JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with media members at Atlanta Motor Speedway and talked about expectations for Sunday's race, his accident at Vegas last week, safety concerns, the IROC Series and more. ON HIS EXPECTATIONS...
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with media members at Atlanta Motor Speedway and talked about expectations for Sunday's race, his accident at Vegas last week, safety concerns, the IROC Series and more.
ON HIS EXPECTATIONS FOR SUNDAY'S RACE. "Man I tell you what, today was an eye opening experience for us. The car was much, much different than what I anticipated. We're having a lot of struggles getting comfort and grip. This is a track, you know it's a very fast race track and even with the older car it's tricky to get the car to really get the good feel that you want. So with this car it was a real challenge even though we moved our way up the board on times, it never really felt the way I thought it was going to feel. I thought it would be stuck a lot better than it is. I understand that Goodyear changed the tire and I'm not sure. I didn't test here so I don't have anything to compare it to but it's a handful."
LAST WEEK YOU TOOK A VERY HARD HIT, HAVE THE G FORCES COME BACK ON THAT HIT YET? "They measure it different. I think in like Delta V's or something like that, so it's not necessarily g force, its load and how it's spread over time and stuff. It was I think a 50, but it was the matter of how long it was spread out and they liked the way it was spread out. It was pretty big. It was the hardest frontal impact I've ever experienced. I hit the wall harder at Pocono and probably Texas years ago when we blew the right front, just not with that same angle. So there's a lot different things that your body goes through, that the car goes through in that angle of an impact. It was pretty severe."
HAVE YOU WATCHED THE WRECK AT ALL, HAVE YOU SEEN REPLAYS? "I'm a little disappointed I can't find the in-car camera from it. We had an in-car camera and I want to see what went on inside, but I've definitely seen the video from the outside."
ON CHANGES HIS TEAM MADE TO THE INSIDE OF HIS CAR AFTER LAST WEEKS HIT. "Yeah, we actually have a few things in the car today. Actually nothing that affected me in that crash, just things that you look at when you go through crashes. You start thinking about things a little different. We definitely padded the seat in some areas a little bit more and then I have an arm board to the right where if your arm ever came off the steering wheel it will pick that impact up as well."
DO YOU GUYS GET THE CAR, OR DOES NASCAR TAKE A LOOK AT IT? "I think it's going to be both. They've asked us for it. We had to get it back to the shop and we do some things to it to go through the crash as well and then we are going to give it to them."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT THE IROC (INTERNATIONAL RACE OF CHAMPIONS) SERIES COMING TO AN END.
"It's disappointing. It's a lot of fun to watch. For me to participate in it was a thrill of a lifetime. To be able to race against guys you don't normally get a chance to race against. You know Al Unser, Jr. and guys from other series was a lot of fun and we're all going to miss it. It's just a shame that it couldn't continue and continue to bring drivers from all over the world together and race. It really had been turned into kind of a NASCAR series and I think that it's really hard to get everybody's schedules, get a car that is common, to get all the ingredients that it takes to truly keep it balanced out for all different types of drivers and racers all over the world."
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT IN THE IROC SERIES? "Well I won one race, it's the only race I ever won. The rain delay at Daytona, we had a strong car that day and we were leading at the right time. I didn't have the best record in IROC and just the way the cars drove it didn't fit my style for whatever reason and so I'm very, very proud of that one IROC win that I have."
DID YOU HAVE ONE FAVORITE THING ABOUT RACING IN THE IROC SERIES? "I think that the cars are very equal and you're driving the car. There's no real team, you don't have spotters it's all about what you did as an individual and how you maneuver to get to some position to win. There's a lot of thought that went into it. The driver's talent, so I don't know. I didn't have a lot of great moments in IROC and probably one of the reasons why I stepped away from it you know I felt like it was taking away from my efforts in the Cup Series. I wanted to go out there and have fun. I didn't have as much fun as I wanted to, but the few times we were competitive it was a blast just racing with different drivers."
REGARDING THE DEPARTURE OF IROC, IS THAT THE CHANGE IN LANDSCAPE WE ARE SEEING IN MOTORSPORTS PARTICULARLY NASCAR? "NASCAR certainly has become a power house in auto racing in America. I think that if you look at right now, the drivers that we have in this series, the open wheel drivers coming over. Formula one drivers, and champions coming over that's pretty impressive. I think it speaks volumes about how competitive, how exciting, what type of fan base that we have here in the Sprint Cup Series and that Formula one itself really can't even get the numbers to compete with us over here."
