Phoenix II: Jeff Gordon - Friday media visit

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with media and discussed his altercation with Jeff Burton at Texas race last weekend, the CMA Awards, the 24/48 pit crew swap, and more. HOW WAS YOUR WEEK? "Good. I had a lot of fun at the Country Music...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with media and discussed his altercation with Jeff Burton at Texas race last weekend, the CMA Awards, the 24/48 pit crew swap, and more.

HOW WAS YOUR WEEK? "Good. I had a lot of fun at the Country Music Awards so that certainly took a lot of my mind off what went on in Texas and Ingrid and I had a great time there. We're here and ready to race."

WERE PEOPLE AT THE CMA'S AWARE OF WHAT HAPPENED IN TEXAS? DID ANYBODY TALK ABOUT IT? "Yeah, certainly there are plenty of people at the Country Music Awards that follow NASCAR, so absolutely. We had a little bit of fun with Brad Paisley on the show. You've got to be prepared for that and what comes along with it."

HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO JEFF BURTON? CAN YOU TELL US HOW THAT WENT? "I did. It went good. I'm never going to agree with what went on at Texas. And we had a good conversation and like I said on Sunday, I have a lot of respect for Jeff and always have and I may have lost some for him but I still really respect him for what he brings to the sport and what kind of race car driver he is. And I feel like we were able to laugh about it and now we can just start focusing on Phoenix and move on."

ON THE NO. 24/NO. 48 PIT CREW SWAP, IF YOUR CREW IS BETTER, HOW DO YOU WIN WITH ESSENTIALLY INFERIOR PIT CREW THAN WHAT YOU HAD? "Well I hardly would say that's the case. Those guys have been good enough to win six races with them this year. So, I think they had a rough day at a crucial time in the championship. And I think that what this shows is that all of us at Hendrick Motorsports do everything we can every day to try to win championships, even when we're not in it we're doing what we can to try to help. And that's what this is all about. I think (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) has worked really hard with our pit crew this year to get them to be as good and as consistent as they are. I'm excited for them.

"To go over there and have a shot at helping those guys win a championship, but I'm also looking forward to kind of helping the No. 48 crew rebound because I think that it's been a really tough week for them and I think they're also a good pit crew and they just had a rough day."

SO YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE THAT CAN HOLD YOU BACK FOR THE LAST TWO RACES? "I would love to have my guys because we've been together all year long and I think they've been doing a great job but I don't feel like if our car is capable of winning here this weekend that the pit crew is going to prevent that from happening."

ARE YOU SURPRISED ABOUT ALL THE EXPOSURE THE FIGHT WITH BURTON RECEIVED THIS WEEK? "It doesn't surprise me, no. I know what kind of reaction I got when that happened with me and Kenseth and with the way the economy is and some of the ratings and how things are now, Sunday was a big day for NASCAR. There were a lot of exciting things that went on. Sometimes those types of situations get as much or more attention than what's happening with the championship. It didn't surprise me (but) I wasn't thinking about that when it all happened. I was just mad."

HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THE SPORT NEEDED SOMETHING LIKE THAT TO HAPPEN? "I think what the fans want is they want to see the passion. They want to see how much it means to us out there. And when something like that happens and you show that, I think they get fired up about it. Yeah, they want to see some controversy in a scuffle like that. But they want to really try to sense what it's like to go through a situation like that. And when you show your emotions in that way, which from time to time I think are very good, you get those types of reactions and it draws a lot of attention and I don't think that's a bad thing."

HOW MUCH OF WHAT WE SAW LAST WEEK WAS A REFLECTION OF YOUR SEASON AND YOUR FRUSTRATION? "That was a reflection of stupidity is what that was (laughs). I don't care what type of season we are having or not having, if you get wrecked under caution, you're going to be really, really mad. And I would expect that out of anybody. I think what happened that kind of led to that situation was frustration with the way that the season has been going for a couple of guys that are very competitive with great teams and not going to victory lane. I think that's kind of what led to that situation but that's not the reaction that came from it. I would expect myself, or anybody else, to be pretty mad on a situation like that. That was, to me, preventable."

STUPIDITY ON HIS PART OR ON YOUR REACTION? WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT? "Oh, no; I thought it was stupid what he did. I think that you can't get in behind a guy; and get caught up in it yourself. That's the part that I'll never understand. Jeff and I talked and we don't have any problem but I will never understand how I got wrecked under caution and you got caught up in it at the same time. I mean if you're going to wreck somebody, it's easy to do and usually pretty easy to stay out of it yourself. And that's the part that he and I kind of joked and laughed about. He said he still couldn't figure out what happened. And that's the part we'll never agree on (laughs)."

