JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 PEPSI CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) and discussed his memories of racing at MIS, his thoughts on the high downforce package teams are competing with this weekend and many other topics. Full Transcript:
IS THIS A PLACE YOU CAN SEE YOURSELF GETTING YOUR FIRST WIN OF 2015 TO LOCK UP A SPOT IN THE CHASE?
“Well, I certainly hope so. I have always enjoyed this track. It felt very natural here. We have had great success here. The three wins probably don’t speak to the true stats. It’s been a track that not only have we been fast at and won a few times at, but we have put some pretty nice, consistent finishes together too. Obviously, this weekend a lot has changed that is going to change the aspect of the race and how you win it. That is going to be a challenge that we can’t quite predict. If everything was the same as last year I feel like our chances are pretty good, but things are a lot different in a lot of good ways. I think it’s going to make for some pretty intense and exciting racing and yet there are still a lot of unknowns that we are all going to be challenged with all weekend. I will know more tomorrow, but I think our chances are as good as about anybody out there.”
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE SENSATION OF GOING 400 MILES WIDE OPEN AS IT KIND OF LOOKS LIKE IT IS GOING TO BE OUT THERE IF PRACTICE IS ANY INDICATION:
“Well, it’s anything but wide open. I’m not wide open. Maybe that is why I’m not higher up on the board (laughs). I think qualifying we will be able to be wide open. In the race you can’t be wide open. I wish. I really wish we were because I think in order for this package to get the most out of it you need to easily be wide open, so you can really utilize that draft. You are going to be able to utilize the draft, especially on the restarts, but when you get to the corner we are still doing 190 plus MPH when we get there. There is a lot of turbulent air there. We are going to be fanned out and finding clean air and then trying to get that tow down the straightaway. It’s going to be a totally different Michigan I feel like than what we have ever had before. I think, yeah, if you are out front you are going to have a chance at maybe being wide open. I was really surprised in the first couple of laps I made on the track. The track was a little green, it didn’t have any rubber on it, and so it seemed to pick up speed each time we went out. But the first time I was anticipating us being wide open and I was anything but. Mainly with the front, can’t get the front to cut and stay wide open….”
“Well, I don’t like restrictor plates. That is not my answer. But, no, I think it’s going to make for a very intense and interesting race. I love the fact that NASCAR is trying some things. The thing is you hope that if you have a lot of drag, that you also have a lot of downforce. Because that rear fascia on the rear bumper it is taking the downforce off the car even though it is creating drag. It’s making the cars not stick quite as good as we would like them to. I think if we can find a high drag package where you can run wide open really easily at a track like this could be a solution. I leave those things up to aerodynamicists and engineers because I’m not one of them.”
WE LIKELY DON’T KNOW ENOUGH UNTIL WE SEE YOU IN THE RACE ITSELF?
“Well, today was mainly single car runs. We were all just out there trying to make the car go as fast as we could by ourselves in clean air and get ready for qualifying today. Tomorrow, we will really do a lot more running around other cars and we will learn more about what the package is going to be like for the race. We won’t really truly know until they drop the green and we are 43 cars going into Turn 1.”
SOME OF THE ENGINE GUYS AND TEAM OWNERS ARE TALKING ABOUT THE OVERHEATING OF THE ENGINES. HAVE YOU TALKED TO YOUR GUYS ABOUT THAT OR THOUGHT ABOUT IT?
“You always have to manage your equipment to make sure you are giving the information back to the team. If you have any concerns for any reason then you are relaying that information to the team. We are able to gather a lot more information these days with the data, especially with the engine to monitor what the temperatures are. But anytime you are getting a big draft down the straightaway that is because there is very little air that you are cutting through the air that the car in front of you is punching that hole with. Well, that means less air is getting to the radiator, getting over the splitter or over the roof or to the spoiler. That will be a concern, temps. We talk a lot about temps inside the car as well. They have made some mandatory ducts in there. It seems to be helping on the track. It seems like it’s not quite as hot, but it’s going to be hotter on Sunday. But there is just not as much air moving underneath the car and around the car, which can make that engine compartment a little hotter too. There are so many factors, fuel mileage, pit strategy, track position, aerodynamics, and restarts. It’s going to be wild.”
YOU ARE ON THE EVE OF YOUR LAST RACE HERE. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR FIRST RACE AT MICHIGAN?
“It was too long ago for me to remember. I just remember from the beginning from the first time I came here I just enjoyed this track. I enjoyed the multiple grooves and I always felt like this was, even though it takes a lot of power and a car that grips well through these long corners, I felt like it is a drivers track. Because you have options of how you enter the corners whether you enter shallow or right through the middle or arc in late. How you use the brakes you can find different grooves in the race. I mean we used to run up against the wall in (Turns) 3 and 4. When they repaved it narrowed it back up and now it’s widening back out. I feel like that is one of the reasons we were successful here last year is because it started to get back to the Michigan that I started racing on.”
HAVE YOU FELT THE FINALITY OF THIS SEASON YET?
“I really think Homestead is going to be the one where it kicks in for me. I mean there were little moments like being here and hearing what Roger (Curtis, President, Michigan International Speedway) said about it being bittersweet and being my final race at Michigan or at a track. I guess it doesn’t sink in as much right now, because I’m just so focused on thinking about the car and the track and the race and the set-up and what my job is to do this weekend that I’m not really allowing myself to kind of go there. I think it would be emotional if I won the race knowing it would be my last time here. I think that it would probably sink in at that moment.”
ARE THERE ANY STRANGE OR WACKY MOMENTS HERE AT MIS THAT YOU CAN TELL US ABOUT?
