NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
GOODY’S FAST RELIEF 500
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 31, 2012
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Martinsville Speedway and discussed his seven victories at Martinsville Speedway, tire testing at Michigan International Speedway and other topics. Full Transcript:
YOU HAVE SEVERAL OF THE GRANDFATHER CLOCKS (MARTINSVILLE TROPHIES) IN YOUR POSSESSION I’M SURE YOU WOULD LIKE TO GET ANOTHER ONE TOMORROW:
“Absolutely, who doesn’t want one? It’s a great trophy and it’s a great race track. You have to work hard. You put yourself in a good position to win this race and it’s a challenge from the first time you are on the track all the way to the final lap of the race. It is certainly not easy to get those clocks. We are fortunate to have seven of them. Number eight would be amazing and number 200 for Mr. H (Hendrick) would be amazing as well. There are a lot of inspiring reasons why we want this one pretty bad.”
YOU ARE ONE OF JUST FOUR DRIVERS OVER THE PAST 15 SEASONS WHO HAVE WON SEVEN RACES IN A 15 RACE STRETCH. WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE AS A COMPETITOR WHEN YOU ARE IN THAT ZONE? TONY STEWART IS IN THAT KIND OF STREAK RIGHT NOW, WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF WHAT HE IS DOING RIGHT NOW?
“It’s amazing. I have kind of forgotten about it from my side (laughs). It has been so long ago. I’m assuming that was probably back in 1998. What Tony (Stewart) is doing is incredible; especially this day and age with this race car on different types of race tracks. It really shows his talent. I don’t think that has ever really been in question. I think what it really does show right now is where that team is, where his commitment is. When you get into that zone, if I can recall 1998, you are going to the race track with a different mindset. You are going to win. You are going there knowing that you’ve got the team, the people, the cars that can win any weekend, on any track; even though that might not be the case that is the mindset that you have. When you are doing that it puts you at a different level. It allows you to just focus on the important aspects of it not to question things, not to doubt things. Just to deal with the details. That is what the winning teams do week in and week out.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW GOOD YOUR CAR WAS AFTER PRACTICE? CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE APRIL FOOLS JOKE ON JEFF GORDON WEB?
“I heard the media didn’t like it as much as the fans did (the April Fool’s joke. Yesterday was incredible for us. From lap one the car was just so dialed in. It actually made me a little bit nervous because to me this track changes a lot with rubber. For race day how we have to be prepared how the car needs to be balanced I think is different than what it needed to be at the beginning of practice yesterday. I know we have a great car. I’m excited about qualifying. I’m excited about the race tomorrow. I think when we started practice we were in total dominate form. As rubber got laid down the competition gap closed a little bit. I think we are excited and we know we can’t get too excited we still have worked to do.
“As far as the pre April Fools, we wanted to do something unique and different. Some folks in my office came up with the idea and I backed them up. If you look at our Social Media impact, we made a huge impact yesterday. Would we rethink a few things if we had to go back and do it? We probably would. You learn from those situations. When you look at the response on Twitter and Facebook a lot of people had fun with it. Some people took it a little too serious. That is understandable. I wish we had been able to announce it on actual April Fools. But we got a little nervous, I’ll be honest. It started to get a little bit too big and out of control so we had to get it out there right away and move on.”
COULD YOU EVER SEE YOUR DAUGHTER FOLLOWING IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS AND DRIVING RACE CARS? HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
“I would support her 100 percent. I don’t see that happening just living in my house on a day to day basis and knowing the things I see her interested in. If that were to change and racing seemed to be something that she latched on to. I would definitely support her 100 percent no matter what it is. Just seeing her growing up I don’t think that is where her dreams and aspirations are heading at least not at this point.”
YOU ARE SCHEDULED TO DO THE TIRE TEST AT MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY THIS WEEK. DESCRIBE WHEN YOU DO A TIRE TEST WHAT KIND OF AN ADVANTAGE IT IS. ALSO WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO GET OUT OF IT FOR GOODYEAR VERSUS YOUR TEAM?
“I think it has some advantages there is no doubt about that. We gather the data any time we can go to any track weather it is a repave or not we are gathering data. But when it is a repave it is smooth, you get to understand the loads, the grip levels and what the track kind of needs. The first day you are going through such a learning curve that you are not learning a whole lot. We have seen this like at Phoenix for instance, that track the first day, they were so far off the pace just trying to get rubber and get the track cleaned off. We don’t know what to expect at Michigan. I love Michigan. We want to play our role and help Goodyear develop the best tire for that track. If we can gather some data that is beneficial to us then we certainly are going to try to take advantage of that as well. It kind of comes at a price. You are giving up a couple of days that you could be developing things at the shop and your key guys that could be resting. You’re taking a gamble going there and hoping it pays off for you when you come back to that race or something that you can carry to other race tracks as well. I will be able to know a lot more after we go there and see how the pavement is reacting to the tire. These days your biggest fear is that they have to put such a rock hard tire on the car because of the speeds and the grip levels and the abuse that it puts on the tire that it makes not to be a very fun test. I’m hoping that is not the case this time.”
YESTERDAY JIMMIE (JOHNSON) WAS GETTING QUESTIONED ABOUT HIS LOOSING STREAK WHICH IS 11 RACES. WHAT IS IT LIKE WHEN PEOPLE START QUESTIONING LOOSING STREAKS THAT FOR THE NORMAL DRIVER IS PRETTY NORMAL?
