BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS: HOW HAS TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CHANGED AND EVOLVED OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS AND WHERE DOES IT RANK ON YOUR LIST? "The facility is impressive. You're in awe when you...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS:
HOW HAS TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CHANGED AND EVOLVED OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS
AND WHERE DOES IT RANK ON YOUR LIST?
"The facility is impressive. You're in awe when you come into this place for the first time. I have that same feeling inside every time I come here. This is an impressive race track. I think the first time we all came here, we thought it was an impressive place but the race track needs some work. They've done a lot of work to really make this race track what it is today, which is a really good race track. I think this could be a weekend of multi-groove racing and some great action out there. It's always been a really tough place to pass on. It's still going to be tough, but every time we come here it seems like that groove widens out and it gets a little bit easier."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR YOU TO WIN AT TMS?
"Oh, it would mean a lot. We've been so close a couple of times and they've slipped away from us. We've had pretty much across the board everything that can happen to you -- from crashes to being in victory lane and not getting it. I'm just glad we've got two chances a year now to try to get that. It would mean a lot to me. It's a big race. It's an important race. It's a race track that's eluded us."
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO DO WELL AT TMS?
"It's a very fast race track. You really need to have a car that's got a lot of downforce and a lot of balance. There's some pretty big bumps as well. To me, this is one of the most difficult race tracks to get the car working and get it balanced. There's basically one groove. And that's the bottom. To get the car to go through the transitions and stick and be comfortable and then make it over the bumps and not get too tight up off the corners because the walls come at you fairly quick and the car really wants to drift out of the wall. So, there is a long list of things. It takes a lot. This is not an easy place to get around."
"We did race runs and actually got too caught up in our race runs to really gather information for tomorrow so the team can go tonight and just put it all together and bring something for tomorrow. We got a little delayed. We only made one qualifying run and it wasn't a great run. We qualified 2nd last time so we're probably going to go back to that set-up and hope it pays off for us for qualifying."
WHAT ARE YOU PLANS FOR THE OFF- WEEK?
"I know where I'm going but I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to the mountains. I haven't made any plans. I'm just going to play it by ear -- me and my girlfriend. We're also testing at Richmond."
HOW HAS THIS TRACK CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
"The bumps have gotten worse. But I think the grove has worked itself out and widened out a little bit. It's a little bit more forgiving. It's really fast. It hasn't changed a lot. I think our cars have changed more than anything else has.
HAVE YOU ADAPTED TO THE TRACK MORE THAN IT HAS TO YOU?
"After we had some of the big things happen here, and they made some changes, that helped. They widened the groove out. They didn't have the seam problems and water issues and things like that. Since they've done that, no, the track hasn't changed other than settling in some places where the bumps are bigger. And our cars have really adapted.
IS THIS JUST NOT AS HAIRY A PLACE TO DRIVE AS IT WAS FOR THE FIRST TWO OR
"Oh it's hairy, but it's not as hairy (laughs). If there is water coming up through the race track, it's hairy. That was an issue we had the first year, but they fixed all that. I like racing here. It's a very challenging race tracks. It's one of the most difficult tracks to drive and to get your car working well at and obviously to win, because I haven't figured that one out yet."
IS TURN 2 STILL WEIRD OR HAS EVERYONE GOTTEN USED TO IT?
"Turn 2 and Turn 4. The transitions are just a little too abrupt and the wall comes at you. It's not as bad as it used to be in Turn 4, but Turn 2 is pretty extreme. The way you come off the corner, you've got nice banking, but then it really flattens off. I think they wanted flat straightaways, and they probably should have kept a little more banking in the straightaways. When you're by yourself, it just makes your car want to drift to the wall. So it really makes it difficult to get side-by-side. But as the groove has widened out in the middle of the corner, it's allowed us to get a run on guys who may pass us.
"Facility-wise, this is the cream of the crop. It's a very impressive place in every aspect -- things for the competitors, the garage area, the coach lot, the roads getting in and out of here, the gym and the restaurant and all that stuff --- it's really impressive."
ON AUCTIONING OFF A CORVETTE FOR CHARITY
"I did want to mention that we're raffling off a Corvette for the Jeff Gordon Foundation and TMS and General Motors have been very generous to help us with a space out here in front of the grandstands for it. People get a chance to win a Corvette for $100."
DO YOU FIND A BIGGER RESPONSE FOR THAT SORT OF THING IN THIS PART OF THE
"No, this is a very popular event. I think the surrounding areas here bring in a lot of fans. The facility brings in people from outside of the surrounding areas, so you get a lot of response to fans supporting the drivers, the teams, the sponsors and charity events."
AT TALLADEGA, YOU WILL BE USING SOFTER BUMPERS. IS THAT GOING TO HELP
WITH THE BUMP-DRAFTING SITUATION?
"I hope so. Of course, it's not going to do anything for the last lap. On the last lap, guys are going to say hey I don't need water in the engine anymore. I don't care if it overheats. It might just help out the first three-quarters of the race and maybe make guys think a little bit more about things. It's not going to change the way I race much. I've gotten into situations where I've bumped some guys harder than I wanted to, but for the most part I try to just barely push a guy or stay off of him and just let the air push the cars. So it's going to be a big adjustment for some guys. I hope we see less bump-drafting because we just really need to get away from it. I'm excited that NASCAR is going something. I was hoping for something like that a while ago. I'm curious to see how they're going to govern that. There's a lot going on behind that front bumper that's easy to hide for the teams with all the ducting and things for the radiator and the oil coolers and everything else. I don't know how they're going to know what one guy has in there and what another guy doesn't."
ON SUNDAY'S RACE
"We're really experimenting. This wasn't our best track last year and we came here and tested last year and got some good information. We're just building on that plus the races here last year. So we did more race runs today than qualifying runs. We've just got to get that feel. The car was doing some things I wasn't real happy with. So we're working real hard on it. We learned a lot in practice. It wasn't spectacular, but we learned a lot."
ARE YOU GETTING MORE COMFORTABLE IN THE CARS THIS YEAR?
"Oh yeah, the comfort is there. This is our biggest challenge; our biggest test. This is probably one of the most difficult tracks to get that feel in every aspect -- because it's fast and narrow, but it also has big bumps that you have to deal with. We expect it to be a challenge again this weekend."