JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing with Junior at Talladega, driving schools, two weeks of racing coming up at Charlotte, driving differently in the All-Star race compared to regular races, Darlington, ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed racing with Junior at Talladega, driving schools, two weeks of racing coming up at Charlotte, driving differently in the All-Star race compared to regular races, Darlington, bump-drafting at Talladega, his mom, racing at Richmond, and more.
DID YOU AND DALE EARNHARDT JR. GET INTO IT LAST WEEKEND AT TALLADEGA? "Yeah, we had a little disagreement last week on the race track. He and I have talked about it. I feel like it's really a non-issue. You're going to make decisions that sometimes are going to work with your teammates and sometimes they're not. I feel like the decision I made and the decision he made just didn't really blend together. But yeah, I was mad about it at the time but it's a non-issue now. I love working with him on the race track and drafting with him and having him as a teammate. Trust me, if you guys made as big of a deal out of how upset we all got at different things that happened at Talladega, it would fill up your whole column or entire show. I think everybody is making a much bigger deal out of this because it's, you know, Junior and myself. I said plenty of things about others out there too (laughs) that nobody seems to want to talk about."
JUNIOR SAID SOMETHING ABOUT MAYBE WE SHOULD HAVE SAT DOWN AND HAD A LITTLE DISCUSSION ABOUT MORALS AND ETHICS BEFORE TALLADEGA STARTED. DID YOU LEARN ABOUT EACH OTHER AT THIS NASHVILLE TEST WHEN YOU HAD THIS DISCUSSION? "Yeah, I think we did. We just had a good sit-down and understanding about going forward and how we're going to be drafting and working together on the race track."
HE BASICALLY SAID HE FELT LIKE YOU MADE THE WRONG DECISION. WOULD YOU AGREE WITH THAT? "Well, again, I said that we had a disagreement, you know. I feel like I made the best decision I could. He feels like he made the best decision that he could. We're making a much bigger deal out of it than needs to be made out of it."
AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET THAT FIRST WIN AND CHECK THAT FIRST BOX, OR IS JUST RUNNING WELL CONSISTENTLY MORE IMPORTANT? "You've got to walk before you can run. I've always said that when you're consistently a top-five and leading laps, the wins are going to come. We just haven't been doing that. That's why we've been testing twice in Nashville and we're looking forward to the test in Charlotte because we've got some things to work on and to figure out to get ourselves into victory lane.
"Before we can get to victory lane, we've got to start putting more consistent runs together and getting ourselves a little bit further up in the points as well as getting ourselves prepared to win."
THERE ARE DRIVING SCHOOLS THAT PROMOTE BEING ABLE TO MAKE THE NEXT NASCAR STAR. WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THESE SCHOOLS? "Yeah, I will say that I went to Buck Baker Driving School. I've been to a lot of driving schools from Bob Bondurant, Buck Baker and you name it. I really can't say that those driving schools taught me what it took to be a great race car driver. I think they helped me kind of fine-tune some skills. At the Buck Baker thing, I got introduced to a car owner, which just happened to be a coincidence. I have my own driving school, Jeff Gordon Racing School, and our school is about entertainment. It's about fun. It's about something exciting to be able to get behind the wheel of a NASCAR Sprint Cup car and we have the new Impalas that you can drive. But we don't gear our school towards making the next great race car driver. If you are a short track driving school, maybe you can really help somebody. But yeah, that's a challenge that I don't know if they can live up to."
HOW MUCH HAS THE RATIO BETWEEN MARKETABILITY AND DRIVING CHANGE? "That's a good question. Sponsors are driving the market these days. And if a sponsor is happy with their driver, then you're going to keep the driver in the car. But I will say that most of the time, sponsors are pretty happy when the drivers are running good and the team is performing. So, I think that marketability is important, but I still think driver skill is the most important."
HOW NICE IS IT GOING TO BE TO SPEND TWO WEEKS IN YOUR OWN BED FOR THE UPCOMING ALL-STAR AND COCA-COLA 600 AT CHARLOTTE? "Yeah, it's very nice. Hey, I like my bus, don't get me wrong. I have no problem sleeping in my bed in my bus. Sometimes I enjoy it more, you know. The nice thing about being in Charlotte for me, is that I get a lot more done. I get more time to spend at the shop, the office, with my family. It's just kind of knowing that you're not going across the country for a week or two. To me, that's the only real difference."
HOW DIFFERENT TO THE GUYS DRIVE IN THE ALL-STAR RACE COMPARED TO REGULAR POINTS RACING THROUGHOUT THE SEASON? "You only drive different because it's basically a short, sprint race. You have to be aggressive. It's going to be tough to win the race based on a long term driving and being consistent. That's not going to work in the All-Star event. It's really about going all-out and being aggressive in the pits and aggressive on the race track.
"The format has changed so many times I couldn't even tell you what the format is. And I always liked the 10-lap shootout at the end. I always thought that was pretty exciting and fun and pushes guys to push even harder. And I don't know (laughs) I can't remember what the format is."
ON THE UPCOMING DARLINGTON RACE "I love Darlington. I'm excited about racing under the lights there. I think the new paving job that they did is fantastic. The first race, we're going to be challenged with that new surface, but I think long-term wise, it's going to be fantastic. I think it's a track with so much history and a track that I've always enjoyed racing at and the fans have always enjoyed it too. It's important to keep it on the schedule."
IT GOT KIND OF RUN DOWN A FEW YEARS AGO AND THERE WAS TALK OF LOSING THAT RACE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? "I always have said you've got to keep up with the times. Unfortunately what I've seen happen is that we've looked more at the market that the tracks are in instead of just the race tracks and as the growth and changes have come along, that's why some of the tracks like Rockingham have gone away. And sometimes you wish you could pick those tracks up and put them in the market that is good for the sport that NASCAR wants to be in because it's hard to re-create some of these great race tracks, especially the history that's there and you don't want that to go away. So I'm certainly pleased that Darlington is one that is surviving and that they obviously have confidence in and they are putting money back into it. It's been run down. It's still, even with the things they're doing it still needs more. I'm not sure what the fan experience is like, but from the competitor's standpoint, there are certainly a lot of upgrades that could happen there, which would be nice. But, you know, I understand unless the track has a commitment and knows what their future plans are, it's hard to make those upgrades."
JEFF, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, IT LOOKS LIKE YOU WERE FAST DURING PRACTICE: "Don't pay any attention to the times. One of the things we are being challenged with right now is, that Goodyear has changed the tires just about everywhere we have gone this year except for Martinsville. So, all the setups we had last year, you can just throw them out the window, they don't see to work. Not to mention, the other teams have stepped up and we are trying to step up along with them. What comes along with that are challenges, sometimes you will hit the setup, sometimes you will mess the setup. Right now, you know, we are definitely a little bit off of our game, because we are coming back to tracks that we had success at, but not everything is the same. I really couldn't tell you about this weekend right now. The feel wasn't there. We struggled in practice, but yet, the laps times were. So, it is pretty confusing to us right now."
ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT YOUR TEAM HASN'T WON AS OF YET? "I know how great our organization is and our race teams when you show up to the race track. And I have confidence in myself. But, you show up to the race track and cars are doing things you aren't used to it doing, It throws you for a loop, you are surprised. We spent three or four days testing in Nashville the last two weeks and felt like we really had some big gains and showed up here and it didn't feel anything like that. We aren't there yet, we still have work to do. It is as much me as it is our cars and our setups. The team is capable of doing it. It is just that we aren't there yet.
"Sometimes you have to learn how to drive different setups. I went through this many times in my career. I probably go back to like 2000 and 2005, both of those years were we just really were searching for speed. Everybody was transitioning to different setups and trying different things. We tried them and they didn't work for me. A little bit of it was in my driving style, some of it just getting used to a different feel and how the car reacts and the way the car goes through the corner. That is one of the things we are dealing with right now. There are some major big changes going on in setups. I mean, this car was created to simplify things and in my mind, all I have seen is things becoming more complicated. It is just something that some guys have figured out and I have not."
WHAT MAKES A GOOD BURNOUT IN YOUR OPINION? "Well, obviously lots of smoke. I don't know, donuts, smoke. If you can get the fire burning off the tires, that is usually pretty good too. I have never been very good at burnouts, I have done a few good ones. If you can do a burnout and slide the car, you know, keep the car sliding sideways through the corner or down the straightaway, something like that. That can be good too."
