NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
FOOD CITY 500
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 16, 2012
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed appeal process of the No. 48 Daytona penalties, how you learn from a track you only race one time a year, what celebrities he has met in the past and more. Full transcript.
ON THE APPEAL PROCESS OF THE NO. 48 THIS WEEK AND GOING INTO THE NEXT STAGE OF THE PROCESS. “You know I kind of feel the same way that I did before. I feel like until that process is completely finished there’s not a lot to be said. I feel like that Hendrick Motorsports definitely feels like there is a reason to be appealing, or we wouldn’t be taking this next step. Whatever the decision that is made, we will live with it and move on. We feel like we are in the right and they [NASCAR] feel like they are, and that’s why there is an appeal process.”
DO YOU THINK THERE IS ANY MORE HOPE THAT (JOHN) MIDDLEBROOK (NASCAR CHIEF APPELLATE OFFICER) HAS REDUCED THE PUNISHMENTS IN THE ONLY THREE APPEALS THAT HE HAS HEARD? “All I can say is that you just have hope that we get an opportunity to get the results that we feel like we are capable of. We’ll just wait and see.”
YOU WERE A BIG CRITIC OF THE CAMERAS LAST YEAR … “Did they change it?” THEY CHANGED IT. “Yay, Bristol. Way to go Bristol.” I THINK its NASCAR. “Yay, NASCAR. It’s a group effort. Bristol and NASCAR, thank you.”
THEY SPLIT EACH SECTION IN HALF; YOU ONLY DRIVE THROUGH ABOUT SIX STALLS INSTEAD OF ELEVEN. “Yeah, and that gets tricky. When you start doing it that way it starts becoming a judgment call. There are still slight advantages to certain stalls, but the increments of the advantages gets much smaller when you do that. It needed to be done. There is no track that we should go to this day and age that there should be that big of an advantage in certain pit stalls. We all know track position is important, qualifying is important, and it still will be. We’re going to put a lot of effort into that. But it’s nice to know that no matter where we qualify; at least on pit road we should be able to have a much fairer pit stall location. We had such a great car here last time, and it truly was just lost coming off of pit road, and at no fault of my pit crew.”
DO YOU COME BACK HERE STILL THINKING ABOUT THAT AUGUST RACE? “I think of just how good we were. I think of how good we ran. We went over all of notes this week preparing for this race. You think back to the August race and how just coming off pit road if we were a couple of positions ahead of where we were what the outcome may have been.”
YOU’VE RACED IN TONY (STEWART’S) PRELUDE BEFORE. IT’S BEEN ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK THAT DANICA (PATRICK) IS GOING TO RUN IN THE PRELUDE. CAN YOU GIVE US YOUR THOUGHTS ON HER RUNNING THE PRELUDE?
“I think it’s great. It’s a fun event. Those cars are a blast to drive. I don’t know how much dirt experience that she has, but it will be an education for sure.”
(BRIAN) VICKERS IS BACK THIS WEEK, DO YOU THINK WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM AND GETTING INVOLVED IN SOME INCIDENTS WITH SOME OTHER GUYS AT THE END OF THE LAST YEAR HURT HIS CHANCES AT ALL? “If you just look at all the shake-ups with teams, and where your position was in those teams had an effect. Kasey Kahne already had an opportunity lined up before he went to Red Bull, so I think Brian (Vickers) kind of had all his eggs in one basket there. When that team made their decision to move on it put him in a very tough position. He’s a talented race car driver. He deserves to be out here, and I’m glad he is getting another shot at it. Hopefully it goes well for him. I’m pretty sure he would like to put Martinsville from last year behind him. I don’t think that was the brightest part of his racing career, but he has a lot of other great moments to be able to back up. I think now that he has another shot at it, he’s humble and appreciative of the opportunity, and he’s looking forward to getting that second chance.”
YOU’RE RUNNING HERE AT A SHORT TRACK IN BRISTOL THIS WEEK, NEXT WEEK YOU GO TO CALIFORNIA, AND THEN WE’RE BACK TO A SHORT TRACK AT MARTINSVILLE, WHAT’S THE HARDEST PART OF THE SCHEDULE? “I think that’s one of the things that make this sport so unique. I also think what makes its true talented teams rise to the top is the challenges of the different types of race tracks. To me it wouldn’t matter if you went straight from Bristol to Martinsville. They are like complete two total opposite race tracks, and the challenges that just come with that let alone throw in a two-mile high-speed oval all the way on the West Coast. Again, you can just go down the list on the schedule and all the way to the Chase and how the Chase for the Sprint Cup is formatted, and you’ve got to be a great team, a great driver, a great crew chief, you’ve got to have it all. That’s what I think makes it so stuff to win this championship.”
