Jeff Gordon, driver, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, Steve Letarte, crew chief, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, Jimmie Johnson, driver, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, Chad Knaus, crew chief, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS and Doug Duchardt, vice president of development at...
Jeff Gordon, driver, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, Steve Letarte, crew chief, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, Jimmie Johnson, driver, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS, Chad Knaus, crew chief, No. 48 Lowe's Impala SS and Doug Duchardt, vice president of development at Hendrick Motorsports speak to the media at Infineon Raceway about technical infractions discovered during inspection:
Q: ON WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY THE SITUATION HAS GOTTEN TO THIS POINT:
Doug Duchardt: "When we presented the cars for inspection today, they found that our fenders were outside of what they felt was the tolerance allowable in between the templates. Our understanding was that the cars fit the templates, but they were outside of what they would like to see us in between the templates. I think that they thing for us, from our standpoint, we understand fully the rules around the template, or we felt we understood fully, the rules around the template, however, we felt that we could work between the points on the template and it became clear to us today, and I think to everyone, that that is not acceptable."
Q: HAS THE TEAM EVER BEEN WARNED BEFORE, WHEN ONE OF YOUR OTHER CARS OF TOMORROW ENDED UP AT THE TECH CENTER, NOT TO BRING THIS CAR BACK?
Doug Duchardt: "We've been fortunate enough to have five of our cars over at the tech center, since we've won the first five COT races. So, our cars have probably been scrutinized more than any other cars in the garage area after the races and we did not receive any warning in those areas in our previous.none. Nobody ever won.
Q: NOBODY HAS EVER WON THIS RACE FROM THE BACK BEFORE - WHAT ARE YOU GUYS THINKING RIGHT NOW?
Jeff Gordon: "Well obviously, nothing is going to ruin my day or weekend, because I'm on cloud nine. This has obviously been pretty devastating news here at the race track but you know let's do something that we have never seen done before. I think that is where I stand and I think would probably say the very same thing, but this definitely puts us into a box and we are going to have to work our way out of it and we are one of the best teams out there, I love the road courses and I know these guys have brought a great race car and I am looking forward to getting out there, hopefully sometime tomorrow and see what we have for them on Sunday and I think that pit strategy is going to be extremely important for us."
Jimmie Johnson: "Well, I completely agree with Jeff. This is a situation that we certainly don't want to be in, but we are going to start at the back and work our way forward. I've only, I think made a complete qualifying lap here one time and qualified well, so I have been in the back before. From a driver's standpoint, I know what to look for and some of the danger spots as we get racing. A lot of road-course racing really falls in the strategy of the race and we will just have to make the most of our poor track position to find a strategy and to try to work our way up for a solid finish."
Q: YOU MADE THE COMMENT THAT YOUR CARS HAVE BEEN SCRUTINIZED MORE HEAVILY THAN ANY ONE ELSE'S PREVOIUSLY. WAS THIS A CHANGE THAT WAS MADE TO THE CARS THIS WEEK OR IS THIS SOMETHING THAT YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN DOING BEFORE AND NASCAR DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING?
Doug Duchardt: "No, I would say this is an evolution. Again, I want to make clear when I say that we have been scrutinized more is because they take the car after a win on a COT race, so that is not that we have been unduly scrutinized. That is why we have been checked. We have been evolving and that is why the 24 and 48 guys are in this situation; that is the latest evolution of what we have done. That is how we got here today."
Q: FOR CHAD AND STEVE, NASCAR HAS BEEN PRETTY PUNITIVE WITH THESE CAR OF TOMORROW PENALTIES IN TERMS OF POINTS AND SUSPENSIONS. HOW WORRIED ARE YOU GUYS OF THE POSSIBLITIES OF SITTING OUT SOME RACES DOWN THE ROAD?
Steve Letarte: "I think that anything at this point would be just an assumption. We know what the penalty was for today and I believe that NASCAR has a certain schedules and systems they go by and I am sure that they will know Monday or Tuesday and we will find out about that on Tuesday."
Q: HOW DIFFICULT OR SIMPLE IS THIS TO FIX?
Chad Knaus: "My understanding, at this point, is that the No. 48 has been through the inspection process again, is sitting in the garage and awaiting direction from me. The No. 24 is not too far behind it. So, the cars have been repaired. I am under the impression that they will not receive an inspection sticker until tomorrow morning, which will allow the car onto the race track. To the best of my knowledge, we have been in some closed door meetings this morning also, the guys on both teams have done a good job on getting the cars repaired and I believe they are both race-ready now."
Q: YOU ARE GOING TO ATTEMPT TO FIX THE CARS AND NOT SUBMIT YOUR BACKUPS?
