Jeff Gordon - Charlotte test media visit

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES TESTING - LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS May 5, 2008, 2008 JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media during testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway and discussed testing ...

May 5, 2008, 2008

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media during testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway and discussed testing at Lowe's, repaving of Darlington Raceway, the progress of the Impala SS, various incidents on Saturday race at Richmond and other topics.

CAN YOU TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE REPAVING OF DARLINGTON RACEWAY? "I am really excited about it. I thought they did a fantastic job with the repave. The track is smooth and obviously very fast. Because it was a repave, I thought it was very important for the three teams that went there to test, go back there and make sure we were on the tire we are going to race and really get a good test on them. I thought we did. Still, I think it is going to be a little bit too fast this first race, but I think each race you are going to see the pace drop a little bit and the racing continue to get better and better. It should be a really good Darlington race I am looking forward to."

WAS THE CONTACT BETWEEN DALE EARNHARDT, JR. AND KYLE BUSCH AT THE END OF THE RICHMOND RACE ANYTHING MORE THAN TWO GUYS RACING HARD? WAS IT INEVITABLE CONTACT? "Inevitable? I wouldn't say it was inevitable. I would say it was hard racing, that is what it looked to me like. I think everybody knows at Richmond when you are racing for the lead, you can go back to me and Rusty (Wallace), the guy on the outside is going to race hard and make it very difficult for the guy on the inside to make the pass. The guy on the inside has to be a little more bold and aggressive. At the same time, you know going in to turn three, you can't get in deep. The guy on the outside of you, it just takes the air away and the car gets real loose. So it looked to me like Kyle drove in there just a little bit too hard a little bit too close to Junior and it just took the air off and got him loose. Obviously, we saw what happened."

WHAT DO YOU SPECIFICALLY LOOK FOR IN A TEST LIKE THIS ONE AT LOWE'S? "This is the first time we have ever had this car here at this track so we learning about the grip of the tires. The grip with this car on this track the first time. Obviously, this is not a scheduled test, so I think that it is just great for us to get extra information and data. We are just gathering all kinds of data with the car. And obviously we are looking for speed. Sometimes that takes more time. When you only have a couple hours of practice when you get to the race track, you can take your time a little bit more and really try things and make changes and really know what those changes are doing or hope you can read them a little bit better."

CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE ALL-STAR RACE? "I think it is a fantastic event. The All-Star event is something we all look forward to because of the excitement, it is prestige, it is bragging rights, everybody wants it, it pays good money and it is all for the fans. I think that just puts the mindset of the whole team, there is a lot less pressure on the line, but there is more excitement. You just go out there and have fun and race hard. You hope it puts on a great race for the fans because that is really what it is all about, it sort of giving back to the fans for their support and everything that they do for us."

CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT CASEY MEARS AND HOW HE FITS IN AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "Every member on every team is an important asset. How you work with your teammates is what you do to gather information. I think that he and Alan (Gustafson) are great for Hendrick Motorsports as well as how we gather information from the No. 24 team. We look the guys on every team and dissect down as to their driving styles, how the crew chiefs like to set the cars up and try to use every bit of that information to make ourselves better. And vice versa. Give back to try to help them be better as well. I think right now, we have the best group of drivers, crew chiefs and teams working together that I have ever seen at Hendrick. We have a philosophy that has worked well. It is proving it now and we are able to just grow with that and make it better and better all the time. Casey and Alan and those guys are a big part of it."

IS THERE PRESSURE ON CASEY TO LIVE UP TO THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE OTHER HENDRICK DRIVERS? "There is pressure on all of us. When you set expectations, then you have to live up to expectations. When you come in to a team or your drive for a team like Hendrick Motorsports and you look at the other drivers, there is pressure that comes along with that as well. If you feel like your stats don't match up, then you have to ask yourself, what do I have to do and how do I have more success. How do I win more races. I think that in one way it is nice to have the information right here. Here are these drivers that are proven winners and champions and I see how they are driving the car. So I think that in some ways, that is very helpful because, it can really make you understand what you might be doing right or wrong. Or, that it isn't even about that because you are doing all the same things they are doing, we just need to make the car better. I think in some sense, it take some pressure off, but in others it definitely adds to it and it is a tough position to be in if you are Casey I'm sure. I do feel like he feels 'hey, I have to step up'. Usually you can get a year of sort of warming up to everybody but then eventually the results have to be there. Especially when you are at a place like Hendrick."

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF DENNY HAMLIN STOPPING HIS CAR AND CAUSING A CAUTION AT RICHMMOND? "Just from an outsider looking in, it looked very obvious to me that he was frustrated, overly frustrated that he had just led 300-some laps and was pretty much going to win that race. I think he was extremely upset and frustrated, obviously he didn't do what most people would do which was come to pit road long before the tire blows, you know. It was obvious when I went by him that he had a real issue, that is all I can say. I don't know why he stopped, why he didn't come to pit road, but that would be my guess."

