Pocono: Press Conference Transcript
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Pocono Raceway and discussed this weekend's race at Pocono, about Dale Earnhardt, Jr. taking over the points lead last week, the race coming up in Watkins Glen and much more. Full transcript.
TALK ABOUT THIS WEEKEND, WITH SIX TO GO BEFORE THE CHASE WINS ARE PARAMOUNT FOR YOU.
"Yeah, it is. I really like what we saw here the last time we were here. Any time there is a repave you're not exactly sure what the conditions are going to be like, what passing and racing is going to be like, what the tire-wear or lack of wear is going to be like. So, I was very pleased to see the type of racing that we had here last time we were here, plus the fact that we had really good speed in our car. The thing that stands out to me was that I made a mistake on pit road and got caught speeding. So, we've got to eliminate those mistakes and continue to put out the effort that we're putting out. We've had fast race cars a lot of times this year, even last week at the Brickyard we had a great race car and I feel like we can do that again this weekend. Eliminate the mistakes, put a whole race together and there's no doubt this team can win."
MOVING THE NO. 48 AND THE NO. 24 AND THE TEAMS AROUND, HAVE YOU LOST ANYTHING AND HAS THE COMMUNICATION CHANGED?
"No, I'm very proud of the move that has been made. I love working with Alan Gustafson. He's a great, great crew chief. They've got a very strong team that I've been able to come in and be a part of it and I think add to. We won three races last year, this year I feel like we've been in position to win at least that many again. It just hasn't come together. You look at Kasey Kahne and bringing him and Kenny Francis over. Those guys have won a couple of races. I think the shop and these two teams are very strong, strong as they have ever been. But, it just goes to show you how difficult this sport can be and how you've got to put it all together. Where we are at in the points and the fact that we haven't won yet is not indicative of how we have performed this year. That's been our story and its one we've got to change. We've got to turn around, and hopefully this is the weekend to do that."
WE'VE SEEN THE LAST FEW YEARS THE GUY WHO FINISHES SECOND IN THE POINTS SEEMS TO HAVE A ROUGH SEASON THE FOLLOWING SEASON; YOU KIND OF HAD THAT FROM 2007 TO 2008. IS THAT JUST COINCIDENCE?
"It depends. I think if you finish second because you were gaining on the leader the entire run through the Chase, that is a different way of how you handle it. But, I think that if you are leading the points and you just get beat and outrun, then I think that is going to take the wind out of you. If you've put everything you possibly have into it and come up short, it takes something out of you and it takes something out of your team. You're like what more do we have to do? I don't know if we have anything left to turn those results around. I think that's kind of what happened to us in 2007. That's what happened to Carl (Edwards) last year. I think it's what happened to Denny (Hamlin) the year before. Finishing second can be good if you're maybe finishing second for the first time in your career or you just made a heck of a run and just came up a little bit short. But when it's yours to win and you feel like you give it up, that's hard to overcome."
LAST WEEK SEVERAL DRIVERS COMMENTED ON JIMMIE'S (JOHNSON) CAR LIKE HE HAD SOMETHING THAT NOBODY ELSE HAD, IS THERE SOMETHING THEY HAVE FOUND THAT MAYBE THEY ARE NOT GIVING TO THE REST OF THE TEAMS?
"We share everything. We're doing everything we possibly can to go out there and be competitive. I think that is one of the things that Hendrick (Motorsports) does so well. They go out there and push the limits constantly. Whether it's over the off-season trying to get prepared for Daytona, or if along the way you recognize what other teams are doing and you go okay we are getting beat by that how do we make ourselves better? Or, sometimes it just takes months of working on something. You've got to understand that NASCAR has put us in a box. In that box you have a lot less tools to work with and so you've got to creatively get outside of that box. That's what I think Hendrick is doing right now. Creatively the guys are really smart and they are coming up with some things that are making our cars stand out and do the things balance wise that we are looking for. I don't think we are head and shoulders above anybody, I just think that we've got things that are working well for us. I didn't see anything that stood out to me over a lot of the other competitors there last week. Sometimes I think some of those comments are made just because people are getting beat and they don't like it and want to try to bring attention to something that is probably not there."
A FEW YEARS AGO A FEW DRIVERS WERE TAKING JABS AT DALE EARNHARDT JR., KYLE BUSCH IN PARTICULAR, ABOUT BEING THE MOST POPULAR DRIVER AND NOT WINNING RACES, HAS HE FINALLY GOTTEN TO THE POINT NOW WHERE THAT HAS ENDED?
