Phoenix: Jeff Gordon - GM Top-10 interview

Phoenix International Raceway Weekly Top-10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS: ON NUMBER OF CREW CHIEF CHANGES THIS EARLY IN...

Phoenix International Raceway
Weekly Top-10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo SS

BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS:

ON NUMBER OF CREW CHIEF CHANGES THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON:

"No, it really doesn't surprise me. If things aren't going your way, it is better to do things now than wait too long is my opinion. It only takes five or six races to get a feel for the chemistry among the people on the team and who is working out well and who is not working out well.

ON HAVING MORE FUN THIS SEASON OVER LAST SEASON: "Every race is hard work. It is competitive so a lot is on the line, but we are running a lot better. I think the team has improved in a lot of areas. We are definitely having more fun. Things have been going our way a little bit better than they were last year. Yet, we still know we are behind in some areas and need to continue to get better at."

ON GETTING THE CAR RIGHT FOR THE RACE AFTER THE SUN GOES DOWN AFTER PRACTICING IN THE HEAT OF THE DAY: "I always question when NASCAR puts a qualifying session the way that the do here. You basically give a huge advantage to the luck of the draw. I didn't get that luck of the draw. We drew 18th in qualifying order. Basically we have to run one or two tenths faster than the guys at the end of qualifying because they have a lot cooler race track and better grip. It would be nice if we were all qualifying right now. That would be much better, we all get here sooner, get a little bit earlier practice. Plus it is a night race and we need more practice for the race in the late afternoon and evening tomorrow."

ON CONFIDENCE COMING INTO THIS RACE AFTER LAST NOVEMBER: "It gives us a good base line to come into this race track and feel like that we have something that is competitive. We are close so we can just start working from there. We qualified well and raced well here last time and want to the same this time."

DO YOU ENJOY NIGHT RACES? "I do enjoy night races. I like the consistency of the track conditions. I think that, other than Richmond, I like racing under the lights everywhere. I only say that because I have won races during the day at Richmond but seem to have a heck of a time running there at night. That place really does change a lot at night. For the most part, I love racing under the lights anywhere we go."

DOES A NIGHT RACE CHANGE YOUR PRE-RACE ROUTINE? "No, because it is the same amount of time for everybody. You have to go out there and run as fast as you possibly can and get the speed out of it and the feel for it. You can't put too much weight on what you learn during the day. You try to throw in that factor of the track cooling down and the conditions changing a little bit later. Other than that, it is pretty much the same."

ON PASSING AT PIR "I was saying that this is not as difficult of a track to pass on as Bristol or Martinsville and places like that. Track position is still important here, not as crucial as some places that we go to. The groove widens out pretty good here. We have seen guys come from the back to the front here. No matter where we go, how easy or hard it is to pass, I want to have track position from the start to the finish if I possibly can."

WAS THIS TRACK FUN IN A SPRINT CAR? "It is a lot of fun. I never ran here in a sprint car but I did in a midget and a Silver Crown car. The midget was a blast here. I think I won the Silver Crown race here but finished second in the midget; it was a lot of fun. There are a lot of things I didn't have to worry about in those cars that you do in these things here."

ON COMPARING HIS TEAM THIS YEAR TO LAST YEAR'S TEAM: "I think overall we are a better team. Our pit crew is better, our chemistry is there, and the confidence in everybody is there. I think we are still lacking a little speed on the faster tracks. I have been saying since the beginning of the year that Texas was our real test. We went there and we were anywhere from a 10th to a 12th place car and we not had the tire problem and I think that is the difference. We know we have gotten better, but we have more room to go to catch up to the guys in the 9, the 99, the 20. It doesn't have a lot to do with horsepower; in fact, I don't even think it is horsepower. I think more of it is the attitude of the car, which has to do with the aero, and the chassis combination to make that aero work the best.

ON KYLE BUSCH PERFORMANCE: "He is a great driver, I have always thought he was a very talented driver. I think there are some places where he shows his patience and he really excels. And there are some other times he doesn't show his patience and it catches up with him. But that is to be expected from a young driver like himself. I think with the talent he has, the team that he has, the way they have been building, there are a lot of great things to come out of those guys."

