Fontana Preseason Thunder - Jeff Gordon press conference

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES PRESEASON THUNDER AT CALIFORNIA -- DAY 1 CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY January 31, 2008 JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media at California Speedway during preseason testing and discussed the test, the new Impala...

January 31, 2008

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media at California Speedway during preseason testing and discussed the test, the new Impala SS, racing Impala SS full-time in '08, difference in handling characteristics at California Speedway and more. Transcript follows:

THE MODERATOR: We have Jeff Gordon here, can you give us an overview on how your first day of testing went at California Speedway.

JEFF GORDON: It has gone really well. We learned a lot in Vegas, even though this is a different tire, we can get some information that can transfer with this car to California Speedway. We started the day off pretty decent I felt like today. I didn't really get to make any long runs; we were a little disappointed by that. We just ran out of time. So today we spent a lot more time on long runs. This tire at this track it falls off a lot more than it did at Vegas. Different tires, the issues we had at Vegas were totally different than here. We are really just trying to find grip as well as keep the speed in the car. Thought it was a good day. The weather was amazing. They are a little bit cooler temperatures than we know we are going to have here when we come back, than we would like to have testing because we want to have as true of reference as we can. All in all it was a good day.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q: Are you going to participate in the night session?

JEFF GORDON: No, we are going to do basically the same thing tomorrow as we did today. We will do the morning and afternoon. Our opinion was, again, we want the truest conditions of when we come back here that we possibly can. So, we really want the warmest track conditions we can get because the chances of it being this cool especially as cold as it is going to get tonight, really wasn't going to teach us what we need to learn. That is a call that Steve Letarte (crew chief) made. He and I discussed it but, that was his feeling and I agree. I think Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) is butt I don't think Jimmie (Johnson) or Casey (Mears) are going to.

Q: On what his first impressions of Junior were before he got to Cup and what his potential was going to be? Do you remember meeting him at North Wilkesboro?

JEFF GORDON: He was racing at North Wilkesboro with his sister at that time (laughs) so it was pretty funny because I was actually talking to Dale Sr. on pit road there that day. He introduced me to I think to both Kelly and Dale, Dale was pretty shy, like he is now. Quiet, didn't say a whole lot. I remember looking at the car and giving Sr. a hard time because he was making them work hard, put it that way (laughs). If he was successful out there on the track in the late models, or whatever kind of car that was that was driving, it wasn't because he had the best equipment, I can tell you that. I thought that was pretty interesting. I also thought it was pretty cool of Dale, Sr. to not just go out there and give them all the best stuff. I think he knew he was going to be under a microscope having that name and he did it for all the kids from what I understand. Any of them that got in to a race car, he wanted to make them work for it like he did and have to learn the cars, have to drive a lot of different types of equipment and work his way up to get him better equipment.

He didn't say a whole lot at that time, it was hard, it is not like I could give you a real good impression cause he was quiet and he was young. It wasn't until later I got to know him a little bit better.

Q: On his feeling if the rest of the field is playing catch-up to the Hendrick organization after your '07 success.

JEFF GORDON: It is funny because you can go to Phoenix last year, Jimmie won the race but I didn't feel like he had the best car. Carl Edwards was just killing everybody that day. I felt like Biffle and Kenseth were really strong as well. That is the way we always look at it is, that great teams win races and that is important. Jimmie's team was certainly great last year and our team was too. But, you still want to try and be the fastest car. I think both Jimmie and I admit that about half our races we won because we were the fastest car and half of them won because we were the better team or got ourselves in a good position.

We don't look at ourselves like hey, everybody is catching us. We look at that we have a good organization; great people and we have to capitalize on that every single year. Coming off the off-season, it is a whole new year, it is going to be interesting to see who the competition is and we just hope that we have done our homework and are fast. That is why these tests are so important, to see where we stack up with the competition. So far, from what I have seen, Gibbs and Roush particularly with the No. 99 car are very fast. I think we are close, but I can't necessarily say they are gunning for us right now. 2007 is gone.

Q: On how he feels California race will be like with Impala SS race car.

JEFF GORDON: Right now, we are really running more by ourselves, not in a pack or around a bunch of cars, but, still, as many cars that are here, you get around some cars. I got behind somebody today and it is pretty incredible the draft that you get here. I think you are really going to suck-up on guys if you get within two car lengths of them. But, as big of hole as that car is punching which is why we are really getting that great draft, it also doing that in the corner which is going to take downforce away. I think you are going to see guys really searching around the race track, making wide groves, which this track has offered in the past. I think we are going to see some great racing. But I also so think that qualifying and track position is going to be extremely important. It is hard to say until we really get out there and start racing which we never really do in testing. We are just trying to go fast. I felt like in Daytona, because we got in the draft, we really got to see what we are going to have and it is going to be spectacular there.

