Texas II: Jeff Gordon - Friday media visit

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his level of confidence on the Texas track after winning, the rest of the Chase, his relationship with Jimmie Johnson, his fourth championship, bump-drafting at Talladega, and ...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his level of confidence on the Texas track after winning, the rest of the Chase, his relationship with Jimmie Johnson, his fourth championship, bump-drafting at Talladega, and more.

Q. Can you talk about your confidence level coming back to Texas after your spring win and the success you've shown on the mile-and-a-half tracks so far this year?

JEFF GORDON: We're excited about being here at Texas for the second time this year because of how well our mile-and-a-half program has been this year and especially because of that win that we had earlier in the season.

It gives us not only confidence but it just gives us really great data and confidence in our setup in our racecars, what we're doing, that we're going in the right direction. It allows you to get a really good starting position to set up the car with and a lot of great notes to go off of as you're going through practice.

Q. Speaking of that, will the constant weather conditions here this weekend help in that regard?

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, the last time we were here it was really windy. The wind, it's there today. That can affect us as much as temperature changes. A cloudy day, the temperatures can go in and out, track temperature. So these are great conditions and certainly anything you can keep as a constant is something that's a positive for us to work around.

Q. You finally broke through and got your win at Texas. Could you imagine that would be your only win of the season?

JEFF GORDON: I'm a little disappointed in that. We've had a bunch of second-place finishes this year, so we've been close. But it is disappointing we haven't been able to get more victories. It gives us something to work on for next season.

Q. What is the mindset going into the last three races? Almost like Jimmie would have to not start.

JEFF GORDON: Those guys are tough. They're solid. They've really done their job. All we can do is go out and focus on our race team, our racecars, and get the best finishes that we possibly can, try to end the season on a positive note. We still have a great battle going for second in points. If for some crazy reason, those guys had trouble, we have to make sure we capitalize on it. I think our focus right now is winning races and trying to get to second in points.

Q. What do you think about Brad Keselowski (inaudible). Is that a positive for him?

JEFF GORDON: Certainly a positive for him. I think anytime that you can spend more time with a team that you're going to be with, get the communication going is always a positive. You know, you find out what you have to work on, what things are needed. Plus he's driven a lot of different cars from the Finch team as well as Hendrick. He can give them some good information, feedback.

Q. I hate to ask about another driver, but what are your thoughts on Danica, if the rumors are true, that she's making another step towards moving to NASCAR?

JEFF GORDON: I think it would be great if that's the case. I think that she obviously has a great presence and fan base. There could be a lot of excitement that could be built around it. I think she has a steep learning curve, so I think everybody's anxious to see how she does. The only way she's ever going to really know is to get in there and do it. It's a big step. You got to give her credit for making that kind of a commitment. We'll all just kind of wait and see.

Q. If the rumor is true what do you think about her (indiscernible)?

JEFF GORDON: It's trying to compare the guys that run the Nationwide Series to the Cup Series. The cars are different from Saturday to Sunday. The cars are so drastically different, going from one type of a car to another that are that drastically different is only going to make it that much more challenging.

But she's never going to know what it's like to drive one of these cars until she gets out there and does it in competition. And, you know, so again I give her credit for trying. You know, you can only wait and see how it goes. I don't like commenting any further on rumors until they make that announcement.

Q. When you look at the 48, the relationship you and Jimmie have, do you see some similarities between what you and Ray had?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I see the similarities how well they click, you know, how well the team performs. No doubt about that. You know, that's what it takes to be successful. You've got to be on the same page in how you drive the car versus how the car is set up, how you communicate and give information back about what the car is doing. Those guys are obviously the best out here in this garage right now. Their results speak for themselves. The roll they've been on certainly reminds me of the roll we were on with the DuPont Chevrolet back in the mid to late '90s. Ray played a huge role in that. How we got along and worked together played a huge role in that, as well. Very similar to what you have with Jimmie and Chad.

Q. Along those lines, with your relationship with Steve, with Jimmie and Chad, last week Talladega, they made a prudent decision to pit for fuel at the end of that caution. That seemed to pay off really big. It seems at time that you and Steve are a step behind. What is it that those guys have to stay just a step ahead of everybody?

JEFF GORDON: Well, last week is a little bit different. They could play it conservative. I mean, they were in a pretty tough spot there at one time. They were running 30th three-wide in the back. We were sitting there in the top five. Had that thing gone green all the way, I think we were actually in great shape.

We didn't run out of fuel. We had a problem where the pickup didn't pick up all the fuel because we were on the banking. I feel like Steve made the right calls.

I was upset at myself for not going down on the flat in the corners on the apron to make sure that we didn't run the fuel down the left side of the cell. So we both were beating ourselves up over that on Monday and Tuesday.

But, you know, the 48, they definitely have done a great job all year long with performing at the right time, as well as, you know, making good decisions. They were in way more conservative mode to survive Talladega than we were. We didn't have the luxury of having a 180-plus point lead. As it turned out, it worked in their favor. They came out of there with a bigger lead. That's why they've won three championships and why they're probably going to win this fourth one, because they've been able to make those kinds of decisions and they've gone their way.

