CHEVY NSCS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE TWO: Jeff Gordon Press Conference Transcript

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TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT

SEPTEMBER 23, 2011

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed his race at Chicago, fuel mileage strategies, Dale Earnhardt, along with other topics. Full transcript

TALK ABOUT SECOND RACE IN THE CHASE AND SUNDAYS RACE:“We are excited about this weekend. It is a great track for us. I have had a good day so far, so pretty happy with that and hope to continue that. Obviously, the first race did not go so well for us at Chicago. We’ve got some work to do and this is a great place for us to come to get that done. Look forward to the challenges that we are going to face over the next nine weeks and what we are capable of doing.”

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE LARGE BIG SCREEN AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY? CAN YOU SEE IT FROM THE CAR, SO YOU LOOK AT IT UNDER CAUTION? “It is so close to the track at the angle is pretty difficult to see much, doesn’t stop me from trying to see it, anytime there is a screen around a racetrack that you can glance at weather it’s a replay, obviously not under green flag runs but under caution, then you are going to take a look at it. Weather it is a scoring pylon or a TV screen. As bright as it is, as big as it is, it did not affect me during the race; you hardly noticed it was there. That was the good part. I was unbelievably impressed from pit road looking back at it, and the detail, the HD and how large it is, unbelievably impressive.”

DO YOU EXPECT THAT SUNDAY MIGHT BE ANOTHER FUEL MILEAGE CLIFF HANGER? IS THIS A GROWING TREND THORUGH OUT THE CHASE AND IS IT GOOD FOR RACING? “I think as long as the race is exciting and is interesting then it is good. It doesn’t matter if it is a two tire stop a four tire stop or fuel mileage. They all create drama challenges for us as competitors. You win them however you can win them. It is definitely something that we have talked a lot about all year long, about how to save fuel. We were just too far short last week, we probably would have done it a little bit different if we had to do it over again, I guess maybe a lot of people would, but we didn’t have good fuel mileage in general which Hendrick Motor Sports is making a lot of power right now, getting good fuel mileage is not a plus for us but Junior (Dale Earnhardt, JR teammate at Hendrick Motor Sports), so there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to as well. We had a lot of discussions about that this week and this track very easily could come down to fuel mileage, so we are going to try to do everything we can this weekend to get a little bit better fuel mileage and to have a good race car. To me the last time we were here. Yea it was won by fuel mileage, but it was still won by a car that was running up front.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR FUEL MILEAGE SAVING TECHNIQUE AND IS THIS SOMETHING THAT IS BECOMING A SECRET TOOL THAT EACH TEAM IS KEEPING IN THEIR BACK POCKET TO WIN THESE RACES? “One of the things in our meeting that we went over this week, you can only save so much. I don’t care how hard you try, what your technique is. You can only save so much. You got to have pretty decent fuel mileage to begin with to push the limits. It is a number of factors, it is getting the fuel cell full on the stop, not having any error and making sure you have it all in there and then it’s being smooth as a driver and then weather it is clutching it, shutting it off, or just backing the corner up and slowing the pace down. There are a lot of difference ways that you can go about it. One of the things we are doing now is, when we go test, we try out all those things to see which one works best. We felt like we were doing the one that worked best last week, but like I said we really were banking on a caution. We didn’t really want to have to go all the way, we pretty much knew we were going to be short and once we got to that point you might as well run it out. Coming down pit road and re-fueling doesn’t even do you any good, you lose just as much time doing that. About the only thing I would have done differently last week was not come down pit road with the engine not running, not knowing my pit road speed. They docked me a lap last week, because I came down pit road to fast, because I did not have a tack, and I didn’t know what my speed way. I was pretty sure I was not speeding. I would have been better off just rolling around and coasting around the start-finish line, we would have probably gained maybe 3-4 spots.”

THERE WAS A LONG CONVERSATION ON YOUR RADIO LAST WEEK ABOUT SAVING FUEL. IS THAT TYPICAL AMONG TEAMS? “It is typical crew chiefs, they are like, save fuel, but don’t give up that spot. (Laughing). Ok a little slower, oh but yea, you don’t want to go too slow. That is just how crew chiefs are. It is a tough position to be in if you are a crew chief. As a driver, you’re doing what you are told. They know how short you are. They know how much you have to save; we are getting so much better now at recognizing where we need to lift or whatever our technique is and how much we can save with that in place. Now even with all that said, they are giving you instructions, but at the same time if the caution had come out, you don’t want to give up all those spots. It is a difficult position to be in and those were the conversations we were having. Do you want me to save or not save? Yes save, so I start backing off, then Do you want me to race this guy? Yes, yes race him. I can tell you, I didn’t do the best job of saving that I could have done. I still don’t think we would have made it. We might have been able to get another lap out of it but we still were not going to make it. I think as a team we learned what we could have done better.”

