JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/TRANSFORMERS "REVENGE OF THE FALLEN" IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his Jeff Gordon Foundation activities, racing against Hendrick teammates, double-file restarts at Martinsville, Hall of Fame, Halloween weekend...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/TRANSFORMERS "REVENGE OF THE FALLEN" IMPALA SS met with media and discussed his Jeff Gordon Foundation activities, racing against Hendrick teammates, double-file restarts at Martinsville, Hall of Fame, Halloween weekend at Talladega, and more.
ON THE JEFF GORDON FOUNDATION: "This is always a special time of year for us. We had an event last night to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, a decade of caring, and I'm really happy to announce that it's been a great 2009 for us and we've had tremendous support from our fans and the community within our sport as well as outside. We announced to key supporters that the foundation is committing $2.5 million to support pediatric cancer research and treatment and programs at the Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital for it was a great night for us and it's been a great year.
"Among those programs that we're funding are the building of a pediatric pulmonary lab and community outreach program at the Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital, the establishment of the Jeff Gordon Foundation Pediatric Cancer Research Fund at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, funds to conduct a Phase I long term follow-up study of pediatric cancer patients through CureSearch and the Children's Oncology Group, funds to tissue-type 30,000 marrow donors through the Be The Match Registry of the National Marrow Donors Program.
"The foundation was established in 1999 and since that time I'm really proud to say that we have helped tens of thousands of children and granted nearly $10 million to some of the country's most recognized children's health organizations. I just want to say thank you to the media and to NASCAR and certainly to all of our fans. It's been a tremendous ten years. We're very proud that we've accomplished that and I can't wait for the next ten years. Thank you for the time to be able to make those announcements."
TALK ABOUT YOUR PLANS THIS WEEKEND AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY "This was a great track for us in May. Any of the tracks that we go back to for the second time, we're excited when we know that even though we didn't have a great result because of the rain, I felt like we had a very strong race car and the team was fantastic. So we're excited about coming back here this time around in October. We're optimistic about the weekend and building on the momentum of the last two second-place finishes. To compete for this championship, we've got to keep that up and then some. We understand what we're up against, not only our teammates, but Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart and also the 15th place finish that we had at New Hampshire. So all we can do is to continue to just push forward, work hard and put the best finishes out there that we can and let the rest of the things take care of themselves."
ON THE PGA TOUR, SOME PEOPLE SAY TIGER WOODS HAS CAUSED OTHER GOLFERS TO RAISE THEIR GAME. IS THAT WHAT JIMMIE JOHNSON IS DOING? CAUSING OTHER DRIVERS TO RAISE THEIR GAME? "No doubt about it. That whole group of Jimmie, Chad (Knaus) and all the way through the shop have set the benchmark for how you go about preparing your cars and how you go about execution during the race, communication throughout the weekend, and as well as Jimmie's commitment from a driver's standpoint; he's physically fit and how he analyzes the race tracks and the races. I think everybody has a little bit different and unique driving style and way to go about it. But what Jimmie is doing, and that whole group, it takes a team and the total team effort is obviously proving to be the strongest thing out there right now."
ON HAVING TO COMPETE AGAINST JIMMIE JOHNSON AND MARK MARTIN IN HENDRICK EQUIPMENT ON TONY STEWART IN HENDRICK ENGINES, HOW MUCH DOES THAT GNAW AT YOU? "It does a little. We pride ourselves on being the best out there and winning and continuing that tradition, not only for our No. 24 team but also Hendrick Motorsports. It's a great problem to have that you're at the best organization out there providing the best equipment and resources and people and that's exactly what you're up against each and every weekend. It's been the philosophy of Rick's since I first came to Hendrick that you hope that you're battling against your teammate. It's a great problem to have for Rick and the organization and it's something that the organization takes a lot of pride in and what that does is that opens up more opportunities for yourself and every other person and each team every year to only get better. And so we kind of know that going into it and while at times it's tough, it's very competitive, and it can be frustrating as well, when you get beat it's just because of the way that competition is driving one another. NASCAR hasn't always been similar to, say other forms of racing like Formula I and Indy Car where you're up against your teammate and your performance is sort of driven by your teammate and there is this internal rivalry, but as competitive as its gotten over the years, it certainly has the making of that and gets stronger every year."
