JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Infineon Raceway and discussed racing at Infineon, a few of the upcoming events, how racing has changed over the years, and more. ANY CONCERNS FOR THE FUEL THING THAT IS...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Infineon Raceway and discussed racing at Infineon, a few of the upcoming events, how racing has changed over the years, and more.
ANY CONCERNS FOR THE FUEL THING THAT IS GOING ON? "The craziest thing happened today. We sent all of our jugs down there to get filled up and they came back, and they were putting them in after we made a couple runs, and it was different color. It was clear. We immediately started pumping it out and called NASCAR over to have them try to figure out what happened. I guess on the pumps you can get a different selection of fuel, so I think the wrong button was pushed. [laughs]."
WILL IT DO ANY DAMAGE? IS THERE ANY CONCERN ABOUT ANYTHING LIKE THAT? "None of our guys seem to be too concerned. As far as I know they seem to be ok; the car ran fine after that. We feel like we've got it all pumped out and made a few laps. Unless all of a sudden it gets to the carburetor on qualifying when we're running; I think we'll be alright."
WHAT IS IT LIKE RACING HERE AT INFINEON TODAY VERSUS FIVE YEARS AGO, IN TERMS OF THE COMPETITIVENESS? "Well you have two things. Five years ago, we had the old car, and every year I feel like it gets more competitive with our own drivers that race every weekend, as well as the road racing specialists that come in. Then you get a Robby Gordon, or a Marcos Ambrose, or somebody like that who races every weekend but is really strong on the road courses, and those guys get a good team and car underneath them and they're going to be really strong. Marcos has definitely shown that here today. I feel like we've lost a little bit of an edge that we had. I feel like with the old car we just had a great package, and I love the way the car drove. With the new car, it's just been something that adapting to it has been a real challenge. I feel like we're better this year than what we've been the last couple of years, but I still think we have a little bit of work to do."
DO TEAMS CARE MORE ABOUT THE ROAD RACES NOW GIVEN THAT YEARS AGO IT WAS ONE OF ABOUT FOUR GUYS THAT WERE CAPABLE OF WINNING? "I always thought they were important. We always put a lot of effort into our road course program; maybe that's why we did well. I don't know. I just like the road courses; I love the challenge of it, and I've always had great cars here. It's just that everybody has a different philosophy about it. I think it's no more important today than it used to be because I think it's important, and I always thought that it's important. To me, with the old championship points system, these two road courses did count toward the championship. Now, they don't really count toward the championship, except for an opportunity to get the bonus points and you got to put a decent finish down there to make the Chase."
IT SEEMS LIKE JIMMIE JOHNSON HAS LOST SOME GROUND SINCE NASCAR MADE THE SWITCH TO THE SPOILER, BUT YOU HAVE CONTINUED TO RUN UP FRONT. IS THAT REALLY JUST A SUBTLE CAUGHT OFF GUARD, OR COULD YOU EXPLAIN WHAT MAY HAVE HAPPENED THERE? "I don't know if I feel like we've been caught off guard; I just think the competition is doing a great job--especially the 11 team. I've got all the confidence in the world that we're going to be in a phase of learning some things and hopefully by the time that the Chase comes around, we've got it figured out as good as the competition does."
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT THE COMPETITION DOES TO KEEP UP WITH THEM? "Every race you go into you want to win. You want to be the most competitive car out there. Every year, I feel like we come in here going 'Yes, we're Hendrick Motorsports,' but we still have to work hard like everybody else. We need to make good decisions and do everything we can. Especially when Hendrick has won the championship with the 48 car the last four years that only makes the competition that much hungrier to get better and that's what you've got to love about the sport."
WITH SUNDAY'S RACE FALLING ON FATHER'S DAY, COULD YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT THAT HOLIDAY MEANS TO YOU WITH YOU BEING A FATHER NOW AND YOUR DAD ALWAYS BEING SO INSTRUMENTAL IN YOUR CAREER. "It's great to be out there for Father's day because typically I would be in Michigan and my father wouldn't be at the track. I've got my stepfather and my father here this weekend which is cool; the only thing on the unfortunate side is that my wife and my daughter were not able to travel this weekend, so I'm going to miss them for father's day. We've got some big plans for when I get back, plus it's my daughter's birthday. Father's day definitely takes on a whole new meaning when you are a father. This weekend, the focus for me is really going to be on my [dad and stepdad] that are here and are enjoying spending a race day together, and hopefully in victory lane with them."
THREE YEARS AGO YOU WERE ON PINS AND NEEDLES WITH THE EXPECTED ARRIVAL OF ELLA, HAVE YOU GIVEN ANY ADVICE TO JIMMIE WHO IS IN A SIMILAR SITUATION THIS YEAR? "We were in a little bit of a different situation because Ella was breech, and we kind of knew fairly early on getting into that last trimester that there was a pretty good chance that she wasn't going to turn. So we scheduled a c-section and when you do that, usually it's ten or twelve days prior to the due date and it allows you to plan a little better. There's still no guarantees so you still need to do some planning, but with Jimmie, he's got to do a lot more planning. I don't know if I could really offer him a whole lot of advice from that standpoint."
