JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed restrictor plate racing, double-file restarts, his success at Indianapolis, and more. COMPARED TO TALLADEGA'S REPAVE, WHAT EFFECT DO YOU THINK THE NEW SURFACE AT DAYTONA IS GOING...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed restrictor plate racing, double-file restarts, his success at Indianapolis, and more.
COMPARED TO TALLADEGA'S REPAVE, WHAT EFFECT DO YOU THINK THE NEW SURFACE AT DAYTONA IS GOING TO HAVE ON THE QUALITY OF RACING THAT WE SEE IN FEBRUARY? "Well the thing is at Talladega with the repave, it was already pretty much the same. Now we have so much grip at Talladega, it's so smooth that handling is not an issue, but it really wasn't much of an issue before. This being Daytona and handling being a big issue, I really believe that it is still going to be Daytona. It is still going to be a tighter radius, different transitions, and handling is still going to be important no matter if they pave it or not."
DOES IT TAKE AN EDGE AWAY FROM GOOD RESTRICTOR PLATE RACER LIKE YOU WHEN HANDLING BECOMES MORE OF AN ISSUE? "It does, but if your team is strong and can really get the handling of the car tuned in [it's not too much to worry about]. I would say that is something that we're really focused on this weekend, but you can't put too much effort into thinking about February right now. We're thinking about July and we have a lot of confidence in what they are going to do to get prepared for February. I have confidence in what they are going to do when we come back here. My biggest concern is the amount of time Goodyear has to build a tire and test a tire; I think that's the biggest concern that we have. Other than that, for here in July, we're focused on having a car that handles really well because handling in these kinds of temperatures with the conditions that we have right now, handling is going to be really, really important."
YOU'VE BEEN IN THE NEWS AT THE END OF RACES LATELY FOR CONTACT WITH OTHER COMPETITORS WHETHER THEY INSTIGATED SOMETHING OR IF YOU GOT INTO THEM. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE RACING GUYS ANY DIFFERENTLY, OR ARE GUYS RACING YOU DIFFERENTLY NOW? "I think everybody is racing different. You're talking about the Chase for the Championship and how that changes things, especially when they change the ten bonus points for wins, so guys have to be more aggressive for that. When you have to make it into the Chase, people are going to be more aggressive for that. When you put double-file restarts in there and three green-white-checkers, all those things make for everybody to push harder and there are chances for making more mistakes. Guys are just going to race everybody hard. That's just the reality of it. I mean, there is no doubt that that has been the case for me in some of the instances, and some of them not. We're still just racing. Things are going to happen. It happens all the time, but I think there is an increase in it and we're seeing it with a lot of people, not just us."
AT THE END OF THE RACE LAST WEEK, JIMMIE SAID THAT IN NINE YEARS OF RACING KURT, KURT HAD NEVER RACED HIM THAT WAY. IT WAS A NUDGE AT THE END. ARE WE SAYING THAT A NUDGE AT THE END OF THE RACE IS NOT HOW PEOPLE HAVE RACED BEFORE? "I expected what I saw ahead of me. I think that Kurt knew that he didn't have a chance to really beat Jimmie. Jimmie had the best car. I think he did what he needed to do to try and win the race. Some could say that he was pined, others say that he was just taking a cheap shot; but he was doing what he felt like he needed to do. Jimmie got back to him and repayed him the favor and won the race. Every instance is different."
CHICAGOLAND IS ONE OF THOSE KEY MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACKS AND YOU HAVE FOUR OF THEM IN THE RACE FOR THE CHASE. HOW MUCH DO YOU FOCUS ON SETTING UP THE CAR FOR THOSE CHASE RACES AT CHICAGOLAND? "Well that's just it. You look at those races that are in the Chase, and you want to be strong at those races. You also have to win to get those bonus points before you get there, and to try to make it in the Chase. We're trying to win every single weekend. There is not a whole lot more we can do. I will say in the first fifteen races, if we have a solid team and car like we do this year with the DuPont Chevy, we can take some extra chances and risks and focus on what is coming down the road and what tracks are going to be in the Chase to try to be our strongest at that time. We did a little bit of that at New Hampshire this past week, which is the first race of the Chase. We know the mile-and-a-half's are very, very important, and I would say that if any team out here is focused on one type of track, that is the one that they will focus on the most."
DID YOU BUY INTO ANY OF THE TALK THAT JIMMIE HAD LOST HIS MOJO, AND NOW AFTER TWO WINS IN A ROW HE FINALLY HAS IT BACK? "I mean, I think they have shown some vulnerability this year by being off the pace a little bit at times, and maybe not having things go their way quite like they have in the past. They've just shown the last couple weeks how they don't allow that to get to them and that is what makes them so strong. They know how to rise to the occasion at the right time, and I think they know how good they are. They can go experiment and try some things, get off a little bit, and get back on track pretty quick."
