Preseason Thunder: Chevy - Jeff Gordon interview

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO Sixth fastest in the afternoon segment of today's test session. ON THE TEST AND THE IMPORTANCE OF DOING WELL AT THE DAYTONA 500 "It's good to get back in the car. It's been a while. After a ...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
Sixth fastest in the afternoon segment of today's test session.

ON THE TEST AND THE IMPORTANCE OF DOING WELL AT THE DAYTONA 500 "It's good to get back in the car. It's been a while. After a short off-season it's still exciting to get back down here (Daytona). This is my 12th time testing here. I have a lot of memories. It's an awesome place. Fortunately we have had two wins here. It was a good day for us. The car is driving great. The speed wasn't awesome when we unloaded but we just gained on it all day long. By the end of the day I felt like we were pretty close to where we need to be. We always want to be a little faster and we've got two more days to work on it. We're really looking forward to getting back down here for the (Daytona) 500 and getting the season started. The team showed that look in their eye all winter long. We didn't lose anybody. We just added in some areas where we felt we needed to make ourselves stronger. We're looking forward to putting that out on the race track."

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO BETTER THIS SEASON? "Fuel mileage and our pit crew. We've got a lot of good guys on there but one was just sort of a fill in. We knew that was a position we needed to fill and we did. They've been awesome in their practices and I think we're going to be solid there. We're always trying to improve performance of the race cars and the horsepower and try not to take away from that fuel mileage that was so important last year. The tires are going to help with that but I think fuel mileage and track position are still doing to be very important. At the end of the year, Robbie (Loomis, crew chief and I sat down and analyzed pretty much every race. All in all I thought we did a great job. We just had a few things happen to us. A few of the small things were self-induced, but the majority of the things that kept us out of the championship were things we really couldn't control. We've had a lot of good luck as a team for many years. Last year just wasn't our year. I'm hoping that the chemistry and hard work will make it our year."

ON DIVING IN THE BAHAMAS "I went to the Bahamas over New Years and found this incredible dive site. They actually sink ships out there and create dives. They also do a shark dive. Jimmie Johnson and his girlfriend were with us. I took Jimmie on his first dive and he was surrounded by about 15 or 20 reef sharks. He doesn't scare easily but I think he was pretty nervous (laughs). It was quite an experience and a lot of fun. I enjoyed it."

ON THE NEW TESTING POLICY AND STRATEGY "We made a test schedule. When we first started hearing about a possible point system change, I thought it was just something being considered. Everybody thought it was crazy and that it would never happen. Now, we are re-evaluating our test schedule. Here (Daytona) and Vegas are for sure no matter what. But we've got some plans for the middle of the season on the off-weekends that we'll probably end up changing and making sure we have some saved for the later of the season. Those races have now turned into very important races. How you come out of those is going to determine the championship whether you're 10th in points or first in points. It's really anybody's game.

IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR TRACK WHERE YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO TEST? "New Hampshire - we're in good shape if we just get better fuel mileage. Dover - we need to make a few improvements but it is usually a good track for us. We haven't competed for the win there. Talladega - I feel like we had a chance at winning that race the last time we were there. Kansas - not bad. Charlotte - we were the best we've ever been the last time we were there. With my teammate wearing everybody out there, I think we're going to be fine there. We might test there though. Martinsville - I think we're okay. Atlanta - is hit or miss. Sometimes we go there and run like Jack The Bear and sometimes we go there and I can't hit it. Phoenix - we've tested there the last two years so why not test there again. Darlington - I don't believe in testing at Darlington. I think it's a waste. I don't think you can learn anything. I can't remember the last time we tested at Darlington. Homestead - we finished top five there but we weren't a top five car. It's definitely one we're going to consider. If you do a Homestead test, it might help you for Atlanta and Charlotte also. One of those three tracks is probably going to be on our hit list.

"Atlanta is a hit or miss track. One of the reasons I don't like to test at Atlanta is because the race is usually won in any number of those grooves. When you go there to test, it's right around the bottom. You can maybe work on your qualifying and I certainly need work on that at Atlanta."

ON PERSONNEL CHEMISTRY AND CHANGES WITHIN THE TEAM "I believe in chemistry. You either have it or you don't have it. A lot of people are quick to make decisions but do they make them for the right reasons? A lot of times when I've analyzed some problems we've run into as a team, I didn't really think it was any one person's fault. If so, we're going to make a change in that area. To me, when we make decisions for team managers or crew chiefs and key people, the first thing I look for is chemistry between me and that person and how we communicate. Once you get that part, the fundamentals of how the car works, and chassis adjustments and pit strategy go along with that. Pit strategy has changed a lot over the past couple of years. We've all had to adjust to it. I don't know if we've been on the cutting edge of that during the past year. But I think we've learned how to do it better."

ON THE AERO RULES CHANGE "Chicago, Kansas City, and fast smooth race tracks, they haven't gone far enough. It's still going to be tough to pass. Track position is still going to be important. On the flip side, at Darlington and Rockingham and tracks that are really worn out, it might be the opposite. We might not have as good racing because we don't have as much grip. I'm hoping it's just a step into it and hopefully they're open to what the drivers and teams and engineers have to say about it. And then we can grow from there and keep going in steps to maybe getting a little bit more downforce out of the car. It could be a balance issue too. It might not just be off the rear spoiler. We might need to also go to the front a little bit. And maybe the tires aren't soft enough. But then you get into construction and durability issues with Goodyear. You've got to make sure that that side is matching up with what else we have out there.

"If the tire doesn't wear out, the tire doesn't wear out. It doesn't matter if you don't have as much downforce. What's happening is that you've got a lot of these young engineers coming in and they only know one way. Basically these are 500-mile sprint races. You run as hard as you can every single lap. The car doesn't give up. Really, the only reason cars give up now is because the air pressure builds up in the tire - not because the tire wears out (other than maybe at Darlington).

"The way I was brought into this sport back in '93 was that you basically dropped the green (flag) and you did everything you could possibly do not to wreck for about the first 15 or 20 laps as the fuel burned off and the weight changed and all of a sudden your car came to life. You worked so hard for the last half of a run and that's really where you made up your time. Nowadays, it's almost better to be good in the first half of the run and don't worry about the last half. If you get track position, guys usually can't get by you anyway. So it's just a totally different philosophy. I'd like to get back to that. But at the same time, I've been working hard for the last couple of years to get used to the way we're doing it now. As soon as I get that part figured out, we're going to have to start doing it again. But at least I've had that experience of doing it that way. And it is just working yourself out of it. Sometimes it just takes time. I'd like to get back to that. I think that having the cars a little bit more difficult to drive and having a natural mechanical set-up in the car means more. It would be great. I'd like that. But at the same time, we've learned so much more through shocks and springs and sway bars since1993, it might never be like that no matter what they do to downforce and the tires."

ON A CARBON FIBER SEAT "Hendrick Motorsports has been working on a carbon seat for about a year. Basically, Gary DeHart is heading up the program. They've got a beautiful seat. They've got a headrest as well. But I'm pretty particular on how I use my headrest. It's a little bit different than some of the other drivers. I have a full carbon seat but I have the Aluminum headrest. But it's really beefed up - a really strong Aluminum headrest. It's not as good as the carbon, but it's the next best thing. I hope to have the carbon one down the road. The difference with the carbon seat is that it's somewhat shaped like a LaJoie seat where most of the support is in the shoulders with very little rib support. I've driven a butler seat for so long that I've always had rib support and I don't know how to do it any other way. It's just more of a feel in the car that I like. We added a little to this seat, but I think I need a little bit more. But I really like it a lot. I'm definitely going to run it here at Daytona. I'm going to test it in Las Vegas two weeks from now. If I like it there I'm going to start running it as many places as possible."

ON HMS ROOKIE, BRIAN VICKERS "I've definitely gotten to know Brian. I'm really impressed with his ability on the race track and he's a very sharp kid off the track. He uses his head. I've always said that what makes a great driver is a smart driver. If you get to this point, you usually have a lot of talent. You start separating yourself when you can analyze things in a split second. That's what I see in him. We're really excited to have him on board. I think it's important - especially for guys like me. I hate to consider myself a veteran, but I've been in the sport a long time and I'm the guy who's been at Hendrick Motorsports the longest. I like young guys coming up. I can learn from them and hopefully they can learn from me. It makes all of us better. We've had Jimmie Johnson for the last couple of years and now we have Brian Vickers. We've got a lot of great things happening and I think he's got a bright future. Everyone on the No. 25 car is really excited to have him."

ON THE ROOKIE LINEUP FOR '04 "It just really depends on the team and equipment that's behind them. They're all very talented drivers. Scott Riggs is a guy that's got a lot of experience. He's got a chance at it. Sauter did a great job toward the end of last year as well. It's hard to say how Brendan (Gaughan) will do. He's only driven the Trucks ad they are a lot different than Busch and Cup cars. But he's surprised a lot of people with how well he's done."

WILL YOU LOOK AT EVERYTHING DIFFERENTLY WHEN THE POINTS SYSTEM IS REVISED? "The competition is still the competition. We're racing against the best guys and the best teams. You still have to do your job extremely well and better than everybody else to win it. I don't think it should take away from the championship. But how you go about it will definitely change. What I do at a road course is maybe going to mean something toward getting in the top 10 in points but it's not going to mean anything toward getting the championship in those last 10 races. That's the only problem that I have with it. There are certain race tracks that might lock you in the top 10 but that takes away from what you did to win the championship if you win it or if you don't win it. I definitely think you're gong to test different and race different. You're probably going to make sure you're in the top 10. But in those last 10 races, you're going to see a lot of risk-taking going on to win that deal."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Brian Vickers
Teams Hendrick Motorsports