NASCAR Teleconference Transcript June 28, 2005 Guest: Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo This week's NASCAR NEXTEL Teleconference featured Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo and defending champion of ...
NASCAR Teleconference Transcript
June 28, 2005
Guest: Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo
This week's NASCAR NEXTEL Teleconference featured Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo and defending champion of the Pepsi 400. Gordon also won this year's Daytona 500 and is a four-time NEXTEL Cup Series champion. Gordon comes into the Pepsi 400 looking to rebound after some recent rough weeks. He's dropped from second to 14th in the point standings over the last six weeks, which is definitely unusual territory for him. But he excels at Daytona and chances are that he will make a good showing this Saturday night.
Q&A's WITH JEFF GORDON:
Q: WITH A LOT OF MECHANICAL WOES AND BAD LUCK THESE PAST FEW WEEKS; CAN YOU GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE PEPSI 400?
JG: "Yes, this has definitely been a tough time for us. We've been through tough times before even though we don't experience it very often. I thin this team is really good at focusing on the next race and putting those other races behind us. We've had some bad luck. But I've always been a firm believer that you make your own luck and if we put ourselves in the position to run good and finish good, it's going to happen for us. We just haven't been able to do that lately. Some have been mechanical failures. But you make those decisions as well. This past weekend, we had been working on that particular transmission for two year and had not run it until it was proven. We tested it several times. And then we got in the race and we all had problems. It was unfortunate. We were looking for a good finish this weekend to help get us back into that top 10 in points and that didn't happen. So we put it behind us and go to Daytona and hope we can do it this weekend."
Q: WHAT'S THE MOOD? ARE YOU THINKING THERE IS A CHANCE YOU MIGHT NOT MAKE THE CHASE?
JG: "Well, this is the NEXTEL Cup Series and it's tough. Just because we've won four championships there is no guarantee - especially when you've had some of the issues we've had. But I feel like we're as good and as strong as any team out there. We've just got to get things going in the right direction and make some good decisions. We haven't really lost confidence. That's still there. The attitude of the guys is as good as it can be under the circumstances. So I don't think we're panicked or have lost control. We're just trying to put those behind us and learn from them and go to the next one. This is a good weekend for us. I think it was maybe a little bit more frustrating for us this past weekend (at Sonoma) because we sat on the pole and we were fast in practice and we were leading the race. We knew that was a really good opportunity for us. Whether we got the win or a top five finish, there was a great opportunity for us to do that and we felt like we let that slip away. So yeah, there's definitely some frustration. But we're good at putting it behind us, and going to the next one. That's what we'll do this weekend."
Q: SINCE YOU'VE WON FOUR OF THE PAST FIVE PLATE RACES, ARE THE HENDRICK CARS THE ONES TO BEAT AT DAYTONA NOW, AND ARE THE DEI CARS NOT THE FACTOR THEY USED TO BE?
JG: "You may have hit on it. They might not be the factor they used to be, but I still think they're still a major factor of who we have to beat. There are definitely other cars. Tony Stewart has been extremely strong on the plate tracks and so have some of the Roush cars. Hendrick definitely has its act together and Jimmie (Johnson) and I work very well together. We've got Brian Vickers in a new car this weekend - I think it's one of Jimmie's older plate cars. Definitely, engine-wise, we are on top of our game. Whether or not we have an edge over DEI, I'm not sure. But we've been in Victory Lane so that's certainly got us pumped up and maybe has gotten the attention of those guys."
Q: HAS HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS SPENT SO MUCH TIME STEPPING UP ITS PLATE PROGRAM THAT YOUR OTHER PROGRAMS HAVE SUFFERED? OR, IS HMS TOO BIG FOR THAT?
JG: "I think we're too big for that. We've always put a lot of effort into our engine program in general. Our engines are up there on restrictor plate tracks and non-restrictor plate tracks. They stack up against anybody. It's hard for me to say that's affected Hendrick Motorsports because you've got Jimmie up there in second and he's been pretty consistent and has had very few failures throughout the season. I feel like it's more targeted toward us and not necessarily a Hendrick thing."
Q: WHAT DO YOU KNOW OF THE TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS AT SONOMA?