ON SOFT BUMPERS FOR TALLADEGA: "I like it because it is going to take a lot of the bump drafting out of play. I still think there is going to be some happening, especially late in the race. I think it will make guys have to think a little bit more about how they pass. That goes back to the type of drafting I learned early on when we used the air to push the cars around instead of the bumpers. I like that, I am curious to see how we are going to be able to manage that, because a lot of guys really like to use their bumpers so we will see how that goes."

ON NEVER WINNING HERE: "This really isn't a short track. It is a flat track, but it is a tricky track. You have one and two higher banked, three and four are very flat. It definitely is a place that challenges everyone. We have been close. I don't know. We just haven't hit on it right. I think some of it is me and trying to learn some things to help me drive the track a little bit better and also giving good information back to my crew chief."

ABOUT PRESSURE OF HAVING TO RUN THE NEXTEL OPEN TO ADVANCE TO THE ALL STAR RACE: "I think it is obvious in 1993 how much pressure there was when I was in that position, I spun out leading the thing. I think there is a lot of pressure for those guys. It is an important race, everybody wants to be in the All Star Race and you can win the All Star Race coming through that race as we have seen done. I am always anxious to watch that race. There is a lot of excitement in that race, a lot of crazy things happen."

HOW WAS YOUR CAR TODAY IN PRACTICE: "Pretty good. We made a couple of race runs and tried some combinations to be ready for tomorrow. Thought that went pretty well. We made two qualifying runs and each time we picked up speed. We unfortunately have an early number in the order, we drew 18th. I think there are a couple of things we can do to improve. We are just going to get everything we can out of it because we know guys are going to go faster the later it gets."

ON PRESSURE TO GET INTO TOP-10 IN POINTS EARLIER IN THE SEASON "It is. You have 10 less races to do it in so I think that everybody is pushing to that next level by making changes in their teams early on to make sure they are heading in the right direction. You are much better off making drastic changes now than you are 10 races from now because you are probably going to miss the Chase if you do it then."

ON BENEFITS OF TIRE TESTING "I would like to get a call from Goodyear to do a tire test because they haven't called us to test for a while. I feel like we have paid the price a little bit. We have called them and asked them why we aren't tire testing. It is a huge advantage these days with the limited amount of testing we get -- especially if they go to a race track where we don't get to test. Most of your time is dedicated to Goodyear. You will spend the first two or three runs working on getting a good balance under the car and then the rest of the time doing whatever they need to have done. The difference is now days, they seem pretty much come to a test with the tire they plan on having for the race. So you get to spend most of your laps on the actual tire and adjust to that actual tire. While in the past they put on several different sets and bring you in and out to feel them out. You never knew for sure which tire you ran on was the one you were going to race on. They have learned a lot more at the factory on what to bring now so it is even more of an advantage."

ON GETTING OUT OF THE TRACK AFTER THE RACE; "It depends a lot on how your day goes. If your day has gone bad, you can't wait to get out of there in a hurry. I have actually kind of slowed my pace down. Obviously the helicopters are the fastest way to get out. But now days, there seems to be a line at the helicopter pad because even the fans are using the helicopters to get out of here.

"I usually have a golf cart or a mule or something to get me over to the helicopter pad, get on it and go. I haven't driven out of a race track in a long, long time, it has saved on not getting a lot of tickets."

ON HOTTEST TRACKS - IN-CAR TEMPERATURE; "I think Indianapolis in August because it is a very demanding track. Daytona in July. Here this weekend could be right up there. I think you have a combination of actual temperature and its physical as well. If we race there in the daytime, a Bristol in August would be right there as well, then Sonoma and Watkins Glen. The Glen isn't typically as hot. The road courses are typically the most demanding tracks then the high bank fast tracks. Darlington falls off so much it isn't that difficult to drive, you just have to drive it right to stay out of the wall. The races we have right side windows inside the car, it gets really hot in those cars."

ON HOW CLOSE DRIVING A BUSCH CAR IS TO DRIVING A CUP CAR: "I think that in some ways they have gotten closer because you see Busch drivers come out and do very well in the Cup Series. So I am guessing that there is a good feel they are getting there to come out in the Cup Series. I think there is a big enough difference that once you get experience that it is worth going over there and running. There might be a few opportunities to try some different setups on the car. I did it for about three years there and just the running back and forth and the distraction to my Cup team, I didn't think it was worth it especially on the hot weekends when it took so much out of me on Saturday. I think the guys that are doing it for money. I don't think they are doing it to learn something for Sunday -- maybe a little bit they are -- but I guess they just don't get paid enough on Sunday."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon