JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed racing at Talladega, the passing of Jim Hunter, the remaining races on the schedule and other topics. ARE YOU FEELING ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed racing at Talladega, the passing of Jim Hunter, the remaining races on the schedule and other topics.
ARE YOU FEELING BETTER? "A little bit, yes. Definitely the last couple of days have been rough. I feel like I have been sick since Kansas. That is part of having kids. I'm definitely feeling better today should be in good shape for tomorrow."
CAN YOU PUT IN PERSPECTIVE WHAT IT IS LIKE FOR JIMMIE RIGHT NOW COMING INTO TALLADEGA WITH SUCH A TIGHT POINTS BATTLE? "I think mentally for anybody who is in a championship hunt, this is a nerve-wracking place. For anybody really. But when you are in a tight points battle, it is very nerve-wracking especially because you just know that there are so many obstacles that you have to avoid, things that are out of your control. Those are not the types of scenarios that you want to go into an event with that you are in such a tight points battle. So I think those guys know that survival is key coming out of this race. It is about how do we avoid being in that big wreck. The issue that I see is that there's going to be a wreck inside of 10 to go and you have to go. You know, you have to get up there, you have to get in the middle of it and I don't know if there is really any great way to avoid it. You are either, I guess, either fortunate and lucky or at the right place at the right time, whatever you want to call it. That is what those guys are hoping for."
WE ARE ALMOST AT THE END OF THE SEASON, HOW DO YOU THINK THE HAVE-AT-IT BOYS THING HAS WORKED OUT? "I think perception is important. I don't think it has really changed how us drivers have gone about it other than we're not worried about a fine on Tuesday. I think when you are out there on the track, you are in the heat of the battle. You are going to make choices and decisions that sometimes aren't going to always work in your favor and they are going to upset some other people. You deal with it as a race car driver on the race track. It is nice that you don't have to deal with anyone else really stepping in unless the situation calls for that. So, I feel like it is a good policy for NASCAR to have."
DO YOU SEE THE TWO-CAR DRAFTS HAPPENING TOMORROW? "Absolutely. Oh absolutely it is going to happen. It is because these two-car drafts, the way we've been able to figure out how to hook up with one another and maximize with what you can do with two cars pushing. It is pretty amazing what happens and how the r.p.m.s pickup and the speed. It is an incredible thing that has evolved in this sport and at this track. It's going to really be interesting to see which two-car draft can win this race. Then what happens as you come to the line between those two cars, even that part is pretty darn exciting. I know we like to see big groups and packs here and five-wide at the line, but, for us as competitors, we'd prefer it to come down to two guys and it is still exciting. I think that is pretty cool.
YOU THOUGHTS ON THE PRACTICE SPEEDS IN THE DRAFT HITTING OVER 200 M.P.H.? "You are looking at a one or two lap situation, not multiple laps. I'm sure that at times that I have been in a draft here that has reached 200 miles per hour but not on a consistent basis. And, you won't see it on a consistent basis here on Sunday either. You'll see two cars that will get out there and they will do it one or two laps and then they will slow down 15 miles per hour after that. I think that is why it is being accepted right now."
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS ABOUT JIM HUNTER THAT WILL STICK WITH YOU? "He was just such a quality person and so passionate about this sport. I think that is a sign of a great person and their legacy is how many people are going to be saying great things about Jim and what he meant to the sport and how dearly missed he is going to be. You are going to hear it over and over and over for a long time. He was just one of those individuals that will never be able to be replaced. I have had great memories with Jim at the banquet and Darlington, just in general. I loved how he approached this sport and his job and his life and his family. I really really respected him a lot."
WHY WAS HE ABLE TO GO START TO DRIVERS AND BE ACCEPTED AND LISTEN TO WHAT HE HAD TO SAY? "I think his experience. Being in the sport, seeing so many things, I think people respected that. Plus, he always came into a conversation open-minded but yet not afraid to give his own opinion. You have got to have respect for somebody who does that and the way he did that."
TALK ABOUT HEADING TO TEXAS AFTER HOW WELL YOU RAN THERE LAST TIME BEFORE YOU AND JIMMIE (JOHNSON) GOT TOGETHER: "It wasn't Jimmie. Me and Tony (Stewart) got together on a restart. We're going to go back there the same way we were. We're going to find out how much this sport and setups have changed since we were last there and then we will fine-tune it from there. We had such a great car there, it is hard to go back any different. I expect for us to still be really strong there and I am excited about that. Our goal right now by doing some positive things. Hopefully getting to Victory Lane and showing we are capable of winning and get some momentum going into the off-season regardless of what happens in the points."
