JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/PEPSI IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed racing at Auto Club Speedway, being in Southern California and other topics. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT COMING BACK TO AUTO CLUB ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/PEPSI IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed racing at Auto Club Speedway, being in Southern California and other topics.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT COMING BACK TO AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY?: "I'm really excited. It's a big weekend for us because our sponsor, Pepsi, is sponsoring this race -- the Pepsi 500. We've got a special DuPont/Pepsi paint scheme this weekend so it's definitely a big weekend. Had the big premiere Wednesday and the Speedway-Pepsi party on Wednesday so it's been a great week and it's a big weekend for us. We ran so well here earlier in the year that certainly it has us excited about coming back and hoping that we can duplicate that performance and maybe pick up the results by one."
WHAT COULD A BIGGER TIRE FROM GOODYEAR DO FOR THE SPORT AND FOR THE DRIVERS?: "I've got to get up on the latest scoop. I hadn't had a chance to talk to anybody about the test. I don't even know what their goal is other than I would think that they're just trying to figure out a way of getting the compounds to such where we have a little more grip in the car mechanically and it doesn't abuse the shoulder of the tire as much is my guess. I really haven't had a chance to talk to them about what they're trying to accomplish there, sorry. I'll find out though and get back to you on it."
WHAT MAKES HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS SO SUCCESSFUL OVER THE LAST DECADE?: "I think the attention to detail and your people are the most important part of it. Obviously, we have a great owner in Rick (Hendrick), he's our leader and he sets a great example as to how to be successful. He just recognizes how to put the right people together. Success sort of breeds more success and we've been able to go on a path through the multi-car team process -- started at two, went to three and now four.
"We've just found a way to really capitalize on that and make it work well by sharing information seamlessly and really having people that communicate well with one another to not only make their own individual team better, but make the whole organization better and it's worked very well."
CAN A DRIVER FEEL MOMENTUM AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE GOOD THINGS COMING IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS?: "You sense, not necessarily prior to, but I think you have certain tracks that you feel confident about as a driver and a team and then if you back up those results then you start to feel a little of that momentum. By feeling momentum, you just feel a positive ness within the team. In how everybody is getting along when you're working through all the changes through the weekend in practice and qualifying and preparing for the race. It just seems like there's nothing you can do that's going to rock the boat or shake things up. That certainly is something great to build on because half of this sport is about people having confidence in one another.
"We don't have computer data on the cars so the information the driver gives to the crew chief and the team and the information that the crew chief gets from the engineers -- if you have confidence in what one another is saying and ideas then that allows you to make better choices and decisions and that's what makes a strong effort and strong team. A strong team and good results are what build momentum. We had a good result last week, it was a pretty tough path to get to that result so I can't say that we've really got momentum on our side right now. I think we had a great result from a tough day and that this is a good track for us. What last week showed me was what fighters we are as a team and that we never give up and we just continue to push no matter what's happening out there on the track. To me, that definitely is a positive going into each and every weekend."
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU ENCOUNTER ON PIT ROAD?: "The biggest challenge is at the early stages of a race when there are a lot of cars on the lead lap and the caution comes out and you come down pit road. I have a little diagram that the team draws for me that we put on my dash that gives me the cars that are pitting in front of me and behind me. I had a slight issue in New Hampshire several years ago where I turned into my pit stall and didn't realize that Michael Waltrip was actually in the stall before me and I drove over a lot of pit crew members. Ever since that incident, to try to avoid that from happening, we put that diagram up there to help me get in and out of the pits. Steve (Letarte, crew chief) counts me down, 'Five, four, three, two, one,' into the stall and he'll usually clear me out. Under green flag situations, that's the toughest thing about this track is attacking the pit road entry. Once you get on pit road, it's pretty simple, it's a big, wide with big stalls pit road."
DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON WHO THE FIRST FIVE INDUCTEES SHOULD BE INTO THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME?: "I've got a couple ideas, but I'm excited to see it. I've seen it in downtown Charlotte where they're building the facility and it's something to be really proud of. I think it's a great way to really start off this Hall of Fame and its history and those people that have built the sport to what it is today. I think it's a hard choice to narrow it down -- what it is five? I think it's a tough choice, but I think there are a couple that are clear like Bill France and those. I think I'm as anxious as everybody else to see who those five are and who the next five are and the next five. It's something that's very excited for the sport."
HOW DO YOU DO YOUR PREPARATION BEFORE AND AFTER A RACE WEEKEND AND IS IT SIMILAR TO HOW JIMMIE JOHNSON DOES HIS LIKE WATCHING THE RACE VIDEOS?: "I don't do it that way. I think sometimes you can spend too much time analyzing too many details. To me, what I do is I analyze what the car is doing every time I'm on the track and try to give the most valuable information back to the team that I possibly can. That's what I do throughout the whole weekend. When I'm driving the car, I try to drive it the best that I possibly can and make the car go as fast as I can. While you're trying to make it go as fast as you can, you're also trying to take in that information that you can give back to the team to make it go faster.
"The other time that I spend is just really keeping my mind clear and relaxing, eating well, fluids -- all the things that I feel like I need to get through Sunday's race. I don't know, I kind of keep it simple because there's never been a race I've seen where another race went exactly like it. So I try to keep an open mind as to I don't have any idea when that green flag drops as to whether that car is going to be awesome or it's going to be terrible. And I don't go either way with it, I do everything I can to play my part in how the car is going to be and then you have the leave the job up to the rest of the team to prepare it and we work together, but when it all comes down to it, Steve (Letarte, crew chief) make the calls and the engineers and they spend so much time going over the data and the details based on everything that I give them. Then you have to have faith in them and when the green flag drops, if it's great, you drive the wheels off of it and don't say a whole lot and hope that you can keep up with the track.
"If you're not, like we were last week, you scream and yell and then you finally calm down and you give good information to try to make the car better. Last week I didn't think we could ever start any worse than we did and we finished second. That's why I go into it without putting a whole lot of effort into paying too much attention to the details because too many things can change."
DO YOU THINK YOUR ROUTINE IS BETTER THAN JIMMIE JOHNSON'S ROUTINE?: "Everybody I'm sure has a different way of doing it and when you're having success out there then it's easy to say, 'Well, that's the right way to do it.' But that's the way I've always done it and that's the way I continue to do it and I try not to change that up. When everything is going right and the car is right and the pit stops are there and I'm driving well -- we're capable of winning any race. What makes all those things come together and happen, if I thought that watching video and doing other things would make that happen then I would do it. I've done it all over the years, but I've found a routine that works best for me."
HOW HAVE TO SEEN DALE EARNHARDT, JR PROGRESS FROM A KID TO A MAN AT AGE 35 TOMORROW?: "I'm really proud of him. He takes a lot of heat as well as gets a lot of praise from his support group and fans. It's tough to be Dale Earnhardt, Jr. A lot of people look from the outside and go, 'Ah, man I would like to be him, he's got it so good,' but it's not necessarily the case. I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself to be a great driver, but he also does a great job not trying to live within his Dad's shadow and he wants to be his own person and driver.
"He is at one of the best organizations and he feels that pressure being at the organization like the rest of us do and when the results aren't there he beats himself up like the rest of us do. He's a normal guy, he just has different situations that he has to deal with that are sometimes pretty extreme and I give him a lot of credit for handling it the way that he does."
HOW MUCH IS THE OUTCOME OF THE CHASE GOING TO BE ABOUT THE CREW CHIEFS MAKING THE RIGHT CALL?: "The crew chief is as much a part of the team as a member of the pit crew, as the driver, as the engineer -- it's the total team effort that really makes it happen. There's days when the driver makes a great move and he gets the praise and, 'He won the race.' But he couldn't have done it without a car capable of doing it, he couldn't have done it without the pit crew putting him in position. It's the same thing with the crew chief. If the crew chief is getting good information from the driver then it helps his decision making. If you're in seventh or eighth place coming in the pits, sometimes that makes your decision easier. If you're coming in first, that is probably the hardest position to be in and sometimes that's just a roll of the dice as to which one you should do -- two tires, gas and go or four tires or stay out.
"To me, what makes a great crew chief is a guy that uses all the information and the people around him the best that he possibly can and he makes the call and he lives with that choice. He says that he made the best call that he could at that time. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't, but you have to stand by it and learn from it and go to the next one. I feel like that's where Steve (Letarte, crew chief) is so good. I really like the calls that he makes, just like last week. He made a four tire call and it was the right call and we hadn't been second really all day and it gives us not only a shot at second, but it gave us a shot to win so it was a great call. So yeah, there's going to be days it's going to come down to pit crew, there's going to be days it comes down to the crew chief and some days it comes down to the driver, but it's still the best team that's going to win the Chase and the championship."
HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE IS THERE FROM THIS RACE IN LABOR DAY TO NOW AND WHAT ARE YOU ABLE TO DO IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WHEN YOU'RE HERE?: "You asked about three questions there so I am going to try to get to all of them. The time difference and the date difference in the race, I mean certainly this used to be a night race and now it's a day race and certainly this time of year is the perfect time of year for us to be here weather-wise. You just can't beat this weather. Track temperature and everything is just perfect for the race cars. Anytime that we come out on the west coast, the teams are happy to have a day race because that means we get back home at a fairly decent hour instead of a day later and doesn't shorten our week up.
"Other than that, it doesn't matter when we race here and what the conditions are as long as it's the same for everybody. It was pretty extreme last year and I think that would have made a difference from the fans standpoint and choosing to come out here. I don't know why the sales are sometimes flat here. Its southern California, I think I made more of a comment about NFL franchises can't seem to make it work in this area so that tells me that it's a tough market. We have a great fan base out here, but is it big enough to handle two races at a facility like this? I don't know, only time will tell. I love coming out here. I love all the things there are to do, not just in L.A. and near the beach, but just in this surrounding area there's a lot of cool things to do.
"I enjoy this track very much and plus we've had good success on the track. If I said anything, I would totally be speculating, I don't have all the poles and the stats and the data that NASCAR and ISC has as to why fans come, why they don't and whose coming and whose not and whose interested in NASCAR and whose not or what other things are going on. That's their profession, mine is to drive the car the best I can."
IS THERE A CHANGE IN YOUR STRATEGY IN THE CHASE WITH TALLADEGA LATER IN THE SCHEDULE?: "The bottom line is that it still comes in the 10. You still have to deal with the same situation. The crash is going to happen it's just whether or not you are going to get caught up in it or not. Whether it comes early in the race or late in the race. I don't know, I think what's going to happen is there's going to be a little more pressure on the guys that are really in the heat of the battle for the championship and whoever they are, I hope I'm one of them, that's what's going to make you decide how you approach that race. You can go into Talladega being aggressive or you can go into Talladega being extremely conservative and both ways can be good and both ways can be bad. I've never found any real set way of making it work.
"Things are changing at Talladega, we saw that this last race with the bump drafting and these guys pushing one another around, being able to take two cars and drive to the front and be able to settle it between themselves. That's only going to grow this next time and possibly change the outcome of the race and how it's run this time. The fact that Talladega is in the final 10 is the biggest unknown factor there is so it's not necessarily when it comes in the Chase."
HOW WILL THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS AFFECT THE RACING AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY?: "I think that's going to be a huge plus for this race track and this race. We've definitely seen the cars get spread out here pretty quick. It's a big, fast race track and I think a double-file restart is going to keep us bunched up together, it's going to raise the intensity level and it's going to cause a little bit more excitement. I think it's been a positive everywhere we've gone and I think this is a track where it will continue to be a big positive for."
DO YOU HAVE A FITNESS PROGRAM AND HAVE YOU ACCELERATED IT DURING THE CHASE?: "I can't say it's accelerated for the Chase. I think that most of when it gets accelerated is during the off-season when you have more time to spend at the gym or I like to get out riding my bike. I think that I've just been trying to maintain as much fitness as I can during the season. It's tough, that's the biggest challenge I've always had with it is that you get into a regiment and the season starts and all of the sudden you're having to fly to a city to do an appearance or you're going somewhere else to do a production day and all of the sudden you worked out one day that week instead of three and now all of the sudden you get off of your routine. For me, the most important thing is just trying to maintain a routine and I thank Blackberry because with Blackberry I have my schedule right in front of me, I can put it on my calendar, I can't have any excuses that I didn't see the calendar -- it's right there."
DO YOU WORK OUT AT THE RACE TRACK?: "I don't work out at the race track. Some guys do, I don't. The only thing I do is continue to do things for my back where I'm stretching. I do work with a chiropractor to do some adjustment and I do what they call Stem. I don't know how exactly it works, but it send electric current through the muscles to contract and release them that helps loosen everything up. That's what I do on the weekends."
-credit: gm racing