JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Atlanta, new softer barriers at Bristol, state of the sport and other topics. THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed racing at Atlanta, new softer barriers at Bristol, state of the sport and other topics.
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT BRISTOL; THE SAFER BARRIERS MOVED IN, WILL IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE? "Oh yes. We use every inch of that race track. It is definitely going to be unique. I am anxious to get there and see how many right sides we take off the first hour of practice. It is like anything else, eventually you get used to it. Then it is going to come down to the side-by-side racing and how that is going to affect that aspect of it. I think the most important thing is that you are really going to have to get your car working well. Because, you narrow the track up that means it might be a little harder to pass. I like the safety aspect of it. It is definitely a good thing. I'm all for. I wish there was a way to move walls so we could keep the width of the track the way it was. But, that's not the case so we are real happy they put the safety barriers up there on the straightaways."
DO YOU THINK IT WILL BRING ANY OF THE OLD CHARACTER BACK? "I guess so, if they are hoping for more crashing, then maybe. I mean I think the racing has been spectacular. I love the fact we are able to get three wide there now. We are certainly racing side-by-side. It is just that there is a little bit more room to race on. You see more side-by-racing, I don't think that is a bad thing. But want to see sparks fly and this might be the thing that does that."
HOW ARE THE TIRES HERE THIS WEEKEND? "So far they have been good. Real fast, definitely. You go out and make a race run and you ran as fast as the pole was here at this race last year. That tells you how fast it is. We struggled to do our qualifying runs so we weren't that great there, but looking at the times that Mark (Martin) and with the sun going down, how cool it is, we're going to see some blinding fast qualifying laps."
WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE QUALITY OF THE RACING SO FAR THIS SEASON, EVEN THOUGH IT IS EARLY? "I think it has been great. I thought Daytona was on e of the best races that I've been a part of there in a long, long time. I thought the racing at California was spectacular. You had multiple grooves. Certainly for me. Vegas was a little harder to judge because I was out front quite a bit, but we were lapping a lot of cars and going real fast. For me, I loved it but I don't know exactly what was going on behind me."
WHAT MAKES QUALIFYING CHALLENGING HERE FOR YOU? THE BUMPS? "It is fast and then the loads are pretty substantial when you drop it in these corners and get in to the banking. You really load the car up and have to put a lot of wheel in to it. Then you factor in the bumps. We've really been struggling with the bumps through three and four today and that is what we are going to work on for qualifying, hopefully that will bring some of our speed back. The grip is going to go up so it's going to get even faster and the bumps could be a bigger factor or they might be less a factor. Sometimes when the grip gets better, sometimes the bumps seem to disappear."
DO YOU FEEL THEM IN THE CAR? "There is a lot of wave in the bumps down through three and four. It is not like riding a wave, it is like the wake of a boat coming off there I guess. It's trick. You get into a cycle of bumps and it hard to get the car to ride over those well and go fast because we are looking at the aero platform trying to keep the car into the race track and down and low and all those things to get the maximum grip and speed. That usually takes away from how it rides over the bumps."
HOW DO YOU THINK BRINGING THE BLADE SPOILER BACK WILL AFFECT THE RACING? "It is yet to be determined. Certainly excited about the spoiler coming back. We have to do some testing to really know how it is going to affect the cars. Some wind tunnel testing and things like that look very promising. I think the test at Talladega is going to tell us a whole lot. It is really the test in Charlotte that we are all very interested in. The fans seem to want it as well as it looks good on paper, right now it looks like a win-win until we get out there and see what it does on the track."
IS THIS THE RIGHT TIME TO HAVE AN OFF WEEKEND IN THE SEASON? "It is not as good as right after Daytona. I wish we had an off weekend following Daytona. It is fine. I don't try to get involved in when the off weekends should come. I just utilize them when they are there."
DID PEOPLE TREAT YOU DIFFERENTLY AFTER YOU WON YOUR 50TH RACE? "I'll be honest, I don't ever remember. I can tell you that I probably felt the same way about it as I do now, it is just overwhelmed and in disbelief that I won 50 races. Just like I do now with 82, I can't believe it, it just blows me away. We went on an incredible streak there where we were winning 10-plus races every year. Seven-plus. They came in a hurry. It is hard to really put it in perspective and appreciate it at that moment when you are going through it like we did then. I can tell you I appreciate it a whole lot more now today than I ever have. Until you asked me that, I hadn't even thought about it?
"Just how hard it is to win period. It is hard to win, let alone go and click off 50 in a short period of time. We did it in a very short period of time. There was a point where we were winning every fifth race, that was our stats. I knew that was going to come to a halt at some point. But., man, when you have a team like that, it just seemed like everything we our way and we were just having a lot of fun going to victory lane and celebrating. There is no way when you are putting that many wins together that you can fully appreciate how important it is and how meaningful it is and what it means in the history of our sport as I do today, now that I am not winning quite as much."
WHAT YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE TV RATINGS AND RACE ATTENDANCE, DO YOU AND OTHER DRIVERS WORRY ABOUT IT? "I think the livelihood of our sport is extremely important to us. This is something that means a lot to us. First it revolves around the fans and that relates to the sponsors and then that relates to our race teams and how we do business in NASCAR. While we try not to over-think that because it's ultimately our responsibility is to go out and drive the race car at whatever level that is with the support that we have. We also want to do our part in helping to keep the sport growing or rebuilding. You recognize it. You go through driver introductions and wave to all of those people, it is hard to not recognize where we are at. I was way impressed with last week. Daytona was great. California is California. It seems it will always be down and I am anxious to see what we have here this weekend."
