BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR MOMENTUM RIGHT NOW? "Oh, I think the only team that has more momentum than us right now is the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth). I feel really good about ...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR MOMENTUM RIGHT NOW? "Oh, I think the only team that has more momentum than us right now is the No. 17 (Matt Kenseth). I feel really good about things. I wish we were locked in right now so we could just start thinking about what we're going to do in these last 10 (races). But we're not in that position. So we've just got to get everything we can. If we can't get ourselves in, it's just a whole new ballgame for everybody and I think our chances are as good as anybody's."
ON THE LOOSE LUGNUTS LAST WEEK THAT PROBABLY COST YOU A WIN, IS THAT SORT OF A FLU SHOT THAT IMMUNE YOU? "It's a good wake-up call. The think I liked about that is that is wasn't that a NASCAR official saw it. It was our own guy who came on top of the box to Steve Letate and said they're not all on there or they're not tight, we need to come back in. And that was good. And that was smart. That's what a good, smart team does. Luckily we had a good enough car to make up those positions. I don't know if we had the car to win. When we went into nighttime, I felt like the No. 9 (Kahne) was better than us. The No. 8 (Earnhardt Jr.) than us on the long runs. I think we were a second or third place car. It was a good lesson to happen to us."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE MADE ANY HEADWAY WITH NASCAR ABOUT STOP PAYING POINTS AFTER 30TH POSITION TO KEEP ALL THE JUNK OFF THE TRACK? "It doesn't seem like I have. Every time I bring it up, it seems to get passed along in the conversation fairly quickly."
DO THEY GIVE YOU A REASON WHY THEY WANT TO KEEP IT THAT WAY? "No, it's always they they'll think about it or consider it."
WHY DO YOU HAVE THE MOMENTUM RIGHT NOW? "Well, because we've had three top fives in a row and I think we've gained a lot of points over the last 10 or 12 races and our team is just getting better and better all the time. I feel like our intermediate program has really stepped up. To me, I feel like we're going to be really strong at a lot of tracks in these last 10 (races). Texas is one of the tracks I'm concerned about and I feel like we're going to be pretty decent when we go back there. New Hampshire is a track we have some concerns about. I feel good about all the other tracks. I think because Matt Kenseth won two in a row, he's been consistent. Harvick has been consistent. And if he wins this weekend, because he's strong here, that could be another guy that has a lot of momentum."
DOES YOUR EXPERIENCE WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS GIVE YOU AN EDGE OVER A LOT OF THESE GUYS? "Yeah, but the Chase has changed everything. When you're dealing with 10 guys instead of just a couple of guys and it's just not about being consistent and you've got to push, the Chase is different. When it comes to that, I don't feel like I've won any championships. I don't think we have a big advantage. Any advantage we have is just experience and being in tight positions in the points and being able to stay calm through a lot of those situations. Even though Steve Letarte is young and inexperienced as a crew chief, I feel like the guy just handles himself so well under pressure. Between my experience and his, I feel like it just trickles down to the team and makes us a strong team all together."
WITH THE CHASE CHANGING EVERYTHING, ARE YOU FEELING THE PRESSURE MORE OR ARE YOU ENJOYING THE PRESSURE? "You want to be in a pressure situation. That's a good thing. We have a lot of pressure this weekend to make it in the Chase. And then we'll have a tremendous amount if we can make it in the Chase in those last couple of races - really the last 10. But if you can be consistent, it comes down to the last race. I enjoy that, but nobody wants to have to deal with pressure. You hope you've gotten yourself in a position where there is no pressure. But that's impossible to have happen in the Chase format."
HOW DOES EXPERIENCE HELP IN THE CHASE? "I just think experience helps you know that you've been through a lot of different situations and helps you to stay calm. It's about not overreacting and not losing your composure and just being able to handle those pressure situations because you've been through them before. I think that can help you be more consistent and be a threat every weekend. If you have a bad race, it helps you bounce back."
IS THERE MUCH DIFFERENCE ONCE YOU GET TO THE CHASE? "To me, it depends on what your competition is doing. A guy who finishes fifth or sixth every weekend can win the Chase. So you don't have to win. Obviously our goal is to go out there and win every race. But if our competition is winning races, then we'd have to win races as well. That's what I'm excited about. I like the last 10 tracks. Texas is a little iffy. Other than that, I feel pretty confident at all the tracks. And I feel like we're even going to be better there. Our momentum has really been coming on stronger and stronger as the summer is coming to an end. I feel like our team is just getting better and better."
IN THAT RESPECT, WAS SONOMA A TURNING POINT? "Ah, well..it was just nice to get a win. To get a win just helps your confidence and tells you that you can do it. Road courses are tracks that we've been confident at. But I would say that Chicago did more for our confidence than anything - and then just the consistent finishes here over the past month.
"There are some areas where we've improved the set-ups and the aerodynamics of the car and all the things we've been thinking about, we've been putting them to the test on the seven post test and in the wind tunnel and we've finally have gotten the cars to perform. If you're fast on the race track, everything else seems to follow along with that."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT DOES THIS WEEKEND FEEL COMPARED TO THE OTHER WEEKENDS IN THE 26 LEADING UP TO THE CHASE? "It's a little different. There is a little more media attention and everybody is talking about the same thing, so there is a little bit more build-up. To me, those things don't really get me until we go out there and start the race and I think, oh man, we've got to make sure we finish in the top 25. Right now I'm feeling pretty good. All I've got to do is go qualify. We had a decent practice, so things are still pretty calm for us right now."
IS IT HARDER TO GO OUT AND SAY I'VE GOT TO FINISH IN THE TOP 25 OR I'VE GOT TO WIN? "Well, winning is pretty hard. But sometimes it can be pretty tough to get in the top 25 too. I think that as long as we don't have a major problem, then we're okay. But you just can't guarantee that that's not going to happen."
WHAT CONSOLATION PRIZE WAS IT TO FINISH 11TH LAST YEAR? "Well, I was proud of our performance in that we were able to make gains and we didn't give up. The consolation prize was that I had to go to the banquet (laughter) when I was kind of looking forward to taking that weekend off. I took it anyway and got in trouble for it. That was the consolation prize (laughs).
ARE YOU COMPETING IN THAT OVERSEAS RALLY RACE AGAIN THIS YEAR? "No, I'm not. They moved it, actually. The dates work out. I did it last year because I had to cancel the year before. I had made a commitment and I wanted to hold to it this past time. And so I did that, and it was fun and exciting.
But unless they move it to a new venue or do something a little different, it's kind of one of those little checkmarks of something you've accomplished or done."
WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO? "Well, I'm going to do it. I'm going to run the 24 Hours of Daytona in January. So I'm going to be doing a little bit of testing over the off-season in that car, and I'm looking forward to that."
WHAT'S MORE STRESSFUL: HAVING TO RUN RICHMOND AND KNOWING THERE IS AN OUTSIDE CHANCE YOU WON'T MAKE THE CHASE, OR HAVING AN OFF-WEEK DURING THE CHASE? "Wow. I think this one because I think you can have an off-week in the Chase and if you're strong enough, you can still win the championship. But if we don't have a decent finish, we don't have a shot at the championship. So to me, this is a little tougher right now."
THE CHASE SURVIVED LAST YEAR WITHOUT YOU AND DALE JR. LAST YEAR. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT BEING THE TWO MARQUE DRIVERS IN THIS SPORT AND BEING IN THE MARQUE EVENT? "Popularity is a funny thing. To me, I watched the Chase last year and it was very exciting and it came down to great drivers and guys who were capable of being tremendously popular and great champions in our sport. Tony Stewart is a guy who has a lot of those qualities and he won the championship. So it's interesting how people feel like it's not as exciting or draws more attention if Junior or myself are in there. I just don't know how I really feel about that because I don't feel our sport needs to have that but if other people do, then I'm not going to complain about it either because I want to be in it. I'm very fortunate to have a great fans base and I know how disappointing it is for them if we're not in there battling for the championship. We set that expectation from our past wins of championships and if you're not in it, it's a disappointing year. And if you are in it, I hope it can bring more and add more. I don't really look at it that way. I don't know how to judge that. That's not the way I go about it. I just don't think oh if Junior or I aren't in it, there aren't going to be as many viewers watching. That's not my concern."
DOES IT SEEM MORE NORMAL TO BE RACING AGAINST JUNIOR FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP? "I don't remember racing Junior although he was in it. I remember racing Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson. I think you're confusing the battles I had with his dad (laughs). Don't get me wrong - I know a lot of his fans remember a lot of those things as well. I think it would be very exciting if Junior and I were battling. When we go places like Talladega and we're battling for the win, you see the people standing up. If I win they throw things at me. If he wins, they all stand up and cheer (laughs). We all know that happens. I think between Junior and myself and Tony Stewart are basically the three most popular guys in the sport from what I hear. I think if it comes down to any battles among those three, there is going to be more attention drawn on it from the media and the fans just because of the popularity."
-credit: gm racing