EFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed the two-car drafting expected this weekend, racing at Kentucky next week, how tire changes effect the handling of the car and much more.
HAVE YOU MET WITH NASCAR AND ALL THE OTHER DRIVERS, I’M ASSUMING YOU WERE THERE? “Yes.”
SOUNDS LIKE THEY ARE DOING A LOT OF RESEARCH AND THEY HAVE A LOT OF IDEAS, WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF WHAT THEY SAID? “Really excited. I think some of the things to me are definitely going in the right direction. Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at everything of where the sport is at. We were on such a climb for such a long time that some of these measures were necessary even though they would have been effective at the time until you didn’t look as hard into it.
“In these times, not just in our sport, I think it’s having a great year, but you look at how tough it is just to be in business in general around the world. How you impact not only our core fans that are already big loyal fans but reach out to new fans. I think a lot of what they are saying makes a lot of sense and looking forward to seeing some get implemented.”
SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF THEIR STRATEGIES INVOLVE WHAT THE DRIVERS CAN DO AND MORE ACTITIVY, MORE TIME OUT OF YOUR SCHEDULE, DOES IT FEEL LIKE YOU GUYS BEAR SUCH A HEAVY BURDEN RELATED TO THAT? “I think we have some responsibilities. The thing is if as the sponsors cut back some of their budgets it also cuts back the demand on time that the drivers have. You hope from a sponsorship standpoint you don’t have that because you’ve got sponsors that are willing to put the budgets out there and utilize the time. You’re biggest problem is trying to find time to do more things. The key to me on that was letting us know early. I think that we can find ways to fit important things into the schedule to give back to the fans but we’ve got to do it efficiently and we’ve got to do it in advance.
“You can’t come to be today if you need something tomorrow just because our schedules are so tight when you look at any amount of testing, time spent with the team, time spent with our sponsors which also is with our customers and to our fans. I think at track there is some time to be had, for me. I don’t run Saturday races so I think there are some potential opportunities for us to do more and give back to the fans. As long as we are doing it where we are planning for it and we’re involved in the planning then I’m all for it.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TWO-CAR DRAFTING AND IF YOU LIKE IT OR ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO IT? “It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, it’s just a part of it. What I am anxious about here in Daytona here in July is the temperatures being warmer than they were in February, has the track lost much grip since February, how easy is it going to be to do the two-car draft. In February it was pretty easy and in Talladega it was really easy.
“So coming back here we are all planning for it but it might not be as easy as we think now that the track temperature is going to be up and if the track losing much grip. This is a track where the two-car draft is not as easy to do because the transitions are pretty tricky getting in and off the corners so it might take a little bit different technique to make the two-car draft work. I’m looking forward to working with Mark Martin, my teammate, like I did in Talladega and seeing what we feel like we can do during the race.”
HOW MUCH DID THE TRACK AGE WITHOUT RACING ON IT? “This is Florida. It’s very hot here, a lot of sun, a lot of sand and those things can definitely contribute to that. I really don’t think that the track itself has lost much grip. I really think it’s going to be track temperature. That can be the deciding factor to me to how aggressive we get in the two-car drafting.”
NEXT WE YOU GO TO KENTUCKY, THE FIRST TIME AT A NEW TRACK IN 10 YEARS, HOW BIG OF A CHALLENGE IS IT GOING THERE? “It has been a while since I’ve tested there so seeing if anything has changed. It’s a new track so we don’t have a lot of data. I mean some of the guys have run there in Nationwide maybe have a little more experience on the track.
“I think adapting to a track that you are not as familiar with from a driver standpoint as well as the set up, the springs and shocks and combinations, it’s a pretty rough race track, so I think to battle the grip level and getting the car aero-wise to get the most grip out of it but also handling the bumps is probably the biggest challenge from a technical standpoint.”
YOU TALK ABOUT THE TEST, WHAT WERE YOU GUYS ABLE TO LEARN AND YOU WERE ABLE TO SHARE WITH YOUR TEAMMATES? “Well I wasn’t at the test. Mark Martin was at the test. I was talking about it. We used to test there all the time. It’s the one track that we could test at before it became a Cup track, so I think if we go back to those notes that’s certainly going to give some information but the most valuable would be the tire test that Mark martin did. That’s the most current data that we have with more of the cars and set ups that we are running today. We’ll hopefully get something out of it.”
SHOULD FANS ONCE AGAIN EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED LIKE A 20-YEAR-OLD WINNER, DO YOU THINK NOW THAT YOU’VE RUN ON THIS TRACK ONCE THAT YOU GUYS HAVE A LITTLE BETTER IDEA OF HOW TO GO ABOUT IT? “We’ve got to give a lot of credit to is with Trevor he survived this race. You might expect veterans do a better job of surviving what was a tough race to adapt to and learn the new way of drafting around he, but he did a great job with that so you give him credit and it’s not going to be any easier this time around to survive and there’s no doubt if you survive this race and all that’s going to be thrown at you anybody can win this race.”
