JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT BECOMING A FATHER, WHAT TO EXPECT OF THE NEW CAR AT INFINEON, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA AND OTHER SUBJECTS: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A FATHER? "It's absolutely incredible. I expected it to...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT BECOMING A FATHER, WHAT TO EXPECT OF THE NEW CAR AT INFINEON, JUAN PABLO MONTOYA AND OTHER SUBJECTS:
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A FATHER? "It's absolutely incredible. I expected it to change my life but I never had any clue how it was going to. But it has. It's just different. Things are different now, in a great way, though. It was just probably the best thing of my life."
DID EVERYTHING GO AS EXPECTED? "Well, the baby was in breech so we've known for the last couple weeks that there is a possibility that we might have to do a C-section and that's what ended up happening. Believe it or not, we were waiting all the way up until this week to see if she would turn. She didn't turn so the doctors said they wanted to do it early rather than later which worked out for my schedule. But the morning that she was going in her water broke. So she was going to have it that day whether it be emergency C-section or a C-section. It all worked out. She's doing great. Ella is beautiful and amazing. I look forward to bringing her to the track."
DESCRIBE THE FIRST TIME YOU GOT TO HOLD HER: "I think the thing I remember, even before that, is the first time she cried. You go through so many different emotions - you're excited, you're scared, nervous. Once she's there and you hear her cry and take that first breath then you're just overwhelmed with emotion and it was just an incredible feeling."
HOW DID YOU HANDLE IT? "Well, I was supportive as I can be. I tell you, I just have a whole new appreciation for parents in general, especially the mother. To go through those nine months, to go through what they go through, to the delivery process whether it's a C-section or natural, and then to have to be responsible for feeding that baby every couple of hours or however long it is, it's just incredible. So all the parents out there, God bless them and I'm proud to be one. It's a tough job but a fun one."
CAN YOU STILL WIN HERE STARTING FROM THE BACK? "I tell you, it's going to be tough. We're really put into a bind here and we're going to do our best, that's all I can say. You know we're going to do all we can to make the car as fast as it can be and to try to come up through that field the best way, smoothest way possible while trying to stay out of trouble and trying to play the right pit strategy. Try to do everything in our power to get the best finish out here we can. I'll be honest, right now, it's a little hard for us to be realistic about a win. It's more about being realistic about trying to get a top 10 and we'll just see how we get through tomorrow and how that race unfolds before we know if we can do anything else."
THOUGHTS ON FANS BEING DISSAPOINTED SEEING YOU AND JOHNSON PARKED FOR THE DAY? "It's disappointing to all those involved, especially from the race team to our sponsors and fans. To me, we're paying a big penalty by not being out there on the track today, not being able to qualify and I support my team. I support what they do week in and week out to give me the best cars and I'm going to continue to support them."
HOW TOUGH WAS IT FOR YOU TO LEAVE YOUR NEW BABY TO COME HERE? "It was tough. I was holding her and she was sleeping in my arms right before I left the hospital and I did not want to leave. I did not want to leave and that's why I'm excited about being here because I want to go out there and race and get this race over as fast as I can. I want it to be a win, get it done faster than anybody else and then go and get back to my little girl and Ingrid. It's been an amazing experience."
HOW MANY TIMES ARE YOU GOING TO CALL HOME OVER THE WEEKEND? "Several. Several a day. I already called her this morning when I woke up just to see how the evening went. Every time you just hear a little noise in the background - you hear her making noises - it's just a great feeling. You can't describe it."
ARE YOU PUTTING A PICTURE IN YOUR CAR? "All my pictures are in a camera that I've got to figure out how to get them on paper. Right now it's in my phone so every time I open my phone it puts a smile on my face. With everything that's happened here today, as devastating as it is, for me, nothing is going to bring me down today. It's just not possible. The important things in life are at the top of my mind right now."
HAVE YOU CHANGED ANY DIAPERS? "I changed like the first four or five diapers."
DID YOU GET TO CUT THE CORD? "Are you with the media? (Iaughs)."
HOW WAS CHANGING DIAPERS? "I just love being involved and being a part of it. I'm jealous when there's something Ingrid can do that I can't do. It's been a very cool experience and I want to be a part of everything I possibly can and I did not mind changing those diapers one bit. I took pleasure in it."
ARE YOU READY FOR ANOTHER BABY? "Let's do one day at a time. I slept about two hours the first night and from what Ingrid told me this morning there was less sleep last night. So that's going to be a huge adjustment and it's going to be a lot of work and if it wasn't the greatest experience on earth, then you wouldn't go through that."
WHO DOES SHE RESEMBLE MORE? "That's a good question because I think she looks like Ingrid but Ingrid says she looks like me. I don't know. It's too early to tell. She's got a lot of hair, though. A lot of dark hair."