Q. If you don't win the championship this year, would you consider this to be one of your best two or three years in which you didn't win the championship?

JEFF GORDON: Definitely. You know, I mean, we've had a great year all season long. We've been consistent and solid and strong. We're not as strong as we need to be to win the championship, but we're still, you know, very happy with how we've been able to improve the results from last season.

I mean, I think that we're not as close to the 48 as we were in '07 when we battled with them for the championship, or with Kurt in '04. Other than that, I'd say this has definitely been our best effort.

Q. As somebody that has won four championships, how do the meanings change as you win more? When you get to three or four, how do the meanings change?

JEFF GORDON: To me the fourth meant so much because we had so many changes within the team. When Ray went off to do his team, we had to replace him, you know, that was a big challenge for us and for me personally. To be able to come back from all of that and win with Robbie Loomis in 2001, I think that was one of my biggest accomplishments that I've had in this sport. I feel like it certainly earned me a lot more respect.

So I look back on the fourth one as being the sweetest one because of that. But they do all seem to get better for different reasons. I think, especially this season for Jimmie, going for four in a row, something that's never been done before, I think that doesn't get done very often in this sport, to do something that has never been done before. That I'm sure would make this one sweeter than all the rest for him.

Q. Your fourth, you were ninth in points the year before. People wrote you off then. Was that kind of a personal thing for you to come back to that level?

JEFF GORDON: Oh, yeah, we were pretty disappointed in our performance in 2000. But I felt like it was a great inspiration and motivator for us to improve and come back stronger. You know, when you're at Hendrick Motorsports, you know that the resources are there. It's just making sure that you make the most of them. A lot of it's people. Some of it's setup. Sometimes you hit on some things that work. Most of the time it's the people, the teamwork, that's put into it that makes it different.

Q. Was it personal at all to prove that you could win one without Ray?

JEFF GORDON: Definitely. Not to anybody other than myself, you know. But, absolutely. I mean, what we did together was phenomenal, to win the three, even second the other year. You know, we had a great relationship, had a great team. Opportunities came up for both of us. We went our separate ways to take advantage of those. I would say for him it was huge. For him to start his own team and be successful, even though he never won a championship, I still think he takes a lot of pride and earned a lot of respect by doing that, just like what we did by winning the championship in '01.

Q. Does 2001 seem like eight years ago?

JEFF GORDON: Yes. It seems like 20 years ago (laughter).

Q.        When you're looking at 2010, what are you working on mentally
as far as the team?  What do you want to improve on?

JEFF GORDON: I think we focused a lot on our mile-and-a-half program this year. We definitely improved that. I think we can just make some small tweaks there. But I think it's the short tracks now that we got to go back after and the road courses.

We really haven't performed as well on the short tracks. We'll look at these final 10 races, New Hampshire I felt like we struggled, and we shouldn't have. That's one of our best tracks. Phoenix coming up is a tough track for us.

We're hoping we improve this time around. But we're certainly going to learn all that we can this time around to make sure that we're good next season.

It's all about being good in the final 10. But we got to win to get some bonus points to position ourselves going into it all when it starts.

Q. NASCAR did some follow-up meetings, town hall, had some drivers, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton. To have that going on, what does that mean for you? Would you prefer there would be a couple standard drivers that go to most of those or does it need to be kind of rotating or does it not matter if there's an open-door policy?

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, the open-door policy has its benefits. I think the biggest thing I've seen in the last, shoot, since I've been here, was having the large group of drivers coming together in one room. I mean, if you really want to get something done, that's how you get it done, behind closed doors with that group.

I think it's great they're reaching out.  I think the more they can do
with that, the better.  The drivers feel like they're a part of the
sport, what's going on, decisions that are being made.  Just giving our
input I think can help them make better decisions.  So I'm all for it.

Q. Was it a case that driver input, not enough was taken, or did it work out properly last week in Talladega? NASCAR said some guys went to them and said, You have to eliminate some of this push drafting.

JEFF GORDON: And I was one of 'em. Bump-drafting through the corners is ridiculous, you know. So I don't think that had anything to do with the race that you saw last week.

If anything, I think it's what allowed there to be 30-plus cars on the lead lap with 30 to go, which sometimes only makes the big wreck even bigger at the end. But I think the reason why guys got to the end of that race more so than we've than seen in the past is because we weren't pushing one another through the corners. I think that was a big positive.

You know, if you have a car that you can bump-draft like that car does, that's the issue. It's not telling us what we can and can't do. We need to get out there and work hard to swap positions. You know, track position is so important in our series. They create a car that's it's not important, you know, that you can kind of get up there any time you want, but you go back and forth, back and forth, eventually you're going to have guys that say, We have 500 miles to go, we need to just sit here and ride. That's what everybody appeared to do. It's happened the last few times we've been there.

