Watkins Glen: Press Conference Transcript
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed road course racing, making the Chase, adversities of the season and bizarre moments at Watkins Glen. Full Transcript:
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT LAST WEEK AND HOW YOU FEEL COMING INTO WATKINS GLEN THIS WEEKEND:
"It has been a great week. We put ourselves in the right place at the right time which is something that hasn't happened for us this season much. It's great that we were able to capitalize on that. Of course the weather and all those things like I said it all went our way. Not thinking a whole lot about the Wild Card because I just think there is far too much racing left to go. It was great to get that win, that definitely gives us a shot at it, but now we've got to come here and focus on getting the job done here and the next four weeks. If we do our jobs right I think we can make it in."
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO KEEP YOUR TEAM'S SPIRIT'S UP AS THE LEADER OF THE TEAM?
"The good thing is that I think what Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and I have had coming into the crew chief/driver combination that happened at the beginning of last year, was that we always seem to be on the same page. We get along really well and we've been able to build that. It certainly helped last year getting the three wins and being as competitive as we were. Over the off season we just made a commitment to one another that were after the same goals, we enjoy working with one another and believe in one another through thick and thin. I mean we might have had a couple of glasses of wine while that conversation was happening, but we meant what we said. Certainly at that point we didn't realize we were going to be challenged quite the way we have been this year. There have been times where I could see; sometimes when things aren't going your way you start to question. Is this a test that we have to pass or is this a sign that this isn't the right combination. That is sometimes the most frustrating thing is does a change need to happen or are we doing the right things and we've just got to stick with it. I think if we hadn't performed as well as we have this year where we've had really fast race cars, I think there probably would have been a change. But because we have run so well and it's been different things keeping us from getting to victory lane or having better results, it's not just been one thing. It allowed us to be frustrated and at times show our frustration towards one another behind closed doors, but still stick together. On Monday or maybe Tuesday some weekend depending on how it went it was right back to business and right back to positive attitudes and we've got this line up for this coming up race. That is what has kept us together and sometimes it was Alan's whether it be pep talk or attitude to the pit crew or the guys in the show or to me. Other times it was me kind of needing to do that for him when maybe he was feeling a little bit down about something. That is what makes a great combination. Right now I look at it and go I'm glad some of these things have happened to us."
YOU HAVE BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL HERE AT WATKINS GLEN AFTER YOU WIN LAST WEEK I WOULD IMAGINE YOUR CONFIDENCE IS SKY HIGH. AS WE LOOK AHEAD, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MICHIGAN REPAVE AND WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE AT BRISTOL WITH WHAT THEY DID THERE?
"I am very optimistic and excited about this weekend, but just because we won here however many years ago it was doesn't mean that my confidence is sky high here because I don't feel like we've been good enough to win here in recent years. That confidence definitely got a big boost in Sonoma and our road course test that we did in Road Atlanta prior to Sonoma. I feel like we have made some big gains that is definitely going to help my confidence here. Michigan is a total repave so everything we have done in the past other than the last race is pretty much out the window there as well. I felt like we were pretty solid there at the last race. I feel like we learned a lot of things and obviously our teammates were fast and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior won and so we can certainly carry a lot from that. Then we also did the tire test which it didn't go spectacular for us, but we knew it was more of just a test and trying to learn things. I'm very excited about Bristol and there is not a track coming up that I feel like we are concerned with. Qualifying is a priority for us; we've got to qualify better. We've been qualifying better up until Pocono last week. Even there I felt like we had a top 10 car if I hadn't of pushed it quite so hard. That is good. We've got to keep that up and even get better with the qualifying. I'm excited about Bristol for sure. We've run really strong at Bristol the last two or three times we've been there. That has been a change for us. We struggled at Bristol prior to that. We really turned the corner there and I can't wait to get back there. We had that issue with me and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior getting together and cutting the left-rear tire the last time we were there. So, look forward to going there. Richmond I'm a little concerned with because we ran really bad there the last time and we've been so good there. Hopefully, we learned what not to do at Richmond. That is kind of the way we are looking at it. One race at a time, but certainly thinking about what we can do better and what we have learned on the things we have done not so good and stay solid over these next five weeks and put ourselves in position to hopefully get a win."
CAN YOU SPEAK TO WHY YOU THINK HENDRICK (MOTORSPORTS) HAS BEEN SO DOMINANT THESE LAST FEW WEEKS?
