Jeff Gordon , No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS, NASCAR Weekly Teleconference Transcript THE MODERATOR: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. Jeff spent yesterday testing here....
Jeff Gordon , No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS, NASCAR Weekly Teleconference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series four-time series champion Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. Jeff spent yesterday testing here. We'll have a second day of tests today. Jeff is 10th in the points but has 75 victories, the best among active drivers. Jeff, can you start a comeback this week?
JEFF GORDON: Well, we're certainly going to make as much of a comeback as we are capable of. You know, obviously it's been disappointing the last three races to have the problems that we've had. You know, our goals are to go into these last five races just giving it everything we've got to win races and get as high up in the points as possible.
The likelihood of having seven, eight guys in front of us have problems to get us back into the Chase I think is very unlikely. So we're kind of more relaxed now where we're just going out there to win. Martinsville is a great place for us to do that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go now to questions from the media.
Q: Jeff, when you get this far behind in the Chase, do you go into any sort of let's experiment some for next year in addition to going bonsai or do you stick with what you got and say we go all out?
JEFF GORDON: No, that's exactly what we do. We basically just do everything that we can to experiment, try things, but win races. We'd done the test a couple weeks ago to prepare for Martinsville that allowed us to go to Martinsville and try something a little bit different, just to try to get ahead of the competition, to be better than we've been in the past. Even though Martinsville is a solid and pretty consistent track for us, we never stop trying to get better.
If we were leading the points right now, maybe we wouldn't go that route, but we're not. Yeah, right now it's about experimenting as well as just putting solid races together, going off of what we learned all year, what we know, and also incorporating some new things to just learn for this season and next year.
Q: With so many guys now from other racing ... Sam Hornish will run a Busch race this year, Montoya, Villeneuve talking about coming in, Patrick Carpentier, even Ricky Carmichael, what does that say about NASCAR today with so many guys that have been so successful in other series, they just want to be a part of it and want to do something in NASCAR?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, I think that's a great indication of the popularity of this sport, especially in America. As far as motorsports go in America, this is the elite and the top level that you can get to. At one time, that was not necessarily the case. If you look at the Indy 500, IndyCars back in the '80s, even maybe I guess late '80s, early '90s, it just seemed like the sport of NASCAR just started to take off.
I was very fortunate to get involved with it in the early '90s and be a part of that. It's continued, you know, to take off among the American public. So you're seeing guys from other series that want to be in NASCAR.
I think at one time our cars were just considered taxi cabs and not real race cars. We've gotten the cars now to where they're fun to drive. Obviously the competition has always been there. We get to go to great racetracks as well. But the competition, as far as drivers and teams, you just can't beat it.
I think guys like Sam Hornish, who has accomplished pretty much everything that he can accomplish over there in IndyCars, is probably thinking, okay, now let's go try to do that in NASCAR. Juan Pablo, winning the Formula One championship, that's kind of the same situation.
Q: Jeff, after the words between you and Junior at Talladega, do you see the positives as far as marketing the sport with a Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson image? Would you rather patch things up so you can draft together and work together again?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, I think the rivalry is more among our fans than it is Junior and myself. He and I have talked. There's no issue there. I have more issues with the way the bump-drafting is not being focused on or taken care of when we go to Daytona and Talladega more so than what Junior is doing.
What Junior is doing is the type of drafting - he's a great drafter. He's got a car capable of pushing guys around, and NASCAR allows him to do it. He's not the only one. I think I probably used him as an example because he's the most extreme with it.
I told him that, you know. We talked about it. I think that, you know, we're in a unique situation because he's one of the guys that I have to beat out there. I'm not trying to make any friends out there. There's been times when he's pushed me that maybe has helped me but then there's been a lot of times he's pushed me in a way to get me out of the way. I feel like there is a bit of a rivalry on restrictor plate tracks. But it's just different styles. He has a style and I have a style. They're both successful.
We talked yesterday a little bit more. I don't think there's any issues as far as he and I are concerned. I mean, I'm not saying it's good or bad for the sport. I think to have drivers that are popular and then fans that are against them, others that are for, I think that does create a rivalry among the fans, and it creates excitement. It seems to create a buzz within the media. I know that that's good for the sport. But you can't create that; it just happens automatically.
Q: Were Junior's comments unfair about you not having friends on the track? In retrospect, do you regret questioning his tactics since he did bump you in front without wrecking you?
JEFF GORDON: My response to that is that I absolutely have no friends out there. Not trying to make friends. Don't want any friends. I'm proud of what I've accomplished in restrictor plate tracks by not having somebody that made some commitment to me that they're going to stick with me.
I work with my teammates the best I possibly can. I've explained to them, Hey, you do what you got to do to win the race. I'm going to do what I got to do to win the race. If we can work together and get there and put ourselves in position late in the race, then great. But if not, I'm not going to blame you for not working with me. I don't want you to blame me for not working with you.
You know, I think the only thing about Junior's comments is him saying that he pushed me to help me. Very few times has he ever pushed me to help me. I know how many times he's pushed me into the corner, in the corner, where I couldn't control the car, drove up the racetrack, he passed me. I can remember lots of those times.
But we're racing one another. You know, he's not my teammate. He's a competitor. I like racing him. I like drafting and racing with him. But my only real issue that I had, as long as NASCAR allows those types of things to go on, then bump-drafting is always going to be an issue and we're going to see big wrecks.
I'm not saying we won't see big wrecks without bump-drafting, but it only contributes to it more. When you've got the most popular guy, one of the best drafters out there, doing it to the extreme, it only sets the example for other guys where they think they can go out there and do that, too.
Q: With all the contact out there, there's potential for one driver to have a beef with another driver after the race. We saw that with Vickers, Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt recently. How do you specifically deal with that afterwards in terms of maintaining relationships with other drivers?
Do you like to confront somebody right away? Is there another way of dealing with it?
JEFF GORDON: I think every situation is different. My experience has been usually you want to let things calm down a little bit, a day or two. If it was something that was really intentional or something that was just a really dumb mistake, then you make a phone call the following day and try to talk to that person throughout that week. If it was a little something that really was not that big of a deal, if you see the person at the next race, maybe talk to them, give them your side of the story.
We're seeing more and more contact all the time just because the competition is tighter, the track position is so much harder to get these days. We talk about this aero push. It just continues to get worse and worse and worse. You're seeing guys push one another around or fight harder for positions. It has caused a little bit more heated battles on and off the racetrack.
It is important to maintain relationships because you cannot go 38 weeks without upsetting somebody. But at the same time, at the end of the day, if you want to win the championship you can't have too many enemies out there.
I've done them different every time I've gotten in that situation. Sometimes I just let it go away; other times I confront it right away.
Q: This is the first time they're testing the Car of Tomorrow?
JEFF GORDON: I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of the Car of Tomorrow. I think there's some technology in there that's good. Certainly safety-wise, I think there's some things that I like. You know, I'm definitely - I drove the car in Michigan.
By itself, it doesn't really drive that bad. I saw some guys have some cars here, at times they're off a little bit, but the cars out there on the track don't seem to be out of control or anything like that. They seem to be driving okay.
I heard a lot of guys are having issues with the cars pushing, that they cannot get the push out of the car. That doesn't surprise me. If you look at the aerodynamics of the car, it's very rear downforce heavy. You can get all the rear downforce you want in the car. The front downforce, you're very limited. We had some issues at Michigan. We addressed those to NASCAR.
I feel like what's happened with this car is not a lot of people took them serious, meaning the teams didn't take them serious. They were very serious about this Car of Tomorrow. Very few of the teams and engineers and really design people that could have been more involved were not involved because we thought that it wasn't something that seriously was going to happen in '07 or maybe '08. NASCAR took a stance to say, Hey, we are serious, this is going to happen. Here is the car. Either you like it or you don't like it, but you better get on board.
Now the teams have seriously taken - are serious about it. They've gotten on board. I think we're going to start to see where we can start to massage that car and make it what I think the potential of it is. The biggest issue I have with the car is it doesn't look like a race car.
To me I think a Car of Tomorrow, I think of the ingenuity, technology, things we could have done to incorporate what NASCAR has wanted to do. We need to slow these cars down through the corners. That's why we have the big aero push.
The splitter and the wing are good ideas. Make the car safer. That's great. But I think we could have done it by also making it look like the Car of Tomorrow, have some futuristic things in it that look cool. It doesn't have that.
Q: What kind of driver are you off the track?
JEFF GORDON: I'm pretty calm. I mean, I don't - I haven't had any speeding tickets in a long time. I feel like that record kind of speaks for itself.
I'm get from Point A to Point B. That's the whole point of driving really. I enjoy listening to the radio and having that downtime in the car when I'm driving by myself. I enjoy driving.
I'm not a speed demon or anything like that, if that's what you're asking (laughter). I'm like anybody else. If I'm running late, I'm in a hurry. I got to speed a little bit more than I would. If I'm not in a hurry, I'm pretty calm.
Q: What's behind the success of Jeff Burton with Roush?
JEFF GORDON: I would say it's Richard Childress Racing and two years of hard work. The setups and the things that they are experiencing this year that have been working for them, they've been working on that for two years. A year and a half ago they were so far out to lunch, you could see they were trying crazy things. You could see the way the attitude of the cars, the cars being very edgy, not look very pretty as far as under control. The drivers really struggled with them. But they were trying things outside the box. I think that has really paid off for them.
You know, they were probably one of the first teams to have a seven-post rig in their facility, at their shop. I think that piece of equipment showed them some things that they needed to be doing that now all of us are pretty much doing because they were kind of the first ones to go that direction, they struggled with it. Now it's paid off for them. I think their cars are handling good. Their teams are together. They've got great drivers. You got Harvick and Burton. Harvick now has quite a bit of experience under his belt. Of course, Burton has had a little the experience, what he's been through in the sport. You have Bowyer, who is a talented young driver, adding something to those teams, as well. They just have their act together.
Continued in part 2