JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 3M CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Dover International Speedway and discussed the physical demands of Dover, what Daytona International Speedway has meant to his career and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR CAR AND WHAT YOU EXPECT FOR THE WEEKEND AS WE HEAD INTO QUALIFYING LATER TODAY:
“A tire change and decrease in horsepower definitely changes this place a lot. We are kind of just throwing all of our notes out of what we had in the past that has worked. It’s like starting all over again. We had some challenges today we weren’t near as good as we were hoping to be. We are working diligently to try to improve our qualifying effort that is going to happen here in a little bit. Then kind of go through our notes this evening to see what we can start with tomorrow to make some improvements. Just the fact that you are driving much deeper into the corners with less power makes a huge impact here because of the big dips and bumps going into (Turn) 3. It really loads the car up much more aggressively over there. It makes those bumps seems like they are even worse than what we have had in the past. That is just one of the little things that when you take 100 horsepower out of the cars how it can change your approach in your set-up and what you have to do to get around a race track such as Dover.”
KEVIN HARVICK SAID HE USUALLY LEAVES OUT OF HERE WITH SORE HEELS. IS THIS A PHYSICALLY DEMANDING TRACK FOR YOU?
“Yeah, it definitely is a physical track. I wouldn’t say that I have ever had any problems in my heels, but your arms get such a workout here because you are working the wheel constantly. Once rubber starts getting laid down on this racetrack it’s a little rough. The concrete has where there are certain patch areas. Every time they come in and do a patch the finish of that piece of concrete is a different texture than the other pieces. You have different grip levels. You are constantly fighting between push loose, push loose and you are just working the steering wheel constantly here. Not to mention the G-loads that you pull here are pretty significant. These are big corners, high banked with a lot of grip. It’s a very physical track. You are working hard each lap.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE BEST WAY FOR YOU TO GET INTO THE CHASE IS THROUGH POINTS? OR DO YOU STILL FEEL LIKE YOU GUYS HAVE A GOOD SHOT AT WINNING?
“I think we are very conscious of the fact that we need to improve our performance, especially on the 1.5-mile tracks. We have not lived up to our own expectations and we are working extremely hard to find that. I think right now if we execute flawlessly we have a shot at winning. But we haven’t been doing that either. We have some work to do. It always helps when you get your performance up in your cars. You can make a few little mistakes here and there and still put yourself in position to win. For us right now while the performance is down a little bit, I’ve got to do a better job on the restarts. We have to do a better job on pit road and the calls that we make for pit strategy and track position. Those things just all have to be done perfectly, but never stops us from trying to get the performance better. We want to win every time we go out to a racetrack, our goal is to win. But nothing has changed in my entire career since I started your goal is to go out there and fight as hard as you can for every position and get the best finish that you can. Hoping that is a win, if it’s not a win, second or fifth. To me it’s always if you have a 10th place car you want to get it to eighth or ninth or seventh. If you have a fifth place car you want to get it to fourth or third or second. Right now that is what we are trying to do is just get the most out of it. Last week we certainly had better than a 15th place car and it didn’t play out for us that way and we ended up 15th. That was very disappointing, but we came out of there with some decent points. The reason we are ninth in points is because we have been consistent. We have certainly been consistent, but that is definitely not good enough for us. We want to be better. We don’t just want to be in the Chase, we want to be in the Chase with a chance at winning it.”
YOU ARE COMING UP ON PRESUMABLY YOUR LAST RACE AT DAYTONA. WHAT KIND OF ROLE HAS THAT TRACK PLAYED IN SORT OF DEFINING YOUR CAREER?
“Certainly early in my career or the first half of my career it was significant and played a big role because of the Daytona 500 wins that I’ve had. The 400 wins that I’ve had, just even that first race in the Duels that year was huge. I mean I always enjoyed racing at Daytona. The way you race at Daytona and the type of drafting that we have now has changed so much in the second half of my career. I haven’t seen the victories or seen the success or had as much fun racing at those types of tracks as I did the first half. But I’m very appreciative and thankful and I think even more so today because I think it’s even harder to win today at those tracks than it ever has been. It makes me go back and go ‘wow I can’t believe I won three Daytona 500’s. How the heck did I do that?”
IS THERE ANY SENSE OF URGENCY AT THE HENDRICK SHOP OR ANY SENSE THAT THINGS NEED TO BE PICKED UP AS A WHOLE ORGANIZATION AT THIS POINT?
