Charlotte II: Jeff Gordon - Thursday media visit

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the upcoming race at Talladega, the Hall of Fame, success at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and more. A LOT OF DRIVERS HAVE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH TALLADEGA. WHAT'S YOUR ...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed the upcoming race at Talladega, the Hall of Fame, success at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and more.

A LOT OF DRIVERS HAVE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH TALLADEGA. WHAT'S YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TALLADEGA? "I like Talladega a lot. I think I just kind of look at it and know what to expect and accept it. I haven't finished well there in a while either, but I've won there enough times to have great memories there, you do survive the big one or a couple of big ones, I think we have a great shot at having a top five there. So I look at it as more positive than negative.

WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO BE IN A BIG CRASH? "It's kind of like a pin-ball. I haven't been through something like what Carl Edwards has been through, or certainly Rusty (Wallace) way back or things like that. The ones I've been in just seem like one big mass of cars just bouncing off one another and at that place, aerodynamics are so important that you're day is pretty much done with even minor damage. But you're running so close to one another that it just takes the slightest little bobble by one guy and 10, 12, or 15 cars are in it. And that's the part about Talladega that's not fun."

IS THAT THE ONE TRACK THAT YOU THINK ABOUT THE MOST BEFORE YOU GO THERE? "No. No, I think about them all, a lot. Before I go to each one, that's all I'm thinking about is that one."

WHAT'S THE BEST SAVE YOU EVER HAD? "Well that's the thing. When you miss it or it's behind you or whatever, it's almost like you won. Yes, thank goodness! But it can still happen even on the last lap even with five cars. So you're never really out of it. You're never really safe. It's really about getting across the start/finish line and your car being in one piece. Chances are you're probably going to be in the top 10 and for us, we've gone to victory lane there a number of times where we feel confident that we can be up front battling for that win if we do survive it. But you don't really survive it until the checkered flag waves. It can happen at any point in time in the race. It's not just getting through that one. Getting through that one, you're like all right, great! But it's really about getting through that one coming off Turn 4 for the checkered."

DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR BEST SAVE? IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE AT TALLADEGA. DOES ONE STAND OUT LIKE YOU SAVED THE CAR? "Oh, yeah, I had three today! (laughter)

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE RACE TRACK COMING UP? EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT TALLADEGA BUT WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE? "Martinsville. I always love going to Martinsville. I feel like we're really good there. The cars handle well there. I like the track. We just tested at Little Rock this week to try and get prepared for that race. So, it's a track that I think as a group we carry a lot of confidence going into."

DO YOU WISH THERE WERE MORE SHORT TRACKS ON THE SCHEDULE? "I would like to see more short tracks. We only have two half-mile tracks. Richmond is a nice short track but it's even a little bit big. It acts a little bit more like a Charlotte. Aerodynamics play a pretty big role there. It would be pretty cool to have something sort of in between a Martinsville and a Bristol; a little bit more banking and a little bit more sweeping corners. That would be very cool. I'm a big fan of that."

FOR SKILL? "I think there is more skill for the team for the other tracks because that race car and the aerodynamics mean so much. From a driver's standpoint on these big tracks like this, it's so important to give good feedback back to those guys to help them adjust and I think that plays a big part of your success. On the short tracks, yeah, I definitely think the driver comes into play a lot more, which is fun."

WHEN JIMMIE JOHNSON GOES ONE-TWO-THREE, THREE RACES IN A ROW, WHAT DO THE OTHER DRIVERS IN THE CHASE SAY? DO THEY SAY HERE WE GO AGAIN? "I guess, in a way. Those guys are so good and so strong in the Chase and I think it probably takes a little bit of wind out of the sails of some; motivates others. There is still a lot of racing left to go. Those guys are just really, really good. So, I'm just a big believer if you're a really strong team, I think the best teams wins this thing every year. And who is the most prepared and who it's meant to happen for. It's usually meant to happen for the ones that are the best. And so there's a lot of racing yet to go and there are a lot of really good teams that are still in this thing. Only time will tell.

