JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, MET WITH MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA AT NEW HAMPSHIRE INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY. HE DISCUSSED RACING THE NEW CAR AT LOUDON, CHALLENGES DURING SUSPENSION OF CREW CHIEFS, FATHERHOOD, AND OTHER TOPICS: ON TED MUSGRAVE'S...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, MET WITH MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA AT NEW HAMPSHIRE INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY. HE DISCUSSED RACING THE NEW CAR AT LOUDON, CHALLENGES DURING SUSPENSION OF CREW CHIEFS, FATHERHOOD, AND OTHER TOPICS:
ON TED MUSGRAVE'S SUSPENSION FROM CRAFTSMAN TRUCK: "I don't really know a whole about that. I didn't see the truck race. I don't think I'm the best one to comment on it. From what I do know, I think those are obviously going to be judgment calls in NASCAR's position of how deliberate, how dangerous those situations were and obviously they made a call there and I don't know, I haven't seen it to know what the deal was."
ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW: "Well I feel like we've definitely seen some good racing. I think that until we get to the mile-and-a-half tracks, which the majority of our tracks are in those high-speed speedways like that. I don't know if we can really evaluate it. I personally think that it still needs some work. I think that we just don't have enough front downforce in these cars. We're just not able to pull up behind a guy if we're faster than him and maneuver around him so I think there's still a little bit of work to do but I think for the most part they're accomplishing it. I think it's a safe car. I think that the cars are very equal to one another as far as the competition standpoint but ultimately what they want is great racing and I think that they've so far seen pretty good racing and either we've been really fortunate or the car offers that and I'm not sure. I'm still unsure on where we stand on that."
ON RACING THE IMPALA SS AT NEW HAMSPHIRE: "So far I'm actually pretty happy with this track, probably one of the better ones that I've felt this car was going to be. We've been real comfortable right from the beginning. I think that as flat as this track is and as narrow as this track is, until we get out there and start racing one another and running with on another, really not sure because this track we typically get a really bad aero push when we're behind other cars. It's very hard to pass here so with this car there's two things that happen with this car. One, it doesn't have as much grip so you have to search around for grip so usually that will widen a groove out a little bit. If that happens then maybe we can get more side by side racing.
But the other thing this car does is it punches a big hole in the aerodynamics when you're behind another car go away drastically so you can't drive behind another car and make those passes. Those are some concerns that I have on a especially flat track like this but everything felt pretty good this morning so far."
ON HAVING A LOT OF SUCCESS OFF THE BAT AT THIS TRACK AND NOT HAVING THAT HERE LATELY: "Well maybe not the wins but we've had strong finishes. That's just teams and drivers that have done their homework and have been strong here. We've been good, but we haven't been good enough. I think a lot of it starts on qualifying day here. It's important to qualify really strong here. The Childress cars just completely outclassed us last year, especially the first race, maybe even the second race. Yeah, I guess the second race. That kind of came out of the blue. That was like where did that come from? It's impressive so we had to go back and do some homework. Other than them we had I think one of the cars to beat."
ON DOING WELL SO FAR THIS SEASON: "We're having a great year. We've got a great race team and we're fortunate with the situation that we're in this weekend and the next five weeks after this that we've got a lot of depth, we've got a lot of good people that have made this team what it is and we're going to try to take advantage of that and keep this season going strong for us."
WHAT KIND OF ADJUSTMENTS DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE WHEN YOU HAVE AN INTERIM CREW CHIEF? "It's just getting used to dealing with somebody else on the radio, communicating. It's all about communication when you're here practicing, trying to fine tune the car. It's about giving good information and getting good feedback from one another and just building the chemistry and that's something that Steve (Letarte) and I did immediately. We had great chemistry and so now I have to do that with Jeff Meendering and so far it's gone very well. I mean he's very in tune with what goes on with this team, with our setups and he and Steve are really close so they can communicate a lot with the preparation coming into the weekend."
