CHEVY NSCS AT FONTANA — Jeff Gordon Press Conf. Transcript

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American Muscle


MARCH 23, 2012

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed the incident at Bristol with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and other topics.  Full transcript:

TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON TO DATE:  “There’s not much to talk about so far this season. Our cars, at times, have run really good, but it just seems like when we’re having good days something strange has come up that’s kept us from getting a good finish.  Daytona with the engine and then last week with the contact with Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). We definitely, there’s not an urgency, but we’re starting to feel a bit more pressure to start putting those good finishes together that I know we are capable of doing, which is the good thing.  That’s a good problem to have.  It’s when you don’t think you’re capable of doing it that makes it challenging.  I know we are and this is a good track for us to do that.”

HAVE YOU SPOKEN WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR. FOLLOWING BRISTOL AND WHAT WAS THE CONVERSATION?:  “You know, he reached out to me.  It was just a strange situation that happened where we were racing hard, racing for position after a restart and he definitely got into me, but you could do that 100 times and go on about your business, but in this particular case the tailpipe just lined up perfectly on the left rear. Really to me that is the much bigger issue than the contact between me and Junior.  I don’t understand why the tailpipes are even capable of getting to the left rear tire.  If that happens at a big, fast speedway then that’s a much bigger incident than what that was.  I’d like to see that addressed.  We talked and I’ve got respect for Dale and I know he has that for me as well.  We enjoy being teammates and we I think learned a little bit from that situation about when the time to race hard is and when it isn’t.”

DO YOU LOOK BACK ON LAST WEEK AND WONDER WHY THAT HAD TO HAPPEN WITH YOUR TEAMMATE?:  “Yeah, I mean when you’re at Bristol, especially on the restarts when there’s a big difference in the handling of cars at the beginning of a restart.  Some guys’ cars take off good, some are better five laps into a run, some are better 25 laps into a run and my car was one of those cars that was better the longer that we went. Junior’s was pretty good on the short runs right then.  To me, that’s when a lot of us would get side-by-side and I think that you’re always questioning why one person is racing you at that point as hard as they are.  Sometimes you’re racing hard to protect the position because you think your car is going to come in and other times you’re racing hard because you know your car is really good right then and you want to get the position.  That’s all it was.  It didn’t have anything to do with teammates.  We were just racing hard for position.  I think it got a little bit more attention because it was teammates and for us, looking back on it and it makes our Tuesday meetings a little more interesting.  I think if that’s for the win or for the position at the end of the race then hey, we get it.  I think we both agreed that it wasn’t probably the best thing to do as teammates that early into a restart with 200 laps to go.”

DESCRIBE THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR REAR END TO YOUR JOB:  “This rear end right here?  I think everybody has a different way of feeling the balance of the car and the speed of the car and whether a car is going to stick.  I think that a lot of times the term, ‘feel it in your butt’ and I think some guys feel it there and some feel it how much pressure they are putting on the wheel.  Basically, it’s your body is sending you signals, the car is sending your body signals to what the car is doing.

“That’s what we adjust every little detail around the car on because we don’t have the data in the car during race weekends so we’re doing it all off of simulation and we do it off of what the driver is telling you.  The driver is telling you that based on that sort of seat of your pants feel.  It’s important.”

WHY IS THE CELEBRATION OKAY IN SPORTS AND NOT OKAY IN A BOARDROOM SETTING?:  “I guess that I’ve never been a part of sports then because I’ve never really got the whole patting each other on the butt thing was — I guess everybody has a way of celebrating a victory. Competition is throughout all of us and all walks of our lives and business, whether it be team sports or something beyond that.  I think we all have a way of expressing ourselves and showing how excited we are for it, but not everybody does it with hugs and kisses and pats on the butt I guess.

“That’s what I love about our sport is that it’s intense out there and a lot of times it’s not fun because you’re so focused on that goal of winning.  But when you achieve it that is that moment in time where it’s not even that you have to try and work at it, but it just naturally comes, that exuberating of over joy and achievement of success and you want to share it with the people that made it happen. I know sometimes we have the TV holding you, but still that moment, you can’t take it away and I think too, if you do it often enough then that goes away a little bit.  If you’re a law firm and you just won a case, if they just won their 10th case in a row then they might not be doing that, but if they hadn’t won a case in 100 trials and then all of the sudden they win a case, I’m guessing there’s some champagne being popped somewhere and some butt patting somewhere along the way. I haven’t seen it on The Good Wife show, I’m a big fan of The Good Wife.”

