JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed momentum heading into the Chase, challenges of the new race car, tire problems at Indy, being the "elder" statesman at Hendrick Motorsports and racing at Pocono Raceway INDY IS A...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed momentum heading into the Chase, challenges of the new race car, tire problems at Indy, being the "elder" statesman at Hendrick Motorsports and racing at Pocono Raceway
INDY IS A WEEK AGO NOW, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS NOW THAT YOU HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO THINK ABOUT THE RACE AND THE TIRE SITUATION? "I feel the same way I did last week. It was an unfortunate situation. I feel like NASCAR, Goodyear and the teams did the best they could possibly do under that situation and circumstances. It wasn't what we all hoped for, we will learn from it. It was still an eight-lap or 10-lap shootout there at the end for a pretty decent finish to the race. There has been a lot of buzz, a lot of talk about it. Now we are in Pocono and we don't have to worry about that. Hopefully we will address that as the rest of the season goes on, we can really start thinking about places like Atlanta, tracks that could be a potential issue and how we prepare for that, handle that going forward. Indy next year is the biggest thing we are all thinking about."
WHAT DO YOU WORRY ABOUT HERE AT POCONO? HAS THE SURFACE CHANGED MUCH FROM JUNE TO NOW? "It hasn't changed much. That strip that they put out there has possibly lost a little bit of grip. It is pretty much the same Pocono we had the last time we were here."
IS 1,000 MILES HERE IN SIX WEEKS TOO MANY, SHOULD THE RACES BE SHORTER? "I am always a fan of shorter races, I just think they are more exciting. I think it depends on the lap times as well. This is one of the longest lap times that we have besides a road course and certainly the longest race that we have. To go 500 miles under this lap time is a long, long day and its gets pretty spread out. I just think we could put on a little more exciting race being a 400-mile race. I think would be a great show for the competitors and for the fans."
SIX WEEKS TO GO BEFORE RICHMOND, WHAT IS YOUR STATUS REPORT, STATE OF MIND? YOU'RE NOT LOCKED IN AND YOU'RE NOT ON THE BUBBLE BUT KIND OF IN BETWEEN. "You know we need a couple more weeks of some solid runs like we've been having. I really feel like this team is really starting to make some ground. We showed it at Indy, we showed it at New Hampshire. Even the 1.5-mile at Chicago, we had some glimpses and some moments of having something good and then we show up here and the car is pretty good here too. I'm excited the way that we've been able to start to make ground. You're right, we're not solidly in we're right in the middle there. We can't start taking too many risks to try to get those bonus points but yet we want to win races and try to stay up front to make sure we're solidly in the Chase. Pretty much for the next couple of weeks we're going to go along as business as it has been and then hopefully we can get ourselves a little more solidly in there we can start taking some big risks whether its two tires or no tires or changing up the pit strategy and throwing some wacky set ups in there. We certainly can't do that right now."
DO YOU THINK YOU NEED A WIN GOING INTO THE CHASE, FOR MORAL AND EVERYTHING? "Moral, I'm not worried about. I'm worried about the bonus points we're giving up to Kyle Busch right now. You got Jimmie (Johnson) now that has won his second race, Carl (Edwards) has won three. You just don't want to give up any points to those guys going into the Chase. I really think as a race team if you just put us equal with everybody right now I think we have a shot at the championship. When you put us 20, 30, 70 points behind those three guys that's tough to overcome. We can be strong, we can be consistent. I think we can maybe even win some races in the Chase but to go out there and outperform those guys every single weekend and make up all those points is tough to do."
IS IT FRUSTRATING THAT YOU HAVEN'T WON A RACE AT THIS POINT OF THE SEASON? "It's a little frustrating. We've gone longer than this before haven't we? It's been longer than this. It's frustrating. Not so much that we haven't won a race, to me it's more frustrating that we weren't competitive to win a race. There's a big difference between leading laps, running good, having issues and not pulling the win off than not even being close to the front or leading the laps to get the wins. I really feel like over the last month we've made some big gains. The next month I'm excited to see where those gains put us as far as putting us in the position to win some races."
LOOKING FORWARD TO WATKINS GLEN, DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY THERE? "Yeah, I've had many nightmares about turn one at Watkins Glen. That was a really frustrating race. I don't know if we were going to win that race. Tony (Stewart) was a little better than us. I beat myself up more for the fact that we should have put him in the pressure situation to have to make the move rather than take ourselves out of it and just give it away. Yeah, that was frustrating. We just tested Road Atlanta this week. I felt like we had a really promising test. I feel like we got some things that are going to gain us a little speed for Watkins Glen so I'm looking forward to that race."
IS IT BETTER FOR YOU TO HAVE THESE TWO RACES AT POCONO SPREAD OUT RATHER THAN HOW IT WAS JUST A FEW WEEKS APART? "It does feel like we were here yesterday. I couldn't really tell you. When you spread it out a little bit more then weather conditions usually play out, track conditions play out a little bit differently. You can probably read it a little bit better when there was only two to three weeks in between it. It's not that big of a deal. Five hundred miles here, two races with five hundred miles is probably something that we think about a lot more."
SEEMED LIKE LAST WEEKEND THAT THE 48 WAS BACK TO WHAT WE'RE USED TO SEEING, WHAT KIND OF STATEMENT WAS LAST WEEKEND FOR THAT TEAM? "It is a big statement. Both of our cars were really stout. Those guys were really on their game. Practice, qualifying and of course the race. I think that was definitely a statement. I think that definitely got some people's attention and shows you just how long of a season this really is and how things can change in an instant. Just when you think that one team, one car is going to dominate you never know when somebody is going to catch up. That to me is what I love about Hendrick Motorsports, we never give up, we never stop fighting, working, trying to find something to always be better. Even when we're the best car out there, we're always trying to find something better. When we're not trying to find out how to make it better then I feel like that hard work is really paying off for us right now."
DO IS BOTHER YOU THAT YOU ARE THE "ELDER STATESMAN"? "I've had to adjust a little bit. Definitely new and different for me but at the same time I really enjoy where I'm at in the sport and at Hendrick and just comfortable with the way things are going. I like the amount of respect that I have and the experience I've been able to gain over the years and how that pays off. I certainly have no regrets and have accomplished more than I thought I ever would. I'm not sitting here going boy I wish I was 21 again. I'm pretty happy with where things are."
YOU HAVE THE TOUCH A GRAY. "I've got more than that."
YOU WERE PRETTY DOMINANT HERE IN THE PAST, DO YOU THINK WITH THE NEW CAR OF TOMORROW HAS CHANGED THAT FOR YOUR TEAM? "Well it's impacted all. I still wish that they would give us that third gear. It would make passing a little bit more of a premium. I understand the rpm range that they want us to be in and the cost savings that is there. It definitely helps all the teams out. I just think that it's one of those things. Competition gets better, people hit on things and we've had moments here where we were capable of winning, maybe we didn't, but we won here last year on pit strategy, so they come and they go. You've got to be good. You gotta be competitive. We'll see where we end up qualifying here. We drew kind of an early number but if we catch a cloud I think we can qualify in the top five here today and really make a strong effort for another win here at Pocono here this weekend."
LAST WEEK, YOU WERE JUST ONE OF THE FOUR DRIVERS WHO HAVE STARTED EVERY BRICKYARD, WERE YOU SURPRISED? "Yeah, I was talking to Dale Jarrett prior to the Brickyard last weekend, an interview with him. He's not out there anymore and then Rusty's (Wallace) not out there anymore. Of course you get (Ken) Schrader and Terry Labonte and Mark Martin, they come play every once in a while but they're not out there on a regular basis, but I start to get to where I can count on one hand the guys that I started racing with. There's just not a lot of guys that are on a full-time basis that are out there from when I started. So that makes you feel a little bit older. That means one of these days that I'm going to be the only guy that is still out there. That could happen in the next couple of years. Of course you're going to have Mark Martin full-time next year but depending on what Michael (Waltrip) does what Kyle (Petty) does you know (Ken) Schrader it's definitely interesting."
YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE AN OLDER DRIVER BEFORE YOU'RE 40. "That's alright. Things are changing. We've got a lot of young kids that are in this sport now. I was one at one time. As long as you continue to bring young talent into this sport I think it's a great thing. I'll deal with where I stand."
CAN YOU SEE YOURSELF RACING AT MARK MARTIN'S AGE? "Not full-time cup racing. I'm always going to want to drive a race car. To go out there and do the full-time schedule and all the commitments that comes with that, no way. He's an amazing guy, he really is. He's an incredible race car driver but to have the strength to push and go do all the other things it takes to be competitive and the commitments that come along with that, I give him a lot of credit. I'm excited to have him on board next year. I'm personally going to be able to learn a lot from him."
EARLIER THIS YEAR AT DOVER YOU SAID AS MUCH AS YOU LOVE THE MATTIOLI'S YOU FELT LIKE THEY NEEDED TO MAKE SOME CHANGES TO KEEP TWO RACES HERE A YEAR. HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR STAND POINT OR TALKED TO THE MATIOLLI'S SINCE THOSE COMMENTS AT ALL? "No, I made sure I sent a message last time we were here to make sure they read all the transcripts because there was some miss quotes being put into the paper there. They were taking half of what I said and making it out to me being this terrible person. They left out the parts about how much I love Pocono and love racing here and love the Mattioli's and was purely asked the question and was answering the best that I could. I do still believe that. I feel like there's a lot of upgrades that could happen here. To me there's a great fan base here and great potential here, but a lot of things at this race track that I feel like could and should be upgraded and this day and age with our sport and the growth and where it's at looking at other tracks I don't think anybody would disagree with me."
-credit: gm racing