Friday, August 31, 2012

Jimmie Johnson talks Atlanta


NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
ADVOCARE 500
ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
August 31, 2012

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, met members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed last week’s race and coming into Atlanta this weekend, what the team is willing to do to help teammates Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon get into the Chase, who he thinks is a threat in the Chase at this point of the season and much more. Full transcript.

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT COMING TO ATLANTA THIS WEEKEND.
“Last week things went really well for the Lowe’s team. Starting as far back as we did we were really concerned about getting track position and being able to maintain it. We assumed that we would have to take some risks to get it, but at the end we just really kind of drove our way up through there. It wasn’t all that easy to pass. We had to create some opportunities to pass. We got that done and had a great finish. So we’re very pleased to have clinched (a spot in the Chase). It takes a lot of pressure off of this weekend and especially next weekend. There’s bonus point out there. I still regret not getting the bonus at Michigan. There’s still two races left and hopefully we can get some more bonus points before rolling to the Chase.”

DO YOU EVER SYMPATHIZE WITH THOSE WHO ARE GOOD DRIVERS AND HAVE HAD DECENT PERFORMANCE AND JUST ARE STRUGGLING LIKE KYLE BUSCH FOR EXAMPLE?
“Yeah, I do especially my teammates that are in that position. There was one year that Jeff (Gordon) didn’t make the Chase and others years I’ve had teammates miss it. In one respect I do sympathize for Kyle (Busch) not being in the Chase or up to this point not being in the Chase, and then in another light he’s such a threat that in some ways it’s a dodged bullet if he doesn’t make it for the guys that are in. He’s such a talent and a great race team. I say that as a compliment to them. But, I do. I sympathize. I know I’m not immune to it either. We’ve been very fortunate with this race team to have success and consistent success. When we start the year, I wake up every year fearing I might not make the Chase. Fortunately that hasn’t happened, but I use it as motivation. Our team plays close attention to it and there are no givens in pro sports especially in ours.”

DOES THAT EXTEND ALSO FOR CARL EDWARDS, WHO IS NOT ONLY STRUGGLING TO MAKE THE CHASE BUT HE’S COME UP SHORT ON TWO CHAMPIONSHIPS?
“Last year being removed from the Championship battle it was easier for me to be sympathetic. The year I had the fortune of beating Carl I was so occupied with my own stuff that it didn’t necessarily cross my mind. You look at how talented Carl is and how strong he is, and how close he is especially last year being tied in the points, it was going to be a bummer for whoever lost last year. Both guys put up such a great battle. Carl handled it about as good if not better than anyone ever could under those circumstances. If you’re in this sport long enough, you’re going to have the good and the bad. I do pay attention to tough times guys go through. It hasn’t been easy for me in the early part of my career. These last 10 years have been pretty magical, but I know at some point that stuff all goes away and I will be faced with a lot of these same things myself.”

ARE YOU GUYS SATISFIED THAT THE VALVE SPRING PROBLEMS THAT HAUNTED YOU A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO IS CURED?
“We feel really good about things. The testing that’s taken place since then has uncovered a certain issue that we feel like we’ve rectified. We won’t feel 100 percent about it until we get some top-speed track like Atlanta, although there is a lot of fall-off here. To simulate what happened at Michigan is such a rare animal there. Your minimum RPM is so high at that track with the repave; it will take a while before we have total confidence. We feel like we understand what happened and we’ve made some great changes to rectify that.”

MR. HENDRICK SAID HE WANTED EVERYONE AT HENDRICK TO BE IN THE CHASE THIS YEAR, WHAT LENGTHS IS YOUR ORGANIZATION WILLING TO GO TO GET JEFF GORDON AND KASEY KAHNE INTO THE CHASE?
“Just doing everything we can to be great teammates. Share all the information we can. Give each other a little extra room on the track to avoid a mistake. The way our teams are set up, there’s not much more we can do, especially at Hendrick Motorsports. We share and share and share. It’s all there for everybody to look at and use. All the drivers are very available for one another to help. If I could order up some good luck for either one of them I would, but I don’t know how you really do that. Both teams and drivers are plenty capable of winning this weekend and next weekend and locking themselves in.”

THE SPORT WAS BASICALLY THRUST INTO MAINSTREAM BECAUSE OF A FIGHT IN 1979, THE FANS LOVE SEEING YOU GUYS HAVE THAT RAW EMOTION. WHY DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SHOW THAT RAW EMOTION IT RESONATES SO MUCH WITH THE FAN BASE?
“I don’t know how to exactly describe it but the first thing that comes to mind is actually another question, why does everybody like reality T.V. It’s kind of in that same vein as people like to watch train wrecks; people like to watch controversy, whatever that is. We are all intrigued and love to check it out. Most of us certainly dislike being in that situation when it happens but it sure is entertaining to watch.”

