JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA/TEXAS A & M SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway and discussed the first two practice sessions, his visit to the Texas A & M campus and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME THIS WEEKEND:
“Yes, it is very exciting. I had an opportunity to go to Texas A & M on Thursday and with the engineering students as well as the football team. Impressive campus, and a lot of excitement and buzz over there as well as here at the race track being here in Texas and having Texas A & M on board our Axalta Chevy SS is really cool. I just think it is a great partnership. Charlie Shaver the CEO from Axalta is here and he is an alumni from Texas A & M, so connecting the engineering that goes on within one of the largest coatings companies in the world, as well as the engineering that happens within the teachings of engineering that happens over at Texas A & M as well as how that connects to motorsports, it just makes sense. We are going to have a lot of those students out here this weekend who won the opportunity to be our 12th man. Just the incredible support we’ve gotten just representing them. I feel like I’ve gotten some extra pressure on me to go out there and perform as well.”
TALK ABOUT COMING INTO TO TEXAS THIS YEAR:
“I love Texas Motor Speedway especially every year as the track continues to sort of deteriorate which makes for better racing and more abrasive surface. You see more fall-off. It is amazing how fast we are for one or two laps, and then you start feeling the pace and the grip level start to fall off very quickly. That, I think, really suits my style, and the way we set up the cars. We’ve been really fast here the past several times we’ve been here. It is really just about putting a complete race together and getting to the finish without any issues which is something we did have last year. We feel confident. Our cars have been amazing this year especially on the bigger faster tracks. I feel confident that we will also be able to bring that here tomorrow. We’ve gotten some good practice sessions in, certainly a few challenges that we are working on balance-wise. But the car has good grip and good speed so I feel really good about it.”
LOOKING AHEAD – YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ROAD COURSE AT SONOMA:
“We just tested there for Goodyear last week I think it was – I don’t know, all the weeks are running into one another now. We had a lot of rain so we didn’t get as many laps in as we would have liked to have had. I feel like Goodyear has a good tire there. We always enjoy going to Sonoma. It is basically home for me so I get to see a lot of family and friends that I don’t typically get to which was really nice to go do the test and actually spend even more quality time with a lot of people, especially with all the rain. But, that track has a lot of challenges, not only being a road course. There is a lot of fall off there. A lot of wheel-spin; a lot of tire wear, especially in the rears. Goodyear did a really nice job taking a tire that has a little bit more grip at the beginning of a run, but seems to keep a little bit better drive off (the corner). I think it was certainly good to get laps there, and get prepared to go back there. Hopefully we will put some success together there like we’ve seen in the past.”
YOU SAID YOU DIDN’T GO TO COLLEGE, BUT YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO GO. HOW ARE YOU USING THIS AS AN EXAMPLE FOR THEM WITH THE STUDENTS THAT WILL BE PART OF YOUR CREW? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
“For me getting to experience what life is like there on the campus, and how enthusiastic the students are to go to Texas A & M. It is a great school, and there is a lot of pride. There are some similarities between NASCAR and our fans and the passion we have for our sport; and the same thing for Texas A & M – their students and alumni fans that support them. As far as relating that to my children, I don’t know if they are going to go on to be engineers. But, if they are, obviously there is a great school there for them, and I see motorsports drawing more engineers all the time. There are so many great ways to get involved in this sport more so than just being a driver.
“My kid’s education is something that is very important to my wife and I. We’re trying to take our lessons in life, as well as do our best to give them the best education that they can get, and try to blend those things. What has helped us being successful and not going to college, and how they can blend that between having the education and have the same work ethics and approach in life about finding their passion as early on in life as is possible. If that takes them to furthering their education at a particular college, then we are going to support that 100%. But, we’re also open enough to know that because of our lives and the paths that it has taken us, we just want them to be happy and successful in whatever they chose to do. Every day I wish I had more of an education, and just that experience in life I think is huge in going to college and the responsibilities that come along with attending classes, having fun at parties. That balance between just being more responsible as an adult and stepping into that next stage of your life.”
