Michigan II: Jeff Gordon - GM Top-ten interview

GFS Marketplace 400 - Weekly Top 10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS ON SALARIES: "You know, I'm not sure what those numbers are exactly. I'm curious to know. I have a different opinion on salaries and ...

GFS Marketplace 400 - Weekly Top 10

Behind the Hauler Chat with Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS

ON SALARIES: "You know, I'm not sure what those numbers are exactly. I'm curious to know. I have a different opinion on salaries and things. I think that for the first year or two we should all be on salary caps until we prove ourselves. I feel like to just throw a bunch of money around, it just really dilutes the sport and hurts. really giving guys the proper opportunity to go out and prove themselves and really focus on the driving. What we're all here for is to win races and gather trophies. I look at how much I made as a rookie. I didn't make a lot of money and I didn't get swayed by tons of money. I exceeded my expectations because I won two races and the third year I won a championship and that's when my salary really went up. Once you start winning races and championships you want to be a part of the market. You want to be where you feel like you deserve to be. I think until you prove yourself that there should be a different level. Brian Vickers has won a Busch championship and he's been in the sport for a couple years so it doesn't surprise me that he's been offered good money but what those numbers are, I couldn't tell you."

IS THAT BECAUSE GUYS LIKE YOURSELF ASK FOR MORE? "I can put it in a different perspective from crew members and people that work for us that have been offered big money. Go back to my pit crew, for instance, that Robert Yates paid a lot of money to as a group. And you know what, they went over there and they did well for a while, but where are they now? That's the way we look at it, at Hendrick Motorsports. If you want to be there, then we want you there. If we have to step your pay up a little bit because you're worth it, then we're going to do that. But if those numbers start to get out of the realm and ridiculous and someone else is offering you that and you'd rather be there then we say "bye." Go do it, you know. We've already have had guys that have left us for more money and have come back within a week because they know how good of an organization we have. And they realize that money is not everything. That's important, you know, and money is not everything. There may have been opportunities for me to go out there and really feel it up and possibly make more money somewhere but would I have been as successful, as happy, as in good of hands as I have been at Hendrick Motorsports? I'm very doubtful of that. That's what we try to do - to really create that kind of atmosphere for all of the people that work at Hendrick Motorsports. To know that you're going to get paid good money here, you're going to have benefits, you're going to be part of an organization that's going to win races and championships on a pretty consistent basis, hopefully. Some years are going to be up, some are going to be down but if it's all about the money then go somewhere else."

GAUGE YOUR OPTIMISM RIGHT NOW: "Well, it's not so comfortable position. We're in there but it's so tight that for us it's really intense right now. Every qualifying session is important, every race, every lap is important. We're fighting for positions right now harder than we ever have. We've been putting up a good fight but unfortunately we've been putting up a fight for 12th and 15th place positions. We've been getting ourselves into a hole and we've got to make that fights for top fives. I'm hoping we can turn some things around here. We've been running good. That's the thing I like; now we're running good, now we've got to get some of the good fortune and put ourselves into good positions to get that good fortune and fight to maintain that."

ON BRISTOL THIS YEAR COMPARED TO LAST: "It's a lot different this year. We struggled at so many places last year and Bristol was like our last hope. I feel like this year we're running good at a lot of places and we just have to make sure that we get out of it what we're capable of. Last year, we weren't capable of being in the top five in races. I feel like coming in this week and next week and next week we're capable of being in the top five."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE SAY REGARDING HOW NASCAR WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN SO YOU GET IN THE CHASE? "Last year was pretty obvious about that, how it wasn't the case or else we would have been in there. The only thing that creates that sentiment is that when NASCAR says they're going to adjust the points. It makes you wonder why they're doing that - who is not in there that they want in there. I want to talk to them about that because I think if they were really considering doing a change I think that something that could be fun and exciting is you take the top 10 guys and anybody who has won a race, they get to come in. Because it's unfortunate that in those first 26 races it's easy to have some bad luck and we've seen it happen to some good teams. But teams that have won races and you think could be a real threat for the championship, you do want to see them in there battling for the Chase. So that's something that I think. But the conspiracy stuff, the fans are always going to have their opinions and I love it, because if they didn't have their opinions then we wouldn't have as much stuff to talk about."

DO YOU THINK THEY WOULD LISTEN TO YOU? "I don't know. I do plan to tell them. I'm going to talk to them about the Car of Tomorrow after Monday. I haven't had a chance to talk to Brian (France) or Mike (Helton) about what their thoughts are, if any, if they'll make a decision. I certainly have my opinions, I don't know if they will listen but I'm going to get it to them."

DID YOU KNOW THAT CHEVROLET HAS WON THE LAST SEVEN RACES? "No, I didn't know that. It does amaze me because I don't think that Chevrolet has necessarily been the fastest car every weekend. Last weekend there's no doubt that the Dodge was the best car. Kurt Busch had us covered and we know what problems he's ran into. There's been certain tracks where certain teams and drivers have put together the best program. It's nice that it's Chevrolet, but I think that no matter what manufacturer you have, you'd see the same results because of the team. You take that combination and they're going to make the most of it."

DO YOU STILL SEE ROUSH RACING AS A THREAT? "Well, obviously you want momentum going into it. I think Kenseth has been able to maintain his good runs and that momentum. I'm a little bit surprised. I don't feel like is as much as they've lost anything as other teams have gained. They were strong last year and it happens to a lot of teams. I've been in that position before where you're so strong the year before that you're afraid to change too much going into the next season that you tweak here and you tweak there to get a little bit better and then other teams find something big and all of a sudden you're behind. That can happen to anybody."

HOW COMPETITIVE DO YOU EXPECT TOYOTA TO BE NEXT YEAR? "I don't know. I don't expect them to be a threat for the championship but I wouldn't be surprised if they have some good races. I wouldn't be surprised if they are fast at times. But I'm looking at the depth of the teams; I'm not looking at what Toyota is bringing to the table. I'm looking at it as start-up teams, new crew chief/driver combinations, what their driver lineups are. I think that you've got somebody like Jarrett, a quality driver that's going to be consistent; he's going to give them a lot of good information. But he's coming from an organization that's struggled and I think his confidence is down a little bit and he needs that boost and if they can give it to him then he can win some races next year. But again, I don't think they're going to be a threat for the championship. I just think that you're up against Hendrick Motorsports, you're up against Roush Racing, Penske, Gibbs, RCR, you've got other teams that are established and have driver/crew chief combinations and have been working on what they need to go fast for several years. I give a lot of credit to that. And the fact that this is NASCAR because of how much they limit you from being able to use that technology. You can have all the technology in the world but if you're not able to apply it the way you want to it's not going to do you as much good. it's not going to give you as much of an advantage. And this is not the Truck series. The Truck series is not near as competitive as the Cup series is. We're not getting out-budgeted or anything like that. You've got top teams with top funding and I think Toyota is definitely going to elevate it and push us as well as other teams to find areas where we can make ourselves better. But I think that it's going to take them a couple of years to establish themselves as solid teams."

WHAT DO YOU KNOW OF DAVID GILLILAND? "I only know that I saw him win the Busch race and he did a great job of running that race. It's always cool to see an unsponsored or basically a new team and driver get their first win. It's exciting to see someone like him come along. I always like to see guys get a couple years under their belt in the Busch series before they jump into the Cup series. He's definitely got a tall order there because Yates has been struggling but I think it's a boost for them and their company to have a young, talented driver that maybe they can build on."

WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF KURT BUSCH'S INCIDENT LAST WEEK? "I kind of feel like that light needs to be moved out a bit further. If the light is right at the line, if you're committed and that light turns red, you've got no option of trying to avoid it. Where I feel like if the light was mover further out ahead of the pit road entry and you drive by it and it's green, then I think that. there should be a safe zone there where you're committed. I think that would be a little bit better. It still comes down to the luck of you make your decision, and it happens almost every weekend, where we make our decisions and sometimes it works for you and sometime it works against you."

ARE THERE ANY TRACKS THAT YOU DON'T LIKE, POSSIBLY CHARLOTTE? "I like Charlotte, we ran good at Charlotte but we did have our problems so I'm more concerned with tracks that we don't run good at than tracks where we have bad luck at. I feel like you make your luck by being competitive and putting yourself in good positions. I'm more concerned right now about Richmond, trying to get in the Chase. Richmond has been not a good track for us the last few times we've been there, not to mention we've had bad luck there as well. I'm trying to think of some tracks that are in there. Is New Hampshire in there? I mean, New Hampshire is a track that we typically run good at but we didn't the last time we were there so we have some concerns. I couldn't even tell you which tracks are in the last ten. So until I get in the Chase. Texas is probably my number one concern. We've struggled there and I feel like we've made some gains to help us in Texas but I can't guarantee that, don't know. But we've been at best, a 15th place car the last three times we've been there."

DO YOU SEE ANOTHER FOUR-TIME CUP CHAMPION? "Yeah, why not? I think that if you get on a roll and you get your equipment where it needs to be and you stay on top of it and you have a good driver and a good crew chief and a good pit crew, I mean, there's no doubt in my mind that somebody can come and not only win four championships but win ten or so races in a single season as well. I think you're capable of it but it's not easy to do. I don't know if you're going to see a lot of it but I still think it's possible."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW? "I'd rather really hold my comments until after I test it because I don't really know, I look at the car and I question a lot of things. Our car right now is a race car and as much of a race car is a stock car can be, and I look at the Car of Tomorrow and I don't see much of a race car there and so I have some concerns. I also like the fact that they are trying to do some things to make the car safer and they're also trying to make the cars put on a better race and have more side-by-side racing but I don't know if they're accomplishing that yet until I get out there and drive it some more."

WOULD YOU BE SHOCKED TO SEE MARK MARTIN OUT THERE AGAIN NEXT YEAR? "I wouldn't be shocked at all. Not many drivers will ever come along that are like Mark Martin. He's got a tremendous amount of talent and commitment and I think he's the kind of guy that as long as he's competitive he doesn't want to step away from it. He could step away any time and be proud of his accomplishments other than a championship. He's probably the only guy out there that deserves the championship as much or more than anybody that hasn't achieved that. So I wouldn't be surprised to see him out there. He's a racer and age doesn't really apply to him."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PAST CHAMPIONS PROVISIONALS? "I think it's being abused, put it that way. As long as it's there and people can utilize, if NASCAR keeps it that way, and that's the way it's been then they're not breaking any rules. I don't think I necessarily agree with it. I think the fastest 43 cars should be in the field every weekend."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kurt Busch , Brian Vickers , Robert Yates , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports