JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed the pavement patch in turn three, driver's driving styles, going to Sonoma and more. HOW WAS PRACTICE? "Practice was pretty good.
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed the pavement patch in turn three, driver's driving styles, going to Sonoma and more.
HOW WAS PRACTICE? "Practice was pretty good. We really did a lot of homework when we left here and worked with our teammates especially the 48 car and we basically came back exactly like the 48. It's definitely helped us."
WILL THE CHANGES IN TURN THREE CAUSE A BUMPY RIDE ON SUNDAY? "No the new pavement is smooth as glass. It's got a lot of grip. It's real smooth unlike the entire rest of the track. I think it's going to make things interesting though because it's leaving that whole inside grove open. So if you can get your car working down low there, we're gonna see some side-by-side racing down there or we're gonna see guys going in and try to slide up in front of guys. It's definitely going to make the race interesting. I think today in qualifying you will pretty much see everybody running up there."
IF YOU WERE THE GRAND SCHEDULE MAKER WOULD YOU CHANGE THE NUMBER OF DATES AND MILES RUN HERE? "I don't know all the details that go into, what makes them decide a 500-mile race verses a 400-mile race. Just purely from a competitor standpoint 500 miles around this track seems to be a little long. You know what the track owners, the Mattioli's and television and NASCAR they make those decisions based on a totally different set of information. They might have a much better reason than any of us understand so I don't think it's right for me to side that or even make a comment on what the decision should be made."
ON HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT KYLE BUSCH PULLING THE TRIPLE-DUTY AND IF IT IS SOMETHING HE COULD SEE HIMSELF DOING OR HAVE DONE BACK IN THE DAYS. "He's young man (laughs). Back in the day maybe. I pretty much found out early on in my cup career that putting 100 percent of my effort into the cup series and into this team is what gave me the best results. He's a very talented and young driver and he's obviously got the energy to go out and do that. I think it's pretty cool what he's doing. There's a reason why nobody else has done it or is doing it."
TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON, POINTS WISE YOU ARE DOING OKAY BUT PERFORMANCE WISE DO YOU WISH YOU WERE DOING BETTER? "I think we have the best team out there, I really do. I don't think we've gotten the most out of the cars and I put myself in that category when I say we. It's not just the guys on this team or Hendrick Motorsports, it's all of us and we're working hard to make those gains. It's hard for me to give us a bad grade because of where we're at in the points and because of how good our team is so I give us a B, B+. Based on sometimes how we performed on the track you would think it would be easy to grade us lower than that but to have four straight top 10's and three straight top five's that's something I'm pretty proud of."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE CLOSE AND SIX WEEKS FROM NOW WOULD YOU BE SURPRISED IF YOU DIDN'T HAVE A WIN? "Well we're not as close as we need to be I feel like right now. Other than a road course coming up and maybe a Martinsville track, which is a while from now, there's a lot of different ways to win these races these days. I never count ourselves out. We're a strong team. I feel like I'm driving as good as I ever have. It's about bringing all those ingredients together and making the most of it. Just like at Charlotte, it could be fuel mileage and this weekend pit strategy is going to be all over the place. It could be very, very interesting how this race plays out. We gambled here last year and won with the rain and the weather and fuel mileage. I think that there's no doubt we can win. We can win anywhere. If you're just basing it off of sheer speed, we still need to gain. We feel like we got until September to make all those gains and be in the Chase and start the Chase off to be solid and have something for those guys."
HOW FAR ARE YOU BEHIND? "Not that much. It's not that much. Just like we saw with Kasey Kahne, you know. At Charlotte they were just a little bit off and made some gains and got the car driving the way he wanted it to and boom they've gone and won two races in a row. With this car I don't think you are ever that far off with this car. Everybody's pretty tightly matched. While sometimes it might look like on the track you're very far off, it could just be something that's small that makes up that big time."
HOW SPECIAL OF A PLACE IS SONOMA FOR YOU? "I love it. I wish I could go and spend more time there. There's so many things that I love about that area and having family and friends and everything there. This year is even going to be more special. Last year was a spectacular weekend for me because Ella was born that week but I had to leave. I didn't want to have to leave. This year we're actually celebrating her birthday in Sonoma and we've got a big event happening on Saturday with a bunch of friends and family. Who knows what else we're gonna have for it. It's a pretty spectacular first birthday. So I'm really excited about Sonoma coming up. We've got a great race car, we tested at VIR (Virginia International Raceway). I'm anxious to get out on the track as well and our wine is doing good. I could go on and on."
WITH PASSING BEING SO DIFFICULT IN THIS CAR, IS THIS THE PERFECT KIND OF RACE TRACK WITH THE WIDE AND LONG STRAIGHTAWAYS TO SEE MORE PASSING? "No, other than that paving strip over there I don't think that's going to be the case. I think that the long straightaways definitely help but you got to be close to them in the corners to be able to make the pass down the straightaways. We didn't really do a lot of race runs around traffic. Until we get out there tomorrow I really can't answer that. I think passing is just a premium and a tough thing to pull off in general these days because the cars are so evenly matched. With the aerodynamics with the way they are it makes it tough. I'll know more tomorrow."
YOU TALKED ABOUT PUTTING THE 48 SET UP FROM THE TEST IN YOUR CAR, BUT A LOT OF TIMES YOU HAVE TALKED ABOUT YOU AND JIMMIE DON'T REALLY DRIVE THE SAME SET UPS, WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT THIS TIME? "We didn't have a choice. We were way off at the test and those guys were pretty good. I'm surprised because I was expecting their set up to be much freer and looser because in the past when we've tried Jimmie's set ups they were pretty loose and it was opposite actually. The car was pretty tight but it was fast. We just had to work through some things there but that definitely got us started in the right direction. As bad as we were at testing, it's actually been a pretty good day."
WHY IS IT THAT YOU GUYS CAN'T DRIVE THE OTHER PERSON'S SET UP? "Why don't you write the same way another writer writes? It's just how our brains work. It's how our motor skills work. Some guys go in and want to get on the right front and drive through the right front and connect the car that way. Some guys want to do it with the right rear. Some guys are harder on the brakes than other guys. One of the things through telemetry especially having teammates over the years and being able to compare the telemetry is that you just see that some tracks, some drivers are just all the same. But then there's some tracks where you can really do things different and this is one of them, so that makes the set ups and the way the car reacts to the driver different. There's some places I think Jimmie and I can run similar set ups and have and then there's other places we just have not been able to. But it seems like with this car we've been able to get closer to those guys than ever."
WHERE DOES A DRIVER'S DRIVING STYLE COME FROM IN THE FIRST PLACE? "The way you're raised. I think it's instinct of how you start driving and then it can come through just what your past experience is, what kind of cars and what those cars demand in how you drive. In his (Jimmie Johnson) off-road racing I'm sure those trucks and those types of cars are quite a bit different. You would have to ask him. For me it goes all the way back to quarter midget days where it all started for me. That's where I learned how to drive and then I just transferred that over to midgets and sprint cars. I don't feel like I've really done anything different over the years other than just get in the car and try to feel it and find that edge and push it to go faster."
THE TELEMETRY LAST YEAR SHOWED THAT KYLE (BUSCH) DIDN'T REALLY USE A LOT OF BRAKE WHEN HE DRIVES AROUND. IS THAT AN UNUSUAL THING OR IS THAT SORT OF COMMON? "Like I said, everybody is different. I don't really remember. I know that a lot of Kyle's set ups last year we had at Hendrick were quite a bit different. He and Alan (Gustafson) were able to do some things that really worked for Kyle. If you go back a lot of young talented drivers that come into the sport a lot of times they'll drive what you put underneath them and they'll make surprisingly good progress with that.
"And a lot of times it can fool you as a crew chief and as a team because you think I'm putting some good stuff underneath this kid and then you realize they're just driving so far over the top that sometimes it makes it even better than it is. You got to be careful not getting complacent with that. I've seen it happen to a lot of young drivers, even myself coming into this sport. Once you start getting it settled in and you start getting more experience and you know when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive usually that's when you start building your characteristic of what you use."
OBVIOUSLY LAST YEAR YOU GUYS WERE TOP DOG, NOW THE SHIFT IS A LITTLE BIT TO GIBBS AND TO ROUSH AND WE HEARD YOU GUYS WERE RACING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP LAST YEAR, IS THE EXPLANATION THAT SIMPLE? "Yes and no. The simple part is just hard work. You pick a direction that you're going in and you work your butt off to make the best out of it. It could be as simple as one of those teams goes and tests and says I've got this idea, let's try it and they try it. Another team says I've got this idea that's complete opposite of that, let's try that and they go in that direction. This one goes in that direction and one works and one doesn't. It is way simpler than you would think to get better and to get off, but it all starts in hard work and just trying to gather as much information as you possibly can and how you read the information. It's getting more and more by engineering and computers and all that stuff than it ever has."
ARE YOU GUYS OFF HORSEPOWER WISE? IS THAT PART OF THE CONCERN? "No, I don't feel like that's concern. I think we're in good shape horsepower wise. The only place that I feel like the Toyota's are getting us horsepower wise is maybe on the restrictor-plate tracks. They do seem to have a little bit more power there. I feel really good about our power this year. I think our power has been awesome."
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ADVANTAGE WOULD BE IF ONE OR BOTH OF THESE RACES WERE DROPPED FROM 500 MILES TO 400 MILES? "I think it just changes the complexity of the race. It changes your strategy. I think shorter races are a little more exciting personally. It all depends. We race 500 miles now knowing its 500 miles. We race 400 miles knowing its 400 miles. In this race because the lap times are the longest other than a road course, longest lap times we have anywhere that we go and yet we're running 500 miles. It just makes for a very, very long day.
"I think sometimes the field gets a little more spread out. I think the attrition becomes a little bit more. Those to me are the factors that play into a shorter race being a little bit more exciting."
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR SPOTTER? "I expect him to give me as much information as he can. You build up trust over time and you have to really go with your own instincts. They're giving me the information that I don't have. There's blind spots out there, there's things that you can't see other parts of the track and they're not there to make decisions and drive the car for you, they're just there to make sure in those areas that are blind that they're giving you the information so you don't cut somebody off or run somebody in the wall or make a mistake."
