JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Pocono, his season to date, road course racing, pit road speeds, and more. TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN PERFORMING AND WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEKEND AT...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing at Pocono, his season to date, road course racing, pit road speeds, and more.
TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN PERFORMING AND WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEKEND AT POCONO? "I think we've performed. I said it last week and I still feel the same way, that the Brickyard marks an important part in the season, plus it's an important race. But to me, from that race leading into the Chase and through the Chase, it really is about who is going to show their strength for the championship. Right now, you've got to notch one up to the No. 48 team (Jimmie Johnson), I think the No. 5 (Mark Martin) as well, and we were mediocre. We need to step it up. We need to be better than that. I feel like had we qualified better, I think we could have run up front with those leaders. But we didn't do that. So we've got some areas that we're focused on improving and I'm excited about some of the things that we have in the works for the next five races, including here this weekend. I was real happy with the car this morning in the little bit of running that we did, and am looking forward to Sunday."
ON MARK MARTIN CALLING JIMMIE JOHNSON "SUPERMAN", WHAT WOULD YOU CALL MARK MARTIN AT THIS POINT IN HIS CAREER? "Yeah, I think he's got it backwards. He's definitely Superman. The guy is just unbelievable. He's always been impressive to me and I think to a lot of others with his talent and commitment to what he does. But you put him with a team at Hendrick like that No. 5 car and (crew chief) Alan Gustafson and that group, and it just shows just how talented he truly is. So, yeah, I think Mark's a modest guy and he would never want to call himself 'Superman', but he's the true Superman out there and we're really proud to have him on board. And he's bringing a lot to our program obviously."
TALK ABOUT HENDRICK PERFORMANCE SO FAR IN PRACTICE TODAY, TOP FOUR ON THE BOARD "Yeah, I know that Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart and some of those guys that are right there behind us were not in qualifying trim. We were all four in qualifying trim. So, it's a little bit skewed; I think we still were going to be strong for qualifying, but I don't think you had enough of the other fast guys like the No. 83, the No. 9, and some of the guys who qualify really well here, I don't think they were in qualifying trim to show what they truly had. But all four of us showed up in qualifying trim, even with the weather forecast, that's what we had. Our first two runs, I went out the first time and a caution came out; I was halfway through a run and the second time, I was again, halfway through a run and the caution came out again. So our run wasn't as good as our teammates, but I felt like we were very competitive. Hendrick has obviously been strong this year so I say that, we were at the top of the board and it's good to see all four cars, other than the No. 5 who put on a heck of a lap the last time out, close and competitive. And that's the way we're looking at it. But Hendrick obviously have been very strong this year and we're proud of that."
ON HIS BACK PAIN "Yeah, it's been really nice to not get asked too many of those questions these days, or it seems like it's tapering off a little bit which is kinda nice because it started to get a little bit too much (laughs). It's slightly improved since the beginning of the year and then it's just sort of leveled off where I'm just able to deal with the pain that's there, or the discomfort. At these types of tracks it's more discomfort than it is pain. At Bristol is where we're really going to find out just where I'm at. I was in a lot of pain there the last race and that seems to be the toughest race. But for this weekend, there shouldn't be any issues. We're in good shape."
WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO WINNING AT WATKINS GLEN? AND THERE USED TO BE ABOUT FIVE OR SIX CUP REGULARS THAT WERE HEAD & SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST ON THE ROAD COURSE, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THAT GAP HAS CLOSED. "Yeah, I think this car has closed up the gap quite a bit. It's just hard to have much of an edge over the competition anywhere we go. And it shows up as well on the road courses. Everything NASCAR has done is really put us into a box as far as our transmissions and obviously with the car. I felt like we were more competitive in Sonoma than we've been. We tested at Road Atlanta, which is a better track for Watkins Glen. With the No. 24 DuPont team, we're certainly hoping that pays off for us at Watkins Glen.
