JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media and discussed what Martinsville Speedway means to him, his plans for the off week next week and many other topics. Full Transcript:
COMING BACK HERE TWO MORE TIMES HERE AND IN OCTOBER, TALK ABOUT MARTINSVILLE AND THE SUCCESS YOU’VE HAD AND KNOWING YOU HAVE TWO MORE CHANCES AT IT.
“I’m excited about those opportunities. This has been a fantastic racetrack for me throughout my career. Martinsville is probably the reason when we made the announcement in January why we left that little bit of window and door open. This is probably the first track that comes to mind for me that if I ran another race – not that I have plans to – that I’d do it at Martinsville… Truck, Cup, maybe Late Model. I just love this track. The least amount of things change at Martinsville that changes at any other track we go to. Aerodynamics don’t make as big of a difference. Tires don’t change much here. The speeds may gradually change here. When you look at every other track on the circuit and especially the bigger tracks when aerodynamics start to make a huge difference, that changes how you drive the car, how you set up the car, and the knowledge you have to have of all the data and technology that’s going on with the cars. This one, you don’t have to worry about that near as much. This week, of course, with the lack of power it’s going to change things a good bit and how we’re going to drive this track. But those are the reasons why I love this track so much and I always loved coming back here. I’m looking forward to these final two here this season.”
NASCAR HAS TAKEN TIRES AFTER THE LAST TWO RACES, AND THIS WEEK THEY SAID THEY SENT THOSE TO A THIRD-PARTY. YOU’VE HAD EXPERIENCE WITH THAT 17 YEARS AGO WHEN YOU WERE WINNING 13 RACES IN 1998. WHAT’S IT LIKE TO HAVE THAT KIND OF SCRUTINY IF YOU’RE ONE THOSE TEAMS, AND DO YOU THINK THERE IS ANYTHING GOING ON CURRENTLY?
“I just found out about that this morning when I got here. I didn’t know that it was going to the level that it’s gone to. I think a lot of us have speculated for years about different ways to bleed air from tires. I’ve been saying for years – and probably in here – that we need bleeder valves. We just do. I came from sprint cars where they’re built into the wheel. You set them. They may not be advanced enough for what we need in a Cup car and Cup tire, but it just makes sense. It’s crazy what we do with air pressures. These big heavy cars build the air pressures up so much that we’re always trying to start them real low, which causes issues for Goodyear and the teams. Then they just increase, increase, increase. So it makes sense to me that we should have bleeder valves. But because we don't, it’s pushing the teams to do things. I know you threw that out about 1998, but I can tell you that we weren’t ever doing anything like that in 1998. I know that people were speculating what we were doing. Or if we were doing it, Ray (Evernham) never told me. After all these years, I think I would have known about that. I’ve heard a lot of things with valve caps and poking holes in tires for years. But I’ve never seen it done. I’ve never had proof that it was done. So it’s very interesting to me that NASCAR is investigating this further. I look forward to seeing what comes out of it. To me, if they find a way to stop that if it’s really going on, I get excited about our chances because I know we’re not doing it so it will close the gap for us to whoever may be doing it.”
“Yeah, I do. I do think they are. When it gets to this level and when you’re hearing about it and I’m hearing about it and they are talking about things in meetings with crew chiefs - that tells me that it’s being done. It’s just not clear on how it’s being done.”
IN 1993 YOU WERE PART OF THE ROOKIE CLASS. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT ROOKIE MEETINGS, WHAT WERE YOU TOLD IN THOSE MEETINGS AND HOW HELPFUL THEY WERE.
“I couldn’t remember one, honestly. I don’t remember one meeting. Me, Bobby and Kenny became friends in the Busch Grand National Series and would hang out. Kenny Wallace walked up to my truck last week and we had so much fun reminiscing and talking about things. He was really, really kind to me in some of the things that he was saying. But I always think of Kenny as the guy I came into the sport racing against, and he was kicking my butt when we came into it. Then as we made our transitions into Cup, things worked out better for me. But other than hanging out with those guys and racing against those guys, I don’t remember the rookie meetings at all.”
