JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 NATIONAL GUARD FACEBOOK / DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with the media at Darlington Raceway on Friday to discuss the significance of winning at Darlington, the importance of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the impact of green-white-checkered...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 NATIONAL GUARD FACEBOOK / DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with the media at Darlington Raceway on Friday to discuss the significance of winning at Darlington, the importance of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the impact of green-white-checkered finishes on his season, and much more.
LAST WEEK, YOU SAID THAT ONE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU REALLY NEED TO OVERCOME RIGHT NOW IS THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISHES. WHEN THEY ANNOUNCED THAT THERE WOULD BE THREE ATTEMPTS, DID YOU EVER THINK THAT IT WOULD HAVE SUCH AN IMPACT ON YOUR SEASON AND THE END OF THE RACES? "Well the season's young, so I don't know how much of an impact it's having. I try not to focus too much on those things and just try to figure out how we can put ourselves back in that position and create a different outcome. The only frustrating part is that we've been so close and just haven't pulled it off. I think all of us knew that [the green-white-checker] was created for the sport--it's an exciting part and aspect of the sport, just like double-file restarts. What makes it so exciting is that it has a huge [impact on the] outcome of the race. It just changes it from each green-white-checker, and there is a different guy that can win. That's exactly what's happened for us. We gotten ourselves in the position to win some races that we probably shouldn't have work because of the green-white-checkered like in Martinsville and Phoenix, but then other ones such as--not that it was a green-white-checker, but a late caution--at Texas cost us the win. That's kind of what it was last week at Richmond was that we didn't want to see the caution come out and when you're the leader sometimes that the toughest position to be in. We chose to stay out on tires. Kyle had a little bit fresher tires, and I didn't realize that at the time that they came in on one of those cautions. If you get enough cautions and you've got a guy like him that will work his way up through there, it's going to put you in trouble. I still think that if we just keep doing what we're doing, and keep putting ourselves in that position, those are going to go our way as much as so far they haven't."
HOW DIFFICULT WILL THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTART BE HERE? "It'll be tough because typically on double-file restarts here, you get single-file right away when you get down into one. When you start getting yourself into a green-white-checkered situation and guys are going to start pushing the issue a lot more and not giving-and-taking as much. All it takes is a guy on the outside to keep his nose in there and you're going to have a lot of excitement down in one and two."
IS THIS THE ONE PLACE WHERE YOU PROBABLY DON'T WANT A GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISH? "Is there any place you want a green-white-checker? If you're a driver, I can tell you there are not many places where you want a green-white-checker unless you're in a position like Kyle [Busch] was last week where he had a real strong car on a two- or three-lap run like that. That's the thing that we went over this week on our notes was that what got us in that position to possibly win that race last week was the fact that our car was good on the long-runs. So do we change all that and make our car better on the short-runs in case the green-white-checkered comes out? But then we'll be a third- or fourth-place are going into that. There is no perfect magic to it. You just have to race hard and do your best and I'm just excited that we're running good, leading laps and doing the things that we're doing. I hope that it comes down to a green-white-checker here because we're going to get us a win even under the green-white-checker situation and I'd love for it to happen here at Darlington."
WHAT HAS MADE YOU SO SUCCESSFUL AT DARLINGTON WHILE OTHERS JUST CANNOT SEEM TO FIGURE IT OUT? "I mean it's a tough racetrack, it really is. Today I really had to block out the timing and scoring board because you're out there and you're trying to find the limit, which is now hard to find. It is very edgy, it's hot and slick, and there are guys out there going really fast. This race is not going to be run during the day, it's going to be run at night, so you can dial your car in during the daytime but it is almost sometimes a waste of time for what it is going to take to win the race at night. I think that some guys get caught up in that where maybe the car is not right and they're pushing a little too hard for the conditions that we're under and it can get you in trouble. For me, I think when it comes to daytime practice here at Darlington I probably push 85-90%. I don't go to 100% because this track can just bite you; you have to respect it that much. You hope that you can dial the car in and give good information back to the team to where you can get yourself right to go win the race or be 100% when it really counts."
YOU'VE BEEN CLOSE SO MANY TIMES JEFF. I KNOW YOU GUYS HAVE SAID THAT YOU'RE DEFINITELY THINKING POSITIVE NOW BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE CARS TO RUN UP FRONT, BUT HOW DO YOU PREVENT THE WHOLE TEAM FROM GETTING A LITTLE DOWN BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT GOING TO VICTORY LANE? "We went to victory lane last year at Texas [Motor Speedway] early in the season and we're way better right now than we were then. We're leading more laps, we're dominating races; each and every week we have a shot at it. It gets a little frustrating when you don't pull it off, but the thing is there are times when I'm going to make mistakes like I did at Phoenix and spin the tires, there are times when a guy on the pit crew is going to make a mistake to get us behind, or Steve might not make the right call, and you just have to understand that we're all in it together. It's a team sport, and as long as we're running good and we're early in the season that we can just keep working on those little details because all that really matters--don't get me wrong, we get close to the Chase and we haven't won a race, then it's going to affect us, but it's too early right now in the season to let that kind of stuff be affecting us."
WHERE'S THAT HAPPY MEDIUM THAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR TODAY IN PRACTICE IN THE CAR? "That's what so difficult. Basically you have to really go off of your past notes with what the trends have been at this track from day to night, and then look at some of the tire data because they have changed the tires a little bit for the left sides. Then, you also look at what's been going on with your cars this year, and hope that you guess right. There is no magic; a lot of it's simulation. We'll go back into the truck and get on our computers--not my computer, I look at their computer--and just look at a lot of data and try to figure out what we need. There are little things that go on during the day and some of those things go away at night and others things present themselves. It's going to be a fast race track, it's still going to be edgy, and it's still going to be Darlington. We've already seen a lot of action here and that will continue but the grip level could get better. I feel like our car is fast and has good grip; I think we just need to get the balance right for both ends. This is a compromising race track. If you're good in one and two, you're going to be too tight in three and four; or if you're free in one and two, you might be good in three and four. It's a track that you're never going to be just perfect."