"The keys for success there is that it's a fast road course and you've got to get up through the esses really well. You've got to get through the carousel good and you've got to get into all the braking zones good. It's the same concept it's always been. For me, it's if I get out in front, don't wheel-hop getting into Turn 1 and spin out with two or three laps to go. So that's what I'm going to be working on. Fuel mileage is also real important on those road courses. But it's a little bit different approach at Watkins Glen than at Sonoma. Sonoma is such a finesse track that you can give up a lot of power there and still maintain a pretty decent pace to get your fuel mileage, where at Watkins Glen you can't. You've got to run hard. You've got long straightaways. You've got to have the power. So it makes it a lot trickier to get good fuel mileage."
ON PIT ROAD SPEEDING, WHY CAN'T WE GO TO GARMIN OR TOM-TOM AND GET A SATELLITE PERFECT DEVICE THAT WOULD TELL YOUR EXACT SPEED? "That's a great question. I think it's a little easier than that, even. In every other form of motorsports you come to pit road and you hit a button and it regulates the rpm and the mph and you just sit there at that rpm. And I don't understand why we don't have that, with all the technology that we have at our fingertips. I think the concern is it's a wheel speed sensor and then you get into traction control and some of that. So that's probably the downside to it. But we've gotten our tachs a lot better now and we're able to read it pretty close.
"I was caught speeding earlier this year at Sonoma and when they said it, I was like, it was questionable. If I did, it was very, very little. But I would say that if they showed that I was two or three-tenths of a mile per hour, then they're probably right. I haven't been caught any other time other than that, and I don't feel like I've been speeding any other time than that. So, I think that what they've got is very accurate. What we've got is 90 percent accurate. It would be nice for us to find something that works a little bit better, but to me, as long as our gas pedal is our control unit, then it's going to be inconsistent. If you take 850 hp engines and try to run them in second gear at 4000 rpm, I don't care if you're looking at mph or if you're looking at rpm, it's still very difficult to have it exact.
"And we're always trying to get right to the edge. You know, the pace car runs 5 mph under the actual speed limit. And then they make us calculate the next 5 mph to go to the actual speed limit. It's a weird thing (laughs). I don't get it. I don't understand why the pace car doesn't just run the actual speed limit, but they give us a 5 mph buffer and we're all taking every bit of it you know. We're all taking it right to the edge. And when you take it too far to the edge, you're going to get caught. I'd rather be consistent and a little bit conservative than get caught speeding because it can obviously ruin your day."
THIS WAS KIND OF A DISCOVERY FOR ME BECAUSE I'M ASSUMING WHAT YOU'RE SAYING IS THAT THE SPEED LIMIT IS 55 BUT THEY ALLOW YOU 60. "I've been on them for years about this."
JUST AS A FUNDAMENTAL THING, RPM'S IS NOT A MEASURE OF SPEED IT'S A MEASURE OF POWER. "Well, yeah but we can actually be more accurate with the rpm's than we can with a speedometer unless they gave us a digital speedometer that read to the tenth of a mile per hour. We can be pretty accurate with the system that we have. The tach that I have in my car, and I know a lot of the teams have gone to this tach where it has a light system that can really break down."
MONTOYA WAS SCREAMING THAT HE HAD THREE GREEN LIGHTS. ". . . the bottom line is that he was speeding. To NASCAR's defense their system that they have, you can't dispute it. They will show you exactly which zone. They'll show us and you can go get it when they call you. After the race you can go find it and I've not heard one person come back and say that well they were absolutely wrong. Once they show them everything I would dispute the person that feels like they were in the wrong because their system is very accurate. Now they did have the problem at Memphis or wherever but I feel pretty confident in their system. But what I'm not confident in is our system we have to be able to go and push the limits of that speed. I play it conservative and if my system breaks down I'm going to get caught speeding. If I play it too aggressively I'm probably going to get caught speeding. So it's still in our hands."
WHEN YOU GO TO LOOK AT IT DO THEY SHOW YOU A SHEET OF PAPER OR DO THEY SHOW YOU A SIMULATION? "They show you and my crew chief has been I haven't been, he said that they had these and I believe it's on the computer where it flashes red in that zone and then it tells you exactly how much over you were in that segment. So it must record it somehow."
YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR PIT STALL SELECTION AND HOW THAT WILL PLAY INTO SUNDAY'S RACE. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure we're not going to get to qualify. It's unfortunate because I felt like we have a good car and a shot at it and we did make qualifying runs so I'll be fine either way. Obviously being third in points, third is a good place to start this race from. We'll take that and hope that the weather works out for us tomorrow to be able to make plenty of race runs to get ready to go racing for Sunday. I feel like we've got some unfinished business to take care of here. We weren't as good as we wanted to be last time even though we finished good because of the fuel mileage. And I feel like we've really got to start making our statement for this championship and get us some wins. At least show how powerful we can be by leading laps and contending for wins but those bonus points are something we'd like to get and the momentum I think is the most important part of what you need getting ready for this Chase."
WITH THE TOP-12 ALL STARTING UP FRONT, DO YOU FEEL EVEN MORE PRESSURE WITH ONLY SIX RACES LEFT UNTIL THE CHASE TO TRY TO GET THOSE 10 BONUS POINTS FOR THE WIN? "It's always aggressive no matter who is starting in the top-12 or in the field. You're seeing what your car can do and how fast you are against the competition. You want to lead laps, you want to get yourself established track position wise. I mean aggressiveness at this point in the season is certainly going to happen because you've got those that are trying to get in the top-12 and you've got those that are trying to establish themselves for the championship with momentum and bonus points so yeah I think you're definitely going to see some aggressive driving right from the start of this race."
I ASKED JIMMIE (JOHNSON) IF I GOT EVERYONE TO ROUND UP ONE HUNDRED MILLION BUCKS TO GIVE HIM WOULD HE SIT OUT THE REST OF THE SEASON AND LET SOMEBODY ELSE WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Could you do the same for me, I'll step out (laughing). No, I think that it's a fun analogy and story. I think all of us want to win the championship beating the best of the best that are out there. I think to me what's going to make this championship so interesting whichever way it goes, if Jimmie wins it you know that everybody is gunning for those guys trying to keep them from winning four in a row because they've been the team to beat and all that does is it gives everybody else that much more enticement to knock them off the top of the mountain. So I think it makes it that much more challenging to do it if which they did it would be a heck of an accomplishment. I think we've got the makings of a great championship battle with Tony Stewart, myself, Jimmie, who knows who the guy to beat is going to be. Kurt (Busch), Mark Martin have shown how strong they are. I mean whose going to make in the top-12 and any of those guys in the top-12 could win the championship in my opinion but once that Chase starts its anybody's championship."
WHAT DOES THE MOST POPULAR DRIVER AWARD MEAN TO THIS SPORT? "Well it obviously shows a lot about what the fans think and who the majority of them pull for. It's interesting to me how it's only gone to a few drivers over the last several years. It's just because you had Bill (Elliott) who is so popular and Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. who has become so popular. It obviously means a lot to the driver to be able to have that kind of support from the fans. And it's a great way for the fans to show just who it is that they love and adore. It gives them almost a competition among themselves to make sure that their driver wins it."
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT BUILDING MOMENTUM AND YOU'VE HAD SOME REALLY GOOD TIMES HERE AND SOME TOUGH TIMES HERE BUT FOR YOU OBVIOUSLY GOING OUT HERE SUNDAY YOU'VE GOT TO FEEL GOOD THAT THIS TRACK IS GOING TO HELP YOU GAIN THAT MOMENTUM. "Yeah, I like Pocono but you have to have your car right. You have to have good solid pit stops all day. This is a track that you can gain quite a bit of time or lose a lot of time on pit road. Tony Stewart proved last time we were here how good their car and team was. They came from all the way in the back and won the race. You don't see that happening very often but it shows you how important it is to get the car right. I feel like our team has been solid this year but I feel like the competition has gotten a little bit ahead of us over the last couple of months and it's time for us to get it back. It's amazing how close you can be from actually doing that and I certainly hope we can show that we are."
-credit: gm racing