Jeff Gordon - Saturday media visit

Event: Phoenix

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET met with media and discussed Trevor Bayne and his win of the Daytona 500, extreme sports, points, and more.

ON TREVOR BAYNE, HAVE YOU FOLLOWED THE 'TREVOR-MANIA' THIS WEEK? "To me, it's been exciting. It's exciting for the sport; the little bit that I know Trevor. I know Danielle Randall who works with him, so I've about Trevor for a while. He's got that kind of personality that shines. And so when a young talent like that does when he did in Daytona, it's good for the sport. When you look at ratings for the Daytona 500, that was a great thing.

"When you look at Trevor winning, that was a great thing. It's just kind of happened where the week fell together the way that it did that he and I were working together in the 150 and it sort of shined a light on what he is capable of doing and then he goes and wins the Daytona 500; which had nothing to do with me, by the way (laughs). He did that on his own and I sent him a text and told him that. I haven't followed a lot of it. I've been busy doing my own things this week, but what little bit I have followed, I'm just happy for him because it's so genuine and so raw to have somebody that's thrust into this and he did such a great job and had such a great attitude about it."

YOU WERE LOOKING FOR SOME SPEED YESTERDAY. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT QUALIFYING TODAY? "I'm pretty optimistic. We looked at our Dartfish and I feel like we've got a pretty good plan on where we needed speed for qualifying. I felt like we made some big gains for the race so I wasn't so concerned about the speed there when we swapped over into qualifying. But I definitely thought we were going to be better when we made our qualifying runs than we were. So, I'm not sure if going out early is going to be beneficial or not. It could very well be with these clouds and hopefully we made the right adjustments to capitalize on it."

WHAT'S YOUR PREFERENCE? THE KIND OF RACING WE HAD IN DAYTONA LAST WEEK OR THE ONE COMING TO A SHORT TRACK WHERE IT'S MUCH MORE DRIVER-DRIVEN? "Obviously, I'm a driver so I'm doing to go for the one that's more driver-driven. Daytona was interesting and exciting in its own way. I feel like there were a little bit too many crashes. We already see the big one with the restrictor-plate, but we just saw a lot of cars get taken out. I feel like that part of it wasn't a lot of fun. Other than that, I thought the racing was great and this weekend I'm really excited because we've done some testing over the off-season. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and these guys worked so hard to get here and I'm just so excited coming in here because I feel like we've got a fast race car and got some things to really show the competition. So far the weekend hasn't gone quite the way we'd hoped so hopefully it gets turned around here today with a good qualifying effort. But no, I prefer the ones where I have a little bit more of a role in."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS THE START OF THE SEASON FOR YOU OR ARE YOU IN A HOLE? "I don't feel like we're in a hole, but I feel like this is where the season truly starts. Daytona, you kind of separate it into its own event; it's such a big race and so much effort gets put into it. But at the same time, that's not really where the championship is won. These types of race tracks are where you really see what kind of speed you have and what kind of team you are; and coming out of here is what we will definitely look at; not only for ourselves as a measuring tool, but looking at the competition as to who we have to look at to be the competitors this year."

TREVOR BAYNE SAID HE MIGHT NOT HAVE WON THE DAYTONA 500 IF YOU HADN'T BEEN WILLING TO DRAFT WITH HIM EARLIER IN THE WEEK. THAT GAVE OTHER GUYS THE CONFIDENCE TO DRAFT WITH HIM. "Well, I appreciate Trevor saying that but he's got to remember he was the pusher, so everybody was looking for somebody to push; especially someone that could push as good and for as long as he could. What I think he deserves a lot of credit for is finding himself a way to get out front. You could kind of thank David Ragan for that at the same time but I think that him getting in front of Bobby Labonte and gaining himself in that position and then blocking Carl (Edwards) to the line was great. It was a great move and he did a great job putting himself in that position."

WHAT ABOUT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS AS A WHOLE? WAS DAYTONA DEFLATING AT ALL? "It wasn't our highest moment. We certainly didn't come out of there the way we had hoped. But when you look at that race, the majority of the teams didn't come out of there the way they'd hoped. Between blown engines and wrecks, it took out a lot of good cars. But it also gave some momentum to some strong teams like Carl (Edwards). So for us, we just focused the same way we always do. We go and put our best effort out and then when that race is over, regardless of whether we won or not, it's time to start focusing on the next race and that's where we're at."