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THAT JEFF GORDON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL PLAYGROUND AT CONCORD MILLS MALL? "Oh, yeah. I'm very proud of it and of our name being associated with it. You know we have 500 employees at Hendrick Motorsports plus numerous employees in this whole area from the Speedway to the other teams and shops that are out there and there's not a weekend that goes by that I don't have a member, whether it be in the media or in the garage area, that says thank you for the hospital and maybe treatment that was done on one of their kids or somebody knew, or, that they had a lot of fun over at Concord Mills Mall in the playground."
SPEAKING OF TREATMENTS, HOW IS YOUR BACK DOING? "I'm happy to report nothing. Everything is good. I haven't had any issues. The last little scare was Watkins Glen and I didn't know how long it was going to take to recover from that and I feel like I'm fully recovered from that and I haven't had any back issues. I mean it's still there, but I haven't had pain or anything that's been too uncomfortable or any distraction in the car, so I'm happy about that.
"We've basically been doing the same things. During the week I would go to a chiropractor and get different types of treatments that they call manipulation, where they just stretch you out as much as they can, literally stretching each spinal cord in the lumbar area to try to just give it some relief; as well as the stem treatment. I mentioned that last week. It is electric-static stuff making the muscles do things which is the best way I can describe it (laughs). It's supposed to loosen the muscles up. So I do that during the week. I've been able to incorporate some of that on the weekends because I like what that does and some adjustments as well."
WE'VE GOT THREE GUYS WITH FINISHING AVERAGES OF 3.5 OR BETTER IN THE TOP THREE IN POINTS. DO YOU THINK ANYBODY CAN KEEP DOING THAT THROUGH 10 RACES? "So, what you really want to know is whether or not I'm hoping that doesn't happen (laughs). The only chance we have in the championship is for that average obviously to change. Those three guys have been on a tear, they've been consistent and very competitive and leading laps and you've got to give them a lot of credit for that. We've been making a strong comeback, but it's certainly not going to be enough unless we win the next six races or something (laughs) to be able to overcome not only the deficit we had going in because of the wins that they had versus ours, as well as that 15th and 6th place finish that started off the Chase. Realistically, in '07 I didn't think that a 5.0 average would last and I lost with a 5.1. So anything is possible. Do I think that's going to continue? No, I don't. I think the averages are going to come into play. Does that mean it's going to be a 5.0 average or a 7.0 average? It's going to be low, the way these guys are performing."
ON GOING TO MARTINSVILLE NEXT WEEKEND AND HOW THE DOUBLE-FILE SHOOTOUT STARTS WILL OUT AT MARTINSVILLE? "I'm excited about Martinsville. It's going to be a great weekend, especially because of the double-file restarts. In the past, we've always had double-file restarts but you've got the lapped cars on the inside and just the challenge that creates in itself is exciting enough. Now you put in lead-lap cars double-file and it's really going to make things interesting because there certainly is a preferred line there. Anytime you go to a short track where there is a lot of rubbing and banging, what's going to happen is if the outside lane is not the preferred lane, then those guys in the outside lane are going to be working really hard to get in the inside lane, and vice-versa.
"So it's going to create a lot of excitement and possibly some real drama. We'll just wait to see how it plays out. Our job is the same as always: go there, make the car go through the corners as fast as we can, make sure we're not burning up the brakes, and get the car up off the corner and down the straight-aways the best we possibly can against the competition."
WHAT DO YOU THINK BRAD KESELOWSKI IS DEVELOPING AS A CUP DRIVER EVEN THOUGH HE MAY HAVE RUFFLED A FEW FEATHERS WITH SOME VETERAN DRIVERS? "That is a good question. I am a little surprised with that from Brad because I have known Brad for a little while and he is such a good guy. It does seem like his aggressiveness on the track even in the Nationwide Series has elevated up a couple of notches. Obviously, there is a reason for that and he wants to make his mark and show what he is capable of doing. When you step up your aggressiveness, you ruffle some feathers. That could work for him or against him; however he chooses it to play out.
