NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
2011 DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS
DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
February 16, 2011
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his expectations for upcoming Thursday and Sunday racing at Daytona, two-car racing, the tribute to Dale Earnhardt Sr. on lap 3 of the Daytona 500, and more. Full Transcript:
ON THE NEW DAYTONA SPEEDWAY TRACK SURFACE
“Oh, it’s phenomenal. They did an awesome job. It’s got a lot of grip. It’s really smooth. I think they did a fantastic job and obviously it’s changed how we’re going to race here in Daytona, which I think all of us expected. I think it’s going to make for a spectacular race.”
NASCAR HAS REDUCED THE RESTRICTOR PLATE 1/64TH OF AN INCH THIS MORNING. HOW WILL THIS IMPACT THE RACE AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO BE FOCUSED ON?
“We’re going to be focused on whatever it takes to win the race. We’ve been seeing that the two-car pushing has obviously dominated practice and the race so far with the Bud Shootout; and it’s going to continue to do that. To me, the smaller restrictor plate only makes it easier to push. And then (they) narrowed down the opening and the pressure valve and all that stuff, we’re not going to be able to push as long, but we’re still going to push. So, it’s just going to be about trying to find somebody; right now I’m just thinking about the 150’s (Gatorade Duel Qualifying Races) and who we partner-up with to push. And then what you’re going to see, which I think is kind of cool, what you’re going to see in the 150’s is a swap-over, which is what we practiced in testing. In almost the entire test, anytime we were drafting, was how fast you could go from being the guy pushing to being the guy out front being pushed and how much time you could really save in that swap-over. So I think that’s probably what you’re going to see. It’s not an exact science. Sometimes it goes smooth and sometimes it doesn’t; and if it doesn’t go smoothly, then it’s about the cars behind you and how fast they swallow you up.”
WHAT’S YOUR GUESS ABOUT HOW MANY LAPS YOU CAN LAST IN A TWO-CAR NOW? WILL IT BE SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCED?
“I won’t know until we get out there (for practice). It’s weird because in testing we were going like four laps. And then we got here and saw guys going much further than that. And plus the nighttime cool race allowed us to go a lot further. So, I think we’ll probably be back to three or four laps.”
IS THIS KIND OF RACING GOOD FOR NASCAR? I WONDER IF NASCAR DOESN’T THINK SO BECAUSE THEY’RE MAKING THESE KINDS OF CHANGES.
“Well I think that it’s something that we all have to try to get our arms around and accept; because as I mentioned the other day in the media center, once you gain the knowledge of how this works and how much faster your car can go teamed up with one other car like this, you’re not going to watch those guys just drive away from you. I think that it’s also something that the fans need to accept as well because I think there is some very exciting and entertaining aspects of it. I’ve had a lot of people have mixed emotions and several people have said to me, ‘Hey, I thought that was pretty cool. It wasn’t want I’m used to, but it’s pretty cool.’ So, I just don’t think you’re going to be able to change that. It doesn’t matter if we push for three-quarters of a lap; we’re going to push if that’s what makes us go faster.”
HAVE YOU GUYS ADJUSTED TO THE CLOSING SPEEDS YET?
“There is no adjusting to it. It’s just your spotter doing the best he possibly can to guide you through it. We’ve heard some guys that are teammates going to one (radio) channel with one spotter. So there are a lot of interesting things going on right now on the best way to avoid the closing rate speeds and the accidents that could happen from that. If it’s just two cars in front of you, it’s pretty easy to go right around them.
“It’s when they are side-by-side and two-by-two and you come up on them very fast. And then the guy behind you, his spotter has to do a good job of saying, ‘Hey, you guys are coming up on a group and you’re probably going to need to check-up and slow down.'”
SO DOES THAT MEAN YOU GUYS HAVE TO THINK A LITTLE QUICKER AND THINK MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING?
“Let me tell you. From inside the car, it’s intense. We might only be two cars out there, but it’s intense because if you’re pushing, you’re trying to follow that guy not knowing where you’re going. You can’t see anything. And you’re just following that car and your spotter is telling you what’s coming up, which is pretty crazy at 200 mph. But the guy out front, he’s got to make sure he doesn’t lose the guy behind him.
“Sometimes when you get close to a pack in front of you, you’ll start to gain speed and you can actually pull away from the guy. And as soon as you pull away from him, your speed just stops.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE POINTS?
“I’m not even thinking about the points right now. To me it still pays the most to win and each position that I can gain out there on the track is a gain in points. So, that’s the only way we’re really looking at it right now. If it makes it a little easier for all of us to understand and follow, then great. The way I’ve always approached racing is to me it’s pretty black and white. If I finish ahead of the guy ahead of me then I’m going to get more points than the guys behind me. That has not changed. So, we’ll see how it shakes out for the championship at the end of the year. But I still think the best team is going to win the championship.