YOU SAID YOU SHARE INFORMATION WITH YOUR TEAMMATES, IN REALITY IS IT POSSIBLE WITH TWO DIFFERENT DRIVING STYLES?
“The styles between the drivers and even the crew chiefs are what separate things within a team. One key area why it is easy to share like we do, I know that Jeff Gordon won’t like the set up of my race car. I know I won’t like the set-up of his. Junior (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) and I are pretty close these days. Everybody has their own style. What you do is you learn over the years how I can take a Jeff Gordon set up and adapt it to my car. Even if I see Jeff running fast on the track, I know his driving style and I’ve studied it so much that I can adjust or I try to adjust what I’m doing to drive it more like Jeff would, or Kasey (Kahne), or Junior. I even fall back on Kyle (Busch) and what he did when he was at Hendrick.  At certain tracks where Kyle is fast, I remember from testing with him and working with him in the past that he drives a certain way and I try to go that route. There’s a lot left to each individual within a team situation where you do share so much, and that’s where you have to spend so much of your time during the week and think about how you can use different aspects of driving techniques and set ups.”

TWO WEEKS AWAY FROM THE CHASE, SIZE UP THE FIELD FOR US AND WHO DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE TO BEAT AND WHERE DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM IS AT NOW?
“Based on last year’s Chase I have really not singled out anyone in the Chase as a threat. I think everybody is a threat. Obviously I say that because Tony (Stewart) being as frustrated as he was starting the Chase wins five (races) and is a Champion. I think what happened last year just plays into the point that we all try to say week in and week out you’ve got to take everyone serious. That’s where I’m at right now. These next two weeks I’m starting to process of putting the blinders on and only worrying about the No. 48 and what we do. In the past when I have done that and we’ve left the track satisfied with our performance good things have happened. That’s the mindset and the road I’m heading down right now.”

DID LAST YEAR’S POINT BATTLE JUST ENHANCE WHAT THREE BONUS POINTS MEAN AND MAKE YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH VALUE THERE WAS TO THOSE THREE POINTS?
“It really did. I think it’s on the rare side to have that scenario develop. Clearly we’ve never had a tie in the points before. It brings that reality to the front of the line. It could be that. I keep mentioning Pocono and Michigan for a reason and there are some others that I think got away during the course of the year for myself. You just don’t want to give up bonus points and to give up bonus points to a fellow Chaser was tough. At Pocono, my teammate who was trying to get in the Chase that was different. It was easier to deal with Pocono than it was Michigan mentally. Points are points and we need every one of them.”

WHEN YOU GET TO A PLACE LIKE ATLANTA THAT HASN’T BEEN REPAVED IN 15 YEARS AND YOU SEE THE TAR AND A BEAT UP TRACK, HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL? DOES IT MAKE ATLANTA STAND OUT MORE? DOES IT MAKE YOU WISH IT STILL HAD TWO RACES BECAUSE IT’S SO MUCH MORE UNIQUE NOW WITH ALL THE REPAVES?
“Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed racing here. I was bummed when I heard a date had left but understand why and what was going on. Tracks with character fit our race cars so much better as we all know. Myself, when I know I’m coming here and I know it’s ahead I just start telling myself you’re not going to be comfortable. Get ready for every lap. Maybe your first lap on track or your first lap on stickers there is grip and you can drive the car, the rest of it is all about compromising and trying to manage the balance of the car and the tire life. Things are deteriorating rapidly. Every lap you make the track gets more slick, your tires are going away, and the environment is changing. I just have to remind myself of that and remember kind of like the old Darlington phrase, you race the track. You don’t worry about other people around you and get into that mindset really.”

Tony Stewart talks Atlanta

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
ADVOCARE 500
ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
August 31, 2012

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed the first practice session, the importance of bonus points in the Chase and other topics.  Full Transcript:

THIRD ON THE BOARD FOR PRACTICE ARE YOU GUYS HAPPY WITH THE CAR SO FAR?
“Yeah, I’m pretty excited especially when that was in race trim.  It wasn’t a qualifying run; our qualifying run was slower than that.  I’m pretty happy with the way it’s taking off.”

YOU AND MATT (KENSETH) TALKED THIS MORNING IS EVERYTHING GOOD BETWEEN YOU TWO THEN?
“Yeah, we are fine.  It’s like we mentioned earlier in the week, we have too much to do the last 10 weeks to be worrying about each other.  It’s just like we always said there are 43 people out there and they are not always going to agree on the track at the same time.  The big thing is getting it done and over with now.”

THIS SPORT WAS BASICALLY THRUST INTO THE MAINSTREAM IN 1979 WHEN CALE (YARBOROUGH) AND DONNIE (ALLISON) WENT AFTER IT IN A FIGHT.  THE FANS APPRECIATION FOR THAT RAW EMOTION HASN’T CHANGED ANY OVER THE YEARS.  WHY DO YOU THINK THAT RESONATES SO MUCH WITH THE FANS?
“I don’t know. It still makes me wonder why NASCAR won’t let that moment be relived fully.  People like emotion every other sport gets a cool off period, every other sport you get time to calm down where our deal it’s a little bit different we don’t have that.  It’s not like one play is a bad play and you go to another play the bad deal for us is we are done for the day.  That is where it’s different.”

