JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed the return of Drive To End Hunger and AARP as sponsors in 2015, the first practice session and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT THE SPONSORSHIP RENEWAL:
“I’m really excited. It’s been so rewarding working with AARP and Drive To End Hunger battling senior hunger over the past several years. To get a chance to do that next year again is fantastic. We are very happy about that news.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT HAS BEEN MOST REWARDING FOR YOU WITH THIS PROGRAM?
“It’s just the volunteering. Getting out there, we do a lot of fundraisers with my foundation, but I can’t say that I get a lot involved with volunteering. This is really encouraged me to get out there and get with other volunteers and make a difference in how you spend your time doing that. It’s been phenomenal. I really do enjoy it. Whether we are delivering meals or whether we are sorting through can goods or dry foods. This program is amazing and it really makes a big difference in so many people’s lives. I look forward to doing some more of that.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DINNER IN DC THIS WEEK?
“Yeah, I was very fortunate to get an invite. I think the work that we are doing in Rwanda had a big influence on that. It was great. I got an opportunity to shake hands and meet the president of Rwanda President Kagame. That was a first for me and it was important. What an incredible event just to be a part of. Ingrid and I felt very fortunate to be there. It was great to see the President and Mrs. Obama for a short period of time. We even danced next to them on the dance floor which was probably one of the coolest things I think Ingrid and I have ever had the opportunity to do at the White House. That was pretty neat. It was really special.”
ARE YOU LOOKING AT EXPANDING YOUR EFFORTS IN AFRICA AND RWANDA? WAS THIS A GOOD OPPORTUNITY TO MEET PEOPLE AND WORK SOME THINGS LIKE THAT OUT?
“Yeah we are always looking at what more we can do to help, especially kids that don’t either have access to treatment or how we can give them better treatment. That is not just here in the US, yeah we are fighting hard to find cures for the really rare diseases that are here and find better long term treatments. That is why we support the research, but in Rwanda kids aren’t even getting access to it. Because of our efforts at Butaro Hospital children as well as adults are getting quality cancer care. That is something I’m really proud of and we want to do more of it. It’s a great country to do that kind of work in. Hopefully, it can expand to other countries within Africa.”
YOU’VE BEEN STRONG HERE IN THE PAST HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR CHANCES SUNDAY? WHAT WAS THE CAR LIKE IN PRACTICE TODAY?
“The car had good speed. We have really struggled with having speed here the last couple of times we have been here. We will go into qualifying trim now and see what kind of speed we have for qualifying. That is where we have probably struggled more than anything is getting the car right for qualifying. I was extremely happy and encouraged with how our practice went this morning.”
TALK ABOUT THE ADDITIONAL SPOILER AND CHANGING THE HEIGHT ON THE CAR. WERE THERE ANY NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCES ON THE TRACK?
“Yeah, you can really get into the braking zones deep. We are going to see some fast times for qualifying for sure. To me, there was just a little bit of added grip, but it goes away fast and you are slipping and sliding around bouncing over the curves. From that standpoint it’s going to be for the most part business as usual here at Watkins Glen. I think you are definitely getting a sense of the extra grip that the car has.”
DOES IT FEEL GOOD TO BE AT THE TOP OF THE SPEED CHARTS?
“Yeah, it felt really good. It always feels good. We are having a phenomenal year as a team. We have great cars, a great team and the confidence among all of us is high. When I look at tracks over the last couple of years that have probably been our worst I really think of Watkins Glen. Even though we have had great success here in the past I can’t say that we have recently. As good as our cars are and our team is and my confidence in everything it’s good to see that transferring over to this track, not just the other ones.”
DRIVE TO END HUNGER IS GOING TO BE DOING FEWER RACES NEXT YEAR CAN YOU GIVE US ANY HINTS WHAT THE OTHER SPONSOR TO TAKE THAT PLACE MIGHT BE?
“I can’t say right now, but things are strong for us at Hendrick Motorsports right now. I think the last couple of years we have all been very stressed out about sponsorships and getting those deals done. Here recently a lot of positive good things have been happening. There is more to come.”
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO GET BACK TO VICTORY LANE HERE AT WATKINS GLEN?
“Like I said we are having a phenomenal year. To follow up the Brickyard 400 win and our win at Kansas with a win here at Watkins Glen I think that would be a real true sign of just how good this team is. And how much fun I’m having this year. That would be pretty awesome.”
WITH TWO WINS RIGHT NOW DO YOU RACE DIFFERENT HERE? ARE YOU MORE AGGRESSIVE?
