JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, SPOKE WITH MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA IN THE BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY MEDIA CENTER DURING THIS EVENING'S DINNER BREAK. GORDON AND OTHER TEAM CHEVY DRIVERS ARE TESTING IN PREPARATION FOR THE DEBUT OF IMPALA SS IN THE...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, SPOKE WITH MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA IN THE BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY MEDIA CENTER DURING THIS EVENING'S DINNER BREAK. GORDON AND OTHER TEAM CHEVY DRIVERS ARE TESTING IN PREPARATION FOR THE DEBUT OF IMPALA SS IN THE FOOD CITY 500 MARCH 25, 2007.
ON HOW TESTING HAS GONE SO FAR TODAY: "Our times aren't bad. I feel like we got up to speed fairly quickly. Definitely a lot of unknowns that we came in here with that we have had to work through. They have been a huge learning curve, frustrating and I feel like we have worked through some things. But others I don't know if we are going to be able to get through here, we might have to take a lot of information that we get from this test and go back and look at it all and try to come back with a combination that we hope will work here."
ON MOVING DATE UP TO GO FULL TIME RUNNING IMPALA SS IN 2008 INSTEAD OF WAITING UNTIL 2009: "I think it is too early to commit to that. I understand from a financial standpoint, especially because I think there are a lot of teams that are behind because of the schedule that we are on with building both cars, but I think until we get through some races, it is too early. I think there might be a lot of changes that may need to happen for the good. I think that is why we are running it this year so we can get the car out there, put it in race conditions and really through the inspection process, go through qualifying, go through race prep, everything that it is going to take and really evaluate this car fully. We have gotten it to this point now the next step is to put it in to a race, we have to go to Bristol, Martinsville then we have to go to Darlington. Then we have to get it to some other tracks, some superspeedways and really evaluate it. It is really too early for me to comment on that. Right now, I just see things that we are locked down on with this car that I fell like is going to be a little bit too challenging that may need to bend a little bit. I think that John (Darby) and NASCAR understand. If they here the same comments from enough teams, they might be willing to make some adjustments so that is why we are here on and why we are going to race this car a number of times this year before we can really say what to do next."
ON LEVEL OF COMMITMENT IN DEVLEOPMENT AND PREPARATION OF THE CAR BY TEAMS AND IS THAT WHY SOME FEEL BETTER ABOUT IT THAN OTHERS: "Well, I am curious to know which teams feel good about it. I think the teams that feel good about it are the ones that are probably not winning right now because they think this car is going to bring them in to a box that is going to keep costs down and also maybe get the competition a little bit closer. I hope all those things are true. But I still think the top teams are going to be the ones that come out on top. We are probably further ahead than probably anybody out there on the Car of Tomorrow. As far as preparation, speed and all that, we are fine. The frustrating things for me are that, compared to the race car we have been driving, this car is nothing like it and won't do any of the things you would want it to do. We have got Goodyear building a harder tire for, not necessarily a harder tire, but a tire that doesn't have as much grip because this car is heavier so it abuses tires more.
There are things that I think can be very positive once we get in to a race, but there are some things I am really concerned about. So until we go through some of those races, I have concerns from a competition standpoint of putting on the type of race with car that we hope we can. Then I hear my team, frustrated about we are limited on this and this and this, and we are not sure how this is going to work. We have to come in a whole day early to inspect these cars and there are such small tolerances. There are just a lot of things. It is change. Change is just frustrating in itself. We get through these races and it goes well and we can work through all those bugs, but until then, if you go from a race car that drove really good that you liked the way drove and you can make adjustments to it if it wasn't doing what you wanted. Then you get into a car that doesn't do what you want it to do and you work all day long trying to make adjustments and nothing changes the way it drives, from a driver's standpoint, that is frustrating."
ON TALKING ABOUT SPECIFICS HE WOULD DISCUSS WITH NASCAR REGARDING CHANGES TO THE CAR: "No, I don't think those are things that are necessarily meant for the public. Also, we have to get through a race before we probably know all those things. Right now we are out there running around by ourselves. When we get in to a pack of cars and we start seeing what the aero package does and all the intricacies of this package in race conditions. I think we have a list of some things that we would maybe like to see. We have already shared some of those things with NASCAR to get us to where we are now, They have made some changes already to this point like how they run the tailpipes, how they let us mount the seats and just different things that they have worked with us on. I think that until we go through, we will build that race up. I don't even think we are ready for that yet."
ON LOOKING FORWARD TO SPECIFIC TRACK TO RACE IMPALA SS: "I am a fan of the current car so it is hard for me to evaluate and say that. I am curious to see what it would be like at Daytona and Talladega. I think with this big roof and greenhouse on it, that maybe will punch a big hole in the air and we will see some real cool drafting. But I am not sure. You have the people that love the Truck Series and then you have the people like me that look at the Truck Series, yes that is exciting, but I am glad I am sitting here watching it on TV because it is white knuckle racing, it is crazy but it puts on a good show. So there is a balance there. So I am hoping we can find that balance with this car on those tracks. I don't know, maybe the road courses. Hopefully on the road courses, we can have fun with it and make it work right. This is a challenging race track (BMS) because it has such high banking, fast speeds, the loads are very difficult to deal with. They are not allowing us to really mess with the heights of the car. Do now we are on these bump stops and all these things that are new that we are learning on how we do the suspension. We aren't really even traveling on springs and things that we used do anymore. Now we just do down and we sit on these bump stops and when you have these types of travels and loads that you have at this track, it is very very difficult to find that package and that combination that works. All you have to do is go down to turn one or turn three and watch these cars go in there, especially this morning. It took guys about three or four hours before they could even get down to the yellow line to get over the bump. Those are things that we have to just work through. We know what it is, but it is new to us. It is all things that we are learning, we have load sensors and all these travels sensors that show us and tell us what is happening with the car. And that is another thing, when we get to a race, if we haven't tested there, we don't have all this technology from a test and b e able to read that and be able to accurately pinpoint what it is we need to do and put it in the car like we are able to do here at the test. That is going to be another very tricky part. I am doing the tire test Darlington but most guys are going to show up without any testing whatsoever with the COT and it going to be very interesting."
