Jeff Gordon - Richmond II Friday media visit

Team Chevy press release

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed his 85th career win in Atlanta, the wild card aspect of the Chase format, kicking the Chase off in Chicago and much more.

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

Photo by: Ted Rossino

FRESH OFF A WIN AT ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY, YOUR 85TH CAREER NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES WIN THAT PUT YOU IN SOLE POSSESSION OF THIRD PLACE IN THE ALL-TIME RECORD BOOKS; YOU HAVE TWO WINS AT RIR; YOU HAVE THREE WINS THIS YEAR, WHICH MEANS THREE BONUS POINTS THAT CAN BE ADDED THERE. TALK ABOUT THE EMOTIONS OF THIS WEEK; WHAT A BENCHMARK WEEK “Yeah, it has been. It’s been a quick turnaround with the (Atlanta) race happening on Tuesday so it’s kind of been hard to reflect on how big that win truly was for me and this race team. Obviously at this point in the season, wins are huge and momentum is huge and then you look at winning number 85, so I’m trying to reflect on all those things. It’s happened very quickly because of how busy this week has been from Tuesday on. But we’re having a great year. This Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet team has been phenomenal this year and only getting better. Tuesday was a great indication of that and I look at Richmond and think about how strong we were the last time we were here. I feel like our cars are better and our team is better. Certainly our confidence is higher. So I’m pretty excited about this weekend as well.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CONTRAST OF GOING FROM FASHION WEEK TO A RACE TRACK? “Yesterday was a crazy day for me I must say. I left in the morning to go do two appearances one here in Richmond to kick off a food driver for Drive to End Hunger around Richmond and the Virginia are and their food bank and then I went to AARP headquarters in Washington DC and spent some time with the team there. They call them the pit crew, the folks that are working solely on the Driver to End Hunger program and then my lovely wife who loves fashion asked me a few weeks ago if I would make a trip up to New York, I told it was absolutely impossible to do and she said please and I can’t say no to her so I ended up going up there. I didn’t know I was going to meet the Bieb (Justin Bieber). I don’t know what is was like to be in close proximity to the Beatles back in the day but that was about the only thing I could think of because we showed up at the Dolce and Gabbana store and it was like a rock concert for teenage girls. It was unbelievable. It was quite an experience. Then we can back and here and ready to race. Yes it was quite a day and definitely …. I mean this week, you look at the win on Tuesday, the White House on Wednesday, the food driver and fashion week and now I’m back at the race track. So yeah, my head is still spinning.”

YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE WILD CARD BUT LOOKING AT IT FROM THE OUTSIDE, HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT ELEMENT AND WHAT IT’S BROUGHT TO THE SPORT THIS YEAR? “Well the wildcard is fantastic. I don’t see any negatives to it so far this year. I think it’s been awesome. I feel sorry for Jamie McMurray a little bit and last year what it would have meant for him in getting into the Chase but you look at Keselowski this year and the way that team struggled at the beginning but have come on very strong and they have a chance of earning their way in there on points let alone the wild car but I believe that team belongs in the Chase and they’ve secured that through the wild card. It’s an exciting aspect and story to see how that wild card has played a role. I like it because I think it’s really about the top-10 and I think that keeping it top-10 and then two wild cards, I like that. That’s very cool. I’ve always loved the Chase format I wish it would have come along about two or three years later (laughing) because the old points system was treating us pretty good back then. The format, the excitement of it, having a championship go down to the final race of the year and having that playoff type system I think is important for our sport and for our fans.”

SUNDY IS THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11, WHERE WERE YOU 10 YEARS AGO ON THAT DAY AND WHAT IS YOUR MOST VIVID MEMORY OF THAT DAY? “I had to have a marshal on my plane to fly into DC yesterday because I flew into Reagan (International Airport) and the only way you can fly into Reagan with a private aircraft is to have a marshal. The Pentagon is right there when you fly into Reagan and being in DC on Wednesday as well just a lot of reflection and memories of what went on that day. I was living in Florida at the time and I just remember turning on the TV that morning and seeing one of the twin towers up in smoke and how they were saying that a plane had crashed into it and trying to understand how that could have happened. Like many of you to watch that second plane come in there and at that moment your thought process goes into overdrive of oh my God what is going on there and then the speculation. The news station that I was watching is there a problem with the air traffic controllers or the airplane’s radar system is off or flight control is off then terrorism kind of kicked in there and then the other planes and stuff. It was a frightening experience. One I will never forget. I don’t think anybody ever will and here we are 10 years later and I think this country has gone through a lot and goes through a lot every 9/11. I think it’s important for us to reflect on those that were lost, pay them tribute but also honor our military for what they have to go through and our police officers and firemen as well, what they have to go through to keep us protected and put their lives on the line.”

CAN YOU COMPARE THE DIFFERENCE IN HOW YOU FEEL MOMENTUM WISE ABOUT THE WAY YOUR TEAM IS RUNNING THIS YEAR GOING INTO THE CHASE COMPARED TO WHERE YOU WERE A YEAR AGO? “I haven’t felt like this in a long time to be honest. Even in ’07 when we battled for the championship with Jimmie and we were close going into the Chase I didn’t feel this confident and felt like we had this kind of momentum. We got into the Chase and actually won a couple of races and took the lead and thought we were looking pretty good and old five-time put it on us. I love the position that we are in as a team. Kyle (Busch) has won four (races) but I don’t feel like in the last 10 races that anybody has shown more strength than we have and certainly the last couple with leading the most laps at Bristol, leading the most laps last week in Atlanta and getting the victory this team is definitely full of confidence and has momentum on our side but we’re also very real in knowing how tough things are going to be in the Chase. We’ve got to step up our game and we know there are a few tracks we have to improve at and if we can do that we have a great shot at this thing this year.”

LOOKING AT THE CHASE FIELD IF YOU GO WITH THE GUYS THAT ARE PRETTY MUCH LOOKING LIKE THEY ARE GOING TO BE IN, DALE EARNHARDT JR. WOULD BE THE ONLY DRIVER FROM A TYPICAL SOUTHER STATE, IF YOU LOOK AT THE CHAMPIONS GOING BACK TO 1999 DALE JARRETT WOULD BE THE FIRST ONE FROM A TYPICAL SOUTHERN STATE, HAS THE FEEDER SYSTEM CHANGED? “It’s that now the pool of drivers are around the country and shoot look at Juan Pablo Montoya from around the world. Tim Richmond might be the first one if you go back to the mid-80’s somebody outside of the South that looked at NASCAR as a series that relied on talented drivers that is competitive, organized and fun. I think for me all I can say that growing up in California I didn’t follow a lot of NASCAR. I was really more into open-wheel racing, Sprint cars and midgets and watching the Indianapolis 500, I was not a road racer, I was an oval racer in open-wheel cars. It didn’t take me long to realize that there’s no open-wheel series for sprint car midget drivers if you want to move to the next level. It’s great if you want to stay in sprint cars and I would have been happy doing that. I don’t know if I would have had quite the success I’ve had if I did that but I would have been happy doing it because I love the sprint cars. Until I try to pursue Indy Cars and tried to get into the Indy 500 I didn’t even realize what NASCAR was all about. I knew the Daytona 500, I knew Richard Petty, I knew Dale Earnhardt and I knew those names. There used to be a stigma around stock car racing especially if were an open-wheeler, those are taxi cabs those aren’t race cars. Until I drove one and I sat in it and I said wait a minute I always heard of what a stock car was but I never experienced what one was, I said this is a race car. It’s got a lot of power, tube chassis, there’s nothing stock about the car I sat in the first time and that changed my mind. I loved the race tracks. I went to Rockingham, high-banked, fast race track and said I love this place; I love this type of racing. This is what I was born to do and I think that over time that is what started happening. More racers realized that NASCAR was not just taxi cabs and stock cars; they had progressed and grown past that. Also the car owners in this series, I give them a lot of credit, they really look for talent. They don’t say hey you bring money and you can get into this car and unfortunately that started to happen a lot in so many other series and I hope that it doesn’t ever happen in NASCAR. I know sponsors are important but I think if you have a talented driver race car driver that’s marketable you’re going to be able to get sponsorship.”

AT THIS POINT REALISTICALLY SPEAKING BRAD KESELOWSKI IS THE ONLY DRIVER THAT COULD KNOCK YOUR TEAMMATE OUT OF THE CHASE, SHORT OF DUMPING HIM IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU GUYS AS HENDRICK TEAMMATES CAN DO TO TRY TO HELP HIM GET INTO THE CHASE? “Number one I know Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), he doesn’t want to be given a gift. That’s not his way of making it into the Chase. I think if you look at how we can help him, yeah we can help him by giving him as much information as we possibly can like we always do in our debriefs and communication. It’s always nice when one of us or a couple of us hit on some things that make the cars go faster, it helps everybody have a little more confidence in their setup for the race. In the race we’re certainly going to be mindful of what’s going on. It’s very important for us at Hendrick Motorsports to get him in the Chase not just because he’s Junior but because we want to get as many of our teams into that Chase as possible. It means a lot to us so we would like to accomplish that and Junior’s had a heck of a year and it’s been a little rough the last several weeks but I feel like he belongs in there. So other than blocking and stuff like that if he’s faster, then you might give up the position a little easier than you would before. There’s certain things that you can do that are small things to help but the thing is that they have to run good and run better than the guy they are battling. It’s really a battle between them and the other guys that they are racing to try to get in the Chase.”

