JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD SPECIAL FORCES CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed the spoiler at Texas, Kasey Kahne joining Hendrick Motorsports and other topics. HOW DO YOU FEEL HEADING INTO...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD SPECIAL FORCES CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed the spoiler at Texas, Kasey Kahne joining Hendrick Motorsports and other topics.
HOW DO YOU FEEL HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND'S RACE AT TEXAS?: "Very happy with the car. We made some race runs and then we switched over to qualifying trim. Very happy with the car on the race runs. We needed to make a few adjustments for qualifying, but even with that I feel pretty confident about how we're going to qualify. Feel really good and I'm excited about the way things are going for our team. I was anxious to get here and see, we tested at Charlotte with the spoiler and we tested this car. I was anxious to see how it would drive here plus it was a little bit different tire that Goodyear has here so I was very happy with everything."
HOW DOES THE SPOILER AFFECT THE CAR ON THE TRACK?: "It seems like you don't turn as much RPM, like it has so much more drag that you don't gain as much speed down the straightaway. Through the corner I don't really feel any difference."
HOW DO YOU ADJUST FOR THE SPOILER WITH THE VARYING STYLES OF RACE TRACKS UPCOMING ON THE SCHEDULE?: "We're really not doing anything different. We feel like we've learned a lot in the wind tunnel. We've gone and tested at Charlotte and until we go through this race and say that we better rethink the way we're doing things, we're pretty much sticking with what we've been doing and our plan. Right now, other than the drag on the straightaway, I'm not feeling a whole lot of differences. Now you can experiment with some things and we'll probably do more of that tomorrow, but start getting to places like Indianapolis, Pocono, those long straightaways -- that drag could start to play a role and you might start doing some things with your rear heights and springs. For here we want max down force, we think. Most of the tracks that we have coming up are tracks that we think we want max down force."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE CAR WITH THE SPOILER WILL HANDLE IN THE DRAFT AT TALLADEGA?: "Again, we tested there so we have a pretty good idea. I'm really anxious to see what NASCAR goes back there with on the spoiler height as well as the restrictor plate because when we ended there we were making some changes and some people liked it and some people didn't. I think no matter what, it's going to be an extremely exciting race. You're going to see where the cars can be pretty aggressive in the draft, you can bump draft a lot and all those things. I think if it's too aggressive then the drivers are going to want to try to ride to the middle of the race and I don't think they want that. We need to make it a little bit harder to pass than what we have had. I think that means that track position will be a little more important and make us fight a little harder for that track position and want to maneuver their way from wherever they are to try to get up front. I think that's the direction I would like to see them go in, we'll see what they decide. I don't even know what they've done or if they've done anything."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON YOUR NEW TEAMMATE FOR 2010 WITH KASEY KAHNE?: "I'm excited. I've always been a big fan of Kasey's (Kahne). I love the fact that he has the sprint car background. He just seems like a very talented race car driver from racing against him. I won't know exactly until we start working together, but so far all I can say is positive things about it and that I feel very fortunate at Hendrick to have been able to sign Kasey and looking forward to that future with him there."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PAINT SCHEME THIS WEEK AND YOUR ASSOCIATION WITH THE SPECIAL FORCES?: "I got a chance to go to the Special Forces Operation yesterday near Austin (Tx.) and I tell you what, it was awesome. It was one of the coolest experiences. We were flown in a Blackhawk helicopter, got to go through some different missions training with them. These guys are unbelievable. They are just the elite of the Special Forces. They are so versatile. What these guys have to go through training wise, what they have to do when they do go into battle -- it's unbelievable. I got a small taste of it, had a lot of fun shooting a lot of different things, which was cool and actually going into some rooms and clearing some rooms. Holding that rifle as a team with other Special Forces soldiers, it was cool. The fact that we're carrying them on board this weekend really takes our relationship with the National Guard to a whole other level. Having that one on one experience with those actual soldiers was amazing. It's an exciting weekend for us."
DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE MORE SPINS AND CAUTIONS WITH THE SPOILER BECAUSE YOU CAN'T RECOVER AS EASILY?: "There's less side force with the spoiler. It's whether or not the drag is going to make up for the lack of side force. I think there's no doubt that when you get the car to a certain degree of loose, it's just going to come around and you're not going to catch it as easily and you used to be able to. There's no doubt that's the case. It's going to put that edge of being too loose more on a nice edge. I think that as drivers it's going to make us work a little harder. I think the biggest challenge is going to be in traffic and seeing how this car with the spoiler reacts in traffic. This, to me, is the biggest test of them all. Traffic and track position is so important here at Texas. We've seen where that's been the case in the past and I think it's going to be that way even more so with the spoiler here."
HOW DO YOU PERSONALLY DEFINE SUCCESS AND DO YOU THINK IT'S DIFFERENT THAN THE WAY FANS DEFINE A DRIVER'S SUCCESS?: "I feel that you set your standard of success by the success that you have. For us to have won all the races that we've won and the championships and then to not do that over the last several years, that's how we're measured and that's how we measure ourselves is the same. It's nice to go out there and have a one-two-three finish in the points with Hendrick last year, but we want to be number one. Our fans want us to be number one and we're doing everything we can as a team to get that back. We know it's there because our teammate has done it.
"I've been on both sides of it now and it's challenging, but it's also exciting to know that the tools are there, you just have to work hard at it. I'm in better shape than I've been and I think that's making an improvement from me to the car and not having to focus on my back as much. I think the commitment is there with the race team. Steve's (Letarte, crew chief) doing a great job and it's been a little frustrating to not win these last couple that we had a shot at winning, but I think if we continue putting ourselves in these positions then the wins will come."
DID YOU HAVE ANY INPUT WITH THE TEAM OR WITH KASEY KAHNE REGARDING HIM SIGNING WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?: "I did not have a conversation with Kasey (Kahne), I expressed my opinion when Rick (Hendrick, team owner) talked to me about it before anything was done or signed, when he was meeting with Kasey. I was very supportive of it. We all knew that Mark Martin coming on board, that's a huge gain for us, it's proven itself with their success and how that team has been able to elevate themselves up to the competitive level that they're at -- championship caliber. I think it's been good for Mark, but I think everybody knows that was to build that team up to bring in a young talent for the future. That's going to be Kasey Kahne. I think it's very exciting. Obviously we don't know when exactly that's going to take place and there's still some things to work out, but I think it's a win-win for everybody. I love having Mark Martin on board, he's been a huge asset to the team and our whole organization. We'll continue to do that for next year. Kasey is somebody that I think we're all excited to be working with in the future as well as next year."
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT KASEY KAHNE WILL DRIVE IN 2011 AND WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT HIS FAITH IN HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS THAT HE SIGNED NOT HAVING A PLAN FOR NEXT SEASON?: "Rick (Hendrick, team owner), he's not just convincing, he stands behind his word. When a guy like Rick Hendrick has built an organization that he has and the people that are out there that want to come work there, like Kasey (Kahne) and he says that we have some things to work out for 2011, but from 2012 on, you're here and you're going to be in that 5 car, it's hard for anybody to turn that down. I go back to when I was signing with Rick, they didn't have a sponsor, a team, nothing and I remember sitting across from him and seeing his commitment and hearing it in his voice, 'We're going to put together a third team and we're going to go out there and we're committed.' I'm sure that a lot of those same conversations probably happened with Kasey. You know that he's a man of his word and he's going to be all right in 2011 and beyond."
DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE HARD FOR KASEY KAHNE TO FIND A RIDE FOR 2011?: "It's not like he's just out there floating in the air and we are talking about Kasey Kahne, he has a lot of people, he was a hot commodity. I would say that other than Dale Earnhardt Jr. a couple of years ago, this guy, the fact that his contract was up, there was a lot of people that wanted him in their car. We're excited that we have him and he'll be in a Chevrolet and the rest is yet to be determined."
DO YOU THINK KASEY KAHNE COULD GO TO STEWART-HAAS RACING?: "That's certainly an option. Stewart-Haas Racing, we're tied very closely to and I think we have a great working relationship with them. We have options. Kasey (Kahne) has options. Details will be worked out and I don't know what's going to happen, but I feel like something good will be there for him next year as well as beyond that."
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN THE CAR WITH THE SPOILER FOLLOWING SUNDAY'S RACE?: "You're always wanting speed and you're always wanting balance that helps with the speed. Those are the things that we're playing around with, which we haven't really seen any big difference with that. When I talk about Sunday, when we're in traffic, behind a car, is it taking off the front of the car or is it taking off the whole car. Is the whole car losing grip or are we just going to lose the front of the car? Are we going to lose the back of the car? As far as the aero, down force and grip -- how much are you going to have to search around? Is it at 20 car lengths away, 10 car lengths away, five car lengths away that it's affected the most? If I move a little to the right, to the left, how is that affecting it? With the wing, the wing is more efficient, it doesn't throw off its wake like a spoiler does.
"We're going to have to play around a little more with that. Side force, when a car gets to the outside of you, is it going to suck the car around more? It's been a while since we've done some of that stuff. There didn't seem to be an issue at Phoenix so we get here, we'll go faster and we'll see if it's an issue here. Then also with a car behind you, if a car gets right up behind you, is it going to affect your car more than with the wing?"
HOW DID THE WING AFFECT HANDLING OF THE CAR?: "I've learned with the wing that it takes total off, just the whole car loses grip, loses speed and just kind of comes to a halt. You have to start searching around. I think its going to be very similar to that, but it could be better, it could be worse. You can't always tell through wind tunnel testing when air starts coming back off the car, when does it come back and reattach, what's happening underneath the car.
"Those are things that you have to determine when you get out there. You don't really, really know."
WILL YOU NEED TO SEE HOW CLOSE TO NEED TO BE IN ORDER TO GET ANOTHER CAR LOOSE?: "That was one of the things with the old car and the spoiler, you could really affect the guy in front of you a lot more. Some of it is the way the rear bumpers are now. The way they were with the old car, you could kind of get underneath them and change the air up underneath the car. Now you can't do that because the bumpers line up. It's not just the spoiler; it's what's going on underneath the back of the car as well."
DO YOU THINK OTHER TEAMS ENDED UP BEATING THEMSELVES WHEN THEY WERE TRYING TO BEAT YOU DURING YOUR DOMINANCE?: "I never thought about that. I focused on what I was doing and our team. When we were fast, we were the fastest car. It didn't matter to me what the competition thought. That might have been happening, it might have been breaking down their confidence and raising their frustration level like, 'What do we have to do?' I see that with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). A lot of people are like, 'Man, not him again, what do we have to do to beat them?' Everybody is beatable. You just have to work hard and work in the right direction. Those guys have set the new standard.
"Like I said, I've been on both sides of it where we were the ones setting the standard and now they're setting the standard and we have to go to work to get after them. For us, it's easier and tougher at the same time. It's easier because we know exactly what they're doing. We have the same cars, engines, all those things. But it's tougher because we know all those things and you realize that it really comes down to communication, teamwork and putting yourself in the right position, confidence and all that stuff is what's really making the difference. There's other teams out there going, 'Maybe we need to change our right front upper control arm, upper geometry, maybe we need to skew the back of the car more, what do they have or maybe we need to do something with the truck arms.' All those questions have been pretty much answered."
IS IT MORE CHALLENGING FOR YOUR TEAM TO NOT GET DOWN BECAUSE THEY KNOW WHAT THE 48 TEAM IS DOING?: "I think the challenge for us is about equal to the competition outside of Hendrick. We pride ourselves as being one of the top organizations and having a great team out there. When we get beat consistently by somebody then as much as you don't want to admit it, there's no doubt that it affects you and you have to stay on top of your emotions. You have to make sure that you don't let those things affect you and you go to the next one. You have to try to get that momentum back.
"I think if we hadn't had the success we've had over the years, I think it would be much tougher. The fact that we've had means that we know we can get it back, we just have to work really hard at it."
HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED SPLITTING UP CHAD KNAUS AND JIMMIE JOHNSON AS A TEAM OWNER OR COMPETITOR?: "You know I think that my head 80 percent of the time is with driving the car. At the race track, that's all it is, 100 percent of the time. But away from the race track, I would say I'm like 80 percent. What happens is that 20 percent of the time when those conversations get brought up between me and management or Rick Hendrick (team owner) or whatever, then I try to be very non-bias and take that driver hat off and feel like I help them to make the decisions or give them advice on those decisions as to what will be best for the team and the organization.
"I feel like, for us, I would rather go beat them because we improve our race team and our race cars and we're better than them than break them up and go, 'Now we got them.' That's not really beating them. You have to let those things run its course and those guys are really good. You don't want to split up a good organization and a good team like they have. You want to keep it working. Rick Hendrick really makes those decisions, but I always give him my opinion whether he wants them or not."
HAVE YOU BEEN FRUSTRATED BY THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISHES AND DOES IT CHANGE STRATEGY?: "It's certainly not easy, it's been frustrating for sure just because you know that those opportunities aren't always going to be there so when you get that opportunity, you want to seize that moment and take advantage of it. The fact that we weren't able to capitalize on it the last couple of races is definitely disappointing. At the same time, it's encouraging that we're putting ourselves in that position to be able to go out there and possibly win. I think we are heading in the right direction to get ourselves wins and that's what I'm excited the most about. It definitely changes it for the crew chief and puts more pressure on the drivers. Like for myself, you have to hit that restart perfectly. You have to get through the first couple corners and you have to do your part. The crew chief, I think, probably has the most pressure right now because they're having to make the two tire versus four tire or no tire call and that's a tough call. Last week could have gone either way, the same thing at Martinsville. Those are very tough decisions to make. Last week, had the caution come out like it did in Martinsville, Jimmie Johnson probably would have won that race, but it didn't so the four tire call was the wrong call. Martinsville, the caution, had it not come out, the two tire call was going to be the right one there too. With the three green-white-checkered finishes that they allow now, it's just a crap shoot either way."
HOW MUCH DRIVER INPUT COMES INTO PLAY?: "I just give my feeling of what the car is doing and where we're at with the tires that we currently have. If I have a strong opinion either way then I'll voice it and if not, then I try to most of the time leave it up to the crew chief."
-source: gm racing