HOW MUCH CAN YOU LEARN IN CALIFORNIA? YOU ONLY RACE THERE ONCE A YEAR. DO YOU GO THERE AND HAVE TO LEARN WHEN YOU ARE THERE? HOW MUCH CAN YOU TAKE TO IMPROVE FROM ONE YEAR TO THE NEXT? “It doesn’t take you very many laps to get back into the rhythm. You take notes, and you go back to previous races on set-up, on what you did there as a driver. The biggest challenge when you go to a track once is if Goodyear changes the tire. That’s the biggest challenge, especially if it’s a construction change. Those are the things you are learning on the fly that you just don’t know how it’s going to work out.”
HORSEPOWER IS A HUGE THING AT CALIFORNIA, ARE YOU HAPPY WITH WHERE YOUR ENGINE PROGRAM IS GOING INTO CALIFORNIA? “Yeah, I feel really good about it.”
DID YOU EVER GO TO NASCAR AFTER THE AUGUST RACE ABOUT THE TIMING SITUATION? “I didn’t have to. There’s nothing better than being captured on live television, and the announcers going ‘what is going on with pit road?’ If I looked at Twitter and basically social media and every racing publication, every one of them was focused on it. I’m just surprised it took that long. It’s been happening here for a while. It’s just a shame it took that long. I’m glad that they finally did address it.”
YOU’RE GOING TO CALIFORNIA NEXT WEEK WHERE A LOT OF THE MOVIE STARTS LIVE, WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CELEBRITY YOU HAVE MET AND DO YOU HAVE ANY GOOD STORIES FROM MEETING CELEBRITIES? “I can’t say I have any great stories. I remember several years ago meeting Tom Cruise for the first time at an Oscar party. And there was a big long line of people that were there to meet him. Rick Hendrick, because he’s friends with Tom, said if you get a chance go up and say hi to him, and tell him I said hi. There was such a long line. I was just like I’m not going to bother him. I think somebody at his table told him I was standing there and I started to walk away, and he stood up and yelled ‘Jeff, Jeff’, and waved me back over. I was like, who me? I thought that was pretty cool. I met Tom Hanks last year. I always wanted to meet Tom Hanks. He’s just an incredible actor. He’s won what, two Oscars? That’s pretty awesome. I met Meryl Streep a few years ago. I think she’s just incredible. So, I’ve met some really cool people and I feel very fortunate.”
LAST WEEK IT SEEMED WHEN YOU WERE TALKING ON THE RADIO THAT YOUR BASE SET-UP WAS OFF AND THERE WASN’T MUCH YOU COULD DO DURING THE RACE. “The interesting thing about last week was that I feel like whether it be bump stops or shocks, we feel like we missed the package. But yet, when we got in clean air we were almost as fast as the leader. So, it just again goes to show you how important qualifying and clean air is. We were making some slight progress, but not much. We didn’t feel like we were very good in traffic, but knowing how the car still had speed in it when we did have that clean air was promising. I feel like that we can be off and can’t just ever give up. We can’t just stop working at it. Luckily the restarts worked in our favor there at the end to give us a few extra positions. We also know that we learned a lot. Vegas is tricky. You go back last year where Tony (Stewart) was so strong at Vegas, but then he struggled for the next 1.5-mile tracks. It’s one of those things where Vegas is so rough that you’ve got to get over the bumps as well as have the aero package to get the downforce and be good at being in traffic. It’s a tricky place, and we’ll take what we learned there and try to apply it the best we know how to do at other tracks. We can’t just say well this worked or didn’t work at Vegas; it’s going to work at Texas. It’s just not the case.”
IF THINGS GO THROUGH, JIMMIE (JOHNSON) WILL PROBABLY NOT BE WITHOUT CHAD (KNAUS, CREW CHIEF) FOR A WHILE. HOW MUCH OF A DISRUPTION IS THAT FOR YOU TO LOSE YOUR CREW CHIEF FOR TWO, THREE, OR FOUR RACES? WHAT EFFECT WOULD THAT BE ON THE TEAM? “For me it would be a disruption. For Jimmie Johnson it doesn’t seem to be. I think that a sign of a good crew chief is that when they step away, whatever takes them away for a test, a race weekend, or several race weekends, the testament of a great leader is someone that can step away and the people either underneath him or people that he puts in place can still follow through and execute as if they didn’t skip a beat. I think everybody knows that Chad (Knaus) is one of the best crew chiefs out here if not the best, and he’s valuable. But, you’ve got to give Jimmie and the team and everything that Chad has orchestrated and put together a lot more credit. If that would be the case, they will show just like they did, and have in previous year’s that they are still going to be a team that you’ll battle for the win whether Chad is here or not. Basically his influences are always going to be here.”
IT IS ST. PATRICK’S DAY WEEKEND; DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE THEORY THAT GREEN RACE CARS ARE UNLUCKY? “I did until I had a race car that had green on it and I won a lot with it.”
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