NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES PRESEASON THUNDER AT LAS VEGAS -- DAY 1 LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY January 28, 2008 JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during preseason testing and discussed the new race ...
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
PRESEASON THUNDER AT LAS VEGAS -- DAY 1
LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
January 28, 2008
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during preseason testing and discussed the new race car, working with Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a new member of Hendrick Motorsports, and more:
ON THE TEST SO FAR: "It started out great. I've been a little bit under the weather. I've had a cold so I wasn't really anxious to beat it out on the race track today. But then the car started driving as good as it did when we first got out there, I told the guys they were already making me feel better. It seemed like as time went on and we got some more rubber on the track that we started to figure out this newer car on this track. We lost a little bit of that. We didn't lose speed, but other guys seemed to gain more. So it's testing. You're trying things and you're trying to answer questions. But the bottom line is you're always trying to find speed and ways to go faster. I'm pretty pleased. I was optimistic coming in. This time last year, we had a new track surface and a new tire and we were slipping and sliding all over the place. I was anxious to see what would happen here -- especially with the weather conditions that we had today. The car was very comfortable. I was very happy with it."
AT CHRISTMAS, WAS YOUR BABY DAUGHTER MORE IMPRESSED WITH THE PRESENTS OR THE WRAPPING PAPER? "I think neither. We're a little early into it. This Christmas we just enjoyed being together in a beautiful place. We were down in Mexico and even Ingrid and I, we said here's our gift right here. We didn't even do a whole lot for one another. We just enjoyed the three of us being together. But I'm looking forward to next Christmas (laughs)."
ON DALE EARNHARDT JR. JOINING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, HOW IS HE SETTLING IN? "He's doing very well. I'm extremely impressed. Today, really, being the first time at this type of track, Daytona is Daytona and we know he's going to be good, but he was fast today and I feel like he and Tony Eury Jr. are a great asset to our organization. I've had a lot of fun working with him so far. He's fit right in."
BRIAN FRANCE MADE SOME COMMENTS LAST WEEK ABOUT GETTING BACK TO NASCAR'S ROOTS AND THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE MADE TOO MANY CHANGES. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? CAN THEY GET BACK TO THEIR FANS AND DO YOU THINK THAT'S A GOOD THING? "Yeah, I told them not to change that point system (laughs). I do think we've gone through a lot of changes. The sport has been on a great ride and growing so fast and doing so well that I think that Brian's influence can continue to take that on. But I do think along the way we did have a few too many changes and things that probably are all good for the sport, but just not all at once. I think it's great that they've got that attitude of hey, let's just put some great racing out there on the track and not worry about trying to make everything so perfect. It's nice and refreshing for the teams to come into the season and not have to think about changes other than trying to focus on this car and our team and go win the championship."
IT'S DIFFICULT TO COVER TESTING BECAUSE THE SPEEDS DON'T SAY A LOT. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US THAT MIGHT BE OF INTEREST TO DIGEST ALL THIS? "I think we all have the telemetry or the times and the first thing I'm going to do and I would recommend to you guys if it's available to you is to look at all the laps that every car made. The only true way you know who's good and who's not is to look at five and ten and 20 lap runs of a team or a car. I don't think we made more than six or seven laps at a time. So you do have to be careful. I think there are certain teams that are up toward the top that if they're fast now, they're going to be fast when we come back. There are some guys making qualifying runs that are outside the top 35 in points. You've got to be careful about reading too much in that. We focus on our own program. At the end of the day, I feel like we were a tenth or two off. But we're trying a lot of things. I feel like the speed is going to come and I feel real good about it. They offer that to us on the race weekends. I don't know if they offer that during tests. That's going to tell us who really to watch. Guys can put up a great first lap, but if they fall off after five laps they fall off, we're not going to worry about them too much except maybe for qualifying (laughs)."
NOW THAT JUNIOR HAS JOINED THE TEAM, HOW DO YOU TALK TO CASEY MEARS TO LET HIM KNOW THAT HE'S STILL ON THE TEAM. THERE IS THE PERCEPTION THAT HE'S BEING SENT OUT A LITTLE BIT. "Oh, aren't we all? (laughs) C'mon, man, it's Dale Earnhardt Jr. Let's be honest that if you're not realistic about the fact that he's the most popular guy and the guy who gets the most media attention and that would be the case whether he's on your team or on any other team, but you treat him as if he's just one of us. We don't treat him like he's this hierarchy or anything. He's a race car driver. He's been very humble and appreciative about working with us and he's the same way and it's gone very well. But it's no secret that on media day last week at Hendrick Motorsports who had the biggest crowd. And that's just part of it. That's part of it for Casey and Jimmie (Johnson) and me. Jimmie is a two-time, back-to-back champion, and he has to accept that as well. As long as we focus on doing our jobs behind the wheel and working as best as we can as teammates and as individuals, we're going to get the benefits he brings and also hopefully make our team rise to the occasion. To me, it's even more incentive to go out there an be competitive."
CAN YOU COMPARE THE CAR IN THIS TEST TO THE DAYTONA TEST? WHAT KIND OF RACING WILL WE SEE HERE? "It's a little early. As the day went on, the groove started widening out and that was improving things. We have to have multiple-groove race tracks with this car. Except for a short track where you can bump and bang them and move guys out of the way, at any other track you've got to have multiple grooves. So this track had a really nice outside groove down turns 1 and 2 the last time we were here; a little bit in turns 3 and 4. Today it started out right around the bottom but as the day went on it started widening out. I think we'll see that in the race, so that's a good thing. This car punches a big hole. When it does that, it's going to be tough to ride in right behind the guy in front of you. But the side-by-side seems to be excellent. The draft that you get down the straightaway is really good. I'm hoping that those things create some great passing and overtaking and great racing. That's my hope. I'm optimistic about it. I think that from the first time that I drove the car in Michigan, we've come such a long way as teams with the set-ups and learning about this car to get it closer to what we've been racing as far as comfort. If the drivers aren't comfortable, they're not going to race hard. And so I think you're going to see it progress every race as each year goes by."
-credit: gm racing