JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed sponsorships, the close Chase, Jimmie Johnson going for another championship, and more. REGARDING THE RACE AT TEXAS THIS WEEKEND: "We are just really looking forward this ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed sponsorships, the close Chase, Jimmie Johnson going for another championship, and more.
REGARDING THE RACE AT TEXAS THIS WEEKEND:
"We are just really looking forward this second trip to Texas this weekend because we ran so well here earlier in the year. But obviously with the way things ended we feel like we have some unfinished business to do here at Texas so I am really anxious to see how our set-up from not only the last time we were here but what we have learned since then to keep up the changing competition and improving competition and I think we are really looking forward to applying that this weekend to try to get that win. Obviously we understand as well as anybody that we have not won and how important it is for us to win and also the fact that we are fourth in points and we not only have to keep pushing to get that win but to keep ourselves as high up in the points as possible."
WITH THE ECONOMY THE WAY IT IS, DID IT CHANGE THE WAY YOU APPROACHED OR ACCEPTED SPONSORSHIP NOW?
"You have to understand that while the economy has been tough, we still had a tremendous amount of interest; which to me was very encouraging. But to put the whole thing together, all the nuts and bolts and all the pieces you have a lot unique conflicts that happen with every sponsor we have ever had you know. Because you have existing agreements in the organization with other cars and you have sponsors that are going to stay on board, and you have all these different and unique dynamics that come into play that when it really comes down to signing on that dotted line it's a very difficult process.
"And we have been very fortunate over the years that Dupont has typically signed up before they had to and before that process really came about. It was like 'yes, we are going to resign', so I think to me the real sign of the economy was that they felt like they had to cut back and I have seen it with their entertaining at the race track and the number of people that they are entertaining through hospitality which is a big, big part of their sponsorship but the fact that they wanted to stay on board was very exciting because I want to end my career with DuPont on the car because they have been that kind of company for us.
"Have we been approached by licensing, merchandising, and sponsorships and endorsements over the years that we have said no to? Absolutely. You would be amazed at some of the things that come our way. You can't say yes to everything, so you have to pick and choose and I felt like we did that process this time as well, but we probably didn't have quite as many to choose from."
WERE THERE SPONSORS IN AREAS WHERE YOU JUST DON'T GO?
"You can use your imagination (laughs). I mean you get approached by anything and everything, so the good thing is that there are a lot of people that love the fan base that we have. I will do some research and see if there is one that I can share with the group."
SO JEFF GORDON BEER IS NOT COMING ON THE MARKET ANYTIME SOON?
"Well, we've got those.......(laughs)"
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED HERE EARLIER THIS YEAR WITH JIMMIE AND HOW YOU GUYS TALKED ABOUT IT AND CLEARED THINGS UP?
"Yeah absolutely. There has always been inter-competition between the teams at Hendrick Motorsports and that is a very positive thing but you don't want it to get to the point that it starts to cause conflict and I think a couple of misunderstandings and just the heightened sense of competition in our organization and the fact that everybody out there wants to beat Jimmie Johnson because he has been the guy to beat and we had a car capable of doing that at Vegas, we had a car capable of doing it here at Texas and you know I think after we made contact and after some of the things that were said that Rick Hendrick is a great mediator in things like that and he knows what good friend Jimmie and I are, but he also knows what fierce competitors we are.
"And those two things don't always go together and I think what was important was important to Rick..........and it just needed to become more aware to all of us and on our teams, is how important it was to work together and share that information and to be able to be open and honest about things even if there is a conflict. So yes, we did talk about it and I think that it strengthened our relationship because of that."
AS MUCH AS YOU WANT TO WIN, THIS CHAMPIONSHIP IS VERY CLOSE AND IT COULD COME DOWN TO THE BONUS POINTS AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FIRST AND SECOND. DO YOU HELP WHEN/IF JIMMIE JOHNSON REALLY NEEDS THE POINTS?
"I pushed him at that end of that race last weekend (Talladega). I could have gone a different way to have gotten myself in maybe a little bit better position but I thought at the time that it was risky for me to make a move to the outside, so I thought better of it. I thought I'll just go in here and push him and see where we can go. Had the white flag not come out, I think we were going to make even some more positions. But, that's an instance and we're going to do everything we can to win the race here this weekend. And to me, if it's leading one lap, that's one thing. But if we've got a car that's capable of going out there and dominating the race and winning the race, then we're going to go out there and we're going to do that."
HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY FLACK ABOUT WHEN YOU SAID ON THE RADIO AT TALLADEGA THAT YOUR ENGINE WAS BLOWING?
"Well, I've been out of the country this week. I'll be honest with you. My wife is turning 40 so we celebrated her birthday and I've been out of touch with everything until I got back last night. So, I haven't heard anything like that but I laugh at it as you said it because trust me, in a situation like that as much as I rode around the back all day, I was not about to lose that lead. I still don't even know what happened to the engine or what was going on there and I'm anxious to know and talk to those guys (crew). I'm just focused on Texas now and I can just promise you that there was no foul play there. I was doing everything I could to win that race."
WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY OF THE COMPETITORS SAY THAT FOR SOMEBODY ELSE BESIDES JIMMIE JOHNSON TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WOULD BE GOOD FOR THE SPORT AND FOR HIM TO WIN IT AGAIN WOULD BE BAD FOR THE SPORT?
"Because they want to win? (laughs). I think that there are probably two sides to it. I think that, and I tell Jimmie this all the time, and this in a way kind of happened to me and what he's going through is far more impressive than anything I ever did. But ten years from now, or even 20 years from now, you'll look back on this time and go wow. You will just look at how impressive it is and how impactful it's been to the sport and how chances of it ever happening again are near impossible. And I think it will be respected more and appreciated more and probably looked at in a positive way. But right now, I think that people are looking at the ratings, at attendance, and trying to figure it out. They're trying to figure out what we have to do to re-engage the mass of fans that we've drawn for so long. We've got incredible fans and avid fans, but it's obvious that those numbers are down. And we have more measuring tools and more media outlets and all those things now so we have ways of measuring it. I personally don't think it has anything to do with Jimmie winning four or five or six or however many (championships) he wins because I think each one that he wins makes it that much more challenging for the other ones to pull it off and to take that away from him and I think it should engage fans in even more ways to be anxious to see somebody do that. And, plus he's building his fan base up while doing it because of how impressive it is.
"But I don't think there's anybody here in this room to day that would disagree that if Dale Junior was going for the championship and what that would do for us. I think we all know that. Shoot, let's put Danica Patrick in there as well. We all know what draws the mass number of fans and what gets those spikes in there. But there is no control over that and Jimmie and Chad (Knaus) and that No. 48 team are the best team out there and they've shown it year in and year out and they deserve what they've accomplished and if you want it you've got to go get it. That's to me, the challenge to every other team including myself out there that has to happen. But I'm not sure who said that. But to me, I think it's somebody who just wishes things were reversed a little bit."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU WHEN PEOPLE WERE SAYING THIS ABOUT YOU?
"The one thing that I say that is different, because I get asked this a lot and I have conversations even with Jimmie and Rick Hendrick and other people about this, is that my first championship came against Dale Earnhardt, Sr. That championship grew fans because at that point in the sport, at that time, there was just a tremendous amount of growth that was happening. Me being so opposite of Dale, just being young and brought up in racing in a way where there was a camera presence and sponsorship awareness and all these things was just a total opposite of what Dale was and what he represented at that time that it was growing his fans and their hatred toward me and growing my fans and an appreciation for that rivalry. That carried to me for a while and while there were a lot of fans out there that didn't like that we went on and won three more championships, to me it didn't impact the sport in a way. But, we weren't going through some of the economy things.
"I think it is kind of a coincidence and it is really unfortunate I think for Jimmie because I really hate to see somebody like that who is that good; that's dominated like that; that's done what they have done and be put to blame for some things that are totally not his doing. I just wish that weren't the case. I think what he is doing, you have to put yourself in his shoes, what he is doing is unbelievable. I think somebody should be applauded for that and somebody should recognized for doing such great things, not have this kind of shadow on it that it's not good for the sport."
HOW EXCITING IS THIS TRACK GOING TO BE FOR FANS THIS WEEKEND?
"This track has really turned into just a fantastic track. When we first came here, it was a really, really challenging race track; fast; transitions were really abrupt, it was hared to even stay out of the wall. But as the surface has worn and as we've gotten the cars handling better at this track, it's to me just become on of the premier tracks. It's always been one of the premiere facilities if not the premiere facility, there is no other place like this, but the race track itself has really come into its own and made great racing as well. The groove has widened out. I think the fans are going to see a heck of a show this weekend as is pretty typical at Texas. But, it seems like it gets better every time we come here."
WHEN YOU WERE IN THE THICK OF A CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE AS IT CAME DOWN TO THE END, HOW DID YOU HANDLE EVERYTHING AROUND IT? WAS THERE A TEMPTATION TO KIND TO GO INTO BUNKER MENTALITY AND SHUT EVERYTHING OUT?
"In '04 when Kurt (Busch) won and we were in a pretty tight battle there, it's just different if you are leading versus chasing. To me, the advantage that Kevin Harvick has is that he really has nothing to lose. He's the chaser there, so they can really go for broke, there is really no threat of losing third and so they can just really make gutsier calls. I think when you are the leader, you are on the fence there.
"You want to make sure you have fast race cars but when it comes down to some of those gutsy calls, it is a coin flip whether you do it or not and that hesitation can sometimes not work in your favor. I think the real pressure and the toughest part to be the leader in a tight group like this in a tight battle. The nice thing is that they have done it for the last four and they have great experience and confidence so if anybody can do it, they can. I think it is unique for all of them. I know how bad Denny (Hamlin) wants, how bad everybody wants to knock that No. 48 off that pedestal. there is a lot of motivation, but, each race that goes by, the intensity increases and the pressure increases because of how much is on the line. To those three guys, this is every single thing they've worked for their entire lives to be right here in this position."
-source: gm racing