Talladega: Press Conference Transcript
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed Talladega as a gamechanger, how he is looking forward to Martinsville next week, what a championship title would mean to him now, and more. Full Transcript:
ON THE STRATEGY OF RACING AT TALLADEGA
"Well, I think some of it comes down to where we qualified. So, we'll get through that tomorrow. Obviously, coming into this race, strategy is to keep you out of that big one or keep you out of trouble the best possible way that you can do that. And ultimately, what's going to get you a solid finish, if not a win out of here. I think we recognize where we are in the points and that this could be a turning point for us that we need to come out of here with a pretty solid finish and make up some of those points that we're behind right now and that this is a track that we can do it at. We know there are other tracks where that can happen; it can happen anywhere.
"But this is certainly one where anything can happen and anything can happen anywhere. And we expect that. And we're going to do everything we can to go out there and approach it in a way that's going to give us the best finish. Sometimes that means we're going to be real aggressive and sometimes that means we're going to be real conservative. But to say that we have an exact plan at this moment, or to say that plan might not change when they drop the green, I just can't say that because I'm not really sure."
THIS PLACE CAN BE A GAMECHANGER. SO, DO YOU LOOK AT THAT AS BEING IN YOUR FAVOR OR IN YOUR CORNER?
"Well, we have nothing to lose. We're sitting here fourth in points. We came into (the Chase) 13th. We're sitting here in a great position and everything is a bonus from here on out for us. We're certainly more in the mode of we're not probably on eggshells like some of the guys are that are ahead of us in points and have everything to lose."
WITH THE NEW CAR, DOES SANDBAGGING WORK AS WELL AS IT USED TO? DID YOU NOTICE THAT LAST MAY THAT YOU CAN'T HANG BACK AS MUCH?
"You certainly can't expect us, with 10 or 20 laps to go, to just drive your way to the front. So, yeah, you've got to be real careful about trying to hang in the back and while it might keep you out of trouble, it also can get you a lap down.
"It can also put you in a position where you find yourself not getting any further up than 15th. And you might be right in the middle of that big one if it happens, in the final laps, so I absolutely feel like track position is still going to be important in the closing laps of this race."
WHY IS IT? IS IT IN THE CAR OR THE SET-UP?
"It's just so may cars and teams and drivers that could win here. It's just the cars are all so equal with the type of drafting that we have. You really have to be careful pushing the cars ahead of you. So, I just know from the last time we were here, I was wide-open, pushing the guy ahead of me, and somebody was pushing me from behind. We were three-wide, but we weren't going anywhere. We were just there, kinda stuck.
"And so I think that can work for you and it can work against you. If you're in the middle of that, and a big wreck happens, you might escape and you might not because the chances are there is probably going to be a big wreck in that type of scenerio. But at the same time, if that doesn't materialize, if that doesn't happen, you're going to want to be in the front of that pack."
TALK ABOUT THE LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS TRACK
"All of us as teams and drivers want to go into a race track where we feel like we can tune the car to make it go faster than our competitiors; and that as a driver, that I can give information to the team to help the car go faster. And that's just not the case here. So that's a little bit frustrating the only time you come here. But at the same time, you do have to work the draft. You have to pick the right lane. And there are still skill sets that pay off at these types of tracks, but just less than others. That creates some frustration. It's very easy to get shuffled out of the draft, which can cause some frustration.
"But, at the same time, when you've experienced what it's like to go through that and win, it's an awesome feeling. So, I've been able to experience both sides of that and you've got to come in here with a postiive attitude. You've got to know that there's going to be times you're going to have to really be aggressive and that it's going to be bumper cars at 200 mph at times and there's going to be wrecks.
"That's just part of it. But, at the end of the day, somebody's going to win this race. And there's no reason why we can't win it just as easily as anybody else."
IS THERE A TRUE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT THE GUYS IN THE CHASE HAVE TO DO COMPARED TO WHAT THE GUYS WHO ARE NOT IN THE CHASE HAVE TO DO IN TERMS OF BEING CONSERVATIVE OR AGGRESSIVE?
'I don't know if there is a difference in how they approach it, but there is certainly going to be a difference in how they're feeling about this race. When you come in with a pretty good gap on the compeititon like with what Jimmie (Johnson) and Matt (Kenseth) have, the last thing you want to see on the schedule is Talladega because you just know what the risk and the chances are of getting caught up in something; and that it can be completely out of your control.
"So, for those guys, they have more to lose than the rest of us do. We're all trying to play catch-up and just hoping that we can come out of here and be unscathed and go on. And if we don't, then we're probably not going to win the championship. But we're in a position right now where unless something drastic happens over the next few weeks, we probably don't have a shot at it anyway. We've got a big gap there. And we've been racing really really good and the cars have been fast and I'm proud of the team, but we've got to have some things happen to get ourselves really in the mix of this thing."
IF KYLE (BUSCH) OR KEVIN (HARVICK) WERE IN FRONT OR BEHIND YOU, DO YOU EXPECT TO HELP THEM OR EXPECT THEM TO HELP YOU AS TO WHERE YOU ARE IN THE POINTS?
