JEFF GORDON, NO., 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed past wins at Darlington, the upcoming All-Star Race, pressures on Dale Earlhardt Jr., are more. ON T-REX CHEVROLET AND THE ALL STAR RACE "It was just the Hendrick Motorsports ...
JEFF GORDON, NO., 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed past wins at Darlington, the upcoming All-Star Race, pressures on Dale Earlhardt Jr., are more.
ON T-REX CHEVROLET AND THE ALL STAR RACE "It was just the Hendrick Motorsports resources and all the heads that we had there to come up with a better car. To me, it was just really everybody being real smart about all the different areas to make that car just get the center of gravity down, get the weight out of it, and put a lot of effort into that car to try to make it go faster. It was sort of built primarily for the one race, but at the same time, it was something that if some of the things worked, we felt like we could adapt it into the future of our cars. We didn't know we were going to go out there and be as strong as we were and win that race and get the attention of NASCAR quite the way that we did. But obviously some rule changes came up shortly after that because we were within the rules, it's just that they didn't like some of the things that they saw and wanted to make some rule changes. I think that's something that everybody, including Ray (Evernham) can be really proud of at Hendrick Motorsports. When NASCAR makes rules in the rule book to obselete some of the things you built into a car, that means you did your job really well."
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT IT WAS THAT SPECIAL? "The first time we tested with that car, it felt good. I didn't really see any blistering pace, but once we got into the race, it was quick and hung on good. It did a lot of great things and obviously we knew then we had a car that could win the race."
TAKE US BACK TO WHEN YOU WON FOUR STRAIGHT RACES AT DARLINGTON. WHAT WAS GOING RIGHT FOR YOU WAY BACK WHEN? "It was a completely different race track back then with the old surface. It was about managing the tires, pit strategy, and cautions falling at the right time and just knowing how hard you could push the car at the beginning of the run and making it last all the way to the end of the run.
"We had some that we were very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. It was just great team work, really, all the way around. I think this is a track that, even though the surface has changed, it's smoother, it's got a lot more grip and the tires don't fall off like they used to. It stil has all the challenges that Darlington has always had over the history. It's narrow. This place can bite you in a second. And I think a great team always plays out on a track like that and that's what helped us win those races and that's what's going to hopefully help us win this weekend."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO PASS CALE FOR WINNING THE MOST SOUTHERN 500'S? "Any time you do anything that Carl Yarborough has done or surpassed what he has done, you're doing something very historical and impressive. I'm still amazed at the wins that we've had over the years and the championships and the Southern 500's and everything from here on out is icing on the cake.
"We all have different incentives and motivations and you'd say that thinking about trying to tie or pass Cale in the wins in the Southern 500 is not really the thing that's at the top of my list. It's just going out there and performing like I know we are capable of doing and the wins hopefully will come along with that and so do the stats and our mark in history."
THREE YEARS AGO YOU WON A RACE HERE AND THE WATER WAS JUST SHOOTING OUT OF THE CAR. HOW WORRIED WERE YOU THAT THE ENGINE WAS GOING TO LET GO? "I was positive that it was going to let go. I'd never driven a car that saw that type of water temp, oil temp, and then we have another gauge we've added for water pressure, and that is a new indication of when it's going to explode. I think it was at like 60 pounds or something like that on my pressure gauge and I'd never seen that number before. And then just the fact that we made it, and then as soon as I pulled into victory lane, the radiator exploded and the engine quit. That was pretty impressive."
WHAT YOU DOING IN THE CAR TO TRY TO DEAL WITH IT? "Nothing. I think it was a great call by Steve Letarte to stay out front and to get clean air and to keep the engine running as cool as you possibly could, plus, aerodynamically it was better. And there really isn't anything I can do from the driver's standpoint other than maybe under caution, run third or fourth gear to keep the rpm's as low as possible, which keeps the temp as low as it can be."
IS EVERY RACE STILL AN ADVENTURE FOR YOU? "Yeah, absolutely. The competition, the race track, the race cars, the tires, I mean every weekend there is always a challenge that you can't predict. You've just got to work really, really hard and hope that the work you're putting in is in the right direction to put the car in a position to win the race."
IS THIS SPORT GOING TO MISS DAVID POOLE? "Oh, it's going to miss him tremendously. David was such a great writer and he really thought outside the box. He wasn't afraid to challenge whether it was the drivers or NASCAR or the tracks, but yet he was always trying to make the sport better. He was kind of a part of the big team, you know? The media the teams the sponsors the tracks, and NASCAR, and I think we're definitely going to miss those challenges that he put out there and the creativity and the great writing and his personality of being here at the track. He was a big part of this and it's still hard to believe that he's not here with us."
AS FAR AS ALL THE MEDIA ATTENTION, DO YOU EVER FEEL LARGER THAN LIFE OR DO YOU HAVE WAYS TO STAY GROUNDED? "Oh, I have ways to stay grounded. Being a dad to a 23-month will keep you grounded. The thing is that this is my weekends. My everyday life is not like this.
I like to be low key and do normal things just like everybody else during the week and obviously there are times when I do things for my sponsors and then when we get here to the race track there are a lot of things that come along with it that are very cool, but not necessarily reality."
WHEN YOU PUT YOUR HELMET ON, DOES YOUR PERSONALITY CHANGE? "I would say it does. I'm a lot more relaxed and low key outside the car than I am inside the car. So I think that definitely the aggressive side of me comes out. The intensity side comes out and the focus and all those things. I think your personality carries over into the race car, but I think that there are some things that come out that you don't always get to see."
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT DALE JUNIOR AND TONY EURY JR. HOW DO YOU IGNORE ALL THAT? "It's challenging. There is no doubt about it because it's hard to get away from it completely because you're constantly being asked about it and you're reading about it. Always during those situations, I've always tried to stay away from watching too much media or looking at too much media, just so you can focus on your job because that's all it really comes down to. They can say all that they want, but you go out there and perform and that's what changes the story. If it's a good story, they're going to continue to write about it and talk about it. You can't blame the media for that. So you've got to change the story from your end and the only way you can do that is to go out there and perform. I've always felt for Junior, and for Tony Eury Jr., too; whether they're at Hendrick or not at Hendrick, they've got a tremendous amount of pressure on them; more so than the average guy just because of the fan base and media attention that comes along with Junior. At the same time, you get yourself in that position, you've got to have thick skin. You've got to be able to get through these tough times."
ON THE UPCOMING PENZOIL VICTORY CHALLENGE "I'm just going to go out there and do a burnout. I haven't seen the course. I saw what happened last year. You know what, it's a great opportunity for our Foundation and it's a great cause as well as putting on a great show for the fans. I'm not known for my burnouts, so I don't know. We'll just go out there and have fun."
-credit: gm racing