JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with media members at Martinsville speedway and talked about the race on Sunday, tire testing at Darlington, the stealing parts situation and much more. ON HIS OUTLOOK FOR THE RACE ON...
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with media members at Martinsville speedway and talked about the race on Sunday, tire testing at Darlington, the stealing parts situation and much more.
ON HIS OUTLOOK FOR THE RACE ON SUNDAY. "Right now I'm going really, I've won seven times here that's awesome. We're pretty excited about being here at Martinsville. It's a great race track for us. Love getting to the short tracks. We didn't have as good of a car as we wanted in Bristol so we know we got a little bit of work to do there, but this has always been a solid track for us and last year was a solid track for us. We got beat so we're back trying to step it up a notch and had a good morning."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PLACE? KASEY KAHNE SAID HE WENT FROM HATING IT TO LOVING THIS TRACK. "This is one of the toughest tracks to learn. You would think half mile, looks pretty simple, it doesn't look like it's a difficult track but it really is a difficult track. You have to have a lot of patience here. I feel like short track experience really plays a key in doing well here. I do remember my first few times here was just so frustrating. I just could not figure this track out, what it took with this big heavy car to get around here. I was testing here and running some laps and started to find some things that really started to make sense. The car started to do what I was wanting it to do. Then we started having success here and all those things have now contributed to being a track that I certainly love to come to. Of course, when you've won here seven times that also helps. I think that's the key. I think guys that never find it are always searching or haven't had good fortune here, success, they don't like it. But the guys that have had good runs here and found some things to get around here, and Kasey (Kahne) he's got short track experience, this is definitely a short-tracker's dream track to run on. You can't overdrive it, you got to be patient. It's kind of like a real slick, tight and narrow dirt track."
JACK ROUSH WAS IN HERE A LITTLE BIT AGO COMPLAINING ABOUT TOYOTA STEALING PARTS OFF HIS CAR, DOES THAT HAPPEN A LOT IN THE GARAGE AREA? I KNOW YOU GUYS ARE ALL TRYING TO BEAT EACH OTHER, BUT DO PEOPLE STEAL STUFF FROM EACH OTHER? "What's he doing with stuff just laying around the garage area? If that was a proprietary piece I think that you would have some tighter grip on it (laughing), not letting it go. I think the whole thing is just hilarious. I think it's a great story, certainly we've been talking about it. Once I heard about it today, we were talking about it up in the truck so I'm sure it's making for some good entertainment around the garage area and here in the media center. I really hope Jack (Roush) is not taking it that serious because he shouldn't. It really (laughs) is kind of something to smile about and if he's really that upset about it I want to really know what's going on with that sway bar man. Maybe there's something that we're missing that really truly is contributing to how fast their cars are. I don't think it is. A lot of us have a little bit different design sway bars. Once we start getting into the really big sway bars, trying to figure out to lighten them up is definitely important, so I don't know maybe they figured something out on that design and they didn't want it to get out of their garage. I guess you shouldn't leave it laying around then either, where somebody can grab it. When I talked to some of my guys on my team and they said you'd be surprised, you're cleaning up or you're in post race inspection and stuff gets laid around and you could take it, you could not take it, you could tell a NASCAR official that it was just laying here whatever. It happens all the time. If they don't claim it, I think its kind of yours (laughing). I don't really know what the deal was. The difference is Roush wanted it back and he got it back."
TALK ABOUT HOW ANXIOUS YOU AND JIMMIE ARE ABOUT GETTING BACK TO A PLACE LIKE THIS GIVEN YOUR SUCCESS HERE AND THE START YOU'VE HAD THIS SEASON. "I know we're just terrible this year, it's awful to be 14th in the points five races in. I can't believe how rough it is over at Hendrick Motorsports (sarcastically). One thing I've come accustomed to at Hendrick Motorsports since 1994, 1995 is that we hold a very high standard and expectations within our organization and that also is outside the organization. So when you've had the type of year that we had last year it's only natural for the expectations to be high and if we don't live up to them we're going to get criticized and people are going to question. As a race team, if you live by that it would be a short career. You've got to go out there, you've got to work hard, you've got to make your cars and your team the best you can and you hope to have good fortune along the way. We've had a couple of things that have bit us this year but as far as how well we've run, we've run great except for Bristol. Bristol is the only race track that I felt like we were truly a 10th or 11th-place or worse car and yet we hadn't had the good fortune to at least come home in that position. We've been a lot better than that this year at a lot of tracks and haven't put those finishes together. We just try to get into a rhythm and get that consistency going and get ourselves where we need to be solidly in the chase. Last year we started off the season strong, strong all the way through and consistent and we didn't win the championship. To me, it doesn't matter if we're 15th in the points or second in the points, it's still not what you're shooting for if you're not the winner or leading the points or the champion when it's all over."
ON BEING ABLE TO BEAT AND BANG TO MOVE ANOTHER DRIVER WITH THE NEW CAR. "Yeah, there's not a fine line anymore. I mean I really hit him (Jimmie Johnson) hard on that last corner and I still didn't move him up the track enough to make the past. And honestly you really don't want to win races that way. I wouldn't have felt good about it if I hit him any harder, moved him up the track any further. He drove a great race and they had great pit strategy, put themselves in that position and we didn't have the car to be able to pass him or at least get up beside him a little bit further to really bang wheels and get the win. I've always looked at that races, we just got to make sure that we are in that position they were in or a better car to be able to make the pass. This car definitely, it's tough to get around this race track but as far as the short track action, bumping and banging you can hit guys pretty easy with this car and the bumpers line up and all those things are good but it doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to move the guys enough to make the pass. In the past if you tapped the guy usually your bumper actually went underneath their bumper, lifted them and then made it hard for them. This car, you actually have to hit them. In the past you weren't really hitting them, just lifting the back of the car. Again you don't want to have to do that anyway. You want to be able to have a car that turns up underneath them, out brake them in the corner. If you really get side-by-side maybe slide up a little bit and move them a groove, but to just run in the back of them anybody can do that."