BEFORE THE RACE STEVE (LETARTE) WAS ADAMANT THAT YOUR CAR WAS TERRIBLE, IT WAS GOING TO BE AN AWFUL NIGHT. HOW DID YOUR TEAM BOUNCE BACK AND SALVAGE WHAT YOU WERE ABLE TO SALVAGE? "Don't get me wrong, there have been moments where we have felt that way more than one time this year (Laughs) going in to a race. Sometimes you could be Vegas where we come out and be fantastic and sometimes it could be Texas where we were right. And it will be a bad race. I don't believe we would have gone a lap down (at Richmond) if we hadn't had to start in the rear of the field. That really killed us. Honestly the first 10 laps of the race, I couldn't pass a single car. When you are that far back, it is almost impossible to really make your way up through there. Both Steve and I sat and talked about this and I agree with it, it you can count Bobby Labonte in the same situation, the best thing that happened to us was that we went a lap down. Because when we went a lap down, we got to go to the front. When we went to the front, we were working on the car and adjusting the car and I actually got to know what the car was doing and know that the car was actually pretty good. It is just that when you are in the back of the field, if you stay in the back all day long, I don't care what adjustment you make to the car, you aren't going to be able to fix it. You aren't going to be able to really tell what the car is doing. By us going up to the front and feeling that 'hey, we aren't that bad', I hung with the top-five when we were up there, then we got our lap back, we knew we were going the right direction with the setup and that we were going to get back in traffic again and it wasn't going to feel good and we would just have to work with it."

WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS OF THE FANS BEING ABLE TO LISTEN MORE ON THE RADIO NOW WITH ALL THE AVAILABILITY? "I apologize to every one of them that are out there listening because let me tell you, I have been terrible on the radio this year."

WHY IS THAT? "Because we have run like crap! I think that is pretty simple, you know. (Laughs). If we are running up front, you don't hear a word out of me. If we are running terrible, then you are going to hear me. Again, it goes back to frustration. It is just frustrating. I know what we are capable of doing, I know how good we can be. This year, we are so outside the box with what we are trying to do to make this car have downforce and get grip out of it, it just drives really really bad. The crazy thing is, it seems like the worse we make the car drive, the faster it goes. To drive 400 laps or 500 miles or whatever is not fun. I have apologized to Steve big time this year, because I can't help it. I get out there, I get frustrated, you can call me a whiner or whatever. That is just part of it. When you are in that race car in the heat of the moment and you are a competitor and not getting the results you want, you are going to show your frustration somehow. Unfortunately I can't stop my thumb from pushing that button when I want to show my frustration."

FANS HAVE SAID IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU ARE LOSING YOUR CONFIDENCE, IS THAT TRUE? "No, no. I have seen this so many times. People want to judge very quickly, very easily and they listen to the radio and they think they know more about what is going on than we do. I love the fact that the fans are able to listen it and really be inside of what is happening. But remember, that is a small window of what is happening. They aren't at the shop. They aren't on the phone and they aren't behind the scenes in the trailer when we are having conversations. Steve has a tremendous amount of confidence and I think he has one of the best crew chiefs I have ever had. He is one of the best crew chiefs that there is in the garage area. When we are running good, last year everything was great, nobody said a word about that. We just haven't been running good this year. Nobody has been pushing harder to get that better than Steve. I am just thankful that I have a crew chief like him that puts up with me when I am like that."

HOW CRITICAL IS IT THAT THIS LOWE'S TEST WAS ADDED? "Well based on our first couple of runs out there, I am pretty glad we are here. I couldn't make two laps. The one thing that I look at is we have the All-Star event so you have time on the track so I didn't think it was absolutely crucial. We are using this test as much for here as we are for other tracks to. We struggled big time at Texas, so we have been wanting to go to a track, we have been trying to get to Kentucky but they have been having too much rain there. So this for us comes at a good time. We went to Nashville, the last two weeks in a row, we are working very very hard. I think that Saturday night's race proved that we aren't going to be giving up. We are going to fight hard and get ourselves back in contention. This test is important and crucial for that for us. Just gathering that data and that information is what we are really here for. I think that by having all the cars here, I do think it is going to make for a little bit better race because the more cars that test here, the more we get the cars closer to one another and not have one car that just checks out because they happen to find something."

WHAT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED ON THIS NEW CAR TO ELIVIATE SOME OF THE SINGLE FILE RACING AND ALLOW CARS TO PASS ON ANOTHER? "HMMM, I don't know. I really don't know. It is hard to say. With the old car, we were going faster through the corners and sometimes that creates single file racing. We slowed the cars down in the corners with this car, but we are punching a bigger hole (in the air) doing it and then you make a comment about it being single file. I mean, I think there are some things that are really really good about this car beyond the safety aspect of it. But the one issue I have with the car is it just does not drive good. I think that if the car doesn't drive good, the driver's aren't going to have as much confidence to blast down in there underneath a guy and run side-by-side as much or dive up in to the outside lane. Are there some things that maybe could be done? Yes, there are a lot of things being thrown around right now. The fact that we are here testing says we are searching. I think that as long as NASCAR is open to some ideas, then I think that there can possibly be some adjustments made. I don't think that we are in desperate times here or anything like that, I just think that you can always make things better. We are learning with this car. This is the first time we have had it a whole season. Let's see what we can learn and possibly do some things that keep the racing better and better all the time."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte
Teams Hendrick Motorsports