JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS, met with media at Texas Motor Speedway and after receiving a gift from the track to honor his career of two Shetland Ponies, Gordon discussed his win at Martinsville, looking forward the next three races, drivers talking to other drivers after on-track incident and other topics. Full media press conference transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS AFTER YOUR WIN AT MARTINSVILLE AND PREPARATION TO HOMESTEAD:
“It has been an amazing week. When I think back to Sunday and the mindset going into it and how important that race was; the timing of it. Of course, knowing the results now, what a huge, huge moment that was. Possibly one of the biggest moments…and I said this Sunday, and I still believe this…in my career. We’ve, as a family and as a team, all of the No. 24 fans out there; it has been an absolutely incredible week. We are still obviously riding that incredible wave and all of the emotions that go along with it. But at the same time, really determined and focused as a team. Had a chance to go around Hendrick Motorsports yesterday, we do a traditional thing about ringing the bell-what they call the victory bell and all the drivers get to do that (for a win) you go around the whole complex and everybody gets to ring that bell, and I can’t ever remember a time that I have done that, that I have seen so much support; so many of our employees that were jacked up about a win and what we have in-store for ourselves, and the work we have ahead. It is awesome to have that kind of support. It has me fired up to a whole other level after experiencing that. So far a pretty good day here.”
HAVE YOU CALLED ANOTHER DRIVER IN THE GARAGE AFTER AN INCIDENT EVEN IF YOU FELT YOU WERE IN THE RIGHT?
“I don’t think I would have ever called anybody if I thought I was in the right. The only one I can think of that I called was Martin Truex, Jr., several years ago and I was in the wrong. He didn’t answer, but I left a voicemail, but I never heard back from him. To me, I was very much in the wrong, and it was all on me, it was my mistake. I called him for that. The whole text messaging thing, I don’t know…I’m kind of torn on that. I think it depends on what kind of relationship I have with that driver. How you feel about him. I don’t think you should just be calling, because you are thinking of the big picture, and you are thinking, boy I want to make sure that this person doesn’t have payback because I can’t win the championship without it. I think that is the wrong reason. I think if you genuinely feel like you were in the wrong and you owe them an apology, and you have their phone number, then it is great if you want to call them.”
HOW MUCH OF THIS WEEKEND IS ABOUT TRYING TO WIN ON SUNDAY? HOW MUCH IS IT ABOUT LOOKING AHEAD TO HOMESTEAD?
“There is a lot of similarities between Texas and Homestead. The (Goodyear) tire for Texas is the same tire for Homestead. There is definitely some fall-off in these tires…so wear because of some abrasiveness of the track. I think in general we are just trying to step up our mile and a half performance, and that could contribute to this weekend. We want to win. We want to keep the momentum going all the way into Homestead. We also need to build up our confidence on the mile-and-a-half. We also need to build up our confidence on the mile-and-a-half so we can have the confidence we need at Homestead that not only we are a strong team, but we are a team that has a car that is performing on the level we need to contend for the win there. I think there are a lot of different ways to win it, but boy, having a fast race car is the ultimate. That’s what we are working on this weekend. It gives us the opportunity to step outside the box and experiment more than what we have done in the past. That’s nice, and we will try to take advantage of the position that we are in. But, taking advantage of that is trying to win not only this weekend, but also at Phoenix and Homestead.”
FIVE LAPS TO GO ON SUNDAY, YOU ARE RUNNING SECOND, YOU ARE RUNNING BEHIND A GUY IN THE CHASE, WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO WIN? HAVE EVENTS OF RECENT WEEKS IMPACTED YOUR DECISION?
“When you see the opportunity to win, then you are going to do what you feel is necessary to win. I’m not the same driver that Joey (Logano) is. I’m probably a little less aggressive in that scenario. If that was for the win at Homestead that is a different scenario. You are talking about a championship. For us this weekend, having a solid performance, and if we have a shot at the win and I can do it in a clean way, then I’d go for it. If it is the No. 2 car, then that is going to be different. To just go do that to whoever I’m racing in the Chase when I feel like a little more desperate or because they were blocking me, and I didn’t like that, I don’t know if that is worth that. Because, in my opinion that is going to come back to you in the next couple of weeks, possibly at Homestead. I don’t know if that risk is worth taking at this point of the game.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE GOING OUT AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME LIKE JOHN ELWAY WHO WON THE SUPER BOWL AT HIS LAST GAME?
“Well, I’ve said all along this year, that nothing would mean more to me and this team to go out of this sport on top. When I said that, I meant being competitive and either winning races or having a shot at winning races or a shot at the championship, or a championship. We got knocked down a few notches for most of the season, because that wasn’t happening. And so, for things to turn around the way they have for us since the Chase started has been extremely rewarding. It was humbling earlier in the year and now it’s very gratifying because of all the hard work and effort that’s been put into it. And this team is ready. They really are. They are very, very determined to make this happen, and we believe that we can. So, I hope we can talk about that after Homestead. Right now, it’s really too much to fathom, but it would mean a lot.”