Chad Knaus: "The cars have been repaired to, what we believe NASCAR deems sufficient. Both cars look really good right now. I don't think that is necessary at this point."
Q: WAS THIS JUST A MATTER OF TRYING TO OVER TWEAK THE CAR FOR A ROAD COURSE?
Chad Knaus: "No, I don't think it is necessarily track dependant. The thing that you try to do, with any race car is to make the car as efficient as possible and there was an area there that we though we may be able to find so more front down force like what everybody wants to do. We went into that area, it is what NASCAR seems is not the area that they want us to go and we thought that we could. Obviously we can't and we understand that at this point."
Q: WHAT DO YOU GUYS REALLY HAVE TO GAIN? YOU ARE ALREADY RUNNING WELL AND IS IT REALLY WORTH RISKING THIS TO TRY TO FIND SOMETHING?
Chad Knaus: "Well obviously at this point, no. But, it is something that we do. It is no different than trying to find the proper shock package. It is no different than the drivers trying to find a new line around a race track. We always try to make the cars a little bit better. The thing that you have to realize, as a competitor, if you are winning races, the guys that you are beating are working doubly as hard to try to catch you and to try to beat you. So, if you don't continue to try to evolve your race car, your setups, your driving style, you are not going to stay on top of the curve."
Q: ASIDE FROM ANY PENALTIES, YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO PRACTICE. HOW DETRIMENTAL IS THIS?
Steve Letarte: "It's obviously a setback. Any track time is extremely valuable with this car with the limited testing. We can't really answer that or really measure it until we get on track, hopefully tomorrow and be able to measure up where we stand up to the competition. We've done some testing with many other teams in the garage area at the VIR race track and it seemed to go relatively well. Hopefully we'll be prepared and have the opportunity tomorrow to measure up."
Jimmie Johnson: "I think there's a lot of unknowns from the team side and also the driver side. The reference points that we use on the track for braking marks, the rhythm of how this track will drive with the new car. It's a big setback to miss everything today. I know from Jeff's standpoint as well, as drivers, we're missing a lot of very, very valuable time. So this is a huge setback."
Q: WHAT SORT OF EMOTIONAL ROLLER-COASTER HAVE YOU BEEN ON TODAY?
Jeff Gordon: "I've been on an emotional roller-coaster since Wednesday morning. Like I said, nothing is going to bring me down. I'm floating in the clouds and it's been an amazing week for me. This is definitely a setback, here at the race track. I guess right now I'm able to separate those two pretty well. But the competitor in me, once I get here, I hear those engines running and those guys shifting gears out there, I was very excited about getting out there on the race track today. I kind of wish we could have gone through the inspection process yesterday. I could have used another day at home. It's going to be tough. It's a huge setback, like said, because not only does it put us way back in the field and make it very tough on us - it limits us in practice, it's a new car. There are countless things that this is doing to really take us and get us very far behind for this weekend. Not to mention, who knows what could happen next week as well. So it's big. Very big."
Q: IS THERE ANY PROCESS IN PLACE TO GO TO NASCAR AND REVIEW UNKNOWNS ON THE CAR AHEAD OF TIME?
Doug Duchardt: "From our standpoint, this car has been a new process for us vs. the old car, our Monte Carlo. The cars are built in the same area at Hendrick Motorsports, there are specific plates that build different cars for different shops but I think from our standpoint, we felt we understood what the process was as far as inspecting these cars and what was okay and not okay. Obviously it would be irresponsible of us to take excessive risk and put ourselves in this position and we felt like we could work in between those templates. It was our understanding. Obviously we didn't understand that correctly and we found out the hard way. And that's as simple as that. We worked in between the templates and that wasn't okay."
Q: WAS IT BOTH FENDERS?
Doug Duchardt: "Yes, both fenders."
Q: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FACT THAT WHEN SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS THE CREW CHIEFS ARE THE ONES TO MISS RACES?
Steve Letarte: "I think it's part of the sport; it's the way the teams are structured. I'm not going to skirt responsibility for anything that happens to the car. That's my responsibility. I sign the inspection sheet stating (that) it's my responsibility. When it goes to the race track it's the driver's responsibility. I think it's a real clear-cut line and it's unfortunate part of the business but it's a part of the business that we've all grown to love. We love racing and to be a part of this sport at this level, I think it's just, you've accepted it."
Chad Knaus: "It's tough. It's like (Hendrick vice president of competition) Ken Howes always says. That's why we get the free truck. There's so many good things that come along with being a crew chief in the Nextel Cup Series and one of them is to be able to come to the race track with something you can actually hold as your own, with your team, being the leader of those guys. The bad things that come about - the difficult times, whether it's bad races or things that you have through the inspection process to being sent home - I'm not saying it was worth the risk to get in trouble here today. I'm saying it's worth having the downs because the highs are so good."