DO YOU LOOK AT WHAT (KEVIN) HARVICK IS DOING AND WONDER WHAT THEY HAVE IN THE CAR THAT YOU DON’T OR WHAT IS HE DOING THAT YOU’RE NOT?
“Absolutely. We’re sort of partners with them in sharing the technology and data. It inspires us to push harder. We know their cars and their engines. We know a lot, but not everything, about their setups and they know about ours as well. When you’re getting beat out there on the track, it pushes you to try to find more. You start looking at photographs and what little, small details are being done. We do that with our teammates and we do that with Stewart-Haas because we have that information and because they’re the best team out there right now. They’re the fastest cars. We’re always trying to make our own things better, but we’re also always trying to look around to make sure we’re not missing something.”
NOT LOOKING AHEAD, BUT ARE THERE BIG OFF-WEEK PLANS FOR THE GORDON FAMILY AFTER MARTINSVILLE?
“We always look forward to Easter. This year we’re going to stay fairly close to home. We were invited to go to the White House and do the Easter Egg Roll that they do. We’re going to go up there and do some touring of D.C., which is something I’ve never done. We’ll take the kids, go to the Smithsonian, go around the city and enjoy D.C., like we never have before. Especially Ella, she’s getting to the age where she’s really interested in these things. Of course Leo is very interested in the Air and Space Museum, and the National History Museum. So hopefully we have a chance to see all those things.”
THE CONSENSUS IS THAT AFTER DAYTONA, THE REAL SEASON STARTS. DID YOU LIKE THE STRETCH THIS YEAR BECAUSE WE WENT TO A COUPLE 1.5-MILE, 2-MILE TRACKS THAT MAKES UP A MAJORITY OF THE SCHEDULE. DID YOU LIKE THAT STRETCH, AND DOES IT GIVE A CLEAR INDICATION OF WHO THE CONTENDERS WILL BE THIS YEAR?
“I do like the stretch. It didn’t fare well for us, but that’s our fault and not the schedule’s. We just had some things that didn’t go well for us, and we need to perform at a higher level. I like the tracks that we went to. I’ve always said that I feel like as much as goes into Daytona and as big as it is to kick off the season, I think we should take a week off to give the champion of that race the ability to shine, and go do all the shows and things and promotion of winning that race. Then, take a weekend off for everybody to reset and go hard for the next several weeks. I don’t know if that’ll ever happen. Other than that, I love the racetracks we go to.”
CAN YOU TELL ME YOUR FAVORITE SPOT WHEN YOU’RE IN MARTINSVILLE AND YOU’RE AWAY FROM THE TRACK?
“We were here testing last year, and that was the first time I came here in years and left the racetrack. What’s the famous place with the little windmill… the Dutch Inn? Oh yeah man, I went to the Dutch Inn. I’m not saying that’s my favorite place in Martinsville, but I went there. It was very interesting. It hasn’t changed much since I first started racing in NASCAR. It’s a cool, quaint little town. When we get time, we get out and go to some restaurants. Ever since they put the bus lot in back there, my favorite thing is that I drive to Martinsville. We don’t drive to tracks that often, so I really enjoy it. I have dinner with my family; say goodbye and I drive to Martinsville. I get here, enjoy the weekend, stay in the bus and work on trying to get a Grandfather Clock.”
AND THE HOT DOGS?
“I didn’t eat the old hot dog. So I’m looking forward to eating the new hot dog.”
LAST WEEK WITH THE INCIDENT WITH DAVID RAGAN, CAN YOU TALK THROUGH WHAT WAS GOING ON IN YOUR MIND AND WHY IT CAME TO HAPPEN?
“We were moving forward at that time – both me and Jimmie (Johnson). We caught David. He was definitely struggling and trying to hang on until the pit stop where they could make some adjustments. He was letting off real early in the corner. Jimmie got by him, and I didn’t clear him when Jimmie got by. About the next lap, I dove inside of him when he left off early; I could have slid up in front of him but I was like, ‘I’m not going to do a slide job on the guy this early in the race. We’ll see if he wants to race me hard or not.’ And so he did. He raced me hard on the outside. A couple laps later I got inside him again, and this time I crowded him a little bit more. He got all over my door; got me loose and so I basically said at that point that I was going to have to do it the hard way.
