Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo has collected three poles ('95, '96, '99) and two wins ('94, '98) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was among the guests at today's past champions Winston Breakfast Club. Can you...
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo has collected three poles ('95, '96, '99) and two wins ('94, '98) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was among the guests at today's past champions Winston Breakfast Club.
Can you talk about how this race has changed for you since winning the inaugural event in '94?
"For me, it's hard for anybody to compare that race to others - the first time stock cars were here it was pretty amazing. Growing up around Indiana and driving by this racetrack and going to the museum and the Indy 500 and all, I never dreamed I'd ever get a chance to race here. And then getting to race in the very first stock car race that was ever here is hard to compare - especially after you win it. But it's still very special every year.
"This race in '94 jump-started my career to a whole new level. It just soared and it had a lot to do with coming in here and being able to win it. It's just special for all of us. We put a lot of effort into it. It's a very prestigious event because of the history of all that's gone on here. And it's a very good-paying event. It's a very tough race rack to win at. It's hard to get around, hard to qualify. This place hard to race, and it's extremely hard to pass. So when you do something special like that (win) you'll always remember it."
Would you ever consider doing what Tony Stewart has done and race both the Indy 500 and a Winston Cup race on the same day?
"It's never crossed my mind. If you look at Tony Stewart's past, he was here before he raced NASCAR. So for him, it's a little bit different. I've never really driven one of those types of cars. I've always been fascinated by the speeds that they run around here in that type of racecar. If it (Indy 500) didn't fall on the same weekend as the 600 in Charlotte, I'd probably look at it more seriously. But it's not something that I look at as an option."
Is the revised schedule for this weekend a problem for you?
"No. Yeah, it was nice to have Sunday at home the way the schedule was before. I don't know all the reasons why it was changed, but it's not bad. We're probably going to make a couple runs today in our one-hour practice, but tomorrow's the day that we're really going to focus on. Today is just shaking things down and getting the feel for the tires and the racetrack and what we've done to improve our car since we tested it here. We might play around with a little gearing or something like that. But to me, everything is really crammed into two days - Saturday and Sunday - and that's what we're focusing on."
Since you've won this race twice, are the efforts about the same?) "Everybody puts a lot of effort into this race. I think it depends on where your team's at, chemistry-wise, and where you're program is. I know that both years we won this race; we had extremely good horsepower under the hood. That's makes a big difference here. We were also very fortunate that the cautions fell our way. And we had great pit stops. It takes a total effort and the whole package to get it done here. You try to bring everything you can to make sure that happens each and every year."
Will you be doing anything special to guard against heat exhaustion here?
"The teams do a great job of getting air to us in the car to try to cool us down. It's extremely hot - 140 degrees in he car - and the only other thing you can do is stay lean, keep in shape, and drink a lot of fluids to stay hydrated."
You've been in the situation of battling a teammate for the championship, and now you're on the other side battling against teammates Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd. What is that like for you?
"I remember that. In 1996 Terry Labonte and I went for the championship that year. A lot of the information that was shared through '95 is what put us in the position to run for the championship in '96. That shared information is very important. If you do it properly, you can benefit from it. I remember that towards the end of the season, we shared less and less information. If you can keep that flow of information going back and forth, it's awesome. But it's very hard. There will come a time when you realize you're racing your teammate for the championship. There wasn't a third guy when it came down to the end. It was just Terry and myself battling one another.
"The other side to it was that Terry drives a lot different than I do. He's a right-foot breaker. His set-ups were different than mine were. I think that added to the fact that we didn't share as much at the end of the season when it got down to the two of us. As soon as that championship was over, we were back to sharing a lot of information."
What advice would you give teammates Jarrett and Rudd?
"They know what's going on. They're obviously doing a very good job of sharing information because they're not even under the same roof. They're in totally different towns. In my mind, the way that Bobby (Labonte) and Tony (Stewart) do it a Joe Gibbs Racing, would be the perfect situation. All the teams, all the members under one roof. But I think that Dale and Ricky and their teams have shown that it doesn't have to be like that. There are ways of transferring and sharing information. It seems like they have similar driving characteristics. They're very smooth, precise, and aggressive."
Should there be more points awarded for bigger and more prestigious races?
"No. Every race goes towards the championship. The points are the points. This race already pays a whole lot more than other races. The prestige is getting that trophy at the end of the day - pulling into Victory Lane and saying you won the Brickyard 400 or the Daytona 500 - that's where the prestige comes. That's the memory that you'll never forget and that you'll always hold onto."