ON YOUR USAC (UNITED STATES AUTO CLUB) SIDE LEVI (JONES) IS GOING TO BE OUT OF THE CAR NOW FOR A SEASON-ENDING SURGERY TALK ABOUT HOW DISAPPOINTING THAT IS AND ABOUT CHRIS (WINDOM) THAT IS GETTING IN THE CAR FOR HIM:
“We are sad that he is going to be out but the good news is the injury that he has in his neck, doing it now and getting him out of the car and getting him operated on Tuesday is going to get him back to 100 percent.  For us that is a lot more important than it is trying to finish out these last 12 weeks with him.  We are fortunate to have Chris Windom come in, step in, and help us out these last 12 weeks.  We are still going to go out and do the best we can to get caught up in the points now and see what we can get out of it.”

TALKING ABOUT POINTS ON THE NASCAR SIDE LAST YEAR YOU WENT INTO THE CHASE WITH NO BONUS POINTS, HOW BIG WOULD IT BE FOR YOU GUYS TO GET IN TO THE CHASE WITH THOSE BONUS POINTS?“We didn’t have to have any last year to get it done.  This year is a different year.  You never know until you get in there what it’s going to mean.  If you have the option to get nine points or not having nine points I think everybody is going to take it.”

IF YOU GET THAT HELMET BACK WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH IT?
“Charity auction if I get it back.  For some reason it’s MIA (missing in action).”

IT MIGHT END UP IN THE HALL OF FAME…
“That’s fine, too. If it ends up in the hall of fame, so be it.  There have been a lot of charities that have asked to have that for an auction right now.”

HAVE YOU ASKED FOR IT (THE HELMET) BACK?
“No, not yet.”

Danica Patrick talks Atlanta


NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
ADVOCARE 500
ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
August 31, 2012

DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET met with media and discussed, how nighttime and daytime racing compare, last weekend’s race at Bristol, racing in the Cup Series at Atlanta, and more. Full Transcript:

THE MODERATOR: Talk a little bit about practice this morning at Atlanta. 

DANICA PATRICK:  I was having all kinds of fun out there this afternoon.  You know, I felt really loose the whole time so it wasn't until the very last run that we did that I feel like we tightened it up enough to be able to be a little bit more aggressive on the throttle. 

For me that's always the issue coming to a new track and a new car, which is every time I drive the Cup car right now.  It's always better for me to start off a little on the tight side because my confidence stays up where I feel like I was just pretty loose and it's pretty hard for me to trust getting into the corner harder when I, you know, have spent most of my laps feeling like I was sideways. 

But it's still good practice.  We went through lots of changes.  The good news is that it did get better at the end.  We were a little closer to being in the parking lot of the ballpark. 

THE MODERATOR:  We'll take questions. 
Q.        After looking back on last week, do you wish you threw a helmet or wish that you had not done any of your hand gesturing?  Do you feel gesturing is fine when you're angry? 

DANICA PATRICK:  I think what matters is the fans love it.  I think the fans love it.  They were cheering like heck for me to go up the track and do something awesome, or at least it was awesome in their eyes. 

I was just glad I didn't give him the finger, because that's what I was going to do.  And I heard that was a fine.  I'm glad I had an epiphany at the last second to point my finger instead of raise the middle one. 

Those are the emotions that are flying around at 430 or 40 laps into a 500-lap race at Bristol.  We were running tight quarters all day long.  It would have been nice to finish the race off because I really felt like we were headed for a lead-lap top 20 if things would have continued to go okay. 

At the end of the day I always feel like the right people know, and I've had lots of really, really nice people tell me, Good job, from last weekend.  Think that's what matters for me at this point is that I'm continuing to learn.  I completed most all the laps.  I got faster and faster as the race went on, got more and more competitive lap time-wise.  Those are the things I need to focus on. 

Of course, you want to finish the race.  I'm not the only one that has issues each weekend.  Everybody has issues from time to time.

Q.        Is there a big difference between a race during daytime and nighttime?  Do you prepare different mentality-wise and set up the car different?

DANICA PATRICK:  During the day it's hot and slippery.  I feel like today I'm reminded of Charlotte in practice.  You know, the car felt really uncomfortable in Charlotte for the Coke 600.  When night came and the race came, there was so much more to lean on.  The car had so much more grip.  It just felt like something that I felt much more confident and comfortable to work with and be more aggressive with. 

So I have a feeling it will do some of the same stuff here at Atlanta when we go into the night race.  So I guess in these times the most important thing is that you find a balance with the car front to rear when it's slippery, then hopefully that balance will translate into the evening. 

I've heard that the balance doesn't shift too much here from day to night, so we'll just keep working to achieve a balance. 

Q.        The diminishment of expectations for you, I know that is probably a double-edged sword when you have Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli saying, All we care about is she finishes.  In a way is that working out better for you to go into Bristol with no expectations, suddenly when you're running in the top 20 with 80 to go, maybe it's better than you expected because no one has put anything on you?  I don't know if you've ever had to do that before, not having any sort of goals to do well? 

DANICA PATRICK:  Yeah, I think in Nationwide when I wouldn't have goals, I think it's because secretly my goals were higher than what happened.  I don't really know what to expect in Cup.  When you take that final step up, everybody has proven to do well along the way in their careers and everybody knows what they're doing. 

