CHEVY NSCS AT KENTUCKY – Jeff Gordon Press Conference Transcript



American Muscle


JULY 8, 2011

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Kentucky Speedway and discussed racing at Kentucky, Safer Barriers, Kansas Speedway re-paving and other topics. Full transcript:

TALK ABOUT COMING TO KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY: “It is very exciting to be here for numerous reasons. Obviously a new track so the unknowns, even though we have tested here in the past, but, I think for the most part, it is just a market that is new for the Sprint Cup Series that I think opens us up to some great exposure and an incredible fan base. To me, I just love the electricity around a new event. You’ve seen for years the Nationwide races run here and them pack the stands and all the excitement the fans have. You have heard them talk for years about having a Sprint Cup event and now here we are. It is definitely a very exciting weekend and one that all the competitors want to come away with the trophy being that is it the inaugural event.”

TONY (STEWART) SAID YESTERDAY HE THOUGHT THEY NEEDED MORE SAFER BARRIERS HERE ESPECIALLY ON THE INSIDE WALLS, WHAT IS YOUR THINKING? “I was just making a comment after last week’s announcement by Richmond (International Raceway). ‘I wonder what other tracks don’t have Safer Barriers.’ Then I came here and saw the inside wall. Hopefully that is the only time I notice it this weekend. You understand that they have put a lot of effort, you can tell they’ve put a lot of time and money and effort into getting this race track ready. Hopefully it’s not an issue. We’ll see. There is definitely some areas out there that could be addressed. Right now, the way that this track is, I see that the inside is not as much of an issue as maybe it is at some other tracks. But, we’ll have to get through a race and I’m hoping I’m not the crash-test dummy this weekend.”

WHY DO YOU THINK THERE ISN’T A DOMINANT DRIVER AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON? “That is a very good question because when the season started, I thought that Carl (Edwards) had the ability to put that together or a Roush driver. They, to me, seemed to be the strongest when the season started. (Kevin) Harvick, I think their team has been very strong, but his performance has not been up to maybe what I thought it could be, but, yet, he has three wins. He’s been there at the right time. So that is the sign of a good team; that they are in the right place at the right time. Then you have the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) that have been off to a little bit of a slow start. It’s hard to say. The cool thing about that is there is no clear-cut favorite right now that just shows all the signs of this is the team to beat for championship which I think makes it very exciting as we get closer and closer to the Chase to see who is going to step up and take control of this championship. I think it is really wide-open right now.”

DO YOU THINK THE PERCEPTION IS A LITTLE BIT OFF BECAUSE WE ARE SO USED TO SEEING THE NO. 48 WIN, ESPECIALLY LAST SEASON, BUT BECAUSE HE HASN’T BEEN TO VICTORY LANE AS MUCH AS HE HAS IN THE PAST, MAYBE PEOPLE JUST ASSUME THAT THERE ISN’T A DOMINANT DRIVER? “Maybe. You assume there is a dominant driver when someone is dominant. The No. 48 and No. 11 last year were very dominant. Right now, there is no stand-out, dominant driver. But, that’s not to say it won’t still happen or come. Certainly when it relates to the No. 48, and I would probably through the No. 11 in there was well, you can never count them out. When it’s time for the Chase, whether it be leading into the Chase, who gets momentum. Or, when the Chase starts, who really takes off and that is the beauty of the Chase. We usually have seen at this point, somebody show more dominance than what we’ve seen this year. I still, and again, you cannot count the No. 48 out and you can’t count the No. 11 out, but there are definitely some guys out there. I think that the No. 99 (Edwards), they were very strong at the end of last year. They just showed that they were going to be one to beat this year and they have done that, but, for some reason, I think some of the teams that were behind, have caught up. I don’t know if they have progressed as much as other teams have because they already had an edge on us when the season started.”

TALK ABOUT THE FEELING OF WINNING OF AN INAUGURAL RACE: “It is definitely special because you always get recognized as that. It is a stand-out win because it is the inaugural event and you can only do that once. You can win at a track several times, but winning the very first race is something special. We’ve been very fortunate to do that three times. We have had great success at inaugural events. We are certainly hoping to make this another successful inaugural event.”

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO ANNOUNCEMENT YESTERDAY TO RE-PAVE AND RE-CONFIGURE KANSAS SPEEDWAY? “There are those tracks that I think are just.they absolutely have to be repaved. This one (Kentucky Speedway) would be one of them. It is very rough here. While I really like the surface, the roughness is kind of a must. Kansas, to me, should not be re-paved. But it might be a foundation issue. It might be a drainage issue. There’s deeper stories behind the scenes that we maybe don’t know as competitors so they do what they need to do. I’m not a fan because the new pavement that exists out there is so smooth and is not very abrasive. Goodyear has a very difficult time building tires for the new re-paves because it just generates so much heat, but they don’t dissipate the heat by having abrasiveness. I just wish we could talk to the companies that are doing the paving and find a way to put some abrasiveness into.and a lot of just in the aggregate. The aggregate that is in the newer pavement is so small and very little of it is at the surface. So that is what has caused a lot of issues. But, it lasts 10 times as long as the old pavement. I think that there is certainly for whatever reasons the tracks feel it is necessary to do that, but, I wish there was a way to meet in the middle on it, because, to me. The variable banking certainly will help. We saw that at Homestead (Miami Speedway). But, you’re still going to have a very fast race track. A very smooth race track which a lot of times makes for less side-by-side racing in the first event of two. I love the surface at Kansas, so I think that is one of the reasons why Kansas stands out to me. It is a great surface right now. To me it is perfect. You are slipping and sliding. You are running up against the wall, in the middle, at the bottom. How can the racing get much better than it is at Kansas, in my opinion.”

ARE YOU GOING TO DEVELOP ANY OF THE YOUNGER DRIVERS IN THE SPORT?: “If I recognized a talent and I was introduced to him and was able to spend some time with them, absolutely. I think that our sport, it thrives on new, young talent and I don’t know if we’ve seen enough of it in recent years. You look at how many Cup drivers are in the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series and we need to make sure that these series and even further down are developing new up and coming drivers. They are certainly out there. Just need to see them get the opportunity and get the chance. Right now I’m more focused on driving the No. 24 Chevrolet so I don’t really have the time to do that right now. If I recognize somebody then I certainly would try to help them out and maybe one day I will have more time to be involved in that side of the business.”

HOW MUCH DO YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WITH THE CAR ON A NEW RACE TRACK?: “I think it’s different if you’ve never been there before. Like the Brickyard, California, even Kansas – nobody had ever been there really. This is different. You’ve got Nationwide drivers who have been here before. We all tested here for years. I probably haven’t tested as many laps as a lot of the other guys in here. It still wasn’t a new, new race track to me. Just because of the time that has been spent here. This is a little bit different, but still racing here is different than testing here and having that test date yesterday was valuable in trying to figure out what it’s going to take and that’s probably the biggest challenge is what is it going to take. Even yesterday with testing, you might be able to put one or two good laps together and maybe you could even put 10 good laps together, but how are the tires going to wear, how is the track going to change as it rubbers up – maybe the groove moves wider. What is it going to take to win. I don’t think anybody truly knows that right now. That adaptation and figuring that out on the fly as we go throughout the weekend as well as through the race. I think it is usually, typically a sign of a very strong team that knows how to adapt to that and they usually have the most success.”

WHAT MAKES SOME TRACKS HAVE MORE INCIDENTS IF IT IS NOT DIRECTLY RELATED TO RACING ROOM? “You can look at racing room in a couple different ways, you can look at it as multiple groove race tracks or you can look at our race cars that we have today and how aero dependent that we are today – more so than we ever have been. And the competition I think is much closer than it’s ever been. When they went to this car, that’s basically what they did was tighten up the box and the areas where you get the advantages over the competition so what did that do, that made the field that much tighter from the number one spot all the way to the tail end. To me, when you’re traveling the same speed as the guys around you or very close to it, it’s much harder to pass and so what happens is that if you feel that your car is even a little bit better, if you can’t complete the pass or if somebody really makes life difficult on you, then your frustration level goes up and your patience runs out and then you start having to use the bumpers to get the job done. That’s when the tempers flare.”

WHAT LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE DOES YOUR WIN AT POCONO GIVE YOU FOR SATURDAY’S RACE? “There is no doubt – even yesterday, we have greatly improved our mile-and-a-half program. I think that while Pocono is not a mile-and-a-half, you can in some ways look at it and sort of race it like it is. Big, long straight-aways, but you have to get through the corners good there. They are high speed corners and that’s what we have here and I thought we were very competitive yesterday while we still needed a few things to be one of the best cars out there, we were very competitive. That to me is just the biggest sign that we’ve made great strides, we’re working in the right direction and I’m really excited and proud of the team for stepping that up and getting me comfortable at these types of tracks. Coming here now with confidence that we can be competitive and have a shot at the win. We saw that at Kansas and we followed that up since then. That’s really exciting for us and certainly has us ready for this race this weekend to show that some more and like I said, I thought we had some signs of it yesterday and today should help us even further that. Now that we looked at the data and everything from last night and how we can make improvements to even be a little bit better here today. But you’re right, this track is very rough, it’s got a lot of grip, it’s fast and so you can use some of those same tools that you use at Pocono. Hopefully we get the same results.”

HOW DO YOU ADJUST YOUR CAR FOR A BUMPY RACE TRACK AND HOW DO YOU RACE WITH THE BUMPS? “Yes. If you can find a way around the bumps, great. This is a pretty unique line that you run here. You really are wide into turn one, which helps you get around some of the bumps. When we get into the race, you’re going to have to run those other lines if you’re going to pass. You’re going to have to go low. You’re going to have to go through the middle with some of the bumps or you’re going to have to go higher to try to find ways around it. Most of it’s in the setup of the car. It’s just how you spring the car, shocks, the more aggressive that you get with the setup for downforce, the more the bumps with affect you. That’s what we were looking at last night with our data and what we’ll be playing around with today. Just trying to find that package that compliments the bumps the best, but keeps the best aero platform in the car to maximize the downforce, which hopefully with maximize corner speed, which hopefully will maximize speed in general.”

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