"Hard work, dedication, great engineers, we are just a great organization. I think not getting a championship last year... I think that our team, the No. 24 team we came into the Chase last year with so much hope and then went through the Chase and didn't have a good Chase, but yet we ended the season strong at Homestead. I think just the fact that Hendrick (Motorsports) wasn't as strong in the Chase last year as we have been in the past as a company. That is motivation. I think we also got a chance because of our relationship with Stewart-Haas to see some things that they were doing that worked so well for them in the Chase. That is what makes a good, I look at that as a business relationship, but when you are sharing engineering that is one of the best ones you can have when you have a group that is getting support from you and yet you can get something back from them as well. I feel like we took a little bit of that and a little bit of what we have been learning and started the season off not great with some things to try. We've just been building on it. We've got four incredible drivers and crew chiefs and teams right now that all are contributing in our meetings and that can get you a long ways. If you are behind, it can get you back. If you are kind of even, it can get you ahead. I feel like that is where we are at right now."
IF YOU WERE A CHASE DRIVER NOT NAMED JEFF GORDON, WOULD YOU BE WORRIED ABOUT JEFF GORDON GETTING INTO THE CHASE AT THIS POINT?
"I think there are other guys they would be more worried about. Jimmie Johnson is the guy you've got to worry about I think right now. And Dale, Jr. I think that Junior has not maybe led as many laps, or won as many races at Jimmie, but yet there is a reason why they are where they are at in the points. They've been consistently up front every weekend. They are rock-solid. You have to look at Hendrick as a whole I think right now. I think any Hendrick team, but hard to not be a little nervous about Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and that No. 48 team right now as dominant as they have been, and as strong as they have been. You get them in the Chase with that kind of performance, and I would think they'd be at the top of anybody's worry list."
HAS THE RELATIONSHIP WITH STEWART-HAAS CHANGED WITH THE DEPARTURE OF DARIAN GRUBB GIVEN DARIAN'S LONG HISTORY AT HENDRICK?
"We definitely had a good relationship with Darian when he went over there. It was kind of a mutually agreed upon situation that was a positive for everybody. We don't have them in our meetings on Tuesday as often as they used to be, so in some ways, yes. But, it's still an open book, and when we need to reach out to them, they are great. And, when they need to reach out to us, we are just as open. But, they are not involved in our meetings as much as I actually would like them to be, as much as they were last year. That's true."
SINCE YOU HAVE BEEN IN CUP SERIES, HOW HAVE YOU SEEN ROAD RACING EVOLVE?
"It's evolved from...one is the competition just getting better, smarter and putting more emphasis on road courses. There was a time when a lot of guys...that were championship caliber teams would sort of say 'okay, we are going to survive the road courses'. Now it is 'we want to go to a road course to try to win it'. We don't want there to be any track on the circuit that we can't be a factor in, or get a good finish in, and attack like we would an oval. That's certainly changed the mindset. The cars have changed. Aerodynamics have changed, so the pace has picked up. When we went to this new car, definitely it took a little bit away from the performance. But, then we brought the aerodynamics back into it to get it back. Just learning how to seal off the front splitter, and do the things that we are doing on ovals, and figure out how to do them on a road course as well. Bigger rear springs; bigger swaybars; all those types of things that maximize downforce. We used to be able to off-set the cars for a road course to get more right side weight for the right turns. With this car, we are not able to do that as much. That's been something we have had to overcome. It's been change. Things like brake pads. Those packages have improved too, so much that you don't have to worry about saving the brakes as much as you used to."
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR MOST BIZARRE MOMENT HERE AT WGI?
"The first one that comes to mind here is leading the race and spinning out going into turn one with three or four laps to go. (Tony) Stewart had just done the same thing in front of me; he wheel-hopped going into to turn one under braking which was a big issue that day. A lot of people were struggling with it, so I watched Tony do it after I was being conservative into turn one. He did it and I went by him and got the lead. I don't know how many laps there were to go, but not many. He was a little bit better than we were that day. I did the same thing he did and probably even worse because I lost a lot more positions than he did. Ended up having a car that could have finished first or second and finish like ninth or tenth. That was pretty bizarre. The other one was when (Greg) Biffle got into me going into turn one, lap one. We had just got the green and went down in there, he was a little more aggressive than I was, and spun me out. I think, if I am not mistaken, (Carl) Edwards, can correct us, is that when I also ran out of fuel? Yes...then that same day, on the last lap coming to the checkered, I ran out of fuel and was not very smart, because I should have been just thinking about getting to the line instead of blocking Kevin Harvick behind me. I gave him no choice but to spin me out, so I got spun out twice that day. One was not my fault, but that second one was. I don't think I made it across the line because the car had no fuel in it. So that was a pretty bizarre day. We were going to finish I think top-five or six."
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