JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AARP MEMBER ADVANTAGES CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed what Dover has meant to him over the years, the new restart rule, his thoughts on Tony Stewart’s retirement and many other topics. Full Transcript:
YOU WON THIS RACE LAST YEAR TO CLINCH YOUR SPOT IN THE NEXT ROUND OF THE CHASE WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE FOR A REPEAT PERFORMANCE?
“I have always enjoyed Dover, especially with these presentations that just occurred it does remind me of how much Dover and the state of Delaware has meant for me personally and for our team. Coming here to Wilmington every single year visiting with all the employees at DuPont that was our sponsor for so many years and even Axalta now it’s really the same company just a different name. It’s always special coming here and then when I see the success that we had here. You always want to have success in your sponsors home and backyard and we did that from the beginning. It always made coming here that much more special. Last year was really memorable to win this race. My family was here, I had friends that were here and it was a great day. We didn’t have to win that race in order to move on, we just needed to have a solid day and I feel like we are in a very similar position this weekend. But, we would love to come out of here with a win. I think it just does a lot momentum wise, confidence wise, for the next round and for trying to win this championship.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE IT’S DIFFERENT FROM WHEN YOU WERE COMING UP THROUGH THE RANKINGS IN THE EARLY 1990’s FOR YOUNG RACERS?
“What I love about NASCAR and I had a conversation earlier today, talking about the first time I ever went to Charlotte and was pursuing stock cars, I didn’t know a lot about stock car racing and racing cars with full bodies on them. When I was racing sprint cars in the Midwest and growing up in California, I was in awe of it immediately. I knew that this was for me the first time I traveled to North Carolina and went to Rockingham and saw that track. I saw Charlotte Motor Speedway and when I got behind the wheel of that stock car on those high-banked tracks, being on ovals especially, I was just so drawn to it and I knew it was for me. The great thing about that is that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what kind of racing you grow up on, other than I think it needs to be oval driven, but it doesn’t have to be a stock car. It doesn’t have to be a big heavy car that is racing at the same tracks or similar tracks, similar cars. It can be open wheel sprint cars and midgets and it can be go-karts. It can be all kinds of different paths that get you there. But what I love about NASCAR is we have a sport in which talent is the biggest overriding factor of hiring young drivers. The car owners, the sponsors, the teams they embrace wanting to bring individuals, give them a chance, taking a chance on them because they believe they have the talent to go win races and championships and create the funding it takes to go racing based on that. We have proof of that with a guy like Kyle Larson, with an up and coming guy like Chase Elliott and that is exciting. That is what drew me to it and I think that is what is going to continue to help this sport thrive in the future.”
NOW THAT YOU ARE IN THE HOME STRETCH DO YOU REALIZE HOW CLOSE YOU ARE TO THE END?
“Yeah, we are winding down that is for sure. I still believe it’s going to be Homestead when it hits me. I’m pretty good, and I think this is definitely been a plus for me as a driver over the years, is to put a lot of those feelings and emotions and thoughts on the side and just go focus on doing my job. When I get in the car I’m not thinking about anything else other than when I get to the track it’s pretty much the same way. Right now we are in the thick of this championship. We are proud that we made it into the Chase. We are proud of the position that we are in, in this first round and we’ve got work to do this weekend to make sure we go on to the second round and then it starts all over again. Still the focus is very competitively driven and that is where most of my thoughts and emotions are right now. Homestead, no matter what is happening there, whether we are going for a championship or not, it’s going to be hard to hold that back, especially when that checkered flag waves.”
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON NASCAR'S RESTART RULE CHANGE? WAS THAT THE RIGHT MOVE? HOW DO YOU SEE IT IMPACTING RESTARTS GOING FORWARD?
“I absolutely love it. I think it’s a great move. I’ve been asking for this for a while. I think we just kind of went too extreme. It used to be a mark on the wall and it was go in the vicinity of this mark and this area, but really the way the rules were written you could kind of go all the way to the start/finish line. People pushed the limits on that and forced NASCAR to make this box that we currently have. The box was always too small. It just makes the whole front row very vulnerable and not just the second-place car, but the leader as well. It has needed to be bigger. My only question is did they go big enough? I think the bigger the track the bigger we are going to need to make it. I did a study with my team last year on this whole restart box. My engineers did all the numbers and at pace car speed the average time that you are in that box and had time to react to a restart was barely over one second. It may look like it’s fairly big out there, it is not. When you have one second to react in that area everyone can just anticipate what is going on, but the people in the front row. There is no question, there is no doubt, there is no anything other than I know they are getting ready to go and I’m going to roll with just one mile per hour more speed and gain an advantage over them. I like that they are going to put it back into the leader’s hands a little bit. It doesn’t mean that still things aren’t going to go on, but I think it’s going to be better for NASCAR, better for the front row and better for the whole field.”