YOU'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THE AGGRESSIVE THE LAST COUPLE WEEKS. ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF AGGRESSIVE DRIVING? IS THERE SMART AGGRESSIVE AND STUPID AGGRESSIVE AND HAVE WE BEEN SEEING MORE STUPID AGGRESSIVE LATELY? "I mean, if you're referring to me, with Martin I was just stupid. It wasn't stupid aggressive, it was just stupid. [laughs] Yeah, I mean honestly at the end of these races, with double-file restarts and five laps to go, or green-white-checkered, it is literally bumper cars at 190 mph. I don't know any other way to put it. That's not what we want to be doing. That's just the way it is today. It is highly entertaining, so it makes for some great stories, some great highlights and a great finish for the fans. I think we all try to weigh out the importance of the show and the entertainment-value, as well as the racing. That's where we're at in the sport today."
DOES THAT TAKE AWAY FROM WHO IS THE BETTER DRIVER OR WHO IS THE BETTER TEAM WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO THAT? "If it's a cheap shot, yeah, but sometimes it shows who the better driver is if they make some great moves. There is a difference between just going in there and moving a guy out of the way, which honestly all those things are acceptable today. That doesn't necessarily show who the better driver is that just shows you who wants it the most. The better driver is going to be able to do it with a superior car and by doing it in a way that they don't make any enemies."
LATELY HAS IT BEEN AN EFFORT TO HELP NASCAR BOOST RATINGS? "Uh, no. I'm always up for helping NASCAR boost ratings, but that was not my intentions."
WHAT ABOUT DURING THE CHASE, DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WILL BE LESS CAREFUL AROUND PEOPLE IN THE CHASE? BEFORE IT WAS SORT OF HANDS-OFF OR MORE RESPECT, AND MAYBE WE'RE NOT GOING TO SEE THAT THIS YEAR? "I don't know why we speculate about what is going to happen several weeks from now. I have no idea. We're going to go race! That's what is going to happen. You guys have to wait and see just like we do. I have no idea; I can't predict the future. What is going to happen, I think based on what we've seen so far, we're going to see some really exciting racing because the intensity builds as we get closer to the Chase. The guys that are trying to win races like us, to the guys that are trying to make sure that they get in the Chase, to the guys trying to be in the top 35 in points; there are so many different races and storylines that are happening. There is going to be plenty to write about and as the intensity heats up, then that means that everybody is going to push even harder than they are now. I'm just guessing that there is going to be plenty of action out there on the track and contact. That is before the Chase, then once the Chase starts it could heat up even more. It depends on who you're battling and what you're battling for."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE IS A PERCEPTION THAT YOU GUYS ARE MORE ENTERTAINERS THAN ATHLETES? OR THAT THE BALANCE IS SHIFTING TO SOME DEGREE AND THERE IS MORE FOCUS ON THE SHOW BUSINESS ASPECT AS OPPOSED TO THE SPORTING SIDE? "Don't mistake what I'm trying to say. We're out there racing; we're racing. There are some races that we race just as hard, but we don't put on a good show. There are other times that we race the same, and hard, and we put on a great show. I think what I'm saying is that it is important for the people in the stands, and people watching at home, and for the media to see and exciting race, to see a little action, to see some tempers flare and fenders being dented up. That is a part of the show, but that is also just a part of our sport?"
BUT, HAS THAT BECOME MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE ATHLETE PURSUIT OF WINNING? "Nothing is ever more important than winning in my opinion. I don't care because I want to win first and foremost. I don't care if I lead by ten seconds and it is the most boring race you've ever seen. I'll take that. I'll take it every week. To just clarify, to be focused on the show is to be leading by ten seconds and you backpedal to make it shut [the gap]--sorry, that ain't going to happen. It's not going to happen for anybody out here. It's important that NASCAR and the teams and everybody are in this together to make sure that we're doing everything we can to make sure that while we're out there racing, we're also putting on a competitive race that you don't get one--just like a couple years ago one manufacturer would come out with a new body style and all of a sudden the Chevys would dominate, and then Ford and Dodge and all them were all upset saying that it is a disadvantage. That's why we have the body style that we have today. Racing is always going to be the thing, the competition is always going to be at the forefront of all of our minds in here [the garage]; but NASCAR's job is very broad and very difficult on managing and balancing that out of making sure that we're able to race, but that it is still entertaining."