AS A DRIVER WHAT IS MORE STRESSFUL FOR YOU, RUNNING AT THE LIMIT WHEN YOU ARE GOING FOR THE POLE OR RUNNING FOR THE WIN AND BEING TOLD SAVE FUEL? “On qualifying if you do not get the pole, it is not the end of the world, you know that to get the car to go fast under qualifying, you make several mock qualifying runs in practice, you get a pretty good idea of the grip level and what you car is doing even though it might be a little bit different out there and you have to push really hard, but you push to the limit and the key to getting on the pole is not to hit anything. You know where those limits are and when its coming and even though you might get it out of shape a little bit, your anticipating it, when you are trying to save fuel, you have no idea where exactly and when you are going to run out, your hoping their numbers are wrong, that you have a little bit more left in the tank than you really do. Especially when the win is on the line. You are trying to judge the speed of the cars behind you, your own speed, and you’re trying to stretch something that is not an optimal situation to be in. I’d much rather be going for the pole.”

WHAT WERE THE THINGS ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT SENIOR THAT IMPRESSED YOU THE MOST AND WHAT ABOUT HIM MADE HIM THE RACER THAT HE WAS? “You never counted Dale out, it didn’t matter what kind of day they were having, he was just such a fighter and they were a great team where they could be a lap or two laps down and by the end of the race they were in the top ten or maybe even top five. That is just the way Dale was. He got everything out of it that was capable of getting out of it throughout every race, through out every season. He was a tough guy, everybody knows about the situation from what was it Talladega to Watkins Glen where he sat on the pole. Nobody expected him to sit on the pole with the situation at a road course like Watkins Glen, and I don’t think anyone anticipated that, but to do it injured like he did was impressive. As a seven time champion you have to respect that, and I say the attributes that he brought to the table to make him that. I also recognized how good your team has to be but to me it was more what he did off the track, the focus that he had on the business and maybe some of the distractions and some of the things that he had going on starting a team, the merchandising business, hunting or his farm whatever it may be and then to be able to still go to the race track and do his job well, those were definitely things that impressed me. “

I’M OLD SCHOOL AND YOU ARE OLD SCHOOL AND WE BOTH KNOW THAT GAS MILEAGE IS NOT NASCAR RACING, WE NEED TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO SOLVE THAT PROBLEM, HAVE YOU TALKED TO GOODYEAR ABOUT NEXT YEAR’S TIRES AND IF NOT WHAT DO YOU PLAN TO RECOMMEND TO NASCAR ABOUT GETTING RID OF THESE GAS MILEAGE FINISHES? “Yeah, that’s a good question. You know it’s not probably preferable but again it depends on how exciting of a finish it is. I think sometimes if somebody is able to make it and others aren’t that can be pretty exciting. It’s a heck of a challenge plus who is to say the caution doesn’t come out and really wind things up even more, go wow that was a lot of drama. To me as long as it’s an exciting race to finish the problem is when it goes all the way to the finish and it’s somewhat predictable then it’s not very exciting. I don’t know there was a lot of guys that ran out of fuel last week and I don’t think anybody really knew who was going to make it. Maybe they did with Tony (Stewart) and the guys up front. How do you fix it, I don’t know. With the smaller fuel cells and it seems like that hasn’t done it. I’m not so sure the bigger ones aren’t better. Then you’ve got a point with the tires, I feel like Goodyear every year continues to improve the tires as we get the cars handling better and get some of the weight shifted off the right side of this car, since its inception it’s been hard on the right side tires, if we get some of that weight shifted to the left side it allows them to start softening us some compounds and create a little bit more tire wear and I definitely think that’s a good thing. So it’s a fine line obviously for Goodyear. I think they want that to happen but they obviously don’t want to have tire failures so they have to be very careful. We abused the right front last week. We talk about Bristol, we went to Bristol – I picked the right tire for the race earlier in the year but they had to pull it because they were seeing excessive wear and they couldn’t take that chance going into the race even though I think it would have been fine going into the race. So they are in tough position. It’s a combination of working with the teams, NASCAR and the tire manufacturer to make the car and the racing and the tire the best it can be and I think we continue to do that.”

