Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, met with members of attending media at Phoenix International Raceway to discuss racing the Impala SS on the PIR track, young drivers and NASCAR fans. ON IMPALA SS AT PHOENIX: "It is all right. I will let...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, met with members of attending media at Phoenix International Raceway to discuss racing the Impala SS on the PIR track, young drivers and NASCAR fans.
ON IMPALA SS AT PHOENIX: "It is all right. I will let you know when we get though today, then tomorrow then Sunday. We started off practice pretty decent there, then lost it a little bit but got it back there at the end.
"It is a combination of two things. One is we are learning about the car each time we have it on the track. Now we have had two races so obviously we have learned some things there.
"Now, we are going to learn more because this is a unique race track compared to the other two we have run on. The speeds are higher, the travels are different. It has the same characteristics it has had everywhere else. It goes in the corner and doesn't turn in the middle of the corner. It just doesn't have the grip, just doesn't carry the speed, so you are constantly trying to find that right spot. First you just try to maximize the grip, which is fairly easy to do in this car then you have to work on the balance.
"By itself it isn't that big of a deal, in traffic is when we will know and we won't really know until tomorrow and the race. "
ON BENEFITS COT HAS BEEN SAID TO HAVE PAYING OFF AS OF YET: 'Not yet, not yet. Safety wise, I don't know if we have seen crashes or impacts yet to verify that other than what they have done on their sled tests and other things. But from what I see, it should be a safer car, so that is good. The passing thing is definitely and unknown. I think we will find out a lot more about that tomorrow when we get out there in practice and then especially in the race on Saturday night. We all know it isn't going to save us any money right now but we know it has cost us more money right now. But hopefully looking in to the future it will save us some money."
ON HOW PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY CHANGES DURING A RACE: "This track changes a good bit. It definitely loses a lot of grip when that sun is out then sun is intense here and track temperature means a lot. The cooler temperatures are optimum so we expect it to change quite a bit."
ON HOW STRONG TEAM IS NOW: "No doubt about it, it speaks volumes on what an incredibly competitive we have right now. You can point fingers all you want, one week it might be my fault, one week it might be somebody else. But we are so incredibly close to winning and I am very proud of that but each week that goes by you have a competitive race car capable of winning, the frustration level goes up. As long as we keep pulling off those top-five finishes, we will be able to smile at the end of the day and we know we have the next week. That is going to run out eventually, obviously, with the new points system, winning does mean something at this point. So we want to get those bonus points just like leading a laps, we like to get those bonus points anytime we can. But the most important time to win is in the Chase."
ON THINKING ABOUT THE NEW BONUS POINTS FOR WINNING: "Well, it is on your mind, especially when you have a guy like Jimmie who has won three races. You know that no matter where he is in the top-10 or top-12 in points, you know he is going to be up front when the Chase starts."
ON DALE, JR. GETTING IN KYLE BUSCH CAR AT TEXAS: "I think I said it last week, I was shocked and surprised that one-somebody asked him to get in and that there was even a reason for him to get in. The other thing is that he agreed to drive. It was very cool though. That was an awesome thing that he did for a friend and speaks volumes about Junior. The smile on his face getting out of the car said a lot about Junior too. Obviously surprised."
ON A DRIVER THE CALIBER OF DALE, JR. LEARNING ANYTHING BY DRIVING THEIR CAR: "No, not when it had been wrecked like that. No. He didn't learn anything. Anything he was learning wasn't anything we were giving up. Just more the fact that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was driving the No. 5 car and where was Kyle (Busch)."
ON IF HE WOULD DO IT IF HE WAS ASKED: "No, probably not. (LAUGHS) I would probably say no because if I am out of the race, I would want to do home. That is why I said I was very surprised. It might be different if it was Tony Stewart's car and we were out and his car was in one piece and he was sick or something and couldn't get it. If I am going to drive a car as a fill in I want to it when it is running good at a track that he runs good at. (LAUGHS)"
ON THE REACTION OF THE TALLADEGA FANS TO HIM IF HE WINS THERE AND TIES DALE EARNHARDT, SR. WIN RECORD: "It can't be worse than any other reaction they have there. It will probably be pretty much the same as it always has. We definitely have a lot of fans at Talladega but we obviously have a lot that pull against us there as well. I don't really think about it. Doesn't matter to me where we do it, when we do it, how we do it. I just want to get a win, that is most important thing."
ON KYLE BUSCH INCIDENT AT TEXAS: "When you react and you don't have time to think about it, you just get somebody in the car because you know the car is ready and you want to get three or five points or whatever it is, everything is important. So I don't think at that point who was standing there, if you can't find your driver and there has been a miscommunication, then you have got to react. I don't think that has anything to do with standards and how we do things at Hendrick Motorsports. What we do at HMS is we put cars out there that are hopefully capable of winning and we never stop working on getting the most points we an until the checkered flag wave and that is what Alan was doing. I commend those guys for that. Again, it was just a miscommunication from what I hear and that is the whole thing that comes out of that. I think they all learned that don't let the driver go until you tell him what you are doing. And the driver knows I am not leaving until I know what is going to happen.
