JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT/NICORETTE IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway. HOW ARE THINGS GOING HERE AT PIR COMPARED TO HOW THEY WENT AT TEXAS LAST WEEK? "Well, last week at this time, things ...
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT/NICORETTE IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway.
HOW ARE THINGS GOING HERE AT PIR COMPARED TO HOW THEY WENT AT TEXAS LAST WEEK? "Well, last week at this time, things weren't going so bad. It all kind of went downhill on Saturday. Obviously, we didn't qualify that great last week. We weren't too bad in practice. This week it is going pretty good, we are in the top-10 in practice. The car feels pretty good. We're not on a mile and a half here. The mile and a half tracks are the ones that are real hit or miss. They can get away from you and that one bit us last week."
IS THE LACK OF SIDE-BY-SIDE RACING AT TEXAS INDICATIVE OF WHAT WE ARE GOING TO SEE AT THESE TRACKS? "That is for you guys to watch the race and you make your own story out of it. Sometimes you will have great races, sometimes you won't. Texas has always been a very aero-sensitive race track. I think it is whatever you make of it."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR HAS DONE ENOUGH TO HELP YOU GUYS WITH THE NEW RACE CAR? "I am going to follow Carl Edwards advice, shut up and drive. Obviously he is not having those issues with his car, so we have to go to work on ours. I am really trying not to focus on that anymore, it is what it is, we are stuck with it whether we like it or we don't like it. All I care about is being the most competitive I can be out there on the track. Obviously we weren't last week, it is a concern. We are going to do a lot of testing because of it and hopefully, we find out and resolve the issues."
DO YOU FEEL AS GOOD COMING IN TO PHOENIX WEEKEND AS YOU DID LAST YEAR GETTING MONUMENTAL WIN? "This was a big race for us last year. Coming off the poor run at Texas doesn't give us all the confidence in the world and we didn't test all the great here either. But, I am confident in my team. These guys are awesome. They provide me with the best cars that I could ever ask for. When we have issues like at Texas, we don't just sit down and do nothing. We try to figure it out and that is why I said, we have a heavy testing schedule that is coming up that we just added. Most of that is mile and a half stuff. Since the test here, we have done some things we feel like, back at the shop, just trying to figure out how to be better. Jimmie (Johnson) won the last race here. They did some testing as well so we feel pretty good and I was decent today. Right now I feel pretty good about it."
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR OFF WEEKEND? "Nothing but baby time planned. We don't have any plans for going anywhere; we are just going to stay home. I don't know, do some spring-cleaning. (Laughs) Just hang out, relax. We have been traveling so much, we just wanted to really do as little as possible. Like I said, I have some testing coming up so, I am going to have to do some traveling unfortunately."
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO TALLADEGA OR LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING PAST TALLADEGA? "I am looking forward to Talladega. I think it is going to be a similar race to last time. We are going to have to make a decision as to whether we ride in the back and come up through there at the end. I don't think a lot has changed since the last time we were there. We had an awesome, awesome day, awesome race. Love to have the same result. Certainly any time we go to a restrictor track, and Talladega being one of the best ones out there for us, I always look forward to going there."
IS THERE A DIFFERENT FEELING AT ALL BETWEEN FEELING 20TH OR 25TH OR 42ND OR 43RD? "No, not really if you are off. If you finish 20th or 25th. I think if we hadn't of crashed, we would have been about 25th probably. I would have been feeling just as bad about it today as I did 43rd. You hate to lose those points. That is the disappointing part of it, but as far as performance and confidence, again, that is isolated at Texas, we ran at Vegas, we ran great at Atlanta, we ran at California. It is really a Texas thing for me personally. And for us as a team. I am not going to carry too much of that disappointment out of there until we have to go back there."
WHAT IS YOUR FEELING ABOUT AARON FIKE ADMITTING HE RACED UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF HEROIN? "It is mind boggling. It just blows me away that anybody, at this level, would ever consider anything like that. I guess you have to admire his honestly at this point and you wish him all the best trying to really work his way back out of that situation. But, I can't imagine anybody wanting or thinking about doing that at this level."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD IMPLEMENT MANDATORY DRUG TESTING AND WOULD YOU GO AS AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE DRIVERS WITH RECOMMENDATIONS TO NASCAR ABO9UT WHAT THEY SHOULD CONSIDER? "I feel like the policies are in place, the reason why they haven't had to do more is because they haven't really felt like there is an issue. Now, obviously, we have seen more in the Truck and Nationwide Series and so maybe they do things differently over there than they do in the Cup Series. I don't feel like there is a reason to do more, but at the same time, I have never been randomly tested and just to do it every once in a while, might not be a bad idea, just to get everybody's attention even though you sign that waiver that it could happen. It probably does need to happen from time to time just to make sure. But, you know, I think most of us have the impression that we only want to do something that is going to enhance our performance. There isn't anything that can really enhance the.performance of a race car driver. Not that I know of, I can't imagine doing anything that would take away from my performance. I don't need for a knee-jerk reaction here. Maybe they (NASCAR) to look in to it a little bit more since this has come out. Obviously, that is pretty serious. I have confidence in them. The word travels fast around this garage area. If there are any issues, it usually comes out fairly quickly and they have their ways of resolving them."
DO YOU LIKE HAVING IN-CAR CAMERAS OR IS IT INTRUSIVE? "I like to watch them after the fact. During the setup of it, it is more intrusive to the team when they are trying to work in and around the car. We used to have issues with the in-car cameras because of the weight issue; it would add weight to the car. Now, they pretty much add weight to every car out there to equal it out there. Not a big deal. Now we pretty much enjoy having them on board. It is a great shots they get so you can really see what is going on with the driver and the car. They are seeing action they can't get from outside the car. So, I think they have been a big part of the growth of the sport over the years."
