Martinsville II: Jeff Gordon - GM Top-10 interview

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: ON SUCCESS OVER THE YEARS AT MARTINSVILLE: "I think it has been a work in progress over the years. This is a track where it takes a lot of laps to try and understand this ...


ON SUCCESS OVER THE YEARS AT MARTINSVILLE: "I think it has been a work in progress over the years. This is a track where it takes a lot of laps to try and understand this place. It is a very tricky track to get around. Along the way, you hit on something with your driving style or the setups the team puts under you and it builds your confidence. You just go from there and get better and better. Of course the wins we have had here have only contributed to that, so we love coming here. It seems like coming in to this race, I feel no matter what setup is underneath the car, we are going to find a way to do what we want it to do."

ON CHANGES TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP: "As long as you are mathematically still in it, you can't count yourself completely out of it. I guess the reason I said that and feel that way is not, what are we, 216 points or something like that out, it isn't that isn't doable, it is the fact that we have nine guys in front of us. To have nine guys in front of you have catastrophes for like two weeks in a row, that is basically unheard of. Even if we would win every race from here on out, unless the other guys have some major problems, I don't think we can do it.

"I look at Martinsville as an opportunity for us; it is a good track for us. We are going to do everything we can to win this race and the four after this, turn around our performances at places like Texas and Phoenix and hopefully win some races along the way at the tracks we are good at. But to me, it is all about being competitive. I just want to come out of here knowing we are competitive. I am not thinking of points at all, I am just thinking about being competitive and going out and trying to win races."

ON REFERENCES TO MARTINSVILLE AS GORDONVILLE: "I think we are good here, it takes a combination of everyone involved with the teams. I do like this track; it has been very good to us. Both the team and I come in here with confidence. We never give up on trying to get better here. It is not like we come in here with a setup that we have had for six years. We went and tested at Greenville Pickens Speedway just for here to try and get better. So far these results show it seems to be working."

ON HOW MUCH IS LUCK A PART OF SUCCESS: "I have always said that I believe you make a lot of your luck, if not most of it. There are silly things that can happen and you can blame it on luck or whatever you want but I think a lot of our success on tracks like this has come because we have come well prepared with a race car. We haven't qualified that well here in recent years, since they redid the concrete, we haven't qualified that well but once we got into the races, we were really good. We have put ourselves in good positions to have some good fortune. The year we came from two or three laps down, we had a fast race car, but we did have some luck too. The cautions came at the right time, we got back on the lead lap and we stayed out of trouble. Staying out of trouble here is not an easy task."

ON APPRECIATING CHAMPIONSHIPS MORE NOW: "Every year that goes by makes me appreciate them more. When we won the third championship, it make me appreciate the first and second more. When we won the fourth one, made me appreciate the other three that much more. Every year that goes by that you either win one or don't win one, there is no doubt, you appreciate the things that have happened in this sport, the successes that you have had; the wrecks you have been through and survived. I think you appreciate all things more. This being my 14th season, I am very appreciative of the accomplishments that we have had, the winning streak that we had, the pole streak that we have had. Certainly looking back on those dominate years, those were some awesome times that can never be taken away from us and I don't know if we can ever duplicate them."

ON JEFF BURTON'S SUCCESS: "I think it is a good thing to see. Jeff has always been a talented driver. We talked so much about him in those 90s when he and I were battling; we were battling for championships and winning races. Everybody thought here is a guy that has the potential to be a multiple champion. He was so close so many times. It was unfortunate that some people wrote him off. I think in his heart he probably knew that if he got with the right combination and the right team and got that chemistry back, he was capable of doing it and this year he has proved that."

ON WHAT HAPPENED TO ENGINE AT LOWE'S: "We broke a piston. It is something that we have been running in races quite a while. We feel like happened, sometimes you have those perfect situations for good things and perfect situations for bad things. That was a perfect situation for a bad thing. The temperature was very cool, the engines were running very strong and the pace was fast. We feel like we put just a little bit too much stress on that piston that we had not seen earlier. Our guys would never put something in there that wasn't race proven. The thing is, you can't always predict what kind of stress is going to be out there. I guess that was more than what we anticipated, but we know what happened and how to prevent it in the future. We had a fast race car. I look back at that race and when we were out front, I think on the tail end of the lead lap out front driving away from them turning some awesome lap times; the car couldn't have felt any better. But those could have been the laps that hurt the pistons the most."

ON FINISHES LAST THREE WEEKS: "It happens man, it happens. I am a big believer in things that are meant to happen, happen. Maybe this isn't our year because we have a rookie crew chief (LAUGHS, SAID IN JEST). He wouldn't appreciate it enough if he came in and won a championship his first year out. Maybe it is because we are still building to put ourselves in position for next year. We were fortunate to makes the Chase. I think we have been extremely strong performance wise in the Chase, but we haven't had everything else aligned just right. One thing we are good at is learning from every experience, good and bad. I think it is only going to make us stronger for next year."

ON KYLE BUSCH THIS YEAR VERSUS LAST: "I think it is all about maturity. You get through that rookie year and you start to mature and start to handle situations better than the previous year. That is only going to continue to happen as he gets years under his belt in the series. He is extremely talented. He has shown and proved that. He and his whole team just have to realize, just like we are experiencing, you have to learn from those things and figure out 'What could I have done different as a driver.' The crew chief says the same thing as a crew chief, the engine builder, pit crew guys, everybody, says ok, what can we do as a team, what I do as an individual to improve and be better next year."

ON LOGICAL GOALS FOR JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: "It is pretty much what I expected. He is very talented. He has a good feel for the car. Getting the speed out of the car, doesn't seem to be an issue. Takes him a little bit of time when he goes to a new track to adapt to that track and the car on that track, which is what you would expect, but he definitely gets there. The next step is going to be getting on that track in traffic and around other cars and learning what the car does in traffic. The biggest challenge I think he has ahead of him, and I think he is capable of overcoming all of these but they are still going to be big challenges, is when he goes to tracks he has never been to, Dover, New Hampshire, here at Martinsville. I think it is extremely important for them to get him as many laps as possible in a Busch car, ARCA car, whatever they can, on the tracks that he is not going to be able to test on. With the limitations on the testing, it makes a big challenge on a guy that has never driven a stock car.

"There is definitely a different mentality in Formula One, it is very very cutthroat. Not that it isn't over here, we are very very competitive over here, but we do it in a friendly manner. I think we realize what happens on the race track stays on the race track. When you are racing 38 weeks out of the year and you are with 42 other guys out there on the track every weekend, life is too short not to try to keep friends and be friendly and stay away from being enemies. When you see a guy like Juan Pablo, that we are all thankful chose to come in to NASCAR because it is good for the sport, it shows a lot of courage on his part. It is exciting. It is exciting to see open wheel guys that see NASCAR as a series they would like to be in. I think those are all positives and I think we are all looking at it that way."

DO YOU THINK OVER THE 10 RACES IN THE CHASE DO YOU THINK EACH DRIVER HAS THEIR ONE RACE OF BAD LUCK? "Yeah, I would think so and we've already basically have seen that. (Jeff) Burton in Talladega had his. It comes down to a guy that performs well. He doesn't have to just have to be ridiculous and (have) top threes or fours every weekend but he has to perform well like Burton has but then it's the guy that has the least amount of problems when those problems occur. I don't know where he (Jeff Burton) finished at Talladega but when you look at other guys who have finished 38th, 40th (and) have had those big problems. That's the thing; it's not running into the catastrophe day. A bad day if it's 25th or 24th or something like that, that's still not too bad of a day."

HOW DID YOU END UP WITH AN EXTRA HELPING OF BAD LUCK? "I don't know. Again I feel like you make a lot of your luck. The piston is a thing that could have been prevented. Knowing what we know now, it could have been prevented. The fuel pump situation, I feel like all of those things are things that if you look back on them are things we can fix. I look at Talladega. I made one move when I was leading that put me further back in the field. We came in to pit, took four tires and were out there in traffic and we were right in the middle of it when the big one happened. We can look back on all of these things and say 'How can we do it different? How can we fix it?' I think there are still solutions."

AS A TEAM OWNER, WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ON FRANCHISING IN NASCAR? "I'm a big fan of it. It doesn't necessarily have to be franchising. I'm a bit fan of making these teams hold their value. Let's say Hendrick Motorsports - (it's) 10 cents on the dollar. It basically has no value other than the people, the machines and the building space that we have. Somebody can go out there and basically start up a new organization. Maybe Hendrick Motorsports is a bad example because you try an organization that has been so solid that might have a little bit more value than some other teams out there. Other than having our sponsorship dollars and going out and competing every weekend and the winnings that you get, the value that comes along with it is not there. If franchises are created with some type of business plan, if others were to come in they would look at these teams as either having to buy into one of these teams or go out there and compete against them to get ourselves into that position and which way do we want to go. It would create more value in our organization with our people. Hendrick has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the years to get our organization where it is. To think that if something catastrophic were to happen then it wouldn't be worth the money that's been invested at this point."

ON DENNY HAMLIN: "Denny is an extremely talented guy. He's impressed me on many different occasions. He's in a good organization. He probably impressed me the most here at this race earlier this year. I think Martinsville is one of the trickiest tracks to learn and be fast at and be consistent throughout a day. I followed him and ran with him quite a bit here the last race. I thought he was very impressive."

HE GOT INTO THE BIG CRASH LAST WEEK ON THE SECOND LAP. HOW TOUGH IS IT FOR A ROOKIE TO HAVE THAT HAPPEN EARLY IN A RACE? "We've all been there. Those are only experiences that make us stronger the next time around and appreciate things a little bit more. Everybody has been there some where along the way."

ON WHY MORE NEGATIVE THINGS HAVE SEEMED TO HAPPEN TO HIM IN THE CHASE VERSUS THE OTHER HENDRICK DRIVERS? "We saw some of the same things in the other Hendrick cars last weekend but it didn't take them out of the race. Not to say it wouldn't have if the race was a 600-mile race. We've seen throughout the history of our sport especially with teammates that sometimes one thing will happen to Jimmie, he'll have a problem that we don't have. Sometimes we have problems that he hasn't (had). At the Charlotte May race we had a wheel bearing issue and Jimmie's was 10 to 15 laps away from having the same the problem. Why does it happen to one and it doesn't happen to the other? You might call it luck. I don't. I think that there are certain times when you can't have any other explanation other than luck but I believe that by putting yourself in position through preparation, a solid team, really paying attention to the fine details it usually crosses out a lot of things that can be considered bad luck."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon
Teams Hendrick Motorsports