JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Lowe's Motor Speedway and talked about what it means to win the All-Star race, his feelings about Dale Jarrett, Sam Bass and much more. ON WHAT IT MEANS TO WIN...
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Lowe's Motor Speedway and talked about what it means to win the All-Star race, his feelings about Dale Jarrett, Sam Bass and much more.
ON WHAT IT MEANS TO WIN THE ALL-STAR RACE. "It means a lot. This is a very special event. We're all kind of relaxed right now because points aren't on the line. The pressure is just not there to have this awesome race car for the race in order to get those points but that I can tell you once they put you inside the car and it's time to go I would say that this race more than any race that I have, I cinch those belts up just a little bit tighter because you just know how far you're gonna push. You know what an exciting race it's gonna be and that whoever comes out on top had to work really hard for it and deserves it and had to overcome a lot of things. So in the individual event just because you're up against the best and them at their best means a lot and then the history of this sport seeing the greats who have won this race and the history of this event and the excitement that it is, especially because it's for the fans. They just love the fact that we put on a great show for the fans and because of that the fans, it's going to mean a lot to them too as to who wins this race."
WHEN YOU WON HERE WITH THE T-REX THAT WAS A WILDLY DIFFERENT CHASSIS SET-UP, MUCH DIFFERENT DESIGNED TO OPTIMIZE SPEED IN A 10-LAP SHOOT OUT. NOW THAT THE FINAL SEGMENT IS 25 LAPS INSTEAD OF 10 LAPS, DO YOU GO WITH MORE CONVENTIONAL SET UPS IN THE CAR? IS THERE LESS DIFFERENCE THAN YOU MIGHT ORDINARILY RUN IF IT WAS 10 LAPS? "I don't remember what the length of the other segments were in that race but we won all three segments so we were pretty good on all of the runs with that car. I mean what happened with that car was we decided to build a car for a specific event where you couldn't work on the car. You couldn't really change the rear end in the car because the fuel cell location was such that you couldn't pull it off. And so all that was just maximizing the CG and just getting the car light as possible, getting the weight as low as possible. Really looking at the geometry of the car to maximize the grip in the tires and then a great body and of course you always come out with great horsepower.
"You could just throw that all out the window these days, especially even more so with this car. With this car, the only real thing that we could do to experiment, of course all of you guys have been seeing these cars in yaw down the straightaways, that's one and that's supposed to give the car side force which feels like down force to us. It has not been proven to me. If you look at my car, it's probably the one the least yawed out there and my car is driving pretty good. We'll see if we got the speed at the end of the night, but felt pretty good about my car. And then the other thing is under the hood; the horsepower, pushing the limits of the reliability of the engine.
"That's about the only thing we can do these days. They've got us in such a box there's very little that we can do to get out there and experiment and bring these exciting things and ingenuity and really get outside of the box and think of what advantages we might be able to gain for this one particular event. Not to mention if we did bring something like that and they didn't like it I'm still not sure what the fine would be. If it's anything like it was Sonoma last year, it's not worth it if it transfers over to other events."
THIS RACE HAS SUCH A RECKLESS WILD REPUTATION. YOU'VE WON IT THREE TIMES, JIMMIE (JOHNSON) HAS WON IT TWICE, MARK MARTIN HAS WON IT TWICE, YOU THREE ARE PRETTY PATIENT RACERS. DOES THAT MEAN THAT RECKLESSNESS IS OVERFETCHED AND ITS REALLY MORE ABOUT HOW GOOD YOU ARE AND SOMETIMES HOW PATIENT YOU ARE? "I wouldn't call it reckless. I think anybody whose reckless isn't around at the end of this race. I think that it's knowing when to be aggressive and when to be patient. A lot like most races that we do every week and the only difference is when it comes time to be risky you could be more risky because you're just looking for that win. Anything else is really last place. So you're going to take more risks because there's more to gain. You're not out there for points you're only out there for the win, for the trophy, the money and to celebrate in victory lane and to give the fans a great show. So you take more risks, but you still have to be patient. You have to look around, you see when guys are maybe pushing too hard and going to crash or something might happen. To set the car up for 25 laps sometimes the car might start out a little loose in order to be fast toward the end of the run. I do think track position is going to be very important. So a car that takes off pretty good is going to be important so you might want to be a little riskier at the beginning and sometimes positioning, if you're on the outside lane you might want to have to be more aggressive to hold that guy in that inside lane to get position on him so I think it's just about choosing when to be aggressive and when to be patient. In my mind, that's I think one of my best qualities. I think that's one of Mark Martin's best qualities and I think it's one of Jimmie's (Johnson) best qualities too. When I look at the three names that you're talking about including myself in that, those guys are usually around at the end of most races and have a shot at winning quite a few along the way and that's what you have to do here. You just have to shorten it up into a 25-lap sprint or a 100-lap race and all."
