Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, met with members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and discussed what it will take to win the championship, his trip to the Congo next week, the importance of track position and more. Full transcript:
YOU COME INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE SEVENTH IN POINTS WITH TWO WINS THIS SEASON, TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT BEING HALFWAY AND LOOKING FORWARD TO THE SECOND HALF. “I think we break it down a little bit different than that now with the Chase. Even though we are half way through the season we only have a handful of races left before the Chase and the real championship begins. Pretty pleased with our season up to this point. Certainly happy about the two wins. I feel like we’ve been very fortunate the last few weeks to get some pretty good finishes to move ourselves up in the points but I feel like we need to perform a little bit better than that if we’re really going to not only advance in but also be a real threat for the championship so I think this is a crucial weekend for us and one that I feel confident in. Very excited about this race, our set-up and our chances this weekend. At this point you just have to keep taking it one at a time and see and hopefully improve each week.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE NO. 48 AND THINK ABOUT WHAT THEY’VE DONE IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS, WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT YOU’RE LIKE THAT’S WHAT WE NEED TO DO TO WIN THE TITLE? “Be really, really good in the last 10 races. When you win five in a row you don’t always do it the same, well at least in their case they haven’t. To me they’ve done it in different ways from dominating the season from beginning to end to not really showing they were that strong until it really came time to do it and when it really counted most in this final 10 races. I think that it’s a combination, they’re a very strong team, they have very little change over within their team other than maybe in the pit crew area so I think it allows them to stay confident in what they’re doing and what they’re capable of doing all the way to the end of the season especially in the Chase, in those final 10 races. And I think those 10 tracks in the Chase are very good tracks for Jimmie as a driver and them as a team as well. That certainly works for them as well. You just can never count them out.”
I’VE SEEN A COUPLE OF PLACES YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING INTO THE CONGO IN THE OFF WEEK? “Yeah, I leave Sunday night after the race.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY YOU ARE GOING ON THE TRIP, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE? “I became a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, what they call the lead group which is just a smaller, younger group of philanthropists in all different areas of philanthropy. It’s a very ambitious group, a very prestigious group to be a part of, obviously led by former President Clinton.
“You know when you get into a meeting with this group of people and you’ve been brought together by President Clinton, you decide to do some very ambitious things and one that we decided to do collectively as a group, because we wanted to find an initiative we could all be a part of. Obviously mine at the time was through my Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation Pediatric Cancer Treatment Research so I wanted to know maybe what the health issues were abroad that I could be a part of. Others had women’s rights, some had deals with trade issues, it’s a pretty amazing group.
“So we decided our initiative to come collaborate together was a refugee camp in the Congo. First it started as a refugee camp that led into the Congo because of a very ambitious group, they want to go to the harshest environment and make the biggest impact. That was last July so at that point we decided that we needed to go and visit a refugee camp because it’s hard to talk about it and to really say you’re making a difference if you haven’t truly experienced it. So we’ve been planning this trip ever since. This is the only time it fits into my schedule so I leave Sunday night, I get there Tuesday and I come back Thursday night and get home Friday so it’s a very quick trip but there’s a lot packed into a short period of time. My expectations are to see some jaw dropping, eye opening experiences that are going to change my life forever. Hopefully we can do some very good things to try to change that in the future.”
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR VISIT TO THE FOOD BANK AND WHAT THAT MEANT TO YOU AND THE DRIVE TO END HUNGER CAMPAIGN? “That’s why I mentioned at the time when the Clinton Global Initiative thing came up my primary and only focus when it came to philanthropy was the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, since then getting to work with AARP foundation and AARP through Driver to End Hunger it’s been really inspiring to not only help nationally and going into each one of these communities and make an impact on those who are suffering hunger issues. My first time this year visiting one of the actual food banks that is collecting the food, sorting the food and distributing the food, so we donated a check of $ 10,000 to the New Hampshire food bank and they really impressed me in how organized they were, how efficient they are with the food that are either donated or that they’re able to purchase through the funds that are donated. They’re cooking hot meals over there as well that are being distributed out to boys and girls clubs and different organizations locally. They’re impressive and great to see the dollars that are being donated by fans and by companies and being brought together by AARP and Driver to End Hunger program, to see it at work.”