REVISIT THE JACK ROUSH DEAL: HE SAID IT MIGHT BE TIME FOR NASCAR TO MAKE A RULE ON STEALING IN THE GARAGE. WE HAVE CHEATING COVERED POSSIBLY, HOW ABOUT A RULE ON STEALING? "I'm not even answering that. I have no problem with you asking the question, it's such a silly (situation). It's that silly. If something is sitting, who knows whether they stole it or didn't steal it. The thing might have rolled over in their garage and they took it home, who knows what happened. I think he should investigate, I think the FBI should get involved (laughter breaks out). I really am not even going to go there, it's just so funny."
BESIDES SAFEGUARDING YOUR PARTS FROM THIEVERY, WHAT'S THE HARDEST PART FOR YOU ON A RACE WEEKEND? "(Laughs) That's a good one. Sorry the mic wasn't working good enough for everybody to hear it. Obviously the competition is the toughest thing we have and it gets tougher and tougher all the time and that's the thing, we're going back to a question I had earlier. Obviously the competition has really stepped it up this year. I feel like we're strong. I don't feel like we're that far off but yet the competition has been able to be better than us. We've got some work to do to lead more laps and put ourselves in position to win and you got to give credit to those teams for doing that. I know how hard we've worked to get where we're at. I know how hard we've worked over the off season to try to be better this year and some teams have done some things to get a step or two ahead. It's just an ongoing process of constantly trying to make your car work better, learning this new car and what you can do as a team and my part and my role as a driver to give good information, be the best that I can be."
ON TIRE TESTING AT DARLINGTON. "Let me make one thing clear, the most challenging thing that all of us have in this sport is a re-pave. It is so, so tough because the re-pave, especially with the polymers and things that are involved in the paving processes these days, gives the track a very smooth surface with a lot of grip. Even with the older car it wouldn't matter, you're gonna go to Darlington, you're gonna be really, really fast and you're gonna build a lot of heat up in the tires literally doing 200 miles per hour going into turn three, so it's a challenge. The first time that we were there, I think that we learned enough and we could have probably gone with a tire that they had there but I just kind of challenged Goodyear and I think all of did to say hey instead of having to make that decision based on what you have here or making a guess at it, let's make a commitment as these three teams are here right now that we come back and at least give you a half of day or something on that tire that you feel like is the right tire. So that's what we did, it was a group effort, we're very proud of how it went and what Goodyear did. There's going to be some teams that like the tire and other teams that aren't going to like it because you do have to go really hard and take the grip away to keep the speeds down and keep the heat out of the tires so that we don't have any issues. I promise you it's not going to be like Atlanta. They're being conservative for the right reasons, but it's not so far conservative we're not going to like it. I certainly recommend the drivers the first couple of laps take it easy and then the grip comes in and the cars are fast and good and it will be right back to old Darlington. I feel pretty good about it."
IF JIMMIE DOESN'T WIN, IS HE STILL MR. MARTINSVILLE? CAN YOU OR SOMEONE ELSE TAKE THAT AWAY FROM HIM? "I mean he certainly has been the last three times we've been here, you know he's been the guy to beat and he was strong today. In my opinion he and Denny Hamlin are the guys to beat here and they were both really strong in practice there. I would imagine that if Jimmie wins this race he will still be considered Mr. Martinsville. If he doesn't win the race, I don't know. To me in this sport it's always been what have you done for me lately (laughing). I think that Mr. Martinsville will be whoever comes out of here on top."
LOOKING AHEAD AT TEXAS, WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING FROM TIRES THERE AND ALSO WITH DARLINGTON ARE YOU GOING TO MISS WHAT IT USED TO BE IN TERMS OF TIRE WEAR WITH THIS REPAVING? "I mean I definitely miss that side of it and we'll get back to that eventually. I've learned a lot about paving over the years and it's changed with the polymers that are involved. It holds the pavement together and makes it last longer, makes it smooth with a lot of grip. The last time they paved at Darlington, my understanding, I think it was around 1996, they didn't have the polymers in the pavement so in one year it was right back to old Darlington. I don't think this track is going to get back to old Darlington for a number of years and that's the trend we've been seeing in all the new tracks or any re-paves. So in that sense, yeah I miss that. It's cool we're still running up against the wall and it's a neat race track, but to me what really makes Darlington a thrill as a driver is the fact that you've got to manage the tires and the grip goes away over a run. Let's hope we can get back to it as soon as possible. As far as Texas, I don't really know. None of us tested there. I didn't test there, I mean they might have tested some tires or something there, so I didn't really get a recap on what's going on there other than I heard good things. You know that track is not as abrasive as say Atlanta and so I feel like Goodyear is pretty confident with what they're taking there. I'm much more concerned with just our set up and what we have with this car at that track because we've never been there with this car."
TONY STEWART SAID HE WOULD FIGHT TO KEEP THE TWO DATES AT THIS TRACK. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MARTINSVILLE KEEPING THE TWO DATES AND WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO KIND OF FIGHT FOR IT? "Oh yeah, I like short tracks. I think that we need more short tracks on the schedule so I'm a big fan of this track. Obviously the challenge always becomes as the sport grows and you want to look at big markets and try to reach out to the biggest group and number of people and fans and bring in new fans and entertain the corporate level people that are here as well as the fans. This might not be the best location but unless you can just pick this place up and put it in that location I want it to stay right here. I love Martinsville. I love this race track and I think when you talk about the core fans this is a great place for those fans to come and enjoy and I think it's important for that to stay within the sport."
-credit: gm racing