ON CHALLENGES OF DEBUTING IMPALA SS AT A SMALL TRACK LIKE BRISTOL: "The biggest challenges are the things we were just talking about: speed, getting the car qualified, getting the car to handle the way you want it. I think once we get it in the race, I think we are going to see a very similar type of race that you typically see here in Bristol. I think that you know, this is not a two-groove race track. It is not a mile-and-a-half. Basically you see a lot of crashes, spins and different things like that. I think that you will see a lot of that same thing. I have gone out there and run with some guys, I can't say I have actually passed anybody, I was getting ready to make some passes and they pulled off, the cars that were running close to my speed, I felt like it was pretty challenging to get a run on them. That is no different than we normally see here. At the short tracks I don't think we will see a big difference than what we have seen in the past."
ON IF THE IMPALA SS WILL MAKE HIM CHANGE HIS DRIVING STYLE: "It is going to challenge a driver definitely to find the right balance. But it is going to challenge the teams a lot more. Really coming to a race track, having all your travels worked out in advance, and a lot of that is done with computers through our seven-post rig test, we are really going to have to come prepared. From the drivers standpoint, like here for instance, the car doesn't have as much downforce, so you get a little bit looser getting in to the corner, it doesn't turn as good when you get to the middle of the corner and you get a little bit looser up off the corner because the car is heavier, it wants to carry more. The whole mass of the car wants to drift out on you. So, it is definitely been challenging. It has been a frustrating day for me. I love this race track. We usually come here and run well and work through whatever challenges we have. We haven't really been able to do that. We are running good times, but, the car isn't doing what I want it to do so I think, once we get in to a race, we are going to have all the similar challenges that we are having now and I don't think that it is going to change the way I drive. I feel like over the years, I haven't really changed; the cars have changed on how they handle. I am always searching for that same feel, there is a certain way I like to approach the entry of the corner, how I get out of the gas, how I get on the brake and how feed the steering wheel and feed the throttle. Every drive has a different trait, but it is really hard to teach yourself how to do something different. That is why I have confidence in what I do and it is just about trying to relay that to the team and get those types adjustments or the cars handling the way I need it to. That is why a couple of years ago, the 48 was having a lot of success and we weren't so we went to a totally different package, we tried to run what they were running. Jimmie is just different enough that we realized we had to have thing different. He uses a lot more brake getting in to the corner and just the way he feeds the steering wheel. I don't think it is going to change the way I drive, it is just going to change the way we set the cars up."
ON ABILITY TO GET IMPALA SS TO FEEL LIKE MONTE CARLO SS: "I don't know that we are ever going to get the car to feel like the old car, we are trying to compare it to the current car and we are never going to get it to feel like the current car. It is about what is it going to take to make this car go fast. How do we have to get the car to cut and turn in the middle. If that means I have to slow my entry down, that is easy to do but that is not changing how I drive the car. Every track and every tire, you have an approach of how you go about it. It is hard for me to really explain what those differences might be. It is going like kind of stepping back in time a little bit and going to a car that has less downforce and less grip. Maybe a car where the times fall off a little bit more. Those races back then, you just had to drive in easier and not jump on the gas as hard as what we do today. We are carrying a lot of downforce, a lot of speed in the cars we have now."
ON PREVIOUS POSITION TAKEN ON THE CAR: "We are competitive. I am not complaining about speed, I think we are going to be one of the best cars and one of the teams to beat when the COT comes around to race. But it is quite a bit different than what we currently have. It is hard to go backwards, but in a lot of ways, it is actually stepping back and trying to create aerodynamics we had years ago but put a wing and a splitter on the car. It is trying to fix all the problems we have had over the years through inspection where the teams have figured out to coil bind the front springs, and do all these things to get around, basically get through inspection, be legal, but get the most out of the car. Where maybe some other teams has an engineer that hasn't figured it out. Even today we talk about Childress, they have figured some things out that they have done very well with, Gibbs has figured some things out at other tracks where they do well, Hendrick has figured some things out. So, that is what it is going to take with this car too. It is going to take a lot to figure out but I think there is going to be a big surprise. The teams that are excited about this car because they think it is going to bring them closer to the front, I think they are going to be surprised about how much more engineering you are actually going to need with this car, the smaller the box they put you in the more work that it takes to figure out how to find that speed that you need."
ON REASONS FOR CAR NOT REACTING TO HIS LIKING YET: "It is simple, if you know all the facts of the car, you know why. We are limited on how much travel we can have. It is all the things that have been issues for NASCAR to have to deal with in the past. They are taking all those things and putting them in a basket to try eliminate them. That is not a bad thing, that is a good thing. You get a team that one week that sees some other guys are coil binding their front springs, we can't figure it out and they have figured it out and that is why they are so much faster than us, they are just trying to really narrow up all those things that can happen so basically allowed us to do instead of coil binding those springs, we are on what they call bump stops or packers. We can't really adjust the height of the car so we are stuck with that. They car has less front downforce, less total downforce in general, a heavier race car. Just do the math of the car; the math of the car will tell you it is not going to handle like the current car. I am always going to try and make a car feel like the best car I have ever driven. Whether it is the current car, to try and make it feel like a car I drove two or three years ago that was the best car here. That is what I am doing now, is trying to get this car to drive as close to what we currently have and get those same characteristics that I know have been successful for us that have helped us win here five times."
-credit: gm racing