challenged with. So, that’s a characteristic that you really need here. You have to have a car that really rotates the middle and sticks in the race track. And this car just did not have that at the beginning. We’ve been gradually getting it better and better and better. Then you take the race track. It was just that one groove right on the bottom. There were just certain spot on the track that you had to hit. And now, you don’t necessarily have that. And it’s multiple grooves. To me it’s far more challenging as a race car driver to make passes, to get the car to go fast, and some guys have figured it out and some guys haven’t. So I guess, yeah, the combination of those two things. But I’m kind of confused now because I didn’t realize that what the fans really love about this race track was just how you knock one another out of the way and the sparks. I knew that was an aspect of it. I didn’t realize that if we actually made three-wide racing at Bristol, then people wouldn’t like it as much as single-file racing, you know? And so I find that interesting. It teaches us a lot about the sport and the fans and I think as long as we put exciting racing out there, which, like the other night in the truck race, there was controversy, there were sparks flying, and there was great racing, and they loved that race. So, the racing can still be great and the fans can still love it even under this configuration.”

DO YOU THINK THERE WOULD BE ANY DISCOMFORT WITH DANICA PATRICK MAKING HER CUP DEBUT AT THE DAYTONA 500, A PLATE RACE? “It doesn’t matter to me. She did pretty well in the Nationwide race. To me, that was a testament of what she is capable of doing. So I don’t see why that would be the case if she has; I mean she’s racing the Indianapolis 500 and to me, that’s pretty challenging. So I think if that’s where they want to make her debut, I wouldn’t have any heartache against it because of the tracks that she’s raced at in the Nationwide Series. To me, it’s when you’ve never raced at a superspeedway, especially with the tandem drafting that we have now, if you’d never done that before and never been on a superspeedway before, then I might question it. But that’s not the case for her.”

YOU MENTIONED NOT LETTING KYLE BUSCH GET ANY MORE MOMENTUM HERE THIS WEEKEND. HE’S VERY GOOD HERE. HE’S WON AT ATLANTA AND RICHMOND. DO YOU THINK HE HAS THE MOST MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE CHASE? HOW DANGEROUS DOES THAT MAKE HIM ONCE WE HIT THOSE LAST 10 RACES? “He’s certainly a guy who already has a lot of confidence in his abilities. We know they have a strong team. Everybody has weaknesses. And we’ve seen their weaknesses so far this season but yet we see what they are capable of at the same time. To me, there’s no doubt at this point right now, the target is on the No. 18. They’ve won the most races. He’s leading the points. And you know that he’s got very strong tracks coming up. Again, it all changes when you get in that Chase. That’s why you can’t ever count the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) out. They are so good at those 10 tracks. And, plus, there are just certain teams that know how to step it up and get to that next level when the Chase begins. So there are a lot of teams you can’t count out. But I would definitely say they’ve got the most momentum and I think it’s always been known that Kyle is so talented and runs so good at so many different tracks as well. Every year, when it comes Chase time, you think oh, is this going to be the year that Kyle wins it? And they’ve self-destructed in the past. So is the maturity level, is the experience, is the team, are they all better prepared this year to not self-destruct when the Chase comes around? Only time will tell.”

CAN YOU BE VOLATILE AND WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP? CAN YOU BE VOLATILE AT TIMES AND WIN IT? CAN YOU BE VOLATILE SAY IN THE TRUCK SERIES AND HAVE AT IT WITH SOMEONE THERE, YET KEEP IT TOGETHER AND BE FOCUSED IN THE CUP SERIES? TALK ABOUT THE MINDSET OF PULLING OFF A CHAMPIONSHIP RUN “I couldn’t but the Busch brothers seem to do it very well (laughter). I think it’s pretty well documented and clear that they get very excited and share their emotions over the radio quite often and they’re still able to go to victory lane. So I mean, that’s why I mentioned what I mentioned. It’s just how they, especially for Kyle right now, it’s how those first couple of races go in the Chase. That’s the difference in the Chase. You’ve got 10 races and you’ve got to put 10 good ones together. And if you have one bad one, you have to keep your emotions in check and not make it worse than it should be; and pull yourself together and try to make it a 15th or 20th place finish instead of a 30th or 35th place finish. And those moments are crucial because it does seem like everybody has maybe one bad race in the Chase. But it’s how you rebound from that and how you react to that. For some, it’s about getting started off right in the Chase. For others, it’s about just being able to pull yourself together in a hurry to get right back there where you need to be and win races. So, that’s what I love about the Chase. Every year, something unique happens. While it seems like it’s been predictable because the same guy has won the last five years, to me every one of those championships that Jimmie (Johnson) has won, you could have counted him out at times through each of them. You just never know. And I still believe the strongest team is going to win the championship. And we’ll find out who that team is here shortly.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags bristol, chevrolet, gordon, hendrick, sprint cup