"All you can do every weekend is go out and apply yourself in the best way possible and do everything you know to do to go out there and try to win the race. If you come back with a victory, then you did your best. If you didn't, you look at the guys you're racing and where they ended up. You pretty much know if the No. 48 doesn't bobble or have some big problem that they're going to be, especially at these next few race tracks, they're going to be in the top five or six. That's just how good they are. So you're got to go out there and be either really spectacular or see if they bobble."

DOES THAT GET IN YOUR HEAD AT ALL? "At this point, no. For us, I think we compete against ourselves more than we compete against the competitors. If we do what we're fully capable of doing, then we're pretty happy. What we're not happy with is when we don't live up to our full potential. That gets in my head is when we're not doing what we're capable of doing. It really doesn't matter what any of the other competitors are doing. I will say, we were just watching on TV they had the Charlotte race here from '07 where we won. We came out of there with a 68 point lead and the No. 48 won the next four (races) in a row. And that was a little tough to take because we weren't terrible in those next four. We were decent. But that definitely will get in your head and it did. It took the wind right out of our sails. We were beat at that point."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT PERTUSSIS, WHY THAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU, AND WHY YOU'RE INVOLVED IN RAISING AWARENESS ABOUT IT? "Yeah. It's just something that we became aware of and I just couldn't believe it as a parent with a three-year-old and one on-the-way, we were just doing everything we could to protect our son and to help educate other parents out there that might not be aware of it as we weren't. To know that it's a very simple procedure to get that booster shot. You're just not fully protected once you get older. Basically, as adults none of us are fully-protected against whooping cough and so if you're going to be around an infant, it's extremely important to make sure you're fully protected. That was something that we became aware of and I'm happy that we did especially with our son on the way."

TALK ABOUT THE HALL OF FAME AND YOUR REACTION TO THE CLASS THAT WAS NOMINATED YESTERDAY. "I think it's a very deserving group. It's awesome. I was really hoping to see David Pearson in there; I was pretty sure that he would be, but that is fantastic to see him in. To me at this point there are so many that are capable of being in it that it is hard to narrow it down to five each year, but I think they did a great job."

TALK ABOUT CHARLOTTE--WHAT DO YOU GUYS NEED TO DO THIS WEEKEND TO LEAVE HERE AND CONSIDER IT A SUCCESS? "Well, I think a lot of it depends on where the competitors' finish, but we need to come out of here feeling like we had a car capable of winning and that we either won or finished right there in the top three, four or five. Then it depends on what our competitors do. I think at this point, we can't continue to lose points. I think we either need to maintain or gain a few on the guys, especially the top-two. Then it's really about seeing where we're at and where we stack up after we leave Talladega."

WHEN YOU WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP, DOES IT HAVE AS MUCH TO DO WITH YOUR TEAM STAYING CONSISTENT AS IT IS WITH OTHER TEAMS FALLING OFF AND HAVING BAD DAYS? "I mean, again, I go back to the fact that I think the best team wins this championship. I think that means that you go out and you outperform your competitors week-in and week-out and whether that means capitalizing on their misfortunes or mistakes or whatever it may be, or just going out there and outperforming them. It never hurts to go out there when somebody else qualifies up front, is running good and you go out there and beat them. That always helps."

THE ONE CHAMPIONSHIP WHEN YOU LOST, YOU'RE RUNNING THERE AT DARLINGTON AND YOU COULD'VE WON THAT THING, BUT THEN THERE WAS A MISTAKE WITH THE AIR HOSE. IT WAS BACK IN 2004-- "Man, you're getting picky there. You think that lost the championship for us? You could go through those 10 races and look at a lot of things that lost the championship for us. I'm not saying that wasn't it; that didn't help for sure. I appreciate you bringing that back up man. I've been wondering about why we lost that championship that year."