“It’s not just here it’s everywhere. We are racing to win. I mean it’s not that we haven’t been doing that all year long, we certainly have and we’ve had the consistency to go along with it. But we definitely can take a lot more risks right now than we have ever been able to. I’ve been in the position of several guys right now that are trying to secure that last spot. It is no fun. We all agree we like being in the position we are in. We are going to try to take advantage of being in that position. That means you’ve got to be aggressive and take big risks. We need to win some more races before this thing starts.”
LAST YEAR TONY (STEWART) WASN’T HERE IS IT NICE TO HAVE HIM BACK?
“It’s always great to have Tony back. I was able to have him back at the go-kart event too out in Knoxville (Iowa). Tony is such an important part of this series and our sport and such a great personality and talent that when he is not here we all feel it.”
TALKING ABOUT THE GO-KART EVENT WHO WON?
“I can proudly say I won this year. It was amazing. We really had a great time. We had a little bit of rain so it was wet and sliding around. We certainly had a lot of fun and raised a tremendous amount of money for Kick-It and pediatric cancer research. That is the coolest part. It was pretty darn cool having Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and myself all battling it out on a slick go-kart track. In the feature, it went my way so we were able to win. Those guys were a lot of fun to race with.”
A LOT OF GUYS ARE BEING HIT WITH PASS THROUGH PENALTIES FOR BLEND LINE VIOLATION. IT CAME UP AT POCONO LAST WEEK IN QUALIFYING JIMMIE (JOHNSON) GOT STRUCK WITH IT. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT IS THAT UNUSUAL OR ARE GUYS JUST KIND OF TAKING OFF ON PIT ROAD AND JUMPING OUT ONTO THE TRACK SURFACE?
“I never got a chance to talk to Jimmie (Johnson) about what his incident was or why that happened. For years we have not had that. This year we have it because of the new qualifying procedure. Sometimes you just forget, but to me it’s about going along with those procedures during practice and your spotter reminding you when you go out and practice; where those blend lines are and what the procedure is and just getting into a rhythm of it.
“It’s taken a little while to get used to it this year. Other than that I haven’t had any issues. At Pocono there is no real reason to go through (Turns) one and two as fast as you can because it’s such a big track, but there are some tracks where the issue is getting up to speed. We would normally go straight onto the track and get heat in the tires and get the car up to speed so that when we come off of (Turn) four we have the most grip that we possibly can and most speed coming to the green. So that is the only issue I have had is just the challenge of getting your best lap by having to ride around the apron at some of the tracks. At Pocono I didn’t have any issues.”
ANY ISSUES WITH THAT HERE DO YOU THINK?
“I mean there is no real reason why other than if there is a car coming and you want to get out in front of that car, but this is one of those tracks where you really you don’t want to take off pit road as hard as you possibly can and there shouldn’t be any reason to go over that line. Plus there is a line. At Pocono there is no line. The way it was told to us is your left-sides (tires) on the yellow line through (Turn) one. If there was a line it would be a lot easier to stay below. Where here when you leave there is a yellow distinct line. My question is can you go over the dotted yellow line. They haven’t said that yet. Usually dotted lines you can go over so I’m assuming as well. No issues here.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURE HERE AT WATKINS GLEN AND THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING A GOOD STARTING SPOT?
“I love this procedure everywhere we go. When I think about it I compare it to Formula 1 and in Formula 1 I love that format. I think we have got to do a little bit better job using the timing lines that are out there on the track and using segments and being able to give that information back to the fans. Whether it is through TV or through the fan scans any possible way that the commentators can take that information of who is going faster, who is losing speed, so we can get the camera moving around. I love it from watching timing and scoring and from a competitor’s standpoint of how you can go out and push the limits and know you’ve got another lap to back it up. Or, you can come in and cool down and try to go do it again. There is certainly some strategy to it as well. I think it’s exciting. I think it is fun and I enjoy it. It should be the same way here this weekend.”
DO YOU HAVE A CHASE STRATEGY YET?
“Go as hard as you can and try to win. We are going to keep doing the same things that we have been doing. We just hope that we improve our cars by then and we learn from the first time around at some of the tracks that we feel like we could be better at, Martinsville, Dover and a couple of others like that. That I feel like, Phoenix, that we can improve our performance and be a major threat for this thing.”
DO YOU LOOK AT THE SEGMENTS DIFFERENTLY SINCE IT’S LIKE IF YOU DON’T GET THROUGH THE FIRST ONE IT REALLY DOESN’T MATTER?
