JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing at New Hampshire, the Brickyard, General Motors, merchandise sales and other topics. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed racing at New Hampshire, the Brickyard, General Motors, merchandise sales and other topics.
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEKEND: "We did the tire test here with Goodyear and it was 50 degrees or less outside. We weren't expecting to come back here and really be able to utilize the information from that test. We knew it was going to have less grip here today obviously with the temperatures. It was quite a big difference. There isn't a whole lot that we gained from the test, but I always look forward to racing here at Loudon. We run well here. We have had good results and just the data that we got from that tire test will hopefully give a little bit of an edge and some good information to pull together a good weekend."
HAS THIS TRACK AS WELL AS RACING IN THE NORTHEAST EXCEEDED YOUR EXPECTATIONS AS FAR AS FANS AND THE FACILITY ITSELF? "I think maybe the thing that threw people off a little was just NASCAR stock car racing in the Northeast. This has always been a huge group of racing fans up in the Northeast. I raced up here briefly long before I ever went down South to get involved with NASCAR. I was driving a midget, a super modified and saw the different tracks and the competition and a huge fan base for local racing. I wasn't that surprised.
"You put a flat one-mile oval track near Loudon, New Hampshire, wasn't sure how big it could be. After the first Nationwide race that I ran here and saw the grandstands filled up, I knew the Cup series would do very well here. I was just thankful to get a couple of years here of some racing before the Cup series got here and I always felt like that gave us a little bit of an advantage when Cup did come here."
IS THE BRICKYARD SOMETHING THAT HOLDS A SPECIAL PLACE? "The Brickyard is always special. It is just for me such an important race for us. For me and my career, I am just so thrilled and excited that I have won at the Brickyard. I still feel that way. It is still an extremely important race for us to go and compete at. I think it is still important for motorsports, important for NASCAR. But just for me personally, I just love going and competing there with the history and knowing me going there as a kid, going to the museum and doing different things. Just walking around that track, thinking what a dream it would be to someday race there. Now, getting the chance to do it is fantastic."
THERE HAVE BEEN EIGHT DIFFERENT WINNERS IN THE LAST EIGHT RACES HERE, IS THERE A REASON YOU CAN THINK OF? "I think it is because track position and pit strategy plays out so much here that, you'll get guys that take some big risks. Obviously last year here, Kurt Busch took a big risk by staying out when it rained and that paid for them. Then you have seen guys take two tires, no tires, you just see so many different strategies that have paid off here. The fastest car doesn't always win at a track like this. It is more true here than others because it is tough to pass. With the aerodynamics, especially with this car, being out front is huge."
DO YOU GIVE UP ANYTHING IN THIS NH RACE LOOKING AHEAD AND TESTING FOR THE FIRST RACE OF THE CHASE HERE? "Sure, for the first race of the Chase. We feel like this is a very important race, very important track. We are in a position in the points to be a little more risky in our setup, in our pit strategy. But the most important thing is getting the car really dialed in this weekend so that when we come back for the Chase, that we start it off right."
JUST LOOKING OVER THE PAST FEW WEEKS, YOU'VE HAD SOME STRONG RUNS. BUT DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BEEN A TICK OFF FROM THE FIRST SIX OR EIGHT WEEKS OF THE SEASON? IF SO, WHY? "Yeah, I feel like at the 1.5-mile tracks I think we're still really strong. At the bigger tracks we're really strong. Throw out Pocono; that's its own place. I feel like we were very strong at Michigan. We had to start at the back because of the engine problem, but drove all the way up into the top five. I thought we were going to be a little bit better at Dover, so yeah, we've been off a little bit more than we were earlier in the season. It's not that we're off, it's that the competition has gotten better. The No. 14 (Tony Stewart) and the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson), especially the No. 48, those guys have been running really, really good even though they haven't gotten the results. We've been getting the results but we haven't been as strong as I feel like we need to. It's definitely something we're focused on. But you've got to focus on so many things right now at this point in the season. In our position you're trying to fine-tune the cars you're driving, get yourself mentally and physically in shape for the end of the season, for the Chase. You're trying to make your cars go faster. You're trying to make sure your pit crew is tuned up and flawless in the pits and all those things. You're just working for those final 10 (races) and we all have areas we can get better in."
