JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD GED IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed General Motors and Chevrolet, Quaker State, racing at Texas Motor Speedway, success of Stewart-Haas Racing, tracks he...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD GED IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed General Motors and Chevrolet, Quaker State, racing at Texas Motor Speedway, success of Stewart-Haas Racing, tracks he hasn't won on, radio chatter and other topics. Full transcript:
AS AN AUTOMOBILE DEALER OWNER, HOW CLOSE ARE YOU WATCHING THE CHEVROLET SITUATION AND KEEP TABS ON THAT? "I keep about as close of tabs on it as I do any of my investments. That's an investment and its something that is a little bit more personal because I drive and race a Chevrolet. They've been incredible supporters of Hendrick and myself for so many years so certainly keeping track of it a little bit more. From a business standpoint I probably don't pay as much attention to it as I should because I'm more focused on driving the race cars."
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW OFTEN SOMEONE LIKE RICK (HENDRICK) MIGHT BE IN TOUCH WITH THE GM RACING ARM AND WHAT THE SITUATION IS AND HOW IT MIGHT AFFECT THIS? "That's where I get my information is when I'm talking to Rick and I feel him out about getting the pulse of the situation. I know that's a big part of his life and his business so he's certainly in tune with it a lot more than I am. Couldn't tell you how many times a week, a day, a month that he's in touch with them. I have no idea."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE BANQUET POSSIBLY BEING MOVED TO LAS VEGAS? "I've been hearing a little bit of a buzz about that for really the last year. I think there's some positives to it. I think as long as there is still some kind of presence with the media in New York and maybe in L.A. (Los Angeles) it could be a great think. The facility at the Waldorf although its got a lot of history to it, it's not really set up the best that it possibly could for the banquet and being on TV. I would like to see us incorporate the fans into the banquet. One of the coolest awards shows and events I've ever been to was the ESPY's when they did it I believe at Radio City Music Hall in New York. They had like 1,000 fans that were there. It was unbelievable. A really cool experience to get the energy of that crowd in there as well. I just think there are some positives that could come from us doing the awards banquet in Las Vegas and we'll see what happens."
YOU GOT THE POLE POSITION LAST YEAR, HOW SPECIAL WOULD IT BE TO FINISH NUMBER ONE SINCE YOU'VE NEVER WON HERE? "It was great to get the pole last season here in the fall and finish second but we really focus on this track knowing that we need to run better. Track position is key here and we got the track position and weren't really able to maintain it. We just weren't good enough in the race. You know obviously we want to qualify good again and we've got a good enough car to do that but we're really focused on the race and the race set up. As well as things have gone with our 1.5-mile program this year I think we have a good shot at being much better."
HOW OR WHERE ARE YOU WITH THE PLACES YOU HAVEN'T WON? "I'm aware of it because I'm constantly reminded of it. I get asked five or ten of these questions every week. I know this is a track that we definitely have been hit or miss. I want to win here bad. This team deserves to win here. They put ourselves in position to win here a couple of times and just haven't had all the things that you need to have happen at the end of the race go our way. I really think we can win this thing this weekend. Our 1.5-mile program has really improved and I'm excited about tomorrow getting into our race set-ups and runs because I think we got something that can work very well here."
ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT LETTING YOUR HAIR DOWN AND RACING A LITTLE BIT MORE AFTER THE TWO SHORT-TRACK RACES? "I think our 1.5-mile program right now is better than our short-track program. That's why I'm excited. Even though we haven't won here before I'm always optimistic because the team is working hard to make improvements and I'm working hard to do what I can to give them the best feedback that I can so that we can win here and we can be competitive enough. It was nice to get two top-fives out of the short tracks and then keep the momentum going and come here to Texas with that optimistic outlook that we came with here."
WAS LAST SPRING'S RACE HERE THE LOW POINT? "Yeah. I don't know if that's harder or leading and brushing the wall before or having an electrical problem inside 50 laps to go if that's more disappointing. Looking back on it those are pretty disappointing because we could have gotten that off of our back but last spring we were terrible. We struggled all weekend with the car and those types of situations and moments really show you what you're made of in my opinion. We fought back really hard. We did not want to show up at the race track like that again and I think its only made us better as a team."