"We pretty much know we weren't going to get back out (after the crash with Burton) and I'd already seen where the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) had some issues on pit road but I didn't know what it was. Sometimes you get blocked in and you never know what it could be. You know there's a lot on the line. It's intense. I don't think either one of us were running as good as we wanted to run and then you have problems on pit road and it just elevates the frustration. Our guys have been solid this year. I guess maybe it surprised me a little bit because it was a bold move. But I think that's also one of the things that makes (Johnson's crew chief) Chad (Knaus) the crew chief that he is. He's not afraid to make those kinds of calls. He takes risks and a lot of time those risks have paid off for him."

HOW DO YOU EXPECT THAT CREW TO REACT? DO YOU THINK THEY'LL BE A BUNCH OF ANGRY GUYS WHEN THEY GET HERE ON SUNDAY? "I think they are a group of guys who were probably a little bit embarrassed by what happened and they've got a lot to prove. I think they are taking a lot of criticism that is being confused by the situation. When you're in a championship, you do whatever it takes to try to win that championship. And I think that's why that call was made. It's not that those guys are a bad pit crew. They're a great pit crew. They've won six races this year together. So you know that they're capable. So it is what it is and we're going to be a team player and we're going to go out and do our best to continue to help those guys win a championship and we're going to do our best to try to go out there and win races in these last two. We're not done with that. And we don't feel like this swap is preventing us from doing that."

HAS NASCAR'S HAVE AT IT BOYS THING LOOSENED THE REIGNS A LITTLE AND MADE YOU FEEL MORE FREE TO EXPRESS YOURSELF? WOULD YOU HAVE REACTED THE SAME WAY A YEAR AGO TO THE SAME INCIDENT? "I would have reacted the exact same way but I would have expected a fine. That's the only difference. Even on Tuesday I wasn't sure if something like that was going to happen. I think that's the only difference. When you know you're going to get fined and to be honest, I held back. I wanted to do a lot worse than that. And at that moment when you're that upset, you really don't care what happens on Monday or Tuesday. But I had a long enough to walk to think okay, there are consequences here that I need to consider and what can I get away with and still show him how upset I am? That's why I reacted the way that I did. I didn't think that would get points taken away from me, and it didn't. But I thought there could be a monetary fine and there wasn't. So that's the only difference that I see now in the have at it. I don't think we're really doing anything a whole lot different, but they're setting the tone as okay, you guys handle these things yourselves and if you can't handle it then we'll step in. And I think NASCAR realized we kind of handled it ourselves. We had a problem. I think had I not been able to confront Jeff the way that I did, and Jeff and I talked about it on Tuesday, then maybe something would have been done. But I think with everything that happened I think they felt like it was a done deal."

KYLE BUSCH GESTURED AT A NASCAR OFFICIAL THIS WEEK AND WAS FINED. WHY ISN'T HE FREE TO DO WHAT HE DID UNDER THE WHOLE HAVE AT IT THING? "Well, it comes under the Constitution and freedom of speech (smirks). I think that there are lines that are drawn and I think that when exactly what they said, unsportsmanlike conduct. That, to me, is showing your emotions in a way that; I think that what I did was not crossing that line. I didn't punch him; we shoved. We shouted and we got our frustrations out. But we didn't cross over the line, either one of us, in my opinion. And I think Kyle's gestures as well as I think some of the words that he said, I think that's probably when led to the fine coming to him."

YOU SAID YOU WANTED TO DO WORSE, HAVE YOU EVER DONE WORSE DURING A RACE OR AFTER A RACE IN NASCAR OR ANY OTHER SERIES? "Yes (smiles)."

LIKE YOU'VE THROWN DOWN PUNCHES AND STUFF LIKE THAT? "I have (smiling again)."

HOW'D THAT WORK OUT FOR YOU? "It felt good; to me anyway (laughter). That's not really my nature, but I do get made you know? And it takes a lot. I've raced for years and I've been upset and had nice conversation with people afterwards to try to settle it. But I think there are some times when to me you look at it and you go that was just so uncalled for, so ridiculous; and if I did that, I'd expect that same thing back to me. And I've done it. I think what happens is if you have time to calm down, then you re-think it. But when you're able to face it right away, then those emotions and that fire inside you is still there. And so, I was glad I had as long a walk as I had to the ambulance before I got to Jeff. It really takes a day or two for me to kind of really calm down after a situation like that. So if I'm confronted with that person within that time frame, then I'm probably going to react."