So it makes it harder to know what to expect.  It's true when I say I just want to finish the laps.  With the way it's gone in practice every time I've practiced the Cup car, which is basically like pretty much last, it's nice and refreshing in the race when things come around and I get faster and you pass cars and you move up.  You know, you feel like you're getting the hang of it. 

So I'm happy to keep continuing to finish all the laps.  Again, this was another challenging practice for me out there.  All I can do is hope that it goes better in the race. 

But at the end of the day, as I've said many times, the most important thing for me is to get a feel for how these races go and how they evolve, move, how the track changes. 
That's part of the reason why Tony picked some of these races.  If you haven't noticed, he picks like longer races.  He said he wanted to pick races where it transitioned from day to night, things like that, so I could get a feel for how the track changes, what I need to do. 

I definitely came out of Bristol last weekend saying, When I come back next time, I don't want to start so free because it gets looser as the night goes on. 
Those are the important things for me to learn at this point in time.  I think it's going to take more time for me to set an expectation level for myself.  I just need more time and more races. 

Q.        I know your expectations are for you.  Since Tony and Ryan are so close to Chase contention, is there anything different that your No. 10 team is doing to help their cause or are you on your own agenda?

DANICA PATRICK:  I don't know if there's much I can do to help them.  I hope to just not distract them in any way, take anything away from their programs to help them achieve everything that they want and can achieve. 

Yeah, I don't know if I'm really helpful at this point in time.  But, you know, I think I'm very honored that they're willing to run me in the limited schedule that I'm running, to get practice at these tough tracks.  All I can do is I hope I don't affect anything that they're trying to achieve out there and try and be a good teammate. 

For sure, there's always a high likelihood in these long races to go a lap down.  I was damn stunned I was on the lead lap at Bristol with 440 laps in.  But if they come around, which I'm sure at some point they will here at Atlanta, I'll be helpful like a teammate will be, should be.

Dale Jr. talks Atlanta


NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
ADVOCARE 500
ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
August 31, 2012

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway and discussed helping his teammates make the Chase and other topics.  Full Transcript:

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT COMING INTO ATLANTA:
“It’s a fun track.  I’ve enjoyed coming here for a really long time, kind of looking forward to a little bit different surface. Like Jimmie (Johnson) was talking about how wore out this place is and how the tires go away real fast, it’s definitely a different style of racing something we do less and less of.  It’s definitely welcome by most of the drivers out there.  It’s a lot of fun.  Just looking forward to that and hopefully get in the car today and the car is comfortable and got good speed and we will see how it goes.”

IS THIS A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN PUT TOGETHER A COMBINATION LIKE YOU DID IN 2004?  DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN COME IN HERE AND GET A HANDLE ON THIS PLACE AGAIN LIKE YOU DID THAT TIME?
“I always enjoy coming here because I feel like I can run really good.  My results are up and down.  I’ve never really come here and just been frustrated.  I’ve always seemed like I’ve had pretty good cars and had good speed pretty much every time.”

CAN YOU SYMPATHIZE WITH THE POSITION THAT KYLE BUSCH IS IN TRYING TO MAKE THE CHASE?
“I definitely know what it’s like to be close, be just inside the bubble with a couple of strong guys behind you trying to get in or trying to get yourself in having to outrun some fast guys.  That’s a tough situation, but you just have to show up and run your best.  I know that everybody that is right around that bubble they know that if they put their best up there they are going to make it. That’s all you can do is try to show up and do that.  It is a lot nicer to be locked in and just kind of run these next two races and have fun doing it.  Try to learn some things while you can as opposed to sweating it all the way out to the end of the race at Richmond, that’s tough.”

WHEN STUFF LIKE WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK WITH TONY (STEWART) AND MATT (KENSETH) WITH THE HELMET THROW DO YOU GET ENTERTAINED AS A DRIVER AS FANS WOULD OR SINCE YOU ARE NOT INVOLVED WITH THE SITUATION OR IS THAT SOMETHING YOU SEE AND YOU SAY NO I DON’T WANT TO ENJOY THAT INCASE IT’S EVER ME IN THAT SITUATION?
“I think you do get entertained.  What’s funny to the majority is going to be funny to a race car driver.  Especially if you had a history with either one of the guys involved in the deal it definitely makes it a little more personal.  It could be even, it doesn’t have to be anything as extreme as that. We don’t seek out but we run across each other’s quotes and you see things that happen in the Nationwide Series or the Truck Series and yeah it’s just as entertaining to me as it is to you or anybody else.”

TWO RACE LEFT UNTIL THE CHASE, SIZE UP CHANCES FOR YOUR OWN TEAM AND HOW DO YOU THINK THE TOUGHEST GUYS ARE GOING TO BE ONCE THE CHASE STARTS?“Well these are two good tracks coming up for me.  We have been working and putting ourselves through so much trying to get to this place we are in that I think we are just going to enjoy these next two weeks and just run hard. They are almost like non-point’s races for us.  We really get to kind of immerse our self in the competition of the race itself and just have some fun with no true repercussions.  I think the guys that are favorites in the Chase are the guys that have won championships.  The guys that know how to do it, when you win a championship it puts so much more confidence in yourself that you know how to do it, you know what it takes, you know the pace, you know what you are going through and I think it gives you an edge.  I think like Tony Stewart and Jimmie (Johnson) and those guys I think that gives them an edge having done it and knowing they can do it. They are with a team that is capable of doing it.  I mean you’ve got to put those guys at the top of the list I’m sure.”

