Darlington: Jeff Gordon - GM top-ten interview


WEEKLY TOP 10 Behind The Hauler Chat With Jeff Gordon


ON THE DIFFERENCES OF RUNNING HERE AT NIGHT VERSUS THE AFTERNOON: "Any track we go to where you run at night there's a different in track temperature from day to night. The track speeds pick up and the balance of the car changes a bit. This is a fast race track. It's just that the surface wears the tires out so fast that the race drops off. At night you don't see as much of that drop off which is kind of nice."

ON THE CHANGES HERE AT DARLINGTON: "Just today when I pulled onto pit road for practice I saw the new grandstands. I was like 'Man they have new grandstands at Darlington, that's awesome.' I'm happy because I like this race track. I've had a lot of success at this race track. I think to grow this sport we do need to make changes."

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING IN THE CAR LAST WEEKEND WHILE THEY WERE TRYING TO FIX IT? "I was just trying to think of all the things that went on and how I can help them try to resolve what happened and try to find the problem. I'm thinking basically the same thing you are all thinking. I'm not that smart to think some of the things you're thinking but I'm thinking how to find it, what it is and let's get it fixed."

WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM? "It was a rotor distributor that either broke or came loose."

ON THE DIFFERENT TURNS AT THIS TRACK: "The thing that makes this track so unique is that they're exact opposites. Turns one and two are extremely fast, pretty high-banked, running right up next to the wall and really rough. The track has gotten extremely bumpy and rough over the years. Turns three and four you have to slow down a lot more to the entry of three. You can still run up next to the wall but only in the middle or part of the corner. Again it's rough. It's just a different type of banking and radius. Everything is different here."

ON THE POSSIBILITY THAT THEY WILL REPAVE THIS TRACK. DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD? "Halleluiah. Oh my gosh, yes. It's not because of the grip level. The grip level is going to fall right back to where it is. Every time they've ever repaved this place, I think they've done it once or twice since I've been in this sport; it goes right back to where it is. But they've got to fix the foundation underneath the race track to get rid of the bumps and the things that are occurring. You go through these hot summers and it just doesn't flex to move and be able to expand the way it needs to expand to prevent those things from happening. That's why they keep having to patch the corners. They need somebody to do it right. I think there are also some things they may be able to do from technology that's come along and things they've been able to do at some other tracks that they might be able to incorporate and would only make this place better."

ON HOW TO KEEP THE SAME TRACK CHARACTERISTICS IF THEY REPAVED IT: "There's not even a way to not do that here. With the atmosphere we're in and this area and the sand, there's no way you're going to take that characteristic away from Darlington. They don't need to rebuild Darlington. They just need to resurface it and primarily get rid of the bumps."

ON THIS BEING A FAVORITE TRACK AMONG DRIVERS: "I think it's a favorite among all drivers because you get to drive this track. No matter how you set that car up the driver plays a very significant role as to how he gets around this track. This is one track that the real drivers in the garage area always seem to like and always seem to find their way to the front someway somehow."

ARE YOU CONCERNED SOMEONE WILL WIN THAT DOESN'T HAVE THE BEST CAR? "I think that's happened for everybody at any track. There have been times that you've won a race where somebody may have had a better car. The majority of the time we've had the best car here. We won the million here and Jeff Burton had a better car at the end of the race. He had a better car than us and it didn't help that I hit the wall on turn two to make mine worse. But we won that race. This is a track where throughout your whole run you might have the best car one time, someone else will have the best car through the middle part and somebody else will have the best car at the end."

YOU SAID PREVIOUSLY THAT TOO MANY CUP DRIVERS ARE DRIVING IN THE BUSCH SERIES BECAUSE THEY NEED THE MONEY. CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT THAT? "I didn't say they need the money. I said a lot of them are doing it for the money. There's a big difference. I think there are some guys that are doing it because their car owners are involved in the Busch Series or if they have a want or need to go out there and run in the Busch Series. Some of them are getting pressure to be there because their car owner has a program. And I think some of them are there because they think it will help them on Sunday. But I think the majority are there because they are getting paid pretty good money while they are there. I'm not saying that's the only reason that they're there. I'm just saying it's playing a pretty big role."

DO YOU THINK IT'S FAIR WHEN THERE ARE BUSCH SERIES DRIVERS WHO MAY REALLY NEED THE MONEY VERUS REGULAR CUP DRIVERS WHO WOULDN'T NEED THE MONEY? "I don't think so. I think there are a lot of guys that are still racers. It's different when you see Dale Earnhardt Jr. racing at Daytona. He didn't race every Busch race. He ran the tracks he likes to race on. There's a difference there. You've got guys racing 15 or 20 Busch races or the whole series and I find that hard to believe that those guys are doing it for the pure joy in racing because that's a lot of hard work and headache. To me there's a much bigger challenge of taking your focus away by running that many Busch races than just focusing on Cup."

