TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
APRIL 13, 2012
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed track repaves, performance this season and much more. Full transcript.
HOW DO YOU FEEL THE RACE WILL BE AT TEXAS TOMORROW NIGHT? “The cars are slipping and sliding around a lot, which I think is going to make for a great race. That’s certainly the type of conditions that I feel like I do well at and our team does well at. So far, that’s gone pretty well this weekend.”
WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE TO MAINTAIN AN OPTIMUM LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE YEAR AFTER YEAR? “It’s definitely a big challenge. I think that people are constantly trying to improve and when you’re on top, you’re more hesitant to try to make big improvements because what you have is already working. It’s almost as if you say, ‘Okay, we’re going to stay on this path until we start to get beat.’ Sometimes that can cost you because by the time that you start going down a different path, it might be too late. It might be Chase time and somebody else has already figured it out. That’s the big key also is the Chase. I think the Chase format has definitely changed that a lot to where you really can’t rest on your laurels. You have to go all out all the time, constantly trying to make yourself better and improve. It is very easy for what happened last year to happen where a team can be mediocre, find themselves in the Chase, but they’ve been working on stuff throughout the whole season that they finally get to work and they just go on a tear. You don’t want to find yourself on the other side of that. You want to be the one on that side and carry the momentum and the speed and everything into the most important part of the season now, which is those final 10 races.”
HOW WILL THE WIND IMPACT THE RACE TOMORROW? “I’m not the weatherman. I thought it was really windy today. Any windier and we’re going to have tornados coming through here I think. The wind is definitely affecting things out there right now, there’s no doubt. You have a head wind all the way down the front straightaway. As you turn off into turn one, it’s putting a lot of downforce in the car, which makes the cars feel really good and comfortable and do all the things you want them to do. As you come off of two, you start to pick up more of a tailwind, which can upset the cars a little bit. The biggest challenge I find with the direction of the wind right now and the gusts that we’re getting is in three and four as you try to cut through three and four. You have that wind coming over the wall and the condos in one and two and it really hits the race track in three and four. It really is hard to get the car turned through a cross wind like that. It’s the same for everybody, unless it’s a big gust that just happens to hit. It makes it challenging, it makes it challenging today for qualifying and for the race. If it gets even gustier and heavier winds then it just makes the balance of the car tough to find because you’ve got one condition at one end of the race track and a totally opposite condition at the other end.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CHANGES OR POTENTIAL CHANGES BEING MADE TO BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY? “First of all, I’ve not heard that they’re repaving it, from what I’m hearing it’s a million dollars and that’s not a repave. I’m not sure what they’re going to do, but it sounds to me like Bruton (Smith) is wanting to make some changes, but we don’t really, exactly know what those changes are yet. I think you have to be very, very careful and here’s my opinion on this is that we’re all sitting here going, ‘Okay.’ Before it was a one groove race track and so you basically, if your car was good enough to get to the guy’s bumper in front of you then if he wouldn’t get out of your way then you would knock him out of the way and that’s what created the drama and the excitement. That was also before this car came along. This car punches a big hole in the air and I’m not so sure we’d be able to get to the guy’s rear bumper. We might see more single file racing and I love the fans opinions and weighing in on it. I think it takes a combination of the fans, the drivers, the guys that work on these race cars, the engineers that understand aerodynamics and all of the tire data and all those things, as well as the engineers that build these race tracks. I think it takes a group effort to weigh-in on what the best solution is. To just go and change the race track, I don’t think there’s a problem with the race track. I love it. The funniest thing I’ve ever heard is I had a tweet from a woman that said, ‘I’m not going to Bristol anymore, that two and three wide racing at Bristol is driving me crazy.’ I laughed and I still laugh every time I think about that tweet. 10 years ago we were praying and just wishing we could get two and three wide racing at Bristol. We have to be very careful what we wish for. I don’t really think we need to make any changes there. I think sometimes there’s going to be drama and there’s going to be sparks flying and tempers going crazy and the fans are going to love it. I think other times we might not see that. We might just see the kind of race that we had the last time there. I think the kind of racing we have there now is a better alternative than just single file racing that we don’t really know what to expect. My Twitter pole was that gas prices and hotel prices and the economy are the biggest reason why people are saving their money to come to the night race there and not able to travel as much as they used to and be able to incur some of the expenses that they used to. They are going to save up for a Saturday night race. That’s my Twitter pole.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON THE C-POST RULING ON THE 48 CAR SINCE YOU ARE LISTED AS AN OWNER? “I think you said the key word, I’m listed as the car owner. Those kinds of questions are for Rick Hendrick. I think what it does show is that there’s a process when these cars are inspected and its NASCAR’s job to cover every area of the car to keep a level playing field out there and they do a very good job of it. Because of the appeal and the way that turned out, I think that it shows that NASCAR wants to make sure that those types of appeals don’t get over turned in the future and that was an area that was a little vague.”
DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE SENSE OF URGENCY FROM BRISTOL DUE TO THE EMPTY SEATS? “I do. I even weighed in on it myself on Twitter with my fans and those that follow me and anybody else that wanted to see because I’m concerned. I’m very concerned with the empty seats that we saw at Bristol.”
DOES THE ANGER FROM FANS ABOUT THE RACING AT BRISTOL NEED TO BE ADDRESSED? “I think that common sense always prevails and I feel like, what I love about Bruton’s (Smith) approach to things is that he’s not afraid to make changes. He’s not afraid to take the fans opinions and do something about it because he realizes that those fans that fill the seats are very, very important and I love that. He’s all about the entertainment value of it and I think that’s the balance that has to be there. The racers, we’re trying to create a competitive race out there and we hope the entertainment comes because the racing was good. I think if you’re NASCAR, you’re caught in the middle of the entertainment value as well as keeping the competition pure. Then as a track owner, I think you’re concerned about safety, fans and them being entertained and happy. I think that again, it’s not just one thing that I believe needs to be done, I think it’s a combination. I don’t think it’s the racing that is the biggest problem. I personally think there’s other issues that come before that. I don’t own the race track. After I found out that Bruton paid 26 million for Bristol I wished I would have been the owner because if I’d known that’s what the cost was, I might have been able to pull a few people together to buy it for that amount. I would have never changed the track because I didn’t have any money to change it.”
HAVE YOU SEEN THE 200 WIN HATS THAT RICK HENDRICK IS GETTING TIRED OF CARRYING AROUND?: “I have not seen them. I’m certainly very aware of them. That sometimes can be the biggest challenge of having a very clear goal is that you put that many wins together and sometimes they come easy and sometimes they come harder. Then you have that specific goal there and it’s on all of our minds. There’s pressure. We know that Rick (Hendrick) doesn’t come to every single race and right now he’s coming to every race because he doesn’t want to miss that 200th and none of us want him to. It’s a real shame what happened at Martinsville. I felt like that was the perfect scenario to have three of his four drivers battling it out there at the end at Martinsville, which is such a special place. We’ll keep digging, we’ll keep trying and we know it’s going to happen. Our teams are just too good and we’re running too good that we know it’s going to happen, just when. It would be nice to kind of get that one out of the way because it is somewhat becoming this heavy load that we’re carrying. It seems like that box of hats gets bigger and heavier every single weekend. I still find it hard to believe that he’s carrying them around. Pretty sure it’s in one of these trucks. I know that he’s not personally putting any extra pressure on any of us, we love making that guy happy. He does so much for us and we all want it bad for us as well, but mainly for him. We want those hats to get used and then be sold for charity or something.”
WHY HAVEN’T THERE BEEN AS MANY RIVALRIES THIS YEAR?: “It’s early. Have you seen the kind of season I’ve had? The last thing I’m thinking about right now is rivalries on the track. Right now, I’m so focused on other things that I really hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to that. Go to California, the rain coming I think prevented there from being a little bit more exciting finish to that race and being able to battle it out on a restart or on a run to the finish. You can chalk that one up to that. I think that one had the makings of it. You had Tony (Stewart) up there, you had Denny (Hamlin), Jimmie (Johnson), we were coming. Trying to think, Phoenix is still a repave and it’s still a challenging race track to really make the kind of race that we’re used to seeing there or what it’s capable of. I think this weekend has some great makings of what we are looking for. I think last weekend too, me and Jimmie were just getting ready to get things heated up and I know we’re teammates and you don’t think of us as rivals, but when it comes to places like Martinsville and going for this 200th win, that’s a very important thing to us and we’re going to have to race one another for it on days like that and it’s going to create plenty of drama and excitement. I still think it’s early in the year.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RACING AT KANSAS ONCE MORE BEFORE THE REPAVE?: “I don’t know anybody that’s a real fan of a repave. The tracks don’t want to incur the cost, but they know that it’s necessary because of the structure of the pavement or the foundation underneath or whatever it may be that puts them into that box. They know that they’re going to suffer on some of the racing because of the tires being harder, more durable for those types of new surfaces. I love Kansas. This has not been one of my favorite tracks, right now I love this surface, I love Atlanta, and I love these worn out race tracks. I think those are the race tracks that put on the best shows. It’s just part of racing and it’s part of the evolution of pavement of how it’s changed. That’s just technology. It’s no different than what you’re riding on down the highways, smoother than it’s ever been and lasts longer than it ever has before. That’s what we use for race tracks. It’s kind of the same scenario. I will say that I was in Michigan, I don’t know what it’s going to be like at Kansas, I know they’re making some changes and I hope it works out really well. We’ll enjoy it as much as we can in this last, final race there on the old surface. Then we’ll go to work on what the new surface is going to be like. I tested at Michigan last week and I had a lot of fun. It was one of the more enjoyable repave tire tests that I’ve been a part of. You go into it knowing it’s going to have a lot of grip, there’s potential tire issues and what’s the racing going to be like. Any other grooves other than the one you’re running in and I thought that while it was extremely fast, I thought that it already showed signs of multiple grooves. I’m pretty excited about Michigan.”
IS IT HARD TO BALANCE THE ON TRACK PERFORMANCE WITH THE FINISHES WE SEE?: “Yeah. To me, the hardest thing in racing is to produce a fast race car. I think that’s the number one hardest thing that there is to do. Some people would probably say winning, but no, I think first you have to have a fast race car. If you have a fast race car and you consistently put a fast race car out there on the track then you’d be surprised how much easier it is to win. The next toughest thing is putting a team together that is just in sync and everyone clicks and you build momentum from that. That, to me is what allows you to win races and win championships. Right now, we have a very fast race car and I’m excited about that. I feel like we have the hardest part out of the way. We’ve got to keep doing that. We have a few other things that we have to work on. If we didn’t have the Chase format, I’d be a lot more concerned. After watching what Tony (Stewart) did last year, we’re not panicking right now at this point. We’re really just focused on going to the next race and trying to continue to produce cars that can lead laps and run up front. I know if we do that then we can win races. If we can win two or three races, then we’ll make it into the Chase and then we’ll worry about what we have to do to try to win the championship. I never focus, I always focus more on laps led, and how competitive we are. We have to work on qualifying. We’re not qualifying good enough right now in my opinion. Beyond that, I feel like we’re racing really good. Our cars are really good in the race and that to me, it’s nice to have that box checked off.”
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