HAS YOUR BACK PLAYED ANY ROLE IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS? "No, no. The thing with my back is it's almost a blessing in disguise because I've always been fairly fit without having to do much. And I think that because of that, my core had gotten a little bit weak and I think over the last few years, especially with some wrecks, it's contributed to my back problems. And now, I'm getting much stronger so I'm actually in better physical shape than I've been in a long time and still have a ways to go. But I think it's actually going to help me be more prepared for the end of the year and the Chase than anything else. So far, I think Bristol, maybe Richmond, those tracks have been the toughest on me. And they're not in the Chase. So we'll be in good shape."
EARLY THIS SEASON, YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO GET IN TOUCH WITH THE FANS MORE. NOW, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED OR WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THAT INCREASED INTERACTION WITH FANS? DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT EFFORT IS MAYBE PAYING OFF NOW? "You never really know if it's paying off. I hope that it is. I feel good about the effort that I'm making and the fans seem to be very appreciative and thankful of it. Is that bringing more people to the race track and more people watching at home? I don't know. But all I can do is my part and put as much effort into it as I possibly can and feel good about it at the end of the day."
ARE THE FANS DIFFERENT THAN SAY 10 YEARS AGO? "No, I don't really see a difference. The avid fans are still extremely avid. The most interaction that I see is at my fan club events and in the garage area, when we get to the race track and at the airports. Yesterday, I was pretty impressed. It was a beautiful day to fly as well as just to be outside. And when we landed, there were tons of people at the airport in lounge chairs just kind of hanging out. And I was like, are they just hanging out to watch airplanes or do they want autographs? Usually they are lined up standing there. And then when I drove out and stopped to sign a couple of autographs, they all got out of their chairs and came over (laughs). And I was like, oh, I didn't know that everybody there was actually race fans. I wasn't sure. But it was pretty cool to see that kind of a group. And I see that changing a little bit. It used to be huge when you came into the airports and then it tapered off and I see that coming back a little bit again."
AS SOMEONE WHO TOOK PART IN ONE OF THE GOODYEAR TIRE TESTS LEADING TO BRICKYARD, CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE SCOPE OF WHAT GOODYEAR IS TAKING ON WITH SEVEN TESTS, 40-SOMETHING DRIVERS, AND 13,000 MILES JUST TO GET ONE RACE RIGHT? "Oh, it's unprecedented. It's unbelievable how much time, money, and effort has been spent by them. I don't think it was 100 percent their fault. I think there were other contributions, but they took the fall and they contributed the most to fix it. I'm just confident and glad that they did fix it. They put a lot of effort into it and a lot of different tests and not all those tests were necessarily successful ones, but they learned from every one of them to be able to build the tire that they have now that seems to be fantastic."
SO FAR, NOBODY HAS WON MORE THAN THREE RACES THIS SEASON SO NOBODY HAS MORE THAN 30 BONUS POINTS. ARE YOU SURPRISED OR ENCOURAGED? "No, I'm more encouraged and a little surprised, but more encouraged. I still think somebody can rack them up in a hurry. So I'm encouraged because yes, we're only 20 behind and I feel like we can win races before the Chase starts. I'm more anxious to win races in the Chase. But 20 points to me is not a big deal. You start getting 50 or 60 points behind somebody and that's tough to overcome, especially if it's somebody like the No. 48 (Johnson) or the No. 14 (Stewart). It's just tough to do. So we're doing everything we can to take a little bit more risk in our strategy and our set-ups to get ourselves some more bonus points and also get ourselves into a solid position to win this thing. I still feel like this is a great year for us with a great opportunity to win this Chase and win the first Sprint Cup for us. To me, this format is totally different and very challenging. We've never won it and we want to really bad. I think this is a great opportunity for us to do that."
