JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD FAMILIES APPRECIATION CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his chances in the Chase, racing at Martinsville, mind games, Talladega, and more. HOW WAS PRACTICE? "It was pretty good. We were just working...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD FAMILIES APPRECIATION CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his chances in the Chase, racing at Martinsville, mind games, Talladega, and more.
HOW WAS PRACTICE? "It was pretty good. We were just working on qualifying runs. We weren't able to get that really good lap up there like some guys did right there at the end, but all in all, so far a good day."
IN A CHAMPIONSHIP RUN, WHEN DO THE MIND GAMES START? HOW MANY MIND GAMES ARE THERE IN TERMS OF WHEN YOU'RE SPEAKING TO THE MEDIA AND USING THEM AS A MESSAGE TO SOMEONE ELSE? ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THAT TACTIC? "No. You know what? Fast race cars are the best kind of mind games you can have. In all my experience I think that's what speaks the loudest and what we've been able to utilize; just going out there and performing. That's the way I've always looked at it. But in some tight battles I think the guys that play the mind games are the ones that feel the weakest; you know the ones that are trying to compensate for something that they're lacking. That's my opinion."
THIS IS ONE OF YOUR BEST TRACKS, BUT THE NO. 48 (JIMMIE JOHNSON) AND THE NO. 11 (DENNY HAMLIN) HAVE BEEN BETTER RECENTLY. HOW FRUSTRATING IS IT THAT THIS COULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT OPPORTUNITY EXCEPT FOR THOSE GUYS? "Yeah, you know it's just the cycle with the way things go in racing. It doesn't matter how good you were the last race or in the past, it's what you're doing currently in putting up those numbers. While we still come here and lead laps and at certain parts of the race I feel like we've got the best car; it seems like the second half of the race we haven't been as strong as the guys you mentioned like Hamlin and Jimmie. We're always taking notes and trying to come back stronger and address those things.
"So far we're just kind of business as usual here at Martinsville and tomorrow we'll focus on some things. One thing that's difficult is to mimic exactly what the track does during the race because this track lays rubber in the middle part of the race towards the end and it never does that in practice. So, you're working around it. In the race I'm having to change my line and change the car and in practice we are never having to deal with that. So it's hard to try to find out exactly what we need to be better in that situation. And it seems like some of our competitors have done a little bit better job of that."
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO GET OVER A RACE LIKE LAST WEEK WHEN YOU LOST SO MANY POINTS? ARE YOU OVER IT BY SUNDAY NIGHT OR ARE YOU STILL DISAPPOINTED NOW AS YOU WERE SUNDAY? "Yeah, I'm pretty good at moving on past things. I'll still reflect when the season is over and next week it might flash into my head a little bit like gosh I wish that race hadn't gone that way. But I was so busy with my family this week, and that's a great thing about going home and having a three-year-old and a two-month-old is you just sink yourself into that and you focus on the important things and put days like that behind you; things that you can't control or get them back. And then you just start thinking about the next weekend. I've been excited about Martinsville for several weeks. I love this track. We run good here. And so I guess if we weren't coming to Martinsville it would be a little bit harder to put a race like Charlotte behind us. But yeah, I felt like we had an opportunity there to maintain that points gap that we had. And to lose as many points as we did was certainly no fun. But we moved past it pretty soon, pretty quick."
(INAUDIBLE) ON PUTTING A MARTINSVILLE RACE BEHIND THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HIS "I would say that I've won enough races to know that when it's meant to happen, it's going to happen. And that one wasn't meant to be for us. You know, we didn't have the best car. Steve (Letarte) did a great job making the right call in the pits there and it would have been nice to have pulled it off. We've pulled races off like that in the past. This year we don't seem to be able to pull those off. So what we need to focus on now is having the best car and put ourselves in position to have the fastest car and win the race that way. That's our mindset right now and continues to be that way until the race is over on Sunday."
DO YOU THINK YOU'RE OUT OF IT? "Yeah, unless some major things happen I think we are. I know it's not something that I'm thinking about. We're approaching the races the same way. It doesn't change how we do that. But I can't say that we've got this weight on our shoulders of the pressure of a championship. I feel like in some ways, that's been taken off of us because I think we're too many points back."
NEXT WEEK AT TALLADEGA WITH FIVE LAPS TO GO, WHERE IDEALLY DO YOU WANT TO BE? "Second or third, probably; it just depends on who you're pushing and who is pushing you. The lead is not a bad place but it depends on who is behind you. If it's a teammate, then you probably feel like your chances of finishing first or second are pretty good. If it's somebody else, you might get shuffled earlier and you could end up 15th. So, I think that probably it's better to be 2nd or 3rd."
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE DRAFTING PARTNER? "Whoever is pushing me. It doesn't matter who it is. You kind of get a sense throughout the race who is working with you, who you're working with, you build up sort of a commitment to one another and you kind of talk on the radio and say hey, let him know I'm going to push him, I'm not going anywhere. It gets to a point at Talladega nowadays where you're just happy to finish in the top five. It's not just about the win. A top five is like a win at a place like Talladega because you survived. So if you find a guy you're working well with that you think you can get up there and worst case scenario finish second or third because you're pushing him, you're going to try to win the race but you're not going to risk too much and you're going to do what you can to finish the race. If you can work with a guy and have a pretty good shot at finishing second, then that's a good guy. That's a good guy to be working with."
IS IT BETTER TO BE LUCKY OR GOOD AT TALLADEGA? "Talladega, I don't think, has a whole lot to do with skills, so I would say luck will play out a lot more."
