Jeff Gordon, N. 24 Dupont CHEVROLET met with media and discussed racing his way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, his approach for the 10-race Chase, sharing information at Hendrick Motorsports, and more.
Talk about making the chase and preparing to win another championship: "It was huge. And we're still feeling the impacts of that performance. The whole team is extremely fired up and excited about the way things have been going; and to be able to pull that off gives us a huge boost. We're ready to go get after it here in Chicago this weekend. We feel like we've got a good game plan and a great race car and the stash is back, so I think we're in great shape."
You spoke often before you made the chase that you felt like your team was running well enough to be a chase team this year. Is that a positive, going forward, in the sense that you already felt like you were competitive enough? Do you feel you're in a better position having run that well all season? "Yes. I think the only way that you don't hear from us in the Chase is some of the same things that bit us earlier in the year bite us again.
If we finish where we're running and where are performance level is at, then we're going to be a major threat in this thing.
And we've done that the last three weeks. We've done it sporadically throughout the year, but we just didn't do it that consistently and you can point fingers at a lot of different reasons. And I'm the biggest believer in on you make your luck by being the best team out there. And I don't feel like we've been the best team out there so far this season.
"But what I love about the Chase is that it's all about timing. If you pull it together and you improve those things in areas that you're weak in at the right time and make your way into it; and Tony (Stewart) proved that last year that anything is possible and especially after Saturday night's performance (at RIR), we definitely feel like this season has just now been rejuvenated for us and we're on a clean slate and we've got an excellent opportunity to do something pretty spectacular that we might not have even expected with this season and the way it could possibly turn out."
You've been of the mindset that it's win, or go home since mid-season. Has that mindset changed now? "I can promise you; that's what got us in this thing and that's what's going to keep us in it and get us the championship. If anything, I think what these last three weeks; and really this season has proven to us is that you have to aggressively pursue wins and obviously accumulate the most points.
That's what wins this championship. And we know that we've got to accumulate basically 12 more than any and nine more than a bunch of other guys and six more and three more than others; so we certainly have our work cut out for us. But, we're going to go out there with nothing to lose and everything to gain, just the same way that we've approached these last races in the last several weeks."
You were pretty hot going into the chase last year and then it obviously didn't go exactly as planned. Can you compare where you were a year ago versus right now? "I feel like last year we just didn't start the Chase off the way that I felt like we needed to and I think maybe some of it was that we didn't have that 'win or nothing' type attitude.
We kind of got into to the all right, we've got 10 weeks and you've got to be consistent and kind of do what's gotten us here. And that's not the case for us this year. We didn't expect to be here.
The pressure is not on us right now. It's obviously on the guys who are favored and we can go out there and just be aggressive and do our thing and do it under that radar; where last year I feel like we were one of the favorites going in.
"We just did not pursue the wins as aggressively as we are going to this time and I also feel like we just didn't step up when we needed to. I don't know if we went into it quite like we have this year and certainly under a lot different circumstances. Over those 10 weeks, we just failed. So, we're going to try to do it differently this time."
"I don't know. I haven't won a championship since 2001, so it's not that unfamiliar. Certainly this is a much different situation and position to be in this year than we have in the past, yes."
After Richmond, dale Earnhardt jr. Joked that what would be different about having four Hendrick cars in the chase might be that the Saturday briefings get a lot shorter. Are you expecting information-sharing to be more challenging? Has is happened that way in the past as in 2007 when you and Jimmie Johnson were going head-to-head? "I don't expect that to really happen this weekend, but I think that in five or six weeks if all four of us are in it or if two or three of us or however it works out, if you're going to be competing with that individual right up until the final races of the Chase, then it's almost impossible not to have some information sharing be a little less or be a little more challenging.
And that's just the competitive nature. But, the thing is, what's different these days versus maybe say '07, we have a data base that information is put into (for) every test, every practice session and every adjustment that is made, every comment that is made.
"So the way we look at it these days is okay, we might go into the meeting and not be a full wide-open book. And the reason we sometimes would do that is just because it's in the database. If you want it, do to the database; it just takes a little more time and effort and ciphering. So, that's kind of that way that when we've gotten into these types of situations, which we've been in before, it's kind of the way it goes down and that's fine.
Rick (Hendrick) expects us and we expect ourselves, to what we have to do to win races and win the championship. What got us here is working together. What's going to get us that championship, or one of these teams that championship, is going to be working together. But we understand that a little bit more is one the line now and it will be a challenge, and that's fine."
You've used the word 'aggressive' several times. Are you going to have to be more aggressive than you've ever had to be in any championship to date? "Possibly. I haven't won a Chase, so I have to obviously do it differently than we've done in the past because that hasn't worked. You have a certain style and mentality of how you go about races; and what I love about our team here recently, and I think Michigan was the turning point for us. We had that bad race in Michigan and the failure with the engine.
"This team, especially (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) got angry; not angry at the organization (but) angry that we're better than this and we could do better than this and that we're in control of how we manage these next several races. And Alan took control of that and just the whole meetings and the debriefs and everything he just kind of ramped it up to another level of 'we're not going to stand for this'. And he got all of our attention.
It scared the hell out of me, to be honest. He scared me a couple of times (laughs), and that's what it takes to be a great leader. And look where we are now. I think you're going to see that continuing. So, everybody things of aggressiveness as you just get going there and knock the guy out of the way, you know? That doesn't do you any favors; it doesn't make you any friends; it doesn't necessarily get you in the Chase.
"Thankfully I can say that because I didn't have to do that to Denny (Hamlin) in Atlanta and here we are and we're in it (the Chase). But, you've got to be aggressive in how you push mentally in preparing for a race and the calls that you make. I had to laugh because everybody this week was like oh that's the Jeff Gordon of old right there.
I was driving way harder and more aggressively in the beginning of that race in Richmond trying to hold onto that thing because it was so out of control-loose, than I was in the closing laps. In the closing laps I had a car that I could dive three-wide and that I could make some of those moves because we were moving forward and so when we have that car, you're going to see that. And that's to me, not something that's changed.
That's the position you've got to put yourself into. During that race, we aggressively made pig changes because we were so far away and so far behind. And that's sometimes what happens. You get in that box like those other five or six guys. They got in that box. They got a little comfortable and said okay, we'll be okay even though we didn't pit here and for us, were kind of in that position of we've got nothing to lose.
Let's put four tires on here and go. So, we've got to keep that in mind as we run these races, to keep that up."
Las Vegas odds say you are 25 to 1. How would you gauge your odds with this team? "Well, if I were setting the odds in Vegas I would probably not be too far off in that. I might not put us at 25-1, but if you just base it off of the last three or four races that we've run. But, we definitely have some work to do. We've got a few weaknesses.
It's not like all of a sudden magically they're going to turn around. Just like that race on Saturday. We went from going right to all of a sudden everything was going right. Sometimes that can happen. When that momentum shift happens, all of a sudden the pit stops get better.
All of a sudden the cars get better and the communication gets better and it just starts making things work. We've done that the last three works and proven to ourselves what we're capable of doing.
"Now we've got to go do it over the next 10 weeks. And everything changes here, this weekend. Everybody ramps up. Everybody brings out their best. And we're going to find out if our best is capable of winning the championship. We don't go off the odds and stats. We just go put the best thing underneath us we can on and then fight for the last lap and wee where we end up.
Can you talk about where your program stands as far as sponsorships? Apparently dale junior isn't fully sponsored for 2013. For a guy who've been in the sport for a long time, what do you see as the obstacle? What are the challenges and what does your program look like as well? "Our program is all set for next year. I don't know where we are beyond that. But I think that these are tough times. There is no doubt about it.
If you just look at what's happening in the market place in general in TV coverage and costs of getting the fans the way we just to get them; just packing every race every weekend; and the costs for them to get to those races, hotel rooms, fuel prices and everything. And that's what the sponsors react to are people there at the track and people watching at home.
So, those things have all been challenged and yet the cost of the sport has not gone down. It continues to go up. And so we're asking more of our sponsors. So there definitely are challenges. But I tell you, this year; and really, ever since last year's Chase. The sport has really made a great rebound.
Tony's (Stewart) and Carl's (Edwards) performance last year I think gave a great-boost. And then I think you're seeing a very exciting this year. And I think all those things are just continuing to help rebound and get more attention and that's what the sponsor is going to react to.
I can't comment on the other teams because I don't know. That was a pretty cool announcement that they just made in here (media center) with Best Buy and we're certainly looking good with where we're at. I feel very comfortable with where the future is but certainly for 2013, we're solid."
Source: Team Chevy Racing