ARE YOU CONVINCED THAT IT WAS A CUT THAT CAUSED YOU TO CRASH ON WEDNESDAY (AT THE KANSAS TIRE TEST)?  HOW HARD WAS IT?  DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERN?
“I don’t have any concerns.  It was really, really hard not a lot of fun.  I don’t really know what happened to the tire.  We looked at the tire the best we could and there tire wasn’t worn into the fabric so it wasn’t a wear issue with the tire. The way the tire came a part was really odd and from what I was told at the race track looking at the tire with the guys it seemed from what I could tell a real odd occurrence.   Not something that was easy to explain.  I feel confidence Goodyear is going to bring a good tire there and I don’t have any worries about that tire that particular race at Kansas or have any tire troubles or anything like that.  It was just a tough little deal.  If they ask me to go tire testing tomorrow at any track I would go right away.”

1979 CALE (YARBOROUGH) AND DONNIE (ALLISON) GOT INTO A FIGHT.  BLEW NASCAR UP; SENT IT RIGHT INTO MAINSTREAM. THAT HASN’T CHANGED. THE FANS STILL LOVE IT.  WHY DO YOU THINK THAT RAW EMOTION RESONATES SO MUCH WITH THE FAN BASE?
“I’m sure everybody watching the race has somebody’s neck they would like to ring.  Maybe they live vicariously through that emotion in some way.  There is probably a co-worker or two they wouldn’t mind running their fist into his face (laughs).  It’s probably more likely than you imagine.  I assume they live vicariously through.  I do when I watch football I see what the players do on the field I kind of get into the emotional side of it when somebody is upset or a player gets real physical and plays really hard.  That is what you like to see and I think the fans really like seeing that out of the drivers.  Especially, we are inside the cars and we are limited to our physical emotions and physical body language driving the car.  But when we get out and do things such as Tony (Stewart) did the fans really connect to that.  They really connect to that emotion and driving down the road somebody cuts you off on the highway you would love to shoot them a bird or something.  Maybe you do.”

WHAT LENGTHS WILL YOU GO TO IN ORDER TO HELP YOUR TWO OTHER TEAMMATES GET INTO THE CHASE?
“I would do whatever I can to help them.  I don’t really how what examples I can give you but whatever I can do to help them in good taste to help them make the Chase.  I believe in being for the company first.  I learned working at DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) for the company to succeed everybody had to be company first and worry about individualism and one team versus another team inside the company that all came secondary to the company itself.  Whatever can help the company I’m all for that and all four cars being in the Chase would definitely be a great thing.”

HOW MUCH OF A WILD-CARD RACE IS TALLADEGA?
“That is all it is, really.  It’s a lottery.  Everybody’s cars are the same.  There is no way to really set yourself apart from anybody else mechanically and it just comes down to the driver’s making the right moves at the right time.  You don’t know what you’re doing but you kind of end up at the right place at the right time, but it’s tough.  It’s not quite the way it used to be where you had guys that had faster cars and those guys were the ones to beat.  It’s really a bit of a chess match really just kind of out smarting the next guy or partnering up with the right person at the right time.  We learned a lot this year watching Matt (Kenseth) and (Greg) Biffle and I think everybody is kind of learning more and more with this package that we have and the races are a little bit different every time.” 

APPARENTLY THERE IS A LARGE AMOUNT OF COMPELLING DATA OVER AT JR MOTORSPORTS THAT MIKE DAVIS HAD COMPILED ABOUT YOU AND WEATHER YOU PERFORM BETTER WITH OR WITHOUT A BEARD, WITH A HAIR CUT, WHEN MR. HENDRICK IS AT THE TRACK, WHEN THE REDSKINS ARE PLAY, ETC.  HAVE YOU SEEN THAT DATA? “I watched the 360 because Mike (Davis) sent me an email because he wanted me to see it so I didn’t get bombarded.  They come up with a lot of good ideas and I think they do a really good job with what they are given to work with (laughs).”

DO YOU BELIEVE IT?
“No, not really I don’t believe in that kind of stuff.”

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO TONY (STEWART) SAID HE THOUGHT THE MEDIA SHOULD BACK OFF DANICA (PATRICK) GIVE HER SOME ROOM THAT IT WAS TOO MUCH PRESSURE, BUT NASCAR KEEPS BRINGING HER IN EVERY WEEKEND.  HAVE YOU EVER GONE TO NASCAR OR HAS SHE EVER ASKED YOU TO ASK THEM TO GIVE HER A WEEKEND OR TWO OFF? 
“I didn’t know that she was brought in here every week.  I had no idea that was going on.  She has never mentioned it to me, never complained about it.  She has been, from what I have seen, she has been a complete professional about it.  She understands the situation she’s in.  She understands that it’s unique and I think she has no problem making herself available.  I think you guys have for the most part handled her with kid gloves.  I didn’t think that the media has been that tough.  It’s an interesting compelling story especially the closer she gets to going into the Cup series and everybody anticipating that entire process.  I’m not at all surprised by any of it and I don’t think she is either.  I don’t think she’s bothered by it either.  I think that she understands the situation and she is a real professional about it.”