A LOT OFTHEM SAID THEY'VE BECOME VERBAL WHIPPING POSTS FOR THE DRIVERS. "It depends. If you don't hear anything from the spotter and you turn down in the corner and there's a guy inside of you and he never said anything, there's two parts to that. You probably should have had an idea that there's a guy on the inside and he should have said something. I never give full blame to a spotter. There are certain tracks like Talladega and Daytona where spotters play a huge role. There's so much going on you can't keep up with it, but when you're at Dover or Martinsville you watch in your mirror enough that you should know when they're there and when they're not there.
I grew up in Sprint cars where you didn't have a mirror or a spotter and if they weren't there, they didn't exist. When you grow up in stock car racing if you have one inch of your bumper inside that guy, then you consider yourself there and he can't turn down on you. I think that sometimes that's being a little naïve. I think that sometimes you got to protect your front bumper as much as they have to protect their rear bumper and the spotter shouldn't be fully responsible for that, but he should be telling you that. It's up to you whether you turn left or turn right."
HOW WOULD YOU CATEGORIZE YOUR YEAR SO FAR? "We're in the Chase but we need to be more competitive. I feel like we do have some work to do. We're not going to deny that. I feel like we're one of the best organizations out there and that we can make those gains. I feel like our performance has been building our confidence that we're not that far off, that we just need to keep working. We've got an incredible team, pit crew, all those things are right there. I think Steve Letarte is doing an awesome job calling the races and communicating with me but we need to find a little bit of speed. We're happy to be where we're at in the points but we're not happy that we haven't been leading more laps or putting ourselves in position to win more races."
WITH THE DIFFICULTY IN PASSING, HOW MUCH DOES TRACK POSITION MATTER IN TERMS OF QUALIFYING AND EARLY ON? "Qualifying and track position to me this year has been more important than it's ever been. The difference is that because the tires are fairly hard this year, they haven't been wearing as much as in the past so you can get track position in unique ways. You can stay out, you can just do fuel, you can just do right sides and play the pit strategy and track position that way. Qualifying is still as important as it's always has been but it's getting even more important. As long as you have a tire that holds up, this weekend is probably not one of them, but like Charlotte was certainly one of them and Darlington and those places, you could pull that off."
SO RACE STRATEGY IS GOING TO BE PRETTY IMPORTANT IN HOW YOU CAN GAIN POSITIONS? "Yeah. Typically here you have a lot of green-flag runs so a lot of your pit strategies can be based on your fuel mileage and when you're going to pit under green. It's a long lap, you don't want to run out of fuel and if you pit when other guys don't, you usually try to do the opposite of what the leaders and the other guys are doing."
WOULD YOU RATHER SEE A SOFTER COMPOUND ON THE TIRES FOR BETTER RACING AT THE RISK OF HAVING MORE BLOWOUTS? "No. You don't want to risk blowouts. You're isolating one thing, it's not that easy. In order for Goodyear to build a softer tire, the car has to be able to not abuse the tire so much. This car abuses the right side tires more, that puts Goodyear into the box to make a harder right side tire to be more durable. It's a domino effect that needs to be addressed by a little bit with the car, a little bit with the tire and the team has to be responsible with that as well. We all know that you put more camber, less air pressure in the right front tire you're probably going to blow it out and there's a limit there and you need to know where that limit is. It can't be one that's just a very fine line that's easy to get to. If you blow a tire these days, it better be because you were just way outside the box."
HOW DOES HAVING ONE TURN WITH NEW ASPHALT AND THE REST OF THE TRACK BEING SO BUMPY CHANGE DRIVING? "It's changes it quite a bit. We're running three groves high down here in turn three. We're not even close to running the bottom. I can't ever remember us really running off the bottom here, maybe one grove up. That is the preferred line. It's really smooth, it's got a lot of grip. I'm assuming they maybe did that because of the seepage and they went in and did some things underneath. I don't know why exactly they did it because it would have been nice to have it all the way around. It's making it different because you have more grip and a very smooth part of the race track verses the rest of the track is pretty bumpy with less grip. When you already have three corners that are so much different and then you add that into it, it makes it a real challenge to set the car up right."
LAST WEEK YOU MADE SOME COMMENTS ABOUT THIS TRACK THAT WERE BETRAYED TO BE NEGATIVE, DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS REGARDING THAT? "I felt like it was constructive criticism. I don't feel like that I came across as negative. I feel like it's obvious that this is a track that needs some upgrades and I still believe that. At this day and time with this series at the level it's at, to go to a race track that has some of the bumps and some of the safer barriers and different things that we have here or lack of, in my opinion its only being constructive criticism as to what I think upgrades they need to have especially if they want to continue to stay on the circuit going forward."
TALK ABOUT THE SAFETY ISSUE WITH THE GRASS ALONG THE WALL. "The guardrail. To me this is a fast race track. We've seen some pretty nasty wrecks and I think if you compared most of the tracks out there I would say that this track is probably further down the list of things that they've done."
-credit: gm racing