Watkins Glen: Jeff Gordon - Friday media visit

JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed racing at Watkins Glen this weekend, the importance of bonus points going into the Chase, the best places to pass at ...

JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed racing at Watkins Glen this weekend, the importance of bonus points going into the Chase, the best places to pass at Watkins Glen and more.

WHAT'S YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? "I'm excited about it. We've been working hard getting prepared for this race. Did a test at Road Atlanta which is a place where we started testing at last year to get prepared for Watkins Glen. I feel like we've got some things that we've made gains with. Anxious to get out on the track and see if we have. Had a great race going last year with a disappointing finish when I wheel hopped and spun going into turn one. I certainly would love to get that opportunity back and hopefully we can do that this weekend."

YOU USED TO BE ABLE TO MODIFY THE OLD CAR TO GET IT READY FOR ROAD COURSE RACING, THE NEW CAR IS IN A MUCH TIGHTER BOX. IS IT SUITED TO ROAD COURSE RACING LIKE THE OLD ONE WAS OR IS IT TOUGHER? "It's just as suited to road course races as it is to ovals. You have a lot of tools to work with so you just go to work in other areas. One of the things that we had a challenge with this car is trying to get the car slowed down in the corner which was always a challenge with the old car too but just not quite as much as with this car because we don't have the drag and down force that we could put into the old car. All in all I feel like last year the car drove really good on the road courses. For some reason this year at Sonoma we were pretty far off. It had so much less grip and it seemed like the pace was really down compared to the year before which was a little odd so we're anxious to see how that plays out here this weekend. I feel like that this track is just much more suited for our cars because it's faster. There's not as much technical aspects to this track as at Sonoma. You can get a little bit more aggressive and you can get a little bit more out of the car. The car has drove pretty good at the road courses. I feel like we have probably had less issues at the road course other than the wheel hop. The biggest issues that we have is just trying to get the car slowed down into the braking zone. With as much weight transfer and the high center of gravity, we just really get a lot of weight on the front of the car. We don't have the down force to push the car down so the rear tires get very, very light so it's real easy to what we call wheel hop or just loose traction in the rear. The rear tires just start skipping and ultimately you either go straight or spin out like I did last year. Those are the areas we've been working on since last year and yeah it's a tight box but those are the areas that we can work on. Really we're not that limited on brakes and just trying to figure out the chassis and how do you get the grip that we need."

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE CHASE AND WHAT THOSE MEAN WHEN YOU GET THE TOP 12 LOCKED IN. "Well obviously as we get closer they become more and more important. To me, I feel like we've got a team that is really capable of winning the championship in a heads up battle against the other eleven guys that we're up against right now just because we're consistent. We're able to knock down top-fives, top-tens and the pit stops and communication, all those things are great we're just not winning the races. You're not coming out of all these races with the most points but if you look over a wide range of races especially the ten races in the Chase, I feel like we're as good as anybody. We're going into it with a seventy or forty point deficit which is kind of where we're at now. That's a lot of points to have to make up. When you haven't been able to have the dominating wins like we had last year, last year we had the bonus points but we also had the makeup of being able to make up a lot of points if we needed to. One of the things that's happening is we're gaining on things pretty rapidly over the last month. I feel like that's going to continue into the next month. We desperately need to get some bonus points. Those are starting to become crucial as we get closer."

IF KYLE (BUSCH) WINS SUNDAY HE CLINCHES THAT FIRST SPOT IN THE CHASE. IF HE GOES IN WITH A TWENTY OR THIRTY OR FORTY POINT LEAD, WHAT KIND OF AN ADVANTAGE IS THAT GOING TO BE FOR HIM AND WHAT KIND OF A DISADVANTAGE IS THAT GOING TO BE FOR THE PEOPLE CHASING HIM? "I feel like the bonus points that he has, this is how quick things can change because right now I feel like that is the only advantage he has. They just haven't shown to me what they were showing earlier in the season. He won a race four races ago, it hasn't been that long since he's won but for some reason I haven't seen the same type of performance out of them here recently. I would have thought the Brickyard and at Pocono that they would have really shined there and they didn't. I think they're showing some weakness right now so right now the bonus points are huge for them. In order to really go into that Chase with confidence and feel like they are the team to beat they're going to have to get themselves in a position to win a couple more races before that starts."

WHEN FANS AND WRITERS TALK ABOUT GREAT DRIVERS IN NASCAR YOUR NAME ALWAYS COMES UP FIRST AND THEN MAYBE TONY STEWART'S, NOT OFTEN YOUR TEAMMATE'S NAME COMES UP AND HE'S GOT A MISSING LINE IN HIS RESUME IN WINNING A ROAD COURSE. COULD YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WIINING ON A ROAD COURSE ANDHOW MUCH THAT MEANS TO A DRIVER'S RESUME? "I think every great driver wants to be very diverse and be able to feel like they can win at every track that they go to. I know it's something that I'm really proud of and worked hard on trying to win at superspeedways as well as short tracks and road courses. Jimmie (Johnson), I know that he's an awesome driver and he proves it every weekend. He's in the same equipment that I'm in so I can appreciate it probably more so than a lot of people can. He runs very well on the road courses and he's getting better and better. The only thing I feel like he's missing is a win. He led a bunch of laps at Sonoma. We go test and he's usually faster than me. I feel like it's just a matter time more than anything. I do think Jimmie's one of the greats out there."

LAST YEAR AT THE END OF THE RACE BASICALLY YOU WERE IN A POSITION WHERE YOU NEEDED THE TEN BONUS POINTS AND YOU SAID THAT WAS A FACTOR IN HOW THAT TURNED OUT. BASICALLY YOU ARE IN THE SAME POSITION NOW, IF THAT EXACT SAME SITUATION CAME UP THIS YEAR WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY? "I need bonus points a lot more this year than I did last year. You'll probably see me spin out three times going into turn one this weekend. I think I'm going to try doing it in practice more than in the race so maybe we resolve the issue. It played a factor. Jimmie and I were in such a tight battle last year and those bonus points were playing out so it was a great opportunity for us to win and I still get some heat from Tony (Stewart). He had already spun out going in there so I felt bad but I would have felt worse if he hadn't have spun out going in there. A lot of us were fighting that same issue going in there to turn one. This year we're going to push hard. We have at least tried to address that wheel hop issue specifically here in turn one and without us getting practice it's hard to say if it's going to work. We'll find out."

LAST WEEK JIMMIE HAD A LOT TO SAY ABOUT KYLE BEING VULNERABLE. IT STRIKES ME THAT HE HAD AN OFF WEEK AT INDY AND HE HAD AN OFF WEEK AT POCONO, IF HE HAD A OFF WEEK HERE THERE'S NO TRACK LIKE THIS THAT'S REMOTELY LIKE ANY IN THE CHASE AND ITS ALSO TRUE THAT'S ITS NOT BEEN UNCOMMON IN PREVIOUS YEARS FOR PEOPLE TO COAST A LITTLE BIT IN HIS POSITION. I CAN'T HELP BUT WONDER IF MAYBE DEEP IN THE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS SECRET LAB YOU ARE TRYING TO TURN UP THE HEAT A LITTLE BIT. "We are turning the heat up, but it is only against all the competition, has nothing to do with Kyle (Busch). He has been the guy to beat, for sure throughout the year. I think it is merely just, sort of looking at the facts. You are right about the tracks not being necessarily tracks in the Chase. I think right now most of us think more about momentum than we do anything else than about a team and driver that is showing the momentum going in to the Chase.