WHAT DO YOU THINK JUAN PABLO MONTOYA'S BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH THE STOCK CARS WILL BE HERE? "I don't know if he's ever raced at this track before so if he has, then that's good, at least he has laps at this track. If not it's going to be getting used to a new track and a new car. I think the laps he's gotten in the car gives him a better idea of what this car is capable of doing, the testing that they've done. But his road-course skills are definitely going to be key and I think are going to pay off for him. I think we've already seen him run some good lap times. I think we'll continue to see that as the weekend goes on. I think even he'll admit, it comes down to the team and that as good as he is, he's got to have all the right parts and pieces to go along with it. It's going to be very fun and interesting to watch and I hope that sometime throughout the day on Sunday we get a change to race with him."
DO YOU THINK HE'LL HAVE A CHALLENGE WITH 42 OTHER CARS? THAT'S A LOT FOR A ROAD COURSE. "Not if he starts up front (laughs). Road racing in general is just different. It all depends on how you qualify. I think the biggest challenge and difference for him, if you come from Formula One, is there's not a lot of overtaking and passing in Formula One. Where here, there's a lot of it. If you've got those skills that he has and a car capable of moving to the front, that will be the biggest thing, is just maneuvering through traffic. A car that doesn't have the grip, doesn't brake as good and slips and slides around all day long, especially as hot as it's going to be on Sunday."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS SUNDAY? "I felt really good about it before this morning but where we're going to be starting it's going to be a real challenge. I love the road course. I love it here and we're going to get out there. the most disappointing thing for me today was that I didn't get a chance to get out there and shift gears and turn left and right and do all the fun things that come along with road-course races."
DOES THIS FEEL LIKE COMING BACK HOME FOR YOU? "This is probably more home in a way because I have a lot of family here and friends that I grew up with from elementary school. I didn't race here, most of my friends that I have around here - I had friends that I went to school with and I've had friends that I went to the race track with. So to me I think this is truly more my memories of growing up are here. My memories of racing and getting to that next level are in Indiana. So it's just different. It's hard to really describe how the differences are but I think because I get to see my cousins and my dad and a lot of different friends, I don't have family in Indiana."
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST TIME IN A CAR? "I remember bits and pieces of it. I'll certainly never forget that day when Steve brought home the two quarter midgets - one for me, one for my sister - and said, 'we've got a surprise, look out the window'. And I looked out the window and saw this car. I didn't know what it was. And I was excited and I have memories of going out to the fairgrounds and spin around in circles. He tried to make a track but I don't think I ever went around a track until we went to the actual race track."
DID YOU KNOW IMMEDIATELY THAT THIS WAS WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO? "It was fun and exciting but I didn't know that was what I wanted to do until I saw the checkered flag wave for the first time and I was crossing first. That's when I was hooked."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR REGIMEN ON RACE DAY? "Yes. Certainly since Ingrid hasn't been traveling to the race track, (calling her) has become part of my regimen especially now that Ella is here. But I wake up, I usually do some type of fruit shake that has some different protein powders and things in it. I start hydrating myself and then have breakfast, lunch, I go to the drivers meeting, I do hospitality for the sponsors - DuPont and Pepsi or Georgia Pacific, something like that. Come and have lunch, then the team meeting. Go to the drivers meeting, then get out for driver introductions and then get in the car and start racing."
WHAT WILL YOU SAY TO YOUR WIFE IF SHE CALLS BEFORE THE RACE? "That would be awesome. It's going to be a tall pass this weekend but that's a whole new experience and it's going to be amazing and I look forward to that. Just when I call Ingrid and I can hear her in the background is already a cool experience so I really hope that there's a day that I can still be competitive and Ella can be old enough to be able to experience what it's like to be here at the race track and see me go to victory lane. To experience that as a family would be amazing."
ON HAVING DALE EARNHARDT, JR. AS A TEAMMATE NEXT YEAR: "It's a little early. We've still got to get through a long season here but I'm excited. I think it's going to be great for the teams, great for everybody. He's just a great asset. a great driver and I don't even know if we've seen his full potential yet. Hopefully we can give him the equipment that Jimmie and I and Casey have, to be able to go out there and showcase what he's capable of doing. The marketing speaks for himself. Dale and I have always gotten along real well, not to mention me and his dad. But we've always been rivals on the track and our fans have been for the most part. I don't think any of that is really going to change."
HOW WOULD YOU BASE MONTOYA'S CHANCES HERE BASED ON HIS TALENT? "If you base it on his talent then he's got it in the bag. That's the thing about NASCAR racing, that it goes so much further than that. You've got to have talent and you've got to have the right people in place around you. You've got to have the right equipment and you've got to do it all right throughout the weekend. He's got to qualify good and have good pit stops and he's got to run good in the race and stay out of trouble. He's an aggressive driver and I think that's going to help him in some ways and hurt him in others. I think that if he can hone that in and use that at the right time but not make mistakes, I think he'll definitely be one of the guys to beat on Sunday."