BACK TO THE BUMPER CARS AT 190 M.P.H. ON DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS. IS THAT JUST A NEW REALITY OF HAVING DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS? "What restrictors plates have done to the type of racing that we have; it is very entertaining, it offers side-by-side racing, big packs of cars, but you never really hear the drivers enjoy that aspect of it because of the box it puts us in and how we have to race one another--the bump drafting, the side drafting, those types of things. That's what is happening with the double-file restarts. While it is extremely entertaining, a lot of us said that we didn't have to go through that every week because I'm telling you, it is crazy out there. We also realize that we are a sport that has to compete with other big sports and when the fans like what they see out there on the track, they are going to come back for more. I've gotten to the point in my career where I've stopped trying to control some of those things and just go out there and work with the tools that we have and do my job. As a driver with--if I feel like there is a safety factor that's involved, then I'll speak up--but as long as it is not a safety factor, but it is going to push people into making judgment calls that are going to be questionable to the other competitors. I've been a part of it, as well as I've seen other guys do the same thing. It's just kind of where we're at today.
"It's hard to really keep respect on your mind when it's a green-white-checker finish on a restrictor plate track, or a short track. You know you're going to get bumped and banged around. You just hope that you're in the right lane at the right time, and that things shake out the way you want. Like last week, we had a restart and I got shuffled back. We got a caution, we came and got four tires, and the next one I actually had a pretty good restart. Sometimes it almost a role of the dice--which lane you're going to be in, how good of a restart you are going to get, and what happens around you."
IF YOU WERE A FAN AND NOT A DRIVER, YOU CAN ASSUME THAT YOU'D BE ALL ABOUT IT? "Oh, absolutely. That's why we have what we have. If I'm not driving, I could think up some more things that I don't bring up to NASCAR and that would be highly entertaining."
FOR PORTIONS OF THIS DECADE SPECIFIC ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS DEI AND HENDRICK HAVE DOMINATED RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES. NOW IT SEEMS AS IF ANYONE CAN WIN THESE THINGS. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE KING OF THE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES SITUATION? "Well things have changed you know. We have a car that is basically equal among everybody. You could have twenty more horsepower than a guy out there and still not have a real distinct advantage. Where twenty horsepower under the old rules say ten years ago was a huge advantage. So I think some people focused more on finding that little bit of an edge to go there because they found that to make a difference because we come here and we just try to get our car driving as good as we can, get as much horsepower under the hood as we can, have a reliable piece, and we just go out there and race. And we used to put a lot more effort into it. That is what NASCAR wanted to be able to save money and I think it has saved us money, maybe not as much as we anticipated or they anticipated...........you know, we are not bringing our Martinsville car here.....we are going to bring a car here that we think is more of a restrictor plate car, but we are not spending near as many hours in time or effort on all the little tricks that people used to do.
ARE THERE STILL GUYS THAT ARE OUT THERE THAT ARE THE BEST AT THIS TYPE OF RACING RIGHT NOW? "I mean right now Jaime McMurray looks like the best out here. The guy is always at the front and he has won quite a few. I don't know if it's just this style of racing fits his style but he certainly has a knack for being up there. I really don't see how anyone has a huge advantage and this weekend it's going to be who is handling the best because it's going to be slick and your car driving good is going to mean a lot."
INDIANAPOLIS AND DAYTONA HAVE CLOUT WITH THE OPEN WHEEL AND STOCK CAR COMMUNITIES. DOES THE STOCK CAR COMMUNITY GIVE THE SAME CLOUT TO WINNING THE BRICKYARD 400 AS WINNING THE DAYTONA 500? IS IT STILL BIGGER TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 THAN THE BRICKYARD? "Yeah, I mean the Daytona 500 is still our biggest event and there is no doubt about that. And the history, prestige, money...you know.....everything about it makes it our number one race. But to everybody I think in the garage the Brickyard is important because of the history it has in motorsports and with the Indy 500 and there are so many people that wanted to race there that didn't get a chance, including myself, in and Indy car got the opportunity to race there in a stock car so you feel very privileged to go there. As a kid growing up I always wanted to race at Indianapolis and I got the chance to do that in a stock car."
HOW MUCH IS IT IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD OF KNOWING YOU COULD GO FOR THE FIFTH WIN AND BE THE WINNINGEST DRIVER IN A STOCK CAR THERE? "That is one statistic that I will fight everybody on. I mean they have been having the Indy 500 there since 1911 or 1912 or something. You can't compare history of the Indy 500 to the Brickyard 400 which has been there since 1994 so I'm proud to have four wins there but you look at how few guys have won four in an Indy car there I'm guessing it must be harder in an Indy car than it is in a stock car."
PRETTY SMOOTH OUT THERE WHERE THE PATCH IS? "I haven't seen it. I won't see it until I go out there and I haven't heard anything."
-source: gm racing