Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Dupont/Pepsi Chevrolet Monte Carlo spoke with the media after Happy Hour. IS NASCAR BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE BY TRYING TO MAKE THESE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES EXCITING YET SAFE? "Oh, yeah. If the competitors are happy,...
Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Dupont/Pepsi Chevrolet Monte Carlo spoke with the media after Happy Hour.
IS NASCAR BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE BY TRYING TO MAKE THESE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACES EXCITING YET SAFE?
"Oh, yeah. If the competitors are happy, the fans probably won't be happy enough because they won't see that two, three, and four-wide racing that they've seen in the past. Today's Busch race is going to be the best race for the fans, but it's absolutely ridiculous to have that package on those cars at any race track as far as I'm concerned. We didn't like it when we had it in the Cup series so they went and put it with the Busch Series. I don't get that."
WITH SO MANY PEOPLE COMPLAINING, WHY HASN'T SOMETHING BEEN DONE ABOUT IT?
"I don't know. I'm not in the Busch Series."
HOW MUCH WOULD THEY HAVE TO PAY YOU TO GET YOU TO RACE IN THE BUSCH RACE TODAY?
"There is not a dollar amount. Honestly, when they had that package in the Cup Series it made me question why I was even out there. It makes for very exciting racing for people in the grandstands, but it is not a fun experience as a race car driver.
I love the package we have in the Cup Series right now. It's not as entertaining, I know, but it sure is a lot more comfortable. It makes the driver really work the air. For me, it brings the whole package of the race team into it.
That deal over there (Busch Series) is just luck. It's just luck of whether or not you get to the finish and then luck as to whether or not you're the guy that's out front when the checkered flag flies."
DO THE BUSCH DRIVERS NEED MORE EXPERIENCE TO HANDLE THIS PACKAGE?
"No. We had it with the most experienced guys over here (Cup Series). It was out of control. That's the only reason I question why it's over there is because there are guys with less experience. It demands a ton of patience and experience and a lot of forgiveness. When you are a competitor out there and you want to win, that's a hard combination to have."
WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT IT?
"Well, the cars just suck up so fast. The momentum is such that you pull out to pass or you run into the back of a guy really hard. You can get three and four wide. The cars are pretty stable, but it's just like having 43 IROC cars out there. IROC is okay with 12 guys. Even then, it's sometimes crazy. But when you have 43 of them sucking up that fast and pounding the rear bumper of the guy in front of him, some of them get out of shape because they're getting hit from behind in the tri-oval or the corners. Or, you've got so much momentum you've got to jump out of line. Things are happening so fast that you don't know if somebody is inside of you or outside of you. You don't know what's going on."
WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE TO RESTRICTOR PLATES?
"That's why I said they were in a tough position. If somebody has a better solution, bring it on. We've got to keep the speeds down. We've got to keep the aerodynamics package out there as such that we're not punching too big of a hole. I don't know. You hear the guys talking about back when they didn't have plates that handling was more of an issue and that you could break away.
But we've got these cars so aerodynamically good these days that if you take the plates off of them they're still going to drive pretty good. We'll be doing over 200 mph. I don't think that's a good idea."
WHAT ABOUT RAISING THE CARS UP?
"The more you raise the car, the bigger the hole the car is going to punch. When we had the cars lower on the ground, there was actually less drag. The lower you get the cars, the less the cars suck up to each other and the more single file racing you're going to have. Right now, they're not as low as they were a few years back when we could just tie the back ends down. That's when the racing was really bad. We couldn't pass at all. At least now, we can pass. I don't have a problem with our package. I think we've got a great package on the Cup side for the plate races."
WHAT ABOUT THE PACKAGE FOR MEDIUM SIZED TRACKS LIKE CALIFORNIA?
"I think we need to keep taking some downforce away from the cars and keep bringing tires that give up more. I think we've just got to slow the cars down through the corners."
SHOULD WE BRING BACK THE CARS OF YESTERDAY WHEN EVERYBODY SAYS THE RACING WAS SO GREAT?