HAVE YOU MET THE 28 STUDENTS HERE YET AND IF YOU HAVE TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT PASSION YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. HOW THEY ARE FEELING THIS WEEKEND AND WHAT ROLE THEY WILL PLAY IN YOUR RACE TOMORROW:
“I did meet them. They are really excited. They actually built a race car over there. It’s not a NASCAR stock car, but a lot of really cool thing that they have done. They get racing and as well as I can tell they are big fans of NASCAR. They are just extremely excited to come here and talk to some of our engineers. I think people that aren’t in the Carolina’s or at the race track every weekend underestimate how much technology and engineering goes into what we do every weekend. If you just go to Hendrick Motorsports and see the growth in engineering and people that are engineers you start to get a sense of why this tie is so crucial and important.
“We have tapped into engineering schools and students probably a little bit more around the Carolina’s and in the Midwest, but I’m not so sure that we have tapped into schools like Texas A & M. I think a lot of it is because maybe they just don’t realize that could be a potential path for them. As well as the tie to Axalta and the coating systems and all the engineering that goes into what makes their brand and their product so successful and why engineers are so important to them as well.”
WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT STOOD OUT TO YOU ABOUT YOUR TRIP TO COLLEGE STATION?
“Other than just how pumped up and excited they are to blend what they do and racing as well as going to visit with the football team they were pumping some loud music out there on that practice field. I thought that was really cool that they were working hard, but having a good time. It’s all about how hard you work, but how you motivate people to do their jobs and do them well. When you are working that hard you’ve got to find a way to kind of break up the intensity and I thought that was pretty cool to see that done. What an impressive facility that they have, the whole campus is just amazing. A lot of construction going on too so it’s only growing.”
YOU WERE ONE OF THE FIRST PEOPLE TO TWEET A CONGRATULATORY NOTE TO CHASE (ELLIOTT) LAST NIGHT…
“I was trying not to do it before he crossed the finish line (laughs).”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE POTENTIAL THERE? YOU HAVE TWO KIDS (KYLE LARSON AND CHASE ELLIOTT) WITH TREMENDOUS RAW TALENT A LOT LIKE YOU WHEN YOU FIRST CAME IN. HOW DO YOU SEE CHASE MATURING AND EVOLVING AS A RACER?
“I only wish I had the talent those two have. I think that the future obviously looks very bright for our sport. I’m really excited because they are the ones that are being highlighted, but there are more out there as well. I have had a chance to watch Kyle (Larson) race sprint cars. I haven’t had a chance to watch Chase race a lot of other things in person. I’ve certainly seen him run some of the K&N races on TV and things like that. What I see and I give so much credit to Bill and Cindy (Elliott) in Chase is that not only is he fast, he is smart. I love smart race car drivers. I think it’s so cool to watch him learn in split second moments on how to constantly improve. I think he proved that last night because he had a fast race car. They did a great job tuning on his car to get it better throughout the race to be in that position. But he was racing one of the best out there, several of the best out there in Kyle (Busch) and (Kevin) Harvick and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior. I loved how he approached it. He came up on him and Harvick knew that Chase was faster than him. He started searching around trying to find a line and Chase every time he moved up Chase would go to the bottom. Every time Kevin moved down Chase would go to the top. Then he ended up passing him on the top side. That was really smart driving.
“Kyle (Larson) is just super talented. Kyle Larson is extremely talented, has great car control, really knows how to be aggressive and search the race track. I think that Chase has this great balance of those things. They are two amazing talents. We are certainly excited because I feel like we missed an opportunity with Kyle (Larson), but I think things are going to work out really good if we can keep Chase there at Hendrick. I’m excited about his future and ours.”
