Chicagoland: Jeff Gordon - Friday media visit

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the key to his success this year, if he's talked to Kyle Busch since Daytona, on if he ever had dreams of competing in other forms of racing, his ...

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the key to his success this year, if he's talked to Kyle Busch since Daytona, on if he ever had dreams of competing in other forms of racing, his bowling tournament in Indianapolis and other subjects.

ON HAVING NICORETTE AS A SPONSOR THIS WEEKEND: "You know what? Times are changing man, times are changing around the world and times are changing here in NASCAR as well and I think by seeing Nextel be the title sponsor, it was one of the beginnings of change and having Nicorette on board our DuPont/Nicorette Chevrolet, I think that it just shows how things are changing in the garage area here as well as the fans. People are wanting to live healthier lives."

ON THE TRACK AND DRIVERS SAYING THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST TRACKS AROUND: "It's a great track and today's the first day to be on the track since last year and already I've seen where the grip level has gone away which is a good thing. It's going to make for more side-by-side racing for the groove to widen out and I think we're going to see an incredible race this weekend."

ON A THRILLING WIN FOR HIM HERE LAST YEAR: "Nobody ever forgets those things but I think that we put our differences behind us and we've been racing clean and hard and had some great battles since last year and have no issues. What I want to do is go out and have a car like we had last year, as competitive as that one was, and hopefully it's Matt (Kenseth) but whoever it is, go out there and make a clean pass on him for the win and get us another victory here."

WHAT'S BEEN THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS THIS YEAR? "I think just our entire team has stepped up. I think that we just try to always find the areas that we can be better whether it's the performance of the cars, whether it's our pit crew, whether it's a feel that I'm looking for or something that I'm doing as a driver and I think most of all it's just great communication with a lot of great people that have stepped up and brought a great chemistry within this team out there onto the race week in and week out."

HAVING WON HERE LAST YEAR, DOES THAT GIVE YOU A MENTAL EDGE ON THE COMPETITION? "I think it takes a little bit of pressure off. I think when you go to a track that you haven't won at and you get asked that question 'This is one of those tracks you haven't won at. When are you going to win?' That adds pressure but it's competitive, it's a great track. We've run good here in the past and we now have a victory because we had a strong car here last year and we're going to try to duplicate that and come out and be strong again. But competition changes, the cars change, a lot of things change since last year so we got to step up if we're going to win this thing this weekend."

HAVE YOU TALKED WITH KYLE BUSCH OR ANY OF THE GUYS ABOUT DAYTONA AND SOME OF THE ISSUES KYLE HAD? "I haven't had a chance to talk to him personally. I've talked to his team and Alan (Gustafson) and certainly a lot of folks at Hendrick and I'll be looking to talk to Kyle. Yesterday I had a full day. I thought I was going to get a chance to do it and I got here to the track but it just got too late. I didn't want to talk to him on the phone. I want to talk to him face to face. I think everything's fine. I don't see any issues there."

WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOUR DRIVING SKILL THAT GIVES YOU THE EDGE OVER OTHER DRIVERS? "I think that this is a team sport and I look at myself as just one of the guys on the team and when we're all hitting on all cylinders and working together then we're one of the strongest teams out there. If I had to say anything about my driving I would just say that all the racing I did growing up to get to this level helped me to be very diversified as far as being able to go to a lot of different types of tracks and be competitive on road courses, on superspeedways, on short tracks, intermediates and I pride myself in trying to get my team the best that I can week in and week out and I'm not going to any track thinking that we're behind because maybe I don't like a track or because I don't run good at a track. I go into it thinking why can't we win here and let's go make it happen."

DO YOU EVER HAVE DREAMS OF DOING OTHER FORMS OF RACING? "One thing I always wish I could do is remember my dreams because I don't seem to be able to remember them when I wake up. As far aspirations, I think there was a time in my career where I thought about Formula One and how cool it would be. It's a very prestigious worldwide series with some really cool cars. Who wouldn't want to do that? We have Scott Speed there now but there really just hasn't been an American who's really made a strong presence there. From the standpoint of that and the standpoint that I do like Formula One, I would like to see an American competing at the top level but I knew a long time ago that when I got into NASCAR and got with Hendrick Motorsports and started winning races and championships, that I was pretty much going to be here for the rest of my career."