"It's hard to say and pinpoint exactly what it is, but there is definitely a difference. I think his confidence is up. I think he believes in his team and Steve (Letarte, crew chief). Their personalities and confidence in one another was built. It's a great team over there and it's a great facility. They really know how to step things up, but I think that it took a little while for those two to say alright I believe in you and you believe in me lets go work on this and these are some things we've got to step up and do to be successful. Whatever they've done is obviously working and then you back that up with performance. There's no doubt those guys are going out every weekend, their cars are strong, they're running up front. It's not a fluke. They are the real deal this year. Junior's attitude, and his focus, and how hard he is working is all showing up."
AT THIS POINT IN THE YEAR FOR A LOT OF GUYS, THE POINTS LEAD IS NICE BUT BASICALLY A FORMALITY. LAST WEEK AFTER JUNIOR GOT IT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOUR YEARS HE WAS EXTREMELY HAPPY ABOUT IT, WHY DO YOU THINK IT MEANS SO MUCH TO HIM THAT HE IS IN THAT POSITION NOW?
"I don't know what the scenario was when he led the points the last time, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't because they were grinding it out through August and took the points lead after a top-five Brickyard 400 finish. I don't know, but I'm pretty sure. I think that's the difference. They've been just digging and grinding and pulling out great finishes. They've got the win there at Michigan and they could win more races. I think it's probably more because of one he's under a lot of pressure and stress, he and Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and Rick (Hendrick) and that whole team because it is Junior and people look at it differently. I think that probably they were feeling some of that pressure, so that's a little bit of a relief. They've had great performance, are running well, fans are excited and saying great things. The media is saying great things because they are recognizing the effort and he's got a race win and leading the points. The pressure is going to go up when the Chase starts, but right now I think there are these small victories that you have throughout the season and I think being the points leader after a great streak of runs and that one at the Brickyard, that's something to celebrate and be excited about."
I KNOW YOU ARE NOT PARTICIPATING IN THE TEST AT MARTINSVILLE.....
"I wish I was. That's the one place on the circuit I would like to test at."
THEY ARE TESTING THE 2013 CARS AND APPARENTLY THEY ARE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO ALSO LIGHTEN THE CARS AND GET THE LOAD OFF THE RIGHT FRONT .....
"It's not an issue at Martinsville, but yes."
WHAT DO YOU THINK COULD COME OUT OF THAT TEST?
"That's a new one for me. I did not know about them trying to take weight out. I have to do a little investigating myself and talk to some of the engineers to see what exactly they are doing there because if I had to guess they are not doing near enough but anything is a gain. You've got to understand this should have been done a long, long time ago and the teams decided to figure it out on their own and figure out how to shift that weight over to the left side to take some weight off the right. That's just made the cars go faster, but it hasn't necessarily helped Goodyear. It's always been known since the first C.O.T. that Goodyear has really struggled trying to build a proper tire for this car, because it's a high CG (center of gravity) and there's a lot of weight on the right side and not near enough on the left side. So, it just really puts a lot of stress on the right side tires, especially the right front. Directionally it's the right thing to be doing but until I know a little bit more about exactly what they are doing I don't really want to comment on the details of it."
EARLIER THIS WEEK AJ ALMENDINGER LOST THE BEST RIDE HE'S EVER HAD IN THE SPORT AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE SAYING HE'S DONE IN NASCAR. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE IS ANY WAY BACK FOR HIM? ONCE HE COMPLETES THE ROAD TO RECOVERY WOULD YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE BEING ON THE TRACK WITH HIM AGAIN?
"Oh yeah, absolutely. AJ is a friend of mine. I've always been a fan of his ever since his open-wheel runs in the CART Series. You hate to see it because it was a great opportunity for him to be at Penske in that car. It's disappointing to see. I'm as anxious as anybody else to know all the details as to what happened, what went wrong. He's a fighter. I don't see him just turning away. I see him doing what he can to come back."
WHAT ARE YOUR CHANCES AT WATKINS GLEN? OBVIOUSLY DIFFERENT THAN SONOMA.
"I'm optimistic to be honest. We have not run very well at Watkins Glen in recent years and it's been very disappointing to me and the team. It was not from lack of effort, we've just not had the setup and grip that we've needed at that track. I felt like we made big improvements at Sonoma. But, like you said Sonoma is not Watkins Glen so that's why I said I'm optimistic. I think we've made improvement but we won't really know until we get there. I hope the things that we've learned we can apply there and see the results. I always love going to the road courses and Watkins Glen is always one of my favorites. It's a fast road course and you've got to have grip and comfort in that car through those esses and the high speed corners. Sonoma is more finesse. You can be off a little bit on your setup and you can just make sure you don't over drive the car and you'll make good, decent lap times. Watkins Glen, you've got to attack the race track in the braking zones and the car has got to be there for you and stick. If it's not, it makes for a long day."
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