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU RECALL FROM THE 2003 AND 2004 SEASONS, WHICH WERE THE CLOSEST SEASONS YOU CAME TO CLAIMING A CHAMPIONSHIP, ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE GOT OUT OF THE CARS OR WHAT YOU FELT WITH THE ORGANIZATION THAT COMPARES AT ALL TO HOW YOU FEEL TODAY WITH YOUR TEAM AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IS IT DIFFERENT IS IT SIMILAR IN SOME FASHIONS? 
“Yeah, it’s different. I think our cars are more competitive and I think this is a better opportunity for me to win the championship this year over those two years. I recall in ’04, I didn’t realize that I had a shot at winning the title until I had lost it. I didn’t realize just how good an opportunity I had until it was too late. And, we wrecked here and then we broke a rear-end gear at Martinsville and once we go to probably about a week from Homestead, I was thinking wow; I really let that opportunity slip right through my hands. I don’t know what we could have done about the rear-end gear but I definitely second-guess what happened here and what I could have done differently to finish the race and not lost all them points.

“I don’t think I was as smart and understanding of what my situation and opportunities were at that point in my career. And like I said, I don’t think I realized what opportunity I had at winning the championship until it was too late. And now I think I’m better suited, mentally to put together 10 good races behind the wheel and not make any mistakes and maximize our chances to get the most points we can every week.”

NASCAR IS A PERSONALITY-DRIVEN SPORT. HOW DOES THAT WEIGH ON YOU AS A COMPETITOR THAT THE FANS ARE ENGAGING YOU AS A PERSONALITY FIRST AND FOREMOST?
“Yeah, I don’t think we even think about that or consider that, you know? I know that what made the sport popular when I was young were the colorful drivers and you know; and how Bobby Allison was different from Darrell (Waltrip) or how Darrell was different from Dad (Dale Earnhardt Sr.). That’s what was interesting to me was knowing them people driving the cars and knowing how one guy was more brash or more boastful and then you had one guy who was quiet and humble and knowing those kinds of dynamics before they get in there and race really made it interesting more so than just seeing cars go and looking at numbers and sponsors. I think we all realize that’s kind of our bread and butter when it comes to the fan base.

“When we make ourselves available and put ourselves out there in commercials and whatever they want us to do and trying to be as open as we can be and let the fans decide who they like the best. But I don’t think we really think about it that much. We don’t really get that deep in discussion about it. You just go about your business. I try to just be myself and let the chips fall where they may.”

Jeff Gordon talks Atlanta


NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
ADVOCARE 500
ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
August 31, 2012

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with media and discussed racing at Atlanta, his teammates, the upcoming Chase to the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and more. Full Transcript:

THE MODERATOR: Jeff, hard to believe a year ago we were here for the 85th victory.  Talk a little bit about coming back to Atlanta. 

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, time flies.  Last year was an amazing experience.  Atlanta in general this year celebrating 20 years of DuPont, 20 years in this sport, all the way back to that race in 1992 right here, I've been able to relive a lot of great moments and memories that I have from Atlanta.  Right from the beginning, this was a special place for me, even in the Nationwide Series. 

To get 85 last year here and have this 20th anniversary paint scheme with DuPont this weekend is very special.  Can't wait to slide around like we do here at Atlanta Sunday night.  It's such a fun racetrack.  The surface is one that I think everyone really enjoys the challenges that come along with this track, its abrasiveness.  I know we certainly look forward to it on Sunday. 

THE MODERATOR:  We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q.        Before the season, Jimmie Johnson was hinting he was going to change his approach do things a little differently after reassessing his team, life, after not winning the championship last year.  It seems like it's helped him this year.  Have you noticed from him any outward changes from him in the way he's approaching racing, and if you went through anything similar? 

JEFF GORDON:  I don't know.  I mean, five straight, you miss one year, I don't know if I'd change a whole lot. 

You know, I think, if anything, by going through that year in the off-season not being the champion just gave him a little bit more time to sort of relax and look at life and family and racing and all those things, kind of put it in perspective. 
I know for me, we won basically three out of four years, finished second that other year from '95 through '98.  You're in this whirlwind.  It just seems like at the speed of light, it's just all going by so fast. 

Sometimes until you don't win that championship, you don't really look back on it or think about it, you just keep going to the next event.  You stay very busy also when you're winning championships like that.

I can only imagine what Jimmie has gone through winning five in a row.  I know he stepped up his training.  He's doing triathalons and stuff like that, riding long bike rides, those types of things, plus being a dad, that commitment to parenting.  He certainly seems content and happy. 

I think that's the only thing that I see really different.  But I'm not on his team with him.  They're going through all the motions of everything they go through on the weekends and during the week.  So there could be more to it. 

I certainly don't think he needs to change a whole lot. 