ON HEADING TO INDIANAPOLIS: "Off-weekends always come at a good time, we just wish we had more of them. I'm looking forward to going to Indy. It's the first year that we haven't tested before we go there so it's going to be pretty unique going there without any testing. I thought we were really strong there last year even though we had some issues so I'm excited about going back. We have our bowling tournament there for the Jeff Gordon Foundation and Riley Hospital for Children so it's always a special time. I get to see friends that I hadn't seen in a while, that I grew up with and we get to go and represent Indiana and try to win another Brickyard 400."

WITH STEVE LETARTE AND CHAD KNAUS BACK AT THE SHOP FOR THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, WILL THIS TEAM COME OUT OF THIS THAT MUCH STRONGER AND MORE PREPARED FOR THE CHASE? "You know, that's the way I'm looking at it. I'm looking at it as we're actually building some communications skills. While he's not here we're having to work harder on talking on the phone and working with the team and building ourselves stronger and talking more and even getting closer as a team than we did before. So I think there's ways we can come out of it even stronger but I think it's going to be important for us to keep the chemistry going. The last two or three weeks have gone well. If we can keep that going and then Stevie come back and we have a strong couple outings, I think we're actually going to be better prepared for the Chase than we were before."

WHAT WILL YOU DO ON THE OFF-WEEKEND? "I'm going to be changing diapers and just hanging out as dad and I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it. We're just going to pretty much stick around home. Towards the end of the off-weekend before Indianapolis or the off-week, we're going to be in Charlotte with family and some friends that we haven't had a chance to visit with yet. I'm doing the family thing, I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fun."

WHEN ARE MOM AND BABY COMING TO THE TRACK? "I don't know. We'll have to see. We're talking about possibly Indianapolis being the first, maybe just race day. I don't think she'll be there for the whole weekend. We got to get some logistics and things worked out there first. You know you just can't pick up and go like you used to be able to. As far as their first full weekend, it's undecided yet. We're just going to play it by ear. Whenever Ingrid and her are comfortable with it all then she'll be there."

ON MEDIA NEEDING MORE BABY PICTURES: "Man, I've given you guys like four our five. I cherish those photos and that time and the privacy and all that but I know our fans and the media want to see some and we were fortunate to be able to have some shots that a friend of ours took and we put them on and we'll just kind of see how it goes from there."

ON THE DIFFERENCE IN ATMOSPHERE RACING IN A BIG MARKET LIKE CHICAGO: "I was downtown yesterday and it's just really cool to get a chance to come to an area like this. I think here and Kansas are like perfect places for NASCAR and their growth because you got big cities nearby but you still have that Midwestern culture and feel to it that I think so many race fans seem to relate to and we get huge crowds and big fans here and it's a great race track so it's perfect."

ON THE RESEMBLANCE WITH THE PLAQUE THEY UNVEILED TODAY: "They did a good job, very good job. I always am leery about seeing myself in bronze or whatever it is. No, I was impressed. They did a good job."

SIX OUT 13 TIMES THE BRICKYARD WINNER WENT ON TO WIN THE CHAMPIONHIP. WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO YOU TO WIN THE BRICKYARD AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE SAME YEAR: "I think that's a coincidence. I think that winning or losing the Brickyard doesn't mean you're going to win or lose championship. I think the strong teams do well at the Brickyard and I feel like we're a strong team so we're certainly optimistic to be able to run well there but that doesn't guarantee anything and we'll see how it goes."

DO YOU THINK OTHER TEAMS WILL SEE YOU AS MORE OF A THREAT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP IF YOU WIN AT THE BRICKYARD? "Maybe, I don't know. If the media pumps it up, maybe. I think that there's certain races throughout the season when you win those races, I think it does get the attention of the garage area. The Brickyard is one of those races because not only is it a very difficult to win at, it's a very challenging track and so it takes a really good car and team to win there but it's always very prestigious. It's a big momentum builder and I think it's in the middle of the summer when things are really getting going for the Chase and so I think all those things put together really set the tone for that team and also send a message to the rest of the teams."

ON THE SPONSOR FOR DALE EARNHARDT, JR. NEXT YEAR: "I don't know what is going to happen there. There's a lot of things to work out. Rick Hendrick's been heavy at it and I've been changing diapers. I wish I had more for you, I just don't. I've been pretty busy here lately and between family and my team, that's where my focus has been and haven't been involved with a lot of the conversations."

ON IF THERE IS STILL A LOT OF EXCITEMENT ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT, JR. JOINING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: "Very much so. I know I'm really looking forward to him being my teammate. I think Hendrick Motorsports obviously has a lot to offer. We're proving that year in and year out and I think that's why Junior made the decision that that's where he'd like to be. We think the world of him and that's why the decision was made to bring him over there. All the sponsors and numbers and all that stuff, it'll all work itself out."

ON HIS BOWLING TOURNAMENT AND HOW GOOD OF A BOWLER HE IS: "I'm not a very know what, about six, seven years ago I was doing some bowling and got into it and was doing it probably once or twice a week and I wasn't bad back then. We started the bowling tournament back when I was doing more bowling because I thought it was fun and a great way to bring people together and raise money for charity. It's been such a hit we keep it going but my bowling skills have definitely died out since then. The great thing about the event, you don't have to be a great bowler to just come over and have fun."

WHAT'S YOUR HIGH GAME? "I bowled a 215 one time. That was a long time ago."

WHAT CELEBRITIES ARE COMING TO THE BOWLING TOURNAMENT? "I'm not really sure. I'm not prepared to answer that question right now. I'm not sure but I'm sure if you go to we can give you more details."

ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT QUALIFYING: "The only thing that I see from kind of being on the outside looking at it, I do think they should qualify those guys together. I think that the drawing for qualifying and the luck of the draw should play out as much as it has in the past especially some of these places we go where we start qualifying at like four o'clock and if you draw the last number, you're going out when it's almost dark and that's a huge advantage. Whether they should lock in 25 or 35, I don't know. I haven't done the math or looked at close enough to really have an opinion on it."

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. SAID HE HAS ALWAYS ENJOYED THE RIVALRY YOU HAD WITH HIS DAD AS WELL AS HIMSELF. CAN THAT CONTINUE AS TEAMMATES AND CAN TEAMMATES BE RIVALS? "Well we're competitors. Dale and I never really had a rivalry and I don't feel like Junior and I have a rivalry but we have competitiveness on the track that built a rivalry among our fans and I don't see any reason why that can't continue. We're going to be sharing information, we're going to be working together to try to make our teams and our organization but we all know like we've seen here recently, once you get out there on the race track it's all about winning for your team and you're going to do everything you can to win it. I don't see that changing in any way. It should be fun really."

DO YOU THINK THE TRANSITION CHANGES THE WAY HIS FANS SEE YOU? "I think some maybe. I think if there's any fans out there that maybe do have some kind of a respect for what we've done or what I've accomplished, then they might change their tune a little bit but for the most part no. No, I don't expect there to be any change. I expect for the cheers and the boos pretty much stay the same way."

HOW DO YOU ACCEPT THE FACT THAT SOME PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND SOME PEOPLE DISLIKE YOU? "I smile and I wave and try to win races. When I win races and they throw things at me, I revel in it. It only makes it that much more rewarding. I'm not encouraging people to throw things but I'm just saying that those things only motivate me that much more, the boos, because I know there's a lot of fans out there that do pull for me and so if I didn't have that, it'd bother me but we have a great fanbase and a great support from those fans and so I'm very content with it all."

