Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, met with member of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed tires, Texas Motor Speedway, the new race car, his crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his new teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., and more. HOW...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, met with member of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed tires, Texas Motor Speedway, the new race car, his crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his new teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., and more.
HOW MUCH INPUT SHOULD DRIVERS AND TEAMS HAVE ON TIRE CHOICES? "You have to have faith in your tire manufacturer. Goodyear is a great company and they have put a lot of effort and work in to it. A lot of times, those of us who think we know too much, or everything, can just get ourselves in troubles. I do think that there is input there. That is why we tire test with them. There is input from NASCAR. It is a tough business that they are in to build tires for these race cars. These are not easy race cars to build tires for and I thought we had a very productive tire test in Darlington which is a new repave. I feel like they built a good tire.
"So far here the tire feels pretty good. Atlanta, to me, is the only one that we have had a real issue with this year, other than that, I feel like they have had a good job."
TALK ABOUT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND YOUR LIKES AND DISLIKES: "It is a very challenging race track. That can be good and that can be bad for us. We have been real hit or miss here. We have been good enough to win at times, but we haven't been good enough on a consistent basis to pull off that win. There are bumps, there are transitions, there is a lot of grip, very fast race track. I think facility wise; I think this place is the top. You look at what they have put in the whole entire facility; it is the best that is out there. It is a great purse, all those things are good but the track is definitely a very challenging one.
"It is frustrating that the two times, maybe three times, I feel like we were capable of winning here, that we didn't do it. We have been leading here with less than 50 laps to go and didn't pull off the win and those are frustrating."
DO YOU FEEL HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAS FOUND WHAT WAS NEEDED TO BE COMPETITIVE THIS WEEKEND ON ANOTHER 1.5-MILE TRACK? "I feel like we have been competitive every weekend, it doesn't always show up in the results. There are some other teams that have got off to a better start than us. You compare to last year, the type of season we had, yea, looks like things have been pretty rough for us. But it hasn't been. We have been competitive, we have been leading laps, we have been running good and even at the 1.5-mile, we have been extremely good. I think Bristol is about the only track we have struggled at this whole year. Yes, I feel good about it. This year I feel like one of the better teams on the mile and half-tracks. This is a track that we have struggled at in past so you never know exactly how good you are going to be even if you run good at the other ones. "
IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE YOUR TEAMMATES OUT THERE RUNNING WELL TOO? "It is extremely important. If you have your teammates out there who are competitive then it elevates the whole organization. It allows you to have great feedback to bounce ideas off of. If you are struggling, you can look at their setup, their driving styles, share information and vice versa. It is crucial, definitely. It is crucial to share information but it is more crucial to have teammates that are competitive. That have good information to gather and to share, I think that is where we have really stepped it up over the last several years is by having four competitive race teams."
ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH HOW YOUR CAR IS TODAY? "Don't base it on our first lap out. We were pretty far off the first lap out and I was a little nervous. But, after that, we stepped it up, the speed came and the last couple laps that we have made were really good. I was happily surprised at how good it felt.
"I expect to have a really good race, I think this race track we have seen multiple groves the last few times we have been here. We have seen some great races and I don't see that really changing. I think that it is going to pretty much continue to be exciting racing like it always is. I haven't seen where this car, I think some of the first times it been challenged setup wise and speed wise and with the tires, but as far as the racing it has been consistently good racing."
DO YOU THINK IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE YOU WIN HERE AND JUNIOR WINS PERIOD: "I hope so. Certainly from Junior's standpoint, I feel like they have been strong this year and I think if they continue to do that they are going to win eventually. I know they hope sooner than later and I feel confident that they will. I think for us, I feel like we are knocking on the door. We are going to have tracks that we go to that we are going to be strong and have a shot at winning. Like I said, this track has been hit or miss for us and I hope this is a weekend that we are hitting on all eight cylinders and put ourselves in the right position.
YOU ALWAYS SEEM SO CALM, DO YOU EVER GET RILED UP ON THE TRACK: Hmmm, hum. Yup. You just have to be inside the car with me when it happens. (LAUGHS). Oh, yea."
WHAT DO YOU DO TO CALM DOWN? "I think about the consequences. How do we get the best finish. Because in order to get the best finish, you can't get made, you can't let your frustration and your temper take over, it is only going to cost you positions in the points. There are all kinds of situations that cause frustrations and get everybody fired up. Sometimes just because you car is not as good as you want it to be. Sometimes you make a mistake, you are mad at that. Sometimes your competitors, maybe you didn't like something they did. The list just goes on and on. There are a thousand things throughout a race that can happen that will end up upsetting somebody."
DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE PRICE OF GAS? "Huh eh. (LAUGHS) I am thankful we get it for free from Sunoco. The price of gas has affected a lot of things. You can look at the fan base we have, how much they have to travel, the motorhomes and wonder how much the economy and the fuel prices are affecting them. Some things are out of your hands and that is one of them that is kind of out of our hands right now.
"I think we all need to be proactive in it. I think they (NASCAR) has a lot on their plate. There is a lot to have to work with and deal with. I think all of us should play a role in being more fuel efficient in looking at future options. I hope that they are. I think they (NASCAR) are thinking about it, but I don't know where we are at with it. I think a lot it kind of goes back to the car manufacturers as well as the manufacturers. I think a lot of it rides in their hands."
WHAT KIND OF FEEDBACK DID YOU GET FOLLOWING YOUR COMMENTS AFTER YOUR ACCIDENT AT LAS VEGAS? "I got the most feedback from Bruton (Smith) and Chris Powell and the folks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that they were going to take the steps that need to be taken to fix that area of the race track. I will be honest, I haven't looked on the back straightaway here, I don't think this track as that issue. I just hope it just drew enough attention that it got all the track operators and people thinking about it and looking at it. Hopefully, if they had an issue, they are fixing it.
