Jeff Gordon ...
Jeff Gordon #24 DuPont Chevrolet
SO MANY OF THE NEXTEL CUP DRIVERS ARE DRIVING IN TONIGHT'S BUSCH RACE. HOW COME YOU AREN'T AS WELL? I don't know. I guess you have to ask those guys why they're running. You know, it could be, with the new track conditions. We're seeing a trend of guys running in the Busch Series and obviously they feel like they're getting something out of it to be out there. Either money or experience for Sunday-one of the two. Either way you look at it, it equivalates to money. They do want to better on Sunday, then they run the Busch race. I like focusing on one thing during the weekend. I just feel like it's too much running around and you know, it's just not something I'm interested.I'm guess I'm old. Them young guys out there.
YOU DON'T NEED ANY MORE MONEY? It's not about (that). I want to make more on Sunday, no matter what.
WILL YOU DO ANYTHING SPECIAL TO PREPARE FOR SUNDAY NIGHT'S RACE, GIVEN IT IS SO LONG? Just work a lot on hydration. We've got some folks that help us out on that. Just make sure we have plenty electrolytes in our bodies and fluids and really well hydrated. It's not the physical demand of it. Because you can make really long runs here and not be able to get fluids in you. So, it's starting the race off properly hydrated is for me the most important thing-every weekend. Especially the 600 mile race.
WILL YOU WATCH THE INDY 500 TOMORROW? Oh yeah. I'm going to start off watching the F1 race (European Grand Prix). I've got that TIVO'd, I'm not going to get up that early in the morning. I'm going to watch that on TIVO, and then I'm going to watch some Indy 500 and get hydrated. I'm going to go to hospitality and do some meet and greets for DuPont and Lowe's and Pepsi and then go run 600 miles.
HAVE YOU KEPT TRACK OF WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE INDY 500? I tell you, I've been missing it. I just haven't been able to watch the broadcasts. I started watching qualifying when we were at Richmond and then it got rained out. You know, I know about who's on the pole and Danica Patrick and stuff like that, but I haven't kept up with a whole lot of it since then. You know, my guy is Helio (Castroneves). I'm always going to pull for Helio. He's a great guy, great driver and he's won it several times, along with Roger Penske, so we'll be pulling for him.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON DANICA PATRICK? DOES ALL THE HYPE TAKE AWAY FROM WHAT SHOULD BE THE MOST IMPORTANT RACE ON AMERICAN SOIL? It does a little bit, but imagine what would happen if she wins that thing. You know, I think it's exciting for motorsports, exciting for the Indy 500 and it's a great story and a great future for women in racing if it works out. She did a great job at the last race prior to this one and you know, I think they got well prepared for this one. We're just going to have to see what happens. Indianapolis-I've never driven an Indy car around there, but from driving a Cup car and talking to guys with Indy cars, it's a tough place to get around. You've got to get a good feel, good balance, long race, lot goes on there. She does a good job and it's the real deal.
CAN YOU IMAGINE ALL THE HOOPLA IF SHE HAD QUALIFIED FOURTH FOR THIS RACE? Yeah. I mean, it would be huge. The difference, I think, is that qualifying at Indy is sort of like qualifying at Talladega. You know, where the car means a lot. Driver still plays a role but the car means a lot. I think the race is really the proving grounds there, because in the race, you've really got to drive that car. She did a great job at a track where you really have to drive and get the feel prior to this race. So, I think she's going to do good. I'm interested to see how it goes.
RYAN NEWMAN IS THINKING ABOUT STARTING ON THE OUTSIDE, BECAUSE IT HAS BEEN SAID IT MIGHT BE A LITTLE SQUIRRELY GOING INTO TURN 2. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT CHANGE? Yeah, it's definitely an issue. You know, whichever way it goes it doesn't matter. 600 miles and, you know, I'm not going to worry too much about the first lap, so whether it is on the inside or outside, even if we get shuffled back. It's a long day. I'm not going to get too concerned about that.
IS IT TOUGH GOING INTO TURN 2? Well, the outside to me is definitely the preferred line. It wouldn't be a bad idea for him to do it, but again I don't know how hard I'm going to fight him for it even if he is on the outside because it is 600 miles.
YOU HAVE AN INTERESTING MIX OF RACE TRACKS COMING UP. DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THAT STRETCH? I do. I think it's nice. When you get on mile and a half race tracks and you start doing well and you get in the rhythm, then you want to keep going to mile and a half race tracks. You don't want the competition to catch up to you. You know, I do like the variety. I do like going to different race tracks. I think it's fun and exciting every weekend. Of course, you know, I love the road courses. We're testing this Tuesday for that. I'm really excited and I always look forward to those races on the schedule. Michigan is one of my favorite race tracks. Dover is as well, plus it's in the backyard of DuPont. It's in their backyard, so I think we've got some good things for us in store, race track-wise and race car-wise.
HOW WAS PRACTICE AND HAPPY HOUR? Well, we didn't start out great but we made big improvements there toward the end. I felt like we were one of the better cars on older tires.