“If a guy was in the high lane, it was real difficult to pass. I know on the radio I said I may have to use the bumper, and I would have if I could have gotten to him and tapped him a little. But I didn’t have to. I just got up to him and he was already pretty loose. I just took the air off of him to just get him to lift, but he didn’t lift. He stayed in the gas and spun out. I went up to him afterward and told him, ‘David, in my opinion you didn’t have to do it that way and I didn’t want to have to do it that way. You were struggling and I was moving forward. I made three attempts on you and you didn’t want to give an inch.’ I don’t expect somebody to just let me go by them, but when you’re that much faster than somebody else, you have to make a choice: How do I want to race at this point and this stage in the race? Is it worth it to me? In my opinion and on a track that was that difficult to pass on, I was going to get up behind him. I never touched him, but I definitely took the air off of him.”
“To me, I had to do whatever I could to try to get him to understand that ‘I’m way faster than you, and I tried to do it the nice way. You didn’t leave me too many options other than to do it the not-so-nice way.’”
WHAT’S REASONABLE TO EXPECT FROM CHASE (ELLIOTT) THIS WEEKEND? IS THIS THE TRACK THAT YOU’D PICK TO BE YOUR FIRST ONE?
“(Laughs). This is a tough race track, especially without testing. I kind of love it because he’s being challenged in a big way, and I think he’s very capable of living up to that. These weather conditions and potential lack of practice are going to make it very difficult on him. With a Hendrick car, his talents and our setups, I have all the faith in the world that under normal circumstances that he’d shine this weekend. But it’s certainly going to be a steep learning curve.”
GIVEN YOUR SUCCESS HERE, WHAT POINTERS HAVE YOU GIVEN CHASE BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE?
“We talked this week at length on the phone. I told him the things that I like to work on as well as some of the challenges that we face. It’s kind of all new this week because of the lack of power. That’s really going to change a lot of things for all of us. I would think that most things that we’ve learned will apply. But we don’t know just how deep we’ll be driving into the corners, what that will do to our braking, how early we’re going to be getting into the throttle. In the past, loose off (the corner) has been a big issue here and trying to manage that power off the exit. With this lack of power, I have a feeling that it’s not going to be as near as big of a deal. We’re all going to be learning as we go, so all I could give him was information of what we had and what we dealt with in the past. We definitely talked. I love the fact that he called and reached out to me, and I’m happy to give him any information I possibly can – even if that means he’s driving by me on the last lap. That’s the way I’ve always done it for drivers I respect, who have the talent of a guy like that who also happens to be coming to Hendrick Motorsports.”
YOU SAW THE COUNTRY AS A RACER, BUT STARTING SO YOUNG DID YOU GET TO DO A LOT OF FAMILY VACATIONS AND STUFF. ARE YOU DOING A LOT OF STUFF FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH YOUR KIDS THINGS THAT YOU DIDN’T GET TO DO THAT OTHERS MIGHT HAVE DONE?
“Don’t get me wrong, things worked out pretty good (laughs). I’m always talking to friends of mine that I grew up with or went to high school with. They are like ‘man all you ever did was race, you never did anything else.’ I was like ‘yeah I think it worked out okay.’ They are like ‘yeah I wish I would have done that.’ Yeah, I missed out on some things, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am getting to relive that through them. Ingrid (wife) is really great about that. She wants to see them get these experiences and when it works out where all of us can have it together then we do. Whether it be in the U.S. or outside the U.S. We are always saying if we could come back, we would like to come back as our kids because they get to experience some pretty amazing things. Things that maybe we dreamed about doing when we were younger and they get that opportunity. There are so many great things to see in the U.S. that we don’t always take advantage of. Ingrid being from Belgium a lot of times will think of the things outside the U.S. so I think it’s great that we are staying close to home and doing something that none of us have ever done; in a place that has incredible history and culture and a lot to see.”