Michigan: GM - Hendrick Motorsports Saturday interview

JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO ON GOING TO INFINEON RACEWAY NEXT WEEKEND "We're looking forward to it. We had a strong car out there last year and unfortunately we had some problems. As little time as we were able to run at...


ON GOING TO INFINEON RACEWAY NEXT WEEKEND "We're looking forward to it. We had a strong car out there last year and unfortunately we had some problems. As little time as we were able to run at VIR, I think we actually learned some things that are going to increase the speed for us so we're excited about trying those things out also.

"For me, it's exciting to go out there. I have a lot of family and friends there and I've had a lot of success at that track over the last few years. I guess I got a little road racing in the other day (swap with Juan Montoya's F-1 car at Indy) so I'm ready to get to a track and start turning right and left. It's just a beautiful area out there. I look forward to going out there because I just enjoy it so much no matter whether I'm on the track or off the track."

WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THE ANNOUNCED SCHEDULE CHANGE FOR 2004? "I think it's a good move. California Speedway is a great track. I think it will go over well. It's unfortunate for Rockingham but when you look at the sport and where it's at and where it's headed, I think that's the right thing to do. And you know I'm excited about Darlington being moved to the end of the season because I love Darlington.

"You've got to constantly grow and try to get better. I think they've stepped it up. I think NASCAR has also kind of told some other track owners if they want a second date then fine. Move one of your other dates. That's pretty much what they did. I think they're smart in recognizing that as much as I like Rockingham as well, (you've got to) look at where it's located, look at the attendance, and how many times we're already in that market. It's hard not to see that as being one of the tracks they take off the schedule."

AT MIS, DO YOU HAVE THE FREEDOM TO RUN PRETTY MUCH ANYWHERE YOU WANT TO IF YOUR CAR IS GOOD? "Yeah, you do. If you're car is right, you can run high, you can run low, you can go in high and then come off low. It's a great track. It's one of my favorites. It's not an easy track to get the car balanced on. But when you get it right, you're going to have a lot of fun all day."

IS YOUR CAR RIGHT? "It's very close. We're happy with it. It's been good since we unloaded. We don't really know what other guys had on for tires (during practice), so we're just going to play around with that a little bit. But things are good."

NOW THAT YOU'VE DRIVEN AN F-1, DO YOU WANT TRACTION CONTROL IN YOUR WINSTON CUP CAR? "I want a lot of things that I had on Wednesday (during the swap at Indy). But it was a cool experience and it was a lot of fun. I was glad I was able to do it. It is something I'll remember forever."

DO YOU EVER SEE WINSTON CUP RACING HAVING TRACTION CONTROL AND IF SO, HOW WOULD IT CHANGE THIS SPORT? "On these big heavy stock cars, I just don't see it. I think there are some things that we can do. I don't see why we can't have telemetry. Everybody has it. Everybody runs it - especially when we're testing. I don't think it would be a bad idea to have some of that on the cars on race weekend. But the Formula 1 guys look at these cars and think they're so primitive. But at the same time, they look at how great the racing is and how the costs have stayed low compared to other forms of motorsports. So, I think we all want to continue to do that and just keep the racing as good and as close as possible."

WHAT STANDS OUT IN YOUR MIND AS THE MAIN DIFFERENCES IN AN F-1 CAR? "Where do I begin? Nothing is alike. It's just so different. You drive the car so deep into the corner. It has so much braking power that you're able to do that. But when you go to the brakes, you'd better be really prepared to make that turn. You had better be prepared to slow that car down in a hurry. It took time for me to adjust to the speeds going in the corner and learning how to use the traction control. It was just an awesome experience. It's like flying a fighter jet with tires. That's what an F-1 car is like."

ARE THERE ANY OTHER CARS YOU'D LIKE TO DRIVE? "The 24 Hours of Le Mans are going on and those are like Formula-1 cars with full bodies on them. I think that would be really cool to do some day. But it just has to be the right time and the right situation. It's no different than if I get a chance to go scuba diving. If I can work that into the schedule then boom, I'm there. If the opportunity comes up then I'm going to take advantage of it."


ON GOING TO SONOMA NEXT WEEK "I'm looking forward to going out there. This year, I'll have a little bit of experience behind me. At the end of the race last year, I was so much smarter and knew what I need to do. We still had a great run. We were running 7th and broke a rear end gear. We've made some changes to make sure we won't have that failure again. Hopefully we can go out there and get a top 10 finish. I'm not going to be greedy and look for anything further than that. But I think based on how we ran last year, the few things we learned (testing) at VIR, and with more experience behind me, a top 10 would be a realistic goal."

DID YOU KNOCK OFF THE COBWEBS? "Yeah, that's what VIR was really for to get me used to shifting and down shifting and all that again. We tried a couple of small things but there is only so much we can play with and so much we can do anymore. Our cars are pretty tapped out."

ON CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY GETTING A SECOND DATE FOR 2004 "There are a lot of things to look at. We need to make sure our sport continues to grow. And NASCAR has been able to grow it to what it is today based on the decisions they've made. We've got to line up behind them and see where they take us. Obviously, it's a huge market out there. And there's no way to hide the fact that Rockingham and Darlington probably haven't been sold out. I know the Rockingham races are pretty thin. We need to get out sport in front of as many fans as possible. It's a tough deal. I know it upsets a lot of people who live in that area. There are also a lot of states that could support a Winston Cup race that we don't even go to that would take it to the next level and grow our fan base."

ARE YOU HAPPY ABOUT GOING HOME TO CALIFORNIA FOR ANOTHER WEEKEND? "I think it will be great to go back home. The way a lot people look at it is that it's another east-to-west coast trip we've got to make. Out and back is a lot of traveling. But we'll go wherever they have us go. With the success I've had at California Speedway, I look orward to going back out there and being with family and friends."

YOU ARE ONE OF 8 CALIFORNIA DRIVERS TO GO TO SONOMA NEXT WEEK. ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT THERE ARE SO MANY CALIFORNIA DRIVERS AT THE TOP LEVEL? "No, I'm not really surprised. There is a lot of racing on the West Coast. It's just taken a long time for people on the East Coast to recognize the talent that's out there and to give those guys a chance. Now that people are getting the opportunity and running races out there like Winston West, I think you'll start seeing more and more West Coast drivers in NASCAR racing."

HOW IS YOUR CAR FOR SUNDAY'S RACE AT MIS? "We've been struggling a little bit. At the spring race last year we were good. At the fall race we weren't so good. We've tried some stuff through qualifying that worked good for us in the first practice it didn't really do much for us. So we changed again and we're still struggling a little bit. It's a long race and we'll have time to work on it. But the problem is that if you don't have a good car, there are so many green flag runs that you can get way behind. We set our goals high and want to be one of the cars to beat. Right now, we're not the car to beat. We've got a little bit of work ahead of us. There are some races when we started as the car to beat and wrecked - like at Dover. The best approach is to be unexpected and show up when it's time to take the checkered."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Hendrick Motorsports