DO YOU THINK THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM WILL MAKE IT HARDER OR EASIER TO RECOVER FROM A BAD FINISH LIKE LAST WEEK? "We'll let you know. To me, a bad finish is a bad finish. To me, I think that so far the way I've looked at it I think your average finish is still going to play out. The way you perform and where you finish is still going to lend itself to allowing you to recover just as you would have under the old points system. If you go out there and perform, then you'll recover. And it you don't you'll be back for the rest of the season or for a long time. So I think we'll have to see how it all plays out here. But we led a lap and we were 28th or 29th or something like that and it could have been a lot worse."

MARK MARTIN AND JIMMIE JOHNSON HAVE TALKED A LITTLE BIT ABOUT EVERYBODY AT HMS GOING IN A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT DIRECTION IN SET-UP. ARE YOU ALL TRYING TO DO SOMETHING SEPARATE ON PURPOSE OR IS THIS A NATURAL EVOLUTION THAT EVERYBODY HAS A DIFFERENT DRIVING STYLE? "All I can really speak about is what we're doing and we're doing everything we can to build the best race cars we can and to put the right set-up underneath the car. We're here to perform at the highest level we can. I think that what happens is that every year you see how the championship unfolds and when you look at the NO. 48 (Johnson) last year at this time, they showed some strengths but there were also some weaknesses and I think that you can address those things earlier in the season in there to allow you to do that. So for us, it's business as usual. We're just absolutely trying to build a program that's strong with the strongest set-ups that we can possibly have and then we learn from our teammates based on what they're doing. And it doesn't matter to us if we're all doing the same thing or we're all doing different things."

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN DOING EXTREME SPORTS OR SOMETHING THAT GETS YOUR ADRENALIN GOING OUTSIDE OF CAR RACING? "On a day to day basis with two young kids, man that's about as much as I can handle (laughs). I think it would be really cool to jump out of a plane someday but I don't have any desire or plans to do it before I retire. I feel like I take enough risks on the weekends as it is and I'm kind of the opposite. I like doing things that are relaxing when I'm not in the race car."

EARLY IN YOUR CAREER, YOU WERE VOCAL ABOUT YOUR FAITH. TREVOR BAYNE IS OPEN ABOUT IT NOW. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF DOING THAT? WHAT THINGS MIGHT TREVOR FACE AS HE OPENLY TALKS ABOUT HIS FAITH? "Everybody has their views and opinions on it. So you open yourself up to being judged. But it's all about your upbringing and how strong you are in your faith and your opinions and sticking with who you are and what you believe in and not worrying about what other people think and say. He'll get a lot of positive feedback from it from some, and negative feedback from others. I think that's just part of life.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR THE TEAMS TO GET THEIR GAME PLAN TOGETHER WITH THE NEW PROCEDURES? "Right now, I don't see [the new fueling system] slowing the pit stops down. I think it is more whether you get it all in there. I think that is the most important thing; getting every drop in there. It could slow it down if you don't get a good connection. I'll be honest; we didn't make enough pit stops in Daytona to really find out with all the other problems that we had. This weekend will be a truer indication and sign of what is to come. But I didn't hear a whole lot. I mean we had pit stops at Daytona, the difference was we weren't really changing tires along with it. This weekend will be a good test for that. But, I'm not hearing a whole lot of buzz about that when I talk to Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the team. I don't see any foresee anything out of the usual. It just looks different and it is taking the guys a little while to get used to the process. I guess we will just wait and see."