Q: DID THE TEMPLATE FIT AT THE TEMPLATE POINTS AND JUST NOT IN BETWEEN?
Doug Duchardt: "That was my understanding is that the templates fit, it was in between those templates that it did not fit."
Q: WHY DID THE NO. 24 AND NO. 48 TRY THIS AND NOT THE NO. 5 OR THE NO. 25?
Doug Duchardt: "As I mentioned before, we've been evolving the cars as we've gone through the builds and these cars were are latest cars out of our body shop."
Q: HOW BIG IS THE GAP WHERE THE TEMPLATES MEET?
Chad Knaus: "It's probably about - and don't hold me to this - but it's probably a span of about 10 inches long that is not governed. Or we didn't think was governed, but now we know it's governed. So that's what it was."
Q: WHAT DO YOU GUYS DO TODAY WHILE EVERYONE ELSE IS OUT THERE?
Jeff Gordon: "The only think I want to leave here with saying is that I support these guys 100 percent in everything that they're doing because this is an evolution. This new car is uncharted territory that is obviously, as Ken Howes said, we're smarter today than we were yesterday and clear on how NASCAR is going about this. It's unfortunate and I understand what NASCAR is trying to do with this car and I like what they're trying to do with this car. And it puts us as competitors.in sticky situations every once in a while. And we're going to get through this the best way we can. We're going to stay upbeat. We're going to just take it step by step. Get that car out there on the track, work on it. We're going to try to learn from our other two teammates and gather information from them. I don't know if I'm going to stick around through qualifying or what. I do have a DuPont appearance tonight so I'm going to go back a nd do that and I'm going to come back here tomorrow, business as usual and just chalk it up to a. just like , the last couple of times I've been here I haven't stayed on the race track very well either during qualifying. I'm going to chalk it up to I went really far off outside the race track and came back on and qualified dead last."
Jimmie Johnson: "I certainly agree with Jeff for the rest of the day. I'll try to be around for and support our guys; make sure that we leave today with our team as a unit and everybody's mind focused on the right things. We can't control what we've lost today; we can't get that back. We just have to make sure that when we do get on the race track that our heads are in the right spots, we're focused on the right things and we do the best job that we can. So that's really my goal, to spend some time with the guys and make sure that we're all okay with this and get it out, get through it and move on to the next time we're on track. And then just try to sit and watch and see if there's anything to learn from our teammates, maybe watch qualifying and stick around for that stuff. Just kind of see what there is to learn. I imagine it's not going to be easy just to hang out and wander around to look at things here in the garage area today so I don't know how long I'll really end up staying."
Q: IF IT'S REALLY AN AREA THAT THE TEMPLATE DOESN'T GO OVER, THEN HOW COULD IT MEASURE?
Doug Duchardt: "When NASCAR sent templates, they also sent data that defined the car in it's entirety, from the front to the back. So what they're saying is that we don't fit that data. And you probably have to ask NASCAR more specifically but what we're understanding is we have to fit that data at all times. That is what controls us, is the data that NASCAR sent out, that defines the three-dimensional version of our Impala."
Q: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME EITHER ONE OF YOU STARTED LAST AND FINISHED FIRST?
Jimmie Johnson: "Don't know off the top of my head but I remember a 600 that we had a couple years back, we lost an engine in qualifying and I came from the back and I was able to win."
Jeff Gordon: "Don't know. I like to qualify in front (laughs)."
Q: THIS WILL PROBABLY REFERRED TO AS CHEATING - IS THAT FAIR?
Doug Duchardt: "I'm not the one to make that judgment. All I can say is that I feel like NASCAR, specifically on this Impala, has been very thorough. And anytime we've had success and have been fortunate enough to win, they have taken our car back to their tech center and gone through it. And we've worked with them in helping developing new processes on how to check the car. So I feel badly that if some of our success is tarnished this year based on what's happened today. Obviously today NASCAR made a judgment and we understand it. I just feel badly that if that would tarnish the 10 wins and the success we've had this year. I really think that if our organization as a whole has been clicking, we want to try to continue this momentum. Obviously we want to have it there for the final 10 and I'm not one to judge and put those words out there. Everyone else will decide that."
Q: DO YOU KNOW WHETHER OR NOT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PRACTICE TOMORROW?
Chad Knaus: "We don't know at this point what's going to happen until tomorrow. I know that they're in meetings right now to discuss what's going to happen tomorrow for us. You guys will probably know about the same time we do."
-credit: gm racing