Indianapolis: Jeff Gordon - NASCAR teleconference, part 1

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jeff Gordon July 20, 2010 An interview with: JEFF GORDON HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We're in advance of the very special event, Sunday's Brickyard 400...

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jeff Gordon
July 20, 2010

An interview with:
JEFF GORDON

HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We're in advance of the very special event, Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Joined today by a four-time Brickyard 400 champion. He's also four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

Jeff, thanks for joining us. A big week, always a big week for you, growing up in Indiana. You've done so much in your career, so many great accomplishments. Where do all those Brickyard 400 victories rank for you on a personal level?

JEFF GORDON: They're huge for me. I wasn't born there, but went to high school there, growing up there. Not just that, but being born in California, racing was everything to me. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500, guys like Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, all those guys were heroes of mine that I aspired to be.

Living in Indiana, racing around Indiana, Indianapolis Raceway Park, the fairgrounds, Bloomington, all over the place, it was every short track open-wheel Sprint Cup driver's dream to race at Indianapolis one day.

To be able to do that in the very first ever stock car race there, NASCAR race in '94, win it, then go on to win it three more times is something that I probably put up as the highest accomplishments of my career.

HERB BRANHAM: Thanks for that opener. We'll go to the media now for questions.

Q: What is your take on what happened Saturday night in the Nationwide race between Carl and Brad? Do you believe there should be anything handed down from NASCAR because of that?

JEFF GORDON: Well, just glad that I'm not the one making those decisions. You know, I think it's been well-documented this year that NASCAR is allowing the racing to be more in the drivers' hands, to try to stay out of some of those incidents that are judgment calls.

Probably it's hard to really say just because there is a little bit of a past history with those two. You don't really know what all has gone on over the years with them that has brought it to this point.

But just looking at the incidents, looked to me like Brad got into him a little bit getting into one, but was just racing hard for the position, for the win. Then what Carl did I felt like was definitely out of line. I felt like it was over and above what needed to be done.

Again, you don't know what kind of bad blood there is between the two. Whether or not NASCAR gets involved in it, I think two, three, four, five years ago, I would have thought absolutely they would have done something, maybe taken the win away or docked points or a fine or something like that. Today, it's letting the guys race. That means that I'm sure you'll want to watch the future Nationwide races and those guys battling one another, and in the Cup Series as well. You just know there's going to be more to come.

Q: Jeff, since it's been more than half a season with the self-policing, can you describe how much or if it's really changed that significantly out on the track, how you guys handle each other? At what point will it get to be where NASCAR has to step in and kind of rein guys back a little bit?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, that's kind of where I'm anxious to see how far it's going to be taken before they do step in or if they step in. Those are some questions that I have for Robin and Mike and Darby and Hoots. It's a question I think on a lot of people's minds that, This is great, but what's too much?

Right now what I saw happen Saturday night, to me that was right there on that edge of crossing the line if not possibly crossing the line. So it's kind of a new era now. In the past, like I said, I would have immediately thought something would have been done.

The thing is, the drivers have always taken care of these things on track, whether you knew about them or not. They just weren't maybe as much out in the open because there would be a fine or there would be some kind of penalty handed down immediately. So you thought from an outsider's standpoint, That's over. But, trust me, as a driver, that was not over, that was not the end of it.

Just how racers go about it, they log that in the back of their mind, and there's going to be a time and a day. The payback might not necessarily be the same thing that was handed down to you. It could be something different.

You're usually going to try to make life miserable for them or do something that is considered necessarily payback that takes away either points or a good finish or makes for a bad day or tears up a racecar. Could be a lot of things.

Who's to say where that line is at right now. But I definitely have some questions when I get to the track to kind of try to clarify that a little bit for myself.

Q: The Brickyard 400 is maybe the only major race where we haven't had what you would call a fluke kind of winner over the years. What do you think is the reason for that? Is it just it's so hard to drive there, so much pressure? What is your thinking on that?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, you know, Indianapolis is a really unique racetrack. It's unlike any track that we go to. Track position has always been crucial there, great horsepower. But, you know, lately the way that we've learned how to aerodynamically get the attitude on the car, seal off the air all the way around the car to really maximize the downforce and the grip through the corners, I mean, some guys are doing it with soft springs, some guys are doing it with big springs. There's a lot of different ways to make your car go fast there.

