Pocono: Jeff Gordon - Friday media visit



ON THE PASSING OF BILL FRANCE, JR.: "I think that it is something that it takes me time to really let things like this sink in as to just how much we are going to miss him. I had the opportunity to spend some time with him away from the race track here in the last couple years and those are the moments that I am really going to miss the most and think about. Obviously there are a lot of people in this garage here that could better describe what he has done for this sport over all of those years and his role and his passion. I just remember the times, listening to him make decisions or talk about decisions that were being made and you could sense the passion that he had for this sport and wanting to continue to see it grow. He liked being involved and that was fun to see a man of his stature and in his position to still be that excited about it. We are going to miss him. He meant a lot to a lot of people, but to me, over the last couple of years I felt like I finally started to get somewhat of a bond with him and that meant more to me than anything else."

IS THERE A LIGHT HEARTED MOMENT, SOMETIME YOU WENT TO THE TRAILER AND YOU KNEW YOU WERE RIGHT AND YOU CAME OUT OF THE TRAILER AND FOUND OUT MAYBE YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN RIGHT? "Well everybody knows he gave his opinion and he always had the last word. You always had so much respect for him because you knew that what he was saying was right, even though it wasn't always easy to take. To me the good moments that I had were fishing and being in the Bahamas on some of the boat trips and just hear him get excited about catching fish and getting away from the hustle and bustle of all the decision making, but still as soon as racing got brought up, he was just as passionate about that as he was anything else."

AS YOU START THE SECOND HALF OF THIS SEASON IN THE LEAD, HOW DIFFERENT IS IT FOR YOU AS YOU GO DOWN THE STRETCH COMPARED TO WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS? "I think that we have got a great race team this year that we have been able to fine tune on and not be looking and searching for major things. We are just trying to continue to push ourselves so that we can stay in this Chase and that when we get in it, that we are one of the guys to beat. At this time, I feel like we are, obviously with leading the points. You have got to keep getting better because the competition is going to keep getting better and it is nice to be in position where we can focus on all of those finer details instead of searching for something big."

THERE IS NOT AS MUCH PRESSURE, NOT AS MUCH HEAT, MAYBE, AS WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO STAY, YOUR EIGHTH, NINTH OR 10TH? "The pressure is still just as intense, the same, because now the pressure is to stay on top and to get that championship. No matter where you are at in the field, anywhere in the top, whether it is 50 points, you know, you are either trying to make it in the top 35, you are trying to make it into the Chase, you are trying to win the Championship, you are trying to win races, you are trying to get into the top 10, it is intense for everybody. The pressure and the intensity is the same throughout the garage, it is just different."

ON THE BUSCH PENALTY: "Everybody knows when an incident occurs on pit road that that's going to get you in trouble. It is going to cause you some type of a fine. I think that what I saw, was what happened on the race track wasn't near as much Tony's fault, as I think that Kurt felt like it was. So, I think that his frustration got the best of him. I think that we all knew that there was going to be some kind of fine and penalty and that it would be severe because there was a crew member involved and even though I don't think that he intentionally was trying to do anything, he was just frustrated and mad, but NASCAR had to make a pretty stern decision there and I think that, it didn't surprise me, put it that way. I am more surprised that they didn't suspend him, actually."

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY, IN YOUR OPINION TO APPROACH THE RACE AT POCONO? "Well the thing is that you have three completely unique turns here. It is trying to find that fine balance where you are either compromising where you can be as good as you can be on all three, or you attack one or two corners here and give up one of the other turns. I think that has always been the biggest challenge and still is."

YOU HAVE HAD SOME GREAT MOMENTS HERE AND SOME FRIGHTENING MOMENTS. IS THERE KIND OF A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS TRACK AT ALL? "I love it more than I hate it. Anytime you have a failure and a problem, and you hit the wall the way that we did, that is not going to be any fun. We have been running good the last couple times that we have been here and that probably means more to me than anything else. We have had some great moments here at Pocono. I still like the track a lot. I think that the race is a little long, but as long as we are running good, it doesn't matter where we go, I am having fun."

ON MICHIGAN NEXT WEEK: "Well in some ways it's easy and in some ways it's not. It might be easy to drive, but it is not necessarily easy to go fast and to be up in the top positions, qualifying or in the race. I think that the reason that most drivers like it is because it is a driver's track. You can search around that track if your car is not working good, you can try the middle, you can try the top, you can try going in high, coming in low, you can do a lot of things to really get the speed out of the car that you are looking for. It is a wide groove race track. Anytime that we go to a track that has multiple grooves it is going to be a drivers favorite. I know it is my favorite."

IS FUEL MILEAGE ALWAYS AN ISSUE THERE? "Seems like it is because there is so many wide grooves and so many options. We don't see a lot of cautions. Any track where we don't see a lot of cautions, then fuel mileage is an issue."

HOW HARD IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO SAVE FUEL, TO LET OFF OF THE GAS WHEN YOU ARE ASKED TO DO IT? "It is very difficult. You have got to have a big lead, like Casey had, where you can just let off. If you are doing it under green, it is very difficult. You have just got to be smooth with the gas. The team had to do some prep work going into the race with how they jet the carburetor and tune that carburetor. I think that is probably playing a bigger role. Under caution, you can probably save more fuel by shutting the engine off, more than anything else."

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE SPOTTER AT MIS AND CAN YOU GET LOST AND LOSE TRACK OF OTHER CARS? "No. Just like any other track. Spotters are important everywhere we go. You have a good indication where everyone is at."

ON THE SUPPORT THAT MR. FRANCE BROUGHT TO BRICKYARD: "I think that it was huge for the sport. It is certainly huge for me. As somebody that grew up around open wheel racing and who had desires to go race at the Indianapolis 500. To get the opportunity to go there in a stock car was just phenomenal. I really commend them for getting together with Tony George, it was the first time that any other type of event had happened there, certainly major event, besides the Indy 500. Now, you look at the popularity of the Brickyard 400, it certainly changed my life and career and will probably always go down as my biggest and my favorite win of all times. That event would have never happened if it weren't for Bill France, Jr."

HOW MUCH DID YOU ENJOY THE OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE AT ELDORA? WAS THAT AS FUN AS IT LOOKED FOR YOU? "It was a blast. I had so much fun, more fun than I thought I was going to have. I didn't know what the car was going be like, because I had never driven one of those cars. The track, I have always enjoyed racing there. To pick up the car as fast as we did, and to have a good car and then be competitive and getting to slide sideways for the first time in a long time, it was more fun than I ever thought that I was going to have. I look forward to doing it again."

YOU AND KYLE WERE RIGHT THERE, I KNOW YOU SAID THAT YOU MADE ONE MISTAKE OR SOMETHING: "I did make one mistake when I got the lead. I take a lot of pride out of that event because I didn't know how quick I was going to be able to pick it back up, getting on the dirt, it has been awhile. I wasn't sure what that car was going to be like and we were fastest in one of the practices, third qualifying and then took the lead from Kyle and in feature, I mean I was shocked, I was blown away. That was very cool, but I did make a mistake when I got the lead and drove into one just a little too easy, then he got back by me and I felt like I had really probably one of the best cars. But Kyle did a great job too. You go into it to have fun, and I had a blast, but then you get competitive and I knew that was going to happen to me if I got competitive then it was going to take some of the fun away from it, so I keep trying to remind myself just how much fun it really was."

DO YOU THINK THAT IS THE KIND OF EVENT THAT IS SO SPECIAL THAT IT IS GOING TO KEEP GROWING AND ATTRACTING MORE DRIVERS AND MORE ATTENTION? "Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean that track is perfect for what type of an event that it is. That track is a fast track but it is a fairly easy track to adapt to if the conditions were the way they were. They had perfect conditions, I felt like. Nice, slick, smooth race track. The teams, I just applaud the teams, they put so much effort into preparing those cars. Some of them had brand new cars, you know, and had a whole separate car painted up for their driver, for that event. You have got to give a lot of credit to Tony and his guys and folks that organized that event. Not to mention that it is for charity. I am curious to see what kind of pay per view numbers there were, if it drew much of a crowd there on TV, but I know that we had a heck of a crowd there in person. I am pretty sure that I will do it again."

HAVE YOU BEEN GIVEN ANY ADVICE FROM OTHER DRIVERS ON YOUR PENDING FATHERHOOD? "I get advice and thoughts from parents all across the nation and everywhere I go. From how great it is going to be and how much it is going to change my life and how challenging it is, you know, all across the board. I think that this Father's Day is certainly going to be a very meaningful one, because of what is about to happen for me and I am getting excited, you know, it is right around the corner and I look forward to going home. I hate that Ingrid can't travel with me, but it is so much fun to go home and feel what is going on inside of her belly and just know how close we are getting and talking about what it is going to be like to be parents."

HOW DO YOU THINK THAT IT IS GOING TO AFFECT YOU AND YOUR LIFESTYLE? "I really don't know, I just know that I am looking forward to it. I am excited about it. I am committed to it. I know it is going to be one of the most rewarding and challenging events and experiences that I have ever had. But until she is here and until I see her for the first time and hold her in my arms and go through it, it is hard to say."

SOME DRIVERS HAVE TALKED ABOUT HAVING A FAMILY, CHANGING THEIR FOCUS AND THEIR DRIVING STYLE. DO YOU THINK THAT WILL AFFECT YOU AT ALL? "It could change it for the better or it could change it for the worse. I will be surprised if it doesn't change me. I think that it will. It is a life changing experience, so it is going to change everything in my life. It is either going to make me more motivated to go out there and be more competitive on the race track because I actually have more purpose and meaning and something to really truly strive for, to see my daughter and my whole family at the race track experiencing what I do. In other ways, it could make me say, you know what, this is a dangerous sport and I have been extremely successful, I have got nothing to prove, why continue to do it? I have no idea, you know, that is why I go into it with an open mind. I am a very competitive person. I love to be in a competitive environment and so in some way, I am going to want to do that. I hope that it is still in racing, because racing has been that one thing that I have strived at, I have been good at and successful with and I have got such a great team that I don't think I will ever want to give that up."

ANY AMUSING SUGGESTIONS ON FATHERHOOD THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US? "I mean there are plenty of good ones, you know I think that most of them have to do with changing diapers and all of those types of things, going through the birth and all that, but most of everybody that I have talked to have been very positive and very excited for me."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon