Daytona 500: Jeff Gordon - Friday media visit, part 2


Continued from part 1

IT SEEMS LIKE MORE AND MORE THE PLATE RACES ARE ENDING WITH THE GREE-WHITE-CHECKERDS AND THAT ALMOST CREATES THE DISTINCT POSSIBILITY THERE'S GOING TO BE A CAUTION FLAG ON THAT FIRST GREEN FLAG LAP BECAUSE OF EVERYBODY TRYING TO RUSH TOWARD THE FRONT, HOW DO YOU APPROACH THAT NOW KNOWING THERE COULD BE A CALAMITY ON THAT FIRST GREEN-FLAG LAP AND WHOEVER IS GOING TO BE IN FIRST PLACE IS GOING TO WIN THE RACE. DOES THAT IMPACT YOUR THINKING AT THE END? "Yes and no. It impacts your thinking because you pretty much know it's going to happen and the reason it's going to happen is because you know it's going to happen. So you just go through the gears getting into fourth gear and you don't let off the throttle. If the car in front of you is sideways you don't let off. If your car is sideways heading for the wall you do not let off and that's why the wreck happens. We're all thinking we've just go to hold on tight for maybe half a lap, maybe ¾ of a lap, maybe one lap because you're more than likely not going to make it to the checkered and that's usually what causes the wreck in general. The other thing is that this car sucks up so strong. What happens is that those first couple of cars out there, they've got the clean air hitting them and it's just creating this incredible vacuum behind them and everybody just has this huge pocket that they're in so you get a tremendous push, a tremendous amount of momentum and you get a difference in speed of the cars up front and the cars from behind that are coming and you've got guys doing the bump drafting to the extreme at that moment. It's just all the ingredients that are going to make up a multi-car crash in the closing laps. I don't know if there's any way around it. It's what makes this car exciting and a great race like we've been seeing. That's what makes the racing great is this car but it also opens up the door for some of those accidents to happen in the closing laps. So basically you just hold it wide open and whatever happens, happens."

AFTER WATCHING THE SECOND 150 YESTERDAY AND AFTER WATCHING THE FINISH TO '07 I GUESS A SKEPTIC MIGHT SAY THAT MARK MARTIN FOR WHATEVER REASON IS NEVER GOING TO WIN THIS THING, IS THAT DOUBT MISGUIDED AND IF SO WHY? "I think it is. I thought he did an awesome job yesterday. Two teammates kind of teamed up on him so it's hard to really say that one race, plus I thought the come-back that Mark had, he really had a shot at winning that race. Kyle (Busch) put a pretty big block on him and I think Mark was smart and settles for second knowing he's starting on the outside of the front row. If that was for the Daytona 500 I think that could have been a little bit of a different outcome. I've never doubted Mark Martin's ability on any track ever. If I've ever questioned anything it's the consistency of the equipment. I think that right now there's no way that I'm going to question that. I know he's got the best equipment out there and I think that his talent is really going to show through this entire season and that equipment. He almost won the Daytona 500 here two years ago and to me that was just circumstances. It happens but I think the guy knows how to win and he can get it done. I don't think that there's any black cloud or anything hanging over him that's going to prevent him from winning the Daytona 500. I think this is the year of opportunity for him to do things that's he's never done before, possibly winning the Daytona 500 and other races and even going for that championship."

I TALKED TO YOUR MOM YESTERDAY, IS THE LASAGNA REALLY THAT GOOD? "My mom is an excellent cook. I love her food and every chance I get when I can go over there to her house to my parents house and eat her food I'm all for it. She has a new cookbook out, her and Martha Earnhardt, so I've seen some things in there that I don't remember ever eating as a kid so she's obviously added to her cookbook or her skills since I left home. I'm always wanting my favorites so usually I don't get to experiment with too many of the new ones but I'm really proud of her. We did the Rachel Ray show last week and it was fun to be there supporting her because shes been supporting me and my racing career for so long. It's just something she's having a lot of fun with and I'm proud of her."

DO YOU SEE IT AS IRONY OR FATE THAT SHE THOUGHT THE BMX BIKING WAS TOO DANGEROUS AND YOU ENDED UP IN THIS SPORT THAT YOU ARE IN? "Absolutely. I tell that story all the time. I lived down the street from a BMX bicycle track and I had a BMX bike. I guess I probably would have found out pretty early on that wasn't a good career for me because I'm short and not the physical person that you have to be in BMX biking. All it took before that thank goodness was a couple of accidents that nobody was seriously injured in but enough to show my mom that maybe we need to put Jeff in something else and then thankfully my step-father brought home a quarter midget. Somebody convinced him that it was safer or he just convinced my mom. He's a pretty good salesman."

