Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Cromax Pro Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the Chase, the affect of the hot temperatures on a driver, working with Kyle Busch the rest of this season, his thoughts on bonus points for wins and...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Cromax Pro Monte Carlo SS, met with members of the media and discussed the Chase, the affect of the hot temperatures on a driver, working with Kyle Busch the rest of this season, his thoughts on bonus points for wins and racing at Richmond.
WOULD YOU BE SURPISED IF ALL 12 SPOTS WERE LOCKED UP AFTER THIS WEEKEND? "I don't know, I haven't even paid attention to it to be honest. I just know we've had a great year and got ourselves in (the Chase) a couple of weeks ago. To me it's only about the guys right now battling for 12th and 13th of who's going to make it in there at the end. So I still think there's a little bit of a battle going on there and that's all I know."
HAVE DRIVERS FIGURED OUT MORE HOW TO GET INTO THE CHASE AND HAS IT TAKEN SOME OF THE SUSPENSE OUT OF IT? "I think every year it's just going to be different. It just depends on how a team performs week in and week out and year to year it's always going to be different. Just like with the championship with the points system, sometimes you'd have it come down to the final race, sometimes it'd be wrapped up (with) five to go. You just never know."
HOW DOES THE HEAT AFFECT THE DRIVER WITH THE TRIPLE DIGIT TEMPERATURES HERE? "It's going to be hot on Sunday for sure and being hydrated is going to be important. Luckily this isn't a real physically demanding race track so that side of it shouldn't be too bad. Most of what we deal with when it's hot like this is track temperature. We're seeing track temperatures almost 150 degrees and that's just unheard of, that's pretty crazy so you basically have about a half to three quarters of a lap of good grip in the tires and then you really start sliding around so getting the car handle to well on a hot race track is going to be the biggest challenge we have all weekend."
IN THESE CONDITIONS DO YOU LOSE A FEW POUNDS AFTER THE RACE? "I lose a few pounds or more every weekend. Yeah, like I said there's some tracks like Watkins Glen or Bristol, if it's warm there you're probably going to lose the most weight. Here this weekend just the sheer heat is definitely going to make us lose some weight. It shouldn't be a big deal."
WITH HALF THE CHASE RACES USING THE NEW GENERATION RACE CAR, DO YOU FEEL LIKE SOME OF THE OTHER DRIVERS HAVE CAUGHT UP WITH YOU? "For sure, for sure. I think we got a jump start. We came very well prepared at the beginning of the year and I just think there was a lot of room for improvement for some teams and not much room for improvement for us and we've kind of been at a stand still where we've made tiny, small, increment changes and improvements and other guys have made huge improvements and caught up to us so we definitely don't have the advantage through the Chase that we did earlier in the season."
HOW MUCH DOES THAT CONCERN YOU? "I still think we're a solid, strong team and we're going to perform well, we're going to run well. Certain tracks that I feel like we ran well at earlier in the year, I think we're still going to run well at - New Hampshire, Martinsville, those types of tracks. Then there's some that we got to get better at."
ON JOE GIBBS RACING POSSIBLY GOING TO TOYOTA NEXT YEAR: "Well they're a strong organization, strong team, good drivers and I think that would be a good move for Toyota and it could possibly work out well for Gibbs too. We'll just have to see. Everybody talks about the engineering and technology that Toyota can bring and yet they haven't seen the results so far this year. So you put them with a top organization like Gibbs and I think they'll finally start to see the results that they're looking for, but is that going to take Gibbs to the next level or hold them back? I think that's probably the real question."
ON HAVING A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM GIVING TOYOTA MORE QUALITY FEEDBACK: "Yes, I can tell you that I don't think that the Gibbs teams are in it to try to give Toyota feedback to give to other teams (laughs). They want to position themselves to be more competitive. That's all they care about. That's all any of the top teams care about. You got to ask the question, what would encourage them to do that? Obviously financially would be one (reason) and then to make their teams go faster so obviously they think that there's something there that will help them go faster and we believe being with General Motors is what's going to keep us going fast."
IN THE SHORT TERM, DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE INEVITABLE THAT GIBBS WOULD HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF A DROP OFF NEXT YEAR IF THEY GO THAT DIRECTION? "Yes and no, it depends. You've got the development of the engines and the cars and everything for one year going into it. I think had they gone to it this year, yes, but going into it next year.you know, there's going to be some transition and change over. I don't know enough about all the details of it to know. If they're doing their own engines, I think that they've got something very solid to work with and they know what their Chevy engine's doing right now and they know what they got to compare to and what's made it successful and work and try to take the new engine, compare it that and try to make it better. That's to me the plus that they have and I think that's one of the reasons why Bill Davis Racing has done well this year even though they've had some engine trouble. I think they've been the most competitive Toyotas out there and mainly it's because they're an established team that has experience working together and they do all their stuff in house, they don't have it sent to them from a factory."