“Everything you have to put into perspective. When you set the tone and the expectations that they have (the No. 48 team) then you have to deal with what comes from that. Five championships in a row, all the wins, that is a great problem to have for people to be talking about that. In your mind you are sitting there going ‘I don’t understand why this is a story’. You don’t want it to be a story because you don’t want to talk about the losses you want to talk about the next time you are going to win. I think you just from the drivers stand point; you just have to kind of block that out and just do your job. Those guys are still running really strong and they are going to win races. If you just look at pure numbers and stats then of course; I remember for me in the mid to late ‘90’s everybody would be like well Jeff (Gordon) will get to 200 wins by this time. It’s like come on that is not realistic that you can keep up that kind of record or those kinds of stats. You know that they are going to go up and down and you have to be realistic about that. Sometimes the media wants to make a story out of it and that is their job to see where they can take it and make it interesting. You get asked the questions and you deal with the questions, but you go into the race car doing the same thing that you always do.”
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO GET BACK TO BEING A DOMINATE SHORT-TRACK RACER?
“We need a few more short-tracks on the schedule. Other than that, we come here with a lot of confidence we love this place. Even though we haven’t won here as much, we still led a lot of laps and at times dominated this race. To me it just really comes down to a track and cautions. We just seem to always see a lot of cautions at the end of this race. We seem to have a car that works really good on long runs maybe that is a little bit of my style of what I’m looking for and how we set-up the car. We are trying to compromise that this weekend. We put a good number up on the board yesterday because our car was good on short runs. I felt like if you looked at our long runs they were pretty good as well. We are trying to compromise that because in the past I feel like we haven’t been great in the first five or six laps but we have been really good on the long runs. That is where we have been so strong here in the first half of the race, but it seems like as rubber gets laid down you run shorter runs that is where the race is won. That is where I think we have come up a little bit short here in the last several races. But you can work on that and all of a sudden you go long runs all the way to the end and there are no cautions. It’s hard to say. We kind of go back through what the history has been in the last five or six races and try to come up with a plan based around that as well as what issues we have dealt with on balance and set-up and try to make improvements.”
HOW COME YOU ARE STARTING WITHOUT THE RESULTS THAT YOU WANT THIS SEASON (CURRENTLY 25TH IN POINTS)? HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF THIS HOLE? DO YOU DO IT THE SAME WAY YOU DID LAST YEAR?
“I look at Phoenix I feel like we qualified terrible, we ran mediocre and we finished wherever we finished there. At Vegas we qualified badly, we didn’t run well, we finished 12th there. Those are the tracks and the races right now that are the ones that we work off of. Bristol we were running good, we know what happened there. Daytona we were running good, we know what happened there. Last week that was self-inflicted. We are going to work really hard to make sure that does not happen again. Right now it is just about putting the whole race together. It’s about having the car that we need and then making sure that the rest of the things fall, that we don’t make mistakes. That is the beauty of the Chase. Typically in the past, and this is what I have always said, I like the Chase format for the Sprint Cup because we are still in it. We just have to focus on winning races right now. We can’t focus on trying to be in the top-10 in points. If we win races we might get there. But if we win races we will be in. That is the nice thing. The down side is for a lot of people they think ‘oh man well how are they ever going to win a race look where they are in points’. I don’t think we are that far away from winning races I will be honest. I think we just have to eliminate the mistakes and we have a lot of races left to be able to pull that off.”
AFTER THE BREAK WE COME TO KANSAS AND RICHMOND. BOTH OF THOSE TRACKS YOU HAD TOP-10 FINISHES AT LAST YEAR. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT EACH OF THOSE TRACKS AND WHAT IT TAKES TO RUN WELL THERE?
“Those are both tracks that I would say are highlighted on our schedule. We are excited about getting to those races. Kansas was a great track for us last year. I think that our cars are better now than they were then. I’m especially excited about how well we ran in California last week. That car was incredible. When we go to a place like Kansas, it gets me pretty excited about how well we could run at 1.5-mile track. Texas is one that is on our radar. I really feel good about Texas even though it has been an up and down track for us. Richmond, we ran great at Richmond last year too. Not a lot has changed there so another short-track. I think our short-track program is very strong with this team. I’m looking forward to a little break but I’m really looking forward to getting things turned around for us and I think we have some great tracks to be able to do that.”
CONCERNING BRAKE TECHNOLOGY, DO YOU SEE THAT IT IS STILL AS MUCH OF AN ISSUE AT THE SHORT-TRACKS AS IT ONCE WAS?
“It is certainly not as much of an issue as it once was. It depends on how far you want to go back for once was (laughs). There was a time when brakes were everything. Just having a (brake) pad that could make it all the way; who knows there might have been a time when they were changing pads during a 500 lap race here. In my time, since I started racing in the series, you definitely had to take care of the brakes from a wear standpoint as well as a heat standpoint. These days unless you are tucked up right behind somebody and not getting any air to the nose of the car you can run as hard as you can possibly run pretty much every single lap.
“Obviously that is the technology that has been brought into the sport, primarily from a cooling standpoint. The pads that we have now are just so great, the huge calipers that we have and rotors that cool themselves as well as the ducts that we have, the bead blowers, things that we just didn’t have before. You looked up in the front of these cars now under the hood and there are six, seven hoses running to brakes and tires and everything to keep them cool. We are running faster than we ever have here and able to have brakes that we can run pretty hard with all day long. You start to feel when you are using the brakes too much the pedal starts to go a little further it gets a little soft. When you start to feel that you have got to start taking care of them. I have had little glimpses and moments of that in the last few races here. When maybe our pit strategy put us more mid-pack and we were racing hard with some guys then you start to feel that. In clean air, I can run as hard as the brakes will allow me, as deep as I can get in the corner and still have a firm pedal with plenty of pad at the end of the day. Technology has come a long way.”
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