DID YOU EVER SEE YOUR LAS VEGAS WRECK FROM THE IN-CAR CAMERA? "I didn't get it. Unfortunately on that particular situation, they don't record every single camera. They only record the one that they are showing on air. There are only like two or three that they are choosing to record. So unfortunately, they didn't record the one I want to see which was the one to see the impact from inside the car. So I was kind of disappointed in that."
DO YOU FEEL CARL EDWARDS IS THE GUY TO BEAT THIS SEASON? "If they run like they did last week, yes, absolutely. I mean rivalries come through competition and when you are the guy to beat like Carl is right now and Jimmie has been in the past couple years, then it is going to build rivalries. Again, those only come if you are consistently battling with those guys. If that builds and continues like it did last week, then it could turn in to a nice rivalry, which wouldn't be a bad thing for the sport."
DO YOU THINK THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE TESTING ALLOWED ON THE MILE AND A HALF TRACKS? "I personally don't think it is a testing issue. I don't think it is a more time thing. Yes, I think it might help a little bit, I am always open for that. We wouldn't be going to do more testing if we didn't think it was beneficial. It is more it is we want to go and figure out some things we are missing. I guess, yes, maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea."
DO YOU THINK THE EXTRA TESTING THAT HUMPY WHEELER HAS OFFERED AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY IF NASCAR WILL ALLOW IT IS NEEDED? "Obviously, it is for us (Laughs). I don't think everybody needs it. This car depends on the tire. At Atlanta and Texas, it was a different tire than Vegas and California. We had no issues at those tracks. We were awesome. I felt great at those tracks. Then we go to Texas. And even at Atlanta, as bad as it felt, the car was still very competitive. But in Texas the car felt bad and it was not competitive. Unless we are going to be on a tire similar to the Texas tire and Atlanta tire, I don't feel like we need to do anymore testing. I don't think that case with the type of pavement we have at Charlotte. I am pretty sure it is not the Texas tire. But if it is, then yes, I want to go there and I want to run on it because I obviously don't have a good feel for that tire."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TRAINING YOU DID AT THE BONDURANT SCHOOL? "It has been a while, but there was a time when I first came in to the series that I wanted to get as much roadracing experience as I possibly could. I've been to Skip Barber. I've been to Jim Russell and to Bob's school. Bob worked with me on a personal basis and we have had a lot of fun. I feel like his knowledge has been beneficial. I have always wished we could go out to his school and work with Bob and work with our cars because the cars are so much different than we are driving out there, that you can only learn so much. But any little bit helps is the way I look at it, so we have had some fun out there with him."
IS THERE A DRIVER THAT YOU CONSIDER THE GREATEST IN ANY SERIES? "Mario Andretti. I don't think there is a question. The guy dominated on dirt, open wheel, Formula I, IndyCar, and Sprint Cars. He's the man as far as I'm concerned. I don't even think there is a question."
HOW DOES A NEW DRIVER COPE WITH ALL THE SPONSOR AND HOSPITALITY AND MEDIA OBLIGATIONS WHEN HE FIRST COMES INTO THE SPORT? "I think it's important to have somebody with some knowledge to kind of help you through that aspect of it or to help prepare you for that side of it. I feel like I was fortunate to come into an organization like Hendrick Motorsports. I was around Mark Martin early on when I was at Bill Davis Racing. You can't prepare yourself for those types of commitments that come along with it, especially if you start having success early on. It turns your world upside down and you're just trying to race and drive. And you start to realize that's only half of it."
WAS THAT EVER A DISTRACTION? "I think the thing that I've worked the hardest on over the years that I feel like we do very well between John (Edwards, PR person) and my office is coordinating our schedules. From how the requests come into the office to how they are handled with the scheduling as well as PR requests. All the requests have to funnel down to one area and how we handle it and how we schedule it. What works best within the schedule of when to do things and when not to do things; when to say yes and when to say no. It's been 16 years and we're still trying to perfect it. It can be a huge distraction if you don't learn how to balance it out."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TWO FULLTIME JOBS ON RACE DAY? "Yeah, well, we kind of limit how much I'll do. So I have an understanding. I know when my race morning starts, I know I'm going to do this, this, and this. I'll be at the driver's meeting at this time. I'll eat at this time. I'll get ready and hang out with the team. It's kind of a routine that you get into. The only thing that shakes it up for us sometimes like this weekend when we have Nicorette on board, we might do a couple more hospitalities on race morning. Or I might add a meet and greet on the weekend. So some of those things can be a little bit much when they add up. We were just talking that I'm going to do something for Dover Speedway as a part of their Winner's Circle program so I'm going to go out to their hospitality on race morning. That's added. And I have to get prepared in advance and expect it and understand it before it comes. If it just gets thrown on last minute, then it's no, that's when I really get in trouble. It's when I get really frustrated when last minute things get thrown on me. And that's where John does a great job of trying to make sure it doesn't happen."
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO KIDS THAT ARE TORN BETWEEN DOING SOMETHING THEY REALLY WANT TO DO OR GETTING A 4-YEAR DEGREE? "That's a good question. I didn't go to college and I look back on it all the time and wish I had had that experience and the education that comes along with it. In my situation in racing, being out on the race track and traveling and racing was what benefited me the most. For some other individuals, getting that four-year education might be more beneficial for whatever their path is. I think whatever is in your heart and whatever works for you and whatever is sort of leading you, you've got to go with it. For me it was racing and being out on the race track every weekend."
-credit: gm racing