Q.        With two races to go before the Chase field is set, are you nervous?  Are you optimistic?  What do you feel like your chances are?  Are you stressed out over it? 

JEFF GORDON:  You know, you just go out there and do your job.  We want it bad.  We go out every practice trying to get the most out of the car.  You have ups and downs.  It's how you handle those ups and downs and minimize them from being big peaks and valleys that allow you to stay focused. 

It's just like today, we know we want to go out as late as we possibly can qualifying, so we want to put a good number up there, so we stayed in qualifying trim the whole time.  But we also know that the track's going to be totally different during qualifying than it is in the race. 

It was frustrating we couldn't put a better lap time up there, but I still feel confident for how we're going to qualify tonight.  But I feel like we're giving up a little bit by going out earlier than we had hoped that we were going to by focusing on qualifying as much as we did. 

Those are things you go through in one practice.  Those are things you go through multiple times throughout a weekend. 

When you've had the type of season that we've had, it's a little hard to rebound from those.  When you go through them, everybody goes through them, but the teams that are winning and are up in the top 10 in points, especially the guys that are top four or five, they're going through them and rebounding from them pretty easily. 

For us, it's kind of hit-or-miss.  Last weekend was a great weekend for us.  We had a car we thought was capable of winning.  Came home third.  It was a solid weekend. 
But that's the way our season has gone.  We have those type of weekends, then we go to the next weekend and have a hard time building that momentum. 

This is certainly a great track for us to build on from Bristol.  We have confidence from being here last year.  Our cars have been good this year.  I'm confident right now that this could be a good weekend.  But it's going to take a lot of hard work.  It's a tricky track. 
It's trying not to get frustrated when we have a practice like we just had. 

Q.        Jumping ahead a little bit to Talladega, what kind of wild-card race is that when it's in the Chase? 

JEFF GORDON:  It's a big one.  You never know what it's going to take to win on that type of race, whether you're going to be watching your temperatures, overheating, drafting, drafting partners, you know, going to be able to stay up in the front of the pack, stay in the back of the pack, miss the wrecks.  There's so many variables.  You can even try to play it safe at Talladega and still get caught up in something. 

You know, it's probably one of the most frustrating races, always has been, to have when you're battling for a championship because there's just so many unknowns and unpredictable. 

Q.        There was a recent NASCAR report that came out a few days ago.  It shows the paint scheme for the late Dale Earnhardt ranked first overall and another paint scheme ranks fourth.  Is it amazing after all these years to still see his presence in the NASCAR fan base?

JEFF GORDON:  Yes and no.  I mean, he's a legend.  He's a guy that you're never going to forget.  I don't know the specifics of those cars, if there was something special that they did to create something more collectible than others, or if it's just a basic Earnhardt car that the fans are just still reacting to because they loved him. 

I mean, to me, it's not that surprising because I got firsthand experience of seeing how loyal and avid his fans were when we raced together.  You know, you still see Earnhardt shirts and hats.  So he still has an incredible fan base. 

So overall I think the collectible business has suffered.  But as far as the rankings when it comes to sales, Earnhardt Sr. or Earnhardt Jr. are still strong.  It's pretty awesome to see. 

Q.        Dale Jr. was in here earlier and was asked about you and Kasey, what could he do, would he be willing to help get you into the Chase.  He said he'd be willing to do anything in good taste to get you into the Chase.  What can a teammate do for you for the next couple weeks? 

JEFF GORDON:  Well, you know, that's good to know.  But I think realistically we don't expect anything more than what we were already getting from our teammates this year, which is just trying to get valuable information so that we can make the best choices for setting up the car, whether it be for qualifying, whether it be for the race, to put the racecar out there. 

When it all comes down to it, our team has to step up and do all the things necessary to get the job done to make it into the Chase. 

You certainly don't want to be in a position where your teammate is in front of you, you're running second or third, and that one position is what's going to get you in.  I find it hard to believe that anybody would move over to take away a win from themselves to get you in the Chase.

Those wishes might get challenged here in the next couple weeks, and we'll see.  We know our teammates are there for us.  We feel like it's our job to utilize them, to make sure that we are competitive enough to not only win races but to get the finishes that we need to get to make it in. 

I mean, I really think this thing is going to come down to the last lap of Richmond.  I've been saying it for weeks.  I still believe that.  No matter what happens this weekend, I really believe so many things can change in an instant and that it truly can come down to that final lap at Richmond. 

It's going to be exciting to watch and be a part of.  Certainly, as Bob was alluding to, a lot of pressure.  I wouldn't say I'm nervous, but it's certainly intense.  When it's that intense, it makes you have to step your game up, be mindful of not making mistakes.

Q.        This is the 20th anniversary of your first race essentially.  It was that year, a little later in the year of course, but what do you take away from that?  What is your dominant memory of that? 

JEFF GORDON:  That day? 

Q.        Yes, that first race in Atlanta, the first weekend here. 

JEFF GORDON:  Boy, I mean, so many things.  Back then you could go and test at the track before you raced at the track.  I remember coming here and testing, running really fast, qualifying not going well for us, but yet they had second-round qualifying back then on the Saturday.  We were fastest second round.  We had a fast racecar.  You know, just my inexperience got the best of me, getting loose, backing into the wall, which is now three and four.  I certainly remember the drivers meeting being very different, even to this day.  It was a different type of drivers meeting.