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE DIFFERENCE IS IN DALE EARNHARDT WINNING HERE NINE TIMES AND DALE EARNHARD JR. SAYING HE HARDLY LOOKS FORWARD TO COMING HERE? "It could be driver preference. It could be that Dale hit on something real early on in his career with the team he was running for that made this place enjoyable for him. It's hard to say. I'm sure he said the opposite about that when he's going to Richmond, Phoenix, Daytona and Talladega. You have to ask what it is about those places that make Junior like running there."

WHAT'S THE IMPACT OF TOYOTA COMING INTO THE SPORT? "I think for the most part they're going to elevate the level of competition. Right now there's some negative things going on because they're out there trying to steal a lot of people from teams to field good teams. It's also very natural and comes along with it but a lot of teams aren't happy about that. I think the biggest challenge is just trying to break into a really hard-core based American sport that has a lot of American products in it. The reason why they're coming is because they broke into the sales market of it to sell a lot of their cars. I think that they have a right to be here but I think they definitely have a tough road ahead of them including getting the right teams and drivers. I would guess that they're probably going to come in and do it right and get as many good people as they can knowing it will take them a few hard years to get their program together and research what they need and then they're going to go after a lot of the top teams."

HOW WILL THEIR RECRUITING AFFECT THE HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS ORGANIATION? "Our philosophy is this - if you don't want to be part of an organization that treat their people right, pays good money and has a really good shot at wining races and championships then you don't belong there anyway. If you're questioning going some place else and if it's just about the money, then I hope they leave."

HAVE YOU HEARD IF TOYOTA HAS PUT ANY FEELERS OUT TO INDIVIDUALS AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "Well I haven't gotten any feelers. Nobody has talked to me about driving a race car in the Cup Series for about eight or 10 years (laughs). I think they know where I stand at Hendrick so that's not going to be an issue but I'm sure our other drivers probably have been (approached)."

WHAT DO YOU THINK IF DALE JARRETT ENDS UP DRIVING A TOYOTA? "I think it's a smart move. He has a really good head on his shoulders. I think he's a great representative of this sport. He's obviously got talent because he's won championships. I think that experience is going to pay off. I think it's a smart way to get themselves in there. You look at Ray Evernham and what he did with Bill Elliott. I think it's kind of the same thing."

WHY DIDN'T TOYOTA USE THE MONEY FOR THEIR ORGANIZATION SO THEY HAD SOMETHING READY-MADE? "I think they were a little concerned that if they come in like that, they're going to burn a lot of bridges with fans and race teams and that people would really look down on that. That's my opinion because in a lot of ways that is the way to do it. I'm not saying that's still not going to happen in about two to three years."

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AND OTHER DRIVERS SITTING ON TOP OF THE BOX WATCHING YOUR CARS GO AROUND 15 YEARS FROM NOW? "That's why I am where I am, because Rick Hendrick offered me the opportunity to be partners in an organization where I have equity and I have a bonus chip there. It's a lot of pride there. It's a lot of hard work that I put into the organization. A lot of that is for my future, not for what I'm doing now. I can see that being something very exciting. l take a lot of pride right now going to victory lane and seeing Jimmie Johnson win the Daytona 500 and battling for championships. I can only imagine what it would be like when I'm not a competitor up against him."

DO YOU SEE YOURSELF COMING TO THE RACE TRACK EVERY SUNDAY AND WATCHING YOUR CAR? "I can't answer that because right now today I'm doing 38 weekends out here. There's going to be a time when I will enjoy not being at the race track. Maybe you take a break away from it and come back strong and be there all the time. I don't know. Rick and I have discussed it very few times and haven't gotten serious into that. I don't even know if there's something I would have to offer them in that way. I would hope with the years experience maybe I could. I think when that time comes is when I'll take a serious look at it."

ON NOT FOCUSING ON THE COMPETITION HERE: "That's why they always say race the race track and not the competition. You've got to be careful being the rabbit out there running hard trying to get away from the guys behind you, you can use your stuff up and fall back 10 or 15 spots. I think you've got to be real careful at this place. That's why I think the drivers that have a good feel and really can be smooth and run consistent laps are the drivers that excel here."

HOW DO YOU BE CONSISTENT HERE WHEN YOU'RE RUNNING SMOOTH? "You hit your same marks every lap. You're smooth on and off the throttle, on and off the brakes. The biggest thing about being smooth is the car not getting out of control. When you run the car straight you see some guys in there bringing the car up off the corner. You do that lap after lap you're killing your tire."

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Ray Evernham