JG: "I know the specific brand that we had, which was a Mid Valley transmission, and it's one that we've been working on. It's a high quality piece. It's really smooth shifting. It wasn't that any of us were missing shifts or anything like that. It's just that it was in the shifter mechanism where the shift was getting caught in gear. For me, it was consistent when I would go from third to second. It happened to me twice and those were the two times it hurt us the most. When I was leading it happened to me. I just went from third to second and instead of going, it stayed stuck in third. I know that's the same transmission Robby Gordon was running and Jimmie Johnson and Scott Pruett. So there is an isolated issue there with that particular transmission. I'm not sure about other problems or if they were related."
Q: SO IT WAS MORE OF A SHIFTER PROBLEM THAN ACTUALLY A GEAR PROBLEM?
JG: "Yes. It had nothing to do with any of the gears in the transmission or any of the gears in the rear end."
Q: IF YOUR BAD LUCK DOESN'T CHANGE, OTHER DRIVERS WILL HAVE TO HAVE SOME BAD LUCK IN ORDER FOR YOU TO MAKE THE CHASE. DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM SWITCHING FROM YOUR DRIVER'S HAT TO YOUR OWNER'S HAT WHEN YOU THINK THAT JIMMIE JOHNSON MIGHT BE ONE OF THOSE DRIVERS?
JG: "No. To me, as the driver, you're part of the team and are doing everything you can to win races and be a part of the Chase and win the championship. What happens with the other teams is not necessarily in our control. We have to only control things that we can. There are no team owners at Hendrick Motorsports. We got ourselves into this hole and we've got to get out of is. We're not expecting anybody else to help us out or to have problems so that we can get in it (the Chase). That's certainly not the way we want to be in it. We want to be in it because we earned the right to be in there. Over the last six weeks, we haven't done that. I'm hoping that over these next six weeks that we do."
Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL PAINT SCHEMES PLANNED FOR DAYTONA?
JG: "We do have the DuPont Pepsi paint scheme this weekend. It's not tied to Star Wars or a movie or anything like that. This is a paint scheme they've been using in their advertising and it's a cool car. We've had a lot of success with the DuPont Pepsi car here recently. So of the four out of five restrictor plate races we've had, three of them I think have been in the Pepsi car."
Q: DO YOU THINK HAVING MORE SATURDAY NIGHT RACES ARE AFFECTING THE SHORT TRACKS, THE GRASS ROOTS TRACKS?
JG: "That's a good question. I'm not really sure how that's affecting it. I know when I was growing up racing around short tracks we races all night of the week sometimes. It's important to have people in the stands supporting racing - including local track racing - and it's tough because from where I am on the Cup side, I love the Saturday night races. It's great for our schedule. The fans and sponsors seem to like it. We have to keep in mind what's going on, on the local and short track levels and try not to affect them. But I assume if you're a short track and you do Saturday night events around a NEXTEL Cup event in that area, you might want to consider moving your times and dates around just for that particular weekend."
Q: ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO COMING BACK TO DAYTONA?
JG: "There are so many good tracks for us on this circuit. I was looking forward to Michigan, but we stunk there. I was looking forward to Sonoma, but we broke there. I'm definitely looking forward to Daytona. One of these weekends it's going to get turned around. If it doesn't' happen, you jut put your foot forward and go to the next one. So this is definitely a good track for us and we've been strong there. Our plate program is strong. I wish I had that car sitting in Daytona USA because I know that's a great car for Daytona - even though we won the race at Talladega, Talladega is not a handling race track. So I think we've actually done a little bit of work to our car since then to make sure we have a good handling race car as well as a fast car for this weekend. I'm looking forward to it but there is always that risk and chance of getting caught up in the big one. We hope we can get through that and put a solid effort out there."
Q: HOW DOES THE IMPOUND PROCEDURE AFFECT YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE WEEKEND?) "I'm excited about that because I feel like we've gotten beaten in qualifying in the last couple of restrictor plate races because some guys have something figured out for qualifying that we don't. When you just put us in race mode, I feel like we've got the best package. So that's fantastic for us to be able to go out there an impound and just have what we're going to have for the race. That's a plus for us."
Q: THE CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS ARE GOING TO KANSAS CITY THIS WEEKEND AND IT'LL BE THE 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF RICKY HENDRICK'S VICTORY THERE. WHAT DID THAT MEAN TO HIS FAMILY?
JG: "That was a huge, huge moment. Linda, his mom, had a lot of reservations of him getting to that level in racing. I think Rick had reservations as to Ricky's talent level. They put him in a truck because they knew he wanted to do it and they wanted to put him in good, safe equipment. He did well in that truck series and then went out there and won. I don't think I've ever seen his parents as proud of Ricky as they were that day, and how excited Ricky was that they were there and a part of it. He displayed that trophy very proudly in his house. It was a big moment."