WILL THE FACT THAT THIS IS A ROAD COURSE HELP HIM HERE? "I think that this is a difficult car to drive and I think that some of it is going to depend on the development end that they've done with their team with this car. If they've got it figured out as good as some other teams. If I had to guess, I would think that the Gibbs cars are going to be the ones to beat. Their development with this car has shown already. I think Tony (Stewart) is a great road racer. So I think that they're going to be tough to beat. It's hard to say. I don't think it gives him an advantage or disadvantage in any way. He brings an advantage with his skills and then the teams have to do their part."
HOW WILL THE NEW CAR HANDLE DIFFERENTLY HERE? "You can't brake as deep in the corners so you can't be as aggressive. The car doesn't stick to the race track as good, especially when you are trying to turn it left and right. A lot of times at this track you throw the car around. This car has a higher center of gravity - it doesn't like that to happen so I think that's going to bring a lot of challenges for a lot of cars. And it might make for a better race. That's what I'm hoping. Hopefully we'll see a better race out of it because of that, where we see more passing. I hope that we don't see one team just dominating. Being a road course it's going to be very interesting to see. Every time we go to a different track like Darlington and Bristol you learn something new with this car."
HAS MONTOYA BEEN SLOWER THAN YOU'VE EXPECTED? "I'm a tough critic and I'm a big fan of Juan's. I've seen what he's been capable of doing and I knew that his talent was going to be really good for NASCAR and that he would be successful. But I know how difficult these cars are, especially if you haven't grown up racing oval tracks. I think that there have been times like Atlanta where he's impressed me a lot. There's other times when he's done what I've expected where it was very challenging. There's times when it could be very frustrating and I think it's only going to earn himself more respect as well as having respect for the other competitors and fans as well. You've got to go through those tough times and I've seen him go through some tough times. He's probably the fastest learner of anybody I've ever seen. He adapts so quick that there's no doubt in my mind that he's going to have a lot of success here."
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES HERE? "The cars are more equal so I think the speed differences might not be as extreme as in past years. This is a difficult track to come from behind because there's only two passing zones on the entire track. There's three ways to pass here. Coming into this last turn, 11, I think it is. The top of the hill which is I think seven, and when a guy goes off the track (laughs). Those are the ways you make passes. So it's going to be very difficult to come through the field that far. I think because of braking zones it's become longer now. I think it might make it easier in some ways to make some passes. It's really going to be more in the drivers hands of controlling the braking and I think in that sense, it might bring a little more passing into it. But it might not, too. I don't know."
WILL YOU HAVE TO RELEARN SOME PARTS OF THE TRACK TO GET ALL SET UP AGAIN? "It's going to be very difficult to use the curves the way we did in the past. The tolerances on the ride height of this car are just so much different. You've got that splitter in the front now. I think in order to keep this car flat, because it has such a high center of gravity, the roll centers and everything, you're got to drive it and set it up different mainly. I think it's going to be an evolution. As the weekend goes on we'll learn more and be able to push the limits a little bit more but I think for now, starting out, probably most guys are going to stay away from the curves as much as possible."
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME ELLA SOPHIA AND DO YOU THINK SHE WILL GROW UP TO BE A RACER? "I never say never but anything is possible. Ella Sophia, obviously you talk with your wife about names. Even before she got pregnant we were interested in starting a family and you hear a name, you see a name and you talk about it. We both liked the name Isabella but we didn't feel like Isabella went with Gordon. So Ella sort of came from that and I'm not sure where the Sophia came from other than Ingrid and me are big fans of Sophia Lauren and so it felt like Sophia went well with Ella. None of those names go great with Gordon but we were stuck with that one (laughs). I think it's a beautiful name. I'm very happy with that and as far as her being a race car driver, I'll be surprised if she is but who knows. She's going to be around race tracks and she might like it. I think she's going to be around a lot of other things as well and hopefully we can present as many opportunities fo r her to pick and choose to find something that she's passionate about, the way I found racing and the way Ingrid found modeling."
DOES THINKING ABOUT THIS ALLEVIATE YOUR STRESS REGARDING YOUR PENALTIES? "Yes, absolutely. I'm in a different boat than my teammates and our crew chiefs and the guys on this team and Rick Hendrick and all these guys that are racking their brains trying to get through this thing. I'm on cloud nine. I'm mad about it and especially when Sunday starts and we're at the back of the field. I'm going to look at what a tall task we have ahead of us, but nothing's going to bring me down from being on this high that I'm on just with life in general. It's amazing."
-credit: gm racing