JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed road racing, a road course in the Chase and other topics.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES THIS WEEKEND?: “It’s something that we’re definitely focused on and with the confidence that I have in our race team right now because of how well we’ve been performing, I’m pretty optimistic about this weekend. We tested here last year and felt pretty good at the test when we came back for the race, we had a little bit different tire than what we had tested. From what I understand, that tire that I liked at the test is the one that we have for the race this weekend. Excited about that. Finished second at Sonoma, even though at times in that race we struggled. At the end of it, we were very strong so hopefully we can learn from that as well and come in here and attack this race track the way I feel like you need to and have the speed that we’re going to need to as well.”
WHY DO YOU THINK ROAD COURSE RACING HAS BEEN SEEN AS MORE EXCITING FOR RACE FANS?: “I think most of it is the double-file restart. I think what happens is as the race progresses, everybody gets more aggressive, but when you have double-file restarts late or in the late stages of the race, it definitely presents the opportunity for a lot more bumping and aggressive moves. I know at Sonoma, you could run four or five corners side-by-side before it ever really would get single file after a restart. So there’s a lot of opportunities for guys to create a lot of action that’s exciting and I think the fans certainly enjoy that. Here at Watkins Glen, I think that while that is possible and it will happen, you have to get narrowed down once you get to the esses, but it does fan back out and as you get to the inner loop. It very well could present the same things this weekend for some great racing action as far as getting heated and causing controversy and seeing the emotions flare of the drivers during and after the race.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HAVING A ROAD COURSE IN THE CHASE?: “I’ve always said that in order to make the championship fully complete and find out the true best team and driver, the only thing that I think we’re missing in the Chase right now is a road course. I feel like the Chase has about everything right now from short tracks to superspeedways to intermediates so I think it’s pretty complete right now, but if you wanted to look at just one little thing that was missing, it would be a road course. I guess as exciting as the road courses have been here lately with these double-file restarts, I think the fans would be for it as well. Where as in the past, you haven’t seen that kind of action so most people would say that road course isn’t as traditional as the ovals are in our sport so why have one in the Chase. I could see one in there.”
HAVE YOU DONE ANY TESTING FOR THE ROAD COURSES? SHOULD NASCAR OPEN TESTING AT TRACKS WITH SAFER BARRIERS AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF RACING IN THE BOOT?: “I have not tested this year on the road courses. We went back and forth between Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and myself and our engineers talking about testing this year on the road courses. The schedule didn’t work out for us to do what we wanted to do, but shoot I tested at this track last year and came here and couldn’t get out of my own way. We’re taking a little bit different approach this year. We’re going to focus on the engineering side of it and seven-post and wind tunnel and just past history here and we’re going to try to put our best effort on focusing on building the best road course car that we can and see how that works for us this year. As far as the boot is concerned -- I’ve never run the boot. I’ve heard great things from other drivers that have run it. I know Jimmie’s (Johnson) run it in the prototypes and he likes it. Tony’s (Stewart) mentioned the same thing. What I do like about it is that it offers and I’m not exactly sure, but at least one more passing opportunity if not maybe two. I think sometimes that’s one of the things that we miss on the road courses as we shorten the tracks up. Particularly Sonoma when they took out that inner loop -- to me, it took away the best passing zone that we had on that race track and I miss that and the challenges that came along with it. The boot I think could be a lot of fun and could be interesting to run here.”
DO YOU TRY TO REPAIR RELATIONSHIPS BEFORE THE CHASE?: “Depends on if they’re in the Chase or not. If they’re in the Chase then they have as much to lose as you do. What I try to do is just race guys as clean as I can, but as hard as I can leading into the Chase to show them the way that I want to race them and hope that they race me the same way back. If I feel like it needs to have a conversation, then I certainly will have a conversation with them. I think I’ve expressed before that this whole calling guys on Mondays and Tuesdays to talk about what happened -- I’m just not for that. That’s just not the way that I grew up doing it in this sport. Shoot, we almost didn’t have cell phones when I was racing here in the early stages. We just didn’t have one another’s phone numbers just to pick up and call. We didn’t have Twitter, we didn’t have all those things so I’m sort of old school when it comes to that. I think those things just sort of work themselves out. You certainly don’t want to have any enemies, especially enemies outside the Chase. Everybody is out there fighting for something, but when you’re out there fighting for the championship, the last thing you want is a guy that has a lot less to lose and has something he feels like he owes you. With a guy like that, I think you might put a little extra effort into mending those wounds.”
IS THE DRIVER RESTARTING THIRD IN THE BEST POSITION ON THE FINAL RESTART OF A ROAD COURSE RACE?: “It’s a combination of things. If you’re on the front row, you’re always trying to not overdrive the first corner to make sure that you don’t make a mistake and cost you the win. What that also does is put you in a position where the guy behind you, if he’s real aggressive can get in there and either get inside of you or get in the back of you. I’ve had (Greg) Biffle spin me out here in turn one here one year and I really blamed myself because I was the pole sitter and I felt like I was just too easy getting in there thinking about getting the car turned where he drove in there real deep and get in the back of me. That was on the original start so you can only imagine what it would be like on a restart with five laps to go. Guys are going to be very aggressive and if you’re on the front row you’re going to have to go right along with them. It’s always easier to out-brake a guy when you see him brake first. It puts you in a position when you’re third or fourth to be able to adjust based on that. Sometimes the outside lane is the better place to be because the guys get stalled out a little bit around the bottom and the outside lane can gain momentum. Sometimes being in that second row can be a benefit here.”