JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed racing at Auto Club Speedway, the Daytona 500, addition of the spoiler and other topics. WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR SUNDAY'S RACE?: "I'm really ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed racing at Auto Club Speedway, the Daytona 500, addition of the spoiler and other topics.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR SUNDAY'S RACE?: "I'm really excited. We talked about it in Daytona and this is to me the real test of what we did over the off season and the improvements that we feel like we've made. The areas that we focus on from communication between Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and myself and the engineers and the whole team, not only in practice, but throughout the race. We implemented that in Daytona and over the off season, but this is the real test because it's not a restrictor plate race, what inputs I put into the car really have an input into the results as well as what the team does instead of just going out there and holding it to the floor and drafting. I think we're certainly excited about this weekend and so far things went pretty well for us in practice."
DOES THE CHANGE TO THE SPOILER CHANGE HOW THIS RACE GAUGES THE STRENGTH OF TEAMS?: "I think strong teams are strong teams. They could change the car every week and I still think the strong teams are going to shine. There's no doubt that dynamic of how people are going to adapt to it and the homework that's done in the balance change, down force changes and what you have to do to your car when that spoiler comes around to make sure that you are still very competitive. That's certainly going to be a big challenge for all the teams. We would like to think that at Hendrick Motorsports we're as good or better than anybody out there at adapting to those changes, but we won't know until that time comes. We will do some tests and we will get some better indications from that, but this race still is very important because we're still trying to get bonus points for wins, we're still trying to make it into the Chase and with our 26th-place finish in Daytona, we've got some work to do."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE SHOULD BE TWO RACES AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY?: "One thing I've learned throughout the years, this is my 18th season, is that whether there's 10 races or one race, it is not up to me. I really try not to get too opinionated when it comes to those areas. It's a big business. I'm so thankful that I'm a part of a sport that has as many fans as we do and gets to go to these incredible race tracks that we go to. I grew up racing all over the country, but in the Midwest racing midgets and sprint cars, there weren't 30 and 50 and hundreds of thousands of people sitting in the grandstands. We didn't have sponsors like ours plastered all over my uniform, I didn't get paid what I get paid. I'm not going to make those decisions or influence those decisions. I feel like I'm really excited that we come here to Southern California. I've always loved this track, it's been good to me and I hope that the business side of it and the marketing side of it for our sport works out to where we can come here and continue to come here twice a year. Again, it's not up to me."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE WING PACKAGE FOR THE REST OF THE SUPERSPEEDWAY RACES THIS YEAR?: "I'm sure NASCAR is sitting there thinking, 'It never fails, whenever we decide to implement a change, we have one of the best races that we've had.' I thought the Daytona race was spectacular. The swapping positions, side-by-side battles, the way the cars drove -- they were challenging to drive so it made it a total team effort. I thought it was some of the best that I've seen. Unfortunately we had the issue with the hole in the track, but if you take that part of it out, it was pretty spectacular. I really think that some of the changes that they're implementing are a little more for Talladega than they are for Daytona and really for the other tracks. Because I think the fans want to see it, we would like to see and we've always wanted to see more front down force with this car, not necessarily more overall down force, but more front down force. It looks like that spoiler, from early indications, might do that for us. It's hard to get your mind wrapped around it and it is for me to because I'm not an engineer, but there's just these high pressure areas on the car when you put a big blade back there that the wing is not doing currently. We might actually be able to shift some from down force to the car with adding a spoiler onto the back. That's what I'm anxious to see and I'm anxious to see what it does for us out on the race track whether it's Daytona or Talladega or wherever we go. I thought the tire package, the restrictor plate package, the wing, the wicker and all those things we had at Daytona really matched up well for everybody at Daytona. At Talladega, I don't know if it would be quite the same, but we'll see what the spoiler does."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE PATCH BEING CONCRETE?: "I've got a lot of confidence. Who did that impact the most with that happening? It impacted Daytona International Speedway and NASCAR. They are going to do everything they possibly can and you've got to understand that none of us want them to repave that race track. The racing is too good, the cars are slipping and sliding around and that's a lot of fun and I think it's very exciting for the fans. If they repave that race track and took out the bumps and made the track smooth and have a lot of grip, it doesn't necessarily mean that its going to make for a better race, it really might do the opposite. I think that it sounds to me like what they would like to do is try to maintain as much of what they have there, but prevent the issue that happened from happening again. I support that."
HOW IMPORTANT IS MOMENTUM COMING OFF OF THIS RACE?: "There's a couple different ways that we look at it. I've been doing this a long time and I've come out of Daytona with a win and stunk the rest of the season and I've come out of there with a bad finish like we had this year and gone on to win the championship. You can't put too much into what happens at Daytona, but this race is important. It's not even as important as where you finish, of course you want to finish well, but it's how we run, it's how we are as a team. It's important for us to get laps and show our strengths on the track as well as on pit road and throughout the day. I think that will do more for us moving forward throughout the season than anything and build our confidence up and make sure that we can put a lot of strong finishes together.
"Last year, another example, we came out of the box, not Daytona, but from here through the next like eight races, I felt like we were the best team.
In some ways it hurt us for the championship because we were probably a little more hasty to make any big changes or to do anything. We just kept fine-tuning and that wasn't enough to make us a strong enough team when it really counted. We didn't get the wins that I felt like we were capable of or should have. We're going to look at this season a little bit different. I think we're going to be more aggressive. We want those bonus points, we want those wins. I think you have to get through the first five races to see where we're at in the points, but I think you have to be very aggressive the first five, try to get some bonus points, try to establish yourself. If you're at a deficit in the points, then you have to start putting the consistency together to make sure you're in the Chase. If you're still up there, if you've done a great job of it and you're up there in the points then you can continue to be aggressive and you have to continue to push those limits all the way until that Chase starts and then regroup, evaluate things and go for those last 10."
HOW HAS THE CAR CHANGED IN YOUR 18 YEARS IN NASCAR?: "The cars really haven't changed that much until we went to this new car -- the Impala SS, a couple years ago, but the technology is what has changed so much. How we analyze the data that we gather from the Pi systems. How we use the wind tunnel and the scale models and all these things. To me, I look back at when I first started. We would go to Charlotte with a 2100-pound right-front spring in the car and then 10 years later you want a 500-pound spring. It's just really crazy how we've learned so much about the attitude and the aerodynamics of the car and really what puts all the grip in there. By putting a lot more down force in the cars, it's not the slight body changes over the years, it's the teams understanding what's going on out there and how to make the cars go faster just by the tools that we have. You can never step back from there. Once you learn that the front of the car sealed up on the race track and get the back end propped up as much as you can and start learning about side force and now we're twisting the car sideways and you do all those things, you never step back from that. It doesn't matter what they do to change the car. There's no doubt it's changed. The competition has improved dramatically. Look at the number of failures, especially under the hood, very few failures happen these days. My first four or five years, a lot of the championships were won just by not having failures. If you were a guy that never had an engine failure all year long, you would probably finish in the top-five in points.
"These days, you finish in the top-five in points because you're winning races and you're pushing hard and running up front. That's where some of the physical fitness, I believe, has come along too. You have to maintain just because you have to push a lot harder just from the time the green flag drops to the checkered and throughout the whole season."
HOW MUCH DOES NASCAR NEED DALE EARNHARDT JR. TO PERFORM WELL? "It's absolutely important and anybody out here that feels like that's a joke is only kidding themselves. I walked in here today, looked at the number of cameras and I said, 'Danica Patrick must be here this weekend.' I look at that as a good thing. She's bringing a lot of attention to the sport and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior has that same thing about him. When he's doing well and the spotlights on him, it brings more attention to the sport and it helps and benefits all of us, no doubt about it. What's important is that those types of individuals in any sport that they do well, but that you do a little bit better. You want to benefit from what they're bringing, but you want to make sure that your team and you put yourself to be the best out there and recognize what those people add to the sport."
-source: gm racing