AS SOMEONE THAT HAS HAD A PRETTY GOOD HISTORY AND HAS CREATED A PRETTY GOOD LEGACY FOR HIMSELF IN THIS SPORT, WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE FACT THAT THIS WILL BE THE FIRST YEAR IN OVER 40 YEARS THAT THERE WON'T BE A PETTY NAME DRIVING AND ALSO WHAT HAS THAT NAME MEANT TO THIS SPORT? "I don't even think you can put it into words what the name Petty has meant to this sport. You go back to that '79 Daytona 500 you know and it pretty much speaks for itself. Two hundred wins and seven championships from Richard (Petty) and you go back before that to Lee (Petty) and then Kyle (Petty). That name as a family on and off the race track the legacy that they've created is what this sport was built on. It's sad for a lot of people to know that there won't be a Petty out there on the track or really even names as car owners. It's exciting that there is still a No. 43 out there, I just wish that it was still a Petty Enterprises 43. Hopefully that can at least continue that legacy and they can have some success with the 43. I think everybody is always going to recognize that as Petty."

YESTERDAY YOU DIDN'T SEEM TO HAVE ANY TIRE ISSUES IN THE 150'S BUT YOUR TEAMMATES DALE EARNHARDT, JR. AND MARK MARTIN HAD WHAT LOOKED LIKE BLISTERED TIRES. HAVE YOU GUYS HAD ANY PROBLEMS WITH THAT AND DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT GETTING BETTER OR WORSE THROUGHOUT THE WEEKEND? "Maybe they didn't show my tires on T.V. from the very first green-flag run that we had but both rights sides especially the right front -- I was a little bit nervous toward the end of that run. I could tell that the grip was going away. I could tell that my car was starting to get a lot tighter and that we were probably either blistered or had some excessive wear on the right front tire. The right rear I didn't really feel much. Right before that caution came out, I had been riding behind Martin Truex for that whole run basically and when you're behind other cars you've got to get clean air to the nose to keep the down force in it and to keep the tire from sliding across the race track. I could tell I was abusing it. I had just gone to the outside, just made a move on Martin because I knew it was as much for saving my tires and it was trying to take the lead. I got a run on him, got to the outside then the caution came out and we came down pit road and they said definitely more than what we've seen in practice. They didn't indicate that it was a problem and we've been seeing some wear in practice and some blistering. So we saw a little bit more than that but other than that after that when I had got in the lead my tires looked great. That's encouraging trying to make sure that I get the lead again and try to hold it. Typically at Daytona throughout the week we see wear and it typically gets better as we get to Sunday's race more rubber gets laid down on the race track. Especially starting from the truck race tonight and the Nationwide race tomorrow. Sunday we should be in good shape. Just like Steve Letarte, if you were in here yesterday after the race, spoke that we know there's blistering and we know that there is wear and I want Goodyear and I think a lot of us want Goodyear to build a tire that we can race on. Don't build a tire that nobody can damage because that's up to them, it's their responsibility and all of our responsibility to make sure that whatever we put in that car is not only a fast set up but one that is going to manage the tires. That's part of racing and everybody has to think that way including us. Now I might be the first one to go out and have a tire problem on Sunday but it is something that we're thinking about, we're working on but I like the tire. I think that that wear and blistering is going to get a little bit better by Sunday."

WE'VE ASKED DRIVERS ALL OVER THE WORLD FOR THE LAST YEAR TO EXPRESS PERSONALLY HOW CRITICAL, HOW IMPORTANT IS THE TIRE THAT YOU RACE ON NOT ONLY FROM PERFORMANCE BUT FROM YOUR PHYSICAL WELL-BEING? "It's unbelievable how important that is for that company that provides the tires to put a safe tire out there number one, and then the challenges that they have with ever different type of vehicle that they're putting tires on to make sure that its safe as well as performs the way that the competitors, what they're looking for. I will say that I think Goodyear has probably one of the most challenging jobs that there are because we have all the things that really go against what a tire manufacturer is really searching for. We have a big heavy car and a narrow tire yet we're running 200 miles per hour in huge packs. They've got the most challenging job I think of anybody out there. That's why I think its not right for them to take the criticism when things don't go just perfect for them because we're all in this together, NASCAR, the tracks, Goodyear and the competitors and the teams. I think they do a fantastic job and I think they learned a lot last year with this car and are only going to make improvements this year. I wouldn't want to be on any other tire than a Goodyear. They do a fantastic job looking after our well-being as well as trying to make the car perform the best they can. That's quite a job for all tire manufacturers and its one as a driver we all appreciate and don't take for granted."

ON YOUR PERSONAL CAR DO YOU ONLY HAVE OEM OR AFTER-MARKET TIRES? "I have a little bit of both. Usually if I have after-market tires it's because I changed the wheels. I like the big 22 inch wheels. You don't want to see my vehicle that I drive (laughs). I guess I get it from the manufacturer, from Chevrolet then I usually soup it up a little bit with lowering it down, the wheel and typically that means I've got to put some after-market tires on there."

