Charlotte: Press Conference Transcript
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet met with media and discussed racing in Kansas next week, the length of the Coca-Cola 600, Memorial Day memories, his foundation and pediatric cancer, and more. Full Transcript:
Q. Going to Kansas in June as opposed to October, what's the difference?
JEFF GORDON: Just depends on the tire Goodyear takes there. I think that's probably going to mean more than the time of year.
But, you know, I'm trying to think, that track was in the Chase before or not?
Q. It was always in the Chase.
JEFF GORDON: I think that's going to be the thing that changes things. I like that track, I run well at that track, and I like having that track in the Chase.
We go there in June, it's still a mile-and-a-half, it's still an important racetrack, still a track we want to win at. But right now I'm just looking at it, we just have to wait and see the weather conditions. Weather conditions always play a role, but I think tires play a bigger role.
Q. Speaking of the Chase, you're in that no man's land now. Sitting 14th, when do you start thinking wild card, go for broke to get a W? Talk about your philosophy now.
JEFF GORDON: We're going for broke to get the Ws now. We're certainly not thinking about wild card. All we're thinking about is making our car go faster every weekend, trying to get ourselves in position to get those good finishes and hopefully get those wins.
We've talked about it pretty openly, that our program has not been up to par this year. That's why I was so excited about how we ran the All-Star Race the other night because I thought we really made some big improvements.
I'm excited about the 600. If we come out of here with a good finish, a good run, I think it gives us a lot to go off of to improve our position in the points when we go to some of these mile-and-a-half's like Kansas.
Q. How much of an indicator is running well at a mile-and-a-half like Charlotte? Does it set you up to run well at Kansas?
JEFF GORDON: It doesn't always correlate. The surface here is quite a bit different than about anyplace that we go to. This is a big, fast, very high-banked racetrack. The surface has a lot of grip. Goodyear has typically had to run a very hard tire here. They've come here with a little bit softer tire, but it's still pretty hard. That's why you saw guys not having to change tires the other night.
In Kansas, that's not necessarily the case. It's a flatter racetrack, grip is more of a premium. It does wear the tires more. A lot of our mile-and-a-half's are like that. I think of Chicago. I think of Atlanta.
So it doesn't prove anything, but to us it's still a step in the right direction.
Q. You mentioned you like Kansas, run well there. What does it take to be successful at Kansas?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, good balance, good grip. But for whatever reason, to me it suits my driving style. I think because the tires do wear quite a bit there, tire management seems to be pretty important. That falls back into the team, the car, your communication with them on getting the car to work the way you want it to as those tires wear.
Q. You were talking about mile-and-a-half tracks. How does Kansas distinguish itself from the other mile-and-a-half tracks?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, I feel like Chicago is the most similar track to Kansas. Those two are a lot alike, but they're still not exactly alike. I say they are kind of on their own really. Kind of flat through one and two, a little more banking and sweeping turns through three and four. The car definitely does two different things at both ends, which is not that unusual on mile-and-a-half's. But I guess just a little bit more to the extreme.
Q. We're all racing fans. As a racing fan, do you have a certain memory that stands out or a moment in time that stands out in racing? Changed the subject on you.
JEFF GORDON: I mean, how much is in your chip (laughter)?
I mean, I've been racing a long time. I have fond memories back to when I was nine years old racing quarter midgets and go-karts, Sprint cars, the Belleville Nationals, night before the 500 at Indianapolis, to the Brickyard 400, Daytona 500, on and on and on. More than I can recollect and keep track of.
Q. Any special memories relative to Memorial Day weekend as a big race weekend?
JEFF GORDON: Obviously, my first win came here at this race Memorial Day weekend. I'll never forget that. That was a very special day in my life, in my career. I mean, winning a Cup race to me was what you dream of as a kid, as a racecar driver. That was a big goal of mine. To achieve it that day was huge. I'll never forget it.
Q. Do you think NASCAR should penalize Kyle Busch for his speeding violation the other day?
JEFF GORDON: No, I don't. You know, I think it's pretty clear if they feel like it's detrimental to the sport, then maybe they should or could. But in my opinion that's not detrimental to the sport. I think it's more detrimental to Kyle than anything else. I think it's something that should be handled separately away from the sport.
Q. Have you ever gone 128 miles an hour in a street car?
JEFF GORDON: I don't think I have. I'll be honest with you. That's fast (laughter).
Q. Is there an urge for somebody in your profession to just want to drive fast all the time no matter where you're at or...
JEFF GORDON: I've always kind of had the approach of I get it out of my system on the weekends. I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't want you to think I'm perfect. I've been speeding before. But certainly the way I look at it today as a parent, I look at things different.
I do think of the 'what if's.' I told somebody this the other day. If I'm going down a fairly narrow country road and I see houses and yards, I think of that ball running out in the street and that kid chasing after it. That's because I'm a parent. You think a little bit more responsibly.
Q. Last year you surprised us all with the win of the pole. Do you think you had a chance of winning the pole?
JEFF GORDON: I don't think we won it for the 600. We won it for the fall race.
Q. Is that different than this race?
JEFF GORDON: It's a little hotter than it is in the fall.
