BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS HOW WAS PRACTICE?: "It was real good. I'm very happy. This is a track that we've had on our radar for a long time to try and make some improvements. I feel like we've really...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS
HOW WAS PRACTICE?: "It was real good. I'm very happy. This is a track that we've had on our radar for a long time to try and make some improvements. I feel like we've really made some big ones."
ON THE BUMP BETWEEN TURNS ONE AND TWO: "It's significant. One of the things that's keeping an outside groove from really forming is that it gets worse as you go up the race track. It's very significant. It makes Texas Motor Speedway that much more challenging."
ON NOT YET SCORING WINS AT THESE FINAL THREE TRACKS: "I'd be happy with one of the three but if we could get all three that would be incredible. When you look at the Chase and championship and the tracks we haven't won at, then you would think the last three races don't suit us but we're always constantly trying to make gains and figure out how to get the DuPont Chevrolet into victory lane at those tracks. I feel like we're going to show what we're really capable of these last three weeks. Our team, our race cars, everything we've seen the last several races the performance has been spectacular. I'm very, very happy with the position we are in as far as performance but unfortunately we're just a little too far back in points."
IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU BY THE END OF YOUR CAREER TO HAVE WON AT EVERY TRACK?: "I think it'd be a cool thing to achieve but of course they always add tracks. I'd be all right if they hadn't added tracks. I'd only have to work on one which is Phoenix. That's really something to be proud of, just the number of race tracks that we have won at and the number of wins that we have. Really all we focus on is winning and the next track on the schedule and that's where the focus is, winning at the next track. It just happens to be these next three tracks are tracks we've never won at before."
HAS THE BUMP HERE GOTTEN BIGGER?: "I did notice it getting more significant the last couple of times. We've got the cars running faster, hooked up to the race track harder than they ever had so you start feeling bumps like that a little bit more. I don't know if the bumps got worse or our setups maybe don't go over the bumps as good.
"The problem is as you go up the race track especially down here in one and two but also three and four there's bumps at both ends in the exact same location. I think there's tunnels in both ends so I think that's where the bumps are. The bumps are always over the tunnel that's why I always say don't put a tunnel in a corner. I think a tunnel should always be on the race track but then it gets in the way of grandstands so we don't seem to see that very often. The bump gets much worse as you go up the banking so it's making it harder for us to get a second groove really worked in but we did see a few guys running, (Kasey) Kahne particularly ran very well up in that outside groove the last time we were here so obviously some guys can make it work."
IS IT A BUMP OR A DIP?: "It's significant, put it that way. It's something that upsets the car. We have them a lot of places we go. The problem is this track is so smooth. It has so much grip and it's so fast everywhere else except with that area that it stands out a lot more than typically. Atlanta last week, that track has a lot of bumps on it as well but because the track has worn and aged it doesn't have quite as much grip. The tires fall off everything. We don't complain about it as much."
IS THE BUMP REALLY THAT BIG OF A DEAL?: "Oh yeah. The primary thing we are working on is getting through the bump. That's on our mind, definitely."
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON POSSIBLY WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP: "I think those guys have been in position and have earned a lot of respect because they have been there but at the same time they caught a lot of flack because they haven't been able to pull it off. Those guys are determined as anybody out there to pull off a championship because they've been so close before and they want it really bad. Obviously we're not giving up from where we are at in seventh and the way things have been going for us, but if I was going to put my bet on anybody I think Jimmie's determination and Chad Knaus and that Lowe's team, those guys know how to get it done at the end of the day."
IF YOU ARE COMPETING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP, IS THERE A NUMBER YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO BE WITHIN GOING TO HOMESTEAD?: "I think there is always a range that you want to be within. Usually the range I want to be is leading (laughs). It doesn't matter by how much its just leading because you have to force other people to go after it. Anything can happen. I just know the range we are at right now is too far back and we need to close that gap significantly. We need to cut it in half the next two races at least. That's the only thing that will give us some excitement and encouragement for Homestead."
SO HAVE YOU STOPPED POINTS RACING AND ARE DRIVING TO WIN?: "We stopped points racing a few weeks ago. When we had our third problem straight in the Chase we stopped points racing at that moment and just started racing our guts out. If it means we take more risks, then we take more risks. If it means we stretch on fuel mileage, then we stretch on fuel mileage. It doesn't mean that we think we are out of it. It just means we're not points racing."
DO YOU PREFER RACING TO WIN?: "Oh absolutely. But don't get me wrong, I'd rather be up there leading the points and paying attention to what we need to do to win the championship. We didn't really have a choice. You go out there and do what we're doing now and hope that it turns around or some significant gain in the points happens some way through your performance and through what happens to other guys. Then it'd put us right back into it."
WHAT IMPRESSES YOU MOST ABOUT DENNY HAMLIN?: "A lot of things. I'm extremely impressed with his driving ability. I think he has a lot of talent but I've always said the thing that has impressed me the most is the job that he does in Martinsville. I think Martinsville is one of the really tough race tracks on the circuit. It's impressive to win back- to-back Pocono races but I think it's something else to go and run as good as he has at Martinsville. I don't care if you run thousands of laps in a late model there, you get in a big heavy Cup car and it's different a deal."
ON WHERE THE TEAM IS NOW VS. THIS TIME LAST YEAR: "We're a long ways ahead of where we were. Just really the last six months we've made huge gains with the setups, the cars, the comfort, the chemistry. I wish where we are at today we were (at) six months ago. I think it'd be a totally different deal happening with this championship but it's got me extremely excited for next year."
ON THE CHANGE TO THE CAR OF TOMORROW NEXT YEAR: "It's really all about what we are learning. We still have the current car that we're going to run a lot. The Car of Tomorrow I feel like we're going to find a lot of the same technology, a lot of the same philosophies. To be able to have a crew chief like Steve Letarte and the job he's doing and the pit crew and the team we have, I don't care what car we are driving. We could run anything out there and I'd feel good about it."
ON TERRY LABONTE'S LAST RACE HERE: "Terry's been an awesome teammate. We attended a dinner last night that was really spectacular. I learned more about Terry last night in an hour or two than I had in the 12 years of being his teammate. I've never seen the guy talk so much being as excited as he was and surrounded by people that have supported him for so long. It was very cool. He's been that quiet guy but yet he's been a solid class act on the race track and off. It's sad to see a guy like him not be out there on the race track after this weekend but it's pretty awesome what he's accomplished over the years especially winning his first championship and then going 12 years and winning your second championship. I think that says a lot about his driving ability."
ON TERRY PUSHING HIM TO PIT ROAD LAST WEEKEND: "Terry has always been a great teammate. We battled for the championship in '06 and we never had any controversy or issues. I asked Terry last night, 'I can't remember any (issues). Do you?' And he was like no I don't remember any. The teams battled within themselves at the shop but Terry and I always got along great and raced each other hard and clean. I don't even know if we've ever bumped wheels out there on the race track. But Terry is the kind of driver that is meticulous. He's probably one of the most patient race car drivers I've ever been around and why he was always there at the end of the day. The guy just knew how to avoid the instances and stay out of trouble but position himself to be there in contention at the end of the race and that takes a lot of patience."
DID YOU KNOW HE WAS GOING TO PUSH YOU?: "I had no idea. I was rolling along there and then at the last second somebody said Terry is going to come down there and push you and I'm like OK. It's funny because if you look back on that it hurt Jimmie by me getting pushed because the caution didn't come out but it could have been something that really helped us a bunch if we had been out of gas and not been a fuel pump issue."
ON TERRY LABONTE'S STORY ABOUT PLANNING TO RETALIATE WITH DALE EARNHARDT: "One thing about Terry, you don't want to get him mad. He might be extremely patient and just a super nice guy and a clean racer but don't make him mad. Everybody knows that the Labonte brothers can get upset but it takes a lot to get him upset."
WOULD YOU CONSIDER RUNNING A LIMITED SCHEDULE WHEN YOU'RE ABOUT TO RETIRE?: "I think it's a great option. I think if you can position yourself to do something like that you'll probably see guys race longer because it's a grueling grind, 38 weeks and the championship, but that's what the sponsors want and as a competitor you want to battle for the championship. If you get to that point where you feel like you still want to be out there, are good enough to be out there but maybe not battle for the championship, then that sure is a nice option to be able to still get out there and compete at selected events."
ON NOT BEING READY FOR RETIREMENT: "I'm not ready for that, no. I'm ready for a vacation but I'm not ready for that. I still feel like I've got championships left in me."
ON HIS PREVIOUS FINISHES HERE: "It does (go in extremes). I can't explain it. It just happens. We've been here before and been in contention to win. We've been here before and I felt like we didn't have a car capable of being on the lead lap. It's hard to explain why one year you can be good and the next year you can't. A lot has changed in the sport - the setups, the cars and everything. That's something we've been trying to get on top of. I feel like we started to hit on something here earlier this year. I feel like we're a lot closer right now than we've ever been."
-credit: gm racing