JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discusses breaking his winless streak at Texas, racing at Phoenix and other topics. THE WIN AT TEXAS? "It's all about quality, ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discusses breaking his winless streak at Texas, racing at Phoenix and other topics.
THE WIN AT TEXAS? "It's all about quality, not quantity."
YOU HAVE A HISTORY OF WINNING BACK-TO-BACK AFTER YOU BREAK A LONG WINLESS STREAK? "I think it's just an indication of what confidence can do. When you win a race, the whole team just gains confidence and momentum and takes that into the next race -- or the next several races.
"That was a huge win for us at Texas in so many ways. I was trying to explain to Steve and the whole team just how big that win was. It was a track we had never won at before; we had gone a long while without a win. With being where we were this season, with as strong as our team has been and leading in the points, it's just couldn't have been a bigger win for us."
HOW MANY POUNDS WAS THAT GORILLA YOU GOT OFF YOUR BACK IN TEXAS? "I'm still in disbelief that we won it, to tell you the truth. I really was starting to think that we would never win a race at Texas. It just seemed like when the opportunities came our way there, we had never been able to seize on the moment. The way the cars are driving this season is so much better; the pit stops are great; the communication ... everything is just working really, really well right now. I think the win at Texas proved just how good everything is working for us right now."
WHERE WOULD YOU GAUGE YOUR CONFIDENCE RIGHT NOW IN TERMS OF SOME OTHER SEASONS WHERE YOU'VE BEEN ON A SERIOUS ROLL? "To me, everything has changed since the Chase format has come along. I love it, but how you go about streaks and momentum and consistency is all so much different in how I approach it and look at it. And this team, the same way. It's important to win races, I think, to show yourself and everybody that you're capable of winning races. I think right now, that was huge for us. And then you add in the fact that we won at a track where we had never won before, that was huge, too.
"But what you're really trying to do is build momentum up to those final 10 races -- getting yourself into that top 12 with a team and a car that not only you know but your competition is looking at as one to beat. And then over those final 10 races, you've got to nail it at those tracks.
"And I think that's also what was so significant about winning at Texas. That's one of the tracks that's in the Chase."
DESPITE YOUR WIN AND YOUR FAST START, WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU WOULD NOT BE LEADING IF THE CHASE STARTED NOW? "That's the way I've been looking at it all the way up to Texas and even no through Texas. Prior to winning at Texas, we were 20 points behind. Now we're 10 points behind.
"It's great to be leading the points, great to have things going well for us. But you don't want to go into the Chase with somebody having the momentum and the edge. ... When you have a strong car and a strong team, you've also got to be able to play that game with the competition as well. You've got to make sure they know that your somebody they're going to have to deal with in the Chase."
HOW MUCH OF A SENSE OF RELIEF WAS IT TO WIN AND HAVE THE QUESTIONS END ABOUT YOUR WINLESS STREAK? "That was certainly a huge relief, to not to have to answer that question for at least another 40 races or so. Which, according to (Jon) Edwards, is not going to happen.
"The only way you can really focus on doing your job and doing it well is to not have questions like that lingering. So for this team, I think that was huge to get that out of the way and just focus on making our cars better, making our team better, doing everything we've got to do to try to win this championship."
ARE YOU MOTIVATED BY THE FACT THAT YOU'RE ONE WIN BEHIND CALE YARBOROUGH, TWO TO CATCH DW AND BOBBY ALLISON, AND 23 TO CATCH DAVID PEARSON? ARE YOU MOTIVATED BY THOSE NUMBERS, AND IS PEARSON STILL IN YOUR SIGHTS? "I think it would be different if that was done in the modern era. I think that's what changes that number completely. That's what's so impressive about what Cale and Darrell did -- because they did it in the modern era. So to me, it's certainly motivation, but that's just because we like to win. We go out there each and every weekend and try to win.
"Honestly, I didn't know how long we were going to be on 80 or 81, whatever it was. And I was content with that, I was comfortable with that. But the competitor inside me and this team knew that we had let opportunities to win races that slipped away, and that told us that we still had what it takes to win. That motivates me more than anything else.
"Those other numbers are cool stats. At the end of the day, at the end of my career, that's something I'm definitely going to look back on. When it's somebody like Darrell and Cale, that's huge. We'll just see what happens."
YOU MENTION PEARSON NOT BEING IN THE MODERN ERA, YET YOU HAVE DONE THIS IN THE MODERN ERA ... "I also don't think that number (105 career wins by Pearson) is attainable. I don't want to sound negative. I mean, anything is possible and we might go on an incredible streak here that I didn't see coming. Or anyone else.
"But where I'm at in my career and the way things have been working in my career, it's about winning the championship. We hope that we can win races along with way to do that. But that's the most important thing. It's not about who's out there that we can try to catch or pass. And I don't think those two numbers will ever be touched, to be honest with you."
HOW NICE IS IT TO COME TO A RACE TRACK AND NOT HAVE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT A STREAK? "I love it, I love it -- it's nice not to talk about that at all. One story creates another story so we're excited that we're talking about a win and the win at Texas and what this team is doing on the positive side this year. We've got a while to go before we find out how if we're going to be a championship contender, but this team is really building the momentum of what it takes to show that we can get it done this year so I'm really excited about that."