ON HIS TALK WITH EVANDER HOLIFIELD. "He was pretty quiet. I've met him before. He's a nice guy and its cool to see him involved in this sport. He's pretty reserved."
YOU KNOW WHAT TONY'S (STEWART) IS DRIVING, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM HIM IN THE FIRST COUPLE MONTHS OF HIS TEAM'S EXISTENCE? "I expected performance wise they would be pretty close but there's a lot of bugs to work out with a new team. When you make that many changes to really get the pit crew and just being organized showing up at the race track that's the most impressive part. They're coming to the track well prepared with a good game plan. The sharing of information that we give back and forth with them has really been positive. They've done a great job. They're really on so you've got to be impressed with that."
WITH THE BANQUET BEING IN NEW YORK ONE OF THE THINGS WAS THE ABILITY TO HAVE THE CHAMPION ON REGIS AND KELLY AND THE TODAY SHOW AND THINGS LIKE THAT, CAN YOU ACCOMPLISH THE SAME THINGS WITH SOMETHINGLIKE THE POST-DAYTONA 500 MEDIA TOUR? "I think they can. If I had to guess that's probably what they would do. Shoot it might be even better for the champion to go there and do that and then be on a six-hour flight and actually be able to sleep during the week to get to maybe L.A. or to Vegas. I think that's what's key, not losing the presence in the media in New York and trying to gain a little bit more in Los Angeles and then have a facility that can really do what should be done. I think there are some limitations there in New York even though I think New York has been fantastic. It takes the sport to another level having it there and its done that for so many years. I think its important not to lose that but it doesn't necessarily mean the banquet has to be held there on banquet night."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MAYBE A DAY WHERE YOU WRAP UP THE SEASON IN VEGAS AND HAVE THE BANQUET THERE TWO OR THREE DAYS LATER? "Certainly from a driver standpoint yes. You want to pick up the check and the trophy and go on vacation and enjoy it. But from a reality standpoint that's not going to accomplish what I believe NASCAR is trying to do from their marketing standpoint or your sponsors from a marketing standpoint. Yeah that sounds good but I don't know in reality if that's going to happen. If the economy stays the way it is it would make sense from a budget standpoint."
SPEAKING OF VACATIONS, DO YOU HAVE PLANS FOR NEXT WEEK? "No plans. Just staying home and going to relax with Ingrid and Ella. I'm looking forward to that very much. We actually are doing a Goodyear tire test in New Hampshire at the beginning of the week and then we'll have the rest of the time off."
HAVE YOU BEEN SCOUTING PLACES AROUND THE HOUSE TO HIDE EASTER EGGS? "Yes. She has this little train set that she really likes that is in the living room and I felt like it needed updating. This one was pretty simple. It was an oval and I went to a road course. So I went to the store and I got her that and I got her one other thing too, something with Dora. I brought it home and she was unbelievably interested and excited and like into it. I opened up one one day and said maybe tomorrow we'll open the other one. First thing in the morning she's like open, open. She's definitely starting to be much more aware. I really can't wait for her birthday in June. She's going to have a good time on her birthday so I'm looking forward to that. Easter, she loves bunnies. Anything that has to do with bunnies she's going to have fun with that."
BACK ON THE GM THING ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT IT AT ALL WITH THE PRESIDENT TALKING ABOUT IT IN KIND OF STARK TERMS THIS PAST WEEK? "I mean I'm definitely concerned about it. I'm concerned no more from the fact that I want to see them do well. It's as much for General Motors as it is for all American car makers and looking at how many people they employ in our economy. So I'm way more concerned from that aspect than I am from a racing standpoint."
DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD ALWAYS STAY IN RACING THOUGH? "I certainly do. I don't want to drive anything other than a Chevy. Certainly been doing this for a long time and they've been so good to me and we've won a lot of races and championships with Chevrolet, so I don't want to go any other direction or drive anything else to victory lane. I think there's a much bigger issue right now with the economy and from a business standpoint for them and our nation and global then there is for racing. We'll deal with that if we have to."
