NASCAR Media Conference
July 12, 2006
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by 4-time series champion Jeff Gordon, who is visiting with us during a rain delay.
Jeff, I know you haven't been on the track yet, but this is an important test for everybody.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it's a very important test. You know, the Brickyard is a big, big event. You know, every team, you know, wants to be here and have as much track time as we possibly can, not to mention Goodyear has a little bit different tire. So, you know, with as much as has changed with the setups of the cars from last year to this year and then the tire being different, we all are very anxious to get out there on the track, not to mention, you know, we don't have many more days left in the schedule to come back here.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Jeff.
Q. How much time do you think it's going to take you guys to get rubber back on the racetrack? That was a concern Monday, to get to where you can test certain things. Does that impact your testing plan for today?
JEFF GORDON: Definitely. You know, we heard about the guys that were here Monday and how it took quite a while. I know some of them said at the beginning of the day it was only, you know, six or eight laps before the tires were almost down to the cords. Obviously, that's because there wasn't any rubber on the track. That's important.
I mean, for us, I think just getting two or three laps is crucial to get telemetry for the team, you know, just to see if there's any new bumps, just traveling, you know, those types of things. It's that important just to get a couple of laps at speed.
But as far as getting good, solid information that we can come back here with, yeah, we need to run several hours and get a lot of cars out there with a lot of rubber down.
Q. Just a couple weeks ago, Michael Schumacher won his fifth event here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Some people are wondering how to compare what he's done to the guys at the Indy 500. You're obviously uniquely qualified in your situation, winning here four times. How do you compare what you have done here at the Brickyard to the long history of winning four times in the Indianapolis 500?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I've never felt like there's a real good comparison there. I mean, if you look at the history, how long the Indy 500 has been going on here, the competitiveness of that race for so many years, to me, and as a kid just growing up as a fan of the Indy 500 and looking at Al Unser and AJ Foyt and Rick Mears, those guys as four-time winners, even when we came here for the Brickyard and I'd won a couple of Brickyard 400s, as much as I love this race and am glad that I've won here, I still don't compare those wins to what those guys have done in the Indy 500.
Same way I kind of look at the F1 race, as well. It's just a totally different event and totally different types of cars. You know, I think that you have to take each series and compare everything to that series. If you look at that, obviously Michael Schumacher's in a totally different field or, you know, comparison range. I mean, he's just set a bar that's going to be almost impossible for anybody else to match.
Q. Jeff, Mike Helton had some fairly strong comments at the drivers meeting in Chicago the other day. I was wondering if you think that message is going to get through or is bending the rule book kind of always a part of this sport and always will be?
JEFF GORDON: I think obviously Mike, you know, when he speaks like that, it definitely makes an impact and gets people's attention. But I really think that the only way that you're really going -- in my opinion, I wish that we didn't go through any type of, you know, prerace inspection at all. I think we just should wait till after the race, go through after qualifying, after the race. I think if you're off a thousandth of a second, then, you know, you should be disqualified or whatever they want the penalty to be. That's going to stop everybody from pushing the limits.
You know, the reason why people keep pushing the limits is because they keep getting a slap on the wrist, you know. And 25 points or 50 points are starting to get more people's attention, and some of the fines, you know. But until they truly really react in a big, big way, you know, I think that guys are going to always continue to push the limits.
You know, I think that sometimes they also allow, you know, like for time purposes, you know, you get qualifying, let's say, and somebody goes -- is going out late, and all of a sudden there's no cars on pit road and they got to rush cars through, all of a sudden somebody feels like they can get away with something more than what they could have, you know, if they had taken their time through every car.
You know, I respect what Mike said and what they're doing in that they need to crack down more, and they need to get guys to stop trying to push the limits. But, you know, I think that until you're taking the severity of the penalties to a whole 'nother level, then I think that guys are going to continue to push the limits.
Q. Just about the test here, with the weather being iffy here, why you guys decided not to come in on Monday? And also if just one day is all you get, basically half the testing time other teams got, how much of a disadvantage that might be coming back next month?
JEFF GORDON: Well, obviously looking at it now, you know, if we don't get on the track today, obviously we should have been here on Monday. So we're talking to NASCAR about what our options are if we don't get on the track today, maybe being able to come back next week.