DO YOU THINK THIS SPORT NEEDS PERSONALITIES TO BRING PEOPLE IN OR ARE THINGS THAT NASCAR AS THE SANCTIONING BODY COULD DO TO BE MORE ATTRACTIVE TO YOUNG FANS? "It is a little bit of both. I think we have to be a little more tech-savvy and bring some of those that are more interesting to the younger crowd. But we have to have some young talent here too and I think that is what Trevor (Bayne) brings and that is certainly exciting. Now he's got to follow that up. It is great that he won the Daytona 500, the biggest race that we have, but you've got to follow that up with being able to put some good performances in at other tracks as well. If he can do that, then I think that will be a great boost for this sport. I think NASCAR has taken some steps towards the other areas that I spoke about to try to make that connection and I think it is important. One of the things I have a lot of faith in is NASCAR. They do their research.

"We might question them and say 'I don't know the right things'; but they do their research and they think about it and it is not an easy place to be in-in their position. They are definitely thinking about all of those things all of the time. It's not always as clean cut or black or white when it comes to those types of decisions as we think of it sometimes as it is. They have a lot of things on their plate to consider. I think right now, we're going to try to gain the momentum that came out of Daytona. It was a unique and exciting race. A great champion; young champion. Some great ratings and let's keep that going."

DID YOU APPROACH THIS WEEKEND LIKE YOU HAVE THE TWO-DAY WEEKENDS HERE IN THE PAST? "I approached this weekend as I showed up Thursday night. Got off the plane, came here and looked at the schedule and said 'Ok, I have two practices tomorrow'. Then I went to bed last night. I woke up today and said 'I have qualifying today'. I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be sarcastic. I approach every weekend as I look at the schedule. It just depends on what the schedule is."

CAN YOU DO MORE THINGS TO THE CAR BECAUSE YOU HAVE OVERNIGHT TO THINK ABOUT THINGS BEFORE QUALIFYING AND THEN CHANGE MORE THINGS BEFORE THE RACE AS OPPOSED TO A TWO-DAY WEEKEND? "I will say this. The one advantage for us is that we were not very fast yesterday. Yesterday if we had to qualify after practice, I think we would have been in a little bit of trouble. I think today we have an opportunity because we spent all night with the engineers looking at all of data and came up with a pretty good plan for today on how to make ourselves better. That is something we would have had to have done in a real hurry on a typical schedule. So that is the only difference. That I see."

WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO MAKE ANY MORE ADJUSTMENTS OFF YOUR TWO LAPS TODAY THAT YOU LEARN OR DO YOU NOT LEARN ANYTHING OFF YOUR TWO LAPS? "What we'll do is now we know what changes we've made. On the computer we have a graph of that setup in comparison with every other setup that we've run in so far in practice. If the car goes out there and does what I want it to do today, then we can say 'Ok, great, those adjustments here. Fixed this.' Whatever the car does do, I will give that feedback to the team and we will be able to compare and we can use a little bit of that. It is two of laps with tires that have a lot of grip in them versus the tires that will be worn out as the race goes on and the pace is going to drop. You have got to take it for what it is but it is still information that we will use."

ANY THOUGHTS ON THE UPCOMING CHANGES TO PHOENIX AFTER THIS RACE? "I think it is exciting in some ways. It is going to be a new race track. It is not going to be the same Phoenix. It is really important to have a one-mile race track that is competitive. That is showcasing what we can do with these race cars. I think that is exciting. The thing that I love so much about the older race tracks, I think most drivers will tell you this, is the worn out surfaces. They have a lot of grip for a couple of laps and then the tires go off. Then it is about setups. It about driving and it brings the total team into it. It just seems that as they are re-paving race tracks these days, they are not able to maintain that. That is the challenge for Goodyear. That is the challenge for the teams, drivers and for this sport I feel like because what we don't want to have happen is we come back here and the track has a ton of grip and we are just single-file racing. There are some new things they are doing to race tracks with progressive banking that are offering up three-wide racing right from the beginning so maybe some of that will help. I will say I am going to miss the worn out surface. I am going to miss the dogleg in the back because I hear they might be taking that out. But other than that I will admit this is not my best track so I am thinking I welcome a change. I think it could potentially make us even stronger here. I tell you what is really going to make things unique is when we come back here for the championship to have a whole new race track in the Chase with basically no testing. That is really going to throw us some big challenges for the teams that are going for the championship."

-source: team chevy

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Trevor Bayne , David Ragan
Tags chevrolet, chevy, hendrick