I think we got a shot at it. The other night when we qualified for the All-Star Race, if you look at our speed on the track, we were the third fastest car. While I don't think practice is a great indicator because you're in the middle of the day, I really think we've got a great shot at a pole here tonight.
The car felt good. I think we learned a lot from the other night. We're going to throw everything we possibly can at it to try to make it happen.
Q. And a win on Sunday as well?
JEFF GORDON: Of course. Track position we learned, even in All-Star Races, is important. Track position is going to be important in the 600. We want to get the best track position we can. We want to get momentum. That certainly comes from having a fast racecar in qualifying. That right now is our primary goal, is to get on the pole tonight and try to win on Sunday.
Q. Talk about the announcement last night. So many people's foundations do things domestically. To do the stuff in Rwanda is a lot different than what other drivers are doing.
JEFF GORDON: Our goal with the foundation is to find out where the greatest need is when it comes to pediatric cancer. How do we save the most lives? How do we do research to find better treatments, especially the long-term effects of the treatments?
Through my experience with CGI, I learned a lot more about what's happening globally when it comes to cancer, with pediatrics. The truth of the matter, there are children that are dying that shouldn't be in places like Rwanda. There's a group, Partners In Health, that we teamed up with that can prevent this from happening. Our dollar can go a long way in helping that.
It doesn't slow down everything we're doing here domestically. This is over and above what we're doing. We feel like there's some really great opportunities for us to make an impact globally. We want to save the most lives that we can. We feel like it's a great opportunity for us to do that.
Q. I understand you're going to the Congo at some point.
JEFF GORDON: That's different. That's a little bit separate situation. That's, again, through CGI, which I'm a part of a group called the Lead Group in CGI. We're going to visit a refugee camp that we're getting involved with through that group. It's not about pediatric cancer.
I was hoping while I was there in the Congo, I could go to Rwanda. I don't think it's going to work for that trip, so we're going to try to do a separate trip maybe later in the year.
Q. With the World of Outlaws tomorrow night on SPEED, want your reaction. If your owner Rick Hendrick called you right now and said, You have to race tomorrow night, what's your first reaction?
JEFF GORDON: Yee-ha, awesome. You know, I love Sprint cars. I have so little experience with Sprint cars lately that I wouldn't want to get in it because of embarrassment. But I would absolutely love to get back into a Sprint car. It's always been one of my favorite types of racing. My heroes growing up were Steve Kinser and Doug Wolfgang, Brad Doty, Sammy Swindell, these guys. I've always had a big passion for Sprint car racing.
I was fortunate enough to do enough of the Sprint car racing to go to the Nationals, go to El Dora, do pretty well. Put me back in one and I'd be excited and have a lot of fun. I don't know how competitive I would be.
Q. Talk about Jimmie Johnson, the most influential thing from Forbes. What makes them so influential?
JEFF GORDON: I guess you have to look at the criteria, how they created that poll. To me it makes a lot of sense. Here is a guy that has been the most successful of any athlete of any sport over the last five years. He also does a lot off the racetrack. He's a great spokesperson, stays out of trouble most of the time. You know, I think he's got a great reputation, represents his sponsors well, represents the sport well, does philanthropy work, as well. I think if you look at how well-rounded he is, as well as the success he's had, it doesn't really surprise me for him to be on the top of that list.
Q. Carries a lot of responsibility, doesn't he?
JEFF GORDON: That's what happens when you win championships. The more you win, the more responsibility that comes along with it.
Q. (Question regarding having both Kansas races in the Chase.)
JEFF GORDON: I think we know that's not going to happen.
Q. Did you see Carl's (Edwards) celebration last weekend?
JEFF GORDON: How could I miss it?
Q. Have you ever done anything like that to your car when celebrating? If so, did it make you think twice about how you celebrate a win?
JEFF GORDON: I can't say I remember doing anything like that in a celebration. You got to understand, through 1999, we didn't even do burnouts. We drove around there, we waved at the crowd, we drove to Victory Lane, celebrated. Somewhere along the way with Dale Jarrett or somebody started doing burnouts, started this whole new celebration thing, melting down tires, destroying engines. Now we've taken it all the way to destroying racecars. I don't think he meant to do that.
You know, I think it's important for us to show our emotion and how much it means to us. I know that race meant the world to Carl and he was excited. His emotion probably got the best of him and he tore that racecar up pretty bad.
But I think you obviously have to find that fine line. The backflip is not enough for him anymore, I guess.
Q. Do you think it will make you think twice about next time you do that?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I will say I've shot through the grass and have spun around in grass before. I did it in Phoenix. Came off the banking, went into the grass. I wouldn't have thought something like that would have happened. It didn't happen to me. But when you see that, yeah, it definitely will make you think twice about it.
I don't think you'll see too many guys spinning through the grass anytime soon, especially at that rate of speed.
Q. What about him going into the stands?
JEFF GORDON: I think that's great that he does that. The problem is, as great as it is, now none of us can copy it because we'd be copying Carl.
Carl does a great job with including the fans, celebrating a win, showing his excitement. That to me is what makes him a great racecar driver. He's very passionate about what happens on that racetrack, and it means a lot to him. That's good. However he wants to show that, I'm all for that.
Q. (Question regarding backflips.)
JEFF GORDON: No. You won't have to worry about that. I won't be going into the stands either.
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