JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed his position going into the Chase, the Jeff Gordon Foundation, the role double-file restarts will play in the Chase and much ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Richmond International Raceway and discussed his position going into the Chase, the Jeff Gordon Foundation, the role double-file restarts will play in the Chase and much more.
TALK ABOUT THE PRACTICE SESSION. "We had a good practice. It's nice to come back to a track with the same tire and have some notes to work on from earlier in the year. The track temperature was up pretty good but we did our normal deal, we practiced during the day for a night race and the same for qualifying so you've got to take what you can from it but you've got to be careful to not get too detailed on it. I feel like we made some gains for the race and we qualified second the last time we were here. I'd be happy with another top-five and hopefully we get a little more out of it. We drew a late number so I'm real happy with how the day has gone so far."
DO YOU LIKE THE POSITION YOU ARE IN GOING INTO THE CHASE? "Definitely. I would like to have a few more wins but we've had a great year. We've been solid. We're a great team and I think we definitely have a shot at the championship."
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU ARE GETTING LOOKED OVER BY PEOPLE AND THERE YOU ARE SECOND IN POINTS. "That's why I like the position I'm in. Other than the bonus points I think I'd rather be under the radar a little bit going into the Chase."
WHY? "Just so to focus and the expectations aren't there from outside. There's enough pressure from inside your team and on your own shoulders that you don't want anything adding to that. I'm just happy going into it. I've been on both sides of it. As close and as tight and competitive as this series is right now with these cars, I'd prefer to have that. If we had the dominate car that was just going to go wax everybody then I'm fine having the bulls-eye on my back, but that's not the case these days."
COULD THERE BE A BETTER TRACK THAN THIS ONE TO HAVE A RACE OF THIS MAGNITUDE? "No, probably not. This is definitely an exciting race. When you have multiple grooves and the tight racing on a short track like you have here at Richmond and all the story lines I think this is about as good of a showplace as you can get."
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE MORE PATIENT IN THE CHASE NOW, SOME OF YOUR FANS SAID YOU ARE SORT OF LAID BACK? "I think maybe about the pressure but I approach every race whether it's inside the Chase or outside the Chase the same and that's to win. We go into every race trying to win, putting our best effort forward and that's the way it's always been for us. It doesn't always turn out that way but that's the goal. That's the goal this weekend and it will be the goal next weekend. As far as I'm concerned this is an 11-race Chase, it's not 10. Last week it was a 12-race Chase. Your goal is to run as hard and get the best finish you can every single weekend."
ARE YOU A BELIEVER THAT THINGS WILL KIND OF EVEN OUT THAT MAYBE YOU'RE STILL OWED FROM A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WHEN YOU HAD A DOMINATE LEAD GOING INTO THE CHASE? "I don't think you're owed anything but I think life has it ways of balancing things out. I think we've had some incredible year. We've had some down years. Does that mean in '07 when we lost it that that's going to balance itself in a way somewhere down the road? I don't know but I know when you work hard and you've got a good team and you put yourself in position you execute it right you get the results. I feel like in '07 we did everything right and those guys beat us. Sometimes you just get beat."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE MONEY YOU'VE RAISED THROUGH YOUR JEFF GORDON WIDE-OPEN ICE CREAM WISH WANDS? "I'm really proud of our relationship with Schwann's and appreciate what they're doing. My weakness has always been ice cream. You can get me with a nutritionist and a trainer and everything else but I'm still going to have my ice cream from time to time and mint chocolate chip has always been one of my favorites. It's cool that they came to me and asked me to get involved with it and that they want to help the Jeff Gordon Foundation and help children. To me it's a win, win for everybody. There's a special Jeff Gordon tin and I've autographed a bunch of them too so there's an opportunity to get an autograph and a dollar from each one of those is going to go toward the Jeff Gordon Foundation."
HOW DID YOU PICK OUT THE PARTICULAR FLAVOR? "I think they gave me about 10 different samples the first time then we narrowed it down to about five or six after that. I kind of gave them a little bit of what I liked and they threw out some things that were happening in the ice cream industry. I think we narrowed it down to a really good choice. I love the combination."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE GREEN INITIATIVES GOING ON IN NASCAR RIGHT NOW? "You know you've got Waste Management that does a lot here and the recycling of oil. I think that we're always trying to be greener. This is not sport that's known for being green when you look at our carbon footprint but it's all about the effort of making a difference, making it better as you move forward. I think there is more that all of us can continue to do whether at home in our personal lives or here at the race track.
"Our focus, energy and marketing is not there and it needs to be more there. I think that other than us driving hybrids and things like that the manufacturers have produced, I think there is a lot more we can be doing and I think the fans would appreciate that. I think you're seeing everyone including NASCAR fans that are trying to do more to conserve energy out there. We need to make probably a bigger presence in the world and in motorsports at what we're doing."
