JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHEVROLET met with media and discussed not winning so far this season, winning a championship without winning a race, the strengths of his team, what 9/11 means to him, and ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHEVROLET met with media and discussed not winning so far this season, winning a championship without winning a race, the strengths of his team, what 9/11 means to him, and more.
YOU'RE LOCKED INTO THE CHASE. WHAT'S YOUR MENTALITY GOING INTO TOMORROW NIGHT'S RACE? "What we're thinking about is how close we were to victory the last time we were here. We're just trying to get that all-important momentum and those bonus points going into the Chase. We're sitting here with a great year so far, but definitely eager to get that win and trying to be patient about it. If you could tell me we were going to win the first five races of the Chase, I'd give up, you know, not having any wins in the regular season (laughs). But I know we are championship caliber. I know we are capable of wins and I know we've come close to some and this is one that we feel like we had a shot at. So we're going to see if we can't get ourselves a little bit better to pull that off this weekend and look forward to starting the Chase."
WHAT DOES SEPTEMBER 11TH MEAN TO YOU AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RACE ON 9/11? "I don't think there is anybody in this country that will ever forget where they were at and what that experience was like on 9/11 and just remembering the devastation and the way our country was affected by it and those that were lost, especially as much time as I spend in NYC now, having a greater appreciation of the impact that it has had on that city and our country. And also, being involved with the National Guard now and the military and getting a chance to show my appreciation towards the men and women in the military for their commitment and dedication to keeping us safe.
"It's a way for us to really honor those that were lost and all those that have sacrificed since then for the peace and the freedom that we have and so I'm really thrilled and honored to be able to carry the National Guard on board and represent the military on 9/11 because they played a very important part in what's gone on since 9/11."
WHERE WERE YOU DURING 9/11? "I was living in Florida at the time and I wasn't watching TV. Someone made me aware of what was going on and I turned the TV on and sat there in shock like I think so many others did that day."
YOU HAD A SHOT AT THIS RACE IN MAY, BUT IT CAME DOWN TO TIRES AND RESTARTS. AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR, YOU HAD A STRETCH WHERE A LOT OF POTENTIAL WINS CAME DOWN TO RESTARTS FOR YOU. DO YOU THINK YOU'VE MADE ANY GAINS IN THAT AREA AND/OR IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'LL NEED TO WORRY ABOUT ON SATURDAY NIGHT? "I look back at that particular race and there's really nothing that I could have done other than trying to make our car a little bit better. Kyle (Busch) was just really strong on restarts. We had gotten ourselves in position to win that race because he made a mistake or because they had problems; I don't remember exactly what happened to them and how they got behind. But we were the car to beat because once we took off on the long runs and all those things, that's where we were at our best. So we didn't need those cautions in the end. And I don't know how you make your car just better for the restarts when you have a car that's good on the longer runs like we did.
"It's so funny to me because it seems like since then, the cautions haven't been falling quite as much at the end of these races. So, we might get ourselves better on restarts and then go have a long run and lose the race on a long run. I really think that yes, when it comes to Phoenix and not spinning the tires on the restart. We can do some things with our transmission; I can do things as far as just making sure not spinning tires when you take off in the starting zone, I don't know what they call that little zone they have designated for it. There are some things you can do to make your restarts a little bit better, but I don't think any of those things would have changed the outcome of that race that we had here."
YOU MENTIONED THE 10 BONUS POINTS FOR THE WIN AND OBVIOUSLY YOU WANT TO GET AS MANY POINTS AS YOU CAN. BUT GIVEN THAT THE SEEDING OR THE BONUS POINTS REALLY HAVEN'T PROVEN DECISIVE IN ANY CHASE SO FAR, HOW DO YOU VIEW THAT? IS IT SIGNIFICANT OR MORE COSMETIC THAN ANYTHING ELSE? "Whether or not is has in the past, doesn't mean it can't play a major role in this season. I just think every point is important. The only thing I will say is that I'm not overly concerned right now whether I go into the Chase 50 points down or 40 points down or possibly 60 points down. I wanted to go into the Chase 10 or 20 points down. That, to me, was really cutting into that deficit.
"At this point, we've got to look at our strength and weaknesses of what we have as a team and realize that if we're as consistent and strong as we've been at times this year, that we can make up those 50 points or whatever that point margin is. And so we've got to live up to our strengths and we've got to step it up. I really still believe we're going to have to win one or two races and be consistently in the top five and 10 to win the championship. If we do that, it's not going to matter where we're seeded going into (the Chase)."
IT'S MATHEMATICALLY POSSIBLE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT WINNING A RACE IN THE CHASE, BUT DO YOU THINK IT'S REALISTICALLY POSSIBLE? TONY STEWART DID IT ONCE, BUT DO YOU THINK THAT CAN BE DONE? "Oh, yeah; Like you say, mathematically it's possible; realistically I don't (think so). For maybe Jimmie (Johnson) or Denny (Hamlin) who have 50 points up on everybody else, I think it's possible for them not to win races because they already have a big head start, or at least a decent-sized one. But I think for us, for the NO. 24 team, I think we're going to have to win.
"Like I said, I'm not giving up on it yet. We haven't won yet this year. It's not from a lack of effort. I think our team showed last week our put stops were awesome. We weren't very good at the start of that race. We got ourselves really good. We had a set of tires that got us behind but I think we're showing week in and week out that we're very, very strong team. A few things go our way and what is it that makes that happen, other than putting fast race cars out there on the track and executing well? I still think we could have won three or four races up to this point, if not more already this season, and I can't see why we can't still win multiple races before this year is out."
LOOKING AHEAD TO NEW HAMPSHIRE NEXT WEEK, WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF MAKING THAT FIRST CHASE RACE A GOOD ONE, AND NOT STARTING OFF IN THE HOLE? "You don't want to start off in the hole. You don't want to come out of there with a 30th or worse place finish, but we've seen that's not that significant in the past. Ten races is a lot more racing than people realize. There are a lot of points to be gained and lost. When you've got Talladega in there, anything can happen. So I think that you want to get it started off right and I think it's a good track for us so when we look at the 10 tracks, it's one that I feel like we are capable of coming out of there with a strong finish.
"We've tested at Milwaukee. We've been working really hard to try to be good there. And again, I think everybody is in a little bit different situation. Us being down on the bonus points, I think that we're looking at that we've got to have 10 strong races to win it. It all starts at New Hampshire."
ON THE AIR YESTERDAY, PEOPLE WERE TALKING ABOUT WHETHER IT IS REALISTIC TO WIN THE CHASE WITHOUT WINNING A RACE. I WENT OUT AND SAID IT'S PRETTY UNREALISTIC TO THINK THAT THE NO. 24 TEAM WOULDN'T WIN A RACE THIS YEAR. IS IT UNREALISTIC TO THINK A TEAM AS GOOD AS YOUR'S WOULDN'T WIN A RACE? IS THAT LINE BETWEEN WINNING AND NOT WINNING SELF-FULFILLING BECAUSE ONCE YOU GET WINS, YOU'LL GET MORE? "Thank you. I appreciate you're sticking up for us."
YOU'VE GOT TO COME THROUGH, NOW, OKAY? "Yeah, no kidding; now there is added pressure. I look at this season and it's strange because I feel like we're stronger this year than we've been in so many previous years. Years that we've won a race or two or three, I feel like we're way better this year than we were in those years. Those races seem to come our way and this year they haven't. And you don't know really how to explain that. The racing gods? Luck on your side? Races are just more competitive? Who knows what it is. But, the facts are the facts. Like I said earlier, I think we are very capable of winning races; right now, this weekend, and through the Chase.
"And I try to be a pretty patient person and I feel like if all that comes our way in the Chase, then I understand what it was meant for why we didn't win the rest of the season (laughs) because we were just waiting for that crucial moment in time to make it happen when it really counts, and that's in the Chase. I don't know. So we'll see. But I know we're capable of it.
"Rick Hendrick and I were having a conversation about this the other day. We've won what, 82 times or something. You can go back through those 82 wins and think of several when you were sitting there as a third, fourth, or fifth-place car and all of a sudden you're in victory lane. How the heck did we get here? And then you go through years like this year where I feel like Texas and Vegas and a bunch of tracks where we were the dominant car and here we are not in victory lane so far this year. That's just the way racing is, I guess. And we're still on the upside with overall numbers so we're not complaining too much but we just want to get it done this year."
2001 WAS DIFFICULT FOR THIS SPORT AND FOR THE COUNTRY. WHEN THE COUNTRY EXPERIENCED 9/11, IT SEEMS LIKE THE SPORTS WORLD WENT DARK THAT WEEKEND. HOW IMPORTANT DID YOU FEEL IT WAS FOR NASCAR NOT TO BE ON TRACK THAT WEEKEND? WHAT SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY DID YOU FEEL TO GET BACK ON TRACK TO LIFT THE MORALE OF THE COUNTRY? "It's a time that everyone, whatever their job is and whatever is going on in their life, it's like time stood still. I don't think anyone really knew how to react or how to move forward or how to ever get back to normal. I think NASCAR definitely made the right decision on not going to New Hampshire that weekend and I think that it was a fitting time when we did go back you felt this momentum really starting throughout the country, whether it was at work or with sports or whatever, that okay, now our world that we live in takes on a whole new responsibility in meaning and pride and what we represent and how we want to show the rest of the Americans how strong we truly are and how this experience is only going to make us come together and be a tighter and stronger group and go out there and show the rest of the world why we're proud to be Americans. To me, getting back to that race track was that first step toward that."
DID IT HEIGHTEN YOUR SENSE OF PRIDE FOR BEING A NASCAR DRIVER? THE SPORT LOST DALE EARNHARDT THAT YEAR AND WHEN YOU GOT TOGETHER ON THE TRACK AGAIN WITH YOUR FELLOW DRIVERS, DID THAT BOND BECOME TIGHTER? "It did. Our sport has shown its patriotism for so many years with military representation and the things that we do (like) National Anthem and just the processes that we've had in place for so many years, no all those things meant so much more and it made me proud of what we've been doing for so long to represent our sport and our country."
YOU SAID YOU FELT YOUR TEAM WAS STRONGER THIS YEAR. HOW CAN THAT HELP YOU TO GET READY TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP IN A FORMAT YOU HAVEN'T WON BEFORE? "While we haven't won this year, and don't get me wrong, a win would really add so much to our Chase hopes and our championship hopes, just because it gets you to that next level. But I think the one thing, and as I mentioned, we've got to live up to our strengths and our strengths are that we never give up. No matter what kind of day we're having we seem to always pull out a pretty solid finish. I feel like if we're a 10th place car we seem to get to 8th or 7th. If we're a 20th place car, we seem to find a way to get to 12th. And so I think our strengths are that we fight really, really hard.
"I think our communication, especially between (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) and myself is definitely improved and so that has a lot to do with why we're stronger and why we're better. And I think we're probably the most consistent team out there. That's always been one of our strengths and certainly always been one of mine and why the old points system was so good for me. I approach it the same way with 10 races to go. It's still yeah, you're trying to win, but you're trying to make sure you get the absolute best finish that you can each week and not put yourself into a position to cause yourself to get a 30th or 35th place finish. And those are the things that allow you to put as many top 10's and top 5's together as I have over the years. And so those are our strengths and we hope that if we can't get that victory that those strengths still pay off for what it takes to win the championship."
-source: gm racing