ON THE EVOLUTION OF HOW THE FAN-DRIVER- MEDIA RELATIONSHIP HAS CHANGED IN THE SPORT. "There's just a lot more attention. There's a lot more media, a lot more fans and certainly a lot more scrutiny when it comes to all the details, positives and negatives that happen on the race track. It's way more competitive. There's more teams that are capable of running up front. Obviously it got a lot more expensive to operate the teams. Probably the biggest change that I've seen is that when I first came in to Hendrick Motorsports I think we had maybe 250 employees and we now have almost 600 employees. That's been the biggest change that I've seen."
IS THAT A GOOD THING? "It is, but you got to make sure it doesn't get to be too much. This is a sport that budgets verses income, sponsorship wise, purse winnings has done okay for the top teams that have been successful. But we've seen some teams that were really the backbone of this sport, that got it to where it is that have either gone away or have struggled. So I don't think that the business model isn't perfect but I'm fortunate that I'm with a team like Hendrick Motorsports that's been able to stay financially sound."
ON WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND ON A RESTART AND WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT WHEN YOU ARE COMING DOWN TO TAKE THE GREEN FLAG. "I really think it's going to come down to them making a move because they want us to police it on our own but really what happens is you come down there, you look in your mirror, you're trying to get a good start. I can tell you that my goal on a restart is really never to make the pass when the green comes out. I want the pass to happen as I get to turn one. Some guys think the opposite way, some guys are thinking I just want to get side by side with them as fast as I possibly can when the green comes out and basically take advantage of the situation. Most of the time I'm also thinking I just don't want the guy behind me to get a jump on me or try to take advantage of me. When we're rolling down there, I usually roll up to the guy's bumper in front of me. I will leave a little bit of room, you know I don't like to get right up on them. I think that you have to anticipate it a bit and they usually allow a half of car length or less so I try to keep it at that. But if I look at my mirror and the guy behind me is laying back then I'm going to back up to him. And when I look at last week's situation it looked to me like the 29 was laying back on the 16, the 16 was laying back on the 24, the 24 had to lay back on the 17 and it was just an accordion effect. So while Matt (Kenseth) may have looked in his mirror and said Jeff's laying back, I was looking in my mirror thinking (Greg) Biffle was laying back and he was looking at something similar. When you get down to the closing laps like that, those restarts are pretty crucial and you're trying to make sure no one gets an advantage on you and you get the best restart that you can."
ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT SAFETY BECAME AN ISSUE AFTER YOUR DEAL LAST WEEK? "I wasn't anticipating hitting that wall. You know the day before when I saw (Clint) Bowyer spin and he spun down to that inside wall he didn't hit it very hard but he still hit it. I remember saying something like I can't believe he even got to that part of the wall. Then I noticed that there was no safer wall barrier there and I was surprised by that. After what happened in Kentucky, I thought that was enough of a red flag that all the tracks should be aware of it. And I know Kentucky was a severe situation."
WILL YOU GUYS BE MORE AWARE OF STUFF LIKE THAT NOW AND GO TO NASCAR? "You'd like to think that you could anticipate all those things, but we're focused on making our cars as safe as we can make then, make them as fast as we can make them. Make our team the best we can make it and be safe within our own group. We can't constantly be thinking of things that are going on. If I see something, I usually
say something to NASCAR. But I saw it the day before, there was nothing that was going to happen in 24 hours and I probably, even if I hadn't of wrecked, I would have probably said something to NASCAR maybe like this weekend. Say hey, did you see that 07 got to the wall. Maybe do something about that, if he had hit any harder it would have been pretty nasty. Now I hit it, it brought it up and now you're going to start to see the actions taking place. I got to say, Bruton (Smith), I'm really proud of the way they've handled it. They got on top of it right away and I think you're really going to see his tracks step it up. I just hope all the other tracks follow as well."
ON JEFF BURTON'S COMMENTS ON CONCERNS ABOUT HOW DANGEROUS GRASS CAN BE ON A RACE TRACK AND IN PARTICULAR HIS COMMENTS REGARDING POCONO. "I think that Pocono is one of the tracks that needs to be looked at in a lot of ways. That is not a track that you want to spin off into the infield. We saw that terrible wreck with Steve Park there several years ago. I love the Mattiolis. I like racing at Pocono, but there are certain things about safety that we've learned that should be no exception. It should be absolute, whether it's an ISC (International Speedway Corporation) track, one of Bruton's (Smith) tracks, or an independent like Pocono, it needs to be the same for everybody, same standards."
-credit: gm racing