WILL YOU GUYS SAY OR DO ANYTHING SPECIAL FOR DJ (DALE JARRETT) TOMORROW NIGHT WITH IT BEING HIS LAST RACE? "I certainly would like to. I'm certainly going to say something to him as well as if I get interviewed I certainly would like to bring it up. I've had a real pleasure racing against him, he's one of my favorites as a driver, as a person and I've had the opportunity to race hard against him, race for championships against him and my opinion he stacks up there with the all time best. I did a really special basket if you call it that with a lot of goodies that I hope that he likes that I delivered to him when we got here at the race track so hopefully he likes that."
ON HIS IMPRESSION OF SAM BASS OVER THE YEARS AND WHAT HE'S DONE TO PROMOTE THE SPORT. "Sam's great. He's a really neat guy, fun to work with. He's played a big role in our paint schemes over the years and some great promotions that we've done through different paint schemes over the years as well. My best memories of when I first came to Charlotte and going to the old Sandwich Construction Company restaurant and just looking at all the Sam Bass prints and Gary Hill prints all around the walls there. When you're new to the sport you just think that's the coolest place there is, unfortunately it's not there anymore, but the stuff they had up on the walls was pretty impressive and to meet Sam and have him design a car and do the prints that's he's done for us over the years is really been a pleasure."
ON HOW RICHARD PETTY HAS BEEN ABLE TO KEEP HIS POPULARITY FOR SO MANY YEARS. "I mean he's the king. If he's walking through the garage area you know he's the king. If you look at the stats, he's the king. He's won more races, he's won more championships or ties with Dale Earnhardt and I think that what he did over those years behind the wheel and the way he marketing himself. However he got his nickname, I'm not really sure, as the king, he's lived up to it and he's obviously now a car owner with Petty Enterprises. Their presence and that 43 car's presence is still very strong out there. I still go places where I'll meet people who have no clue about racing and they'll say I know Richard Petty or I know Dale Earnhardt, they know that name. I haven't asked them enough times to why is that, but I just know that's the case. It stands out, it always has and I think it will for a very long time."
DALE JARRETT IS SAYING VERY CLEARLY THIS ITS A CUT AND DRY DECISION, HE'S NOT GOING TO BE RACING AGAIN ANY MORE, BUT THERE'S STILL GUYS THAT ARE COMING BACK. WHAT IS IT THAT KEEPS GUYS WHO ARE AT THE END OF THEIR CAREER STILL WANTING TO COME BACK AND COULD YOU EVER ENVISION YOURSELF RETIRING AND THEN SAYING I THINK I'LL COME BACK FOR A LITTLE MORE? "I don't know unless I get to that point. I love being behind the wheel of a race car. I always said when I retire is when I'm gonna go start driving sprint cars and midgets and dirt cars again. I love the dirt so much and just don't get an opportunity to do it now or go drive in the 24 hours of LeMans or just do something that I've always wanted to do. When you get here, you strive so hard to get here and then you get here and you find out it's a lot of work and it becomes a job and a business and you do your best at it that you can, but it just doesn't give you some of the time that you'd like to go do other things.
"When that day comes for me I would look forward to the down time away from all that but I also don't know if I would miss that competition and being at this level and I wouldn't know until I stepped away from it. But I think with DJ, he's able to be in the booth. I think that what he's doing in the television booth and he's already to me been very good at it and is only going to get better. So I think that is going to probably take a lot of that desire away because he's going to put himself into that and I think he's going to want to excel at it and he's going to. I don't think that unless it's for some little specialty events that may come up for fun, I don't really see him coming back and that's kind of the way I would envision myself as well."
WHAT ABOUT BILL ELLIOTT? "Bill doesn't do t.v. I'm not sure what Bill does do other than drive dirt cars and drive cup cars from time to time. I mean, he's a racer. I've had more respect of Bill of the last couple years than I ever did racing with him. I always knew he was good race car driver, a great champion and a good guy. To me it's more impressive to see him go drive these dirt late model cars and then come back just from time to time and qualify the cup cars into the race in an unfamiliar car with an unfamiliar team and to me that's pretty impressive and then to see Mark Martin jump around the way he has, he's a true racer as well. (Ken) Schrader, those are racers and you got to respect that. Those are the kind of guys you're always going to see them in a race car."
IS KYLE BUSCH'S AGGRESSIVENESS ON THE TRACK REMINISCENT AT ALL OF DALE EARNHARDT'S AGGRESSIVENESS? "In a youthful way, yeah. I think that Dale Earnhardt, he was a little more stubborn (laughs), which I find myself doing as I get older too. That's how he was. He was aggressive but I never saw Dale out leading the race with the car that could just lap the field, bounce a car off the wall every couple of laps, never saw him do that. If he was trying to make a pass on the guy for the lead, I've seen him go in there and get loose underneath the guy and take the guy out and possibly even himself, seen that happen. But to me there's a big difference between the two and I think that Kyle is an extremely talented driver and we all recognize and know that but I still think that sometimes his aggressiveness and his youthfulness does get the best of him and when he balances that out and if he ever really truly balances that out he'll be unstoppable. He's almost unstoppable now, but those times he hits the wall, if he hits it a little bit too hard that car might not be quite that good."
-credit: gm racing