Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jeff Gordon on the All-Star Race

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
MAY 17, 2013

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 CROMAX PRO CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed this year’s All-Star Race format, the correlations of winning the All-Star Race and the championship and many other topics.  Full Transcript:

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF NO SPEED LIMIT ON PIT ROAD?
“I think it’s going to be really exciting and interesting.  I think this is a perfect event to do that with.  That is what the All-Star Race creates to me is the ability for NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway to have some fun and keep it exciting.  Change it up from time to time and really take full advantage of this is the All-Star Race.  Put the drivers to work, put the pit crews to work, make the car work good and go out there and be aggressive.  Certainly coming to pit road that fast is very aggressive and it’s hard to practice it with so many cars and the track being slick.  It’s very hard to get a good judgment and I went through this before.  We tried to practice when I think it was ’97 or ’98, whatever year it was we did this. Maybe it was later than that, I can’t remember.  The pace was so much faster when it came to qualify it carried so much more speed down pit road that when I finally decided to get on the brakes it was way too late and I never made it into the pit stall.  I’m going to try to take that experience and what I learned a little bit today and try to make it in the box.”  

YOU COMPETED AGAINST DICK TRICKLE MUCH OF THE 90’S, COULD YOU SAY A FEW WORDS ABOUT HIM AS A COMPETITOR? MAYBE A STORY THAT KIND OF SUMS UP HIS CHARACTER?
“He was a fierce competitor but he was very relaxed and did things his own way. You’ve got to respect a guy for that. He drove so many different types of cars and had success in so many different types of cars. I don’t have any great Dick Trickle stories. He’s the only guy I raced against that you would be at Darlington in the middle of the summer and it’s as hot as can be, and you’re getting ready to roll off to take the green after a caution and he would flick a cigarette out the window and then we would go racing. You know, I had never seen that before.”

DID HE REALLY HAVE A LIGHTER IN HIS CAR?
“I think he did. He was the only guy I know that had a lighter in the car when I raced. There might have been guys that did that earlier. He was a really cool guy. He didn’t say much. He left it all out there on the track. He raced a lot. He was a tough, tough guy. When he was on he was tough to beat. He drove everybody’s cars. He went through the highs and the lows of the sport. Certainly he is going to be missed.”

IN TERMS OF THE ALL-STAR RACE, DO YOU FEEL THE FREEDOM TO DRIVE DIFFERENTLY AND MAYBE MORE AGGRESSIVE?
“This is definitely that race that lends itself to all the things that you would think it would.  “If you’ve got a shot at the win and it comes down to a restart, you’ve got to dive in the corner hard and get back in the gas hard. You’ve got to get past that guy; you’re going to do it. Everything you do is so crucial as far as getting that position and getting the car out front and just go as hard as you can. That starts in practice, in qualifying, and it happens in every lap of every race. I mean it doesn’t make sense to go do that for sixth or seventh or tenth (place), but for the win absolutely.”

ON THE FLIP SIDE, WHEN PEOPLE ARE MAD AT EACH OTHER COMING INTO THIS RACE, IS THIS A GOOD PLACE FOR PAYBACK?
“I don’t know. That’s a great way to create more rivalry. It isn’t a bad thing. I always say do unto others as they do to me. So, if somebody cost me points, I want to cost them points. I race everybody the way they race me. I’ve made some choices and mistakes over the years that maybe not have always showed that, but there is usually a reason for it. I don’t know how other guys do it. I don’t even know how I do it. To me the All-Star race is not about payback, it’s about racing really aggressively, and if that aggressiveness causes things to happen that might hurt somebody else’s chances to win the race, so be it.”

HOW HARD IS IT GOING TO BE TO WIN ALL FIVE STAGES?
“These days it’s near impossible. I’m not saying it is impossible. It just used to be a bigger gap in competition. The rules are so much tighter and the cars are so much closer, track position is so much more important, it’s a lot harder to do. But it’s possible.”

DO YOU THINK THE TWO MILLION DOLLARS IS AN EFFECTIVE MOTIVATOR TO GET PEOPLE TO LAY IT ALL OUT THERE?
“I think just the fact that it’s the All-Star race. This race means a lot to all of us as far as just pride and bragging rights, and momentum that it can give you for next week as well as the season. The $2 Million doesn’t hurt though.”

THE INDY 500 IS COMING UP, WHAT MAKES THAT RACE SO SPECIAL?
“It’s an amazing race. I don’t know about others but for me as a kid growing up, the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500, those were the races you wanted to watch. I’m always watching throughout the day right up until I go to driver’s meeting. I’m following on my phone finding out what’s going on. It’s a fun, exciting race to watch. It’s a huge day for racing. You forget Formula 1 is running the Monaco Grand Prix as well. To me, between Monaco, Indy, and here at Charlotte it’s a pretty spectacular day.”

IS THERE A SOMEBODY IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU WATCH OR YOU KNOW IN THAT GARAGE?
“Is AJ (Allmendinger) running there? I don’t know many of the guys. I raced with Ryan Hunter-Reay in a prototype race in Daytona 24 hours and few years ago. He’s a great guy and doing well. I’m a big fan of Roger Penske. Because I grew up as a Rick Mears fan, so I like to see the Penske group do well. If AJ is running, I would love to see him do well.”

