BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 4 Kodak/Jasper Engines Dodge) COMMENT ON SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS "I can't answer for anybody else. I can only answer for me. I enjoy doing it. I spent about three and a half or four hours at the Kodak trailer last week at ...
BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 4 Kodak/Jasper Engines Dodge)
COMMENT ON SIGNING AUTOGRAPHS
"I can't answer for anybody else. I can only answer for me. I enjoy doing it. I spent about three and a half or four hours at the Kodak trailer last week at Michigan. I spent five hours at Texas. I always do it on Saturdays after whatever racing is going on with us, whether it's ARCA, Busch, trucks. I like to do that stuff. I have fun with the fans. It's not a strain to me personally. I enjoy it. I like talking as most of you guys know. I have fun with the fans. I hang out, so the marathon ones don't bother me. Some days you get a little tired, but when you catch the last fan that stood in that line for 40 minutes or whatever, I take longer in my lines because I spend a little more time with the fans, so I appreciate that. I'll stay for them if they're going to hang out and wait for me."
ARE THERE SOME PLACES WHERE FANS SHOULD NOT ASK FOR AUTOGRAPHS?
"I was around a man named John Thompson for years, and a man named Bill Russell. They are very private and do not like to sign autographs. One thing is for sure though, if you're eating in a restaurant or spending private time with family, friends or doing something private like that, that's private time. We're public people and that's all fine. I don't say no, but at the same time, it is kind of a personal time. I know guys appreciate it when you don't come up at dinner in the middle of stuffing food down your face and ask for an autograph. That is a small issue. For me, I spend hours and hours in that trailer. If someone wants to find me, that's where I'll be. If at any time I'm in a public role, if I'm at an appearance, if I'm walking around with the team in the garage, if I'm anywhere, I'm fair game. That's part of our sport. Now, don't grab me if I'm walking out to qualify and I'm second to go. If I don't go get in the racecar and do the job you want my autograph for, I don't think I'd last. It's like they want you to sign and forget about driving. Walking out to practice and debrief with my crew chief and immediately I get out of the racecar and the team starts pushing. I've got to get to Shane to give him the information so we can make the racecar better. The fans start yelling at the driver because they won't sign right then. I have to do the job they want me to sign for. There's some times you have to give us a little slack and there are some private times, but for me, any time in the public realm, let me do my job. If I'm late, I'll come back and sign it for you later. Any time you're in public, you can come up to me any time."
WHAT DOES THE NAME FIREBALL ROBERTS BRING TO YOUR MIND?
"Fireball Roberts is a little before my time in NASCAR, but one of the first things that comes to my mind is one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR, one of the founding fathers of the sport I love so much. Fortunately for me, I have a guy named Buddy Baker who mentors me, but he would be in the same class, one of the guys that got us to where we are today and made the sport what it is. It's one of those colorful nicknames that bring the sport along."
INFINEON RACEWAY. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF?
"I think of many years racing open wheels and sports car. I love road racing. I got a chance to do it for awhile, and I really enjoy it. We'll be turning right and left this weekend. It's something I've always liked to do and have done for awhile. Even in the Winston West Series, we used to run at Laguna Sega in a Winston Cup car, so I've got a little bit of experience in stock cars on the road courses, but it mostly came from open wheels and sports cars and a few things here and there. I enjoy it a lot. It's exciting to be going back road course racing when you have a teammate named Rusty Wallace who is a pretty good NASCAR road racer and Ryan Newman who in recent years has done pretty well. I have a lot of good information to go off of to go there and test."
WHAT WOULD YOU THINK ABOUT A GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISH IN CUP?
"I wouldn't be a big fan of a green-white-checkered in Cup, I can tell you that much. For years, the race has always ended like it has. Since 19 whatever NASCAR has always had the same rule, and now the media is blowing it out of proportion the way they do to try to force NASCAR's hand into doing something. I'm pretty proud of Mike Helton and NASCAR right now. They made a bunch of changes because of the media pressure they've gotten and realized a couple of them weren't the right moves and had to tweak on some rules. They very quickly reacted. That's the sign of a pretty strong leader when you can do those things and walk up to the front of the drivers' meeting and say, 'we made a mistake.' I don't think he made a mistake. I think they did the right thing, but the mistake was letting media pressure become too much. Unfortunately this day and age, you guys get the fans bias one way or the other and force NASCAR's hand to do something. They are working pretty hard. Green-white-checkered in Cup would probably be a disaster, especially the way guys are driving right now. I think the fans for 50 years have had great races. Some of them end under caution. I don't believe it takes anything away from it. If we can, we'll finish under green. Fortunately for me I don't make those decisions."
DO YOU HAVE RACING SUPERSTITIONS?