YOU HAVE BEEN IN SITUATIONS LIKE KEVIN HARVICK IS IN THIS WEEKEND WHERE YOU HAD TO WIN OR FINISH IN THE TOP THREE. HOW HARD IS THAT GOING TO BE THIS WEEKEND AT A PLACE LIKE DOVER WHERE THINGS CAN HAPPEN SO FAST?
“Yeah, but you can also look at his performance, not just recently but all year long. At this race earlier this year I think he was the dominant car all day long. Yeah, that is a lot of pressure but I think if there is any team that is capable of coming through in a must need situation – it’s that team. They are going to have 42 others out there trying to prevent them from winning this race and that is certainly going to be a challenge for them. I think you have to understand that everyone in this Chase knows that they are the biggest threat for the championship and if they get eliminated then that takes the biggest threat out of it. So Kevin and that team are going to be working hard and all the other teams are going to be working hard to win this race and potentially eliminate one of the biggest threats.”
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO ALL THE FANS THAT CAME HERE THIS WEEKEND AND ARE SOAKING WET JUST PRAYING FOR GOOD WEATHER AND TO SEE YOU RACE YOUR LAST RACE HERE?
“That is what makes our sport and our fans amazing. I met with about 15 or 20 of my biggest fans earlier this morning and this doesn’t stop them. It doesn’t slow them down. I know they would love to be in the grandstands watching cars go around the race track, but what has made this sport so great and so successful is the loyal, avid fans that we have that figure out how to enjoy themselves even when the rain doesn’t stop. I know that Sunday is looking pretty good right now and we have an excellent chance of getting this race in and having a great Dover race. I don’t know what that is going to mean for practice today or tomorrow. Not today, but what is going to happen tomorrow. But I know they are going to be anxious to get that green flag like we are on Sunday.”
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS TOWARD TONY STEWART AND WHAT IS GOING TO BE YOUR ADVICE AS FAR AS WHAT HE WILL BE GOING THROUGH NEXT YEAR?
“Yeah, man that is a tough one. You know I am torn on that one because I love Tony, I love seeing him out there. Not only because he is one of the greatest competitors I have raced against, but as a fan I always love seeing him out there on the track. He always keeps it exciting, interesting and with his talent you never know when Tony is going to come out of nowhere and win the race. You can never count him out and you never know when he is going to go on a roll and win the championship when you least expect it. That is just the kind of competitor that he is and he is a great personality as well. My advice to him is to just enjoy every moment because it goes by really fast. Have fun with it and celebrate it. I think that is the thing that is just like me in that he has a career that has the ability to be celebrated. He is going to get a lot of accolades and support from the fans, the tracks, and the media because of what he has done over the years. But he should enjoy it because it has been a heck of a ride and he deserves it.”
YOU HAVE TALLADEGA COMING UP IN A COUPLE WEEKS…
“See, why do you have to ruin my day and remind me about Talladega.” (laughs)
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT A PROCEDURE CHANGE REGARDING GREEN/WHITE/CHECKERED FINISH AT A RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS BY NASCAR?
“Yeah, I am open to it. Talladega, with the start/finish line not being in the tri-oval, there are some advantages to that as well. It’s a wider race track and you have more room to race on when you have some of those big runs coming to the finish line. But the same thing is going to hold true with that style of racing and the aggressiveness you have to have in the closing laps when there is a late caution, you just don’t have any other choice but to hold it wide open and hold on tight. That is what makes it so exciting if you are watching, it’s what makes it so intense when you are inside the car, and I am not so sure there is much procedural stuff that can change or fix that. We have had meetings. We had that meeting last week in New Hampshire and we have had council meetings, and in between that we have had times when you give your opinion. And yes, I have certainly given my thoughts and my opinions. As a group it seems like we are collaborating more than we ever have and that is one of the topics.”