MODERATOR: Jeff Gordon joins us. W hear that he's been pretty happy unofficially, and now we'll get it from him directly. Jeff, I hear it's going great for you. Talk about it. JEFF GORDON: It's been a blast. Yesterday I was pretty excited...
MODERATOR: Jeff Gordon joins us. W hear that he's been pretty happy unofficially, and now we'll get it from him directly. Jeff, I hear it's going great for you. Talk about it.
JEFF GORDON: It's been a blast. Yesterday I was pretty excited just to be able to drive a car that performs like this on a road course. It's a lot of fun. Obviously, with our track record in the (NEXTEL) Cup Series on the road courses, I like the road courses. I think Wayne Taylor's team and Max (Angelelli), they've just been fantastic to work with. They taught me a lot and I'm having fun.
You know, today I'm just getting even more comfortable than yesterday.
MODERATOR: We made this announcement during the Pepsi 400/Brumos Porsche 250 weekend at Daytona in June. I think this is the first time you've been able to get behind the wheel since then. Talk about how much time you've had in the car.
JEFF GORDON: We were trying to calculate it yesterday. I think I got about 25 laps in yesterday. They gave me a pretty good amount of laps, I felt like. Wayne got in the car for maybe seven, eight laps at the beginning of the day, and then they put me in for maybe 15. Max got in the car for a good while, then I got maybe another 10, 15 at the end of the day. Today I've been in there probably another 10 laps or 12 laps, something like that.
It feels good. Each time I'm in the car, I get a better feel for things and find some speed. Today I felt like I was getting more consistent. The next step is going to be really the fine-tuning. Also the thing that's going to be the toughest I think to accomplish is working through traffic. That's something that is important at Daytona, the 24-hour race. There's a lot of traffic. There's a lot of time that can be gained or lost there. Right now I'm not comfortable enough to just dive in there on guys. But the speed seems to be there, so I'm happy about that.
MODERATOR: The traffic is something, as you said, you're going to have to get used to. What is the biggest single difference in the race car from your Cup car? What is the biggest difference between the Cup car and Prototype car?
JEFF GORDON: You feel most of it in the braking zones. (In the Daytona Prototype) you can drive in so deep and just push the brake pedal down so hard. Of course, the sequential shifting as well really makes a big difference in the braking zones. The car has a lot of downforce. Through the high-speed corners, like they call it NASCAR (Turn) 3 and 4, you're just flat through there, wide open. It's fun. It's great. The braking zones, you can just really attack, attack, attack.
The car actually has quite a bit of torque and power under throttle in the slower sections, so you get a lot of wheel spin. Car control is important. There are some aspects that are more impressive than I thought and other aspects that are more challenging than I thought.
MODERATOR: You've raced and won in everything you've done. Let's talk about sports cars in particular. What has been your experience in sports cars? We understand you were at the Rolex 24 in 2001 to see the Earnhardts race. Talk about your sports car experience in total.
JEFF GORDON: You're looking at it (laughter).
I raced on some road courses as a kid in go-karts. Since I got into NASCAR, I did some Busch races on the road courses, and in the Cup Series. I did go to the start of the 24-hour race in 2002. That's it.
Over the years, as the Daytona Prototypes have started running with the Cup Series more often at some of the tracks we go to, Daytona and Watkins Glen, I've had a chance to see them and watch them, but not really get up close and personal or get involved with what goes on until I got here yesterday.
MODERATOR: We were talking to Tony Stewart, who races quite a bit in the Rolex Series. He says some of the guys he runs with he considers the best drivers in the world. Have you had a chance to gauge the talent of some of the other competitors here, like Andy Wallace or Max Angelelli? How do these guys compare to the more well-known drivers like you, Jimmie and Tony?
JEFF GORDON: So far I can speak on behalf of Max. I'm extremely impressed. He's very, very fast, and has great knowledge of the car. He's taught me a tremendous amount to gain speed, so I feel like I've got a great mentor, teacher there, and a teammate.
I've known Scott Pruett for years and years and years. Even back when I was racing go-karts and road courses, Scott Pruett was the man. Everybody looked up to him, including myself. So to see him progress throughout his career over all of those years has been something that I've followed, and I think he's one of the best out there. I think his stats prove that.
I certainly know of Andy Wallace's track record. Everybody speaks very highly of him that's raced with him. I can't say that I've raced with him or been around him on the track here, because I have no idea who is in the other cars. I'm not really sure how to judge it till we get out there and race with him.
MODERATOR: We'll start with some questions.
Q: Jeff, you've accomplished a lot. Where does winning a 24 Hours At Daytona fit in your 'to-do' list?