WHEN DID DOING THE BURNOUTS START? "We used to just drive to victory lane. I don't know? I don't remember. It may have been Kevin Harvick at Atlanta. Somebody did it and the crowd went nuts. It just seemed like the guys...Television liked it, NASCAR liked it, people just started liking it and then if you didn't do it, they were like booing you. But I don't remember what year that was."
HOW AS A DRIVER DO YOU GET ON A STREAK? "You run good. You win races. You get up in the points. All that just builds confidence in you, confidence in your team. It just builds momentum."
JUNIOR SAID THAT IF HE HAD NOT HAD THE LOSING STREAK, HE MIGHT HAVE THOUGHT A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY LAST WEEK AT TALLADEGA ABOUT GOING WITH YOU INSTEAD. DID YA'ALL TALK ABOUT THAT AND DO YOU SENSE THAT MAY HAVE INFLUENCED HIM THE LAST FEW WEEKS? "The only thing I remember us talking about is that he had been up front a lot more during the day and was making it work. Every time I got toward the front, I got shuffled back. I wanted to be third, fourth, in the top-five, I didn't really want to be up front. I was trying to position myself for the end and he was trying to position himself. I mean, that is the bottom line. Where we disagreed is that he wanted to be in a different position than I wanted to be in. And, that happens sometimes, it does. That is his thing. I am more clear about that going forward and I think he is as well. "
WHAT IS THE SECRET OF GETTING AROUND RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY: "You would like to think that you run basically the same groove, the same line. That you accelerate and get on the brakes the same way each time. In all honesty as things evolve, as cars for faster or sometimes slower, it just depends on how things change in the sport. Then, sometimes you have to adjust what you've done in the past. If something has worked, you try that. If that isn't working you try other things. It is the same thing for the car and the setup. Something that worked for us last year, we start with that or something close to that, if that isn't working, we move in a different direction."
WITH MOTHER'S DAY COMING, CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR MOM AND HER IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER AND LIFE? "She loves being a Grandma. She wishes she could be around the grandchildren every day of the week. My Mom is a big supporter of my racing career. She has been a great Mother. I always look forward to having her come to Darlington for Mother's Day weekend and spending time with her on Mother's Day. I have a great Mom. I am very very fortunate, she is sweet. I feel like I take after her quite a bit as far as personality. We look similar too, but, I have always said I got all my driving skills from my Mom because she is a pretty good driver."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY TWO CARS COULD HOOK UP AT TALLADEGA AND RUN AWAY WITH FROM THE FIELD? "It is something is kind of new, it is hard to really explain. I think it is just this new car. It punches a bigger hole. You are able to get inside of that bubble and stay there. The cars have a little more power, so that might have something to do with it as well.
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO GET BUMP DRAFTED AND HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO IT? "It can be tricky, there is a fine line there. To be honest with you, I am, surprised that NASCAR allowed it to happen. I thought there was kind of a no-bumping zone, no bump drafting, but I never saw that area on the race track last Sunday. Seemed like it was kind of all out. PAGE 18
"I think there is a fine line because the driver in front sort of has to ride the brakes to keep that car there, then that car has to try and not hit the car too hard in front. Even if you are riding the brakes, you still go faster. It is a weird situation. One time I got it worked out. Some of the other guys got it worked out a little bit more than others. I was surprised it didn't really play a factor in winning the race. Or at least this past race.
"But, it depends on the bump and who is giving it. Sometimes it isn't much, sometimes it is big, it is huge. Sometimes it will through your head in to the back of the seat. That is the one you don't want to have."
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG DRIVER COMING TO RICHMOND FOR THE FIRST TIME? "I hope he did a lot of testing. (Laughs) A driver that is coming here this weekend means they are either in the Cup series or the Nationwide Series. If they don't have racing experience enough to know what it takes to be here, then they don't belong here. If I am going to give them advice, I am going to give them the advice of don't crash, just gets a lot of laps. The rest is up to them and their skills and their team. There is very little I could do for a young driver that is going to make a big difference for him in one weekend at one track."
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF RICHMOND? "I have liked Richmond. I ran here for the first time in the Nationwide series and I don't remember how we ran, I always remember liking Richmond and the multiple grooves. It is a great track."
-credit: gm racing