JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER/CHEVY 100TH ANNIVERSARY CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, racing at Talladega, his favorite Charlotte moment along with other topics.
YOU JUST CAME FROM A FAN AUTOGRAPH SESSION, WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THOSE; DO YOU THINK IT HELPS DRIVERS AND FAN INTERACTION? “Well I mean I know how many fans are out there that are looking for autographs, and that opportunity to meet their favorite driver, so I love that they do that. I think it is a learning experience for all of us, where we get back to the basics and also, think we need to try to step it up from there, so that it does impact ticket sales. Currently, I wouldn’t say that it has made a big impact but, I think that as we move forward and work together we can allow it to make an impact.
WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATED OPINION ON HOW THIS CHASE MIGHT WORK OUT, AS FAR AS NUMBER OF DRIVER’S LEFT GOING INTO HOMESTEAD: “I think it will be two or three drivers. You look at the guys that I think the ones to beat for the championship, and unless we win the next five races you can take one of those out. We have some work to do, but we certainly not giving up on it. To me it is Jimmie (Johnson), Harvick (Kevin) and, Carl (Edwards) you know somebody else might step in there and surprise us, but only the next four or five races are really going to tell.”
WHY DO YOU THINK THOSE GUYS? JUST A NUMBERS GAME? “I just look at teams that are strong, consistent, and the tracks that are on the schedule, and what they have shown all year long, vs. what they have shown currently in the Chase.”
HOW LONG DO YOU LET THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF LAST WEEK LINGER UNTIL YOU TURN THE PAGE? “You don’t let it linger long. We have already moved on from that. We are here in Charlotte, just focused on this race; it doesn’t matter if we won that race in Kansas or if we had the disappointing finish that we did have. You have to start focusing on the next race and we have already done that you learn from it, you try to grow from it, you go to the next race and try to be even better.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WITH ALL THE RULE CHANGES AT TALLADEGA? “I don’t expect a whole lot different, but we won’t really know until we get into practice and start drafting. I think you are still going to see two-by-two, I think you might just see cars swap a little bit more, but we are going to try to do everything we can to not have to swap. I think the racing is better without the swapping, I think it is safer without the swapping, not exactly sure where we are headed but sometimes they will make changes for this race to evaluate what we need for Daytona in February, which I think is a little bit of what is going on but I think we are still going to see a lot of the same of what we have seen the last couple of restrictor plate races.”
DO YOU CONSIDER THE TWO-CAR DRAFTING REAL RACING? “Absolutely, I mean to me it’s real racing, just like anywhere we go, whatever strategy it takes to win, to me we have evolved into this two car drafting, it is not as easy maybe as it looks on TV, it takes some skill but most importantly it takes getting two cars and drivers and spotters and crew chiefs to work together. You have to watch your gages a lot, you have to be really aware of what happens around you and then you still have to put yourself in position as a two car tandem to win the race. It is not an easy thing. From where I am sitting, I always look at the challenges that come along with racing and what it takes to be competitive and put yourself into position to win and it is challenging.”
FORTUNATELY YOU HAVE A LOT OF GREAT MOMENTS TO CHOOSE FROM HERE IN CHARLOTTE, IS THERE ONE IN PARTICULAR THAT STANDS OUT ABOVE THE REST? “Aww you know you are right, there have been several moments, so to pick one itself, I guess my very first cup race happened here. It is hard to not allow that one to rise to the top.”
WILL YOU BE WORKING IN THE FUEL INJECTION TEST NEXT WEEK? “Yes”.
WHAT CAN YOU LEARN FROM THE TESTING SESSION THAT WILL APPLY TO THE RACE ON SUNDAY? “I am at the one here on Monday, not the one in Talladega. (Laughs) At least not that I know of, I just found out that was happening yesterday. I didn’t even know they were doing that. I don’t know who is driving those cars. Are Cup driver’s driving those cars? I didn’t even know that was happening, that might change, I might be a part of it.”
CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR ENGINE LAST WEEK? “Yea, we scuffed a piston in the number one cylinder. You know, it is always concerning when it happens, we saw some things at Kansas earlier in the year and it seems to be a little more related to that track. The throttle trace and the demand on the engines. Not as concerned about it here, and I know I have the best engine shop in the world to address it, they can react fast, and we feel good from here on out.”