YOU HAVE THREE WINS HERE AT THIS RACE TRACK, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO GET YOUR FOURTH WIN AND DO YOU ACTUALLY ENJOY RACING THE FLATTER TRACKS MORE? “I try not to ever have any expectations going into a track. I guess Martinsville I really do feel like as a driver I can play a bigger role at a place like Martinsville than any other track we go to. I do feel confident in this race track when we come here but it still has a lot to do with the car and the set up. This track has some really unique things that make it challenging. The bumps getting into the corners, how flat it is. Goodyear has brought a little bit different tire this time. Its seems to have pretty good grip so I’m liking that. I’m here for the first time with Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and his group of engineers and they’ve been very strong here in the last couple of years. I’ve run well here with Steve and Robby and pretty much every crew chief I’ve had here in the past. It certainly gives us a lot of confidence coming in here with our past history as well as what this team has done in the past. I guess my point is I don’t look at a track and go that’s a track that I know we’re going to excel at, I wait until we get on the track and see what the car is doing. Today, the very first lap was not good. We had to make some changes. We made some changes and you sit there and think boy are we going to be able to get it fixed and right away they improved and the next couple of runs were very good. That’s what gives me confidence in the track, is when the car feels the way its feeling right now.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO START UP FRONT AT THIS PARTICULAR TRACK BECAUSE IT’S FLAT AND ITS NOT KNOWN AS A GREAT PASSING TRACK? “If you don’t start up front you’ve got to have a lot of things go your way and what I don’t like is to make chance kind of come into play and good fortune of cautions to fall your way to have to get that track position. Ultimately you’ve got to have the track position and that’s the case no matter where we’re at. To me I look at our season, at Phoenix we qualified bad even though we won that race but we had cautions fall our way and Alan made some great calls and took some big risks and chances on staying out and it paid off and that’s kind of what you have to do if you start midfield on back. Last week I started 14th and we were stuck there and couldn’t move and actually went backwards a little bit because track position was so important last week. These days you don’t want to have to play the race out that way where you have to take these big risks to get that track position. It can pay off for you but you know others might be thinking the same thing. What you really want to do is start up front, get a good pit stall and your chances of staying up front are much greater that way.”
WHY DID YOU BRANCH OUT INTO THAT FORM OF PHILANTHROPY, OBVIOUSLY YOU COULD HAVE JUST STAYED WITH YOUR FOUNDATION AND DONE ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU DID, AND WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT GOING A DOING SOMETHING THAT YOU EXPECT TO BE JAW DROPPING, EYE OPENING, WHEN YOU GO IN IS SCARED ALMOST THE WORD OF WHAT YOU MIGHT SEE? “The reason why I branched out is because the Clinton Global Initiative if you go to their annual meeting which I went to in December in New York, the people that a part of his overall initiative group, and they have just a cancer department basically and it’s the leading cancer researchers and philanthropists in the world that are doing amazing things to try to cure cancer and to try to come up with better treatments and some of it is geared towards adults and some of it is toward children, so the networking that you get by meeting all these different individuals and collaborating and coming together it broadens your spectrum of where the need is and how you can do a better job to reach out and help more kids. That was our primary goal there which has sort of led toward what we are doing in Rwanda which I hope to go there later in the year in December, is what we are trying to plan. Rwanda is a little bit different than the Congo. I’ll be honest I didn’t know a lot about the Congo and as I’ve gotten closer and closer to this trip coming I read more and more about the Congo. I’m not saying I’m scared because I have confidence in who we have organizing the trip and you look at the names on the list that are going with us, people like Ashley Judd, I know we’re in good hands. Then you read about the Congo and you realize that the government has a tough enough time controlling and keeping things safe so there’s definitely a little bit of fear that’s built in there and it’s a long way to go, it’s a short trip but I think it’s very valuable and I think it’s important to what our cause is about. If we are really going to stand behind the work that we’re wanting to do, how can you do it from that far of a distance without really getting in there and truly understanding it. So I’m excited from that standpoint but you see some of the photos and some of the worse living conditions that you could ever imagine. That’s in a photos so when you get there and you actually get to see it with your own eyes, I’m only expecting it to be worse. Just follow me on Twitter; I’ll be tweeting all the way from the Congo letting you know what’s happening.”
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