"We've learned too much. Over time, the aero push has just gotten worse and worse over time. That's because, in my opinion, we keep going faster and faster through the corners. It's not that we have too much power. You can have all the power in the world, but if you don't make it grip through the corners, it doesn't matter. If you slow the cars down the straightaway, we're still going to go just as fast through the corners. I think it's all about changing the speed through the corners and all that is, is taking the handling away."
WELL, THE TRUCKS SEEM TO BE ABLE TO DO FINE
"Well, there you go. The trucks. I don't know if they're fine, but they certainly don't have the downforce or the corner speeds that we have. They do have a much bigger roof which is why NASCAR is looking into trying to increase the size of the greenhouse - getting the roof bigger and higher so we don't have has much downforce getting to the rear spoiler."
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH HOW THE GREENHOUSE PROGRAM IS GOING?
"I don't have a clue. I saw one car one time at Kansas a couple years ago and it was the ugliest car I'd ever seen. But they seem to be building on a package. It's always hard to go backwards. When you have the grip and comfort and speed, it's always hard to take it away."
ON FREEZING THE FIELD WHEN THE CAUTION COMES OUT
"They way I've always worked it with Midgets and Sprint cars is that we've always defer back to the last lap. That was because cautions didn't count. You've got to freeze the field. I think they've got to upgrade their scoring system. They need more ways to score the cars. When that caution comes out, they shouldn't have to go back and look at video footage in order to score us. They should have instant footage at that moment - transponders or GPS or whatever it is. I don't even know if that technology exists. Other than that, we all have to do our best to understand and appreciate the difficulty that they have and hope that they do a good job with it."
AFTER THE BUSCH RACE IN NASHVILLE, SOME DRIVERS SAID THEY WOULD JUST KEEP DRIVING THROUGH AN ACCIDENT BECAUSE THE SCORING SYSTEM ISN'T ACCURATE
"I didn't see the race. I heard a lot about it. If you're involved in an accident, you automatically lose your position as far as I'm concerned. If you did not maintain your speed because of an accident, you should lose your spot until you regain the pace of what the cars are going - whether under green or go to caution. All those guys involved in that wreck certainly didn't belong at the front because they were involved. That's my opinion. You don't really freeze the entire field when the caution comes out. You freeze the field that's not involved in the incident. It is just like when Michael Waltrip pulling off the track at Bristol. He let off and slowed down and cars passed him. He realized the race wasn't over and then increased his speed and went back out on the track. He got his position when he got back to the speed of the cars on the track. That was the right decision in my opinion."
WILL SUNDAY'S RACE BE LIKE THE RACE WE SAW AT THE DAYTONA 500?
"You won't see a race like that. Daytona is a handling race track and tires are a much bigger issue. Here, handling really doesn't play much of a role. It will at times. Tires, obviously you still have to have tires that last. New tires can make a tiny bit of difference but this is not going to be a race like Daytona. If we're single file, it's because we choose to be single file because we're waiting for the end and not wanting to get crazy. You wouldn't get side-by-side at any time."
ARE THE DEI CARS OBVIOUSLY STILL THE FAVORITES?
"My honest opinion is that they're playing with us. We'll find out tomorrow. I don't know. They make it look awful good in practice by hanging back there and do all that. It just seems like when they want to, they can go. That's a scary thought. We'll see what happens tomorrow. When it comes time that it really counts, I'll be interested to see if they pull out and pass and go to the front."
HOW WAS PRACTICE TODAY?
"I'm really happy with my car. I've got one of the best cars I've had here at Talladega in a while. The car is handling good. It's got good speed. I worked quite a bit with Jimmie (Johnson) and his car seems to be good too. I didn't get a chance to work too much with Terry (Labonte) or Brian (Vickers) but I think we've got a good package here. I'm pumped. We've got a pretty decent starting position. But I want to get up front. It's hard to stay out front, I can tell you. It's hard to lead. It doesn't seem like anybody has a distinct advantage right now. It should be a good race."
DO YOU KNOW WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE?
"I know exactly who my friends are. Zero. Not with five (laps) to go. My teammates have a job to do. They are trying to win as much as I am. We're going to work together as best we can until it comes time to win the race. If we've got an opportunity to win the race, we're not going to be able help out a teammate; I would expect them to take it. I hope they understand that I'm going to do that too."