JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed racing at Pocono, his thoughts on making the Chase, fuel mileage, and much more.
I READ PRESS RELEASES. WHAT IS THE ‘TRICKY SCALENE’? “Well, that came up in conversation where somebody called it the ‘triangle’ and talking about the uniqueness of this track and how every angle and every corner is different. So I was trying to figure out what a triangle that has different angles (is), so that’s how we came up with it, the ‘tricky scalene’. So I guess that’s my new name for this place (laughs).”
WERE YOU REALLY GOOD IN GEOMETRY IN SCHOOL? “No, I wasn’t. Trust me. I did not come up with it. I knew there was a triangle that existed with three different angles. I didn’t know what it was called. So, don’t give me too much credit for that one.”
ON SHIFTING AT POCONO VERSUS NOT SHIFTING “I’m glad it’s back. To me, I wasn’t a fan of when they (NASCAR) took it away. I feel like I have an opportunity to grab that third gear to get a little bit better launch up off the corner. I think it challenges you in a way as a driver and the team, to work on the car to be able to do that. And so I think that just kind of adds another set of skills in there that I think are important, especially here at Pocono, as well as more opportunity to pass. I think it gives you more opportunity there. And I think that’s important because we’ve seen how track position is so important and getting your car to be able to turn down underneath somebody and then grab that gear to be able to try to make a pass I think is important.
“Some guys were shifting the last couple of time we were here with the old transmission. I don’t know how they were doing it. I wasn’t one of them and we were still fast. But to me, it makes sense to have the right third gear in there to be able to shift with that really works for you all the way around this place.”
FOR THE PEOPLE WHO HAVEN’T DONE THAT IN THE PAST, IS IT DIFFICULT? “It’s not difficult. No, what they were doing the last time we were here was difficult. And the guys that were doing it, I still shake my head at it because it was a huge jump from fourth to third and it got your attention. I tried it and I said no thank you. There is no way I’m doing this for 500 miles. But some guys did. And I think that now that we have the proper gearing it should be fairly straight-forward and simple. So I don’t think there is any advantage.”
IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU’VE SEEN VICTORY LANE. IS THIS THE YEAR FOR THE NO. 24? “I certainly hope so. We came out strong in the season and then we fell off on the 1.5-miles and we’ve been climbing out way back. I’m so proud of the work that’s been done with this team to make some gains. I think we made some big gains and we showed that last week at Kansas. I think we showed a little bit of it at Charlotte as well, even though the results weren’t there. I think the performance has definitely picked up in a big way and that’s a big part of it in my opinion.
“And then we’ve got to make sure that we follow that up by putting ourselves in position at the right time. It’s really hard to say what’s going to happen here this weekend. The last time we were here, the No. 24 car was good. So we look at those notes and try to carry some of that over. But a lot has changed. The competition has definitely stepped things up (with) some of the technology and aero package and different things that we have that we’ve learned over the off-season to this point can also changes things; plus the shifting. So we’ll see.”
WE’RE A LITTLE MORE THAN HALFWAY THROUGH THE REGULAR SEASON NOW. YOU HAVE A WIN, AND YOU’RE ALSO CLOSE TO THE TOP 10. WHAT’S YOUR FOCUS IN TERMS OF THE WAY YOU’D LIKE TO SEE YOURSELF GET INTO THIS CHASE? A WILDCARD OR THE TOP 10? “Nobody wants to get in on a wild card; I mean not unless you have five wins and we just had a bunch of bad luck. I feel like we certainly have a shot at it. And there are two ways to go about it. We need to win more races and I think that’s the key factor because if we win more races that I think could get us into the top 10. And if it doesn’t get us into the top 10 I think it will get us in with a wild card. So we’re focused on winning races.”
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT MICHIGAN? “To me, here, Michigan it sort of takes the same package; a lot of power and then you’ve got to get through the corners really good. You can’t just have one. You used to be able to have just one but now you’ve got to have it all and now you’ve got to throw in fuel mileage as well. At these two tracks, fuel mileage is key. And we’ve been working so hard and making our cars faster, that we have not put a lot of focus into fuel mileage and it’s something we need to put a lot more attention on. We actually had a road course test this week and we played around with some things there and we’ll continue to move forward with that.
“But first and foremost we’re going to try to have a fast race car.”
IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE ONE, WOULD IT BE AERODYNAMICS OR HORSEPOWER? “I’ll always take handling. But it’s hard to just come out and say that at Michigan because those straightaways are long. You’re on the throttle a long time. Unless you’re saying to me that I can have 25 more horsepower than the competition, then most of the time when we talk about having more horsepower it’s four or five or six or eight horsepower. I’m thinking we’ve got some things to work on in the power department but that to me, is not what’s preventing us from winning races right now.”
SPEAKING OF LONG STRAIGHTAWAYS, IS IT HARD FOR THE MIND NOT TO WANDER OVER 500 MILES AND HOW DO YOU GUARD AGAINST THAT AND STAY MENTALLY SHARP DURING A LONG RACE? “Yeah, these are long straightaways. I guess if you’re not in the heat of battle with somebody then yeah, it’s easy for your mind to wander. But I promise you that goes away in a hurry. These corners will get your attention. The amount of speed that you’re carrying into the corners now, especially with the downshifting, but these corners are not easy corners to go through. So, while there are nice long easy straightaways, it’s quite the opposite once you get to the turn.”
WHAT’S THE TOUGHEST ASPECT OF RUNNING A LONG MICHIGAN RACE? “To me, it’s a fast race track. You’re average speed is high. So 500 miles goes by pretty quick if you just look at the overall lap time. The toughest aspect of it truly is just the conditions of the track, what the grip level is; you’re in the corners for such a long time and you want to have the car right there on the edge of being tight and loose; that to me is the toughest aspect, unless fuel mileage becomes an issue. Then it’s all about can you do anything to save fuel and what extremes will you take it to? Anything that you’re going to do is going to cost you lap times for sure and it’s going to be a nail-biter, regardless.”
WITH SOME RAIN IN THE FORECAST THAT MIGHT WASHOUT QUALIFYING TOMORROW, HOW MUCH EMPHASIS IS ON PRACTICE TODAY? “Well, we were focused on doing race practice primarily anyway. And a lot of it is about whether it’s going to rain in the second practice today more so than raining tomorrow. If it looks like rain the second practice, that’s when we are planning on doing our qualifying runs and we might sneak one in the first practice. We’ll take a look at that. We’re going to put most of our emphasis on race trim anyway. This is a long race and you can work your way up through there because it is such a long race. And so being 13th in the points, that’s not where we want to start, we think we can start better than that, but that’s not the end of the world.”
ON THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM, IS IT MAKING FOR A MORE WIDE-OPEN RACE?” “Again, I’m not really noticing the difference. You talk to some guys who have finished 30th on back and I’ve had those days, but to me, they were bad days before, they cost you in the points before, and they were hard to climb your way back from if you had too many of those, regardless of the percentage of where it plays out to first-place points and what it used to be. To me, if you have too many bad finishes, you’re not going to make it in the Chase. That’s the same today, with the new points system, as it was in the old points system.”
DOES THAT WILD CARD MAKE THAT MUCH DIFFERENCE? “The wild card does change things. But it doesn’t change how we approach it. We’re still out there trying to get the best finishes and just trying to get wins; just like we were before. But just right now, we’re very thankful we’ve got that win in Phoenix, but we feel like we’ve got to get another win, at least one more win, if we’re going to get in by the wild card.”
TALK ABOUT JOSH KIRK AND THE TYPE OF GUY HE IS AND WHAT HE BRINGS TO YOUR TEAM “Josh is awesome. I’ve had the opportunity this year to work with guys I’ve known for years at Hendrick and then get to meet some new guys. And Josh has been great to work with. He really pays attention to the details of what I need. But he’s doing a lot of different jobs. It’s not like he’s just focused on the driver compartment or my helmet or gloves and all that stuff. He’s doing that. He’s changing tires. He’s a mechanic. The guy does it all. He’s doing the radios and all those things. He’s got a tough job.
“I try not to put too much pressure on him but we worked really hard over the off-season together to get out driver compartment really nailed down before the first race. And they put a lot of effort into it and I give a lot of credit to Josh for making me feel very comfortable in these cars, which have basically been all new cars for me and we have a whole new dash. We did a lot of different things with the seat and he’s one heck of a tire changer as well. I really enjoy working with Josh.”
It’s hit or miss for me.
WITH THE NEW FUEL, HAVE THERE BEEN ISSUES GETTING THE FUEL IN THE CAR? “Yeah, there are two issues. If you take two tires, you don’t get as much fuel and there is a little bit of a gap and air bubble in there. That’s always been the case, but with this can you’ve got to be real precise in how you get it connected. And you don’t want to cause yourself any extra time but I think that’s what we’re looking at now is it’s more important to get the fuel in there than it is to have that 13 second stop when it’s coming down to the end of the race. And so I think that’s where I give Alan (Gustafson) a lot of credit for really focusing on those areas to make sure that we do everything we can. When we’re there for that stop, we do everything we can to get all the fuel in it. I feel like we’ve been in good shape there. It’s just for us, it’s come down to the timing of when that stop has come and whether we take the risk on it if a caution is going to come out or if it’s not going to come out. And that’s bit us a little bit the last couple of weeks. But it could just as easily have gone the other way.”
ON WAITING FOR THE GAS MAN AND NOT GOING AS SOON AS THE JACK IS DROPPED “I probably go right when the jack drops. But if I’m not, then they tell me; to try to get all of it (gas) in there. And if that is going to be the case and they let me know and I don’t go until they say go. And because it’s not about waiting. What happens is, if you go when the jack is up, you’re missing a little bit of extra fuel that could be going in there. So you want to let the jack down and get their last plug, and then go.”
IS THIS A RACE THAT COULD COME DOWN TO THE LAST STOP? “It could come down to fuel mileage. It could come down to a pit stop. These days, as competitive as this series is, they almost all come down to the last stop.”
DO YOU WATCH NASCAR RACEDAY? IF SO, WHY? “I do watch NASCAR RaceDay. I love it. I watch it because I’m passionate about this sport and all the things that are going on within it and what the hot topics are and I’m always interested to see who they feel like is gaining momentum or on a roll or fast that week or that has a shot at winning. There are so many different interesting storylines and aspects to our sport; it doesn’t always take an altercation like what happened last week to create enough interest for me to watch RaceDay, that’s for sure. I think there’s always something interesting to watch.”
DO YOU ENJOY THE CHALLENGE OF THE POCONO TRACE? “I enjoy the challenge at every race track. You have to go into that mindset every week and try to figure out what it’s going to take to try and be competitive at that track. There are just some tracks that just naturally come to you like Kansas for instance.
“It’s just one of those tracks that unloaded fast, the car felt good, I felt good and I like the track and we were fast all weekend. And then there are tracks where it’s hit or miss.”
WHERE DOES POCONO FALL INTO THAT? “It’s hit or miss for me. It generally leans more toward being a more comfortable track where I did well at but sometimes I’ve got to work harder at it than other times. The car has a lot to do with it. The car at this place, a big place like this carries that kind of speed in these corners, the car has got to be pretty close. It’s hard if the car’s not, to get it right by the end of the race. So, by the way we ran here the last time makes me feel confident that we can be pretty strong here this weekend.”
-source: team chevy