AS YOU KNOW THERE'S BEEN CHEVROLET CUTBACKS IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES AND THEY'RE EXPECTED TO TAKE EFFECT IN THE CUP SERIES AS WELL, HOW DO YOU SEE THAT AFFECTING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? "Yeah I spoke to everybody at Hendrick this week about it. We expected something to be done and cutbacks to be made. The sooner we know about what's going to happen the better we can react. They're having to react to what's going on with their company and that's how we do it. Now we know what's happening and we're going to react. We're still getting their support but it's changed. We're working through all that right now. How's it going to affect us -- when we can announce that or talk more about it then we will."
DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE TO THE LEVEL OF LAYOFFS? "We had layoffs over the off season. We're not treating it any different than any other business that's out there. You know what your income is and you have your spreadsheets and what it costs you. First thing you do is you try to supplement that lost income somewhere else. You find out are there companies even in these tough times that are interested and maybe have done well during these times, because there are always people that are doing well and people that own businesses that are going up and down, so you look and search out there in maybe a little bit different avenue to see if there is some interest there. Before I go and say what those cutbacks are going to be we want to be concrete about it. I don't want to just speculate and throw something out there. The economy has affected all of us and we have to act accordingly. That's what we're going to do."
IN AT LEAST ONE ASPECT IN SOUVENIR SALES, TONY (STEWART) HAS PASSED DALE JUNIOR . . . "Based on whose numbers?"
NASCAR.COM SUPERSTORE. "Please don't go off NASCAR.COM Superstore. It's a great place to buy souvenirs but that is not how you judge souvenir sales."
I WAS GOING TO ASK HOW DO YOU JUDGE IT AND FOR SOMEBODY LIKE DALE JUNIOR TO STILL BE AT TOP IN A LOT OF OTHER AREAS WITH THE SEASON HE HAS WHAT DOES THAT SAY ABOUT HIS STAYING POWER IN THIS SPORT? "He's the most popular guy out there. There's no doubt about it. Has he taken a bit of a hit with the performance not being there, sure but what happens is when somebody moves over to a new team and they get a new sponsor and they do well they spike. Tony (Stewart) is a guy that's always been solid in souvenir sales. So when you see a guy like him change teams, number, and sponsor and then do well then the souvenir sales are going to be there. They're all down. It's been hurt dramatically with the economy. Die cast is not what it used to be. It's forcing all of us, because that's an important business to the teams even back to the sponsors, it's something that the sponsors used to kind of look at and say hey this is a form of income for us so we can offset some of our costs as well as NASCAR and other groups that are involved. It's all taken a hit and we've got to be more creative to find out how we can grow that business and get it back hopefully to where it was in the late 90's and 2000. I think Junior has got a lot of staying power. He's got a huge appeal but I do think it's a little bit different now that he's not at DEI and he's at Hendrick. It seems like the fans are saying okay, now you're at the powerhouse team show us what you've got. He was at a good organization before and he's at a good organization now. It's important for him and that team to come together and get in sync and it could take a little while. All it takes is one win, one streak of good finishes and he's going to go. That's the difference, with him it doesn't take anything to bounce back. You're going to get a nerve when you say the NASCAR.COM Superstore numbers."
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT AS FAR AS THE NUMBERS? "It's a great place to buy souvenirs but its not mass market. It's not Wal-Mart, K-Mart, JC Penny's, every mom and pops store that out there selling souvenirs. You go to the sources and there is information out there from our licensees that know the real number. The NASCAR.COM store, it goes up and down. Jimmie Johnson had high sales because he won the championship. You know all the championship gear is on there and if you're not the number one guy after you win the championship then you've got to question something and he was and so that's what he should have done. If you looked throughout the whole year, I wouldn't use that as a gauge."
-credit: gm racing