"Because I grew up in that town (Las Vegas), I have none. I've seen rabbit's feet, and I've seen my father won't carry a $10 bill. I've seen all sorts of things like that. I've understood for a long time that superstitions are just that -- superstitions. You make your own luck, and luck basically just comes from the hard work the guys put into the offices and the teams in the shop. You can create a lot of that. Yes, there is racing luck, but I'm not superstitious. I don't have a routine. I don't have a leave me alone time. I don't have any of that. Once you get in that racecar you are alone and that's my time to get focused in and do my job."
DO YOU THINK SUNDAY'S RACE AT MICHIGAN SHOULD HAVE ENDED UNDER GREEN?
"No, I think they did exactly what the media has forced them (NASCAR) to do. Everybody yelled and screamed about cautions and this and that. The nicest thing NASCAR did.... I got hit last year at Homestead and we already had the rule that we don't race back to the caution. I got T-boned real hard because guys were still going a little bit too quick to that caution. I've been on that last lap sitting there going 'racers are coming back to me to take the checkered and everybody is racing hard. If that wreck would have happened in turn four when the leaders were coming around, what would we do? We would have thrown the caution. In turn two, you still have to throw the caution.That's the rule they've come down with, and the rule says they freeze the field instantly. It would have changed the outcome. Even Kasey Kahne said it wouldn't have changed the outcome. Ryan had enough of a lead he would have gotten to the finish line first. The next lap or so Kasey might have gotten him, but it would not have changed the outcome. It may have changed my outcome. I was actually passing a guy for position. I got to his fender and it came out. I'm not worry about it. I know if I'm the guy sitting there in the middle of the racetrack, I'm going to be very happy it's caution and we got to slow down."
HOW DO YOU ADAPT TO THE HIGH POINTS AND LOW POINTS?
"I'm notoriously a very impatient man. As long as you can see the light at the end of the tunnel you can feel more secure about what's going on. This last weekend we led our first laps and didn't lead them from staying out or on pit stops. We drove to the front. We had to pass Dale Jarrett and my teammate Rusty to get the lead. We held the guys off for awhile on old tires. We're starting to come around. How's it been for me? I'm very impatient. We had a few years in recent history with the Orleans team where we did very well. Right now, we're in a rebuilding year. The 77, the Jasper Engines folks, we had to go over to Dodge. As positive as it is, it's still tough to take all the bodies, cut 'em up and throw 'em away and put all new bodies on. Then we've integrated with the Penske Program and added all new engineers. Shane Wilson and I came along and they put all these three companies in a room and said, 'OK, get along boys and girls.' We had some stuff that didn't work so well in the start, but we're starting to gel pretty good. I can definitely see that light at the end of the tunnel. We're making waves. I'm getting one of Rusty's cars. It's being painted 77 colors now and we're getting one of Ryan's cars now. We're getting a few pieces of Penske chassis and Penske information is coming in the door. I think that will make us stronger. Our engines have been strong all year. The Penske/Jasper engines are strong. As long as I can see those positives it makes it a lot less difficult."
ARE YOU CLOSE TO WHERE YOU THOUGHT YOU'D BE AT THIS POINT?
"Unfortunately I live in that world that's unrealistic. I don't believe in realism or theoretically. We're a little bit further behind than I wanted us to be right now. There are so many good positives about this program, and I knew we had those things. In the structure we had, it took us a little longer to get together than we would have liked. Kodak has been there supporting me all the way, and I'm excited Kodak has been happy with me and I haven't made too many mistakes along the way with my big mouth. Mobile One is still happy with me and Dodge, my long-time sponsor is happy with me. Doug Bawel, they're all fairly happy, but personally I would have liked to be a little higher up and a little further along. It is coming around. We're getting there. We led some laps (at Michigan), and we're starting to qualify each week a lot better. As long as we stay in the mode we're in, go take some of that information from Rusty and Ryan to help out and go test better. Get better racecars. The racecars we have, make them better.
We're going to be fine. I would have liked to be a little father along at this time."
IS THE PRESSURE FOR GREEN-FLAG FINISHES COMING FROM THE FANS?
"The fans are motivated and influenced by what the media writes. How else do we know what's going on in the world except by the media? That's how people follow things. When the first thing that comes out of TV and the headline writers is instead of saying "Race ends under caution" they say "Another faux pas for NASCAR." They put the spin on it where the fans say, 'yeah, they should have done it this way.' Is there a right answer? I don't know. No matter what you do there's going to be another side to that coin. No matter what you do, there's always the devil's advocate. I'm glad I'm not in Mike Helton's shoes. I just abide by his rules."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS IN DODGE/SAVE MART 350?
"I always have my expectations higher than they probably want me to have, but I like road racing. If you don't go off the track you'll probably end up in the top 10. One of the biggest things is to stay smart and don't go flying off the course and you'll be OK. Goal No. 1 is to stay on the race course. After that, I'd love to get up there and battle with Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon and Ryan and Robby for the lead. You know those four guys will be near the front. With my road racing experience I think as long as I keep my head I can do those things. This weekend, we've got a pretty darn good racecar, so we'll see what we can do with it."