QUAKER STATE ANNOUNCED WEDNESDAY THAT NOBODY ACCEPTED THE WEAR WAR CHALLENGE ON THE SYNTHETICS; DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU AT ALL? "It doesn't surprise me after what happened in Darlington. I think we pretty much proved it right there just how incredible they are with wear protection when you put it to that kind of extreme test. Quaker State has been a great supporter of ours so I'm glad to hear that nobody wanted to challenge them."
THE RACE IN POINTS THIS YEAR IS TIGHTER THAN EVER BEFORE SINCE THE CHASE HAS BEEN INITIATED, I THINK AT THIS POINT THERE ARE 11 GUYS WITHIN 100 POINTS OF 12TH PLACE, LAST YEAR THERE WERE FOUR DO YOU THINK THAT'S MORE TO DO WITH PEOPLE GETTING THE HANG OF THE NEW CAR OR IS IT MORE BECAUSE OF NO TESTING AND YOU'VE GOT A LOT OF DIFFERENT PEOPLE FIGURING IN? "I don't know. Really I haven't focused or thought about it in that way at all because of just focusing on our team and what we feel like we have to do to maintain not only a high points position to be in the Chase but win races and try to get those bonus points so we can be a threat for the championship when those final 10 come around. I think this car is very even among a lot of guys. I think people are also constantly learning how to race with the Chase format. It's too early to get ahead of yourself and do anything stupid. You just need to go out there and be consistent. That's what's going to get you in the top-12. But the guys that are going to race for the championship are the guys that are pushing it hard to see what they have and really get prepared for those final 10. That's the thing, you look at the No. 48. Martinsville is in the Chase and to me that performance they had there that's something that we have to step up to compete with those guys because they are going to be tough when the Chase comes around."
IS IT POSSIBLE TO SANDBAG AT ALL DURING THE REGULAR SEASON BEFORE THE CHASE AND THEN STEP IT UP AT THAT POINT? "I don't think its possible to sandbag because you can easily run into problems and have a bad finish. The next thing you know you find yourself on the outside looking in. I don't think you can sandbag but I think that if you're running good, things are going well and you're well positioned you can certainly experiment a little bit and take some risks and chances to try to learn some things to better yourself for the final 10."
ON RUNNING AT TRACKS THAT YOU HAVE WON AT IN THE PAST: "With the way the team has performed this year it doesn't matter to me where we go. I feel like we have a shot at winning everywhere -- even here. To me its working with the team to really understand the set-ups that we're bringing to the race track, how they're working, debriefing after the races to see how we can improve it when we go back. Just find the things that are working for us and aren't working for us so that when they go back to the seven-post and they go back in their sim (simulation) and their set-ups that are coming up and the cars that we can just make ourselves better because we're good right now -- we're real good. We could have won a race or two already, but we haven't. We need to keep going down this path -- we're certainly in the right direction which is a big improvement from last year. We know we have to get a little bit better."
ARE YOU SURPRISED AT YOUR CONSISTENCY THIS SEASON?: "Yeah I am. I felt like in the final 10 races of last year we were very consistent and much stronger then we had been earlier in the year so I knew we made improvements. I was excited over the off-season about the way things were going just listening to the team and the direction that we were looking at and my driving style versus the set-ups. I was excited about it, but you still never know how exactly it's going to go until you put it on the race track."
HOW DO YOU RATE THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF KYLE BUSCH AND DALE EARNHARDT JR?: "It's just totally different personalities. Totally different approach at it -- both impressive. It's hard to compare -- they both bring a lot to the table. It's obvious of the raw talent that Kyle (Busch) has, but I think Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) has a lot more talent than he's given credit for. All I can say is that during the debriefs, the type of information that we get from him is very good. That tells me a lot about a driver and what they can do. You've got Kyle (Busch) who is much younger. He's had to work on his patience. Junior, he seems to have patience and it's really about adapting to being at Hendrick and looking at what all the other teams are doing -- what's working, what's not working and adapting that to your own style. You'd have to ask me a more specific question."