YOU’VE BEEN RACING NASCAR FOR 23 YEARS. DURING THIS TIME, WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE TECHNOLOGY YOU HAVE EVER SEEN IN THIS SPORT?
“Unfortunately I’m not going to get a chance to drive the cars with the digital dash in them next year. But, EFI (electronic fuel injection) certainly is one of them. The way that the teams use computer simulation, I would say, is probably the biggest one. When I first came into the sport, we had telemetry that we put on the cars. I don’t know if we really knew what we were doing with it. But over the years, just fine-tuning that; and now, we have a computer that basically we punch in all the numbers of the set-up or our set-up change, and it tells us what we should do to the balance of the car and what it should do in certain parts of the corner. That’s probably the biggest advancement that I’ve seen.”
THIS TRACK WAS SORT OF A THORN IN YOUR SIDE FOR 11 YEARS UNTIL YOU WON IN 2009. WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS TRACK THAT MADE IT HARD FOR YOU TO CONQUER? WHERE DO YOU PLACE TEXAS AMONG ALL THE TRACKS YOU’VE RACED AT SINCE 1992?
“It’s a lot different here than say, Kentucky. Kentucky was one of those tracks where we never ran good enough to win there. Maybe once I thought we were in a position to win there because of performance. That wasn’t the case here. We performed at a very high level here the first couple of races; and for different reasons, didn’t make it to Victory Lane. And then we went through a period of time where we really struggled here. And then, that kind of turned into a track that I ran very consistently well at. Then eventually we got that win. And I feel like we’ve been pretty solid here ever since then. It’s just that this is one of the most challenging 1.5-mile tracks that we have. If you look at how flat the straightaways are and how the transitions fall into the corners and the amount of banking and speed that we have in the corners…..some of the big bumps that happened over the tunnels here, more obstacles…..it gets narrow up off the corner, and yet you’re carrying a tremendous amount of speed. And there’s falloff. You’ve got to move around the race track. This is a very, very challenging race track, but I love the challenges that are here. It’s one of my favorites.”
DISCOUNTING YOUR VICTORY LAST WEEK, HAS ALL THE OTHER STUFF GOING ON OVER THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS BEEN GOOD FOR THE SPORT? SPECIFICALLY, THE KENSETH/LOGANO CRASH.
“I’m one that believes that any publicity is good publicity; and I think when there’s that much buzz and attention on the sport, I think while there could be negative things surrounding it, I still think that it heightens the sport in the long run. I understand why that penalty was so severe. NASCAR wanted there to be a line and I like it when they draw a line, because so often when we hear about judgment calls, we don’t like judgment calls. We like things to be clear. And I think we’re all pretty clear, now. So, I think that yeah, it’s gotten people talking. It’s gotten the media talking and the fans talking and it’s created only more build-up to what’s already a very exciting Chase format and close to the season. And so, I don’t want to say I look at it as positive, I just think that it does bring more eyes to the sport and then they can choose and decide how they go from there. I always think when something like that happens, it’s important to follow it up with an amazing race. Texas was out of control and crazy last year, but then we followed it up with Homestead being one of the most amazing races for the championship. I think that last impression like that, draws a lot more fans to the sport.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 18TH
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN MISSING IN THE CAR?
“We are just lacking speed. It’s crazy fast right now. It’s ridiculous how much faster it is this time around than earlier in the year. That first time out I was wide open and we were still a few tenths off. Obviously we are looking into that. I felt really good about some race runs that we had today. I’m pretty optimistic, but that was about all we had and obviously want more.”
DIDN’T QUITE MAKE THE FINAL 12, BUT YOU ARE IN GOOD SHAPE AND HAVE HOMESTEAD AHEAD:
“It’s surprising, because I feel like the car feels better now than it did earlier in the year and we made it to the third round fairly easily earlier in the year. A lot of things have changed; the pace is really fast right now. The competition has definitely done their job. The first time out we held it wide open and I knew when we were about three/four tenths off I was like ‘oh boy’. We are going to need to find some speed. I felt like in race trim today we were really good.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS – Finished 9th:
ON HIS DAY:
“Felt pretty good, top 10, I would have liked to have had a little bit more. We just didn’t have much on the short runs. It was something that we really struggled with today. This place is tricky with the bumps and the speeds that we are running. Something good to build on and work on.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE SOME OF THE KINKS WORKED OUT FOR WHEN YOU GET TO HOMESTEAD?
“I thought we learned a lot this weekend. I think we certainly know that our cars are fast, because our teammate won. Congrats to him. I think that’s awesome he beat the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski). That is spectacular. I’m going to give him a big hug for that. At the same time, I think that we were here to execute and push hard, try to win, but also to just learn what we could. I thought we learned some stuff.”
ON PHOENIX NEXT WEEK:
“We just have to keep performing. I think we showed again what we are made of. We fight hard. We get everything out of it that’s for sure. We got to bring a little bit more to the next couple of races and if we do I will be excited about Homestead. If we can do that next week, but if we can bring it at Homestead I will be excited.”