APPARENTLY SOME POLLS HAVE INDIDCATED THAT PEOPLE ARE PICKING CARL EDWARDS TO FINISH AHEAD OF JIMMIE JOHNSON IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR, WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WOULD THINK THAT AND WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THAT? "I don't find that that surprising and I hope that Jimmie and his team can be understanding toward that because that's just people going with odds. That's all that is. If you really just want to say who do you think the best team out there is, who do you think is going to be the team to beat this year for the championship, I think you would be kind of crazy to go against Jimmie and Chad (Knaus) and that No. 48 team. I think that those final 10 races and I have been a part of the battle I haven't seen anybody come close to competing with those guys. We've seen other teams compete with them in the regular season, in the first 26 races and be better than them but we haven't seen anybody do it in the final 10 in a long time. So I think that most people when they do these polls it's just because they think how tough it's going to be to go for four in a row and those odds are against him. That's the way I look at it. Don't get me wrong I think Carl and his team are tough and I think they're motivated by not winning last year, but at the same time they got beat when they were at the best that I've seen them up to this point. That's the best that I've seen them and they still got beat. I can say that because I felt the same way in '07. It will be hard go against that No. 48 team."

YESTERDAY I KNOW YOU WERE VERY HAPPY TO BE IN VICTORY LANE AND IT WAS A BIG WIN IN TERMS OF GETTING YOUR SEASON OFF AND RUNNING, JUST OUT OF CURIOSITY OVER THIS LAST YEAR AND A LITTLE BIT MORE THERE HAS BEEN SO MUCH TALK ABOUT YOU NOT WINNING A RACE AND WE WRITE ABOUT IT AND WE ASK YOU ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME BUT HOW MUCH DO YOU ACTUALLY THINK ABOUT THAT? "Don't get me wrong, I know that one didn't count with you guys, I got it. I went home and was talking to Ingrid and she was it was so great that you one, I said yeah baby that was fantastic but don't think that that counted. She's like it didn't count, that didn't count? I was like no. While it counted for us and the motivation and the confidence builder and while it was fantastic to be in victory lane we realize that we've got to do it on Sunday's. I think we've got what it takes to do it on Sunday's. How much have I thought about it, how much has it affected me? Probably not as much as you would think. I've been racing for a long time and I've lost a whole lot more races than I've won. I've been fortunate to win enough to know what I bring to the table and what it takes. I never thought that we were ever invincible we were just going to go on and win races forever. The only thing that I really focused on last year that maybe got to me was how bad I want to win. How much I don't like losing and I saw it in our team as well and how that can break the team down so quick. Winning can get you up to a certain level but losing can just take you down in a second. You've got to win multiple races to get yourself where your confidence is sky-high, where the momentum is on your side but when you're not winning it just takes it away instantly and its so hard to get it back. To me, that's what I take out of last year, it doesn't matter to me that we didn't win because it's really about championships for us. It's about competing for the championship. If we're consistently competing for the championship I don't care if we finish second every weekend and we win the championship and don't win a race, I'm fine with that. I guess maybe it's because we're still getting the trophy and what we're after is the trophy which is the ultimate prize. I think we recognize that we have to win races in order to compete for that. You have to show that you're able and capable of winning races to compete for that championship. We use last year as motivation. A huge motivator to not win, that affected me because I want to win and I want to be competitive as much for the championship as for any win. But I'm pretty good at letting things slide off my back so over the off-season I can't say that I thought about it a whole lot. On race day it bugged the heck out of me. When we maybe had an opportunity to win and we didn't or we left here and had a bad day it really bugged me. It might have lastest for another day but after that it was right on to sponsor appearances and being a dad and focusing on the next race plus we did so much testing last year that my mind was on that most of the time. I really think that it didn't affect me as much as you would think as far as how much I was thinking about it but it did affect me a lot in the fact that it was just what we needed to get ourselves back on track to go for another championship."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THE DAYTONA 500 SOMETIMES MEANS YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE A GOOD SEASON AND SOMETIMES IT DOESN'T? "I don't think this means anything toward what kind of season you're going to have. You put a lot of effort into preparing for Daytona. It's a restrictor-plate track. The Chase and the championship, other than Talladega surviving the big one it's not about restrictor-plate racing. Our series has always really been that way, not just since the Chase has began but long before that. What happens at Daytona really doesn't guarantee or set the pace for what kind of season you're going to have as far as the championship is concerned. Because it's the biggest race, because it's the one we all want to win, because of the history of this event, you can win this race and still no matter what else happens the rest of the season you're still going to say hey we had a great year we won Daytona and that's just the way it's always been.

"That's the way we've looked at it. I do remember the year that we won Daytona and won the championship and that being a really special year because so many people said you've won the Daytona 500, the odds are against you of winning the championship and yet we were able to go on and do that. It was kind of nice sometimes to change the stats or sort of proved ourselves that we could overcome those types of adversity."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Martin Truex Jr.
Teams CIP