HAVE YOU EVER SCREAMED AT ANYONE OVER THE RADIO?: "I've never screamed at the car owner, I can tell you that. I think it's intense out there -- it will get the best of you. I lose control many times throughout most races and say things that I wish I hadn't of said. Usually when things are going good you don't say a whole lot. When things aren't going well that's when the frustration kicks in. I would never make it personal and I still have respect for the team and what they're doing and try to keep that to a minimum to where any of those comments are left in a closed room behind closed doors where you don't have all the adrenaline flowing from what's happening inside the race car and you can think about your words a lot better and make it more useful as to how to make the team better. Anything I have ever said I certainly intend for it to be constructive criticism and I feel the same way towards me. You've got to know how to handle yourself in those moments on the radio because those types of things can tear a team down also."
ON REFERENCING RICK HENDRICK: "I never called him 'dude.' Just boss. Yes sir boss, whatever you say boss. '10-4' boss."
ON YOUR ROLE WITH THE MANUFACTURERS IN NASCAR: "Not from the bailout point of view other than I don't think the government would be making those decisions if they thought it was the wrong decision. They're just too big of companies and mean too much to the U.S. economy to just forget about them. I think that's obvious to all of us. I don't think I really have to explain that to anybody. My only responsibility is why they're involved in racing and what they do for us and how we can support them through tough times."
HAVE YOU HAD TO EXPLAIN THE MANUFACTURERS ROLE IN NASCAR TO ANYONE?: "I haven't had to do any of that. I haven't had anybody question that to me. I think they know that I'm a driver and I am probably not high enough up the list to really ask that question to. I don't think it has anything to do with driving ability and racing, I think it has to do with knowing about economy and things way above me."
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE U.S. AUTO MANUFACTURERS?: "Absolutely, but I think I am worried about it more just from the economy of our country, not our sport. That to me is much further down the list of how it impacts racing -- it's how its impacting our economy and all the employees out there that have been employed by GM and all the car manufacturers and just what's happening in the economy in general and how we can stimulate it to get it back. I can only tell you from a Chevy dealer that we've got the best products that we've ever had from them so they're building great cars, but with what's gone on in loans and what's going on with just people purchasing items. That's obviously what we've got to get turned around. If we were supporting them with well-funded jobs and packages that are going to allow them that freedom to get back to spending and right now everyone is in conservation mode and for good reason."
WITH SOME RACE TEAMS SO LARGE AND MINIATURE MANUFACTURING PLANTS, IF A MANUFACTURER WENT AWAY HOW DETRIMENTAL COULD IT BE TO A RACE TEAM?: "That's looking at it the wrong way because General Motors doesn't pay all of those employees salaries. I would say that most of our funding comes from our primary sponsors. Because we've been able to reach out and do things with other teams as well through some other engine packages and chassis. Now the parts and the pieces and the support from a technical standpoint that we get from General Motors is crucial and we need that. They are fantastic at it. It's not that we don't want that -- we do. We don't want that to go away. If we didn't have that support and if they went away does it mean that Hendrick Motorsports would have to cut our employees in half -- I don't think so."
WHAT DOES THE COMPETITION LOOK LIKE TO YOU THIS SEASON?: "There's a lot of competition. Other than Kyle (Busch) at Bristol -- he really came through the field, unbelievable. He really had a car that could pass, could maneuver through traffic unlike I've seen in some time. You have to give him and that team a lot of credit for that. To me I think we still have an aerodynamic issue with this car. You just really get stuck behind cars and I don't think we've got it 100 percent figured out. We don't talk about it as much anymore, but the issue hasn't gone away. We've gotten better with the cars. I think everybody has made the cars, from just a pure speed standpoint, much more competitive among one another. The times are very, very tight and that's only going to make track position that much more critical."
ARE THE RACES NOW ALL ABOUT QUALIFYING?: "It's always been all about qualifying in my opinion. Ever since I got into racing qualifying was important. It's important to qualify up front. The thing is before I got into NASCAR, I always started like eighth. Back then it was just to show you were fast. Now it's actually to show you're fast and track position."
-credit: gm racing