JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the heat in the car, his feelings about racing at Sonoma, celebrating with family and friends during the weekend, his involvement with the wine industry, and more. HOW WAS ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS met with media and discussed the heat in the car, his feelings about racing at Sonoma, celebrating with family and friends during the weekend, his involvement with the wine industry, and more.
HOW WAS PRACTICE? "It was good. The track was really hot and slick, so today is going to be a lot about finesse and trying not to overdrive the car. The car feels great thought and we were having a lot of fun out there. It's good to be back here at Sonoma and doing some road racing. It's not where I want to be celebrating my daughter's birthday, but I'm looking forward to going back to the hotel later."
TALK ABOUT HOW SPECIAL THIS WEEKEND IS FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY "This is a really special weekend. We always have a great time coming out here. I've put different events together with friends and family here for years and this year obviously, with her (Ella's) birthday, it's just getting bigger and turning into a birthday party. And so it's going to be quite a bash. It'll be something she'll probably never remember, but something we will never forget (laughs)."
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO WIN ON YOUR DAUGHTER'S FIRST BIRTHDAY WEEKEND? "Oh, well that would be awesome anywhere. It's not about trying to do anything for her special. I would love to do that but when you get to the race track, it's about focusing on what you need to do with your team to go fast. It would just be icing on the cake if we could pull it off and it be on her birthday weekend."
ON THE HEAT IN THE CAR "Now that we're running these cars every weekend, and the heat has really started to kick up, we've had to adjust. I've had to adjust how I'm hydrating myself and even incorporating some working out, and also we're just having to focus on how we can bring more air inside the car to keep some air moving around and try to cool us down as much as possible. It's hot in there. And this weekend is one where you really never have a break. There isn't a straightaway on this track where you can rest or take a drink. You're always either shifting or braking or turning and that's the heat is really going to affect you the most."
ARE YOU GLAD NASCAR IS MONITORING THE HEAT IN THE CARS? "Well, it's always hot and it's always something to monitor even with the other cars. And with this car it does seem to be a little bit different. So I'm glad they are monitoring. It's a great thing. We might be surprised on the readings. I think it's more heat than anything else. With the unleaded fuel there is a little bit more temperature that we're seeing there. So that might have happened with the old car as well."
BASED ON MONTOYA'S PERFORMANCE LAST YEAR, IS THIS ALWAYS A FUEL MILEAGE RACE? "Sure. You always run road courses based on fuel mileage; not as much based on tire wear and track position. So when those guys did what they did last year, it opened up all of our eyes that we've got to start focusing more on fuel mileage. And we didn't get good fuel mileage to begin with. So we really worked hard on it for Watkins Glen last year and we got better at it. I feel like we've gotten even better yet. But everybody is going to be focused on that."
IS THERE A COMFORT LEVEL FOR YOU AT THIS TRACK? "Yes and no. I love road racing. I love road racing at Sonoma. But this is a tricky track. It's very easy to make mistakes here. You have to really race the race track. But I am comfortable. I love coming here and it's nice to see that we're running good and the testing we've been doing is going in the right direction."
ARE YOU FRUSTRATED THAT YOU DON'T HAVE A WIN YET THIS YEAR? "Not yet. I'm more frustrated that we're not more competitive. To me, you can be the fastest car out there and not get wins. So that's not really bothering me. What's bothering me is that we're hit or miss. We've put some top fives together. Some of them we earned; some of them we earned by strategy of some sort. We didn't go out there and really perform well enough to get those and that's where I feel like we really want to be is really getting the performance of our car. The team has been awesome in the pits with Steve (Letarte) calling the races. All of that's been great. It's just getting the car to do the things that I want it to do to go faster."
BECAUSE OF YOUR PAST SUCCESS HERE, COULD THIS BE A BREAKTHROUGH WEEKEND TO GET THAT WIN? "It could. But I don't want to put that kind of pressure on us to feel like we have to win here and then if we don't it's our last opportunity or a failed weekend. I really just want to come in here and do what we know we're capable of doing and try not to make mistakes; put the best car out there and go about it like we would any other time, whether we came in here with four or five wins or with no wins."
YOU WERE SO CONSISTENT LAST YEAR, DO YOU KNOW WHY THAT IS GONE OR ARE YOU BAFFLED BY WHAT'S HAPPENED? "Well, what do you mean? We weren't on 1.5-mile tracks with this car. We had the old car and we had the old car dialed in. We had this car dialed in for the tracks we were going to. And it was really that we had it more dialed in than our competitors. And our competitors went to work and they've gotten better. And we've got to step up. It's very easy to get behind. Our teammates have done a little bit better job of catching up than we have, and that's where I want us to get better."
CAN YOU TELL FROM ONE PRACTICE IF YOU HAVE ENOUGH CAR TO DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO THIS WEEKEND? "It felt pretty good. But we didn't make any race runs. We were just making one-lap qualifying runs. The difference is, on a road course your qualifying set-up isn't that much different than your race set-up. So if we're running pretty good right now, I feel pretty good about the weekend. That doesn't mean that we don't still need to focus on our fuel mileage and tire wear and what the car is going to do on the long runs. But this is a tough place to pass, and I want to make sure we get through qualifying with a solid run today. And if we do I think we can have a good weekend."
ON WORKING OUT "I don't like gyms (laughs). So I've always like being outdoors doing active things, so I've been riding a mountain bike, but it's more with road tires on it, and I've been doing that for the last three or four weeks and just trying to step it up every week. I feel like it's making a difference. I'm working harder in this car. This car is challenging from the team to the driver. And so I'm trying to step up my game as well and know that I'm going to be working harder and it's going to be hot inside the car, and I want to make sure that I'm not leaving anything out there on the table."
