June 12 – – For the second time in three races, Jeff Gordon will start at the rear of the field. Gordon’s engine expired a few minutes into Friday’s practice session at Michigan Speedway, thus requiring him to start at the back of the field to begin Sunday’s race. Gordon will drive the same National Guard NCO/DuPont Chevrolet that he took to victory lane at Texas earlier in the season.
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
JUNE 12, 2009
JEFF GORDON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD ‘YEAR OF THE NCO’ IMPALA SS met with the media at Michigan Speedway and discussed rumors about changes In Chevrolet support, double-file restarts, losing an engine in practice and other topics. Full transcript:
WE HAVE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS COMING UP NEXT WEEK ON A ROAD COURSE. I BELIEVE IT IS REALLY GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. WOULD YOU AGREE WITH THAT? “Absolutely. I think NASCAR knew that trying it at Pocono and at Michigan were two good tracks to test it out and get some of the bugs worked out. I think its going to create some havoc at Sonoma and I am just anxious to get through it and see how it turns out and see if we need to………the only way to know what you have is to race with it and while I’m not sure if we need it at a road course they are pretty adamant to do it there and we’ll see how it turns out.
“You know sometimes it’s a combination of as drivers we have to rethink how we have raced in the past because now we have to figure out how to get through the first corners of the first lap with the double-file restart, but at the same time we have been put into a position that you have to fight even harder and be more intense and sometimes that causes more accidents and mistakes.”
IS THERE A PREFERRED POSITION THERE TO BE ON THE INSIDE OR THE OUTSIDE? “You know, I have played it both ways just in the restarts out there and that first kink to the left doesn’t look like much but it is a pretty decent turn. And I think that’s the thing that its not so much the guys on the front row but it’s the guys behind them that are trying to get that track position because it’s so valuable there. Its slick out there and there is not a lot of grip out there, you are going uphill, and you are downshifting but I’m not sure right now what the preferred line is for the restart. The good thing is that whoever the leader is, he restarts the race, so I like that.
IS THERE A LOT OF PRESSURE ON THE DRIVER TO COME FROM THE BACK LIKE YOU WILL HAVE TO DO ON SUNDAY? “It is, but I feel like there is always a lot of pressure on anybody on this team to step up and do their part and I’m just one of those guys. We all make mistakes including myself and you have to support everybody on the team when it happens. Then you have to go out there and do your best not to overdrive or panic or anything like that and slowly but surely work our way back to the front. You saw what a great job Tony Stewart did last week coming from the back and it’s the same thing for us because we know we can do it and we’ve got the car and the team that can do it and we have to make good decisions all day long.
ITS HAPPENED NOW FOUR TIMES THIS YEAR WHERE THE WINNER HAS COME FROM THE BACK. IS THAT ENCOURAGING TO YOU? “I was excited at Dover but that didn’t quite work out for me there either. You know I think that we are seeing that there are certain teams that are strong that are able to pass, and are able to work their way to the front and sort of separate themselves from the competition. I think at this track more than any you are capable of doing it.
REGARDING INCIDENTS ON PIT ROAD, ARE THERE MORE OF THOSE THAN USUAL? IF SO, WHY?
“If I had to guess, of course the longer studs are causing a little bit of it in the pit stops, but also, track position is just so important. You’ve got crew chiefs making split-second decisions whether to do two tires or four tires and so all those things add pressure to the pit crew and everybody has to be mentally prepared and really flawless. And when you look at how many pit stops we make, there are more chances to make mistakes. But I think as intensity grows, whether on the track or on pit road, that always puts people in a position to make more mistakes and that’s when we see problems happening.”
HAVE YOU DRIVEN OTHER TEAM’S RACE CARS? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
“You’re asking the wrong guy. I’ve pretty much only driven Hendrick cars. I’ve been with him for 17 years. I didn’t need to go anywhere else because I feel like we have the best stuff and you always have to find a way to rise to the top. These days, the cars and bodies and everything being so close, and pretty much identical, it’s the little details that really make a difference. Our engine program has always been top notch. And they’ve worked really hard to give the drivers what they need in the power range. I can see where Tony (Stewart) could certainly make some comments about that, but he’s the best guy to ask since he’s driven for Gibbs, one of the other top teams out there and now he’s driving our cars. But his team deserves a lot of credit. They’ve done a great job with the information that we share with them as well as how they are preparing those cars to get to the race track.”