AFTER A RACE LIKE LAST WEEK WHERE MAYBE ONE SLIPPED AWAY FROM YOU, ARE YOU ANGRY ON MONDAYS OR TUESDAYS OR DOES IT ROLL OFF YOUR SHOULDERS? "That was a tough one. I was pretty angry about that one. By Tuesday or Wednesday I was finally starting to get over it. I feel like we did everything we could as a team. I'm very happy with the results of how we performed, but it was a tough loss. Going back to wins in the past, there have been times when we've been like that and finished third and I'm like hey, no big deal. But that was when the wins were coming very five races. These days you don't want to let races like that slip away from you. You want to capitalize on that. And that's something I feel like we missed out on last year. We finished second eight times because we let some slip away. And that's something we don't want to have happen again this year.
IS IT THE WINNING OR THE BONUS POINTS THAT ARE MOST IMPORTANT? "Winning does so much for your confidence as a team. The bonus points are nice. Third was still good because it got us some valuable points that we needed to get ourselves in the top 12, but when you dominate like that and you've got a car like that, you want to win. You don't just want to dominate; you want to get the result that you feel like you're capable of. "
WILL YOU RELAX DURING THE OFF-WEEK OR WORK EVEN HARDER? "There are two different sides to it. We'll still do all our debriefs and everything through Tuesday; that's what we do. We talk on Tuesdays. And then I'll join my family and have some downtime and try to relax and step away from it, but then we've got the tests on Tuesday at Talladega. So it's not much of an off-week, but I'm looking forward to doing some things around the house. We've got to get ready for a baby."
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT HAVING TWO SHORT TRACK RACES IN A ROW? "Why? I love that. No, I'm excited about two short tracks. I'd rather have the short tracks back-to-back. It gets you into that mindset and gets the team into the setup and really thinking about those set-ups and the cars. The only thing is you might not be running the same race car from week to week because more than likely you're going to tear one up; at least enough to where you probably can't run it the next week. But no, I like them being back-to-back."
DO YOU THINK JIMMIE JOHNSON WINNING SO MUCH IS A GOOD THING? "I'll use Danica Patrick as an example. All of a sudden Danica Patrick comes around and there is media galore and all kinds of interest. And you can't deny the fact that when a unique opportunity like that comes along, kit stirs excitement and it stirs interest. To me, Jimmie is a fantastic race car driver with a great personality who brings a lot to this sport. But if it doesn't resonate with a new fan base or the media then it's not going to really stir up some of the uniqueness that we need to keep our fans coming and growing. But I think we have a lot of positive stuff going on right now. I think the racing has been great. It's just a tough economy. It's tough to travel. A lot of tracks have two races. And I think people are sort of picking and choosing where they go to races these days a lot more than they used to. There is a lot more to watch on TV. But then you look at the NFL and they have the best ratings they've ever had. So, there is obviously something we can do and we've got to tap into that. But right now, I'm just focusing on putting on the best races possible to put on. Even in football, people love to hate the dominating team out there. But in the NFL you don't see a whole lot of domination. The team that should have won it all, didn't. So that can be good."
"I just think it depends on the rivalries and the stories. If you're dominating but you're battling a Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart and you build that rivalry; the good guy/bad guy kind of thing; the Ford vs. Chevy and all that sort of thing. I think the stories are still there. The interest is still there. But when you're out there dominating and nobody is really your enemy, then I think it pulls away from you a little bit. What we need is Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart to be butting heads and banking and trying to beat one another and talking trash, that's going to be good television. The problem is that Jimmie and I are friends. So we never cross that line. And that's good and bad. Hey, just give me the scrip and as long as I get to go to Victory Lane five or six times, you know (laughs) I'll take it."
DOES IT BOTHER THE DRIVERS WHEN ONE DRIVER WINS ALL THE TIME? "Hell, yeah. That's the thing that I see is good. When you win that much, it ticks everybody else off and they all have to work harder and they all get fired up to go out there and try to knock that guy off. And you can't blame those guys for wanting to dominate and that's great. But you can't blame the others for wanting to keep them from winning as well. That's a whole part of sports in general
WILL THEY INCREASE THE SIZE OF THE RESTRICTOR PLATE AT THE UPCOMING TALLADEGA RACE? IF SO, WHAT WILL THAT DO? "Speed is speed. If you add more drag, then you've got to add more power to make up for the drag. So, what we don't know if what's going to happen if we have more power and then we get into a draft and the air starts going over that spoiler, what are we going to do in the draft? How much faster will we be? And those are questions that they're going to be looking into. We talk about liftoff speed and those types of things where the car is turning. The restrictor plate and the size of the spoiler and it's all just to get us to a comfortable speed to where we can all go out there and race and do it in a safe manner. If it was up to us, we'd be going 250 mph out there, you know? We all want that. We don't want restrictor plates at all. But all it takes if for you to spin one time and you realize when you get airborne it's not probably the smartest thing in the world."
-source: gm racing