LOOKING AHEAD TO PHOENIX, WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR TO LAYING DOWN A QUICK LAP THERE?
“Well, when it comes to qualifying, it’s about getting into the corners aggressively; but getting the car turned through the middle. It seems like the exit really comes to you during qualifying runs there. You don’t have to worry about that too much. So it’s just getting in the corner deep and getting the car to turn.”
THIS IS THE LAST RACE BEFORE THEY RE-PAVE AND RE-CONFIGURE THE PHOENIX TRACK. DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE WITH THE CHANGES THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE THERE?
“When a track re-paves, they have all their reasons. And I feel like there are legitimate reasons. I tried to give them my input on what I’d like to see from a surface standpoint.
“The type of surface we have here is great for Daytona and for Talladega, but it’s not good for a place like Phoenix because we’ll be single-file racing and the type of tires that Goodyear is going to have to build for us to not abuse them and all the heat that they’re going to have to take is to me, not optimal. So, I think these tracks, especially these shorter tracks that are repaving, we’ve got to go to the contractors and the pavers and say hey, we don’t want what’s the latest and greatest that you’re going to lay on the highway. This is a race track. You need to build it for a race track and race tires and racing configurations. If they put in the variable banking I think that could be a good thing, but they’ve got to be really careful too. Doing the math to make sure that one groove is not a lot faster than another groove can be a tricky thing. So, I think (if) you work with Goodyear and work with the teams and with NASCAR and the people that are paving the project, that team effort can come up with something really good.”
JUST TO CLARIFY, ARE WE GOING TO SEE THIS KIND OF TWO-CAR RACING AT THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS?
“No. No, because downforce and grip means too much. You’ve got to understand we’re just right on that edge of not being able to do it here, as you saw in the Shootout. We saw guys spin out and crash. And a lot of that is because they get in the corner and put a lot of wheel into it and that guy maybe just touches him at the wrong time and you go through a transition and boom, the car spins out. Those transitions are too abrupt at the 1.5-mile tracks. You will not see that anywhere, at least for the next five or six years, at any track other than here and Talladega.”
WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITH CREW CHIEF, ALAN GUSTAFSON?
“It’s been awesome. I’ve had a blast working with Alan. He’s very intense and very focused. I feel like our personalities match-up well. He’s all business. And when I get to the race track, that’s how I like it to be. They’ve just built really great race cars for us over the winter and have worked really hard. It’s great to be on the front row for the Daytona 500; I think that’s really cool. And I hope that we can not only keep that momentum the rest of this week, but also when we leave here.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT SR. AND THAT HE’S ON EVERYBODY’S MIND THIS WEEKEND AND THE TRIBUTE FOR HIM ON LAP 3?
“Oh, that’s awesome. And you know, what Dale left behind with his legacy is just something that should be recognized and celebrated and I think for those of us who got a chance to race against him and be a friend of his, the sport has never been the same and never will be the same without him. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years (since his death), and I think that it’s a great opportunity for race fans and for our sport and everybody to pay tribute. I think that’s awesome.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEFF BURTON OVER THE PAST 17 YEARS AND PARTICULARLY HOW IT’S BEEN SINCE THAT TEXAS INCIDENT?
“It’s been good. It goes back further than 17 years because I raced with him in the Nationwide Series. Jeff has always been a great competitor and a fast driver and somebody that pretty much leaves his talking to what he does on the race track. He’s a guy who has a really good opinion and point of view on this sport and things that have happened in this sport over the years.
“He and I have always gotten along good. Right up until that moment in Texas, I feel like Jeff and I always had a lot of respect for one another.”
AND AFTER THAT?
“Obviously there was respect that was lost. I still to this day will never understand why it happened. But at the same time I do like Jeff a lot and look forward to racing with him a lot more in the future.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW NOSE ON THE CAR?
“It looks good. It’s a good-looking nose. We won’t really know the performance aspects of it for a little bit longer until we get to some of the other tracks when we leave here, but what I can see so far, I really like it.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW EASILY YOU GUYS CAN ADAPT NO MATTER WHAT THE CHANGES ARE? DO YOU HAVE TO DO MORE THINKING?
“Well, you’ve got to think it through just because you want to be smart and you want to optimize your performance. I don’t know if they had made the restrictor plate announcement at that time, so that’s a little bit new. But it’s something we’ve spent a lot of time talking about because we’re just going to make the changes and we’re going to optimize our airflow and everything to keep the engine cool and the oil temperature cool. And then we’re going to go out there, hopefully today, and we’re going to practice and test it out and we’ll know more then. I think you’d be surprised at how small those changes appear to us.”
HOW DOES THE WEATHER AFFECT THE RACE AND HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THAT?