I'm very proud I was able to be a part of it.  Here is a legend of our sport that will never be topped, nobody is ever going to win 200 races, yet I was able to be a part of a fairly intimate setting and hear him speak at that drivers meeting of what his career meant to him, how much he appreciated so many things and the fans and the competitors.  That was very, very cool to be a part of that.  So I certainly remember that.

But, you know, I also remember my day not ending too well.

Q.        Can you draw any parallels between 2005 and this year as far as your emotions, where you are at this point trying to get into the Chase? 

JEFF GORDON:  Compared to what? 

Q.        2005. 

JEFF GORDON:  Did we miss it that year? 

Q.        That's the year you missed it.  I believe so.

JEFF GORDON:  Well, I mean, the difference that I see this year versus '05 is I feel we're competitive enough to be in the Chase this year.  I felt like '05 we weren't.  In '05, the only way we were going to make it is to put a bunch of top 10s together.  This year we're very capable.  That's been the most frustrating thing about this season is that, I mean, we are definitely, from a performance standpoint, a team that's capable of being in the top 10, you know, winning more races than we have, more top fives than we have, less DNFs.  That's been the frustrating part, not getting the results you're capable of. 
That's been one thing I feel like has gone in my favor throughout my career, is when we're capable of the results, maybe we don't get them immediately, but eventually we start to build that momentum and get those results put together.  This year has been one of those up-and-down years when it comes to that. 

Pressure-wise I think is about the same.  You know, you want to be in it.  You don't want to be on the outside looking in.  We had to step up in a big way then.  That was a big challenge for us.  We recognize it's going to be a big challenge for us this year, as well. 
But I've got more confidence in our performance this year but yet not so much because we just haven't had things go the way we need them to.

Who knows, these next two weeks could be just unbelievable or these next two weeks could be just disastrous.  You just don't know. 

I try not to go into races with too many expectations, I just go in trying to do the best job I can and support my team and give them the tools that they need to give me the car and what I can do to give them the ability to have that great pit stop, make that good adjustment so that we can be up front, bound for the win.

Q.        You've seen 20 years of championships.  I know Tony Stewart came out of nowhere last year.  To be brutally honest, this championship is Jimmie Johnson's to lose.  You can crunch the numbers, see the momentum.  You know who has what.

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, I agree.  But I thought that was Carl Edwards' position last year, too.  After last year, it's all very unpredictable. 

But I agree.  They've shown the signs and the strengths of being able to really strike and put the speed up when they need to, and we're not even in the Chase yet.  They seem to be able to find another gear when it comes to the Chase when it all truly is really on the line. 

You got to recognize where your strengths are.  The 48 has so many strengths, it just seems they got a bag of tricks that they can constantly take things out of, weapons they can go after.  They're either fast at this particular track or they just know how to battle back.  Doesn't matter where they start, they're always capable of pulling out the weapons that they need to. 

Other teams are consistent.  Other teams can kind of come and go, come and go. 
So I don't know.  I'm interested to see how those final 10 races go because it's been a bit unpredictable this season, as well as the last couple of seasons, at least last year, the way like Tony stepped up when you least expected it. 

Q.        You opened by talking about how drivers have such an affinity for the Atlanta surface.  Carl Edwards said if we haven't had a racetrack, this would be it.  As more get resurfaced, this place becomes more of an original, unique, do you think drivers will have more of a fondness for this place?  If it was up to you, would you prefer to run two races here rather than other races?

JEFF GORDON:  I really think so.  I think we're hurting the sport by doing all these repaves.  I really try to always see all the different sides of the business side of the sport, whether it be from the team standpoint, the driving standpoint, sponsorship, tracks, NASCAR, you know, and give the benefit of the doubt.  So I understand a lot of these tracks, especially after Daytona, right, the surface has an issue, comes apart, they've got to repave, and they start looking at all these tracks, we cannot let that happen again. 
I think they've really missed it on what they're repaving the surfaces with.  It's extremely disappointing to me.  I feel like it's challenging Goodyear in ways that's got to be frustrating to them.  It challenges the teams, everybody.  I think it takes away from putting the best race out there, as well. 
We come here.  This place is old, worn out, cracks everywhere, and yet every driver loves it.  We're slipping and sliding around.  The racing is pretty spectacular.  So from a surface and pure driving on the track standpoint, I'd like to come here five times a year.  But the business side of it's got to match up, as well, the dates, everything else. 

Unfortunately, eventually they're going to have to repave here, too.  I just hope more tracks start looking at how they repave, how you accomplish what's out there right now with a repave because we're paving these racetracks with what we're trying to pave highways with, and this is not a highway, this is a racetrack. 

I think that the whole model of repaving needs to be rethought out, readjusted.  I know we can come up with better surfaces.  Not more longer-lasting surfaces.  They're making surfaces that are lasting forever, but one that's better for racing, what we're looking for as drivers and teams and fans.