IS DARLINGTON STARTING TO GET A LITTLE BIT OF ITS OLD CHARACTER BACK? HOW DO YOU THINK THIS NEW PACKAGE ON THE CARS IS GOING TO REACT THERE?
“I think it’s going to be like what it’s been everywhere we’ve gone. Superfast. Darlington is never going to be the old Darlington. That’s just because the pavement is different. It’s not big rocks and real super abrasive. It’s certainly gotten more abrasive and so the pace may drop slightly and the grip may fall off a little bit more than what we’ve seen the last couple of years. But we’ve also gained a lot of grip and downforce in the cars with the ride heights and extra spoiler and so I just look for us to be superfast there. And I can’t wait to get there. I always love racing at Darlington. I was there not too long ago doing winners circle for them and I loved seeing it nice and gray and worn out a little bit, as much as it can be, because again like here, like Atlanta, like California, that just suits my driving style.”
YOU’VE HAD TWO PRACTICE SESSIONS. HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING WITH THE TIRES? HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT THE TIRE PRESSURE? ARE THE TIRES HOLDING UP WELL?
“Yeah, so far, there are issues. They’re there. But they haven’t been as severe as what I anticipated; especially when we rolled out there yesterday and as fast as we were going, I definitely was anticipating on some of the long runs seeing more issues. I don’t know what the No. 41 (Kurt Busch) issue was. I mean I know it was a left rear, but I don’t know where they are in camber and air pressure. I know that the team has looked into it. I just don’t have all those details. But one thing I don’t understand is Goodyear put out this release this week with the pressures; why they don’t regulate it. Why not just put a minimum left-side tire pressure. That doesn’t make any sense to me because basically all they’re doing is asking for us to exploit it and push it. If somebody goes out there and goes faster than us and we find out that they’re a pound lower on the lefts, then we’re going to go a pound lower because that’s just speed. But they expect us to kind of regulate where we’re at on those pressures and what kind of tire wear or durability we’re going to have when they could very easily fix it by minimally putting it across the board for everybody.
“But we haven’t seen any issues. I think we’re being more conservative than some others right now. And I know how it works. You start off conservative and then you don’t see any problems and then you go a little lower and a little lower and a little lower and by the end of this race, the last run, if you make it to that point, is going to be the toughest run that we have because you’re going to push the limits hoping there is more rubber on the track and hoping that the results you’ve seen so far that you’ve got a little more to give. But you’ve got to go faster at that point. So, it’s a balancing act especially if rain is coming, too. A green race track is going to create some real challenges for us. But we’re going to try to do everything we can to have speed in the car and be a little bit more conservative than some of our competitors.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT HOW GOODYEAR SHOULD JUST REGULATE IT. WE ASKED GOODYEAR AND NASCAR YESTERDAY WHY DON’T THEY REGULATE IT, AND THEIR ANSWER WAS THAT THEY WANT TEAMS TO HAVE IT IN THEIR OWN HANDS TO EITHER BE AGGRESSIVE OR BE CAUTIOUS. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU WOULD PREFER FOR THEM NOT TO DO?
“Yeah, I don’t see why we just don’t minimize and give us more tools to work with for the set-up for the car and to try to find ways to have more speed there. I’m all for that. But, I would be fine with just putting that number out there and saying don’t go any lower than that. We do that with the right sides, so why wouldn’t they do that with the left sides? That’s up to them. And we’ll try to manage it the same way that we did in California. But yeah, I would be more supportive of them having the regulation on those left sides if they’re concerned about it. I think the one thing that I’d like to see them do, they need to understand that there’s way more load on the left sides this year than we’ve seen, and it’s just lower ride-heights and more downforce. We’re putting more loads into them and they’re trying to catch-up now to those loads. And so are we. We’re learning from it all the time as well. But from what I’ve seen, the speeds that we’re running here; I think the dual tread is helping because the grip is not quite there that we’re really like to have in that right front tire. So that’s the one thing that’s kind of helping us with the left sides right now.”