"I think there are tracks out there that are a little bit behind when it comes to some of the safety features. I think Pocono is one of them, but they have stepped it up over the years, they could go further. But they aren't the only ones. Every track we go to, there is something that can always be better. Usually we are more reactive than proactive. But I hit a way there (Pocono) two years ago really really hard, they had the soft wall. If they hadn't, I would have been in big trouble. In that sense, they have done a good job there.
"But, unless I went around and inspected every single track, honestly I can't pinpoint. It is usually when you go through a wreck, or you see a wreck when you start to recognize those things. It is not our job to go and inspect the race tracks before those races occur. We rely on NASCAR and the race tracks to do those things for us.
"The Vegas thing was a unique and scary thing and it is one of those one in every 500 wrecks over there that you are going to get to that part of the wall. So, it is something that could very easily get overlooked and it probably was and now it won't be. I am sure there are things like that at a lot of tracks. But, we will hope that those tracks, after that wreck, even Pocono, they will look at some things and say hey, even we need to make some improvements. But I can't tell you, I haven't talked to them."
IS IT HARD TO GET OVER A WRECK LIKE THAT? "Well, I had to go test the next two days in Phoenix, so it didn't take me too long. Physically, it was probably about a week to get through it. When you have been racing as long as I have been racing, you get through them; you get past them pretty quick and move on.
"I was sore, but it was a different kind of sore than I have gone through before. It was like sore through my abdomen. I hit my elbow and things like that and my foot. You might have sore ribs or something like that other times, but I went pretty far forward. Everything did its job. The Hans Device, the seatbelts, the seat, and the way the car crushed. Everything did its job except for the wall that was the part of it that took most of it. That was not fun, but you go through those things, I was pretty happy to get through it as good as I did."
WHAT GRADE WOULD YOU GIVE NASCAR ON THEIR SAFETY ADVANCEMENTS? "If you look at the safer barriers, that is huge. I think that while they put everything that was recommended by University of Nebraska and NASCAR, I don't think there should be any spot that a car can possible get to shouldn't be on a race track, inside, outside walls. Mandating the Hans Device, Huge.
"Dr. (John) Melvin, who they have been in association with who does the safety meetings at Daytona and stuff, he is fantastic. That guy, he knows his stuff.
"I feel like we have kind of been ahead of a lot of teams working on our seat technology, sled testing for a number of years. Dr. Melvin has played a big part in making that really come along faster. I look at him as a part of NASCAR. So in that sense, I give them a great grade. But, there are always ways we can be better. I am not criticizing anybody. I just want it to better. I just don't want it to happen again,"
WHERE DO YOU SEE CHILDRESS RACING IN THE GARAGE AREA: "As a whole, I would put them in the top-four, but I wouldn't put them as the top, even they are leading the points right now. I mean, just because, they have been consistent, but they haven't dominated, so, to me, Gibbs has been really strong this year, they have dominated. When you look at the guys to beat, I think they have been there more so than Childress has been. But Childress is strong, they have been stepping it up for the last few years and I always look to them to be a threat when it comes down to certain races and the championship. I felt like, last year Bowyer impressed the heck out of me and that whole team did. They are capable of it."
IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DALE JUNIOR DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS BEFORE YOUR WERE TEAMMATES? "Yes, it is definitely different. We just didn't see one another or talk a whole lot before, from time to time we would, we always go along good. Raced hard on the race track. Yes. I definitely see each other a lot more and talk a lot more now. We text one another. Back and forth. I flew home with him after Martinsville last week, so we to talk a lot then. I like having him as a teammate, man. He is a lot of fun to have around and knowledgeable and bringing a lot to the table. I feel like both he and Tony Eury, Jr. have done that for Hendrick Motorsports and I like that.
"You know, people think of us as rivals, I think you will get that if you talk to the fans. As competitors out there, every driver out there is my rival because they are a competitor. But, I never looked as him as a rival. I looked at him as a competitor.
"He is always going to be the most popular guy no matter what team he drives for. My souvenir sales are never going to be as good as his. So, it doesn't matter if he is driving for Hendrick or DEI or whoever he went to drive for, that part of it was never going to change. To me, it hasn't been that big of a transition."
TALK ABOUT JEFF BURTON AS A DRIVER: "Jeff is a lot like what he is outside the race car, inside the race car. He doesn't get over emotional. He knows when and how to get it done. He is a smart race car driver.
"I think he is also a guy that has confidence. He knows what has gotten him to where he is. He knows how close he has been to winning a championship in the past, winning races, being competitive. You get knocked down a few notches sometimes your know, but as long as you still have some of that in you, when you get in the right situation, like he is at Childress, then you can start gaining that confidence back. I think that is what happened. Between what Childress has been working on and what Jeff brings to the table from a drivers standpoint has allowed them to build not only himself, but the whole organization."
CAN SPEAK TO KYLE PETTY NOT BEING IN THE NO. 45 THIS WEEKEND? "To me, it is a business and you have to do what is best for the business. I think we all want to see a Petty driving as well as owning. But, I think once that car falls out of the top-35 in points, Kyle has to make a decision that is based on what is going to help them give their sponsors the most benefit and the team. So I think it is smart what they are doing.
"The big challenge and question is do they put their efforts in a young up and coming driver like Chad McCumbee and put our future in him. Or do they get a veteran driver who can get them in the race or a past champions provisional or something like that to make sure we are in the race every weekend. That is the toughest thing."
-credit: gm racing