JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Kansas Speedway and discussed how he feels about where he sits in the Chase coming into Kansas, his confidence level in this Chase, the tracks coming up in the remainder of the season and more.

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

YOU WERE THIRD IN PRACTICE, TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL WHERE YOUR CAR IS RIGHT NOW. “We made nothing but qualifying runs there. Looking at the schedule, we like this schedule it’s just kind of old school schedule. Car was really good and feel good about qualifying today. Excited about it. This was a great track for us earlier in the year so we’re hoping we can simulate that performance and maybe come away with a little bit better result.”

HOW MUCH PRESSURE DO YOU PUT ON YOURSELF THIS WEEKEND AFTER THE SUCCESS YOU HAD HERE EARLIER IN THE YEAR? “Obviously two of the first three races have not gone quite the way we had hoped. I’d say besides New Hampshire we kind of survived the other two. We knew that Dover was going to be a tough race for us. We didn’t anticipate Chicago, so that one kind of threw us off a little bit. We know that this starts our real run at the championship and we obviously can’t afford to just survive any more races. We’ve got to get out there and put the numbers up and this is a great weekend to do that.”

YOU SAID THIS IS A WEEKEND YOU NEED TO GET YOUR CHASE GOING, IS THIS A MAKE OR BREAK WEEKEND FOR YOU GUYS WITH THE WAY THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM IS? “I mean make or break doesn’t mean we have to win this race but we need to come out of here with a strong performance, I believe that.”

YOU’RE ON A GREAT STREAK HERE, WHAT HAS THIS TEAM DONE THIS YEAR TO PUT YOU IN THE BEST POSITION TO REALLY MAKE A BREAK THROUGH HERE THIS WEEKEND? “They just really have done a great job analyzing the data at each track especially when we’ve been to a track once, just I love the way they break down all the information and go back through and how we debrief and prepare from a previous race. I feel like this team just knows how to get better over time. They’re listening to what I need and providing me those tools to go out there and be strong. We might still miss it from time to time but I’ve got a lot of faith in their systems and the way they go about it. We’ve been missing at qualifying that’s the only things we’ve really been not doing a great job at this year and that’s something that we knew we needed to do better at in the Chase. We’ve not done it so far. Hopefully we’ve learned something in these three races that can help us not continue down that path in qualifying. I feel like today we’ve got a great shot at being a top-five.”

THAT WILL BREAK DOWN AS ANOTHER ONE OF ALAN’S (GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF) STRONG POINTS. “Oh yeah, the way that he communicates with his engineers and how they read the data and how they go through it and break it all down. From my standpoint, the driver has certain feedback and I can understand shocks, bump stomps and sway bars to a certain level but you’ve got guys that are focused on all kinds of tire data, track data, bump stops, how the wedge is being affected by everything we do and that’s the way this sport is headed. Where this sport is headed these days you’ve got to have specialist and engineers that knows the areas and really understands it. Alan is sharp enough there that he can manage that. He understands kind of every aspect of it but he still relies on those guys that are specialized in those areas to give him the information he needs.”

YOU SAID YOU KIND OF GOT CAUGHT OFF GUARD WITH THE WAY THINGS WENT AT CHICAGOLAND, WITH THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN HERE AND CHICAGOLAND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MAKE SURE THAT WON’T HAPPEN HERE? “That’s why it caught us so off guard because we expected to be able to take something similar to what we have here and make it work in Chicago. The difference is there is a different tire in Chicago and that tire is also the Texas tire and I think it’s somewhere else. It just doesn’t suit me very well. I have a really hard time reading that tire and getting the balance right on that tire. This tire suits me a lot better. I just feel like I can lean on it and give better feedback back to the team to get the car doing what I need it to do. From what Goodyear says these two tracks, Chicago and here in Kansas, the loads are just different enough where they need to change the tire for Chicago. So it’s something we’ve got to get better at with that tire.”

WHY DO YOU THINK THE POINTS ARE SO CLOSE RIGHT NOW? “Because the competition is really good. You know we are only three races in. I’m actually surprised that some cars are as far back as they are. You know even myself, I’m 19 points back I don’t think we’re that close. We’re still in it but it’s not as close as I had hoped we would be. All the guys earned their way into the Chase for a reason and you expect that continue as the final 10 races are run, to stay pretty close. I guess toward the top it is pretty close, it’s just how good the competition is right now.”