HOW ABOUT BEING A NEW DAD--ANY ADVICE FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON ON THAT? "Oh yeah, we talk about that all the time. Again, I just know from my experience of what other parents said to me. I still had no clue what it really entails, and how exciting and challenging it truly is until you go through it. So I'm kind of at that stage where I look forward to when he and Chandra have the baby. I can say 'well, how was it?' and get that reaction. I just know how excited he is and what a great dad he is going to be. I know he's going to light up like I did."
MR. HENDRICK IS A GREAT FATHER FIGURE IN NASCAR; HOW IS HE GOING TO PLAY OUT THIS WEEKEND WITH HIM GETTING ON TO THE WALL OF FAME HERE AT INFINEON? IS IT A SPECIAL WEEKEND FOR THE WHOLE TEAM? "Man, you just lost me. It's called the Wall of Fame? Rick's going on the Wall of Fame? That's news to me. I can tell you that he's deserving. Rick, in every aspect of his life--whether it is as a dad, a husband, or leading a company or a race team--he's just phenomenal in everything that he does and he sets great examples for all of us. I've learned so much from him. I'm always very supportive of him. I wish I would have known that before you asked me that--I feel like an idiot now."
WHICH TRACK WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ON THE CUP CIRCUIT THAT IS NOT CURRENTLY? "I don't know. I keep hearing people through around Eldora [Raceway], so I guess maybe we need to see a dirt track."
WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO REPLACE ANY PARTICULAR ONE ON THE CIRCUIT? "[laughs] There's a few."
IS THERE A DRIVER THAT YOU DON'T LIKE SEEING IN YOUR REARVIEW MIRROR? "I don't like to see anybody in my rearview mirror if they're faster than me. The most intimidating car and driver out there, is the one that is running you down and it doesn't really matter who it is. These days, you can do a lot more with aerodynamics to stall them out when they get close to you. There is nobody quite like Earnhardt. Earnhardt would catch you and for now reason just run into you. You'd be like, 'what did I do?!" There isn't anybody out there like that [anymore]. Most guys out there are going to try to pass you, and if they have a hard time then they'll run into you. Dale would just do it just to have fun with you. It would get you off your game, and he was good at that. That's why he was the intimidator."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE GROWING POPULARITY OF HISTORIC STOCK CARS FROM THE '60S AND '70S? "I think those cars are really cool. What comes to mind with me is going back and seeing some of the racing from those days. What a driver went through, how he had to drive that car, the physical side of it, some of the safety aspects that weren't there and that are today, and just how they were really putting themselves out there on the line. That took a lot of guts. Then from an aerodynamics stand point, the good signs of the aerodynamics that we've lost today. We've gotten a lot more downforce in our cars there, but I think we've taken away a little bit from what happens behind us. We aren't moving the air underneath the car. From a historic side, I think it's always important to observe history, and so I love seeing that. Other than that I don't know much about it."
TALKING ABOUT EARNHARDT COMING UP AND JUST HITTING YOU--HOW WAS IT THAT HE COULD GET AWAY WITH THAT? TODAY YOU WOULD BE CALLED A DIRTY DRIVER. "I have no idea. I have no idea. I still go back even before I raced with him and saw some of the things that he did that didn't seem to ever--maybe I'm wrong, maybe I didn't see enough of the races; maybe he would've won ten championships. When I look at doing things like that, I feel like it's going to cost you the championship. It didn't seem to do that. I would've thought that somebody would've played payback. If you run into a guy, somebody is going to pay you back eventually or make your life miserable. It seemed like he had this way of messing with people and not getting messed back with a whole lot. He was one of those guys where as soon as you mess with him, you always got the raw end of the deal so you just were like, 'ok, I'm not even going to mess with him because I know it's only going to turn out bad for me.'"
LAST WEEKEND, SOME OF THE DRIVERS SAID THAT NASCAR CALLING THAT CAUTION AT THE END OF THE RACE WAS GOOD FOR THE SPORT BECAUSE IT MADE FOR AN EXCITING ENDING. EARLIER TODAY, SOME GUYS SAID THAT NASCAR CAN CALL A DEBRIS CAUTION ANYTIME BECAUSE THERE IS SO MUCH OUT THERE AND IT'S JUST A MATTER OF WHEN THEY WANT TO CALL IT. IS THAT A WORTHY DISCUSSION TO HAVE, OR IS THAT DETRIMENTAL TO THE SPORT TO TALK ABOUT? "What we've learned the past couple years is that I think they totally ok with that being brought up, but not necessarily in the public. Have that discussion, but don't use the media to get that recognized and get that changed. Ever since I've been driving a stock car, the phantom debris has always been an issue; it's not just recently, it's always been out there. I think until you go up and you're sitting next to them while they're calling a race; I think you don't really know what all it truly entails to call a race and how challenging and difficult it is, and what a great job they do."
