Continued from part 1 Q: You've had your share of bad breaks the last few weeks. In spite of all the hard work that goes into a race, how much of it do you think comes down to plain old luck at times? JEFF GORDON: Well, I'm not a big fan...
Continued from part 1
Q: You've had your share of bad breaks the last few weeks. In spite of all the hard work that goes into a race, how much of it do you think comes down to plain old luck at times?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I'm not a big fan of the word "luck." I know that plays a role in everybody's lives and in racing. But I think you make your luck by being in the right position at the right time, being in the wrong position at the wrong time.
I look back at all of our situations. There's always a solution. There's always something that you could have maybe foreseen and prevented. That's what we try to do. I think it's one of the things we do best at Hendrick Motorsports is that we when find a problem, we get to the bottom of it, try to make sure it doesn't happen again.
All the issues that we've had in the Chase are issues we've never had before. So it's kind of hard to foresee those things. You know, I still look at them and say that they could have been prevented. Like the situation at Talladega, I made - I was leading the race and I chose the wrong lane to block, got shuffled back. We came in and made a pit stop. We ended up getting back further in the field than I felt like we should have, got caught up in the big one.
I feel like all those things - luck can be prevented by qualifying good. Bad luck can be prevented by qualifying good, having good track position, putting yourself in the right place at the right time, not to mention hard work, all those things. I'll go with that a lot more than I'll just go off of just luck. I think if you look at the guys that are up front in the Chase, I think they've prepared themselves very well. You can call it luck or preparation, but that's the way I like to lean on it.
JEFF GORDON: Well, you're in a good position, bad situation. I mean, for me, we came - the first two races were awesome races. We finished third in both those races. I felt like - I really felt like we had the team to beat for the championship. We were running good, finishing good, putting ourselves in good positions, creating good finishes.
Then we went to Kansas. We had our problems. From that point on, you start to lose that confidence and say, Okay, now we have to rebound next week. You go to the next week, you don't rebound, it just starts to get harder and harder and harder.
I said all along, you don't have to be dominant to win this championship, you just got to be consistent. If you look at the guys that are up front, yeah, Burton has won a race, but other than that he has not been super spectacular. But they've been solid all the way to the checkered flag, and that's what it takes. That's what we haven't been able to do.
I think we've performed well enough to win the championship this year. But doesn't matter how well you perform if you don't finish it off at the end of the day. Right now at this point, we just kind of go out there and relax and have fun and just try to turn things around and put the best effort we can. No matter what we do, I don't think it's going to win the championship.
JEFF GORDON: Oh, yeah. You're battling against nine, ten other guys. That in itself makes it more difficult. You close the gap of the points down. That makes it more difficult. There's no doubt in my mind that the Chase makes it more challenging, more exciting and makes it more rewarding when you do win it.
Q: As you look at the points standings, as you look at the nature of the next track, Martinsville, do you think the waters are going to clear quite a bit after this coming weekend?
JEFF GORDON: For who?
Q: As far as the Chase goes.
JEFF GORDON: I mean, there's just no guarantees any weekend. Any given weekend there's potential for disaster, whether it be a failure, a crash, a mistake made on pit road or on the racetrack. It can happen any weekend. Burton can lead this thing all the way up to Homestead, have a problem at Homestead. It can happen anywhere.
I think it's going to be clearer and clearer each and every weekend as to who the guys are that have a shot at it once we get to Homestead. Right now it's not that clear. You got Burton out there. He's obviously a clear favorite. But other than that, you really have no idea who else can come on strong or who might be able to take this thing besides Burton.
I think everybody's looking at Burton, saying he's got this thing under control right now. That can change in a hurry. It can happen this weekend. It can happen at Texas, Phoenix, Atlanta, anywhere.
Q: The Car of Tomorrow, you said you would like to see it look cooler, better. Can you draw comparisons to another car in another series that you like the way it looks?
JEFF GORDON: Well, the challenge with that is we got to keep it, one, as a stock car. This is stock car racing. We also have to accomplish what NASCAR is trying to accomplish safety-wise but also speed-wise. They're trying to slow these cars down through the corners because this aero push, we talk about the lack of passing, it's because the cars are going so fast through the corners, we're so dependent on the aero.
I mean, just look-wise, I think the Trans-Am series. Just take our race cars that we have today and put them on steroids. I think just beefing up the fenders, different areas of the car, to give it a little more rake and slope.
There's too many smart engineers out there. NASCAR has some working for them. The teams have them. The manufacturers have them. Just too many smart engineers that could have gotten together and designed a car that accomplished the aerodynamics that we were looking for, the safety that we were looking for, and also make it look like the Car of Tomorrow.
Q: There's been talk since the Chase started about tweaking it. Do you like the way it is or tell us what changes you'd like to see made?