HOW WAS YOUR FIRST WEEK BEING A DAD? "Amazing, absolute amazing. Fortunately I didn't have a lot going on with my schedule this week so I was able to just spend a lot of time with Ella and with Ingrid and just loving every minute of it. It just seems to get better each day."
IS IT HARDER TO COME TO THE RACE TRACK NOW? "It's harder to leave but once we get here, like today, your mind is so focused on driving the car, being competitive, that it doesn't enter into your mind a whole lot so it's only times like this when I get asked about it and it reminds me and I get excited about going home. When I'm in the car (it's the) same way, I'm focused on that. Anytime I have to go do an appearance or leave to come to the race it's much tougher but it's also a lot more exciting to go home when I do."
HAS YOUR SLEEPING PATTERN SETTLED IN? "I'm getting less sleep that's for sure. It's not so bad, it's been good. Ingrid's been fantastic. I don't know how she does it because she's got to be up every three hours but the baby's sleeping good, feeding good, so that's helping both of us."
ON IF A DRIVER NEEDS HIS REST HE SHOULD PRETEND HE'S ASLEEP: "When she comes to the race track, that's going to be the determining factor of all those things when you have the three of us in a small area in that bus. I had to get up early the other day to fly to Charlotte and I was able to sleep and Ingrid was just very understanding about that and let me get my sleep in and didn't wake me but I like to be there for the feedings and helping burp her, helping her change the diapers, all that stuff. If I don't have anything to do the next day then I'm going to be up all night if I have to lose sleep. I'll gain it back somewhere else."
HAS THE BABY SPIT UP ON YOU YET? (Laughs) "Yes. I'm pretty good about having the little rags around me and stuff and the bib on her but I haven't had the projectile yet."
DID YOU LIKE THIS TRACK MORE IN THE 1990s WHEN YOU WERE WINNING ON IT OR DOES IT NOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE? "No, I've always felt the same way about this track. It's a fun track, it's a challenging track and it's just all about everything involved - cars and setups and drivers, everything just changes, tires and so you have to keep up with that. We were on top of it back in the mid 90s and late 90s and we lost it for a little while and I feel like we're starting to get it back again."
IS THIS FIELD MORE COMPETITIVE THAN IN YEARS PAST? "Absolutely. I feel like every year gets more competitive and then you take this car and it only makes it that more competitive and tightens up the field that much more. I feel like every year car owners are putting better drivers in their car, they're getting better funding and NASCAR is doing everything they can to tighten up the competition from their standpoint as well."
ON THE INTERNATIONALISM OF THIS SPORT AND IF THAT AFFECTS THE COMPETITIVENESS: "I think that makes it more competitive. I think it also helps it grow and I see it as nothing but a good thing."
ON THE TRANSITION WITH JEFF MEENDERING: "Steve and I clicked right from the beginning and to me the hardest part about this penalty is losing Steve. I know Jeff's going to do a great job and we've got a lot depth in this team but losing that momentum and that chemistry that we have. We got it instantly and we've been able to only make it better over time. I think Steve and I are going to stay really close through this whole time because we're going to talk a lot on the phone. I'm going to see him a lot away from the race track and we're going to talk on the phone in between practices and all those things. I think in some ways this is going to bring the team closer together. It's going to bring me and Steve and our communication closer.
The only thing that we're really lacking is him at the track and him on that box and that's huge because even though it's a small amount it's huge because those are crucial times and he's done such an amazing job calling the races. I mean look at the pit strategy he's pulled off. Even last week, you know we might not have won the race but we can from 42nd, 41st, whatever it was all the way to seventh or sixth, where ever we ended up. Had those guys not made it on fuel we would have been a top two car but to me his pit strategy is what pulled that off. He did some amazing calls again. That's about the fourth week in a row he's done that."
