Watkins Glen: Press Conference Transcript
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET met with members of the media at Watkins Glen International and discussed Scott Pruett on stand-by, road course racing and other topics. Full transcript:
ON CONCERN THAT SOME TEAMS CAN'T COMPETE WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS OR OTHER BIG TEAMS: "That's auto racing. You could change all the rules that you want and budgets and all these things, but the teams with the best people and the best resources are typically going to rise to the top. I think we probably have a more level playing field here in the Sprint Cup Series than any form of racing that there is out there. There is always going to be somebody that finishes first and somebody that finishes 43rd. That's just the reality of motorsports."
WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF LAST YEAR'S RACE AT WATKINS GLEN? "It's not really one of my fondest races here at Watkins Glen. It's funny; I get asked that question and I am like, 'what do you mean, what happened?' It's not because I wrecked so hard, I remember, it's just that it's so forgettable because it wasn't a good day for us. We didn't run well. I think more is a few years ago we were leading here and spun out going into one with nobody behind me. I was more disappointed about that than I was about last year. Last year we just got caught up in somebody else's wreck. My back was hurting for a little while, but other than that, it was pretty easy to get over it."
ON HAVING SCOTT PRUETT STANDING BY TO DRIVE THIS WEEKEND: "I thought of him and I don't know what kind of brought that to my mind, but I've always been a huge fan of Scott's (Pruett). I can remember as a kid going to the go-kart nationals in Quincy, Illinois. I think I was 12 or something and he was the man. He was the rock star and super fast. I think he probably won that year as well. I've always known Scott and looked up to him in that way and followed his career. At Daytona I went and found him in the Grand-Am Series garage and I just said, 'hey, would you be interested.' He said, 'I definitely have an interest, let me talk to Chip (Ganassi).' I thought that would squash it right there. To all of our surprise, Chip was very supportive of it and came back and said, 'yeah, it would be great' and I think it was very cool. We're very excited to have Scott here this weekend."
WHAT IS THE COMFORT LEVEL OF HAVING SCOTT PRUETT STANDING BY THIS WEEKEND? "That's certainly huge. I think honestly, Scott (Pruett) could do better in the car than I could, to be honest with you. We certainly aren't planning to use him for the race, but it is very comforting if something were to happen where we needed him. We have an excellent shot at getting a great performance out of the car. I'm really looking forward to having him drive the car today because we have to put him in. I'm just looking forward to seeing what he does and what he says about the car because I think just that could be a positive for us throughout the weekend to get the feedback of a great road racer like him as to what he thinks the car is doing and what we could do to make the car go faster."
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT THIS RACE TRACK? "The toughest part is going fast and attacking all the corners here and not making mistakes. It's easy to make mistakes here because you have so many turns and braking zones and obstacles with the down shifts -- wheel hopping in turn one. If I had to pick one thing, it's probably turn one is the toughest. It's just really, really difficult to get deep into that corner, not overshoot the corner and not wheel hop the rear tires."
WOULD YOU SAY OTHER DRIVERS HAVE GOTTEN GOOD AT ROAD RACING COMPARED TO 10 YEARS AGO? "No doubt. I think the cars are on a more level playing field; this new car is just a lot less advantage you have, everywhere we go -- it doesn't matter if we're on a road course or on an oval. But I think the drivers and the teams in general are just focused more on road course racing and that's why I think you've seen it. You really don't see anybody dominating like we did even at one time. You just can't find that advantage. Everybody's got the best brakes. Everybody seems to have the transmissions figured out. NASCAR has kind of put us into a little tighter box, there's not a whole lot of options like there used to be with the rear end gear and transmission. Like I said, with this car there's not a whole lot you can do to make it superior to the competition. It makes a better road racer out of everybody."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF A SPOTTER ON A ROAD COURSE: "On a road course, I don't think it's as important because you really need like three spotters around here and they can't see all the way around the track so the ovals are far more important with the spotter. We're excited about having Jeff Dickerson on board. Felt like he did a great job last week at Pocono and I feel like our comfort level is only going to get stronger as we go forward. This weekend, I think the driver really has to do a lot more of the spotting because they can't see all the way around and so you have to give and take a lot around this race track as a driver. Know the areas that are important. There's only really three major braking zones and in those areas you have to understand that somebody may be attacking you in those areas and know what you've got and rely on your spotter as well. I never feel like the spotters have a good location to really spot from here. When we talk about it prior to the race, we always say, 'hey, only spot what you can see.' If they can't really, truly make the call then it's up to me to make the call from there."