“Well, right now, we need time on the track. With these changes we definitely would like to have some time on the track before tomorrow’s race to know how long we can push and what these changes are going to do. Hopefully this weather will clear out of here and we’ll get on the track.”
ON NASCAR’S 18 – 25 YEAR-OLD GRAPHIC, IS THERE A SENSE AT ALL THAT THERE IS A BIT OF AGING GOING ON? THERE AREN’T A LOT OF YOUNG GUYS IN THE SPORT
“Yeah, I think you could say that’s being recognized. If you look at some of the changes made to the Nationwide Series, back when I was coming up, the Nationwide Series was the feeder series to the Cup series and it had a lot of young talent in it. And there’s still a lot of talent over there, but I don’t know if they’re really being recognized. And it’s because of all the Cup drivers over there dominating; which is also a good thing because it gives them experience to race with that kind of talent.
“I think also, if you just look at that demographic, the 18 – 25, and what they’re interested in today. They’ve got their iphones and they’re into apps and it’s kind of a computer age, and I think we’ve kind of left technology behind in a way that’s hurt us a little bit; to be a little bit more current and relative to what’s going on with that group. I think NASCAR is making some steps to capture that, so we’ll see how it goes.”
ARE SPONSORS RELUCTANT TO GO WITH A YOUNG GUY, ESPECIALLY GIVEN THESE ECONOMIC TIMES?
“I think sponsors have always been reluctant to take a chance. But sometimes that chance is worth taking and can pay off big. I was fortunate that happened with me and Rick Hendrick and with DuPont; and I think it’s something that car owners should stay motivated by because the payoff can be really, really big, from a sponsor’s standpoint and from a team standpoint.”
ON THE DIFFICULTY OF BEING ABLE TO SEE IN THE TWO-CAR DRAFT, IT SEEMED LIKE THE REAR WING WAS A BIG PROBLEM WITH THE VISABILITY. WHY ARE WE STILL SEEING ISSUES OF VISABILITY WITH THESE CARS?
“Oh, the spoiler is far bigger than the wing. What happened was, in order to make the same aero numbers, downforce numbers, and drag numbers, or as close as possible as the wing, this is the size spoiler they had to come up with. If we were in December testing right now, going back, I would be talking to John Darby about hey, let’s bring a bunch of plates; let’s bring some different spoilers. And let’s see what we could do with that package. There is very little that they are going to be able to do from this point until the Daytona 500 other than like what I said earlier, that the two-car draft can be pretty darn exciting. We saw an awesome finish in the Bud Shootout. Were there 15 cars in that? No. there were only four.
“But in the Daytona 500 I think there could be more and I think it’s very exciting. So I think right now, we just need to accept it. But that’s the reason why the spoiler is as big as it is. And the other thing is, it’s not just the spoiler, it’s the height of the deck lids. Over the years, if you just look at the manufacturer’s production cars as well what makes great downforce for our cars and what looks the best, is a higher deck lid. And that’s just a trend on cars in general. And what that does is it makes it harder to see through to cars like we used to years ago.”
HOW WAS DISNEY?
“Oh, we had a blast. Disney was awesome. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Ella enjoyed herself more than I can ever describe. So we had a really good time.”
ON SAM BASS
“I’ve had a lot of interaction with Sam over the years. He designed the DuPont Chevrolet for us and Sam’s just such a great guy. He puts his heart in his work so much and he takes a lot of pride in it and he does an awesome job.”
WHAT HAS HE MEANT TO THE SPORT?
“Oh, my gosh. If you think of what he’s created and his designs and the input that he’s had over the years; all you’ve got to do is to go to his place and see all the cars that he’s designed. It’s very impressive.”
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE BRIAN VICKERS STORY IN MAXIM MAGAZINE?
“I knew they were doing a story. And if that’s the kind of stuff Brian is interested in bringing up, then I’m happy for him. He’s young and he’s obviously enjoying life.”
HIS SPONSOR MIGHT NOT MIND, BUT DO YOU THINK NASCAR WOULD?
“All, I can say is that’s not for me. I’ve had great times over the years, but you know I’m a family guy and I try to represent my sponsors in the way they’d like to be represented. And it is different for him. He’s young. He’s single. He’s got Red Bull as his sponsor, so I don’t know how they would perceive it.”
DID YOU LOOK AT HIM AS NAME-DROPPING A LITTLE BY SAYING LET’S CALL JEFF GORDON WHEN HE’S OUT WITH OTHER PEOPLE?
“Well, what I was going to say to him is the next time he’s out with a writer from Maxim Magazine, and he’s having a good time, he can forgget my phone number about calling me to join them.”
Note: Team Chevy press releases, high-resolution images, and media kit can be downloaded from the Team Chevy media website: http://media.gm.com/product/public/us/en/gmracing/news.html
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