ANY REACTION TO REPORTS THAT GM IS PULLING OUT OF THE NATIONWIDE AND TRUCK SERIES?
“I think we all have been watching and waiting to see the reaction and I think it is no surprise that there are going to be big cutbacks. And as a dealer as well as a race car driver, we’re doing everything we can to keep our business going strong and doing everything we can to support them in the decisions that they’re making so that we see a great company, whether it’s smaller than it was before or not, come out of it with continued good products out there and giving the customers what they want as well as thinking that NASCAR racing is important to them from a marketing standpoint. So, you know they’re going to make cutbacks and it’s unfortunate for those that have to deal with that. We’re involved with that with the Nationwide Series with JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports being involved with that. So, it’s unfortunate, but those guys have to make decisions and do the best they can to keep their business and we’re going to stand by them.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY INDICATION IF OR HOW MUCH IT MIGHT AFFECT THE CUP SERIES? WILL YOU HEAR MORE NEXT WEEK DO YOU THINK? “I have no idea yet. I rely on Rick Hendrick. He has his finger on this way better than I do and I’m focused on the driving side of it primarily right now. Supporting my sponsors which is also Chevrolet, being a Dad and doing what I can for the race team. That is my responsibility. While I touch base with Rick every week to see what is going on, I have my trust in him to stay on top of it and to lead us the way we need to be lead.”
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT RACERS ARE VERY RESOURCEFUL?
“Oh, yeah. The people that are here had to work really hard to get here. They’ve had to fight hard along the way. These individuals here in this garage are fighters. They’ll dig down deep to do whatever it takes to continue to race. And also, it’s turned into a big business. And so you have to treat it as a big business. You have to make good, solid business decisions and so do others. It’s important to somewhat try to be prepared on how to react to those because the timeframe is important. And that’s probably the toughest thing right now is that there is a lot of uncertainty. We’re going to be resourceful and we’re going to fight hard and do everything we can to stay out there and stay strong. And we’re also going to be supporting GM; especially as a dealer, they’ve got some of the best products that I’ve ever seen. And our dealership is plugging away strong right now. We’ve got a huge car sales business that has done a fantastic job making up for some of the changes that are going on. And I’m pretty proud of that.”
REGARDING WINNING, HOW MUCH REVOLVES AROUND HAVING A GREAT CAR AND HOW MUCH AROUND HAVING A GREAT DRIVER?
“It depends on the race track. Every track is different. I think everywhere we go, it takes a great team. There is no doubt about it. I’ve never been one to say that a driver makes all the difference. You’ve got a lot of great drives in this series now and you’ve got a lot of good teams as well. To me, the team is what stands out more than anything. At a track like this, when it comes to qualifying, the car means a lot but the driver’s got to push hard. It’s a big, fast race track, so aerodynamics and mechanical grip and attitude and horsepower are pretty key. But once you get into the race and the car is starting to move around and the groove widens out, then the driver plays a role in searching around and making things happen. But if you go to Martinsville, there is probably more involved with the driver, or Sonoma. But if you come here or Daytona or Talladega, the car’s playing a much bigger role.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU KEEP UP WITH FUEL MILEAGE?
“We keep up with it a lot. I think that every lap of the race and every lap time, they are constantly calculating fuel mileage from the drop of the green flag; and when cautions come out and how many green flag runs you run, and how many pit stops. I think the first scenario is if it goes green the whole way, how far can we go and how many stops do we have to make? We know that’s almost impossible to happen, and so we start factoring in how much fuel are we saving during cautions and how far can we go with each caution lap. So yeah, they’re paying attention to it. I think we’ve got our program in our computer on the box there keeping track of it. And you know, the crew chief has a tough job. They’ve got to keep on top of a lot of things (like) the car, the pit crew, working with the driver, and keeping up with not only changing conditions, but fuel mileage, especially at a track like this.”