HAVE YOU FOUND THAT YOUR LINE STAYED PRETTY CONSISTENT HERE OVER THE LAST TWO OR THREE YEARS? IT SEEMED LIKE YOU WERE EXPERIMENTING A LOT DURING PRACTICE. "Well that's what we were just talking about--the line changes a lot during the race because rubber gets laid down from the right side tires and you don't have that in practice, so you can't really experiment with it, it doesn't do the same thing that it does during the race. But during the race, I'll experiment with my line. As soon as that rubber gets laid down, I'll experiment with it quite a bit--car changes, line changes, and you can adjust."
EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT JIMMIE HERE, BUT THIS IS A TRACK WHERE YOU'RE ALSO EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL. DO YOU THINK PEOPLE OVERLOOK YOU? "We might not have had the wins here in recent years like those guys have, but we have been really, really strong. All we have to do is get a little bit better and we can pull ourselves right back into victory lane here. Even when we're not winning, we're putting those guys in position not to make mistakes--if they make a mistake we're going to be right there and pounce on them, but they haven't made a lot of mistakes over the last few years."
WILL WE FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR SPONSOR NEXT WEEK? "You'll find out about one of them on Wednesday, I believe. I don't know what all they are going to put into that announcement, so I don't know all the details."
YOU'VE GOT THE FANS SAYING THEY WANT SOMEONE OTHER THAN JIMMIE TO WIN; YOU'VE GOT THE COMPETITORS SAYING THAT JIMMIE IS A NICE GUY, BUT THEY'D LIKE TO SEE SOMEONE ELSE WIN. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "Well, I mean, I just want to see myself win the championship, but if we can't win it we want Jimmie to do it. We want Hendrick Motorsports to win another championship and keep that streak alive. It's an incredible thing that they're doing and you've got to respect that. I think we'll look back at it somewhere down the road if they pull this off and go for six next year, it's history making. It's hard to appreciate it when you're in it for any of us--even them. It's easy to say that you want somebody else to win, but what they're proving right now is that if somebody else wants to win, they've got to come and fight really hard for it. They've got to be a better team, and right now I have not seen a better team out there but anything could still happen and I think that it's easy to say, 'sure, we'd like to see someone else,' when someone else has won four years in a row."
THERE WAS A TIME WHEN DALE JR. WAS REALLY CONFIDENT AT TALLADEGA--WON FOUR OR FIVE RACE. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE DIFFERENCE IS BETWEEN NOW AND TODAY? "Car. The car is different. Has he won a COT race? I mean a COT race to me, means that you're going to see someone different win all the time. It just changes how you go about it, getting yourself in position and drafting is so much different. With the old car, you really could put yourself in a position to win that race and work through it and think about it and plan it and know what your car is going to do. Nowadays, you just look for the revolving door--you just try to figure out who is going to get through it at the right time. We've got these two-car breakaways now, so that has played a little bit more of a role too. If you get two guys that get themselves into position and know how to do that well--I think that's about the only skill set that has really set in over the last few races at Talladega is two guys hooking up. It seems like we work on that more and more now in practice and more guys are able to figure it out. Then it goes back to the team--can you keep your engine from overheating, how long can you hook up like that without blowing the engine. I don't think Jr. has lost anything at the restrictor plate tracks, I just think the style of racing is different."
DO YOU THINK THE RELAXED BUMP DRAFTING RULES HAVE HELPED THE PRODUCT OF RACING AT TALLADEGA? "I don't know if that relaxed bump drafting is associated with Daytona and Talladega--I think that 'boys have at it' thing is not geared at Talladega. So I guess I'm not on the same page as you, and I think the bump drafting has been addressed. It was addressed more this past time at Talladega than it was the year before, so I still think the bump drafting is something that we have to cautious and conscious of because that's not 'guys have at it.' That just gets some kind of stupid, so we have to manage that. I think NASCAR might not be cracking down on it, I think it somehow polices itself but I think it does get to a point where they have to step in. That is the one place where I would like to see them step in--still--and see them police is that because that's not the same as some of the 'aggressive' driving that you're seeing at some of these other tracks."
IN THE SPRING RACE HERE, DENNY CAME IN HERE, TOOK TIRES AND WENT ON TO WIN THE RACE. OBVIOUSLY THAT WASN'T THE ONLY THING THAT HAPPENED IN THE SCENARIO, BUT WITH HOW THAT PLAYED OUT DO YOU THINK FOUR TIRES IS THE WAY YOU HAVE TO GO WITH 20 LAPS LEFT? "That same statement and those words are the reason why we haven't won races this year. At the times when we should've taken four tires, it seemed like taking two tires is what worked or staying out worked out. At times when we came in and took two tires, four tires worked. And it all comes down to cautions--you never know to plan when those cautions are going to fall. So because of that, it's kind of like flipping a coin for a crew chief as to which route is the best to take. Had the caution not come out they way it did Denny probably wouldn't have won the race, but I'm pretty sure that even if we had taken four we still would have finished behind the 11. So I think that's kind of the route that Steve [Letarte, crew chief] took--that was our chance at winning the race so let's go for it. We weren't as good as the 11 at that point in the race."
DO THE MYSTERIOUS CAUTIONS FOR DEBRIS FRUSTRATE THE DRIVERS AS MUCH AS THEY DO THE VIEWERS? "I can only answer from my experience--there were really no mysterious cautions here at Martinsville. Kyle Busch wrecked and they had to throw the caution. If you're leading a race and the caution comes out and you don't think it's justified, that's frustrating, it is. Sometimes it's a mistake and sometimes you never really get the answer as to why it happened, but that's just a part of racing that you have to deal with. When you've been around this sport long enough those go for you and against you all the time."
-source: gm racing