EVEN THOUGH YOU RACE UNDER THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM THIS ENTIRE SEASON HAVE YOU HAD TO LOOK AT HOW IT MIGHT PLAY OUT COME CHASE TIME? “Just call me simple or something but I’ll be honest, I haven’t. To me I try to get the best finish I can. I know that it pays the most points to win. If you can lead the most laps, it pays bonus point for that. I have not changed anything that I have done so far and until we get through maybe one or two Chase formats with the new points system I don’t see how – I’m not going to be able to change anything its whether or not Alan (Gustafson) and how he calls the races and how that might change things. It’s easier because you’ve got one point between the positions but the positions still mean the same as they did before in my opinion.”

AT ANY POINT IN THOSE CLOSING LAPS ON TUESDAY WERE YOU AWARE OR THINKING ABOUT THE SWING IN BONUS POINTS AND HOW THAT WOULD PLAY IF JIMMIE HAD BEAT YOU? “No, I mean I was way too focused on just wanting to win the race. At that point you’re not thinking about 85, you’re not thinking about money, bonus points, you’re thinking about seeing the checkered flag and you coming across it first. That’s all that I was thinking about.”

HARVICK WAS IN HERE EARLIER TALKING ABOUT HOW HE WAS SCALING BACK KHI TO PUT MORE FOCUS JUST ON THE CUP CAR, AS SOMEBODY WHO HAS SCALED BACK ALMOST ALL OUTSIDE RACING INTEREST A WHILE BACK HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP WHEN THE CUP CAR IS ALL YOU’VE GOT TO WORRY ABOUT? “I guess my distractions have come in different ways over the years. I’ve built up my business but not necessarily a team business; it’s been licensing, merchandising, outside investments in real estate and different things like that. I’ve built some houses along the way, sold some houses. I think all of us need projects and things to get involved with but I learned a long time ago that being a car owner in racing is a hobby. It’s not a business. At the cup level there’s a few that have been very fortunate to have made a living out of it but it’s still very, very tough so I’ve always known that’s not something that I want to get involved with. I’m partners with Rick (Hendrick) but he has the car business, the automotive side of it to fall back on so I think that’s important. The guys that are the racers, they go and race three times a weekend, I applaud them. I think that’s very cool that they take the time and put that kind of effort in and I love to watch it. It’s just not me. It’s something that I really never had any interest in doing and when I did do it I said why are they doing this because it didn’t make any sense to me to run back and forth from the garage area and it was very much of a distraction. So the guys that do it and do it successfully I really give them a lot of credit for it but it just doesn’t work for me. Everybody is different and it’s a routine. Whatever routine you get into that works for you then great. That’s different, driving the cars on the weekend then owning and driving them. That’s a lot of stress. The Truck Series is a tough business especially when you do it to the level of what KHI was doing. They’re building top-notch quality trucks and it costs a lot to do that and it’s tough to recoup that investment.”

EARLIER YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE MOMENTUM YOU AND YOUR TEAM HAVE, I HAVE TO THINK LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT WEEK GOING TO CHICAGO THERE MAY NOT BE A BETTER TRACK OUT THERE TO START THE CHASE SINCE YOU’VE GOT A WIN THERE, TALK ABOUT OPENING UP THE CHASE IN CHICAGO. “I’m excited about the change this year. We’ve been doing New Hampshire for a long time and it’s a great way to start the Chase but I’m really looking forward to switching it up. I think the format for the media and how the drivers are doing it, they are spread out all around the country going to different places to promote the Chase then we end up in Chicago do some more there and then start it off at that track. It’s a great track. It reminds me a lot of Kansas and we ran really strong at Kansas so I’m excited probably more about that of our chances in Chicago and getting it started off hopefully on a positive note. We ran good at New Hampshire too so I look forward to going there as well.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags chevrolet, gordon, richmond, sprint cup