ON HIS INVOLVEMENT IN WINE "Right now as a race car driver, my involvement with it is not as much as I'd like it to be. Certainly over the years, I have grown to be a big fan and really enjoy wine tasting and drinking it as well as getting into how it's made. Coming from this area, it's always been a passion of mine to have my own wine. So it's a thrill for me to be able to go and see my wine in French oak barrels and being bottled and tasting it and seeing those bottles with my name on it. It's something I'm very proud of. But mostly I'm just proud of the quality of wine we've been able to produce. And that's what we wanted to do is to keep it low quantity and very high quality and we've been able to pull it off.
"I don't think it's going to be a business that I just am at day to day. I think racing is always going to be in my blood some way, somehow. But it's something that we've started off with slow and gradual, and I'm enjoying it. And I'd love to get more involved with it for sure."
WHO'S WINE IS BETTER, YOURS OR RICHARD CHILDRESS'S? "Richard makes a nice wine. But Napa Valley is where you should grow your grapes (laughter)."
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID HE'S NEVER HAD YOUR RED WINE, BUT CHILDRESS GAVE HIM A BOTTLE OF HIS "Well, if he comes to our party tomorrow night, he'll be able to enjoy some of the red."
WILL THERE BE CROQUET INVOLVED? "Oh, yes, we'll do some croquet. Hey, you have to do croquet. That's such a tradition. We missed it last year so we've got to do some croquet. It's not the same if you don't have that."
ARE YOU GOOD AT CROQUET? "I'm terrible at it. But is anybody really good at croquet? Other than our expert that helps us know what the rules are, I don't think anybody is actually good at it. But it's still fun."
ON THE REACTION AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS TO DALE JUNIOR'S WIN AT MIS "Honestly, I was out of town all week and I was just so happy for Junior and for Eury Jr. and Rick (Hendrick). Going to victory lane, you could just see a big sigh of relieve and pressure off. I'm sure that transferred throughout the whole organization. I've been so busy this week I haven't had a chance to catch up and get a sense and a feel. But I know it was great for those guys; mainly for Junior because he hadn't won in two seasons and I think he was feeling the pressure. Now that pressure is off and they've been great and consistent and having a good year, so they can just continue to work on that."
ARE NASCAR FANS DRINKING MORE WINE? "I think there are NASCAR fans out there that drink wine. I don't know if more of them are drinking wine. The thing is that we are so not even focused on promoting our wine with racing. To me, I want it in fine restaurants. I want it to be something completely non associated with racing so I probably couldn't answer that well, other than the fans that have tried my wine have complimented it. So I feel good about that and know there are race fans out there that are drinking wine."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE AN EX-BAD BOY? "I never felt like I was the bad boy. I was always the guy up against the bad boy. If you go back to the rivalry with me and Dale Earnhardt Sr., I was more the clean cut kid and just wasn't as connected to the core fan. Earnhardt had the black car and pushed people out of the way so I'd be hard pressed to say I was the bad boy."
DO YOU MORE LOVE NOW THAN YOU USED TO? "I love the place where I am right now in this sport. I'm comfortable with everything I've accomplished. I feel like I have a lot more respect in the garage and outside the garage and still have a huge fan following. I think that maybe being Junior on board at Hendrick has maybe softened some of them up a little bit, but not all of them (laughs)."
ON ALL THE PERSONAL ACTIVITIES THAT HAPPEN AROUND THIS SONOMA RACE WEEKEND 'This is a place we just love to come to. We just really enjoy it, whether it's me enjoying time with my family and friends, or as a couple, Ingrid and myself just enjoying this weekend. The racing still is intense. Once I get in the race car, it's still intense and tough. But once I leave here, I get to go and relax and really get away from (the track). I'm not going to my bus and not just wracking my brain about racing the whole time. So it's always been that way for me ever since I've been coming here, is that get-away and relaxation and enjoying the area and the wine country and the restaurants and all those things. And at the same time I have family and friends I used to go to school with. But now, with the engagement (to now wife, Ingrid) and especially with Ella's birth, it really does take it to another level."
IT SOUNDS LIKE IT WOULD BE THAT WAY EVEN IF YOU WEREN'T FROM HERE "Possibly, yeah. I don't think we would get as many people coming to the race and enjoying an evening of croquet or a birthday party, but it's always kind of been a family reunion for me, coming here, and the friends. But I do think we would really enjoy this location and this race no matter what my association was."
KYLE PETTY SAID IF TIGER WOODS WEREN'T IN GOLF, THE SPORT WOULD SUFFER. DOES THAT APPLY TO NASCAR IF EITHER YOU OR DALE JUNIOR WEREN'T INVOLVED? "To me, it really does cross over. When Tiger is winning, it's better for the sport. When Junior is winning, and the more popular drivers are winning, it's better for the sport. And I think it's the same in golf. I think if Tiger didn't win for two years, he would still be very popular. The sport would still be better because he's there, but it wouldn't be what it is when he's dominating. And I feel the same way about our sport. We have a very strong sport, but it's always been stronger and healthier when you've got Richard Petty, who has made a name for himself, or Dale Earnhardt, or Darrell Waltrip, or Bill Elliott, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. or myself. These guys play a big role in that. It's just that you go through times when it's hard to find a guy who can stand out and make a mark as big as what Junior has. But I do think this sport is strong enough that without him winning for the past couple of years, he's still popular and so it the sport."
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOU DIDN'T WIN FOR TWO SEASONS? "Oh, man I don't want to think about that. You know what? It's only been half a season and I can tell you it's been tough on me. I'm very competitive. I've been fortunate throughout my career to win and be associated with great teams and it's not something I want to think about. But everybody goes through that at some point in their career and I want to make sure that time is not now for me."
-credit: gm racing