WILL YOUR FANS EMBRACE DALE MORE THAN THE OTHER WAY AROUND? "The thing about Earnhardt fans is that they are very committed and so those guys and gals are not going to sway, you're not going to be able to change them and we're not trying to and don't expect them too. I think that a lot of my fans, they look around and they respect other drivers and sometimes they pull for other drivers but I think they are also loyal when it comes to pulling for me and I think that there's no stronger loyalty than an Earnhardt fan."

ON THE BRICKYARD AND WHY THE TRACK REWARDS THE TEAMS THAT ARE BEST PREPARED: "You got long straightaways, flat corners, four corners that look the same but are totally different from one another. It takes horsepower. It takes aerodynamics. It takes a good setup, a driver that can really hit his marks and give good information back to the team. To me it takes the best team overall to win there and I think that's the common denominator."

ARE THERE ANY TROUBLE SPOTS HERE? "Yeah, there's some transitions that make the car a little bit light. Every year the grip goes away a little bit, the groove moves up and the bumps get a little bit worse like most race tracks and that's the only thing that I'm seeing right now but we've been just focused on one and two laps runs. We really haven't done a whole lot of race runs to figure those things out yet. We'll know more tomorrow."

WHEN YOU HAD A ROUGH YEAR IN 2005, AT THAT POINT DID YOU EVER FEAR THAT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS OR YOU HAD FALLEN OFF AT ALL? "I guess yes. Sometimes you wonder 'O.K., have I gotten the best out of my career? Do I not have maybe what some of these other young guys have? Am I not pushing hard enough? What is it?' But there's also that little bit inside there of confidence of winning four championships and winning 70 plus races that you're constantly searching to try to get that back and get that feel that you're looking for. I think what happened to us is we got a little bit off on our game. We started focusing on what was working at Hendrick so well with Jimmie and the other teams that we said 'Well maybe we need to do that to go faster.'

"To me, I drive different. You'll hear some guys say they drive off the right rear. Some guys drive off the right front and so when you see your teammate running really fast doing well, then you go 'Well just put what he has in' and that doesn't always work and that's what I think we really started to learn just before Robbie left and when Steve came in and I think Steve's just been able to continue advancing in that direction and now we feel confident in that we're going to build the bodies the best possible way we can but we're going to do them a little bit different. Now we won't be able to do that obviously with the new car but even in the setup almost always Jimmie's car is set up looser and it's just because that's the way he drives it. I can make my car tighter and still go just as fast and this year I think we've been able to prove that and that's why we focus on what's working for us and using the general information from all the other teams that they're learning to go faster and make the cars better and applying it to our setups and my driving style."

WHEN YOU GO BACK TO INDY, ARE THERE PEOPLE OR PLACES FROM YOUR PAST YOU LIKE TO VISIT? "Not necessarily places. I'd like to go to Frank & Mary's and get some catfish but I'm not eating a lot of fried foods these days and it's hard to get there that race weekend. But yeah, I got some buddies of mine that went to high school there and we always touch base and get together. Probably one of the guys that I wish I could hang out with a little bit more between his schedule and my schedule, just doesn't ever seem to work out very well, is a car owner of mine for years in the USAC series. He's just such a neat, nice guy. Now with his role with USAC and our hectic schedule, it doesn't seem to work out."

ON PREVIOUSLY GOING FISHING WITH SOMEONE HE WENT TO SCHOOL AND RECONNECTED WITH: "That was elementary school, that was way, way back. I was in Sonoma. I went and hung out with him."

WHAT WAS THE FIRST CAR YOU EVER HAD GROWING UP? "I had a 1980 Chevy Stepside pickup truck that was just a piece junk that was about to rust away that me and my dad fixed up and it was a little project we had. It was fun. Never really fully completed it because it had just a straight six with a column shifter. We were going to put a V8 in there and put some power into it which is probably a good thing we didn't do that. My dad kind of knows where it is. We sold it and I think somebody stays in touch with him and says they still have it."