Q: HAVE YOU REACHED THAT POINT OF GOOD LUCK CHARMS AND HEX-BREAKERS YET?) "Oh, yeah (laughs). We did an autograph session in Michigan and every other fan was giving me some kind of a lucky charm. Somebody painted a horseshoe in DuPont colors like the race car. It started a couple of weeks ago in our offices and at our fan clubs. They're coming in pretty strong. They're still supporting us and tryng to help us any way they can."
Q: IS THE TEAM SUPERSTITIOUS?
JG: "The way I've always approached superstitions, is if it's something you believe in and it gives you confidence, then go with it. But I'm not a big superstitious person who will do things differently to try to get things turned around. I just know through hard work and smart decisions and by putting good race cars out there and working as a team that we will get it back. This team is so good with that. No matter how bad things get, they always stick together."
Q: ACCIDENTS AND MECHANICAL FAILURES ASIDE, IS IT JUST BECOMING A LOT HARDER TO GET THROUGH THE FIELD NOW?
JG: "Well, it's been like that for a few years now. Track position is extremely important. It's very hard to pass for two reasons: One is the aerodynamics that these cars demand and the way the air is moving over the car. They need clean air to get the best performance out of the car. And (two) is the competition has gotten tougher. That's why qualifying has become so important or being up front or doing a two-tire spot or something to get you that good track position is very important. In our strategy for the last couple of years that's what it's been all about. We thought it might change a bit with the smaller spoiler and softer tire this year, but I don't feel like it really has much."
Q: DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON HOW THE TIRE REACTS AND WHAT CHANGES GOODYEAR MIGHT MAKE?
JG: "We're always giving our feedback to Goodyear. It's important for the teams to talk to them and stay in close contact with them. We do tire test with them and we have a pretty good relationship with them. And if you have an incident like we had at Pocono, you get frustrated and upset with them, but most of the time it's just constructive criticism. I had some issues at Michigan that I felt like were tire-related, but they weren't. So you've got to be careful not to be quick to judge. For the most part, things have gone pretty well for us tire-wise, this year. But some guys have had issues."
Q: ON GETTING BACK ON HIS GAME
JG: "Those thoughts go through your mind every weekend because every weekend - even when you're running great - you're always trying to make the car better. So you're constantly saying to yourself and the team that we've got to get this thing turned around. At Pocono, I wasn't happy with the way the car felt, comfort-wise. And yet, speed-wise, we were pretty good. We had to go to the back a couple of times for some issues and fought our way back up to a top 10. This has been one of those weird years where no matter how the car is running; trying to get the comfort of how the car feels has been very tricky. And then you compound that with some of the failures and issues we've run into that have taken us back in the points, that only make the frustration level go even higher and you realize you've got to put the strong finishes together. As soon as we fell outside of the top 10, it became an issue for us to know that hey, we've gotten ourselves in a hole here and we've got to get ourselves out of it. I don't think we've panicked or started fighting within the team. Everybody has stayed calm and we're going to continue to stay calm and continue to charge forward until things do turn around."
Q: ON THE IMPOUND PROCEDURE OVERALL
JG: "I do like the impound for Daytona. I'm not necessarily crazy about it everywhere we go. My thing on race weekends is that we get time on the race track - if it's an impound - to focus on the race at similar times we're going to race. For instance, if the race is going to start at 7pm, we should be practicing at 7pm the night before to get consistent conditions to make proper adjustments. This particular weekend, I like the impound because I think our race program is very strong for the restrictor plates, and I'm very interested to see how some other guys qualify in the impound situation because we've been one of the strong cars before. We don't really pick up much speed and then other guys pick up a half a second. And so it makes you wonder if that's stuff they can just do for qualifying, or is it something they can do in the race. So that'll be interesting to see how that goes this weekend.
"We can't get caught up in too much of what has happened to us over the past six weeks, and just focus on each race one at a time. I know how good our team is and what we're capable of. It's a unique Chase and you've got to be within 400 (points) or in the top 10 to make it in there. And when you get in there, you've got a shot at the championship, and that's what I really like about it. So we're not in the panic mode yet. Let's see how these next few weeks go. It could be one like last year where we get to Richmond and it's very exciting to watch the guys who are battling to be in that top 10. We might be one of them. I hope we're not. I hope we're comfortably in. But if not, we're going to fight and charge until that last race."