These types of tracks are a totally different challenge for us with this car. I just don't think we are going to be able to run a whole lot nose to tail, in tight packs. I think we are going to have to really spread out, but I think there should be a lot of passing. I just don't think it is going to be easy to drive up through the field if you are in the back to get to the front. I still think we should see some good racing when we get to these tracks.

This car favors engineering (laughs). The more time we, the teams, have spent with it, the better they get it to drive. The less it feels like a bigger, boxier car. I am impressed with what the teams have been able to do with it, which is kind of what NASCAR was shooting for. They had hoped that as the teams got more experience with the car, we would just continue to make it drive better and we have. We hope that correlates to better racing and more passing and all of those things.

It has certainly slowed the cars down. In Vegas, we looked at the telemetry from last year and we were 13 miles an hour slower in the middle of the corner with this car versus the old car. That was sort of the objective that they were searching for and safety and all those things. It is hard to say, but I am optimistic, I think the racing is going to be really good, but we won't know until we get back here for the race.

Q: On what are the fundamental differences between last year's car and this Impala SS on this track.

JEFF GORDON: Oh man, I don't have enough time (laughs) and need all my engineers here. As a driver? I mean, honestly, my car was driving pretty good today so I didn't feel that it changed dramatically, as much as I thought that it would. I guess the biggest thing is just feeling that draft down the straightaways and the change in the aerodynamics and grip when you are behind another car on the straightaway and in the corners. That is the biggest thing you noticed.

Q: On changes in the draft from first races here.

JEFF GORDON: No, this is different because there has always been somewhat of a draft that we have had here because of the long straightaways but we are talking significant. When you get up close in these cars, these cars take off. I mean like where you can pull out and go by them. But I don't know that when you pull out, your car once it sees the air, it is going stop or if the momentum is going to carry you on by. That is the question that we don't know. That is kind of what we have been seeing in Daytona, you get this really big push, but you can clear the car. We will see if that is the case here. Drafting to me has never really been that big of a deal here because even if you can hang with a guy down the straightaway, once you get to the corners, it really sort of evens itself out. I think with this car, the payoff down the straightaway could be really good.

Q: On handling disappointment of not winning championship after such a successful season last year.

JEFF GORDON: I think certainly it was disappointing to not win the championship. We had a very good year. I looked at the whole year like we were the most consistent team and we won races and we were solid. But, Jimmie won more races. They were faster than us for even the regular part of the season that continued in to the Chase. Our hope was that even if Jimmie is a little faster than us, hopefully over 10 races the consistency pays off and it didn't. We were very close, but just not close enough. For us that is just motivation to go faster. To know and see what our teammates have and the telemetry tells a lot of things and get ourselves to where our cars are the fastest cars out there as well and then hope we have the consistency and great teamwork behind it to gain that one spot in the points. You never know who you are going to be racing the championship for. I will take a year like last year every year. I have no issue with that. But, that doesn't stop us from trying to gain in areas we could have been better. I felt like speed-wise, we could have been a little bit better. It would have been nice going in to the Chase leading the points because we won as many or more races than the competition.

Q: On feeling of how Rick Hendrick came to his team first following Homestead race and Jimmie winning the championship.

JEFF GORDON: That is the kind of person Rick is. He the guy that when, whether it is for him when things aren't going well for him, he is having a bad day, he has been sick in the past, we had the tragedy with the plane crash, he is still always thinking of others. I think that is what kind of happened there.

He knew he was going to have plenty of time to celebrate with Jimmie, but I think he knew that having two teams come down to the wire, that it is the guy that finishes second that is feeling the disappointment and probably needs the pat on the back.

That is just the type of person that Rick is. I certainly have always appreciated that in him and tried to learn that myself. I think that had a lot to do with how I handled things with Jimmie over the last couple of years beating us for the championship, especially last year. He is an awesome guy. You love driving and working for a guy like that. I have been fortunate, this is my 16th year racing for him and can't think of racing for anybody else. Over those years, I don't think we have ever had a dispute. He has just been an incredible person to work for.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, Jeff.


-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Carl Edwards