“Oh, geez. I’m trying to think. I’m such a businessperson when I’m here. I’m all business. I just think about the race. I do play a little poker with some friends sometimes, in the bus lot. I drive into Ann Arbor sometimes and enjoy some of the restaurants and liveliness that’s happening over there. As far as here at the track, I really only have memories and thoughts about what happens on the track. I always hear everything going on in the infield, but I’m not out there partaking in it. I’m glad everybody is having a good time.”
“I’m usually too tired. I want to go home. So, I want to come back here when I have less responsibility and just kind of be a fan, you know? I get very envious hearing all the screaming and yelling and hooping and hollering and music going out there, and knowing that I’m in my bus fixing my own dinner and getting ready for bed (laughter). I am a fan of the sport. I love it. I was just at Knoxville, Iowa at the sprint car race there and I got to be a fan and it was fun and I enjoyed that. I keep telling some of my friends that we’re going to get a group together and get a motorhome and go to an infield and do a little tailgating. I think that would be awesome.”
YOU SAID EARLIER YOU PROBABLY WOULDN’T KNOW UNTIL SUNDAY WHAT THIS NEW PACKAGE IS REALLY GOING TO BE LIKE. TONIGHT THERE IS A MEETING WITH DRIVERS AND NASCAR ABOUT THIS PACKAGE AND THE PACKAGE MOVING FORWARD TO THE CHASE. IS THAT REALLY ENOUGH TIME TO JUDGE THIS PACKAGE?
“I’m anxious to hear what we’re going to talk about tonight because to your point, yeah, I would have liked to have had more race practice before we have that meeting. But, I think also, they recognize that at Indy, it would have been beneficial to communicate right away about what people are feeling with the package and the car. But, I don’t know exactly if that’s what they’re going to talk about, or if we’re talking about what they want the package to be for the Chase, for 2016, or is it an open discussion where we can talk to Goodyear about some ideas? I love communicating. And the best way you can do that is to get a group of people together that are really smart in this garage area (like) engineers, crew chiefs, folks at NASCAR that have been working on this program, Goodyear, as well as drivers that get to feel it and experience it, to share those thoughts and ideas. But, I don’t know the exact specifics until we get into that meeting.”
A THREE-PART QUESTION: DO YOU USE THE 7 OR 9-POINT HARNESS? WHAT DO YOU THINK OF IT? HOW HAS THE BELT TECHNOLOGY CHANGED SINCE YOU’VE BEEN IN THE SPORT?
“Man, I can’t keep up with the numbers of how many points there are. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven….I count it as a seven. Where’s the nine coming from?
YOU’RE THE ONE WEARING IT (Laughter):
“Well, I have straps that go over the top of the HANS. I don’t think those are considered extra points. Maybe they are. Or, maybe they’re talking about another point right here with the sternum. I’m not sure. But, I’ve got the one that is mandatory. And, I’m always all about whatever is going to keep us as safe as possible out there. I feel like when it comes to seats and headrests and HANS devices and seatbelts, I’ve always wanted to be on the front edge of whatever is new and updated. And, I feel like Hendrick has followed suit with that, as well.
“Just like the HANS. It wasn’t very comfortable at first. And it rubs on your collarbone. And you feel like you can't focus as much on your driving, but then you realize how much safer it is when you go through a crash and you realize that you’re head stopped and it probably wouldn’t have otherwise. And then, all of a sudden you’re real comfortable with that thing on your neck.
“It’s the same way with the seatbelts. They added the two in the crotch area and it’s not comfortable. I don’t really care for it. But they tell me that it is safer in certain impacts. So, you just make do with it.”
DO YOU PULL THEM AS TIGHT AS YOU CAN?
“You’re darn right I do (laughter)! If I’m breathing when I roll off pit road, then it’s not tight enough. Now, in the crotch area, I would say that I might not pull it until my voice changes (laughter). I’m just saying. We can go all kinds of places with this if you want. But as far as my lap belt and my shoulder belts, I pull them extremely tight. I think some of my back issues have come from me pulling them too tight.”
YOU HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF A CUSHION BETWEEN YOU AND THE FIRST DRIVER OUT OF THE CHASE…
“Man, what points are you looking at? There’s no cushion.”
WOULD YOU EVER GO INTO A CONSERVATIVE MODE TO TRY TO PROTECT THAT, OR ARE YOU GOING TO CONTINUE TO BE AGGRESSIVE?
“I just want to finish a race where I’m capable of running. What we can’t do is have problems that we’ve had; you can’t get caught-up in a wreck like we did at Indy. You can’t have a brake issue like we had last week. We can’t be finishing 30th and 40th. It’s not like we have to win. We want to win and we’re working hard to do that. But, we know that Top-10’s are plenty good enough. But there are no guarantees in this sport. And even if you have a car that’s capable of finishing in the Top-10, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to finish there. So, right now, we’re just trying to get some positive momentum and good things going for us. We had some good fortune at Pocono, and kind of recovered ourselves from the Indy incident. And then we followed that up with the Watkins Glen debacle. So, I’m hoping that this weekend we can have another recovery like we had at Pocono.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 PEPSI CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 21st
YOU SEEMED VERY HAPPY WITH YOUR RUN DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT MOVING ON TO THE FINAL ROUND:
“I’m very happy with the way the car drove, but we are lacking speed. That is very frustrating. I feel like the lap way by far the best one I ran all day, but yet the speed wasn’t there. I’m not sure where we are missing it. It’s frustrating not to move on to round two.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 PEPSI CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 17TH
ON HIS DAY AND THE ASSESSMENT OF THE AERO PACKAGE:
“Our day didn’t end the way I was hoping. We were able to hover around the top 12, which I was extremely happy with. Unfortunately, that is not where we ended up. Just couldn’t get going on the restarts which is no surprise. It happens to us every weekend.”