JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed going to Woodward Dream Cruise for Chevrolet, plans after racing, Jeff Gordon Foundation, racing at Michigan and other topics.

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO THINK ABOUT BIGGER THINGS IN THE WORLD THAN JUST RUNNING AROUND IN A CAR?: “You know one of the great things that I loved about NASCAR when I first got involved was as a young driver coming up, you want to do everything you can to fit into the sport, to represent sponsors well and you start looking around at other drivers and they’re an influence on you. Immediately, I was being introduced to children from the Make a Wish Foundation that were at the race track whether it was through Geoff Bodine or Kyle Petty or other drivers. I went to local children’s hospitals and met children. That was even back into the Nationwide Series, when I was in the Nationwide Series so I got introduced to giving back and doing all that I could whether it be meet or try to put a smile on a child’s face that might be suffering from an illness or a disease like this. By getting introduced to it early on, it’s become somewhat of a part of my routine and it’s something that’s obviously grown over the years by creating my own foundation. It’s something that I’m proud of and I try to put a lot of effort into. Obviously, my priority when it comes to my work is to put as much effort into driving the race car as I can and so over time I’ve learned how to structure my schedule to do what I feel like I need to do to be competitive in the race car as well as be able to be a good Dad and put as much time as I possibly can fit into the schedule into getting behind programs like the ‘Sounds of Pertussus,’ taking a trip to the Congo with CGI or a bowling tournament in Indianapolis. To me, it balances me out and I think it makes me a better race car driver by being able to incorporate children and the important causes that are out there that I’ve been able to get behind.”

WHAT IS YOUR LONG RANGE PLAN FOR YOUR CAREER OUTSIDE OF RACING?: “How much time do I have in here? This could be a long day. As a race car driver, I can tell you that most of what I’ve done throughout my life has been instinctive and taking advantage of opportunities when they came my way and tried to make good decisions with those opportunities. Racing has certainly provided a tremendous amount of opportunity that has been very rewarding and fulfilling in my life. That’s kind of where I’m at right now is that I know that I’m not at the beginning of my career, I’m certainly closer to the end. I’m not saying that I’m there yet, but I’m definitely closer to it. I’m starting to build what that model is going to look like when I’m no longer driving. Obviously, my foundation is very important to me and the work that I’m doing there. My primary focus is pediatric cancer research and that’s where my efforts are going to be driven most of the time. Again, an opportunity comes up like the CGI trip to the Congo and it opened my eyes up to things that are happening globally. We are also looking at some pediatric cancer research and treatment globally, which I am hoping to go to Rwanda with that in December. As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports, racing has always been a part of my life and I don’t see how when I’m no longer driving the car, that I’ll ever be able to step away from it completely because I just love it. I’m a fan of it. I’m a partner with Rick (Hendrick). I love the sport and all forms of motorsports, but particularly NASCAR. There’s no doubt that I want to continue to be a part of it in a big way and I can’t really answer that question today because my main focus is on driving, but I’ve been fortunate again through an opportunity with Rick Hendrick to be a bigger part of our organization than just a driver. We’re talking about what that will be in the future.”

HOW DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO THINK OF YOU WHEN YOU STOP DRIVING?: “I don’t believe in retirement to be honest with you. I don’t think there is such a thing as retirement. I think that racing -- it’s going to be hard to top what I’ve done in racing, but I will certainly try in other ways because when I get behind something, I try to do it 100 percent and I want to be successful at it. I want to make a difference. All I can say is that right now it’s hard for me to really do the things that I want to do with the children’s charities because I am so limited on time. When I have more time, I would love to do more and I think that I can make a bigger impact because right now I feel like we’re just scratching the surface with a lot of the things as it relates to children and whether it be something like Pertussus or even the pediatric cancer that I’ve talked about. I think that again, racing is always going to be a part of my life and so whatever I do within racing after driving, I want to certainly be as successful as I can at it and bring what I’ve learned and my experience of all these years as a driver, knowing what the behind the scenes are with Hendrick Motorsports that I’ve been able to experience and play a role in hopefully making Hendrick Motorsports continue to be successful. But I can’t guarantee that’s going to happen. I don’t know. We haven’t made all those decisions yet. Certainly I know that my work with my foundation is going to increase in a big way when I’m not driving. I know that for a fact.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOUR SEASON THUS FAR?: “I’m really excited to be back here in Michigan. It’s one of my favorite tracks and always has been one of my favorite tracks. Had an opportunity with Chevrolet yesterday to go down to the Woodward Cruise and that was awesome. Seeing all those old classic cars and just had a blast waving the green flag for that as well as seeing the future of cars and what Chevrolet has done over the last 100 years because we got to wave the green flag to about 50 Chevy Volts that went down Woodward, which I don’t know if they’ve ever had any electric cars going down Woodward so it was pretty cool to hear the silence and then hear the rumble of the old classics. This track means a lot to me. I know if means a lot to the manufacturers and I feel like we really did not get the most out of our team and our car the last time we were here and I feel like since then we’ve really picked up our program as a team. The cars -- how competitive they are and so I think this is hopefully the beginning of a fun weekend for us.”