JEFF GORDON: It would be huge. Obviously when I got into NASCAR, it was a steep learning curve, to learn the history of this sport. I'll be honest, the first Daytona 500 that I won, I don't think I fully appreciated it enough just because I was still in the learning process.
I think that's the thing here, is that I don't really--I'll admit that I don't know a lot about the history of the 24-hour race. I've always admired it. I've always thought it would be something that would be a lot of fun.
Actually, Rob Dyson is somebody that I met here recently. He actually flew down with me from New York. Just listening to him talk about how great this race is, the history of it, it really made me appreciate it to a whole 'nother level.
I think until I actually go through it once or twice or who knows how many times we get a chance to run this race, I think that will certainly build. The more I'm in it, the more I talk to other competitors, owners, people in the sport, the more I realize just how big this race really is. Obviously, I know it's the biggest race for the guys in the Daytona Prototypes, the Grand-Am series.
I'm very excited to be a part of it. It means a lot to me. I'm here to win. But, you know, I also know that there's a lot of guys out there that are going to make that very difficult.
Q: What does it say about this race that guys like yourself, Jimmie Johnson and Juan Pablo Montoya, are all competing in it?
JEFF GORDON: We always complain about not having a lot of down time and then we come and do this. I think that tells you a lot right there. We don't have a lot of time. We race a lot. To get the opportunity to drive a car that's unique and different like this and have fun with it, it's just an opportunity that we see that you just don't know when that opportunity could come along, and you want to take advantage of it.
That's what I'm doing. I built a relationship with some folks at Riley, which turned into a relationship with Wayne Taylor and his group. You know, now it's just building. We'll see where it goes from there.
Q: When are you going to take a break?
JEFF GORDON: No kidding! You know, by not winning the championship, I certainly got to have a little bit more of a break than, say, Jimmie did, you know, before New York. I had a great time with my family for Thanksgiving. My wife cooked dinner for my family. She's a great cook.
But really we won't get a break until Christmas and New Year's. That's what I do every year, take advantage of those two, two and a half weeks, then we'll be at Daytona testing for the 24 hours.
MODERATOR: Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli, along with Emmanuel Collard, did win the Rolex 24 in 2005, went on to win the championship. They've also won right here at Homestead. We will race for the Rolex Series here on March 24th, co-headlining with the IndyCar Series. We run during the day, and the IndyCar Series running under the lights that night. It will be a good doubleheader.
Jeff, you can come and run in that race, too.
JEFF GORDON: As much fun as I'm having right now, anything is possible.
This car is fairly demanding. My biggest thing is I've always never wanted to disrupt my focus on the Cup Series. My goal is to win championships there, win races. As long as this doesn't distract from that, after I've gotten a chance to be in the car, we'll see what happens after Daytona, but I think I would like to run some more.
MODERATOR: Any time, the door is open.
Q: How comfortable are you with the setups that Wayne and Max like to run in the car?
JEFF GORDON: So far, you know, at first when I got out there, I mean, the car was all over the place, wheels spinning up off the corner. I just thought this is natural. But without the traction control, that's something they're getting used to. I certainly thought the car was really loose. I was happy to hear when Max got in it that he thought it was really loose, too.
We're using his expertise and knowledge to really set the car up. I'm just glad to know that especially today I feel like towards the end of yesterday and today, I feel like we're starting to be on the same page as what we're feeling, what we like.
But I feel pretty comfortable with what Max has out there. I mean, he's fast. He knows how to really push the car, get the most out of it. He's been extremely helpful to me, showing me telemetry, things that I can do. One of them is tire management, just trying to maybe just learn how to be a little bit smoother with that wheel. I'm really not used to some of the quickness of this steering wheel. I've got that big, gigantic steering wheel. It doesn't do much when you turn it. This one really does. I'm getting smoother with the steering wheel and the throttle. It's a short throttle compared to my throttle, as well. We've got a lot more power, but we've got a way to manage it and have more control of it than what I've found in these cars.
So far I'm pretty happy with what they've got.
Q: Are you going to need a Post-It note to remind yourself to get out of the car when you make a pit stop?
JEFF GORDON: I doubt it. As physical and hot as these cars are, I'll be ready to get out whenever they tell me to.
We've done a couple mock driver changes already here yesterday. We did one. Today we did another one. The good thing is that Max and I are almost identical in size. I just have one small insert for my back, shoulders actually, just to move my shoulders a little bit. I think my arms are shorter than his. Other than that, we fit in the same seat. So that's great. That makes a driver change go a whole lot easier.
MODERATOR: Jeff, thank you very much