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT AS WELL AS YOU RAN THAT DAY YOU DIDN'T JUST REEL OFF A STRING OF WINS AT THAT POINT? "A similar thing happened the year before, last year, where we were really strong at the beginning of the season and put ourselves in position and we did win at Texas and thought we were going to do what you just said. But, we didn't. That is a sign of the competition and how good they are and just how they are. Just how tough it is to maintain that or progress with that as the season goes on. We are doing our job over the off season. We have to do a little bit better job a third or a halfway through the season at continuing to get better."
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT TEXAS? "It's a tough 1.5-mile race track because of the transitions from straightaway to the corner are very challenging and abrupt. So it's hard to get the car comfortable in those sections. And if you do get comfortable in those sections in and off the corner, how do you get the car to turn in the middle? And you're doing all those things at a 170 or 180 mph. So it is a very challenging race track and it's been one of the most challenging for me and my race team over the years because of that reason. And then we have a car that's capable of winning there and there's a caution late and you've got a double-file restart and we take four tires and we're right in the middle of all the mess. You never know what it's going to take to pull off the win but a fast race car certainly helps and we had that and I hope we can have that again going back."
COMPARING THAT TO THE OTHER 1.5-MILE TRACKS, WHICH DO YOU PREFER AND WHY? "Well, they're totally different. I prefer the one I run the best at and right now we've been running better at Texas than we have been at Homestead but Homestead is a great race track but it is totally different. The corners are far more sweeping there, the transitions are much easier to handle, but yet you deal with a much tighter race car there getting into the center of the corner and a little bit looser on the exit. So, trying to find that balance there is really the opposite of Texas because at Texas you're usually loose and then tight in the middle and decent off, where at Homestead it's the exact opposite. You're tight in and then loose off. So you can't compare set-ups. You can't compare cars and race tracks much at all and that's why I think you'll see guys run really good at Texas but not necessarily run good, or it doesn't guarantee they're going to run good at Homestead or vice-versa."
DOES IT FRUSTRATE YOU WHEN PEOPLE SAY YOU SHOULD BE MORE AGGRESSIVE? YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE BACK AFTER KURT BUSCH, OR WHY IS JEFF NOT OUT THERE PUNTING JIMMIE JOHNSON? DOES THAT BUG YOU? "Well the one thing that I want everybody to understand is that I have not changed. I've not done anything different today than I did 10 or 15 years ago. I race people the way they race me and when somebody pushes and shoves, I'm going to push and shove back. But in a situation that we're going to isolate this situation at Martinsville with Kurt (Busch) you've got to understand who you're racing and who you're dealing with and that it's not worth it. It just isn't worth it to get into a situation like that with a guy that has such a short fuse. And so I'm a patient guy and I'm a guy who tries to focus on what my racing needs to go out and win. And the last thing I'm going to do it to let that focus be interrupted by somebody like Kurt Busch."
KYLE BUSCH SAID YESTERDAY THAT HE ALWAYS FELT LIKE HE HAS MORE GUYS TO PAY BACK THAN HAVE TO PAY HIM BACK, BUT THAT THE LIST IS ALWAYS ON THE SIDE OF THE GUY THAT YOU'RE TALKING TO "Yeah, you know, that's part of racing. You're going to have incidents with guys and you're going to single out the ones that you feel were intentional and the ones that weren't. And you're going to remember those situations and yeah, you make a list. I think as drivers, when it comes to things like that, I can't tell you what I did two days ago but I can tell you who wrecked me 15 years ago (laughter) and I'll never forget that. And that's probably something Kurt Busch might want to think about for a while."
THERE IS A WAY ABOUT BEING HEALTHY ABOUT LETTING HIM KNOW HE CAN'T PUSH YOU AROUND
"The healthiest way is to not know when it's coming."
LOOKING AHEAD, NASCAR HAS ANNOUNCED THAT THEY ARE GOING TO DO JANUARY TESTING AT DAYTONA, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TESTING: "From what I am hearing I am going to be testing there in December and January. So I think all of us that a repave at a place like Daytona is a big deal and there is a lot of effort that is going to go into it from Goodyear's side and that the teams have to play a big role in that as well. We're willing to contribute in any way that we can from Hendrick Motorsports side of it. My understanding is that we will be there in December for a day or two because the track is going to be ready by then which is great. That is great news because I know that Goodyear has had big concerns that it was going to be ready very late in the game and that if they see any kind of issues with the tires, they might not have enough time. So, this gives them the time they really need to see what they are going to be dealing with from a surface and tire perspective. Maybe they are just trying to get prepared for it, I can't say that is confirmed but I'm being asked the question to make sure I am available for it."
-source: gm racing