Atlanta II: Jeff Gordon - Saturday media visit

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed leading the Chase standings coming in to Atlanta, his reaction to the Roush driver feud and other subjects. ON HIS FIRST...

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed leading the Chase standings coming in to Atlanta, his reaction to the Roush driver feud and other subjects.

ON HIS FIRST NNCS START AT ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY 15 YEARS AGO AND IMAGINING THAT HE WOULD BE AT THIS POINT IN HIS CAREER APPROACHING PASSING THE WINS OF CALE YARBOROUGH AND OTHERS: "Well, we haven't passed them yet. We have to catch them still. I certainly never thought we would be anywhere close that is for sure. I was with Richard Petty today, we did a photo together, neither one of us could believe that it had been 15 years ago. It is pretty amazing from where I stand, of how much as gone on in my life and my career for those past 15 years. I was so young and naive and clueless as to what was ahead. How could you be any different? I was just excited to get the opportunity. Things I remember about that weekend and that day, the track was a lot different - a much different configuration. I know we tested at Charlotte and we tested here and it went really well and we went pretty quick. But we didn't qualify that well. They had second round qualifying back then, we qualified fasted second day and got to like 21st, I think that was the best you could get to then. Throughout the day, the car was just loose on the short runs, but really fast. I pushed a little bit too hard during one of the runs through the middle and spun out and crashed. It wasn't long after that, I remember seeing Richard in a ball of flames in turn three, so it wasn't really, I guess I could say it was memorable, but I can't say it was good memories.

"Probably the coolest thing that I carry with me was the driver's meeting. It was very unique. And still to this day, I don't remember a driver's meeting quite like that. They introduce, whether it is a celebrity and official from a big company and that day it was all about Richard (Petty) and he spoke. I can't really remember the things that he said, but I remember his handing out these money clips that had an insignia of him with his cowboy hat and each starting position was inscribed on there. I have one that has 21 on it. I still have it. To me that was the coolest part of the day was just to be able to be a part of that. I know that I am one of a very few guys, I think, that has one of those money clips. I never used it, but I still have it."

ON THE NO.24 AND NO. 48 BEING MORE EQUAL ON THIS TRACK THAT THE SPRING FINISHES OF FIRST AND 12TH IN THE SPRING, 2007: "You have to be careful going by stats. We dissect the race out as to how it went for us and we know that we had crush panel come loose that we had to fix. Prior to that, we felt like we were one of the best cars. We led and ran up front. That fix got us behind not to mention got us a lap down. It was a mistake. You can't point fingers at anybody, it happened. We were all part of it, but you learn from it and move on and try not to make the same mistakes twice. We had an extremely fast car that day. When I came back here, I am thinking more of how we performed and try not to have those kinds of mistakes and we can compete with anyone out there.

"We focus on our car, we focus on our team. It doesn't matter what weekend we go in to, we don't focus on anybody else. The type of year we are having, the type of cars we have this year, if we do our jobs well, then we are going to be one of the cars to beat. You can't base that off of anybody but what your own car is doing and what you are trying to do to make it go fast. That has been working pretty good for us."

ON IF THERE WAS EVER ANY THOUGHT THAT HIS BABY DAUGHTER WOULD BE A DISTRATCTION: "I don't ever remember saying that I didn't have any doubts that she wouldn't be. I thought that I wasn't sure until she came, until it happened. I felt like my focus in the race car wouldn't change because I have had distractions for years of things going on that when I got inside the car and started the engine, those were gone. Getting sleep and things like that are important to how you focus throughout the weekend. That I expected to be tough and it has been, but it has gone well. It is one of those things, and I think that those who have had children understand, you are worn out, you are tired, you are a little agitated but you are also extremely happy and excited at the same time. When I get to the race track, one is I get a little more sleep. And two, I am looking forward to competing because we have got a great race team and great race cars this year. When I leave here, I am excited about getting home and having sleepless nights and being up with here. There isn't a moment; it doesn't matter if it is three or four a.m. that I look at her and I am not just in awe and amazement. Especially when she can look back at me, it is the coolest thing ever. I didn't know what to expect, I didn't know how all that would happen, but too me, it has been nothing more than a positive in my life and any time positive things are happening in your life, then usually it reflects positively on your career."