Robby Gordon #7 Fruit of the Loom Chevrolet
HOW HAS THE ENTIRE RACE WEEKEND GONE SO FAR? The whole weekend here at the Coca-Cola 600 has gone pretty good for us. We rolled out for the first practice and we were 5th quick at the end of practice - going into qualifying - which is definitely an improvement from where we've been. We've been working hard. I promise you that nobody in this sport has worked the amount of hours that we've worked trying to get our team competitive. I'd be willing to bet good money on that. We thought we were going to have a shot at the pole. I saw Ryan Newman, in what sounded like (he was) holding it wide-open down there in Turns 1 and 2 and so I held it wide open until it got sideways and I had to crack out of the throttle. Unfortunately we went the same time we had in practice. But 25th is still respectable.
And in practice today, we were 12th. The car is pretty good in race trim as well. I don't think we're the best car; I think we've got some work to do. But we made a couple of changes with camber and a couple of other things just to make me comfortable. I was a little too loose.
But then again, the track is going to change too, when it gets dark. So you've got to be careful as to not adjust too much like for a 3:30pm session today for a race that's going to be running at 9, 10, and 11 o'clock at night. So we've just got to take all that into consideration.
GIVEN THIS NEW TRACK SURFACE, HOW HELPFUL WILL COMPUTER SIMULATION BE FOR THIS RACE? Computer simulation will probably be a little more valuable for a smooth race track than a rough race track because it doesn't take all the bumps into consideration. It takes lateral forces sideways and stuff like that into it - lateral and vertical forces. So, we do have a guy who did run the simulation program for me last year at RCR (Richard Childress Racing) that is the crew chief (Greg Erwin) and I have a very experienced team manager/car chief with Frank Kerr. The two of them are doing a good job for us and we're definitely getting on track.
PARTS OF THE TRACK HAVE GRIP AND PARTS DON'T HAVE GRIP. IS THAT A PROBLEM? Let me start by saying my car drives good, so that makes that part of it a lot easier. I don't notice it on the straightaways at all. In the corners, I'd still be running a real wide arc down in Turn 3 where they ground it. Our car is pretty good that I can get down to the bottom and even in the middle of Turn 4, I can be at the bottom of the track and still have plenty of grip. So, I felt we were a little bit free there. We're working on it.
But for us, we're just trying to learn as much as we can every (practice) session because every session is a new session for us since we're a new team. We're gathering new information. The stuff that we did last year at RCR doesn't really account for much because the spoiler is different now and we have less downforce. So our rear spring packages and stuff like that have changed as well.
HOW IMPORTANT IS TRACK POSITION FOR THIS RACE? Track position is definitely going to be everything. We did do some tire stuff in the All Star race or the Open (last weekend) that we'll definitely be able to apply to the race here (this Sunday) and we'll look at our tire wear closely and see where we are.
ARE THE TIRES HARD ENOUGH THAT YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO SKIP A TIRE CHANGE? Yeah, or you might be able to do right-sides or you might be able to do rights, then lefts, then rights, then lefts - something like Daytona. We'll have to really pay attention to tire wear, which I'm sure everybody out here is looking at that.
It should be a good race. A lot of people think it's hard to pass, but I think we passed about 10 cars in the NEXTEL Open - passed on the race track. So I didn't have a hard time passing, but then again I wasn't racing against Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon either. So it's going to be a different deal at this race because all the top teams are going to be there compared to who we raced in the Open.
WHICH RACE IS MORE POPULAR THIS WEEKEND, THE INDY 500 OR THE COCA-COLA 600? I grew up racing Open Wheel. NASCAR racing continues to grow. I don't know if Indy is dwindling as much as NASCAR is growing and gaining in popularity week in and week out. When I first started looking at stock car racing, I have friends in California who asked me what they did with those cars. All we knew was Indy Cars because of the Long Beach Grand Prix. And now, pretty much everybody knows what a stock car is and what NASCAR is and the competition level of it and the excitement and enthusiasm around it.
HOW IS YOUR ENGINE PROGRAM NOW? It's not fixed. But with John Menard, it's a work in progress and there is no budget (limitation). So, we'll get it right. And as everybody is aware, we can spend wisely with the best of them. He's not going to throw money away, but he's going to spend wisely to be successful. And this is a guy who has raced Roger Penske at the Indy 500 for many years and he wants to show that his engines can perform.
Now it's going to be up to us to shows that our cars can perform to keep him happy as well. So it's not just one-sided. We have to work together. I think our relationship so far has been going good. We've had some really tough times. Our sponsors have asked questions about what's going on and we just keep telling them we're working on it. Obviously we are if we can come here and be in the top have of the field - we're only a third of the way through the season - let us at least get our feet on the ground and get rolling here.
Look at Jason Leffler as an example. That's a championship caliber team that's just new. That's all they are, is just new. Jason Leffler is a fine driver. The team is just new and they went home this weekend. That shows you how competitive NEXTEL Cup racing is. I think that's another reason we have the fan following we have because of the excitement. Everybody loves winners, but they also like the agony of defeat as well. Look at the old commercial where the guy is crashing down the slopes - it's part of competition (laughs). I don't want to see anybody fail because I know what that feeling is like. I've been through it way too many times this year. But we're going to do everything we can on our side to keep that from happening in the future.