HAS THIS SPEEDWAY BECOME MORE OF A MOVING TARGET AS IT GETS AGED IN?: “Absolutely.  I think that it becomes more of an Atlanta type of race track all the time.  You always hear us talking about the cars sliding around and losing grip and having a lot of fall off in the tires as the run goes on and the groove widening out.  It seems to me that this track is starting to see a lot of that.

“Goodyear has brought a tire that has a little more grip and we’ll see if it has a little more fall off too, usually that’s the case, but they’ve gotten so good at designing these tires that it’s not always the case.  To see a third groove already worked in today in practice means that you’re going to see cars all the way up against the fence, all the way down on the apron and everywhere in between and that’s the makings of a great race on Sunday.  When we run almost as fast in race trim as we did in qualifying trim, it’s got me encouraged for Sunday, but not very encouraged for today.  We have a little work to do today, but I think the car has a lot of grip and a lot of speed.  I’m liking the tire that Goodyear has brought here for Sunday.”

IS IT FRUSTRATING TO NOT HAVE THE RESULTS THAT YOU KNOW YOUR TEAM IS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING?:  “The toughest thing to deal with and the far more challenging issue is when you’re in the race Sunday and you’re running really bad and you’re running bad throughout the whole weekend.  That’s far worse because it’s a lot harder to fix that than it is to get to the finish in one piece when you have a good car, good pit crew, good strategy being called.  We will get those finishes.  We are a good enough team where we’ll start to put them together.  I think when they start to come, they’ll come more often.

“It’s funny how every season is, you come into it and everybody’s confident and I feel like our team is better right now than they were last year, but yet we haven’t been able to show the results.  That’s not going to stop us from staying on that same path.  I look at Vegas and I look at especially Phoenix, we just qualified really bad at Phoenix.  That was a big issue and something we have to address.  We have to do a better job on qualifying day and you can’t start 30th every weekend.  Track position is far too important, especially a track like that.  Our car was actually really good in the race at Phoenix.  In Vegas, we qualified better, still didn’t qualify good enough in my opinion, but we missed the setup a little bit to start the race.  We got it really good.  Our car has speed.  That part we’re good.  Pit road we’re good.  We just have to execute a few things a little bit better and this is a competitive sport.  You only have to do a couple little things to get yourself off or behind a little bit and it looks to the rest of the world as if you’re struggling and you’re in trouble.  We’re certainly not that and I would rather have this issue that we’re dealing with now than have an issue where we don’t have the speed and we don’t have a strong team to go out there and compete up front.”

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE KIDS WHO WANT TO BE YOU OR DRIVE A RACE CAR?:  “I think it’s really more to the parents.  I think that it’s important for parents to introduce their kids to things, especially if it’s racing that they can afford, that they can have fun with as a family and that they can recognize the child’s talent and passion for it because my parents didn’t have to push me hard at racing.  They saw it was something that I naturally loved to do and I was so fortunate that I had parents that helped pursue that dream and that goal.  When you’re young, you have to do it for fun and do it for the right reasons. You can’t do it saying, ‘We’re going to get into racing because I want you to be Jeff Gordon.’  That has to come over time and it can be expensive.  Race as much as you can, as often as you can and in a good structured series and in safe cars.  Have fun with it and then if things are going well, then go start finding some sponsors.”

IF THEY MADE A MOVIE ABOUT YOU, WHO WOULD YOU WANT TO PLAY YOU?: “I’ve been asked this question many times and I couldn’t tell you.  I have no idea.  I don’t really, there’s some great actors out there that I probably don’t even know their names that would maybe fill that spot.  I have no idea and no answer.  Sorry I can’t help you.”

WHAT ABOUT A STAR TO PLAY DALE EARNHARDT JR.?:  “I have no idea.  I’m not broad enough on a list of actors.  Give me a list of actors and I will pick one or two, but I’m so bad at names and faces of tying them together.  The people that I consider good actors, I don’t think would look or act anything like me so I don’t know who I would pick.”

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