We've sort of seen some trends recently where, you know, track position has just become more crucial there than at most tracks we go to. It's a one-groove racetrack. It kind of always has been. You used to be able to get up on a guy, catch the draft on the straightaway, get a run on him, something to where you could make some moves, make some things happen. These days, it just doesn't seem to be the case as much.

You got to have a fast racecar and you can't make mistakes. That's what we saw last year. Juan Pablo had a great racecar. I think he had the car to beat. One little mistake took him out of it. That's what you've got to do at the Brickyard to win, is get yourself in position, have a fast racecar, then not make mistakes.

Q: Jeff, there's no question about what the Brickyard means to drivers. We see the emotion every time somebody wins it. But there's also no question you hear fans complaining the racetrack is too narrow, racing is too single file. Can this be a great race if it's not always a great race to watch?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I think so. I mean, because, you know, to me what is it that makes a great race? Well, a great race is not always two- and three-wide racing. A great race could be pit strategy, it could be a car dominating, then makes a mistake, who capitalizes on the mistakes. It could come down to a green-white-checkered, which still is going to be exciting, especially now with the double-file restarts that we have.

Those things create a lot of excitement and drama, which are to me what make a great race. Sometimes it might be a guy who's been so close, or a guy like Juan Pablo, he's won the Indianapolis 500, he was so close to winning it last year, seeing a guy like that win it. Or somebody like Jamie McMurray trying to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year, those types of things make for great story lines.

I think the racing itself, while it's not what we come to expect at our high-banked racetracks, it still is very exciting. Most of it's because of the history of the track, because of the prestige of the race, how that forces people to push as hard as they possibly can, which a lot of times can force you to make mistakes.

Q: Chip Ganassi was saying yesterday he thought the spoilers on the cars this year might be able to have the cars race a little closer together than they have in the past with the wing. Do you think that might be the case or is the spoiler not a factor as far as you're concerned?

JEFF GORDON: I like the spoiler. I like what it's doing to the cars. I like the way it looks. But from a performance standpoint, you know, it's very small change in performance.

You know, I think there's some things to be looked at with the cars as far as how we're sealing off the air around the cars which is making less air get to the rear or to the cars behind. I think there's some areas we can look into to enhance the spoiler, our boxier style cars compared to open-wheel cars and the stock cars themselves.

But I still think we have some of the best racing that's out there in motorsports around the world. I love that. You know, I think that the spoiler has been a good move. But I can't say I've seen a huge change. If anything, it's just been small.

Q: You talked a little bit before about what the race means to you at Indianapolis. Considering the momentum you're building, considering where you are in the points right now, also I guess considering the length of time between victories for you, is there a bit more urgency this year or would it be a bit more special to win this year than in the past?

JEFF GORDON: Well, there's no doubt it would be a huge, huge victory for us because of the reasons that you spoke about: not going to Victory Lane in a while. But yet look where we're at in the points, look at the top fives we've been putting together this year, especially recently. So we're knocking on the door. The timing might be just right.

Had a nice debrief after Chicago last week with the team. We're having another one when I get off the phone here to talk about the Brickyard, things that we're going to be trying during practice, things that our guys have been planning for probably months that we've talked about briefly and we're going to get into it and keep it fresh in our minds.

This is a big event. We know that. We know we're capable of winning. It's definitely getting down to crunch time for us getting in the Chase. It's not just about where we're at in points now; we need those bonus points to really prove to ourselves and everyone else that we can compete for this championship. I can't think of a better place to get 10 of those bonus points than this weekend at the Brickyard.

This place has been really good to us in the past. With the way things are going for us, I think we've got an excellent shot at it.

Q: I'd like your thoughts on another guy who came up about the same time as you. Bobby Labonte won a championship and the Brickyard. He's struggling just to have a job now. What do you think of a situation for a guy like that? Do you feel any different for someone like him than somebody just trying to make their name now?

JEFF GORDON: You know, I feel like it's always been known in our sport that somebody that is a past champion, such as Bobby, the caliber of driver that he is, that you're always solidly going to have a good ride. I feel like he still has a lot of good years left. He keeps himself in great shape. He's a smart driver.

But, you know, the move to Gibbs, however that happened, whether it was his choice or somebody else's choice, has definitely impacted his career. I speak to Bobby every once in a while in the garage, around the motor coach lot. It really is tough to not see him in a quality ride right now because I think he's very capable of getting that job done. Just looking at his past history in the sport, stats, what he's done, how he's worked so hard as it, too, it's tough to not see him in a ride that's giving him the results I know he's capable of.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Jamie McMurray , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Hendrick Motorsports