DO YOU TRY A FEW THINGS WHEN RACING AT TRACKS THAT ARE IN THE 'CHASE?' "Yes, but there really aren't a lot of advantages to leading the points at this point in the season other than it gives you a little bit more security and allows the team to try to do things that will get us prepared for those final 10 races, but still there's not guarantees. We've got to do our jobs and do them solid to make sure we're still in those top-12. We've got a great lead right now, but that doesn't guarantee anything. I do think that it was huge for us to go and win a race while we were leading in the points because I think that it's important with the way the points work now that you have to win races before you get in the 'Chase' and then you have to follow it up with wins in the 'Chase.'
ARE THINGS GETTING TOO AGGRESSIVE AT TALLADEGA? "Things have always been aggressive at Talladega. Go back to the last 15 years and show me a race that they haven't had a big crash there. There might be one or two. This car is really almost designed for Talladega in just the way that the bump drafting happens there, the aerodynamics of the car, the engine package is perfect for Talladega. We put on spectacular races, but when you run that tight together and in those types of packs, if you make a mistake or one little mistake happens then a big crash is going to come out of it. I think the one thing that I would like to see happen is that the bump drafting be addressed. We all hear about the warning and where the no-bump zone is, that it is all around the track, yet we sit there and just nail one another all day long. Nothing really seems to happen until some guy gets way out of shape or gets wrecked. It doesn't seem to me that they are really cracking down on that. I would like to see that, but even with that said, if all 43 cars are at the end of that race with one lap to go it's still going to be a may lay because now its time to go and you're going to take the risk of being aggressive, even if you don't want to."
WHAT TYPE OF MENTAL TOLL DOES TALLADEGA TAKE ON YOU AND HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO RECOVER? "It depends on how the guys around you are racing. If guys are patient and being calm then your race goes smooth. I like to try to get to the front as fast as I can to try to stay away from a lot of the jockeying and different things that are going on, but even then you're not completely out of harms way. You just have to know when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive. If you get shuffled back and you have to go all the way to the back then you have to work your way back. You see things happen every single lap of that race and you are absolutely amazed that there's not a crash. That is just mentally something that you have to prepare yourself for when you go to Talladega."
HOW DO YOU COME BACK TO WIN SO MANY RACES AFTER YOU BREAK A STREAK? "Just team confidence. You get the confidence and you carry that to the next race and possibly the next several races and then you get another win and it catapults you again. Winning can do so many things for a driver, for a team and I don't think there's been a race that's meant more to me than that win at Texas. It was huge for this team and I just give them so much credit because I told them that I've been trying for a long time as a driver to get that DuPont No. 24 to victory lane there and hadn't got it done. Those guys really made it happen with a good car and a great pit stop and we had the clean air out front and it just really felt amazing."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN JIMMIE JOHNSON SAYS HE HAS TO BE A PHYSICAL DRIVER TO DRIVE AT PHOENIX? "Maybe just aggressive getting into the corners and the braking. I've never felt that this was my best track, but we've been good here because I have been able to win here, but trying to get the right set-up and trying to run the right pace and get your entrance speed and all that down is very tricky here. This is a tough one-mile race track, especially with a big, heavy stock car. I think Jimmie (Johnson) is a great student of looking at telemetry, listening to not just me, but any of the teammates or any other driver out here and watching and learning to hone in his skills to adapt those things and you have to give him a lot of credit for that. It doesn't matter who helped him, it's how he adapted and how he utilized that information and made himself into a strong driver really anywhere you go."
WHY HAVE PIT STOPS BECOME SO VITAL TO WINNING A RACE? "I think the competition is so much stronger this year. I think everybody has found ways -- if you look at the gaps in practice and the times, they're closer than I've ever seen them for the first may 30 or 35 cars. That just means that more guys are running the same speed, that means its harder to pass, that means the track position is more important and it seems to me that right now track position is more important than it's ever been at the right time. We'll see guys come up through the field like we saw last week at Texas with us and it was all about getting our front with that last pit stop when you have 25 or 30 laps to go. It's going to be hard to beat anybody at any track we go to these days if somebody gets out front in those final laps."
DO THE NIGHT RACES AFFECT HOW YOU WILL BE WITH YOUR FAMILY TONIGHT? "We talked about it, but we got an opportunity where I can nap with Ella tomorrow when she takes her nap. She's feeling good and she's sleeping good -- we're in a hotel here because we're not in the bus. I'm going to go back to the hotel and be with them and I will have to get really well-rested tomorrow before I come out to the track."
WHY SHOULD FANS GO TO TALLADEGA IF THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN BEFORE? "There's several reasons and it's pretty simple. My friends, whether they are race fans or not race fans, they want to come to Talladega and I think it's because they hear me talk about it or they've seen it on TV and they know it's a spectacular event and all I can say is that you have to come experience it for yourself to really fully understand it.
"I don't know a single fan that hasn't been to Talladega that doesn't want to go back and when they do leave they are in awe of just how spectacular that race and that event it. I say they should have been where I was sitting."
WHAT WOULD THE REPROCUSIONS BE ON NASCAR IF THE BIG THRE AUTOMAKERS PULLED OUT? "It certainly wouldn't be a positive thing. We would certainly be disappointed. Chevrolet has been such a great supporter of ours for so many years and you can't see this sport happening without them. The sport has grown and the manufacturer involvement has changed over the years and I think it's turned more into marketing instead of what they take from the track and use in their street cars, but I still think it's equally important for them to be involved as long as they want to be involved and can be involved because we want them to be there and we'll support them as long as we possibly can. We ask everybody else to support them as well and see what happens."
-credit: gm racing