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS CHOKE? "Oh yeah. I mean, I did it last week. I still think that ninth-place finish was my fault. I think we were capable of being in the top-five last week with those restarts the way they came down and I choked on pit road. It always comes down to that. That's the thing about the Chase, it really puts a lot of pressure on everybody to get everything out of it and when you push that hard every weekend to get everything you can out of it, sometimes you're going to make mistakes."

DO YOU THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE FOR TWO TIRES OR PUT FOUR ON EARLIER THAN THAT? "I don't know. If you knew the cautions were going to fall the way they did, sure. How the heck do you--you can't predict that. If we went caution-free all the way to the end and we took two tires, we would've finished 20th or more."

HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THE TAPE ON PIT ROAD? "Oh I knew what I did. When they called it, it didn't surprise me. I was pushing the limit and you know it just got us into a lot of discussions about how we do the light system on our tack and it's not that we did anything different, it's that I pushed it a little bit more to the limit and was very consistent with that on that particular run down pit road. I was trying to make up a little bit of distance and time there and when they called it I was like, 'Man, I think I know where I was at with it, but tell me where.' As soon as they told me I knew exactly what it was."

YOU'VE SAID ALL THROUGHOUT THE YEAR THAT YOU DON'T NECESSARILY THINK THAT YOU NEED TO WIN A RACE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. AT THIS POINT IN THE CHASE NOW, DO YOU STILL BELIEVE THAT? "Not if the three guys in front of me and Tony Stewart behind me all have problems, but I don't expect that to happen. We have to outperform our competitors--it doesn't matter if we finish first, but that sure would be nice and I think if you look at where our competitors are running I think you kinda have to win."

YOU TALKED ABOUT TESTING IN LITTLE ROCK, IT'S A DIFFERENT PATCH OF PAVEMENT, IT'S DIFFERENT TIRES AS WELL. HOW MUCH CAN YOU TAKE AWAY? "Honestly, I felt like that track was nothing like Martinsville. I think that what we try to do these days with the testing policy is go someplace that is as close to what we know and try to simulate it and then if you don't simulate it, you just got there and make changes and see how the car reacts to them. I felt like it was just good to get laps, good to try some things and almost more of a confirmation of some things. When you go to a racetrack, you always are learning something and that's kind of what we did. I don't think we felt like we went to Little Rock and said, alright we're going to do this, this and this and we came out of there going, 'Oh man, we're going to kill them at Martinsville.' We're already good at Martinsville. It's just some little thing that we wanted to try so that we have a direction when we get to Martinsville."

DO YOU LOOK AT JIMMIE JOHNSON'S DOMINANCE AS A REASON FOR RATINGS BEING DOING? YOU'VE HAD YOUR RUNS OF DOMINANCE, BUT IT NEVER REALLY AFFECTED THE RATINGS, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT ARGUMENT RIGHT THERE? "My only argument is rivalries. I think there needs to be some more rivalries out there. When I won my first championship, obviously the rivalry with Earnhardt and even in the other championships I never really had the rivals like that, but there was always Ford versus or Chevy, or with Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett, or Bobby Labonte--some things like that. I just think it's important to have rivalries. I don't think it's anything about Jimmie Johnson, it's just nobody has really rivaled him. The only one that has besides Carl [Edwards] I guess, I would have thought that that would have been pretty decent ratings that year, but Carl is probably just too nice.

It's two nice guys going against each other, even though its Ford vs. Chevy; I think there is a certain entertainment aspect to it that plays out and that just depends on the guys' personality and their fan base. Right now if it was Kyle Busch versus Jimmie Johnson, I think it'd spark a lot more interest. I think that Harvick kind of plays that role a little bit and he's there. If that battle heats up, I think it could be interesting. I think right now anything that sparks a good battle with Jimmie, even if it's me I think will spark some things. Those guys have dominated so much that when we get to this position I think a lot of people just go, 'oh man, he's going to do it again.' But, I also think they're waiting to see if somebody else can beat him."

YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WINNING EARLY IN THE SEASON, YOU LOOK BACK AT MARTINSVILLE IN THE SPRING, CAN YOU AFFORD TO LOOK BACK AND WONDER HOW WINNING THAT RACE MIGHT HAVE IMPACTED YOUR SEASON? "I'm pretty proud of how we have handled ourselves even though we haven't won yet this year. I feel like we haven't emotionally gotten torn down. I feel like we've lost some momentum. I don't feel like...I feel like a win would have...what a win does is carries your through more race on a high and with confidence. But you have got to win like every 10 races to keep that going because over 10 races, it starts to dwindle a little bit. But, that is what I am proud of is that we haven't won at all this year, we haven't won for a long time and while we don't have the confidence that we had probably at that point in the season, we haven't self-destructed either. We were able to maintain the second place in points coming into the Chase and we've been able to move up once we got in to the Chase. We recognize through experience what we are good at. And, what we are good at is never giving up. Solid pit stops and we just fight. We fight on the race track for positions all the way to the checkered flag. We don't argue inside the car and dispute one another. That is why we are consistent."

IS IT PAINFUL TO HAVE NOT WON? "It's painful. Yea, it sucks, man. I think we are good enough to win, but it is so competitive that you have to put yourself in those positions and when you are in that position, you better make it stick. That is what so disappointing to me is that we have had four or five opportunities that we haven't pulled off. Just like we had those opportunities we since then haven't had those opportunities and you don't know when the next one is going to come."

TO GAIN THE SPOTS THAT YOU DID LATE IN THE RACE LAST WEEK DID YOU REALLY HAVE TO MAKE ANY TYPE OF A BOLD TYPE OF A MOVE AND HOW OFTEN AT THE END OF A RACE ARE YOU MAKING A MOVE WHERE YOU THINK WELL, I'M GOING TO BE STRADDLING THE LINE? "Oh yeah. Off of turn two, my spotter told me that the No. 19 (Elliott Sadler) was looking to my outside. I had just committed to the gas and the car stuck pretty good. I had already gone to the outside of the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray) and I saw them stacking up in front of me. I knew if I lifted right then, I should let the No. 19 complete the pass, I was going to finish 25th. At that point, I was like I can't finish 25th. I stayed in it. Luckily the No. 19 squeezed out of it a little bit and I squeezed in a hole.

"Then Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) got sideways, I knew if I hit him right then, he was going to wreck right then, we were all going to wreck. He straightened out, I hit him and then we got the lane that opened up and I passed six or seven cars. I mean, that was a moment that we had to have to stay in this championship. You make that decision based on what is going on around you every time that moment comes about."

IS THAT TYPICAL OF THE END OF A LOT OF RACES? "Yes. With double-file restarts it is. It depends on what kind of tires you have, what track you are at, but, yes, it seems to be the norm these day with green-white-checkereds or double-file restarts in the closing laps."

IS IT THAT YOU ALMOST SCARE YOURSELF OR DO YOU EVEN HAVE TIME FOR THAT? "It is just aggressive. It is like you have to bite down on something and just go for it. Anytime there is that frame of mind, you know you are putting the car and yourself at risk of tearing it up or not coming back to the checkered flag in one piece. That is just kind of the nature of the business in today's world. It has kind of always been there, it is just added because of double-file."

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS EVERYONE ELSE CHOKING IN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP AND GIVING IT TO JIMMIE? "I could have the argument for that. Are they that good where everybody just goes 'you know what, we are either going to go down dying or trying'. I think there is a lot of arguments for that. You certainly can't just give that to them and I don't think it has happened yet. Those guys have performed well and that makes everybody else have to step up and when you have to step up, you make more mistakes. I don't look at last week as anything like that for us. When I was speeding down pit road, I certainly wasn't thinking about Jimmie Johnson. I was just thinking I didn't want to give up anything. I think that is the Chase format. I think if you're out there and the No. 48 is leading and you are running fifth...or second let's say and you spin out, then those guys are in your head. But other than that, I think it is just the pressure of everything. You are just trying to push so hard because you know you have to."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , David Pearson