AFTER LAST WEEK, DO YOU HAVE TO RE-FOCUS YOUR ROLE IN THE CHASE AFTER THAT? “Nothing changes right now. Nothing changed for us. We go to the race track to win that is what we have been doing every weekend.
“Obviously the Chase has not gone the way we had hoped. We realize in order to win the championship, we have to win a bunch of races, and the way we approached that doesn’t change. If we are mathematically out of it, or when that deal happens we might change our approach, until then it will stay the same.”
YOU HAVE THE NO.48 DO WHAT IS HAS DONE THE LAST FIVE YEARS, SHOULD THE NO.99 AND THE NO.29 BE HEARING THE FOOTSTEPS? “Of course it should! I mean those guys are tough, they go and dominate like they did last week; they are obviously coming together at the right time. You do not want to give those guys any kind of momentum. Especially, at this point in the season, it is going to be really interesting to watch and see how those guys step it up.”
IS THERE STILL TIME FOR THOSE GUYS IN POSITIONS FIVE THROUGH TEN TO MAKE A MOVE TO GET INTO THIS THING HERE? “Yea, but they have to step it up in a big way. I really think that Carl (Edwards) has shown it all year long, he has been hanging tough even though he has had some tough races; he has pulled himself out of it pretty well, that shows a championship caliber team, but they are going to have to step up their performance. The No.48 has to make sure that they do not make any mistakes. Harvick’s strength is consistency. They are consistently in the top-5 and top-10 and they do not have a lot of big strong strengths but they do not have a lot of weaknesses either.”
WE TALKED ABOUT MOVING FORWARD; OBVIOUSLY THE COMPETITOR IN YOU HAS TO BE FRUSTRATED ABOUT WHAT HAS GONE ON IN THE CHASE: “Well, listen; this has been a great year no matter what happens. We were extremely excited about coming into this chase with the momentum that we had as a team and just the wins that we have had and the great things that are happening to this team. Even the great run that we had going into Kansas, prior to the problem on the re-start and the engine trouble was something that we had been doing a lot of this year; it is a lot of fun to do that. To fall back this far in the points is very disappointing.”
WHAT WOULD SAY IF NASCAR PUT TALLADEGA AS THE FINAL RACE IN THE CHASE? “Well the fact that it is in the championship is enough. The deeper that you move it into the end of the season, the move hectic it can become. You go to the restrictor plate races, and you think about survival but at the same time you know that there is going to be somebody in that top 12 that is going to push the envelope and probably get a win in that race and they can gain some points.
“You are constantly bouncing that line between losing a lot of points to try to gain points. As the championship unfolds and you get into the end of the season, you get guys that are going to take more risks, and at the track if you take more risks, it can pay off, if you take too much risk, it can cost you big.”
WE GET A LOT OF FANS SUGGESTING THAT CHASE RACES SHOULD BE DURING THE MIDDLE OF THE WEEK, MAYBE IT SHOULD BE A SHORTER RACE, SHORTER SEASON, IS THERE SOMETHING PARTICULAR THAT YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD CHANGE? “Oh gosh, you know they are in a very difficult position, it is a tough thing to manage. I think they have a lot of different resources that they tap into and make the calls and decisions that they make. How they do the races and the schedule and all those things. I am glad I don’t have to make those calls. Everybody has an opinion; there is not a lot I would change. Maybe little things here and there.”
ON THE FUEL MILEAGE RACES, ARE YOU GUYS JUST THAT GOOD OR IS IT JUST HOW THE CAUTION FLAGS FALL? “I don’t know. Throughout my career, I have been a part of races that had zero cautions; I have been a part of races that had tons of cautions. It is not anything that you can predict, or know when and how races are going to unfold, so you try to get the best mileage you can, the most speed that you can, and play it out as it comes. You never know when the caution is going to come out. I don’t know what to contribute it to.”
AT WHAT POINT IN THIS CHASE IF YOU ARE RACING JIMMIE LATE IN THE RACE WEATHER IT IS FIRST, FIFTH OR 21ST, DO YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER GIVING HIM A POSITION? “If there comes a time when we are mathematically out of the championship, we will consider that.”