"But at the same time, let me first say, I have always said how much talent Kyle has and the respect I have for him. But when you said, people in the past have coasted, that is not Kyle Busch, that is not how he does things. He doesn't know how to coast. Last week, I saw the right side flat on his car, you know. The guy doesn't know how to coast. I think they are pushing hard. They are trying hard and they might win this weekend, who knows. That is the kind of year they have had where they've been able to surprise you when you least expected it. I still think they are definitely one of the teams to beat in the Chase. Especially with those bonus points. But, just like you said that Jimmie said, they have shown some vulnerability. To me, right now, if I had to put my chips on the table, I would day, you have got Jimmie and Carl, that to me, that seem like the guys that are the guys to beat. Then I would put Kyle next. If all things were equal without the bonus points, I put myself in there just because our team is so consistent on all those 10 tracks that are in the Chase."

HOW CLOSE DO YOU THINK JIMMIE IS TO WINNING ON A ROAD COURSE? "I've seen Jimmie on the road courses during the races as well as when we're testing and feel like he's improved just ridiculously from when he first came to Hendrick, but I know it's something he's worked hard on. I guess in my opinion he's going to win a road course. I'm not looking at it as much as he hasn't but it's around the corner."

CAN YOU TELL US WHERE THE BEST PLACE TO PASS IS HERE? "I mean you've got a couple good passing zones, really three good passing zones here. Going into turn one, it's a tricky braking zone so you can usually out brake somebody but it's usually with a lot of risks. If you get a good run off the esses going up the hill and you can draft up behind the guy and out brake him going into the bus stop there and then coming off the carousel going into, I don't even know the numbers of the turns here, but going down that back straightaway. I think that's one of the best places to try to pass. It's a nice flat area. You can really get into there really deep. You can get a run on a guy in there. To me there's three pretty good passing zones here."

WE KNOW YOU'VE ALWAYS LIKED TO RACE HERE, CONSIDERING THE WAY THE RACE ENDED LAST YEAR HOW MUCH MORE ANXIOUS WERE YOUT O GET BACK HERE? "Very, I mean it was very disappointing to have that problem. That was self created. I felt like looking back on it Tony was a little bit better than us and I felt like I should have put him in the position to try to have to make the pass instead of me giving it up to him like I did and make a mistake. It's a lesson learned as always. This car, we definitely learned some things about the car since then. Hopefully we can get ourselves in that same position and see if we can have different results."

LAST YEAR THE TWENTY WON HIS FOURTH RACE HERE AND NOW YOU GUYS ARE TIED, HOW MUCH WOULD IT MEAN FOR YOU TO GET TO NUMBER FIVE AND BE THE FIRST ONE? "Well I mean Tony (Stewart) is a great race car driver, he's really strong on the road courses. He's really proved that and that team has proved that in the last three or four years and so I look to them to be tough again. Sure I always want to win no matter where we go. I don't really look at the stats that way, where I got to have more than somebody else. It's really more about this and the next race on the schedule. We'd like to win it and this is a race track where we've had good success and have won it in the past and would love to do it again."

IF NASCAR IS GOING TO MAKE TWO STOPS AT ROAD COURSES A YEAR AND IT'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE PART OF THE SCHEDULE, SHOULD IT BE SOMETHING THAT GETS MORE EMPHASIS? "I like the road courses so I'd like to see more emphasis. I'd like to see one in the Chase. That's my personal opinion. I think it really comes down to the NASCAR fan. Do the fans enjoy the road courses as much as they do the ovals? Does it work for the sponsors? Does it work for the track owners? It really comes down to that way more than it does of whether the competitors like to go there or not."

SOME DRIVERS DON'T EVEN DRIVE THIS RACE. "Yeah, but those aren't guys who are going for the championship. Anybody that's in the Chase and going for the championship and in the top fifteen, twenty in points, they're not doing that. Those are teams that are trying to get themselves out of a situation of falling out of the top thirty-five in points, needing sponsors. And those guys are amazing when they come here. They really do add a lot to it because they're so good on the road courses but if you look at the effort put in by the top fifteen, twenty drivers and teams out there, they're able to hold their own pretty good just because you do this every weekend. We race these cars every weekend and I think we're seeing the specialist come in and they do a good job but we haven't really seen them in a position to win races in quite some time."

