FOUR-TIME NASCAR CHAMPION, JEFF GORDON, TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT THE COMPETITION, HIS POSITION IN THE SPORT, AND HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NO. 24 TEAM'S CHANCES FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN '07 JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: ON JUAN PABLO ...
FOUR-TIME NASCAR CHAMPION, JEFF GORDON, TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT THE COMPETITION, HIS POSITION IN THE SPORT, AND HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT THE NO. 24 TEAM'S CHANCES FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP IN '07
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
ON JUAN PABLO MONTOYA MOVING FROM F1 TO NASCAR: "Oh it takes a lot of confidence and it's a huge amount of pressure to say I'm leaving F1 and go over to NASCAR. You've got to give him credit for that, which is why he's been accepted so well. And it's good for the sport. Once that competition side starts coming out and he starts competing for wins. Once he starts winning, that's all going to change (laughs)."
IS MONTOYA AWARE OF HIS TALENTS? "He seems to be. I think he's aware of his talents. He's aware of the commitment that Ganassi has made to him. Ganassi has stepped up that team in a way that they've never had before. It's been something that's needed to happen. I think he understands he's definitely going to go through a period of time that might come faster or it might come slower, but I think he's prepared for that."
WITH THE ENTRY OF THE CAR OF TOMORROW AND EVERYONE ON A LEARNING CURVE, DOES THAT MAKE IT EASIER FOR MONTOYA TO START OUT IN THE SPORT? "Yes and no. Even though the Car of Tomorrow is a lot different than our current car, it's a lot closer to what we have than a Formula One car. If he was just starting in the Car of Tomorrow, it would be a little easier on him. But it's still got to drive the current car. That probably is a bigger challenge. There are just so many things to learn. This year it's going to be very competitive - you've got new teams, like the Toyota teams coming in that are only going to raise the level of competition. Everybody is raising the level of competition. You've got the Car of Tomorrow, which is a huge thing. The points are a small thing."
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAYS HE SPENDS TIME TALKING TO RICK HENDRICK ABOUT BUSINESS DURING THE WEEK. HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR ROLE AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS MONDAY THRU WEDNESDAY? "Taking care of sponsors (laughs). I feel like ever since I won our second or third championship, my role has been doing so many things for sponsors. If you look at Jimmie's car, it's basically Lowe's. So he really basically does things for Lowe's and a few endorsements he has. On my car, there are a lot of different sponsors to do things for. There was a period of time when I spent a lot more time talking to Rick (Hendrick) about business things and the growth of it and how we can be better. Then I became so busy and there was less time for me to be able to do that. Jimmie's office is basically right next to Rick's but my office is in a separate building. I'd probably be able to stop by more often if our offices were closer together. But the way Jimmie goes about it is the same way that I did it the first couple of years. Maybe not quite so much, because he gets up earlier than I do in the morning. He probably makes more of his days than I did. But I think that Jimmie is at that stage right now that he's really anxious about where the sport is at and where the team is at and about growing himself within the organization and within the sport - especially now that he's the champion. I've always focused on our business. I have 15 - 20 employees and so there are a lot of responsibilities. The things I worry about the least are Hendrick Motorsports and how it's being run."
FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON, AND FOR ANYBODY, HOW TOUGH IS IT TO WIN BACK-TO-BACK CHAMPIONSHIPS? "It's always been tough. But now with the Chase format, it makes it that much tougher to win the championship - let alone to get back-to-back championships. The chances to battle for another championship are increased because of the new Chase format and chances are he's going to be one of those 12 guys, but then to pull it off is just kind of a crap shoot about who's going to win and who's going to not in those 10 races."
WHAT DOES A SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP DO TO ELEVATE A DRIVERS CAREER? "There are a lot of guys who have won one championship, but very few guys who have won multiple championships. I've always said that Tony Stewart, after winning his first championship, would be a tougher. But after he won his second championship, he'd be a lot tougher. Once you've become a multiple champion, you think about things differently and you're just so much calmer and relaxed and you understand that you go out and do your job and the team does it's job, it's going to happen. You don't push the issue and try to make it happen. It just happens on it's own if you prepare properly."
ON THE TOYOTA TEAMS AND DAYTONA: I just think that they're somewhat still in the development stage and they're new teams that are put together and there are growing pains that come with that. At Daytona, the restrictor plate equalizes everybody out when it comes to the draft. I still think that Hendrick, DEI, and Childress and Yates and Roush - I still think those teams are going to rise to the top even though it is a restrictor plate."
If they have a car in the top 10 or 12 in the Chase, that would be a very good thing. If they could win a couple of races, that would be a great thing as well. With the Car of Tomorrow, who knows? It's hard to say how that's going to work out. I wouldn't put anything more on them than I would any new team coming in. It's not that they're Toyota, it's that they're new teams coming in."
ON NASCAR ADJUSTING THE CHAMPIONS PROVISIONAL "You're going to have to educate me."
NASCAR IS GOING TO ALLOW A MAXIMUM OF 6 CHAMPIONS PROVISIONALS "The champions provisional has been abused and it's exceeded what its purpose is and it's a good thing they've drawn the line somewhere, because they need to."
ON YOUR FUTURE, COULD WE COME HERE IN 5 YEARS AND THERE ISN'T A JEFF GORDON COMPETING? "I hope there's a Jeff Gordon sitting in Victory Lane with a five-year old daughter in his arms is what I'm hoping for (laughs)."
THE SPORT HAS CHANGED A LOT AND YOU'VE CHANGED A LOT. DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU MIGHT DO DIFFERENTLY NOW THAN YOU DID THEN? "No, I just think it's a natural progression of any driver. As you get in the sport, there are a lot of unknowns and excitement. There is nothing else on your plate that matters except for driving that race car. As you have success, a lot of things get added to that plate. I look at Dale Jr. these past couple of years and he didn't win as much as he did prior to that. And so it's natural Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott - all of them. Everybody has experienced that. I don't feel like I'm at that point yet even though I've tapered off on some wins. We've gone through some adjustments and changes with the team. I feel like this year we can have a spectacular year and win a lot of races and really win this championship. I think it's because we've got a young and talented crew chief who has a year under his belt and has taken this team and made it his own. I feel like with my driving I'm smarter and more patient and know when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive and I might not put it out on the edge like I did at one time because to me, that was not smart (laughs). It's all about chemistry and the combination. In 2001 when we won the championship, it was as if it was easy. It wasn't that I did anything spectacular. The cars were working right. The chemistry was there. I did my job. I didn't have to do anything extraordinary. You've got to be committed. And I'm more committed this year than I've ever been even though I have a baby on the way (laughs). I think other people have babies (laughs)."
ON DALE JUNIOR'S SITUATION "For Dale, it's a totally different scenario. You've got huge pressure from his father's fans and his own fans and from the media. His name, by itself, creates a huge amount of pressure. For him, winning the championship I think it would be more of a relief than anything else to just get everyone off his back."
-credit: gm racing