NEXT WEEK WE'LL BE IN LOUDON, WHICH IS ALSO THE FIRST RACE IN THE CHASE. DO YOU GUYS GO TO LOUDON THIS TIME LOOKING TO PREPARE FOR THE RACE THERE LATER IN THE YEAR? "Absolutely. Any race track that is in the chase when we go to it for the first time, we're thinking what is going to happen when we come back here the second time. It's important that we be good at that track not only the first time, but primarily to get prepared for the second time that we come back. I'm excited about Texas because we ran good there. The same thing with New Hampshire. You will experiment a lot more the first time around [than the second] to try to get an edge. You want to be good, but you want to find something that is really outside the box that nobody else is doing to see if you can really get an edge on the competition for that second race."
YOU RAN WELL AT PHOENIX--IS THERE ANYTHING YOU "A little. There are some small comparisons. It's a one-mile track, but it's quite a bit different than Phoenix. I don't feel like Phoenix is our best track, and I don't think that we really ran that great. Steve just made a great call there at the end. I think that New Hampshire is the track that we typically run better at. We've been talking about New Hampshire and some of the things that we want to do there. We've been really fast there, but we haven't been goon on restarts. We're trying to look into the setups to figure out what we can do to take off a little bit better on restarts."
HOW DO YOU LOOK AT QUALIFYING HERE TODAY? "I'm telling you, it's a white-knuckles experience--especially today. There is just no grip out there. We are sliding around so bad and when you have to go up the drag strip, and come down and you basically have about a third of the track, maybe a quarter of the track, to get heat into the tires when you're already having trouble getting heat into the tires. Those first couple corners are going to be nail-bitters. The guy that can get the car up to speed and now make mistakes is going to put in a good solid lap. We didn't draw the best of numbers, but I feel like our car is pretty good. I don't feel like we made our best lap out there but we're trying to plan for what is going to happen when we don't have as much heat in the tires and what the grip level is going to be."
DO YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE BECAUSE YOU KNOW THE TRACK? SOME PEOPLE WERE SAYING THAT WHEN YOU FLY OVER SOME OF THE TURNS, YOU JUST KIND OF HAVE TO KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING. "Yeah, in two and three those are blind corners. They aren't that difficult; it's just how much speed you can carry on the exits. When you've been around here as much as I have, I don't even think twice about it. It is just kind of where I want to position my car and this is how much throttle I'm going to use. Those blind corners like that the difficult thing is that you really can't change your setup to help them. There is just nothing you can do because the car is real light there and you're just coming over a hill. It's all about throttle and throttle control and getting the car turned in the right position."
YOU GUYS ARE BEING GIVEN THE FREEDOM TO DRIVE A LITTLE BIT MORE THIS YEAR. WITH THIS BEING THE FIRST ROAD COURSE RACE, WILL THAT CHANGE THE WAY THIS RACE LOOKS AT ALL TO THE FANS? "This is always a pretty physical race track, especially if there is a late caution. I think that's what it all comes down to. As the race goes on--and it doesn't matter if we're here or anywhere else--as the race winds down and you get those late cautions people get more intense and more physical because you're running out of time. You're running out of opportunities to get that position. Because it's a road course, you've got these out-braking corners that you've got take advantage of. It gets pretty hairy out there in those closing laps on a restart with this track. From a competitor, I prefer not to see those late cautions at a track like this, but from the fan standpoint, I know how exciting it can be for them."
WITH 596 STARTS, HOW ARE 1,100 TURNS GOING TO FEEL AT THE END OF THIS RACE ON SUNDAY? THAT'S AN AWFUL LONG TIME TO BE STARTING NASCAR RACES. "Yeah, I know. Gosh, you're making me feel old thinking about it. It's cool at the same time. And it's consecutive, that's what I'm proud of. Looking forward to that 600th one. The road courses--there is just no time. You barely have time to talk on the radio, let alone try to get a drink or try to take a breath. That's why this race can be so challenging--especially if it's hot. The weather right now is certainly working in our favor, and so if it stays like this it won't be... When it's hot out there, even though it's a shorter race, this is the toughest race we have all year."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE LAST RACE AT DAYTONA WITH THE OLD PAVEMENT? "Well we're going to miss the old pavement. Other than the problem at the 500 where it was coming up, that old pavement and how it wears, and what it does to the tires, and how the cars drive, and how you have to drive as a driver--it is the best. That is what you want everywhere we go. We've even lost some of that at Darlington because of how the new pavement is just so much better. It just doesn't give up like the old one did, and you just don't have the aggregate at the top that's making the abrasiveness to wear out the tires. It's going to be a totally unique and different Daytona when it gets repaved and that can be great or not. We're going to try to take advantage of the old pavement and enjoy it as much as we can, and slip and slide around there a little bit like we normally do in July."
-source: gm racing