JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 PANASONIC CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed his confidence at Michigan, his goal of winning at Kentucky, radio discussions and frustrations last week at Pocono, and more. Full Transcript:
ON RACING AT MICHIGAN:
“This is a track, certainly after how we performed last year, and just a track that I’ve enjoyed over the years a lot; I love the transitions, I love the speeds, I love the big sweeping corners and the challenges that this track presents to a driver. You can move around. And the groove is starting to get wider and wider each time we come here. So, yeah, I definitely have confidence with the type of season that we’ve had so far. It’s great to come to a place like Michigan. We were fast in practice. It looks like we’re going to get a chance to qualify, so I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of laps we can lay down in qualifying and regain that confidence that we need, not just here a Michigan, but everywhere to go out there and compete for wins. The team is working extremely hard to make those improvements and give me what I need to go out there and have confidence. And that’s really, to me, what we’ve been lacking a little bit of. The performance has not quite been there. The confidence has not quite been there. And it all comes together when you have those things. And it doesn’t happen overnight. But, one race can make a huge difference in getting you back there and I think this is definitely a track that can do that for us.”
‘Kentucky is that one track I’ve not won at yet. So, it’s a track that’s definitely very high on my list, especially in this final year. I don’t have any plans to come back to Kentucky to race in the future, so I’ve got one shot at it. We’ve been close. I think we’ve had some cars there that were capable of winning. Hopefully, we can go there and take it to that next level and complete every track. That’s certainly a huge goal of mine. When I get asked about what tracks are high on my list this year of wanting to win at, Kentucky always comes to the top of my list because I’ve never won there before and I’d love to complete that.”
DO YOU LIKE THE ROUGHNESS OF KENTUCKY?
“I prefer a smooth track. But it doesn’t matter. As long as you go there and can win. I’ve heard they’ve made some changes there to try to make the front straightaway smoother. But the front straightaway has never really bothered me. Yeah, we bounce around. But it’s the corners where you want it to be smooth and the corners aren’t bad when the car gets loaded-up. There’s one spot getting into (Turn) 3 that’s pretty tough; and then when you get back in the throttle off of (Turn) 4, it’s a little bit tricky. But I like those challenges that are in a track that can separate you from the competition, somewhat. All in all, I’ve liked the track. I’ve liked the challenges of the track.”
LAST WEEK AT POCONO YOU SOUNDED A LITTLE FRUSTRATED ON THE RADIO. IS THAT MORE JUST YOUR FRUSTRATION GETTING THE BEST OF YOU AT THAT POINT OR WHAT EXACTLY WAS GOING ON?
“No, it’s intense out there. We had a car far better than what we finished. I would say a little bit of build up with the type of season that we have had so far. It seems like every time we have a car that is capable of either winning or running in the top five some circumstances come about that take us kind of out of that. That is frustrating. When you are in the closing laps of a race or coming down to the final pit stops, and you are making choices and decisions you are not always going to like those decisions. At that point I think both Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) was frustrated and I was frustrated. The restarts weren’t going great. We took a risk on pit strategy and the caution came out. That blew that strategy and that put us back. We saw how tough it was to pass and track position was really important, especially in that final run. He was thinking that we needed to come in. I felt like the car was pretty good at that point. I rarely ever question those calls. He is the crew chief and he makes great calls, but at that point I felt like I needed to stay out and it got a little heated. But it is all good. We are big boys. We respect the heck out of one another and we had great conversations this week. I think it’s actually been more positive that we kind of got that out there and had this heated moment. And said some things and got them off our chest. I think it has actually helped us come into this weekend focused, motivated and excited.”
THERE HAVE BEEN DISCUSSIONS ON POSSIBLE RULES PACKAGE CHANGES MID-SEASON NOW FOR THE CARS. IF SO WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF THAT? WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY NEED?
“I find out about this five minutes ago and you guys already know everything. I’m amazed, blown away. I have heard the same thing that there is potential. You always want to be able to go and test it and understand it. I’m fine with what I’m hearing about a reduction in downforce if they can bring a softer tire. To me that is the whole key in kind of where we are at today. We knew the power was being reduced. A lot of the drivers were really asking for less downforce if the power was going to be reduced, but the key component to that was being able to get Goodyear to match the tire up for that to have a little bit more grip at the beginning of a run and maybe have some fall off. That has been one of the biggest challenges this year is that we are actually running harder tires. We are on a harder tire here this weekend. Those are some real tricky conditions by the way that we had out there today. It was spitting rain, a super rock hard tire and 100 less horsepower. We are flying through the center of the corner. That is what we want to get away from. We want to have a tire that has some good grip, but it gives up each lap. I’m hoping this is the direction that will get us there.”
TALK ABOUT THE DRIVERS COUNCIL THAT MET RECENTLY. IF YOU COULD BE CZAR FOR A SEASON WHAT ARE A COUPLE OF THINGS YOU WOULD DO?
“I think that to me it is just about open lines of communication. Communication between NASCAR and the drivers, the crew chiefs and engineers, the team owners, sponsors, the media, our network partners, it’s always just about communication. I think anytime we take a step forward in getting those ideas and thoughts whether they are on paper or an open dialogue in a room it’s awesome. I really loved the meeting that we had in Dover, because I feel like everybody was expressing their opinions. It kind of goes back to what we were just talking about. One of those thoughts was about… I don’t think any of the drivers really want reduced horsepower, not many of them. But we get it. We understand there are some cost savings there that the teams are looking for. The more power you make the more difficult it gets to run engines for long periods of time without the cost getting really high. If that is the way we are going to go, what we want is the same as what everybody wants. We want more passing. More lead changes, three-wide racing and how you get that is by communicating and using the technology that is at our disposal now to benefit the racing. The only way we are going to do that is all working together. I like the direction we are headed.”