WILL IT CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT YOU TELL KYLE BUSCH ABOUT YOUR CAR KNOWING HE'S GOING TO ANOTHER MANUFACTURER NEXT YEAR? "Not at this point, no. Nope, it doesn't change.we need information from him to help win the championship just like he needs it from us and we're trying to get a championship for ourselves first and then if we can't get it done hopefully one of our teammates does. You know what? I'd be happy if I can't get it done, Jimmie can't get it done, I'd be very happy for Hendrick and for Rick and for Kyle and for Alan and the entire team if they pull it off. So I'm going to give him everything I can. Next year is next year."
DO YOU THINK 10 POINTS IS ENOUGH FOR A WIN IN TERMS OF THE SEEDING WHEN THE CHASE STARTS? "No, I think it's pretty good the way it is. I think that it's a huge incentive and you see guys pushing hard to try to get those bonus points and that's the only thing that's going to separate you from the others. I think any more than that and you might have too much separation if somebody goes on a big win spree so I think it's working pretty good."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A REWARD FOR SOMEONE LIKE YOURSELF IF YOU HAVE A 200-POINT LEAD AND GET MAYBE AN EXTRA 10 POINTS? "I do think there should be some incentive for the guy who's leading at 26. I think that you put a lot into the 26 races and basically you can end up 12th in the points and all of what you've done up to this point is pretty much gone so yes I would like to see them have either bonus points or some sort of a bonus whether it's money or points or something to reward what you've done for anybody that's been in this position. I don't know, I haven't thought enough about how it should be structured but I do know that when it all comes down to 10 races it's not the best scenario but I also think that we've got advantages that do come along with being the points leader. We were locked in fairly early. We've been able to focus on some other things. We've got our pit stall this weekend. We don't have to worry about teaming up with anybody else so there are small incentives that come along with it."
WOULD YOU ARGUE THAT WINS ARE ALMOST WORTH MORE DURING THE FIRST 26 RACES THAN THEY ARE DURING THE CHASE SINCE YOU DON'T GET BONUS POINTS IN THE FINAL 10 RACES? "(Laughs) Where are you from dude? Yeah obviously, because a win is never just a win. In the final 10 races if you're going for the Cup and you win the race, it's huge. Just because it doesn't pay 10 bonus points doesn't mean anything. You want the win and you want the points that come along with it, you want the momentum, you want everything that is going to help you win a championship which is really what we're all here to do."
ON RETURNING TO RICHMOND WITH THE IMPALA SS: "I love Richmond. Richmond's a great track. It's nice to be in the position we're in this year where we don't have to sweat it and we ran well there earlier in the season so I'm looking forward to going back. The thing is there's just not a lot on the line other than the 10 bonus points for us so we're treating that race just like we do this race. Maybe we can learn a little bit with the Car of Tomorrow but we're going in there pretty relaxed, going to go in there and enjoy ourselves and try to fight hard, try to get a win."
WILL IT BE A DIFFERENT TYPE OF RACE IN RICHMOND WITH MOST OF THE TOP 12 DRIVERS LIKELY BEING LOCKED IN? "Very possibly, yeah. I think that it could be a race where guys are just really fighting hard to get those bonus points and get themselves positioned a little bit better for when we get to New Hampshire and the Chase starts so that's not a bad thing either. That could be just as exciting as guys trying to make it in the Chase."
WITH SAFETY IMPROVING SO MUCH, DO YOU PEOPLE REALLY REALIZE THE DANGERS? "The competitors certainly know that you don't want to put yourself in that position, you don't to go through it. I think it goes in cycles. For the competitors and for the fans and the media where when it seems like we'll see crashes and no injuries and we see safety advances and we get comfortable with it and think everything (is) looking good, we're fine, we've got nothing to worry about then boom, one thing happens, somebody gets hurt and it wakes everybody up and then we start focusing a little bit harder and taking it a little more serious. I've just seen it go in cycles like that for years and it's just the way our sport is."
ON PEOPLE SEEING DRIVERS GET OUT OF THE CAR AFTER A CRASH AND PEOPLE GETTING THE SENSE THE DRIVER IS FINE: "Well yeah because most of the time the adrenalin is flowing and you don't feel the pain at the moment. When I hit at Texas a few years back there was an in-car camera and showed that I was hurting pretty bad. It knocked the wind out of me and bruised some ribs and so I was in a lot of pain so maybe people thought about it then. Even though we get out we're still bumped and bruised and a lot of times it's a concussion that you don't even realize you have until a day or two later. The cameras don't follow us then so that's the nature of the business as well."
DID IT SURPRISE A LOT OF COMPETITORS THAT DENNY HAMLIN HAS BEEN SO CONSISTENT THIS QUICK OUT OF THE GATE? "Sure, it always does. Obviously the Gibbs team is a good solid team but you never know with a young, new guy whether they're going to do well (or) not do well. And I think Denny's impressed a lot of people. I mean he certainly impressed me. Probably the most impressive thing that he did last year I thought was how competitive he was at Martinsville. I think Martinsville is one of the toughest tracks out there. Of course his Pocono races were pretty phenomenal too and those two tracks are very tough race tracks so it says a lot about his talent."
IF YOU COULD DO DINNER WITH ANYONE IN THE SPORT, PAST OR PRESENT, WHO WOULD IT BE? "Probably Bill France Sr."