WOULD WILL YOU NOW BE TAKING A MORE ACTIVE ROLE IN THE PIT STRATEGY WITH STEVE LETARTE NOT ON THE BOX? "No, no. I think it's the crew chief's job, the engineer's job to evaluate everything that's going on out there. They have much more resources at their fingertips to figure what the best strategy is and information that I don't have. All I have is I can tell you what the car is doing, I can tell you what the three or four guys head me and three or four guys behind are doing. That's all I can do so from that standpoint I'll do as I normally do and I'll give them as much of that information as I can from the car but it'll be pretty much standard practice for me and I rely on those guys to make those calls because they're the ones that are best qualified to do it."
WHAT DID BILL FRANCE, JR. DO FOR THE GROWTH OF DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY? "Oh my goodness, I don't know where to begin. I think that the vision that he had, the vision that his father had for the whole sport, especially Daytona International Speedway, and the fact that he helped build that track was really incredible. It was instrumental to the growth of NASCAR, to the growth of the Daytona 500 and the Pepsi 400 and of NASCAR and their presence in Daytona Beach and throughout the country.
I still am having a hard time grasping that he's not with us anymore because the more time I spend in this sport, the more I respected him, the more I appreciated him and the things that he had to say. When he was talking you listened. He was a powerful guy even if he wasn't doing anything, he got your attention and I'm going to miss him because I felt like there were times when he was talking to you, whether it was me directly about race teams, about race tracks or about the sport in general. It was interesting to me to learn that side of it from somebody who had been around the sport and seen it grow the way he had. He was instrumental in getting it to the point that it is today."
THE PEPSI 400 WILL BE THE LAST RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACE FOR THE OUTGOING CAR. YOUR THOUGHTS: "I think until we go to Talladega with this new car I don't really know how to compare what it's going to be like vs. the old car. We deal with it the best way that we can and I hope that this car does what we want it to do - puts on a great race.
I think it's going to be hard for Daytona and Talladega to not put on great races. I think the fans are always going to get something exciting. I look forward to the challenges that come along with this car when we start testing at Daytona next year."
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN DENNY HAMLIN WHERE HE IS ABLE TO FINISH CONSISTENTLY HIGH AND STAY OUT OF TROUBLE? "He's a great driver. Bottom line. There's nothing more you really need to say. He's been extremely impressive with how competitive he is, how fast he is, how he uses his head in the race. He knows when to save and when to push. To me, those are always the characteristics of what makes great race car drivers out there. When you're consistent like that, it's just a matter of time before you win races. He's winning races as well as being consistent and he's impressed the heck out of me for sure."
WHAT DO YOU MEAN ABOUT USING HIS HEAD? "I think there are just some guys that are able to think rationally in the heat of the moment. There's some guys that aren't. Guys that can sort of slow down everything going on around them and make good decisions. That could be two guys that are racing really hard in front of you trying to run over one another, and some guys will just put themselves in that mix and say 'I'm going to take them three wide and get by them'. Some guys will slow down, step back and let them do their thing and have patience and I think that a guy that has as little experience at this level as he does, I think he's got a great balance of patience and skills and abilities to do the job."
WHEN YOU CAME INTO THE SPORT, HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT TO BE PATIENT AND DRIVE LIKE HAMLIN DOES? "I came from a different type of racing. I came from sprint cars and midgets that you just go, go, go. The hardest thing for me was to learn the patience of the longer races. I'm not exactly sure other than I think he was running either Hooters Cup or something like that, late models. I don't know how many lap races those were so I think that it's moving up in competition. It's moving to a heavier car and then longer races. That's what you've got to adapt to. Some guys it happens immediately, some guys it takes longer. Certainly when you're with a good team like he is it makes it easier to adapt because you've got experience of other teammates, experience of data and information at your fingertips and I think that they capitalize on that. He's done a great job as well."
DID YOU EVER THINK YOU WOULD BE SO SUCCESSFUL IN THIS SPORT? "No, not where I am today. Heck no. Just deciding to be in the Cup series and to me I just wanted to be somebody that maybe could win a race and be competitive. I had no idea we were going to go on to win 79 (races) now and win four championships. Never in a million years would I have thought that."
-credit: gm racing