HOW FAR CAN THE STRATEGY CHANGE WITH GREEN FLAG PIT STOPS ON OVAL TRACKS LIKE WE HAVE SEEN AT ROAD COURSES?: “You can take more risk these days certainly because of the lucky dogs, wave arounds and all those things, but I think it really comes down and I’m no crew chief and there’s a lot of reason why I’m not, but I think that most of the crew chiefs would tell you that it’s about the lap times. About how long it takes you to get down pit road, do a pit stop and come back out. It really, to me, I feel like it’s crucial not to lose a lap. I think that’s taking too much risk and on a road course, it’s pretty easy. It’s a minute, 12 seconds -- I think that’s what we were running last week or something like that during the race. It’s easy not to lose a lap. I think on road courses, that’s the philosophy is you want to pit just before the caution comes out, which killed us last week because we were coming the lap that the caution came and that right there lost us 15 spots. I think that there’s definitely tracks that you can push that envelope. Pocono is another one of those. Michigan here, you’re right on the edge. This is a fast race track. I think the lap time might just be a little bit too quick for you to be able to pull that off here. I’m not saying some guys aren’t going to try, but I think you’re just right there on that edge where maybe you could do two tires and get away with it in the closing laps. You could maybe do something like that.”

WHAT CHANGES CAN THEY MAKE TO WATKINS GLEN TO MAKE THE TRACK SAFER?: “I look at Watkins Glen and put them in the same category as I do with Richmond. We saw several incidents prior to my incident this year at Richmond where cars had hit that inside wall -- there wasn’t a SAFER Barrier there, the cars came back out into oncoming traffic and fairly severe hits. I think it just made them reevaluate it and sometimes that’s what happens. The experts look at it and there’s not enough data to tell them that there needs to be a SAFER Barrier there. I know it’s easy for us to say there should be one everywhere, but we’re not making those decisions. We don’t know what all goes on behind the scenes. The cost and whatever else it may be. I think that Watkins Glen needs to go through that same process. They need to be reevaluated. We’ve seen now more than one or more than two occasions where cars have gotten into that outside wall and while the wall did it’s job in absorbing the impact, to me the way it shot the car back out there is absolutely something that this day and age, we’re smart enough to know that we can’t have that. I really do hope that they reevaluate the angle of that wall and try to find a way or a new way to engineer it. I’m sure that David Ragan would second that and (David) Reutimann.”

HOW HAS THE PERCEPTION OF BRAD KESELOWSKI CHANGED AMONG SPRINT CUP VETERANS?: “He certainly has. I look at him just earlier this year and it seemed like he wasn’t even on the radar. I think Penske deserves a lot of credit and whether Brad (Keselowski) and Kurt (Busch) play a big role in that as drivers is important. You can only make your teams better when you’re getting good information. You have to give credit to the drivers, but they’ve definitely gone to work. They were way off the pace earlier in the year and they’ve turned the corner and have really become, to me, a factor in the championship for this year. I think Brad’s performance is also an indication of that. I think what makes the Pocono win and his performance even last week so impressive is because of what happened at Road Atlanta. I think I’ve always felt like Brad’s a really good race car driver. He’s proven that in the Nationwide Series. He’s had some success in the Cup Series and now you look at Brad and you go, ‘Okay, their performance is better.’ He’s a lot tougher than I thought he was. I think that he’s definitely got -- and that can build your confidence and momentum. Your confidence as a driver, your momentum as a team and they’ve got that right now. He told me prior to the race Monday, but he told me this I think on qualifying day. He said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it through this weekend, it’s really hurting.’ I don’t know if that extra day helped him or what, but he made it through and he was really strong. I think Penske has really got their act together. I don’t know what they found, but they definitely went down the right path and they’ve gotten it together. I think Brad is really being recognized now as a driver that we all thought he was when he came into the Cup Series because of his Nationwide performance and now he’s backing that up.”

WHY ARE THE DRIVERS NOT MORE PROACTIVE IN MAKING SURE THE TRACKS ARE SAFE ENOUGH?: “I’m with you Mike (Mulhern). I’m with you loud and clear. We’re doing what we can. To me, I’ve done all that I can as a driver inside my cockpit and we at Hendrick Motorsports building the seats that we build and we put a lot of effort into safety. I think that we could probably do a better job of coming together and sending that message to the race tracks and NASCAR and we all know the struggles that come along with that. We choose to leave it in the tracks and NASCAR’s hands and they’ve improved greatly. Don’t get me wrong. You look and there are SAFER Barriers everywhere we go now for the most part. It’s not as easy as you think. It’s something that we all try to learn from.”

DO YOU DRIVE DIFFERENTLY AT MICHIGAN AT AGE 40 THAN AT AGE 21?: “It’s only a week or two weeks. I didn’t drive any different at Pocono. See this is where I’m getting older, my memory is going. Certainly didn’t drive any different last week at Watkins Glen and I’m not going to drive any different this week. We’re having a great year and we have a great team. So far, 40 has been good. This whole year. I love working with Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and every week I go into those debriefs and come away thinking that we’re going to wear them out this weekend. Then you go through the paces of the weekend to do everything you can to have a fast race car. 40 right now is treating me really good with a great wife and two wonderful little kids and life is good on and off the race track.”