"I don't expect anybody to help us. And I don't go into it planning to help anybody. If that materializes throughout the race, and I think that it's going to be something that can help me and it happens to help them out, then absolutely I'll do it. But at this moment, I can't say that I've discussed working with anybody or anybody working with me."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHAT DALE EARNHARDT SR. DID HERE AT TALLADEGA AND ON THAT CLASSIC MOVE HE MADE THROUGH THE FIELD?
"Trust me, it's not the only time I've ever seen that. I prided myself on trying to learn from it over the years when I was racing with him, to be able to do that myself and he was a master at it and he was a teacher as well as the greatest executer of it. He just knew how to work that air. Those times have changed a little bit. It's a little bit harder to make those things materialize as much as they used to, but it still can be done. You still use that air to side draft and get momentum and get big pushes, but you just get stalled out a lot easier now.
"So yeah, those are classic moments. They are moments I'll certainly always remember. I remember that day and how frustrated I was that he did that to all of us. But it was like we couldn't do anything to stop him. But that's just how good he was."
ON GOING TO MARTINSVILLE, WILL THAT BE AS OLD SCHOOL AS WE GET WITH A LOT OF BEATING AND BANGING GOING ON?
"I'm excited about Martinsville. I love that track. We always run well. We've got to figure out how to lead as much in the second half of the race as we do in the first half. We seem to dominate in the first half of the race just about every time we go there, but never seem to be able to pull off the win; or at least recently haven't been able to.
"That's where our focus is. You know there are going to be some classic battles there. It's short track racing, hard-braking, side-by-side; it's probably one of the toughest places that we race at and certainly plenty of contact."
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN THE RACE CARS FOR 2014?
"I think we all recognize that aerodynamics and technology have really dominated motorsports in the last eight to 10 years. And it just continues to evolve. And so, trying to find a way where we aren't as aero-dependant as we are right now and I don't know how you get around that. It's not an easy challenge.
"But we want to see more passing. We want to see more side-by-side racing and there are some tracks that still offer it. So, some of it falls on the track's surface. Some falls on the tire. Some of it falls on the aerodynamics and the teams and NASCAR. So, we're all playing a role in it. I'm just proud of them that they're working towards trying to find something. I wish we would start earlier in the year on that. And I can't give you all the details of how it went because I don't know all the details, but at least they're trying stuff."
"Because it takes time. It doesn't happen in a month or two months. Before we know it, we're going to be in the off-season and new rules are going to be written and the season is going to start in January. And I think that we should be working right now for 2015. And we should always be at least a year in advance of the design of the car and of the package and trying to get ahead of it instead of always one step behind it."
CAN YOU COMPARE WHO YOU ARE NOW TO WHAT YOU WERE WHEN YOU STARTED IN THIS SPORT?
"Yeah, I feel like I'm definitely a more patient and smarter driver today. Anytime a driver says that it means that he's probably not putting it out there on the edge quite as much as he used to. So, you've got to take the pros and the cons of what you've learned over the years and where you're at. I feel like in some ways, I'm probably not putting myself in vurnable positions enough and pushing the limits of it, but on the flip side of that, I'm bringing the car home in one piece a lot more often.
"It all still just comes down to the total team effort and we've proven that over these last five or six or seven weeks. Earlier in the year, people wrote me off and said when are you going to retire? And now everybody is like wow, look at this guy. Where did he come from? He's back. He's got that confidence and that smile. Well, yeah. Because the cars have been awesome and as a team, we're coming together at the right time and putting great efforts out there and results. And that's fun. That's what I like to do."
WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU WERE HEARING PEOPLE WRITING YOU OFF AND THINKING HOW MUCH LONGER DOES THIS GUY HAVE AND KIND OF THE SWAN SONG OF JEFF GORDON?
"You know, I get it. You're all about performance and stats in this sport. I always love how earlier in my career, there were certain moves that were made or certain races that happened that I got all the credit and the team didn't get enough credit. And now, I feel like it's kind of the same thing. All of a sudden we're runnning good and everybody is like oh man, Jeff's confidence is back. Well, no. The team deserves credit. They work hard and unfortunately we just didn't seem to have it earlier in the year, but we certainly do now and that's just a sign of a good team that works hard. And for me, I never give up and neither does this team and that's why we're seeing good results."
HOW MUCH WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO WIN ANOTHER TITLE?
"I just like the fact that you're talking about that (laughs). That's a good question to have you know, because it's been a while since I've had that question asked; probably since '07. And I'm excited about that. That means things are happening for us. It's been so long, I don't know what it feels like to win a championship. I've never won a Sprint Cup. And at this point in my career, (crew chief) Alan Gustafson and this team, I feel like they are very deserving of a championship. I'd love to experience this as a group as well as with my wife and my family and how much it would mean to all of us to be able to pull that off. I don't even know if I have words to describe how much it would mean. The longer you're in the sport, the harder you work, and the more ups and downs you go through, the more meaningful wins and championships; certainly nothing would top that."
DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD APPRECIATE IT MORE NOW THAN THE FIRST FOUR?
"Oh gosh. I can tell you I didn't appreciate the first one near enough. And each one after that, I appreciated it more to have what 11 or 12 years now in between our last one, you'd better believe I would appreciate it a lot."
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