So, you know, it's unfortunate when we get single file like that, Talladega, we know what kind of race we can put on. But at the same time if you know you got to try to get to the end, 500 miles, that's sort of the box that you've been put into.

Q. Mark Martin was saying earlier today that he could potentially finish second in the championship to Dale Earnhardt, to you, to Tony Stewart, to Jimmie, certainly among the most successful drivers of this generation, this era. People will look at that and may see that as a failure. He talks about his record obviously doesn't match up with each of you guys in some senses. How would you explain what his value is or what his talent is? A lot of people look at never winning a championship and disregard him.

JEFF GORDON: I think he's one of the best out there still today, you know. He's proven that this year. You put him in solid equipment, look what he can do. I'm sure, you know, he's probably scratching his head, thinking, What do I have to do to get to that No. 1 spot? What am I missing? He's not missing anything. He's just rock solid. The team has been great. I'm just a huge, huge Mark Martin fan. You know, some of those years that he finished second could have very easily gone a different way and he would be sitting there No. 1. For whatever reason, they haven't. He's gonna be here for a couple more years to have more shots at it. I hope he pulls it off.

He certainly deserves to be a champion. In my opinion, he is. But, you know, I know that nobody else is going to consider him that until he has the actual trophy.

Q. Can I ask you about moving the banquet from New York to Vegas?

JEFF GORDON: I'm happy about it. I'm excited. I think it's a great time to change. I think there's a lot of benefits that are going to happen in Vegas. I think just space and the opportunities to do things there, plus reach out to the West Coast a little bit more, the media out on the West Coast. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it goes. I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be a great move. You know, New York is fantastic, but we sort of get lost there. Even as much effort as they put into it, you know, it's very easy to get lost there, where I think we're going to have a big presence in Vegas. Hopefully, you know, it's a better experience for the fans because we can include them in on it, and they get to come to Vegas.

Q. If you could change anything in the Chase, would it be to add another restrictor plate race, add another short track, or add a (indiscernible)?

JEFF GORDON: I think it would be pretty cool to see Bristol in there. I would say probably add a short track. I like the road courses. I wouldn't mind seeing a road course in there also. I think Bristol, it's the ultimate experience from a driver as well as a fan. I think to have our most popular and exciting track in the Chase would be big.

Q. How does your starting position here translate, how important is that to get good pit position and be starting up front here at Texas?

JEFF GORDON: I mean, it's big. If you can follow it up with the right combination in the race, which is what we did the last time we were here, I think we qualified second. We've been really strong here qualifying the last couple years. The last race it worked for us. The race before that, we finished second, but we were about a 15th-place car. It's not crucial. But if you can qualify good and have a good racecar, you're going to have a great shot at winning this race. The whole key to winning races is keeping yourself in the top three or four, especially the second half of the race, getting yourself in that position, being able to maintain that. And we believe that starting up front gives us a better opportunity to do that.

Q. What would you say is the best trophy out there from any of these racetracks?

JEFF GORDON: The best trophy? I mean, the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400. If you're talking about just looking at the trophy, the ones here at Texas are cool. Bristol is cool. There's some cool trophies out there. But as far as the ones that mean the most, those are the ones that mean the most.

Q. What about Martinsville?

JEFF GORDON: The clocks are very cool. I think those are trophies that are going to stick with you and last a lifetime because they're a great clock as well (laughter).

Q. Where are your clocks?

JEFF GORDON:  We have 'em spread out.  We have some in the office.  I
don't have any at home.  But, you know, some crew chiefs have taken
clocks.  Rick Hendrick.  Myself.  We have them spread around quite a bit.
Q.        The best turn to get through at any racetrack, the one that's
your favorite?  Is there one?
JEFF GORDON:  Well, I always say that the tunnel turn at Pocono is
probably one of the most challenging to get it right.  But when you get
it right, man, is it sweet.  I guess I'll say that one.

Q. If you look at what Jimmie has done, he doesn't run Nationwide races, he doesn't have an ownership stake in a national series team, is it too much of a leap saying not having all that other stuff going on is a reason he's been able to stay on top?

JEFF GORDON: I've been saying that for years. Everybody is, How come you don't run the Nationwide Series? I think that's a smart move. I think, especially these days, the cars being so different, it doesn't make any sense.

Listen, the bottom line, you want to know why those guys are running Nationwide races? For money. They're wanting extra money. The sponsors are there supporting the car owners to run the series. Those guys are able to make extra money. That's why they run it. Of course, somebody like Kyle, you know, has the opportunity to go win a championship, or Carl, then, hey, why not do that, too? But the Cup drivers that are over there, that's why they're doing it.

So, you know, Jimmie is a well-paid driver. I think that he sees the benefits of not being over there. I don't know if he looked at the way I did it or not. He still runs sometimes. But, again, these days those cars are so much different. Maybe next year when they go to the new car, whenever they go to the new car, if the cars are more similar, maybe you'll see more guys, it benefitting them on Sunday.

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Greg Biffle , Jimmie Johnson , Brad Keselowski , Mark Martin