“Yeah, but I think you have to be careful getting too far ahead of yourself thinking you absolutely have to win. You don’t have to win. You’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to finish well and you don’t have to win. But we are going to be doing everything we can to win, but we are not going to take it so far as to not being smart about how we go about it. For instance where we are at now, we could take a lot of risks. When the Chase starts we are going to be more calculated in our risk taking and how we go about it. Whether it is me on the restart or fuel mileage or a pit call, you can’t go out there going for first and finish 20th. You can go out there and go for first and finish second or third. At the end of the day that should get you through, but you can’t make big mistakes. That is the biggest thing you just can’t make big mistakes.”
DO YOU THINK SOME OF THE GUYS THAT DON’T HAVE A WIN YET ARE REALLY GOING TO GO FOR IT THESE LAST COUPLE OF RACES?
“Well Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger they are always going for it here anyway. You look for those guys to be super aggressive because of the format this year it is so important to win. I look for those guys to be charging really hard. We don’t have a lot to lose either so we are going to be pushing pretty hard ourselves.”
CONFIDENCE AND THE ABILITY TO TAKE SOME CHANCES IS THAT A WINNING FORMULA AT WATKINS GLEN?
“Yeah, absolutely and a good car. We’ve got a lot of good things working for us and this is the first time I’ve come here in a long time with confidence that we have a shot at winning this race.”
DO YOU EXPECT MICHIGAN TO RACE A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT THAN FROM WHEN WE WERE THERE IN JUNE?
“No, I expect it to be very similar. Track position is going to be the thing that I expect us to do our pit strategy a little bit different. I don’t expect the racing to be a whole lot different. Maybe if it’s a little warmer maybe the groove will widen out a little bit, but other than that it’s going to be fast and you are not going to be in anybody’s wake at any point around that track. Those big fast corners you’ve got to have all the downforce getting to the car as you possibly can.”
ARE YOU STAYING FOR THE TEST SESSION FOLLOWING THE MICHIGAN RACE ON MONDAY?
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU ARE INTERESTED IN OR CURIOUS ABOUT AT THIS POINT?
“I’m very interested and curious, but we just have too many other things that are priority right now.”
WHEN YOU CAME HERE IN 2007 AND WHEEL HOPPED DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT EVER?
“Yes, all the time. Every time I go into turn one because I wheel hopped here a lot. I mean there are two things, it’s funny I was thinking about it earlier. One of the things is we didn’t have the car to beat that day we were really a second or third place car and Tony (Stewart) wheel hopped and gave me the lead. He was chasing me down pretty fast and I probably should have just been a little bit more conservative in there, but the other thing that bothers me is that I didn’t keep the engine running. I could have got it knocked out of gear got the clutch in and got back in behind him and finished maybe second, third or fourth, instead we finished a lot further back. That is a tough corner, turn one, I’ve wheel hopped there already today and not even trying. It’s just that easy to do it.”
RICK HENDRICK SAID THIS WEEK HE WAS GOING TO PUT CHASE ELLIOTT IN THE CUP CAR FOR A FEW RACES NEXT YEAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CHASE’S ABILITY IS HE READY FOR CUP?
“I mean this kid is phenomenal. He is just a sponge. You just introduce him to new things and he just excels at it. When it comes to young talent like Chase, I think the sooner that you can. Not necessarily the sooner, but you don’t want to keep them in a Nationwide car too long. You want to get them in that Cup car and I think that is a perfect plan is to put him in there for some races next year to give him an idea and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see him in there full time the following year.”
WHAT NUMBER CAR WOULD THAT BE?
“I don’t know. That has not been discussed.”
THIS YEAR THE WIN STICKERS HAVE BEEN VERY POPULAR DO YOU REMEMBER THE LAST TIME YOU GOT SO EXCITED ABOUT A STICKER?
“Anything that has to do with winning that you get any part of is exciting. That is very cool. It’s a little bit old school and I like it. I think we all recognize how important wins are these days. You look down the side of cars and you see guys with the win sticker, multiple win stickers you know they are getting it done and that is something to be proud of.”
COMMENT ON DALE EARNHARDT, JR.’S LOSS OF NATIONAL GUARD FOR NEXT YEAR:
“I cannot comment on that, sorry.”
DID YOU BREAK DANCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE?
“The President asked me to break dance. But unfortunately it wasn’t the proper music playing and he also suggested right after that, it probably wasn’t wise of me to do that with getting towards the end of our season. I agreed with him.”
WERE YOU WEARING A TUX?
“It was cocktail attire or whatever as a state leader whatever that attire is.”
HE HAD THE POWER TO PUT BREAK DANCING MUSIC ON:
“He didn’t and I was very thankful he didn’t.”