DENNY HAMLIN TOLD ME THIS WEEK WHEN YOU DON'T MAKE THE CHASE YOU FEEL LIKE A SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN, WHEN YOU MISSED IT HOW DID YOU FEEL COMING TO THE RACE TRACK? "No doubt about the focus is on those that are in the Chase. You're really just focused on next year. You're just trying to salvage what you can. The only way you're not going to be a second-class citizen is to go win the race. That's it. It's how you approach it but there's no doubt that the media attention, the fan attention and everything is focused on those that are in the Chase. I think that is the way it should be. Really that's what makes the Chase more exciting. It's what makes it more prestigious to make it into the Chase and I think that's the only way you're going to have a playoff system for us. I don't think it's any different than once the playoffs start in any other sport other than those teams are there any more but still nobody is focused on them."
DO YOU THINK DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS ARE GOING TO PLAY A BIG ROLE IN THE CHASE? "Oh yeah. I think double-file restarts have changed this sport for the good but it's definitely made it more challenging. Those restarts, which lane you're in is crucial. It's making guys thinking about coming off pit road maybe even giving up a spot on pit road just so they can possibly be on the outside. I think that's stretching but I'm just saying when you go to a track and the inside lane or the outside lane is such a preferred lane and I know that was the case for me last week in Atlanta when I was on the outside one time I went from like 10th to second or third on one restart and the outside lane was just huge especially for us. So I think that it can definitely make a big difference. Not just the action and the potential for bumping and crashes and cautions, it's just that you can gain or lose a lot of spots."
WHAT TRACK DO YOU THINK THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTART WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST IMPACT IN THE CHASE? "I think New Hampshire is really big. I don't know. It's really hard to say until we get there because a lot of times it's not always the line it's what line does the leader choose because that's the line that moves so you want to be in that line. If that's on the inside then that's usually means that inside lane is going to move forward, if it's the outside and he's in it then it's the outside lane."
DO YOU THINK THE CARS THAT ARE NOT IN THE CHASE WILL PROBABLY TAKE MORE CHANCES THAN THE CHASER'S WILL? "That's just to me one of the added excitements of the Chase that we're racing against guys that aren't in the Chase. They have every right to be out there battling for those positions and wins because they are still battling for something that is important to them, their sponsors, the points in general. It could be top-35, it could be just trying to be in 13th, it could be a lot of things so they have every right to be out there doing what they're doing but it gets a bit frustrating some times when you just want to be racing the guys you are racing in the Chase."
THE FACT THAT YOU ARE IN THE CHASE, DO YOU TAKE MORE RISKS OR DO YOU JUST KIND OF TAKE IT EASY? "I think what you try to do is just execute everything as flawless as you can and not make any mistakes. You've got to know just like in any race when to push the envelope and take that risk. You see that hole and you go for it and hope that it pays off. It's no different in the Chase. The intensity is definitely higher so you might take a few more risks because the intensity but it can also cost you. You've got to make those decisions at the moment and you just hope they're the right ones. Most importantly you've got to get your car working really good throughout the weekend and try to give your team the best information you possibly can. It's a total team effort. The best team is going to win the championship. It's not the best driver. It's not the best pit crew. It's not the best crew chief. It's not the best car. It's the best overall team and that includes all those aspects."
IS THE CHASE FUN FOR YOU ONCE YOU GET IN IT? "I think it's exciting. I think it just pumps up the adrenaline to the next level and that's cool. That's exciting. It just seems like while all these races that we've been running in the last eight or 10 we've been pretty solid leading this thing for a while and we didn't want to slip up but we just couldn't focus on getting those bonus points. If you're running sixth or eighth on the last lap or last run you're kind of like man this really doesn't mean much to me. So that kind of stinks where right now once this thing is getting ready to start every single position, everything matters so much that's exciting to me. It's people that don't expect you to win the Chase and are focused on you it's surprising them and showing them that consistency is important and that you're capable as a team to step up to that next level when it really counts."
IN 2001 NASCAR IS TALKING ABOUT GOING TO FUEL-INJECTION, WILL THAT BE AS BIG OF A HEADACHE? "Who's talking about that? I want to know who is talking about that because I've been asking for fuel injection for 10 years so that would be huge. I think that would be a fantastic move. I think it's something that we've needed for a very long time. There's not a production car out there without a carburetor. There hasn't been for a long time and I think it would be better for everybody. Now I say that and our engine guy is sitting back up here in the truck and might be saying hey wait a minute we're not ready for that yet. I think it's a smart move. One of many smart moves that I think could be coming."
DO YOU THINK IT WILL CHANGE THE SPORT AT ALL? "Every new item takes some time to transition into and there's going to be things you didn't expect. But I think they've been around long enough it's not like new technology it's been around long enough it should go smoothly. Again you're talking to the wrong guy, I'm not an engine guy. So the right people to ask that question would be those guys."
KENNY WALLACE THIS WEEKEND IS MAKING HIS 800TH CAREER START IN NASCAR DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL OLD? "Kind of. I've been racing with Kenny for a long, long time. I might not have 800 starts but I don't think I'm too far behind him. So yes, definitely."
-credit: gm racing