JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed crew chief Steve Letarte, the importance of a spotter, six weeks leading up to the Chase, fines & penalties on drivers, and more. HOW WAS PRACTICE? A couple race runs to get us...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed crew chief Steve Letarte, the importance of a spotter, six weeks leading up to the Chase, fines & penalties on drivers, and more.
HOW WAS PRACTICE? A couple race runs to get us some information for tomorrow and direction, you know, for tomorrow; then we get a couple qualifying runs. We had one good one and one not so good one. We'll take that information from there as well and see if we can make something out of it.
I don't know what we drew for qualifying today. But conditions are pretty good.
(QUESTION REGARDING STEVE LETARTE.) I'm excited. We've been talking about it for a while, you know, that everything is good there. I'm happy with Steve. We love having him at Hendrick Motorsports. It's always nice to confirm that so it can put it to rest with everybody else.
DID YOU SAY ANYTHING TO RICK, LIKE, LET'S GET THIS DONE? It was just a process, you know. It was never an issue, you know. It was just the timing of it. It takes time to put these things together.
But I didn't have to say anything.
TALK ABOUT JEFF DICKERSON BEING YOUR SPOTTER. WHAT CAN THAT DO HAVING A DIFFERENT GUY? We're always constantly looking for ways to improve chemistry within the team. I'm hoping that's what he can bring. He's got a lot of experience spotting. Word has it he's one of the best spotters out there. When a guy like that becomes available, then you got to take a serious look at it. We did. We ended up making a change.
WHAT IS IT YOU LIKE OUT OF A SPOTTER THAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU? Like I said, chemistry's important. Somebody, when you start to think it, they give you that information. It could be a line that somebody's running out there on the track.
You know, only time will really tell. All we have to go on now is radio transcripts and listening to the audio of what he's done in the past.
You want something different at Daytona and Talladega. You want a lot of information. Where when you come to a place like this, it's not giving too much information, it's just giving good information.
We're certainly hoping that that will be something that will pay off for us. As well as research is now so important with the double-file restarts. You have to be accurate, you have to be on top of it; you have to anticipate. Being a spotter is not an easy job.
SEEMS LIKE MAYBE YOU WANTED MORE INFORMATION IN THE PAST. MAYBE YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION? You know, yeah. I mean, you want somebody that's watching what's going on right around you, but also taking a look out to see what else is going on. If there's a guy that's fast on the track, he's making a different line work, you don't want to have to ask for that information. It should be something that they're recognizing or telling. Or if you do ask, they've been watching and they tell it to you right away.
WHEN YOU RUN INDY AND COME TO POCONO, ANYTHING YOU DO DIFFERENT TO GET READY FOR THIS RACE? I would say that more than likely guys that you saw good at Indy will probably be good here. Doesn't always transfer over, but it certainly can.
So we don't want to do a whole lot of what we did in Indy because we weren't very good there (laughter). I didn't think we were fantastic so far today either.
We're going to try to get qualified good and then go to work on tomorrow.
You know, right now we want to win for those bonus points. A track like Pocono didn't do a whole lot for us for the championship in any other way because this way - same with Indy - there's no characteristics that you can really gain from those tracks that are going to help you at the mile-and-a-half's and the short tracks, you know, and Talladega for the Chase.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT OVER THE NEXT SIX WEEKS TO BUILD SOME MOMENTUM? That's where it becomes important to run well here and these next several tracks. Like you said, it is more important for us to build momentum. It's been nice we've shown we can be consistent, we've shown we can lead laps. But we have to show that we can win as well. I think it's important to show it before the Chase as well as you do it in the Chase.
Plus we don't want to go into the Chase, you know, say second in points at Richmond and then go to New Hampshire and we're eighth or ninth in points. You just don't want to give up 40, 50, 60 points to guys like the 48 or the 11 and the 29 and these guys.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU CAN SAY AND WHAT YOU CAN SAY WITHOUT GETTING FINED? I mean, I feel like I've always had a pretty good understanding, you know, about where things stand, yes.
OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE A WAY OF SAYING WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY IN THE RIGHT WAY, NOT TELLING THE TRUTH.
I don't tell the truth (laughter)?
NO, YOU DO TELL THE TRUTH I thought we had a better relationship than that (laughter).
There are always ways about going about saying things in more respectful ways. You got to understand, the integrity of this sport is important. I think that we're all here trying to make this sport the best that it can be. And while we might have opinions on what that is or isn't or what's happening that we like or don't like, you know, there's a certain time and place to go about how you express that opinion.
You know, I think it's pretty clear to me that if you do that in a way that is not to the proper channels, that there's a penalty that can come your way. And I agree with that. I do. I don't think there's a reason for us, and I'm guilty of it in the past as well, of venting, because that's usually what it is, venting through frustration to the media to try to get our point across when we don't feel like we're maybe being heard completely or don't agree with some things, when you can go up in that trailer and talk to them about it. These days especially I think it goes a lot further by going up there and talking to them.
KYLE BUSCH SAID EARLIER HE DIDN'T THINK A SPOTTER CHANGE IS GOING TO MAKE YOU WIN RACES. IS THIS SOMETHING YOU'RE LOOKING FOR LONG-TERM WITH JEFF OR IS THIS SOMETHING WHERE YOU SAW THE SUCCESS THAT HE HAD, ONE OF THE BEST APPARENTLY? HOW IS HIS ADDITION GOING TO HELP YOU WIN RACES? I wouldn't say that Jeff is why Kyle wins races, but it's a piece of it. No different with our team. We're not expecting any magical thing to happen by changing a spotter; we're just constantly trying to make our team better. It doesn't matter if it's something that I do working with the team or going to the gym, you know, or our engineers are constantly working on the seven-post or the computer.
It's the same thing: you're always constantly trying to find a way to make the team better. The team is made up of a lot of different people. You know, I've never seen one person just all of a sudden turn everything around.
We don't need a big turnaround. We're good. We're solid. But we're just trying to find little pieces here and there to get ourselves in a little bit better shape to win races as well as win this championship.
WHAT WAS THAT SPOT THAT YOU LOOKED AT, THAT POSITION ON THE TEAM? As I mentioned earlier, it's about chemistry. Shannon has done a great job for us, but there's been moments in time when I felt like the chemistry, the information that I was looking for versus what he was giving wasn't always in sync. I think we agreed on that.
The other thing was somebody came available that is known to be really strong in the garage area. So it's no different than if a tire changer came available that's supposed to be one of the best out there, you're going to consider looking at that. If there's an engineer that becomes available, you're going to consider looking for that. I'm fortunate we're not looking for a driver right now (laughter). But if they were, then that would be the case.
It's just what you do as a team.
HAVE YOU TALKED TO KYLE BUSCH AT ALL? No, I didn't think it was necessary.
What we're going to do is we're going to let Jeff do his thing the way he does it that's worked well for him and then we're going to sit down and talk about it before the race on Sunday, go through the next couple of days of practice, then we're going to discuss things that maybe I would like more of or less of. Then we'll get through Sunday's race, see how it goes, then we'll continue to analyze it from there.
IS THERE A GREATER SENSE OF URGENCY FOR YOU? SO MUCH MOMENTUM GOING INTO INDIANAPOLIS. YOU YOURSELF SEEMED A LITTLE EXTRA ENTHUSIASTIC GOING INTO IT. YOU HAD THE BAD RUN. YOU MENTIONED THE CHASE IS CREEPING UP. DO YOU FEEL THAT SENSE OF URGENCY RIGHT NOW? I wouldn't say 'sense of urgency'. We're not going to let one race get us down. We're still second in points. I was reading the paper the other day that had a bunch of stats. We're in the top two or three of about every important stat out there.
Those are all very positive things. The only thing that's really alluding us right now is a win or two.
The urgency is always there to try to win every race. I mean, every race you go into, that's our plan, that's our objective. Just because it doesn't happen doesn't mean that we create urgency we have to do it. We just go to the next race and go through the same steps to try to win.
You know, I'm going to be disappointed if we don't win a race before the Chase. But I still think we've got an excellent shot at winning the championship even if we don't win a race.
HAS IT BEEN FRUSTRATING KNOWING YOU'VE BEEN THIS GOOD BUT HAVEN'T BEEN TO VICTORY LANE? At times. Only the races like Vegas and Texas and Phoenix where I felt like we had a legitimate shot at winning those races, and didn't pull it off, those were frustrating.
But, you know, I feel like we're a team that's making the most of every weekend. Even last weekend. I mean, last weekend, we had a big problem, and we still came home 23rd. To me, that was impressive, what we were able to do.
I think as a team, we're really strong and solid. That's what it takes to win a championship. But it is a little frustrating that we haven't won a race. We certainly would like to be in Victory Lane right now.
CAN YOU WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT WINNING A RACE? Absolutely. Finish second every weekend and you can win the championship. I mean, I think it can be done. It hasn't yet. But, I mean, I believe you're going to need to win a race to win the championship. I believe that. And I think we're capable of that.
But I can promise you, we're going to do everything we can to get the best finish we can every weekend and see where we end up.
(QUESTION REGARDING THE TRACK BEING TREACHEROUS.) I'm confused by the question. There are no chicanes. In the Nationwide car?
LAST TIME YOU WERE AT THE TEST, HOW MUCH HAS IT CHANGED SAFETY-WISE? I love what they've done with the pavement. I think you're going to see a race that is more entertaining because we don't have to sit there and pull cars out of the sand traps.
But I was there the weekend when Tommy Kendall was injured. We were there in the Busch Series. Going back and looking at it, thinking about it now, how fast we used to go down that back straightaway, break into the carrousel was unbelievable, screaming.
CAN YOU IMAGINE DOING THAT WITH RADIAL TIRES? No. I can't imagine doing that in the Cup car, no. While I like the track better that way, it wasn't as safe. I mean, I'm not a big fan of the inner loop there. It is more fun to race on the other way, but it certainly wasn't as safe as it needed to be. That weekend showed it with Tommy's wreck.
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT NEXT WEEK? WE HAD A WILD RACE AT INFINEON A COUPLE MONTHS AGO. EXPECT ANOTHER ONE? You know, I think the road courses are always intense and challenging in its own way. 'Wild'? I don't know if it will be as wild as Sonoma. In Sonoma you can run side-by-side for half a lap on those double-file restarts. It's a special place.
Watkins Glen is a lot faster, you know, and you can't really run side-by-side up through the S's. I don't think you'll see the same type of racing you saw at Sonoma, but you'll see a great race.
(QUESTION REGARDING TRANSITION WITH THE NEW SPOTTER.) The biggest problem we have right now is both our names are Jeff. When Steve says 'Jeff', we're not sure who he's talking to (laughter).
It's been a while. I think it's a good place to do it at. It's really wide and spread out. You know, I could probably tell you more next week than I can this week. I mean, you know, the plan is really not going and trying to set any new standards or really give a whole lot of instruction. You do what you do, I'm going to do what I do, and we're gonna see how it goes this first weekend that way. Then we'll evaluate it from there.
DO YOU RECALL THE LAST TIME YOU WENT THROUGH IT, WAS THERE A TRANSITION PERIOD AND HOW LONG DID THAT LAST? If I remember correctly, the last time I think it probably happened after the season, and it was Daytona. There's a lot more information that you need at a place like Daytona. But you have 10 days to go through it.
So, you know, you hire a spotter based on what you feel like their experience is and what they're capable of doing. You don't tell them how to do their job, just like they don't tell you how to do your job. You just try to complement each other.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN SPENDING TIME WITH THE BOY SCOUTS HERE? Man, that was a cool experience, to see that many kids together having a lot of fun, for us to be there with the National Guard. I mean, the experience that I've had with the Boy Scouts over the years is these are our future leaders, future CEOs, military leaders and, who knows, maybe a future president of the United States. With the values they have, the lessons that are taught and learned, it's a special group. Makes me wish I had been a Boy Scout growing up, I'll tell you that.
DID THEY TEACH YOU HOW TO MAKE A FIRE WITHOUT A MATCH? We didn't get that far. They did some splints and different things to earn some merit badges. We had a little competition there. They also got to change some tires. So mixed in some racing with it.
It was fun. I think everybody had a good time.
(QUESTION REGARDING STEVE LETARTE.) We're excited about. I don't think there was ever a question whether Steve was going to be there or not, at least in our minds. It was just about going through the process of the paperwork and the contract. I feel like it was a smooth process and I'm happy that it's all finished up now and we can just stay focused on what we're trying to do this year: win races and championships.
WHAT IS THE STATUS ON THE SPONSORSHIP WITH DUPONT NEXT YEAR? We're still in the process with that, as well. Ongoing conversations . There's really nothing new to report yet .