WOULD YOU EVER WANT IT BACK JUST FOR FUN? "No, after that I bought a brand new Chevy Stepside pickup truck. That was a cool truck. I wouldn't mind having that truck back. I have no idea where that thing is."

EVERYONE STILL SEEMS TO THINK OF YOU AS THE KID. DO YOU FEEL OLD? "I don't feel old, I feel comfortable. I feel like when I was kid, while it was great to be the young guy coming in and doing well, I felt like I didn't really have much respect and that I was constantly just trying to earn that respect and prove that I belong here and that I want to be here for long term. And I feel like now that I'm more accepted and so I feel more comfortable with my role in the sport and still being competitive and that's what really matters most to me is being able to come in here and do the job for my team. They provide me a great team and cars. I just want to do my part. In that sense, having the year that we're having, I don't feel old at all because we're running so awesome."

DOES AGING AFFECT YOUR MOTIVATION OR APPROACH TO RACING? "No doubt, it affects my approach but I wouldn't say it takes away from it, the motivation. I think if anything it kind of adds to it in some ways.

"In some ways the clock is ticking. When somebody writes an article - and I try not to read too much stuff that goes on out there but Mr. Edwards keeps me educated - when you see somebody doubt you or says that you've probably seen the best days are behind him, that motivates you for sure. But I think these days I do less of that as I do, especially with the baby. I feel like I just look at life different. I'm excited about life and my place in it and my place in the sport and I'm just having a good time, man. I'm enjoying having a good race team this year and performing well. Every time I go to the track looking forward to being there and being in the car. That's the toughest part is when you go through those years when things aren't way. It's tough, man. You get out there and you're driving harder than you've ever driven and the best you can be is 15th on the board, that's tough to get through especially with our team as good as I know we are."

ON HOW BEING A FATHER HELPS HIS MOTIVATION AND HIS EXCITEMENT ABOUT LIFE AND RACING: "That's the way I look at it. Sure, it's tough to leave home when the little baby is sitting there and you give her a little kiss and go 'bye bye' but I think that Ingrid's fantastic in the way that she handles everything. She's been very supportive and she knows that this is an important part of our lives and my life and so she's very supportive of me doing what I'm doing so I don't feel guilty for leaving and coming here and doing this but I'm extremely excited on Sundays when it's all over to get in that plane and get home and see her as soon as I get home. In that sense and as well as when I look down the road as she gets older of having her here and letting here come.just see how she takes this experience and what she thinks of it is something I look forward to. Obviously if she's here and experiencing that I want her to know that daddy's not bad, he's pretty good (laughs)."

ON THE FIRST TIME HIS DAUGHTER COMES TO THE TRACK: "We're not fully committed to that yet. We're going to wait and see how things go but that's what we're looking at right now. You guys probably won't see her because she's just going to come in to the bus and I don't know if we're going to take her out or anything, noises and all that stuff. It's all kind of new to us so California, she might come to the California race as well. It's probably going to be a little bit later in the year before she's there for the whole weekend."

IF YOU HADN'T MOVED OUT OF THE INDIANAPOLIS AREA, HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR CAREER MIGHT BE DIFFERENT? "I'd probably be in the IRL right now and I would have had to pay for that ride, that's how things would have been different. I would have been with a lesser team. I would have had to pay to get there. Hopefully we could have shown one of the better teams what I could do and maybe get fortunate enough to move up to a top team but that's pretty much the way it was looking for me. Or I'd still be racing sprint cars which I would be fine with that too. Of course if I had gotten behind the wheel of a dirt late model a little sooner I might be still be racing dirt late models cause that was fun. I had a blast."

WOULD YOU HAVE HAD AS MUCH FUN IN THE IRL AS YOU DO IN NASCAR? "I think it's all about being competitive. You want to be competitive. You want to be competitive and you want to win. You want to win championships and it didn't matter where I went, as long as I was doing that I was happy."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Scott Speed , Kyle Busch
Teams Hendrick Motorsports