CHEVY NSCS AT TALLADEGA ONE: Jeff Gordon Press Conference Transcript



American Muscle


APRIL 15, 2011  

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed his team’s performance so far, the two-car draft, radio chatter and more. Full transcript:  

CAN YOU GIVE A GRADE FOR YOUR TEAM’S PERFORMANCE SO FAR? “Grading the team and grading our performance is two different things. I think our team gets an A. They’ve been awesome. We showed that at Phoenix. Going through a driver change over the off season and coming out with a win early and as well as we ran at Daytona and Martinsville but our 1.5-mile program is definitely not where it needs to be. We know that and we’re working really hard on it. From a performance standpoint we’re disappointed in those runs and know we have some work to do and nobody is working harder at it than us.”  

TALK ABOUT THE TWO-CAR PACK THING INSTEAD OF THE GIANT PACK THING AROUND HERE. “Yeah, we saw a little bit of it the last time we were here but you are going to see it to the extreme now based on what we saw in Daytona. Talladega just has so much more room to race on and to draft on and to do these two-car drafts. I think it’s going to be fun. I’m excited but I know everybody has mixed emotions on the two-car draft but at a track like here at Talladega I think with everybody doing the two-car draft it ought to make it pretty exciting.”  

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH HAVING SOMEBODY ELSES SPOTTER SPOT FOR YOU IF YOU ARE PUSHING? “Well, I’m not totally comfortable with it but I think it makes sense because you are basically blind when you are the car behind so it’s really up to the guy in  front and that spotter is trying to get that car through. So it makes sense. I hope I’m the guy leading more so than the guy being pushed except on the last lap. I want to be the guy pushing on the last lap because I think the guy in second is going to win.”  

DO YOU ALREADY KNOW WHERE YOU WOULD MAKE YOUR MOVE ON THAT LAST LAP? “If I was in the perfect situation I have a pretty good idea where I would make it yes.”  

HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE ON YOUR RADIO? “Right now we just have six and that’s our four Hendrick and the two Haas teams. We’ll evaluate some things as we go through the weekend here and I’m sure we’ll be adding some to it.”  

IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS WE HEAD TO DARLINGTON, SIX TIME YOU’VE WON THERE IS THERE SOMETHING YOU CAN PUT YOUR FINGER ON WHAY FROM DAY ONE YOU HAVE RUN SO WELL AT DARLINGTON? “You know I love the challenge that Darlington brings. Running right up next to the wall, trying to stay out of the wall. It’s a fast race track. It’s not the same old Darlington that it used to be. It’s changed a lot since they repaved it but each time we go there it seems to lose a little bit of grip and it gets more and more like the old Darlington. I don’t think I’ve won a race there on the new surface so all the races I’ve won there are on the old surface and what I love so much about that is it’s a real driver’s track. You have to do tire management, you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to race the race track and not the competition. It’s still the case for the most part there.”  

HOW MUCH HAS THIS RACE CHANGES IN ALL THE YEARS YOU’VE BEEN COMING HERE? “You know it has changes a pretty good amount. Ever since we’ve started going to a bigger, boxier type race car what that has done is create more of a draft. We’ve got a little bit more power too so between the draggier car and the more power it’s definitely changes how easily the cars draft up to one another but also you can lose the draft a lot easier. In some ways it’s easier to pass but still very difficult to win. But now it’s a whole other ball game with the two-car drafting. That’s the most drastic change that we’ve seen in restrictor-plate racing in my opinion since the restrictor plate came along.”  

DO YOU FAVOR THAT HERE, WHAT DO YOU THINK ITS GOING TO BE LIKE? “I had somebody on Twitter ask me the other day, they said ‘do you like drafting at Talladega or not’ and I said, yes. Then somebody else said, ‘do you like restrictor-plates, racing in a big bunch of cars or do rather not’ and I said yes. We don’t come here to Talladega in these big drafts because we want to, it’s because that’s the rules and it puts on a great show for the fans. It’s a white-knuckle experience for us and we make the most of it. Try to make the cars as safe as possible. Try to make the competition as equal as possible, that’s what NASCAR is trying to do. Then we try to do the best we can to get to the end of the race and survive and hopefully win.”  

HAS IT BOTHERED YOU A LITTLE BIT FROM A COMPETITIVE STANDPOINT THAT YOU HAVE TO WORK WITH GUYS TRYING TO BEAT YOU AT TIMES? “It definitely makes it very challenging. To me now when you come to Dayton and Talladega the mindset, the strategy and the chess match that it becomes is the most interesting part about it. And I like that. I like that you’ve got to think a lot about what is going on out there. But sometimes you still just have to be super aggressive. That’s why I don’t mind the two-car draft. I wish that we could better portray what’s going on in the driver’s mind when he is inside that cockpit and the intensity that is there to the fans at home and even to the media because I’m telling you its intense, it’s crazy and it’s not always fun. It’s something I just don’t think that we can really get across to people on the outside because I think if they knew what was going on inside there, I think they would approach these race or from a fan standpoint look at these races in a totally different light.”  

YOU MEAN THE SECOND GUY, YOU BASICALLY HAVE A BLIND SPOT. “You are literally 200 miles per hour blind, blind. I might as well just close my eyes.”  

ARE THE GUYS OUT THERE DRIVING SCARED? “I think there are moments where you are scared, hell yeah. You know when all of a sudden the guy in front of you is slamming on the brakes and he’s juking left and juking right and you don’t have a clue as to where he is going to go or to what is going to happen, but that’s part of racing. There’s moments that happen throughout every race that gets your attention and gets your heart rate up.”  

OFF WEEKEND COMING UP, HOW DO YOU GUYS APPROACH THAT, ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IT, IS IT SOMETHING THAT YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO CHANCE PERFORMANCE WISE? “We got work to do and we’ve got a tire test at Dover. We’re going to try to learn what we can about the tire but we’re also going to try to maybe take a different car there for that test to try to figure some things out that is going on with our speedway program.”  

YOU MENTIONED YOU ONLY HAVE SIX GUYS ON YOUR RADIO, IS THAT BECAUSE IT’S CHAOTIC OR YOU DON’T WANT TO GIVE AWAY SECRETS? “Well number one we don’t want other people on our radio. Because what happens is if we get a radio channel for someone else that means we have to give up ours to them. While I would like to switch over and go talk to somebody else I don’t want them switching over talking to me while we’re doing something or accidentally. They might accidentally switch over. Also during practice we wouldn’t want to give that away so we will evaluate that and see how practice goes. We kind of have a plan in place right now with the No. 5 car which makes the most sense. You want to work with your teammates and I believe the No. 88 and the No. 48 are probably going to work together and us and the No. 5, that’s the plan. Then as the weekend kind of unfolds we’ll probably put some other channels in there. We also have the Haas channels on there. Then we’ll put some more radio channels in there I’m sure because you want to have a backup plan in case something happens in the race.”  


BACK IN THE DAY, WOULD HE THINK IT WAS CRAZY? “Under the circumstances, no because you’ve got to have a partner here. Back in those days, yeah that would have been crazy for all of us.”  

YOUR STRUGGLING IS THAT FRUSTRATING, DO YOU KNOW WHAT DETERMINES IT? “If we knew what it was we wouldn’t be having the problem.”  

IS IT THE SAME PROBLEM EACH WEEK OR IS IT DIFFERENT THINGS EACH WEEK? “Our 1.5-mile program is an issue. We’re just really far off and that the beauty of the Chase. Because of the Chase format you can be off at this point as long as you find it by the summer. We have until the summer to find what our issues are and a lot of it is just trial and error. It’s being on the seven post, in the wind tunnel, going through all our race notes, look at our teammates, other teams out here trying to figure out what it is causing our issues. I felt like Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) analyzed some things this week that were really sharp and I think could be contributed to the problems that we’re having. The next few races will tell us.”  

MIKE FORD SAY THAT DENNY (HAMLIN) WAS HAVING A LITTLE BIT OF TROUBLE WITH THE NEW CONSTRUCTION TIRE THAT DENNY COULDN’T GET IT TO TURN AS GOOD ARE YOU GUYS FINDING THAT? “We’re looking more aero wise right now than we are looking tire construction but once we get through the aero stuff we’ll go on to the tire construction and see if that’s the issue.”  

I GUESS ITS GOOD THAT YOU DON’T HAVE ANOTHER 1.5-MILE TRACK TO LOOK FORWARD TO FOR ANOTHER FOUR OR FIVE WEEKS? “Not necessarily. I wish we had another 1.5-mile next week. We have to get it figured out and the only way you can get it figured out is you go and try things and you test things out and then you go to the race track. Right now we’re testing on a 1.5-mile, that is our test.”  

YOU AND ALAN NOT HAVING WORKED TOGETHER, IS THAT A GOOD THING OR A BAD THING?“Alan is awesome. Alan is amazing. His group of engineers is amazing and that’s what gives me confidence that we’re going to work through it. I think as a whole at Hendrick Motorsports, I think we’re off a little on the 1.5-mile tracks. They’re not off as much as we are but we’ve got some work to do. We know it and I don’t think there is anybody better to get us through it than Alan.”  

YOU SAY OFF, IS IT THE FEEL? “When the speed is off then the feel is off. It’s usually a balance thing where you’re fighting one thing on entry and the next you’re fighting another thing in the middle of the corner. When you’re comfortable you‘re either really slow or you’re really fast. Right now it’s definitely we’re uncomfortable missing the setup and the speed. It’s just the balance is narrowing the speed. First you’ve got to get one. If you get the balance then the speed is off then okay we need grip. But we’ve got both things happening right now. We’ll work through it as diligently as we can.”  

TONY STEWART SEEMS TO BE GOING THROUGH A STRETCH AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS SEASON ALMOST LIKE WHAT YOU DID LAST YEAR, SO MANY CLOSE CALLS, SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES AND THINGS NOT QUITE HAPPENING FOR WHATEVER REASON, WHEN YOU WENT THROGUH THAT LAST YEAR HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT FOR YOU AND THE TEAM? “It’s just like us, had we not had that win at Phoenix right now we’d be really down. Because we know we can win that confidence is still there and that momentum is still there even though our 1.5-mile … we’re not talking our overall program we’re just talking about our 1.5-mile program. So I think that’s a good thing and that’s because we won. I think when you don’t get that win and you come close and you’re basing off of performance and you’re saying okay our performance is good but we’ve got to get that win. But it’s got to come eventually.”   BECAUSE? “Because if you don’t get the win then you’re not capable of winning the championship. I believe that you’ve got to prove that you can win in order to win the championship.”  

IS THAT TRUE TO YOURSELF, YOUR TEAM? “Everybody, yeah and your competitors. You want your competitors to fear you and the only way they fear you is by winning. When you win there are just so many things that come along with it. It’s that fear you put in the competition, it’s that confidence you built in yourself and it’s the whole team. You go out and take the green flag every week with your crew believing we can win this race today.”  

DOES THAT WIN YOU HAVE TRUMP THE STRUGGLES YOU ARE HAVING ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS? “We’re about even on that right now I would say. I wouldn’t say it trumps it, its allowing us to figure this 1.5-mile out.”  

SOME DRIVERS DON’T SEEM TO LIKE RICHMOND BECAUSE IT’S A FASTER SHORT TRACK, WHERE DO YOU FALL IN THAT? “I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like Richmond. I want to know what driver doesn’t like Richmond out of who you’ve talked to.   “I’m not going to say here’s a track that I hate but I run really well there so I still like it. At the end of the day, I don’t know. I love Richmond. I’ve always like Richmond but it is a very challenging short track. Right now I feel like our short track program is pretty solid so I’m looking forward to going to Richmond for that reason. But I typically always likes going to Richmond.”  

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL NIGHT IN RICHMOND? “The same thing it takes everywhere else. A fast race car, being at the right place at the right time, good pit stops, good strategy, good communication and tuning the car to keep up with the changing conditions of the track.”  

THE IDEA OF SWITCHING YOUR RADIO AND TALKING TO A COMPETITOR THAT IS NOT A TEAMMATE, HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENT MIND SET IS THAT FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN IN THE SPORT LIKE YOU HAVE FOR YEARS WHERE YOU DIDN’T DO THAT? “It’s different but it doesn’t change the mindset of doing whatever it takes to win. That’s always been the mindset and the only reason why we would do that is we’re trying to get ourselves to victory lane. You’re not winning by yourself, it’s got to be done with somebody else, it’s just who is that somebody else. Are they going to be in your stable and do you want to have a backup plan if they are not. Right now we’re trying to stay within Hendrick Motorsports or with Stewart-Haas.  I hope we don’t have to go outside that. We’ve been getting asked for two weeks for our radio for other people to put in their radio and we’re just not willing to give that up just yet until we kind of see how the weekend unfolds.”  

DO YOU STILL LIKE YOUR DREAM YET? “I’ll let you know. It might be its coming so I hear. Maybe it will miss us. The difference is Ingrid and Ella and Liam were in my dream then and they’re not here.”  

YOU SAID THEY ARE ASKING FOR YOUR RADIO, HOW DOES THAT WORK? “I don’t know if they call Alan, like one of the crew chiefs calls Alan. I know in Daytona they were asking Racing Electronics and Racing Electronics said you’ve got to go get approval from the team. Nobody has come to me. Nobody has asked me it’s been through Alan.”  

WHEN YOU WORKED WITH (TREVOR) BAYNE IN DAYTONA, HOW QUICKLY DID HE GET UP TO SPEED AND ACCLIMATE WORKING IN THE DRAFT? WAS HE BETTER THAN A ROOKIE NORMALLY IS? “Every restart we lost positions but once we got up to speed he had a fast race car and I had a fast race car and we went to the front. Once we got going he was as good as anybody else.”  

DOES IT TAKE A LOT OF TALENT TO BE ABLE TO WORK LIKE THAT IN THE DRAFT? “You don’t want somebody that is not smooth. If somebody is back there behind you doing this and sometimes it’s the lead car, and the lead car is not moving around a lot it’s a little bit easier for the car behind, you’ve got to have talent and you’ve got to have confidence to do what you’re doing there at those speeds and you’ll have to poke your nose out and get some air and there’s a lot going on. To me it’s not like going to Martinsville, it’s different.”  

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