HAS THERE BEEN ANY TALK OF OTHER COMPANIES, AS WELL? HOW FRUSTRATING IS THAT TO DEAL WITH ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH? SOMETHING YOU'VE NEVER GONE THROUGH BEFORE ACTUALLY. Yeah, that's not necessarily true because we do this about every three to five years. It's just that, you know, we've resigned DuPont each time. You don't know each time whether that's going to happen. So you go through the same process. It's always a negotiation.
But the good thing is, I don't get that involved with it. It's nice that we can still focus as a team on doing our jobs and we let management and people like Pat Perkins and Marshall Carlson, Rick Hendrick, that's what they do so well, is communicate with the companies that we're currently involved with, talk about those contract negotiations.
(QUESTION REGARDING TIRES.) We did a tire test there. I don't remember which one they said they're going to go back with. It probably is a little bit different. But I don't really remember how much different it was.
PASSING IS REALLY FALLING OFF UP THERE. I always like fall-off. That's what our goal was, to do that. They're building such good tires these days. I'll be honest, every time they put something that seems to be a little softer, we just went faster the whole run. That's a tribute to the race teams, what they're doing with the racecars, as well as, you know, Goodyear.
I'll be honest with you, I don't remember where we ended up there, other than I liked everything we had up there. We gave them our information. You've got four different teams there doing all different types of things. Then typically they put all that information together and come back with a tire that you may not have run on.
So, you know, I just gave 'em my input, what I liked about each set, each right side versus each left side, and let them make the decisions.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE RACE AT NEW HAMPSHIRE? I can't remember any. Give me more details on each of those races and I'll tell you. John, which is my most memorable New Hampshire win (laughter)? He knows me best.
The year we changed two tires and we were battling for a championship that year with Mark Martin. Jack was getting on us that we did something to the tires, we couldn't possibly beat him with just putting two tires on. That was a pretty special one. Was that '98?
HOW IS THE BABY DOING? She's doing great. Thank you. Yeah, I mean, we're kind of just going through the motions. We have Aric Almirola on standby just in case. He'll get in the car for a few laps tomorrow. You go through the doctor visits every week now; they give you pretty good indication of where things are at.
We're not expecting to need Aric this weekend and hopefully not even next weekend, then we'll know a lot more after that.
ANY NAMES YET? To my knowledge, I've never known of anybody that gives the name away before the baby is born. For some reason, I keep getting asked that question.
We have a name (laughter).
EVERYTHING WITH KASEY, HAVE YOU TALKED TO RICK ABOUT THIS PROCESS OF WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WITH HIM NEXT YEAR AT ALL? HAS ANY BANTER BETWEEN YOU AND RICK GONE BACK AND FORTH? Which process?
WITH KASEY COMING FOR NEXT YEAR. But what specific process are you talking about?
GETTING HIM A RIDE I know where you're going with it (laughter).
YOU DON'T WANT TO GO THERE? ou'll know when everybody else knows.
THERE'S NO PENALTY FOR GOING OFF NOW AT WATKINS GLEN. There's always a penalty for going off. I think for safety reasons, the options they put out there are better than the old options were.
Yeah, you know, the rumble strips or whatever you call them, they're more significant than they've been in the past. So you've got those. Then you can go over to the paved area.
So there's definitely more runoff, not just if you make a mistake, but also just racing room in general, which we won't really know how that plays out till we run the race.
I saw nothing but positives with all of them.
THERE'S NO PENALTY FOR ERRORS. I mean, yeah, in the past the penalty was so severe that it actually took away I think from the racing because a guy makes a mistake going into the what turn that is, say eight or nine, he ends up out there in the sand. We're six laps under caution trying to get him out of there.
Now, you know, if you have a brake failure, you're going to make it all the way to the barrier. But the number of brake failures and issues like that are pretty small and most are a minor incidents that turn into a major caution, a full-course caution that we spend so much time.
I think we're going to do a lot more racing, green-flag racing, which I think is good.
HAVEN'T SEEN THAT IN A WHILE Exactly. I think they did the right things.
WHERE DOES POCONO RANK ON YOUR LIST OF TRACKS? IS IT ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE TRACKS? I've had some great, great times at this track. But I've also had some big wrecks here, too. It's a fun, very challenging racetrack to run on. Michigan is one of my favorites, always has been. It doesn't rank up there with Michigan, but it's certainly always been a track I've enjoyed coming to.
(QUESTION REGARDING THE WORLD SERIES.) Between those two, I'll go with the Yankees.