"I think every rookie that comes in goes through a learning curve of the longer races; of knowing when to be aggressive, when to be patient. Some take longer than others to get adjusted. As long as he continues to perform well, then I think it is a faster learning curve because when you are racing in the top-five and the top-10, guys race different than they do from 10th to 15th; 15th to 20th on back. It is a totally different type of racing. It is almost harder to be honest with you because the track position, the cars are handling as good. Track position is more important than ever. It is like guys are racing like it is the last lap. That is why a lot of times you see the crashes in that area.
"To me, one of the best things that happened to me as a rookie was that I was up front learning from the best and the guys that were up there competing for wins. It showed me a better way of how to go about racing. I think that is what Brad is very capable of and we will just have to see how it plays out for him."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE JIMMIE JOHNSON'S DRIVING STYLE? "I think that everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. I think that Jimmie strength is he drives a little more off the right rear tire than say I do. I drive a little bit more off the right front tire. And all that is, is a feel in the steering wheel. It could be as easy as how you position your hands on the steering wheel. How you position your body in the car as to how you like that car to react. It is visually as well as seat of your pants feel of the car. I think that especially with this car, it is a lot harder to get this car through the center of the corners. Some of the things that we have to do to get the car to turn the center makes the cars a little more uncomfortable in and off the corner from a loose condition. That definitely plays out to Jimmie's style. The best drivers in our sport have always been the ones that know how to balance aggressiveness and patience very well. I think Jimmie fits that. He does that very well."
HOW IMPORTANT IS HOW QUICKLY A DRIVER AND CREW CHIEF BUILD THAT COMMUNICATION RELATIONSHIP AND WHEN A DRIVER GETS UPSET, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT FOR THE CREW CHIEF TO PULL HIM BACK IN? "I think it is extremely important in any good relationship and especially when it deals with a crew chief and a driver. When one is excited, the other has to be calm. If you have two people get over-excited, you are going to have a bad day. There is no doubt at Kansas I was extremely frustrated. I am still a little spun-out by that day because the way we started that race, I thought we were going to be two laps down before the first caution. And yet, I don't think we ever fell worse than 12th or 14th or something like that. To me, the car had a lot more speed in it than it felt. I felt like we were pretty far off so I was angry and frustrated that we started that far off. I was so proud of Steve (Letarte) that day. I made the comment about him being my hero if he fixed it. We were very close to fixing it. Still, definitely close to being one of my biggest heroes because of that day.
"I told him and the team after that was thank you for putting up with me because I was a pain in the butt that day. I have my moments. How he handled that situation and that we fought back and came back and finished second to me was spoke volumes about our relationship as well as our race team. I think that really has helped propel us to another level in this Chase and helped us have a very great, calm day in California. I don't think I said more than three or four words last week. Partly out of guilt for the things I was saying the week before and the other because we started the race out right and we had a good solid day.
"I think sometimes those relationships can happen immediately. Sometimes they take years. You have to understand that Steve has been on our team a long time. The reason why I believe he is my crew chief right now is because he and I clicked when he was car chief. Even when he was doing tires for us years and years ago. I liked his attitude. I liked his energy level. I liked his personality. I felt like he and I meshed very well. When he became the car chief, I realized how smart he was and how capable he was far beyond what a car chief but even more so. He has only impressed me even more as a crew chief."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE HALL OF FAME SELECTIONS? "Ah, man. I think it is very cool. It is so hard to narrow it down to five. Those are certainly at the top of my list and I don't think there were any big surprises. Maybe (David) Pearson but it is hard to narrow it down to five. I mean, incredible group. I think those five really, to me, stand out as making their mark in our sport getting it where it is today. Certainly belong in that first class."
TALLADEGA COMING UP ON HALLOWEEN WEEKEND, IF YOU WERE TO DRESS UP, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY? "I would just like to have a disguise that nobody could recognize me so I could go out in the infield to check out all the fun that is going to be happening out there on Halloween. Whatever costume that is, I don't know. But I don't want to give it away here. I am really more disappointed that Ingrid and Ella are going to be at home and not able to come with me and I am going to miss Halloween for her. So, I will be getting images and videos and downloaded to me, that is going to be my Halloween fun in Talladega."