WITH DOUBLE FILE RESTARTS, DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE THE SAME THINGS WE DID AT SONOMA? "Yes and no. Sonoma is such a tight, finesse race track that we could run side-by-side for the first five or six corners. With the esses here, you have to get single-file pretty quick. Once you get through the bus stop, I think you're going to see plenty of excitement, don't get me wrong, but it's not going to be quite like Sonoma. It's a faster race track; you can't run side-by-side here as much because the track's not as slow and those switch backs like you have in Sonoma just allow for you to run side-by-side for almost a whole lap on those restarts. I think we're going to see plenty of action, especially just down in turn one and getting through the esses, it just seems like there's always a lot of guys getting knocked around in those first couple corners. It's going to be hectic for sure."
WHO DO YOU EXPECT TO BE GOOD THIS WEEKEND? "Tony (Stewart) is really solid. I think the only thing now that stands in his way is probably Marcos Ambrose. I think Marcos is really, really strong. We tire tested here and he was very fast. I'm anxious to see what kind of speed he has here today versus the competition like the 14 (Tony Stewart), the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), the 2 (Kurt Busch), the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya). So we'll see. Tony has been really solid up here for sure."
ON NOT GOING TO ATLANTA TWICE A YEAR AND GAINING BONUS POINTS BEFORE THE CHASE: "I think they're very important, the bonus points, because you don't want to spot anybody, especially the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), the 11 (Denny Hamlin), the 18 (Kyle Busch), guys like that, you don't want to spot those guys any kind of an advantage. You already feel like you're at a disadvantage with them anyway as strong as they are. I think the bonus points become very important. It only takes one race to erase those bonus points, but you can't anticipate that and you can't plan for that. We're really anxious to cut into that gap as much as we possibly can before the Chase starts. As far as Atlanta, I'm a big fan of Atlanta. I love going to Atlanta. You hate to see a race go, but you also have to understand the business of the sport. When we go to Atlanta and they're having a hard time selling it out and there's an opportunity to go somewhere and grow our fan base and take the series somewhere they've never been before, which is potentially what's going to happen, then I think that's exciting and a good move."
FROM A SPONSORSHIP PERSPECTIVE, IS IT BETTER TO GO TO NEW RACE TRACKS OR REMAIN IN MARKETS LIKE ATLANTA? "Yes and no. I think as long as we're going there once a year, I think it's good because we're still hitting that market. The sponsors just like NASCAR and the rest of us; they want to see a packed grandstand. They want to see a lot of excitement around the event. They want to see the viewer ship numbers at home. I think those are probably the most important things when it comes to an event. You have to understand, Atlanta is not really Atlanta. Its 45 minutes away from Atlanta. I think that wherever we end up going, I think if it draws a bigger crowd or at least draws a lot of attention and excitement and puts on a great race, then I think it's a good change."
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET KNOCKED OFF AT A RACE TRACK WHERE YOU ARE DOMINANT? "Let's just say the percentages are against you to continue the streak. As good as you are and as strong as you are, you go on that streak and each time you win a race and continue to win races there then the percentages go down that you're going to win the next one is the way I look at it. It doesn't make you more of a favorite; it makes you less of a favorite. I'm not saying that the 14 (Tony Stewart) is going to get knocked off this weekend, I think they will be very strong, but I think the chances are probably pretty good that somebody else is going to win it."
HOW IS YOUR FAMILY? "The family is good. We're all anxious and excited. Hoping it's all good."
ARE YOU STRATEGIZING MORE TO GET WINS AND BONUS POINTS? "There's no strategy to it. We go to every race trying to win, that's how you get the most points. That's what we do. Obviously, we're in a position where we can be more risky. You look at last week for instance, I think we felt like four tires was just the right call and two tires ended up being the call. We're just going to continue to do those things that we think are going to get us into victory lane. For instance, this weekend if we're an eighth place car and the caution comes out and it puts us in a better position, just like last week it put those guys in a better position because you can make the call that's basically, you've got nothing to lose. When you're leading a race and running in the top two or three, those decisions are so much harder because you have everything to lose."
HOW IS FOUR TIRES A RISKY MOVE? "There's a difference between being risky and stupid. Taking no tires would definitely fit that. I think the way that we looked at it playing out was 30 laps under, if it went under green or if one or two cautions come out. Four tires is going to be absolutely the right call. I felt like it was a risky move. Obviously it didn't work out. It's one of those situations where all it took was one caution and the 16 (Greg Biffle) was done because who would have known that nine cars would have been out there. You just don't know that. And who would have thought that race would have gone caution free all the way to the end, plus is was shortened because the rain was only like 20 laps. Those things are the kind of breaks that we haven't been getting this year. We've been running good, putting ourselves in position, great pit stops, and all those things. When it's meant to happen, it's going to happen. I'm fine that it hasn't happened to this point and if it starts happening over the next five races and continues through the Chase."
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