GOING INTO HOMESTEAD AND KNOWING WHAT'S AT STAKE, DO YOU RACE THE CONTENDERS ANY DIFFERENTLY? "You have to kind of take that into account. You don't want to be the guy that costs somebody the championship because you did something dumb racing for 10th place. But I think those guys also have to recognize that you're trying to win the race. So if it's for the win, then I think that they have to race us down. Unless they have to win the race to win the championship and that risk is worth it, then they've got to do what they've got to do. But for me, if we're going for a win, I don't care who it is. I'm going to race them hard just like I would any other time to try to win the race. But if it's any other position, I'm probably going to give them a little bit of extra room, knowing that there is a championship on the line."

THE POINTS RACE IS SO TIGHT. IS THERE ANY REASON FOR THAT THIS YEAR? WHY IS THIS THE TIGHTEST POINTS CHASE EVER? "Well, I just think you have three really good teams. I think those three teams all year long have really been the teams to beat. Kevin (Harvick) has been leading the points pretty much all year long and that team has really stepped up. I felt like Denny (Hamlin) at the end of last year was really the strongest team. And you've got Jimmie (Johnson) and the No. 48 who for the last four years have been the team to beat. The No. 48 jut knows how to step it up when that Chase comes around and they have again. But I think the No. 11 knew that they had something for them, and they've shown that they have; and the No. 29 is a great driver and that's a great team and they know how to pick and choose their battles. When they weren't running great, they got the most out of it. At tracks they could win at or get that second place, they've gotten it. That's why they're in it."

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GO FAST HERE AT PHOENIX? "Well, the sun here can really be brutal and heat up the track temperature. So dealing with that sun can be pretty challenging, not only track temperature-wise, but also in your eyes going down that front straightaway. And then just the ends of the track are different. In Turns 1 and 2 that seems like it has a little more banking and a little bit tighter radius through the entry to the middle; and then you've got the dogleg down the back straightaway that leads into a pretty flat sweeping corner through Turns 3 and 4. So it's really hard to get both ends of the race track tied together."

ALL WEEK WE'VE HEARD HOW THE NO. 24 AND NO. 48 SHOP ARE JUST ONE SHOP AND EVERYBODY CELEBRATES WHEN ONE OF THE TWO WINS THE TITLE. EXPLAIN THAT FOR US "Well, I wouldn't take it too far. I wouldn't say everybody celebrates. You've got to understand if you're walking through that shop, you've got guys that are building cars for both of us. You've got guys who are helping to set up for both. So there is that one team philosophy that takes those cars to the race track. Once they get to the race track, when something goes wrong for the other, you see we jump right in there to help. And especially when we're out of the championship and we definitely want to make sure that the championship get's back to Hendrick Motorsports. But when we're in the heat of the battle for a race win, we're also fierce competitors. So it's tough for people to understand how that works and sometimes it's tough for us to manage that. But what helps us so much is that when that shop was built, Hendrick Motorsports, when I got there, it was basically three separate teams at one facility. And we had to learn how to share that information over time. But when we built that shop to but the No. 24 car and the No. 48 under one roof, that's when it all changed. That's why we did the same with the No. 5 ca and the No. 88. When everyone is building those car side-by-side, they're all working together in one shop and those cars are loaded into a truck in the same building and off to the race track, it really is one group making that effort happen."

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT HOMESTEAD? "Homestead is a fun, fast race track. I like it a lot. But I've never won there. So I don't know exactly what it takes. I know that the big sweeping corners every year with the summers that you have down there in South Florida, that track loses a lot of grip and the groove seems to widen out and move up to the top of the race track. It creates very challenging situations very fast but yet the grip's not fantastic and it goes away pretty fast from the new tires. So, getting the balance right at that track is very challenging."

THE SEASON IS ENDING. ARE YOU HAPPY OR SAD? "I'm always happy when the season is ending (laughs). Whether you're in the championship or not, it's a long season as everyone knows. I think, especially right now because my son was born in August and they (family) haven't been able to travel to the races. We'll have them in Homestead so it's going to be cool to have everybody there. But I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time and the weekends! My daughter has a lot of things going on during the weekends that she does when they don't come to the race track and I look forward to spending that time with them."

WHEN YOU SIT DOWN AT THE THANKSGIVING TABLE, WHAT THINGS ARE GOING TO CROSS YOUR MIND AS THINGS YOU ARE REALLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS LAST YEAR? "Well, obviously the birth of my son, Leo; and family to me is the most important thing. But we have so many guys that work so hard to put these race cars out there every weekend and I love the fact that here I am 18 years later still out here racing competitively and enjoying it. Racing has been my life ever since I was five or six years old. So I'm always grateful for that. My family is also what got me into racing and so I'm even more thankful and appreciative to them."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports