JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed his chances of scoring a win this weekend, the last lap in last week's race at Kansas, looking ahead to Phoenix and...
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed his chances of scoring a win this weekend, the last lap in last week's race at Kansas, looking ahead to Phoenix and Homestead and much more.
IS TALLADEGA REALLY YOUR SHOT AT BREAKING INTO THE HUNT? "It can happen to anybody. It can happen to us. I don't really approach it that way. I really just go out and we just come together as a team and go out there and see what happens. I've seen guys that have never finished in the top 10 here before and they go win the race. I think that you know there's going to be a wreck and you just don't know who's going to be in it and you can't even plan a way or strategy to not be in it. So you just got to go out there and race that's all you can do."
IS THIS THE BEST CHANCE YOU'VE HAD TO WIN A RACE IN A WHILE WITH YOUR RECENT RECORD HERE? "It is. Here and Martinsville definitely are two really good shots but at the same time I'm optimistic with how we performed last week at Kansas. That's a 1.5-mile track and we were a top-five car all day."
HOW ARE YOU FEELING? LAST WEEK YOU TOUGHED IT OUT AND WHEN LEAVING THE TRACK YOU WERE DEHYDRATED. "I'm definitely a lot better today. It seems like every day I just get a little bit better. I'm still not back to one hundred percent, it's lingered for a while. Looking forward to hopefully by Sunday I think I'll be back to one hundred percent."
ON RACING AT TALLADEGA: "You know I like restrictor-plate racing. I've always been given great equipment here. I don't know. I've just learned over the years that you just try to put yourself in a good position. There are some guys out there that are just aggressive from lap one, some guys that are aggressive from halfway on. I try to play it pretty calm and be aggressive when I need to, when I feel like it might get me out front or into the top two or three and then try to maintain that throughout the race and hold on to that. If I can't hold on to that be patient when you need to be patient. It's the same things that apply; it's just that you're drafting and the bump drafting. It can get crazy at times and you've got to choose whether to be in the middle of that or not. But it all comes down to getting yourself in the right position at the end of the race and getting the momentum, getting that big push from somebody."
NO WINS BUT YOU'RE STILL IN THE CHASE AND IN SIXTH PLACE. "Yeah, you can't give up on it. We're certainly not quitters and we're going to go out and approach every race like we're going to win it and work hard. It's not the end of the world if we don't win a race. We're not in panic mode, we're just trying to be the best team that we can and try to get better each week."
YOU'VE SAID MANY TIMES THIS YEAR THAT YOU WEREN'T ABLE TO PUT IT TOGETHER, THE CAR WAS GREAT AND THE PIT STOPS WEREN'T, THE PIT STOPS WERE GREAT AND THE CAR WASN'T THERE, WAS LAST WEEKEND THAT WEEK OR AS CLOSE AS YOU'VE BEEN TO IT BEING PUT ALL TOGETHER? "Then last week the driver wasn't there. That's just kind of the year it's been for us. I will say that that effort last week to me was huge for myself and this team. I think it really brought us together in a big way. We were testing in Charlotte and I pit practiced with the team. We fought together through a lot of adversity to come home to a fourth-place finish and I think that could do some good things for us moving forward in these last seven races to get us in a position to win a race."
DID YOU THINK ABOUT GETTING OUT OF THE CAR AT ALL? YOU HAD A HECK OF AN EFFORT AND MAYBE NOBODY ELSE COULD HAVE DONE BETTER IN THAT CAR? "Friday night I didn't think I was going to be in the car Saturday for practice. I got up Saturday and felt like I needed to be in the car and I went and got in the car and while I was in the car I felt fine. It's just trying to talk or whenever I was outside the car. That was kind of the same way it was on Sunday, is that Saturday night I didn't think I was going to be in the car and Sunday I got out there and said well let me just - you know I had to start the race no matter what and we had Brad Keselowski standing by which was great. He's done a lot of testing for us and he fits in the seat well so it was a good situation. I knew before the race started that I don't want anybody else to ever drive that DuPont Chevrolet but me and I was going to fight through it if I had to. Once I got in the car I felt good. I didn't really feel that bad. I didn't feel like I could be as aggressive as I wanted to but at the same time that track was so slick that aggressiveness didn't really do you much good. So it paid off for us. The hardest part was after the race I had to get some fluids because I was really dehydrated."
IS THIS TRACK KIND OF FORGIVING IF YOU'RE SICK TOO BECAUSE IT'S SO BIG? "It is. Physically yeah, this is the easiest track that we have but mentally this is the toughest track that we have. When you're in good health you think better as well. It's important for me to be healthy this week, one because I think this is an opportunity for us to win but also it's a long day, a lot of stuff is going to happen so we've got to stay out of that big one as much as anybody else."
DOES THE NATURE OF THIS TRACK TAKE AWAY A LOT OF THE HANDLING ISSUES THAT YOU GUYS HAVE HAD? "Handling is just something that we have to work on as a team, as an organization. The forty-eight has really come on and they figured some things out and I'm proud of them for doing that. That only helps the rest of us get better and I think we have gotten better through some of our testing and hard work as well as theirs. This is a non-issue when it comes to handling here at Talladega. It's not even really about speed; it's just about picking the right line and drafting well, being smart, being patient and then being aggressive when you need to most. With about ten or fifteen to go, I can't even describe to you how crazy it is."
SO YOU FEEL AS CAPABLE THIS TIME AS YOU DID LAST FALL? "Yeah. I felt like we had an opportunity to win this race the last time we were here. With this car you need to understand that just like the last time we were here we had a car capable of winning. I felt like we were in position to win. I made the move down the back straightaway coming to the white flag because I had so much momentum and I finished nineteenth. That's the nature of this car. Hopefully I can learn from that. We know how to win because we did it last fall. Just got to try to remember those things that got us into Victory Lane and most of it is just me as a driver trying to pick the right lanes and the right time to take the momentum."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR TEST AT LOWE'S AND WHAT YOU EXPECT NEXT WEEKEND? "I'm looking forward to it. We had a really good qualifying run. That was something we struggled with in May so I'm anxious and excited about that. I felt like our car drove really well for the long runs. We weren't as good as some guys on the shorter runs so we still got a little bit to work on but I thought it was a very positive test and we certainly didn't come out of there frustrated, put it that way. That's a change for us so I like that."
ARE THERE ANY WILD CARD RACES IN THIS CHASE BECAUSE OF THIS CAR? "They're all wild card races. Anything can happen to anybody at any time. Just go back to Kansas, we're two-wide, ten rows deep on those restarts and you've got lapped cars trying to get the Lucky Dog, trying to race for position. You've got lead-lap cars trying to race for position. To me there were crashes happening every restart. A lot of people focus on Talladega and Martinsville but to me it can happen anywhere."
TAKING POINTS OUT OF IT, YOU WERE SAYING HOW FAR YOU CAN FALL FAST WITH KYLE BUSCH, BUT FROM A SHEER PERFORMANCE PERSPECTIVE HOW MUCH HAVE THE N0. 48, THE NO. 99 AND THE NO. 16 SEPARATED THEMSELVES AT THIS POINT? "Performance wise there's no comparison. Those guys have been up front every single week battling for the wins and it's been impressive, been very impressive. Right now how can you not pick those guys as the ones to beat for the championship but that's the thing, nobody wants to see somebody falter or get caught up in a wreck. It's just that it's racing and things happen. You've got to work to your strengths and those guys right now are doing everything right. For a team like us, we've got to get the most out of it. If that's fourth place get fourth, if that's fifteenth get fifteenth but try to eliminate those 20th, 25th on back finishes and just kind of see what happens. If we get better like we did last week we might be able to sneak in a win there and make up some points on those guys performance wise as well."
I KNOW YOU WERE RACING (GREG) BIFFLE ON THAT LAST LAP, FROM THE DRIVERS SEAT DID YOU EVEN GET TO SEE CARL EDWARD'S BANZAI MOVE? "You know I had been watching up ahead to see what was going on because I know how strong Carl was earlier in the race and I was just seeing if Jimmie (Johnson) could hang on to that lead and he was hanging on to it really good. Then I started getting a mirror full of Biffle and pretty much stopped watching and I was blocking the heck out of Biffle. I wanted that third-place finish pretty bad, so did he and he had the better car at the end. We just came up on a lap car and I made a mistake on the lapped car and he got me. I got to see the video later. I called Jimmie and talked to him. It was impressive.
"That was an impressive move that Carl made and I give him a lot of credit. He brings a lot of excitement to this sport and its things like that between two of the top guys in the sport in the Chase that to me, that's what this sport's all about. I applaud Carl for making the move and I applaud Jimmie for counter-acting the move and winning the race."