WHAT IS ELLA GOING TO BE? "Well, right now she is planning on being a puppy dog. But, the other day Ingrid came home and had found a lion outfit, she put that on and wore it all night long and to a restaurant that we went to dinner at. I have a feeling this costume is going to change several times before that weekend."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT JUAN PABLO MONTOYA'S PROGRESSION AND ARE YOU SURPRISED HE HASN'T WON MORE RACES? "I just always looked at Juan as one the most incredible drivers out there. I knew he was going to have an uphill battle. When you have been driving the open wheel type cars that he had for that long, it is such a tough transition to get a feel for these cars, learn the tracks, transition in to different people, a team. It is like starting your career over but he has the talent so I knew it would be a matter of time. I didn't know how much time and some of that had to do with the team providing him the resources and equipment. Just seeing some of the things early on, he certainly had a lot to get used to with these bigger, heavier cars. Just how deep you drive in the corner. How aggressive he was on restarts and learning the aerodynamics of the car around other cars. All the typical things that you see so many go through but I think maybe even a little bit more under a microscope for him because of who he is and what he has accomplished in other forms of racing.
"But again, I just felt like it was a matter of time before the team stepped up and he got the experience to be competitive. Now, he has stepped up in a whole new way and surprised a lot of us throughout the Chase. Obviously that team has built him some great race cars and Brian (Pattie, crew chief) has done a great job and Juan has stepped up right along with him driving hard and aggressive. That is a neat thing while he had a lot to learn about the cars and the racing and the aerodynamics and those things, he still brings his own style to it. You see him running high qualifying sometimes, where everybody is on the bottom. He will drive in as deep or deeper than anybody out there. He'll run unique lines and search around. So he brings his own unique style to it which I think is what is going to make him successful."
TALK ABOUT YOUR WIN AT TEXAS IN APRIL AND GOING BACK IN A FEW WEEKS: "We are anxious to get back there. It was obviously a huge win for us as a team going there so many times and from being so close and not getting the win to having just horrendous, terrible days. We ran bad or hit the wall or had a failure, whatever may have happened. It was just one of those tracks that I typically left there wanting to forget as quick as I could.
"Now I can't wait to get back there because we had such a strong car. We had worked so hard over the off season because of what we learned there in November last year to come back to be strong in Texas, knowing that it is a Chase race and it is a race that has haunted us for the last several years. To turn that around was fantastic. I can't wait to get back there.
"Plus we are going to be giving our Corvette away for the Jeff Gordon Foundation. So it is always a real special weekend for us."
DO OTHER DRIVERS EXPERIENCE DEFLATION AFTER JIMMIE WON LAST WEEK AND KNOWING WHAT HE HAS DONE IN THE PAST IN SITUATIONS LIKE THIS? "It definitely sends the "uh, oh" message. You don't want these guys to get on a roll. We've seen what they have done in the past. I think that it shows that they are as strong as they have ever been and it is going to take a lot to beat them. It is motivation for a lot of people.
"But I don't really think deflation at this point because there is too much racing left to go. I think if anything, it is inspiration to go out there and do everything you possibly can to rise to that occasion and that challenge and go out there and outperform them and get the wins. That is to me the motivation that came from that. The thing that you will hear Jimmie say a lot about is that the 10-races in the Chase are all really good tracks for them. So, they have been able to take advantage of that where in the past three years, other teams haven't been able to do as well. That is why we are so focused this year on Texas.
"I am a little disappointed how we performed at Phoenix earlier in the year because I feel like that is another track where we have to perform well to be able to compete with both the No. 5 (Mark Martin) and the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson). Of course Juan has thrown himself in the mix there that maybe some didn't expect. You never know where he is going to be the guy to beat or where is going to be weak. And then you have Tony Stewart as well that is just good everywhere so you never know where he is going to strike. I think that they definitely, as we mentioned earlier, the force everyone to elevate up their game. Especially when Chase time comes around."
"If I can just end by saying the Transformer 2 "Revenge of the Fallen", the DVD is coming out October 20th."
-credit: gm racing