ON RACING IN THE RAIN IN MONTREAL. "It went way better than I thought. I thought they were never going to make it through turn one so I was pretty impressed. I remember when we were here several years ago we put rain tires on, my windshield wiper fell off the car in turn one and I didn't even feel like I could go down the straightaway. I certainly was impressed with what they were able to do there and it would probably be something that we need to take into consideration. Now that they have an actual race under their belt and we see what things need to be improved like the windshield wiper, being able to see through the windshield with the defogger and cleaning the windshield and some of those things, if they can address those and make more road course tires, then maybe it will be an option for us in the future."

WOULD YOU LIKE TO RACE IN THE RAIN? "No (laughter). I like to race when I can see what's in front of me."

HOW WOULD YOU SUGGEST THEY TEST ? "Good question."

YOU DON'T WANT IT TO BE RACE TIME OBVIOUSLY. "No, that was about as good of an experiment that you could possibly get, one that I wasn't a part of even better. Obviously they had major issues with being able to see, that was the biggest one. The tires held up pretty good and I was surprised they were going faster than I thought they would be able to go. I was impressed with all that. That was a good test there in itself. I think that if it is truly going to be an option for us we really do need to do and I don't even know how you test those conditions but we need to really get after it because there's a lot more that needs to be done. In the past when we've shown up here it was okay we'll put a windshield wiper on, brake light, defogger, okay but we never really took it serious."

IT SEEMS LIKE IT RAINS HERE EVERY YEAR. "Yeah, I knew coming into the weekend that the weather was going to play a role. Several times we've seen qualifying rain out here but we always seem to get the race going and get it off. I'm anxious and excited about all that happening again this weekend even if we don't get much practice."

HOW ABOUT THE GUYS LIKE BORIS SAID? "I hate it for those guys. It is tough but our system is in place for a reason that rewards the teams that are here every weekend and unfortunately when you have these scenerios play out somebody is going to get left out. I wish that those guys could come race with us every weekend and then maybe they would have the points and not have to worry about just qualifying and have the same kind of frame of mind that the rest of us do. I love Boris coming to race. I love to race against him and I think he brings a lot of entertainment to the series so we obviously like to see him out there."

WHAT KIND OF DRIVER IS BORIS SAID? "I think he's awesome. All the different types of cars that he's driven, that he's had success in proves what kind of race car driver he is."

HAVE YOU FELT ANY EFFECTS OF THE ECONOMY FROM SPONSORS TO GAS PRICES? "I think there is no doubt that I feel it. Maybe not quite the same as other people and our team maybe not as much as other teams but we still feel it. You got to look at different perspectives. While other teams may be having trouble getting the sponsor, we would be the same situation of we're spending a lot more money. We need more money and it's hard to get that. I think it really kind of balances itself out in some ways. For me personally, I drove to Pocono. I filled my rental car up with gas so I saw the effects of it right there and with having an airplane the costs have gone up. So it's affecting us, it just affects us in a different way. It's not that we're having trouble living day to day it's that we have to cut back on how you go about your lifestyle."

IT'S GOT TO BE TOUGH TO SEE TEAMS LIKE GANASSI AND DARIO FRANCHITTI SHUT DOWN. "Very tough, absolutely. It's a reminder of how fragile things can be in this economy and this sport can be. It's tough, it's expensive and you just never know how things are going to play out. I would have never thought that Dario Franchitti and Ganassi would have trouble getting sponsorship. It didn't surprise me that they struggled because I think every open-wheel driver that comes over it takes time for him to adapt. That time is crucial and you have to have sponsorship to get through that time. It's disappointing. I think he's great for our sport and I hope they can find a solution."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dario Franchitti , Kyle Busch