ON IF IT IS OK FOR A TEAMMATE TO YIELD A POSITION ON THE TRACK FOR ANOTHER TEAMMATE: "We had a lot of conversations about that because Casey (Mears) was pretty uneasy about how that all happened at Dover. I appreciate his honestly and his competitiveness. He is having a great end of the season and that is important for them as a team going in to next year as well and personally as well. We agreed that there is a point that if it comes down to where you are racing, let's use Casey as an example, where you are racing him in the closing laps of a race, it shouldn't be where you have to fight them. You shouldn't have to fight them ever inch, every corner. If you show your nose, it is obvious that you are faster, if you run him down from a straightaway behind, just maybe cut the guy a break. But don't pull over and let him go, if he is a straightway behind you. That is not the intentions. I think that is wrong, I think that will come back to haunt you. I think that we have all agreed that is how we expect. We want him to get those good finishes that he is capable of getting. We don't want it to be given to us either, but those types of things. Now, we get down to Homestead, the final laps of the race and that position is going to win the championship for me or Jimmie or Kyle, then I think that might be a little bit different situation. Whether it is right or wrong, I don't think anybody would not do that or would not want that to happen for them when there is that much on the line."

ON TEXAS BEING ONE OF THE FEW TRACKS HE HASN'T WON AT AS OF YET: "Just like here where we finished 12th but felt like we ran a lot better than that and are capable of a lot more than that. I think it is kind of the same thing as the stats at Texas. We have been very close to wins there the last couple times we have been reason, and for whatever crazy reason, whether it is an electrical problem or me smacking the wall off of turn four, we just haven't gotten the wins, but we have had top-fives there recently and right now, I like going in to any track that we are capable of getting top-five finishes. Hopefully we can turn that in to an improvement, even better than a top-five. I can honestly say that this is one of the first times I am excited about going to Texas from a competitive standpoint. I have always loved the facility and going there, but it has been hit or miss for us as far as being competitive. This year, I feel like we have been pretty strong there."

ON IF THE SITUATION BETWEEN CARL EDWARDS AND MATT KENSETH HAS BEEN A DISTRACTION AWAY FROM THE FOCUS BY THE MEDIA ON HE AND JIMMIE AND THE CHASE: "I guess so, I mean. I think it just makes for an interesting story because everybody wants to talk about how me and Jimmie by some miraculous way, we get along good as teammates. There is a perfect example of some controversy that can be there. I don't know, I haven't put too much thought in to that. It can easily happen, because, whether we are teammates or not, you go to a place like Martinsville. It is so easy to bump and to bang and for things to happen.

"Some intentionally and some accidentally. I talked to Jeff Burton, today. He and I barely touched. I was trying to stay out of getting in to him and he was trying to stay out of getting in to me. I am not sure, whose fault it was, but at the moment, he was as mad as can be. I was like, what did I do to upset me; and he nailed me. Today, he said 'Man, I am sorry about that. I was just mad.' That is what Martinsville can do to you. It doesn't matter if you are teammates, or not teammates. I think the difference between me and Jimmie, is that those things happen every once and a while to us but it is how we handle it on Monday. We may not always handle it immediately. If it happens, we will text one another or call one another the next day or Tuesday, or something like that. But we always, when we calm down, handle as teammates and friends should. That is hard to pull off, it really is whether you are teammates or note teammates. Jimmie and I have been able to pull it off pretty well.