DID YOU HAVE A GOOD SLIDE-JOB MOVE WHEN YOU WERE IN USAC? "Oh yeah, in dirt plenty of them. But I want to tell you what, that opens up a whole new can of worms in some of these races on the final lap if you're within distance. I think that if Carl (Edwards) had to do it over again he might have chosen to do eight tires instead of four instead of the wall."
IN THE SPRING WHEN YOU PULLED OUT AND YOU SAILED TO THE BACK, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO RETHINK THAT MOVE? WOULD YOU MAKE THE SAME MOVE TRYING TO WIN OR NOW WOULD YOU NOT PULL OUT? "No, I'm going to pull out I'm just going to do it much later. You could win this race off of turn four on the final lap. That's just how powerful the draft is here. I hope I'm in a position to make a move to get that momentum but I'm not going to make it at the time and I thought I had so much momentum on that run that I was going to clear the leader and be leading the race. I missed it by a foot so I don't think I'll make that move again because it's not so much that I don't want to go for the win it's that I don't want to be 19th when the move doesn't work."
WAS THAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WHITE-FLAG LAP OR RIGHT BEFORE THE WHITE-FLAG LAP? "I think it was coming to the white."
SO THAT WAS WAY TOO EARLY? "Way too early."
IS THERE A BANZAI MOVE THAT YOU'VE MADE THAT IS MEMORABLE THAT IT WORKED OR DIDN'T WORK? "At Michigan there's a lot of video of me and Ricky Rudd when I was on the outside of him and just ran in really, really hard on the outside of him. There's been plenty of banzai moves that have been made but not all of them were for the win. Not all of them were in NASCAR."
IN LIGHT OF YOUR ILLNESS THIS PAST WEEK WITH TAKING MEDICATION, HOW MIGHT THAT HAVE TO CHANGE NEXT YEAR IN LIGHT OF THE DRUG TESTING POLICY OR WOULD YOU HAVE TO DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY? "I talked to the doctors about that. I went into the medical center to get the prescription, at the track, they're the ones that prescribed it to me. I asked them about that. It's about abusing drugs and illegal drugs. That's the thing. Just taking your normal prescriptions that you need if you're sick, that doesn't come into play as long as those aren't going to hamper your ability. If it says don't drive heavy equipment then you can't do it. The thing is in that situation next year I wouldn't do anything different except if I was away from the track and that happened I would make sure, and my doctor is in close relationship with the liaisons and the NASCAR folks, so we would just make them aware of anything that I'm taking and make sure that they are okay with it and also make sure they know about it so it's not a surprise."
WHAT WAS THE DOCTOR'S DIAGNOSIS, JUST FLU? "With this fall weather change and all the traveling I've been doing it was just a really bad head cold. Doctor's can never tell you whether it's viral or not. They just put you on antibiotics and then just treat the symptoms. The biggest thing I needed was rest and it's hard to sleep when you're coughing and your head feels like it's about to explode. All the things that I needed I just wasn't able to get because of the symptoms. You know what it usually happens to me this time of year just about every year. It was just the timing of it. It me the hardest right on the race weekend and I've had it hit me before, just not like that on the weekend."
I SAW YOU IN THE GARAGE AND THERE WAS HARDLY ANYBODY LEFT AND THE CART HAD TO COME GET YOU, YOU STOOD UP AND WALKED TO THAT CART LIKE NO ONE WOULD EVER KNOW THE PAIN YOU WERE IN. "I got some really bad muscle cramps about 30 or 40 minutes after the race was over. I knew right away how dehydrated I was. I hate needles so you can be assured if I'm going to the infield car center to get and IV I'm in a lot of pain because they're not going to put a needle in me unless I am suffering. It felt amazing, to get those fluids in me it cooled my body down, it took away all the cramping. It's a great amazing thing just to put whatever the heck it is in your body."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS AGENT SO HE KNOWS WHERE HIS MONEY IS GOING? "Number one is a driver shouldn't have an agent. That's your first mistake. I think agents do nothing but get you in trouble and not from a financial standpoint I just think they a lot of times think they have the pull in the garage and they don't. You need somebody to help you through a negotiation but at the end of it you should be the one that really should be getting and going to that meeting with the car owner and whoever you are negotiating with and get the two people on the table that need to come up with the terms and the financial end of it. From the other side of it, you should have financial advisors. I just do it different. Those other guys that do it their way I do it different. Maybe it's because I came along at a different time. These days people will do whatever it takes to get here and if they hire an agent to help them do that then they put their trust and faith in that person."
MORE SPECIFICALLY, HELIO CASTRONEVES PUT HIS TRUST IN AN AGENT AND I DON'T WANT TO PASS THE BLAME . . . "Let's not speculate on that situation right now. Let's let the facts come out and then I'll give you my thoughts on it."
BUT DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF EMPATHY FOR HIM, THERE WAS THIS GUY THAT HAD AN AWFUL LOT OF SUPPORT AND IT'S GOING TO BE TARNISHED A BIT. "It is and it's unfortunate. I'm a huge of fan of his and he's a great friend of mine. He is going to go through some tough times. That comes along with the good times. When you're on top people want to tear you down and sometimes you have to deal with that. Let's just see how it all plays out."
YOU'RE LUCKY TO HAVE YOUR DAD BECAUSE YOUR DAD YOU TRUST. YOU PUT AN ATTORNEY, AN AGENT OR BUSINESS GUY WHERE YOUR DAD IS AND NOT EVERYBODY HAS THAT BUT YOUR DAD IS SMART. "It's very true. I was able to lean on my dad and he's smart and has guided me in the right direction but there was a time when he wasn't there, when we parted ways. I went through a lot of negotiations with Rick Hendrick through that and me and Rick always sat down and came up with what the terms were and then we let the people handle the details. Again you make the decisions, it's your final decision how you handle those things. How you handle the finances, who you let handle your finances. To me, you're ultimately responsible about where it goes, how it gets there and what happens. In this situation we'll see how it plays out but it's certainly not going to be a fun ride for Helio for a while."
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO SPEND ON SORTING OUT YOUR BUSINESS DEALS AND INVESTMENTS AND FINANCES? "If it sounds too good to be true it is. That's the bottom line and that's just common sense. I made my money driving a race car, racing is my business and that's why I always lean to. I think you can only really make your best decisions on something you know. I've been fortunate that I've got a very good investor that I've known for probably twelve years if not longer. I trust him and he's never steered me wrong. We're very conservative. That's not my business, I don't know that and even though he does, I tell him play conservative. We do everything with that frame of mind."
IF YOU WERE TO TELL SOMEBODY GOING INTO PHOENIX AND GOING INTO HOMESTEAD JUST TO GIVE THEM A REAL BRIEF PRIMER ON WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT EACH OF THESE TRACKS, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY? "You just got to have a good handling race car. It's pretty much the same as everywhere we go except for Talladega. You've got to have a good handling race car. You've got to know when to be patient, when to be aggressive. Qualifying good is important to get a good pit stall. It takes a total team effort. I could say the same thing for every race track out there."
SO HOMESTEAD IS PRETTY GENERIC? "The only thing about Homestead is I would not want the championship to come down to the end of the season with (Greg) Biffle leading at Homestead. That guy is so strong there and with the confidence he has right now and the performance those Roush cars have I wouldn't want to have to battle any of them but certainly not Biffle at Homestead. I would want to have a pretty decent little lead on him."
IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE AT HOMESTEAD BECAUSE IT DOES NOT HAVE A DOG LEG IN THE FRONT LIKE THE OTHER 1.5-MILE TRACKS, DOES IT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE AT ALL? "The only thing about those dog legs, if you get the momentum on the outside of somebody it just makes the straightaway a lot longer, that's all."
LOOKING AHEAD TO ATLANTA, HENDRICK AND JGR HAVE WON 15 OF THE LAST 20 RACES THERE SINCE THE RE-DESIGN, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RIVALRY THERE? "I was a big fan of the old configuration and we ran very well there under that situation, under the old configuration. All I can speak of is from our side of it, power is important to qualify good there, it's important in the race but once the race starts it's all about handling. It's about a driver that can slip and slide around and the car that gets the most grip it can possibly get. It's one of my favorite race tracks to race on. You're up on the wall, you're on the bottom or the white line. There's so much race groove, it's so much fun and as a driver it's a great challenge."
FIRST FULL SEASON AS A DAD, FIRST SEASON WITHOUT A VICTORY, NEXT YEAR A NEW PAINT SCHEME, HOW ARE YOU HANDLING ALL THESE CHANGES? "The biggest challenge is just trying to be home with the family as much as I would like to be, that's the biggest challenge. The other things are pretty much business as usual. Going to the race track, going testing and doing announcements like we did yesterday with the DuPont Chevrolet 2009, those are all pretty much standard but when you throw into the mix that I'm a dad and I want to be home as much as possible, that definitely makes the scheduling very challenging."
-credit: gm racing