WHAT IS THE TOUGEST PART ABOUT RACING AT A NEW TRACK? “I guess just the unknowns. Trying to know where you can push the limits, where your car is going to handle the best. What the characteristics of the track have as the race goes on. Does the track get looser in, tighter off or tighter in certain parts of the corner or looser in certain parts of the corner and those are things that maybe some of the nationwide guys will have more experience with and might do a better job when we first get there.”
WHY DO SMALL CHANGES WITH THE TIRES APPEAR TO HAVE SUCH A BIG IMPACT ON THE HANDLING AND THE SETUP OF THE CARS? “Sometimes even Goodyear doesn’t realize just how critical all of those changes in the tire can be and sometimes it can purely be a compound change. Usually construction changes are the ones that impact us the most and maybe throw us off. They change the balance of the car, they change grip level. Sometimes they change the spring rate of the race car and how it travels in the race track so those small things can be fairly severe not to mention what we did last year, a year ago has changed. We’ve already evolved their set ups and what we’re doing with the cars from a shock and spring and sway bar, set up theory on how we’re going about things has completely changed. That to me is why testing is so critical especially when it comes to tires because everything is evolved very quickly in this sport and the tires have to match up with everything else that is evolving.”
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO FIGURE OUT HOW THAT TIRE IS GOING TO REACT? “You find out in the race. That’s the downside. It’s a bit of a guessing game. You’re not really sure which direction everything is going to go into. Like in Sonoma for instance, if you had gone through practice I would have told you the car is going to get very loose, drive off is going to be a premium and let’s not worry about the center of the corner as much as drive off. Well that was not the case for us. We made a big mistake in that standpoint. Maybe it paid off for us a little bit in that last run because our car was geared a little more toward that but we really paid the price the first half of that race because I couldn’t get my car to turn into the corner because it just had so little grip in the front. So that tire definitely threw us off and we just had no expectations and no knowledge of which way it was going to go.”
IS THERE ANY TRACK ON THE CIRCUIT THAT COMPARES TO KENTUCKY THAT YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO TAKE A SET UP FROM? “I mean every 1.5-mile track has a similarity as far as speed and grip level so you try to maximize that but Kentucky has a lot of grip, it’s just a little big rougher than some of the other tracks but it’s also fairly flat for as much grip as it has and it’s surprising how quickly we get around there. I think that we’ll take a little bit from our Kansas race. I would say that the closest thing we run this year would be Kansas.”
AS A DRIVER HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO GET COMFORTABLE IN A CAR AT A NEW TRACK? It could take you two or three laps or it could take you 100 laps. We’ve got a lot of time that we’re going to be on the track on Thursday. It’s basically going to be a test. That should definitely give us enough time to get close.”
EACH WEEK I STAND OUT THERE FOR DRIVER INTROS AND I HEAR HOW THE CROWD REACTS, REALLY FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS NOW YOU GET ALMOST ALL CHEERS, WHERE MAYBE FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AGO IT WAS KIND OF THE OPPOSITE REACTION, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT’S CHANGED FOR YOU? “I couldn’t really answer that. I could guess at it you know. I think over a time you earn respect especially if you’re consistent with your action off the track and on the track. So I think I’ve been able to earn a little bit more respect since then and not winning as much. When I look back to early parts of my career, I can remember where I started knocking on the door to get to victory lane and I started hearing more cheers and then we started winning some races and everybody was like, oh that’s awesome we’ve got a new guy to cheer for in victory lane. Then we started winning a lot of races and they were like oh wait a minute, okay now I’m going to kind of draw the line here. You know I’m tired of seeing that Gordon guy win, he’s winning too much. We see that, it happens in our sport. So I would say that probably lasted until 2003 because you go off of 2001 and that might still go a couple of years where people are still feeling that way. I think around 2004 or 2005 you saw the wins drop off, the championship contention drop off and I got older. When I’m on Twitter it’s amazing how often I’ll see somebody that will say I didn’t used to pull for you, my brother, my dad or my mom they pulled for you but I never pulled for you but now I pull for you. I think you’re a good person or like the things you do with charity, I like the way you celebrate your win or whatever it may be. So I think that you have to get back to victory lane to start hearing the cheers again. If you just stop winning and don’t win any more they might respect you but they’re not really going to get excited for you. I think showing that we can win this year and getting back to victory lane has got not only my fans back, excited and motivated but maybe some of the fans that were on the fence or maybe some new fans cheer for us again. That’s my guess.”