"You have to remember, he (Kyle Busch) is still young. He might not want to admit that or talk about that but he is. He is an incredible driver, he has a lot of fire inside of him and it shows. He is very competitive. He was upset obviously when he got out of the car and you can't change a guy's personality, that is just him. You just have to learn to bottle it up and manage it. There is only so much that his Mom, Dad and Rick and other peers of his can give him advice about the heat of the moment like that. It is about how you control it and what you learn from things and I am sure he learned something from it."
ON TRAGEDY AT VIRGINIA TECH: "Any time there is a tragedy like that, it is a wakeup call to all of us to appreciate life and understand that things can happen in the blink of an eye that you least expect. Certainly our hearts are with them. We are going to be carrying a Virginia Tech sticker on the car. We have a lot of guys on our team that came from Virginia Tech. Engineers, and different people that work for me. That is a school that means a lot to us in this garage. It is tough to see anybody go through something like that but especially a place where you have a connection."
ON MORE ADVICE AND INFORMATION SOURCES TO BE AVAILABLE TO THE YOUNG KIDS COMING IN TO THE SPORT NOW TO HELP THEM COPE WITH THE ENVIRONMENT: "I do think that there should be a little more attention put on it when a rookie comes in. I think that in other major sports there are rookie orientation and I think that some of those things can be good to kind of open their eyes for the guys as to what expectations might come there way. The lack of privacy, the time you have to spend testing, with the media, with your sponsors, with what is going to be expected of you and how you handle that and manage your time. If you want to avoid controversy, how you might want to go about that. I do think that sometimes we just tend to have to go through it on our own and learn from our experiences. I am not saying that an orientation will make a big difference, but it at least might make them think a little bit.
"That is what I say about Kyle, he is young and he is awesome for the sport. He is a tremendous race car driver, I feel like 95% of the time, he makes good decisions and there are very few times when it gets the best of him. We have seen it with all of us. Maybe it wasn't as big of a deal with me, but I went through it. I had time where I felt like people were out to get me or I just didn't feel like it was proper justice or whatever the reason. When you are living it, you feel like everybody is against you rather than for you sometimes. As time goes by, you learn that is not the case and everybody goes through these things and these experiences at different times it in their lives and their careers. It depends on how much success you have early in your career or late in your career. It depends on all those things. As time goes on, you learn how to handle them. Hopefully it is something he can learn from.
"It is different for every driver. I agree that we should have a little bit better system in place. I think we should and I think NASCAR should as well. You just kind of get thrown in to it. You go with it the best way you can. With Jimmie, I was a friend of his as well as a teammate and so he wasn't afraid to ask questions and come to me. It wasn't like I went out and offered a lot of advice. We would talk in conversation about things and we still do today. If I have something, I might say 'Hey man, I had this pop up, did this get brought up to you' and we talk about it. Or he will say 'Hey how should I handle this situation and this got brought up the other day' and we will talk about it. We are close so it is easy for us to do that. So maybe Kyle goes to Kurt or somebody else for those kinds of things. He can certainly come to me or anybody else, it hasn't happened."
ON WHAT SHOULD THE FOCUS OF A TEENAGER BE WHO WANTS TO GET IN TO RACING: "The attention should to go out and drive as many safe, competitive cars as you can. Race against the best; race as much as you can, get as much experience as you can. Try to make an impact on somewhere in the media where you are getting attention where you are having success and the things you are doing on the track to where you are going to attract a car owner or a sponsor, somebody that can put your name in the bag to go to the next level.
ON COLIN BRAUN: "He is tremendously talented. I have raced against him and have watched him race in the series. The thing is if you want to race in NASCAR, you have to learn to race on ovals. Our series is about racing on ovals and big heavy cars and it is nothing like the cars he is currently driving. I don't know what he has driven in the past, if he has or if he hasn't but you just have to go get in as many different kinds of cars as you can as and the most difficult kind of cars. I don't think there is anything more difficult than a stock car.
"At 18 all I wanted to do was go race. Whatever somebody would allow me to get behind the wheel of, I just did it. I didn't have a set plan. There is no set plan, you just do all you can and you know your goal is to get to the next level, whatever that might be. When I was a teenager, I thought that was the Indy 500, I had no idea it was going to turn out to be NASCAR."
ON THE TOP-35 RULE WITH REGARD TO THE TOYOTA TEAMS: "Those Toyota teams can qualify on time now and when they get locked in to the top-35 they are going to think it is the greatest thing on the planet. But while they are sitting on the outside they think it is the worst thing that there is. They are still getting an equal opportunity to qualify for races because they are racing against guys who are not in the top-35. You just have to be fast. You know, if you are fast enough, you are going to make it. It is unfortunate when the weather comes. I think that is when it really doesn't make much sense, but all the times other than that, I think they have about the best system in the place that I can think of."
ON IF A FOREIGN BORN DRIVER LIKE JUAN PABLO MONTOYA EVER REACH A HUGE POPULARITY WITH AMERICAN NASCAR FANS: "I don't know, but I think he can reach a whole other level with the world-wide fan base. I think you are always going to give up something to gain something else. Just like my popularity. I might not have the type of fans that Dale Jr., has but I have fans he doesn't and I have fans that he doesn't. I don't think it is all about getting every fan; it is about getting the most that you can and he is definitely capable of doing that in a big way.
-credit: gm racing