JEFF GORDON: I'm not big on change. I wasn't crazy when they made the change to the Chase. Now I'm sold on the Chase. I like the Chase. I don't know if I want to see much change.
The one thing I've always said for years, even before the Chase, I felt like the points structure that we have pays so much for consistency. I'm not a big fan of going through a wreck, having a car that's tore up, having a team throw fenders back on the car, tweak this, tweak that, a car that's really not capable of being out on the racetrack at speed. Yet we get out there just to gain one or two positions and finish 45th or 34th, just to make up five or ten points.
I think if the points structure was about what it currently is now down to 25th or 30th place, then it paid the same amount of points for everybody there on down to start the race, I think we could give up some of our bad races, we wouldn't have to put race cars out there, throw debris all over the track. I think it still would make guys - the incentive to go out there and win would still be there.
We keep talking about raising the points to the winner. I don't see how we can go out there and do more than what we're doing now to try to win. Everybody wants to win. Not that a guy goes out there and says, Third or fourth, this is where I want to be. It's that we do settle for that because of the consistency of the points structure. We realize that a third or fourth place finish is good enough to win the championship and be in the Chase.
I think they're thinking about adding some points to the top there. That might make guys risk a little bit more. That's the thing, it's about risk versus reward. If you're second and you think it's worth the risk, then you might take that extra risk which to me means there probably will be more 'green-white-checkered' finishes at some of these races if they do that.
Q: What about the idea of making the Chase the 10 Chase guys within their own points structure?
JEFF GORDON: I like the idea of once we get into the Chase of having a separate points system among the 10 guys. I like that. I think that's a great idea. Means that we're still racing with the other guys out there.
Everybody's racing to win races, get the best finish. To be able to finish further back and have like a ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. You can spread it out a little bit more, kind of like the F1 series, but just among those 10 guys. I think that could be very interesting.
Q: The next active driver behind you in career wins is Mark Martin with 35. What has been among the tougher challenges for you in winning every year? Is it a case with all these changes that the sport won't see anybody win more than 50 any more?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, you've got Kasey Kahne who has six wins under his belt this year. I think you're still able to see guys win a good number of races if your team gets on a roll, you hit on some things. I will say the Car of Tomorrow, one of the things that that Car of Tomorrow is going to do is make it far more competitive among all the competitors out there. I don't think you're going to see a big advantage to one team or one car, one driver that you've seen in the past. That could definitely change that. It will be interesting to see how that goes.
I think the crew chief, the pit strategy is going to become extremely important. I don't think you're going to see guys just driving up through the field from the back to the front like you have in the past.
Yeah, it's a very interesting question. The challenges for me have just been the evolution of the cars and the setups. The cars get faster every year. How you adapt to those speeds, to the changing environment, the competition, has been the biggest challenge. Something I'm extremely proud of is the fact that we've won a pole every year that I've been in this series, and the streak we have for race wins. It boggles my mind to look at it. Honestly, I think how in the world did I win 75 races? I have no idea. I know we had some great years there, but I think of a 10 race, a 13 race, I still don't know where the 75 came from. Still don't know where 75 came from.
There certainly have been many challenges along the way, and they'll only increase over the next several years.
Q: Frank Kimmel just won his eighth championship in ARCA. Pretty impressive feat, is it not?
JEFF GORDON: I think anybody in any series out there that wins that number of championships is an awesome accomplishment.
I think the reason why you don't see that happen more and more towards the Nextel Cup or Busch, some of the other top series out there, is that in ARCA it's just rare that you get one or two guys that competitive that stay in that series. Usually when they're that competitive, they move on.
Frank is in a unique situation. He's a little bit older than a lot of guys out there, but he's got a great team. He does a great job. They know that series. They know those tracks extremely well. As long as he continues to stay in the ARCA series, he'll probably continue to battle and win championships.
Q: It's so difficult to attain a win. Does that affect your performance, your team's confidence?
JEFF GORDON: Yes and no. I mean, obviously winning heightens your confidence level a lot for every team, any team out there. But I will say another way to build that same amount of confidence is to put consistent top five finishes together. That's one of the things that has gotten us in the Chase, what really built our confidence prior to the Chase was that we put together a pretty good string of top five, top six finishes that to me were impressive.
If you look at total points earned 15 races prior to the Chase starting, I think we were right there with Harvick, first or second among earning the most points. That in itself builds your confidence up just as much as winning.
I think that's why it's so important to win early in the season. I think winning a race early in the season can really keep you going for a long period of time. Then I think you've got to do it again in the middle of the season to get that back and to carry it into the Chase. Of course, if you can get one in the Chase, then it carries you throughout the Chase. So wins are very important, definitely.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jeff. Good luck this weekend.
JEFF GORDON: Thank you.
-credit: gm racing