WHEN YOU READ THE HEADLINES FROM THIS YEAR, WHETHER IT’S ABOUT SAFETY ISSUES AND CRASHED OR PENALTIES AND FINES, THERE’S NOT A LOT OF TALK ABOUT RACING. IS THAT KIND OF WEIRD?
“I think as long as people are asking questions, talking, and have interest and are engaged that is for the good. Some weekends you talk about the spectacular race, other weekends you are talking about the drama and things that happen off the track. In this world today, with social media and just the internet in general, I think any kind of buzz is a good thing. Some kind of story line that’s keeping people’s interest up so on Sunday when the race comes around people are tuning in to see what’s going to happen next. I hope when they do that, they see a great race.”

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE GETTING ADJUSTED TO THE TIRES?  IN THE PREVIOUS MODEL THAT CAME OUT WASN’T THAT PART OF THE ADJUSTMENT FOR YOU WAS THE CAR AND THE TIRE?
“Well anytime there is a repave and then they go with a harder tire or when they came out with the COT (Car of Tomorrow) all of a sudden that tire was really hard on right-side tires.  They had to go harder on the tires. That wasn’t benefiting me and my driving style.  I really like to get that right-front out there and feel it and be able to push the limits of that right-front.  When you go to a hard tire like that you just have no feel out there on that right-front and really not the right-rear either.  The car that has more grip which along the way with the COT we started gaining grip.  At the beginning we didn’t have the grip.  Then we started gaining grip, I started getting better with it.  Now this car has good grip and it’s taken a little weight out too so it’s allowing Goodyear to maybe look at softening up some of those right-side tires.  There needs to be more steps in that direction, but it’s encouraging and so I’m enjoying it.  That doesn’t change going to Kansas or Michigan and having a rock hard tire because that is what has to be there for durability.”

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT LEANING MORE ON THE RIGHT-FRONT TIRE WHAT DOES THAT ALLOW YOU TO DO WITH THIS TIRE (THE NEW TIRE)?
“If you have more grip, then you are able to use that tire more.  Some guys like to feel the right-rear, the left-rear, the right-front.  Everybody has a little bit different feel, but I don’t like a tight race car.  I like to feel the car turn.  I like to just keep it right there on the edge of turning and tight, which I think most guys probably do. It’s just how they go about it.  When the tire is really hard, think of the grip level as a peak it’s real easy to get to that peak and the more you spread it out then the harder it is to get to that peak. You can lean on it, you have more adjustability in your driving style, in the car adjustments and it just allows you to have more options.  To me like this week we were in New Hampshire as soon as it put more grip on the car I liked it.  Even though the pace fell off more as we ran I liked that tire better.  Instead of going out there and slipping and sliding around trying to find the grip for three laps and then it finally comes in and doesn’t fall off.  I prefer to have the grip at the beginning and then have it gradually fall off.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO GET A FOURTH ALL-STAR WIN AND BE THE LEADER ALL-TIME WITH ALL-STAR WINS?
“Well, just an All-Star win in general is an amazing feeling and experience.  We have had opportunities that have slipped away from getting that fourth victory and we have been in position where we weren’t really close and competitive enough to do it.  I’m excited about this weekend. I feel like our team has been working hard to get us a car that can compete for a win.  Qualifying is going to be a little tricky tonight.  We know how track position plays a role in this race.  The way segments are unwinding with that average finish I like that.  I think that falls back into our hands a bit and can give us a great opportunity to win.”

IS THERE ANYTHING MORE SPECIAL TO BE ON TOP OF A LIST WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON AND DALE EARNHARDT SR. (WHO ALSO HAVE THREE ALL-STAR WINS)?
“Honestly, I never look at it that way.  I couldn’t even tell you where I’m at on the list at most tracks until the media says something.  I just go to a track and I know that I like that track, we have had success at that track.  I might know how many times I’ve won at that track, again because of press releases and the media talks about it.  I just know going into a track whether I have confidence in that track, whether I like that track and if I don’t I always see how practice unfolds and then start building it or start working hard to get it.  That is the way I approach every weekend.  I think that is what has gotten me through 700 races and gotten me all the wins and the top-five’s it’s just I don’t focus on the stats and the records.  I focus on just going and doing my job the best I can every weekend.”

DID YOU REALIZE THE THREE YEARS YOU WON THE ALL-STAR RACE YOU ALSO WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
“I did years ago because a lot of people used to reference it, but I had forgotten about it until you just reminded me.  I don’t know if that is coincidence or not.  Like I said I think to win the All-Star Race usually the best team winning this race.  I don’t think that is a coincidence especially when it turns into a championship.”

THE (COCA-COLA) 600 NEXT WEEK, HOW DO YOU CHANGE YOUR PREPARATION FOR A LONG RACE LIKE THAT?
“There are a lot of things that are different.  It starts during the day, the track changes a lot when the sun goes down.  It’s a very long race.  You’ve got to hydrate if it’s going to be warm and humid.  You’ve got to be ready to stay on top of the adjustments.  Almost get ahead of them instead of getting behind them.  Things are going to change.  I like long races.  It suits my style, but the car has got to be right.  You can’t go into it thinking ‘oh we are just going to cruise at the beginning and wait for the track to come to us’.  That just doesn’t exist anymore.  That used to exist.  It doesn’t exist anymore.”
 



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