“I can tell you there is...I wouldn’t call it urgency, but there is definitely a lot of hard work being put out to get that turned around. This rule package that we have this year has not suited any of us very well. I know Jimmie (Johnson) has the three wins, which we all scratch our heads and are amazed that he has been able to do that. Because we don’t feel like we have really performed, any of us, to that level, but they have done an excellent job. That goes back to the execution. Those guys executed at those races very well. I think it’s obvious that on the superspeedways we are still very strong. I feel like we had a dominate car at Daytona, dominate car at Talladega, Dale, Jr. got the win at Talladega. There is no reason why we can’t win at those tracks. It seems like at the other tracks we are off a little bit, downforce and maybe even a little bit with power. That is unusual for us. We are very aware of it. I wouldn’t call it urgency just a lot of hard work and focus on getting that turned around.”
IS IT FAIR TO SAY THIS TRACK IS EXHIBITING THE MOST PRONOUNCED DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAST YEAR’S PACKAGE AND THIS YEAR’S PACKAGE?
“I think they have all exhibited it, all in their own unique and different way. When you do a combination of tire change and all the other changes it’s been pretty significant. I tested Indianapolis, I think it was actually this same left-side tire possibly, and we saw a big change there as well with the power. The downforce is not that big. I think the teams have gained a lot of the downforce that we lost. I think they have done a good job pushing forward and gaining a lot of that back. I don’t think the downforce is much different as the power change has been; then you throw in a different left-side tire. I was pretty shocked when we took off in practice just how I was able to flat foot it from the middle of the corner off the corner and how much speed I was able to carry into the corner. At the same time the bumps into (Turn) 3, which are always pretty bad here, but boy they really get your attention when you are driving that deep into the corner. I think we have kind of expected it at most places these days. It is pretty significant here. I will be curious to see what kind of side-by-side racing that we get this weekend. Usually this groove moves up and I hope that happens here, that would be nice. We are going to need it.”
WITH YOUR ANNOUNCEMENT THAT YOU ARE GOING TO BE BROADCASTING FOR FOX NEXT YEAR HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO BE ABLE TO STAY AT THE TRACK FOR NEARLY AN ENTIRE SEASON AFTER YOU RETIRE FROM FULL-TIME RACING?
“I’m not sure I quite understand the whole question, but I’m certainly looking forward to that. I’ve never wanted to step away from racing, just from behind the wheel of the car. I love the fact that I get a chance to be close to this sport in a whole unique different way being in the broadcast booth. I still have a very strong relationship with Hendrick Motorsports. So, I’m going to be able to really be tapped into the performance of the cars and the teams and what the drivers are going through and the teams are going through with that relationship as well. Yeah, my decision was never to leave the racetrack it was mainly just to kind of focus and do something different and hope that gives me a little more quality time with my family at the same time.”
DO YOU THINK YOUR GUYS ARE PRESSING OR FEELING ANY EXTRA PRESSURE BECAUSE IT’S YOUR LAST YEAR OR BECAUSE OF THE WAY LAST YEAR ENDED?
“I don’t know if it has much to do with it being my final year. I think they are just as excited to give me their best in my final year as I am to give them my best and us to work well together as a team. I think that most of that push right now is just coming because we are not performing as well as we feel like we are capable of.”
HOW GRUELING IS THIS PART OF THE SCHEDULE COMPARED TO OTHER PARTS OF THE SCHEDULE? HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO HANDLE THIS SUMMER STRETCH?
“It’s a change for sure in how you approach things primarily because not only are these tough tracks like Dover, Charlotte, Pocono, but it’s the heat. It becomes more humid and hotter and so you have kind of been able to get away with some things up to this point in the season from a hydration standpoint. You won’t be able to get away with those things from this point until maybe end of September, early October. You really have to focus on your nutrition and your hydration. You don’t want to start having issues with any fans or blowers inside the car or your helmet. That physical fitness becomes an issue and it’s the same or even worse for those guys working on the car. Because everything is already hot and then you take a hot day and they are inside and around those cars sweating like crazy and working their tails off. It definitely weighs on everybody, especially if you go for long stretches in that heat.”
AS YOU PREPARE TO RACE HERE THE LAST COUPLE OF TIMES ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL THOUGHTS OR FEELINGS TOWARDS THIS PLACE BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE DONE HERE?
“I’ve been getting that question quite a bit lately. I’m so focused on the competition and the approach of just racing and going to the track with the mindset of ‘how do we make the car go faster? What do I need to do?’ That I’m not thinking about the sentimental side of it or that part of it. I really think the second half of the season when I start going to the tracks for the last time, I think that will start to sink in a little bit more. I’m very appreciative of the tracks and the interactions with the fans that I’ve had and a lot of the things they have done or said or shown me through signs and support already. But most of my mindset is just kind of as usual which is the approach that I have in going to the racetrack to compete.”