NEW RULES AT TALLADEGA MOST GUYS SAID THEY DON’T THINK THAT IS GOING TO STOP THE TWO-CAR PUSHING, JUST MIGHT MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT FOR LENGTHS AT A TIME, THAT BEING THE CASE DOES IT CREATE A POTENTIALLY AWKWARD SITUATION IF YOU’VE GOT A TEAMMATE WHO IS IN THE CHASE THAT YOU’RE WORKING WITH? “I don’t have to worry about that situation. I’ve got Mark Martin so I’m pretty excited about Talladega.” SO YOU’LL LOOK FOR SOMEBODY THAT’S NOT IN THE CHASE? “Well I’ll look for somebody I already worked with this year. Mark and I have had practice already and have experience at it and almost won the race in Talladega the last time. I think it is a plus that we’re both not competing in the championship together, that certainly helps us decide who is going to be leading and who is not although a second is like a win at Talladega so if I’m pushing him this time instead of him pushing me I’ll be fine with that also. I don’t anticipate the rule changes changing much. I’m not in favor of swapping more. I know that a lot of people don’t like us running nose to tail like that but its far more dangerous doing more swaps. It causes far more chances to have crashes when you’re swapping especially at the end of that race where you are in the middle of a pack and all of a sudden two cars just swap. So I rather us not have to swap, I think the racing would be better and it would be safer. The restrictor plate will make it interesting. I’m hoping that has more of an impact than anything else. I’m not so sure we’re even still going to need to swap, we’re probably just going to have to move the nose out further to get more air to the radiator which we’ll have to work on that in practice.”

FOLLOWING UP ON YOUR COMMENT WHERE YOU SAID YOU ARE NOT SO SURE MAYBE BIGGER FUEL CELLS WERE BETTER, WOULD A 22-GALLON FUEL CELL NOT AT LEAST GIVE YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE RUNNING AT POWER ON THE RACE TRACK AND AT LEAST GIVE MORE WINDOW FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN? “Here’s the thing, it all just comes down to cautions. It’s just when the caution falls. It doesn’t matter if you have a five-gallon fuel cell or a 55-gallon fuel cell, if the caution doesn’t come out it’s a fuel-mileage race. I meant that’s what we need to go back and look at. What’s creating less cautions because what we’ve typically had in the past is when you get down to the end of the race the caution is coming out and when the caution comes out. That’s that other thing is the caution came out and put everybody right near their window. Some of them it put in their window, others it put them just outside their window so that’s what it came down to. If NASCAR doesn’t want to see it come down to fuel mileage then let us run a little longer under caution before they open up the pits. That will solve that.”

KYLE BUSCH WAS IN HERE EARLIER SAYING THESE CARS ARE HARDER TO SPIN OUT THAN THE OLD CARS WERE, SOMEBODY ELSE SAID YOU CAN ABUSE THE TIRES LONGER NOW AND JUST WEAR THEM OUT…. “The pace doesn’t slow down as much, I will tell you that. Goodyear is building a really good tire that doesn’t wear out and lets you go to Atlanta, some of these very abrasive race tracks, the tires are working really well and they don’t give up a lot of speed or grip so you’re able to maintain a pretty good pace. You know Chicago was a rare situation. It was cool with a cool track temperature and it only makes the grip better and the speeds faster, so it made it harder to pass as well as harder to spin out and somebody possibly bring out that caution. We’ve got the car driving pretty good right now. We’ve got a lot of down force in these cars so that’s some of it as well. I think a combination of the down force that we’ve been able to find in the cars by the skew and all those things that you’re seeing up there and the teams just doing their job engineering the cars to get them to stick better and Goodyear has got a really good tire too. Until you go to a track like Atlanta that is just extremely abrasive then you’re not going to see as many cautions.”

THAT BASICALLY BOILS DOWN TO THERE REALLY IS NOT A SIMPLE ANSWER TO THIS ANYWHERE IN SIGHT IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. “I shouldn’t be the one to come up with it. I’m not an engineer; I’m only a race car driver. There’s smarter people that I could consult with to tell them what I think as a driver but I think there are other people that probably could resolve it better than I could.”

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