DO YOU THINK THE POINTS LEADERS AT THIS POINT HAVE ANY ADVANTAGE? “Yes because they’re the points leaders. Anybody who is up front, the advantage they have is that they have gotten through the first three races good. It gives them a little bit of confidence, momentum, gives them a little bit of a buffer a few of the cars but I would say if your sixth or seventh on out and you’re the leader you feel like you’ve created a bit of a nice cushion there but nobody is safe, nobody.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU GO TO MARTINSVILLE ITS GOING TO BE AS GOOD OF A WEEKEND FOR YOU? “I love Martinsville, I love going there. I do go there with a lot of confidence. The last time we were there we didn’t qualify well but we raced really well and I feel like we’ve got things that have made our cars even better since we were there last. I can’t wait to get to Martinsville. I look at this being an important race for us, a race that we can really capitalize on, Charlotte we’ve got to make some improvements, Martinsville we can do very well out, now we just tested at Phoenix and that’s a crap shoot for everybody. You know we’ve got to get through Talladega which I have confidence in Talladega. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got a great teammate in Mark Martin, we do really well together with how you have to team up there and a few little changes there but other than that I feel good about it. I think Homestead is a good track for us. What am I missing? I think Charlotte and Texas are the ones that are on our radar right now and Texas primarily because the same tire as Chicago and we struggled there earlier in the year. We’ve got to make some big, big changes to get good enough to go battle for this championship because we’ve got ourselves in a hole now. We’re out and we’ve got to make up points. I feel like there’s three or four tracks that we can make up points on the majority of the competition in here. To get an advantage on them we’ve got to go be very competitive at Texas.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU GO TO THOSE TRACKS WHERE YOU’RE SUPER CONFIDENT THERE IS A DANGER OF BECOMING A LITTLE OVER CONFIDENT? “That’s something I never allow myself to do. I think confidence allows us to get the car really close and to go there and only have to fine-tune on your setup and what you’re doing as a driver it just gets you a little bit ahead of the game going into the race. Once I get into that car on race day I don’t go into it with any expectations. I go into it looking forward to getting the green flag and getting to see what my car does in (turns) one and two and then I’ll go to turns three and four and see what it does there and I evaluate it as the race goes every lap.”

CAN YOU REMEMBER A TIME WHERE THE STAKES WERE HIGH, THE PRESSURE WAS ENORMOUS AND YOU FELT LIKE YOU DIDN’T PERFORM TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY? “In ’07 I felt like we let that one slip away. Granted you can say Jimmie (Johnson) won four in a row and that didn’t’ help things. We had a nice lead there in the points that year and we just did not perform say like Phoenix, we just didn’t perform the way that we should have and could have to still get that championship done even with Jimmie winning those four races in a row. Then the other one would have been ’04 when Kurt (Busch) won, we finished third in points and it was so close and there were a few races we didn’t get it done.”

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DO PARTICULARLY MAYBE A METHOD OR SOMETHING WHERE YOU DON’T LET THE PRESSURE BOTHER YOU? “You know you just kind of approach it race to race, lap to lap and I’ve never changed how I do it. When the car is right and your confidence is high and the team is supporting you and things are going well you go and you make it happen and you get the results. The key is living up to your full potential when you’re at a track that is good and things are working well for you and then it’s trying to manage those tracks that you know you struggle at. That’s the things there’s nobody that just seems to dominate every race track. You’ve got guys that are going to struggle at certain tracks and you’ve just got to minimize that damage. That’s what bothers me so much about Chicago, we were much better than a 24th or 25th place car. If we had come out of there with a 10th or 12th place finish like we did at Dover I’d be feeling a lot better but at 24th or 25th you can’t have another one of those.”

YOU SAID YOU LIKE THIS SCHEDULE THIS WEEKEND, JIMMIE (JOHNSON) SAID BASICALLY THE SAME THING, TONY (STEWART) SAID HE LIKES IT THE OTHER WAY BECAUSE HE LIKES TO HAVE HIS SATURDAY’S WHERE ALL YOU DO IS QUALIFY, IS IT JUST BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU WERE USED TO DOING? “No, it’s more for qualifying than anything else. I just like the track conditions that we’re going to have. The more rubber that’s on the track and getting more the time of day that we’re going to be racing, I like to practice during those times. So later in the weekend is the best conditions to really simulate what our race conditions are going to be in practice that we can fine tune the car for that. Then qualifying, I want to be able to run my last lap on the track in a qualifying run then I have something to compare closer to when we go qualify like today. Where instead of making a qualifying run here today and then I don’t get to make another run until qualifying tomorrow and the track conditions change, wind shifts, track cools down whatever it is. It’s not that big of a deal I just like this one a little bit better that’s all.”

YOU MENTIONED CHARLOTTE EARLIER BEING ONE OF THE TRACKS YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO WELL AT, BEING THE ONLY NIGHT RACE AND THE COOL TEMPERATURES WHAT TYPE OF RACING DO YOU THINK WE ARE GOING TO SEE NEXT WEEK? “It’s going to be fast. I think it’s going to be a lot like what we saw during May. Like the All-Star race there at night, I mean the track’s fast, a lot of grip, you’ve got to get the car balanced right, track position is extremely important. I think we’ll be fine we’ve just got to qualify good there.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE OUT OF BOWYER NEXT YEAR NOW THAT HE’S ANNOUNCED HE’S GOING TO MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING? “I’m a big fan of Clint’s. I think he's a really great driver. I love his attitude about how he goes about things. MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) has been running good lately so with the addition of him being there I think that they can be really strong.”

CAN A DRIVER HELP A PROGRAM LIKE THAT? “Absolutely. He’s coming from a championship caliber organization. He can bring a little bit of that knowledge over there plus I think that his talents will help them just continue to gather more quality information that always makes an organization stronger.”