"We are in such a different situation than any other guy in the garage. Jimmie and I most unique situation as teammates out there as of anybody. I would think the next closest would be Jimmie and Casey (Mears). There are very close friends as well as teammates. They have known each other since they were kids. The difference between me and Jimmie, everybody knows the story, but just the way I support him, he came to me for advice and me going to Rick and saying we need to start this new team up. Jimmie, I think, would be a great driver for it. It has changed how we became friends. Prior to him coming to Hendrick Motorsports as a driver, we were friends with him not in this series, then when he came in to the series, I had just won a championship, I am sitting back and am as happy as can be, go have at it. Whatever he did, I was happy for him. It changed everything.

"It has driven me, it has pushed me, it has inspired me to see how well he has done, knowing his equipment. I think that this year is probably one of the first year that he and I have really been able to push one another. You saw it today in practice. We would pop up, he would pop up, we would pop up, he would pop up. That is way we push one another. So that competitiveness is there. But, because of the friendship that has build, that allows up to be totally different than any other teammates that are out there."

ON HIS THOUGHT PROCESS OF BEING LISTED AS THE OWNER OF THE NO. 48 CAR: "That is also unique. I would say there have been days when like last year, we weren't a threat for the championship, obviously when we weren't a threat there toward the end, I wanted nothing more than for Jimmie to win that championship and was extremely happy for him. But, when we are battling him for a win or the championship, I want it personally and competitively for my team and myself. That always rises to the top. I am an equity owner.

"The reason we say equity owner because I am not the majority owner, and I have a piece of the pie, which is very nice that Rick Hendrick did that. I will tell you what happened with that. I was sort of the last person to push the fourth team; two cars under one roof with the No. 24 and Jimmie as a driver. The team had already been trying to plan that, plan the building and they were like 'we really need to know what we are going to do.' They were inspiring me to say, 'hey, we think this is the right thing to do, what do you think.' When I went to Rick and said we need to do this, he said 'fine, are you willing to put your money where your mouth is.' And I said, 'Yep.' He kind of caught himself there, and then we ended up going forward from there. It does make for a unique situation there. The competitor in me always rules out, I want to win as a driver. But the cool thing is that if I can't win as a driver, then I want to see him win."

ON CURRENT STATUS OF THE CHASE: "I think there is a lot of racing left to go. Four races, that is a lot of laps and a lot of points. You could easily say, I think there is five, maybe six, if someone really goes on a tear and the top-three guys have trouble. If the top-three guys don't have major problems, then it is a three-man race. I don't think that fourth on back can just out perform the guys on the race track and pull if off. I think that one of the three, or all three of the guys are going to have to have some kind of problem for it to be more than a three man race."

ON IF HE EVER WANTED TO LET A TEAMMATE KNOW HOW ANGRY HE WAS: "Happens all the time. It just happens with a lot of competitors. When you are on the race track, you don't always look at them as teammates. When you are on the race track going for a pass and you know how hard you have to push it to make that pass happen, you think of them as teammates because you know that Rick is going to be really mad and you are going to get a call on Monday or Sunday, if you wreck one another. I think you take a little bit of extra caution there. Little things, mainly it is usually practice or it is a place like Daytona or Talladega where I might have felt like I had the opportunity to work withy a teammate to make a pass or vice versa, they thought I should have gone with them. I am not going to name names or start anything because there is nothing there to start, it is not fair to get that brewing when there is nothing brewing there now. It happens though sure, definitely.

"I have wanted to punch a lot of things and a lot of people over the years but I can't say necessarily a teammate.

"I don't think it is any secret that not all teammates don't get along. I don't know if this is something that has been brewing with Carl and Matt, you would have to ask those guys, I have no idea. It is hard to get guys to think the same, to have the same agendas and not tick one another off once in a while. We just haven't seen it flare up in the middle of an interview post race. I think that was a little bit extreme and that is what is going to draw the attention and get the story going. You have to think about those things before you do that. If you want it to escalate and be a big story, look for the Speed Channel cameras and the interview in process and go and interrupt it."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Richard Petty
Teams Hendrick Motorsports