NEXTEL Wake-Up Call: Jeff Gordon Friday, Aug. 4, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway PAT SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this NEXTEL Wake-Up Call. It's great to...
NEXTEL Wake-Up Call: Jeff Gordon
Friday, Aug. 4, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
PAT SULLIVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this NEXTEL Wake-Up Call. It's great to have with us a gentleman for whom the Rookie of the Year at Bloomington Speedway is named, I might add. But he's also, by the way, four-time champion of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, Jeff Gordon.
One quick business item. I'm going to try to repeat every question because this is being transcribed, so being a little patient. We'll try to repeat the question.
First off, Jeff, we got a call from Sam Hornish, Jr., who won the Indianapolis 500. You might know he is an avid bowler, so he wants to know what you've got.
JEFF GORDON: Well, obviously, I don't have what he has. I saw him bowl last night. He's quite a bowler. I mean, I think that, you know, if this racing thing doesn't work out for him, he's got a chance there at the professional bowling tour. He's really good. He would crush me. But we had a lot of fun last night for everybody that came out. I just can't thank them enough for making such a successful event for Riley Hospital for Children here in Indiana and Indianapolis. It was our fifth annual event, we had a great time; and thanks to Sam and a lot of other drivers, that came out and helped to make it very successful.
SULLIVAN: Thank you, also. It's very important part of our community, as well. We appreciate it. Both of my children received some treatment there, and so your efforts are really greatly appreciated. Questions?
Q: Jeff, might this not be the best place for you to do it from the standpoint of it being a very friendly place, very renowned place and place where you've had success? Would this be the friendliest place to tie the 76 wins of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.?
GORDON: I mean, I just want to win. It doesn't matter to me where it happens, how it happens. I would love to get to 76. That's certainly not my goal when I go out there, you know, and start the races, that we're out to reach a certain number. We're just out there to win every single weekend; we're giving it our best effort. This definitely, you know, I feel like our team has some momentum right now. We come off a great run at Pocono. We've gotten a couple of wins, and I feel like we're starting to come into our own. And this track has been good to us. So I feel like our opportunity to win here, you know, is good. We always seem to shine at this track and with things going well for us right now, I'm very excited about getting out there even though we didn't have a very good test. We only got one day in and we had a lot of rain. So the conditions weren't the best. So I really have no idea what we do have. But I can't think of a better place to pull off a win right now for us and gain momentum than right here. I mean, you know, to get No. 5 and also to tie Dale Earnhardt, it almost sounds too good to be true. At this point I'm thinking that it is, and we're just going to go out there and give it our best effort and see what happens.
Q: Would you rather tie Earnhardt for the sake of his following, his residual following, would you rather tie it here than, say, at Talladega or somewhere else?
GORDON: You know what? Really honestly, it matters -- it does not matter to me where or if it even happens. I'm content with being at 75, you know. I want to just continue to battle for wins, and I'm not going to pick or choose where I want it to happen. It certainly isn't going to be based on what I think the crowd reaction is going to be.
Q: Jeff, everybody's definition of give and take has kind of evolved. Is the definition of give and take on the track changing as we get closer to the Chase?
GORDON: Definitely think so. As the intensity increases, just because of competition, we see less give and take. If you're battling for a championship, you see less give and take. Right now when you're battling to be in the Chase, that's almost as if it's battling for the championship. It's almost as if it's its own championship within the season, you know, because if you make it in that Chase, you've got a legitimate shot at the championship. So I think that, you know, right now, yeah, you're going to really start to see it increase each and every week, especially as we get to Richmond. Any track that is a tough track to pass on that has more of a one-groove racetrack, you're going to see less give and take just because it's harder to pass. You know, if we get in a big, wide track like Michigan, then you won't see as much of that. This is a very tough racetrack to pass on. You could see a little bit of it here. You get to a short track like Bristol, you're going to see a lot less of it there.
Q: Jeff, are you guys where you need to be preparation-wise going into the Chase or are you looking at these next races as a possibility of getting better going into the Chase?
GORDON: We're obviously a lot closer than where we were at the start of the season. I'm really happy that things have progressed the way that we hoped they would. I didn't expect us to come out of the box and just be on fire. I felt like it was going to take some time four the team to jell. We've got some new people on the team, new pit crew, we've been trying new setups, and I knew it was going to take some time for us to really start to see that come together. And it did but it really has started to come together at the right time. In my opinion, it's all about having momentum, you know, to get yourself in the Chase; but really going into the Chase, if you're going to be in the Chase, you want that momentum going your way, and I feel like that momentum has turned a little bit for us. I don't feel like we're quite where we need to be. I mean, Denny Hamlin wore us out at Pocono, so obviously we're not where we need to be. I felt like we were off here a little bit at this test but we have made big gains, and I feel like we're not far away from being where we need to be.
Q: Jeff, in the two years, previous two years that the Chase has been around, the thinking has changed as the season has gone on. Obviously, it's all in our thoughts right at the beginning of the season. Now, how much does it occupy your thoughts? How much do you think about the chase and the points and how much energy do you put into that?
GORDON: Well, it definitely is a different mindset than what it used to be. You know, it used -- every single race, every single DNF made such a difference. And today, you know, you can throw away a lot more races than what you used to. I think I have three or four DNFs right now and although I'm not solidly in the Chase, we would be out of the championship altogether. So I feel like it's a different mindset. You have a bad race, you feel like, OK, we can get it back, we can get it back. And what we need to do is just focus on getting into the Chase, then we can refocus on what it's going to take to win the championship. But, you know, I think that you can't start thinking about it too early but, yet, if you have consistency you're going to be in the Chase. If you don't have DNFs, you're going to be in the Chase. Those are the facts.
But when it comes to the Chase, you've got to perform, where in the past I felt like you just had to be consistent throughout the whole season. You didn't even have to win races; you just had to be consistent. That's kind of the same sort of mind-set it takes to be in the Chase. But, at the same time you're going, OK, but we know once we get into the Chase, we've got to step it up and start performing. And so you're trying to prepare yourself to be in it, but at the same time you're trying to make it into it. It definitely sometimes will confuse you, because you're saying, OK, we can be more experimental at this time in the season because we need to prepare for the championship once we get in there. But if you're too conservative or if you're too aggressive, you can find yourself outside the Chase, which is kind of where we're at right now where we've had some issues and we've had some problems. The good thing is that we can have those problems and still make it.
Q: At very much of a basic level, Tony Stewart has said in the past that he watches the points very closely, and he thinks about if he did this or that, what would happen. Do you do that at all? Do you keep a running tab on the points and know exactly how many you're ahead of this guy or behind that guy or don't you pay much attention to that?
GORDON: I don't know. At the end of the race when it's all over, I look at where the points are and where we're at. You know, I mean right now it's crazy to even do that because it's so close amongst so many guys that I don't want to focus on anyone. I think that's the way we've always gone about it, whether it was the points the way they are now or the way they were before, is that we always just focused on getting the best finish we possibly could; and maybe if it came down to the final race or the final couple races and we were battling two or three like we did with Jarrett and Martin that year, then we start focusing on those guys. But other than that, we just focus on getting the best effort, at the end of the day see where the points fall.
Q: A few months ago some retired drivers on television claimed that you had lost your focus and maybe taking long vacations. Since things have improved, how much stock do you take in that?
GORDON: Well, I mean, it always gets back to you, you hear those things, and it's a bit frustrating when they're basing that off of sitting up in a booth because it has nothing to do with them spending every day with me in my shoes and knowing what focus I have or don't have. It's all based on being in a booth and seeing our performance. I was the first one to say that we obviously weren't clicking, we weren't where we need to be, but I didn't at any time feel like it was my focus or anybody else's focus on the race team. As soon as we started -- I mean, that was a work in progress at the time those things were being said. We were working on different combinations of setups and trying to figure out where we could be better, testing, doing all the things that I feel like you have to do. So I haven't done anything different, I can tell you that.
I just got back from a vacation on Wednesday. I left Sunday night after Pocono, got back Wednesday. And, you know, to me that's the same way I've been doing it for about the last eight years. It's the way, the routine that I like to go through. In my opinion, it's what helps me stay focused, not what prevents me from being focused.
Continued in part 2