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE BIGGEST THING THIS YEAR THAT YOU AND YOUR TEAM NEED TO IMPROVE ON? "I guess just closing out the races. It's having a car that's good on a short run versus the car on the long run. I think really more than anything, we just need the cautions to fall at the right time. We've gotten ourselves in position to really win these races, but these cautions are falling and it changes things. I don't know if there is a whole lot we can do. Right now, I don't want to improve a whole lot; I just want to get the wins. I'm very happy with where our team is at right now. I think overall that we're the best car out there right now."
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET AROUND THE TRACK IN DOVER? "Hold on tight--it's a white-knuckle experience at Dover. It's very fast, very high-banked track. The transitions are extreme there. Like I said, tons of grip and a lot of speed. You just have to be really committed, have a good car, and you have to go for it. That's especially true at qualifying. We found that out last year when we had a shot the pole and lost the back end and got in the wall. There is that fine line between being able to really push the car hard and pushing it too far."
DO YOU PERSONALLY ENJOY RACING AT DOVER? "I do like Dover. It's a great track, a fun track. I think it's one of the more exciting tracks on the circuit."
LAST WEEK IT WAS REPORTED THAT STEVE [LETARTE] HAS BEEN IN TALKS WITH RED BULL [RACING]. HOW MUCH OF A ROLE ARE YOU GOING TO PLAY IN GETTING HIM BACK AND WHAT CONVERSATIONS HAVE YOU HAD WITH RICK ABOUT THAT? "I like what's happening with our team right now and I love working with Steve. The communication has really improved and his commitment over this off season had really shown me and this entire organization just how good of a crew chief he is. I think it's just a matter of time at this point."
WILL YOU PLAY A ROLE IN HIS RETURN? "I mean Rick and I talk about a lot of things. I just told him how much I like working with him [Steve Letarte]."
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR MOM SINCE IT'S MOTHER'S DAY... "I'm excited that she's going to be here tomorrow night. This is always a weekend that we look forward to hanging out. She played such a huge role in my racing career that having her here walking across the stage and being able to honor all of the moms this weekend is huge. Of course, also with Ingrid being pregnant and mother's day and it's significance, it's a big day around the Gordon household. That's for sure."
COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE SAFER BARRIER AND THE IMPACT THAT THEY HAVE HAD? "It's made a big difference. I think when I look at all the safety features--the seats, the seat belts, how they're mounted, the padding that we're using inside the car, our helmets, our HANS devices, and then the SAFER barrier would probably be one [of the most important]. I would say the HANS and the SAFER barrier would probably be the most significant thing that has advanced over the years. I look back at some crashes that I had earlier in my career and still shake my head at how I survived some of those without injury. Then I look at some crashes that I've had recently and think the outcome would have been a lot different without the safety innovations that we have right now; especially the SAFER barriers."
THE HALL OF FAME OPENS UP ON TUESDAY. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF NASCAR HAVING A HALL OF FAME AND IT FINALLY BEING OPEN? "I think it's huge. I think it really signifies where our sport is today and its significance and the role that it plays in major sports. I think that's what the NASCAR building as well as the Hall of Fame being in Charlotte, N.C., really means. It takes us to that next level of professionalism and I think that [inaugural] class [of inductees] is pretty awesome. I think they are all well deserving to be in there and to be the first class. I can't wait to go to the induction ceremony, and I know that it is something that I'm going to be very proud of for our sport and for those individuals that it has come this far, and how [the sport] is being represented today."
THE PEOPLE THAT YOU BUILT A HOUSE FOR ON 'EXTREME MAKEOVER' WILL BE HERE TOMORROW. WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE FOR YOU? "It was awesome to be able to go and be a part of something like that where it's such a deserving family that has gone through a lot. To be able to change their life the way 'Extreme Makeover' does and to be a part of the emotional side of it and see how overwhelmed they are with everything and the graciousness of all the volunteers that come in and make it happen in such a short period of time is very cool to be a part of that. I look forward to seeing them."
WHEN IT COMES TO PRESTIGE WHERE WOULD YOU RANK DARLINGTON? "I'd say it's probably third, fourth or fifth. You've got Daytona, Indy; I think Bristol and Charlotte are right up there, as well as Darlington. The history of this place and how challenging this track is might even make it right there in third."
BACK TO THE HALL OF FAME FOR A MOMENT. DALE EARNHARDT IS ONE OF THE INDUCTEES; YOU WERE COMING INTO THE SPORT AS HE WAS KIND OF AT HIS PEAK AND WINNING HIS FINAL CHAMPIONSHIPS. HOW MUCH OF AN INFLUENCE WAS HE IN YOUR CAREER? "He was huge. He set the bar and he was the guy that you just respected and looked up to for his accomplishments, what he meant to the sport and to the fans. He was a great champion and he represented the sport well. He was passionate about it; he was a great businessman. For me, it was hard because I wanted to beat him, I wanted to race against him, but I respected him so much at the same time that I never wanted to make him mad. He was always really good to me for whatever reason."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SHOWTIME'S NEW SHOW 'INSIDE NASCAR'? "It's great. I don't know much about it. I'll be honest, I don't watch it."
-source: gm racing