You know, you kind of leave that up to the teams. I really didn't -- I didn't have any idea what the weather forecast was. Most of the time when we look at a forecast, it's a complete opposite anyway. You know, we based our dates on how we like to test and we don't really like to test on a Monday. We like to give the guys on the team a break that day to get refreshed so that we can hit it hard for two days.
Q. If you do get on the track today, that's all you get, is that going to put you at a big disadvantage coming back next month?
JEFF GORDON: Well, to me the big disadvantage we got are the guys that did the tire test because I think there's three teams, three or four teams, that did both tire tests, because they've done two. I think we're at a big disadvantage to those guys.
The guys that were here on Monday, you know, I think were at a small disadvantage. Like they were saying, they didn't get a lot of real valuable laps, but they did get some laps so I think there's a little something there.
Q. A lot has been said and a lot has been written about what happened the last few laps at Chicagoland between you and Matt. Have you had a chance to talk to Matt this weekend and is that matter resolved?
JEFF GORDON: I haven't. I'd certainly like to see him here before I leave here. I was hoping just to see him here at the test because I figured we'd all be here. But I haven't had a chance to see him yet.
Q. A follow-up to what you said a few moments ago, the guys that tested both tests April and May here. They brought back a different tire for this test today. Does that matter or does it matter being on the racetrack here regardless of what tire you run?
JEFF GORDON: Well, from what I hear, the guys that did the last tire test here, I think they were on the tire that we're on now. But I'm not sure. I might be wrong on that. You know, whatever tire we're going to be racing is the tire that is the important one to be on. And anybody that's got ten laps on that tire, you know, that's a good thing for them.
Q. Jeff, did you go back and look at the tape of the end of the race on Sunday? If so, have your conclusions changed at all? Any new thoughts on what happened?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I've seen it, definitely. I mean, my thoughts haven't changed, you know. I take full responsibility for it. You know, I know that I didn't intentionally try to wreck him. You know, I also know that I had a great run on him. We were running down to final laps. He had already shown me the sign a couple times of, you know, how hard he was going to fight for that position. You know, I definitely stepped up the aggressiveness a notch, and obviously I got into him and spun him. I didn't mean to spin him.
But if that little rubber touch that I thought was going to happen would have moved him up the racetrack and gotten me the position then, you know, it wouldn't even be an issue right now.
Q. Have you ever met Danica Patrick? What would be your thoughts of her coming to Nextel Cup racing?
JEFF GORDON: I don't think I've met her. Not that I can remember. What are my thoughts? I mean, any time -- any time that somebody's gone from a high-downforce, open-wheel, rear-engine car and moves to the stock car, there's a huge transition period there that, you know, some people adapt to and some people don't. No matter what, you don't adapt to it quickly, not on the ovals.
I think there's been some road racers that have done a fantastic job on the road courses to adapt to the cars. And I don't know if many of them have ever gotten a real fair shake at the ovals with a top team.
You know, Boris Said is a guy that has been trying for a long time that I respect a lot. You know, he's finally starting to get himself into some better cars on the ovals. We're seeing progress. But it's still, you know, a long road.
Q. What could a competitive, successful woman driver do for NASCAR?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I think it would be fantastic. I think it would be great, you know. Anything that helps the sport draw more fans and bring more excitement and have a story line like what she's brought to the IRL, I mean, everybody's seen what she's done for the IRL. It's important not just to have a female out there or somebody like Juan Pablo who is going to be representing the Latin people and that side of things, I think somebody that comes in and is competitive. You can't just come in. Just being there doesn't do it. You've got to come in and you've got to be competitive. I think that it would be a great thing for the sport. For either one of those to come in and be successful, it would be a great thing.
Q. Last in that regard, if the IRL was to lose Danica, it would be a huge blow, yet we continue to see seems like every year, whoever the star is in the IRL, there's at least talk of them going to Nextel Cup racing. When you had to make that kind of a decision a long time ago, what things went through your head and why do you think so many drivers would consider going to Nextel Cup, leaving the top series of IndyCar?
JEFF GORDON: Well, that's the thing that's different is when I was looking into it, the top series in America was CART, you know, at the time, Champ Cars, the Indy 500, and that's changed. NASCAR, you know, has grown. You can look at it from several different angles, whether it be the split of the IRL and the Champ Cars to just great marketing and top-notch drivers and teams and sponsors that, you know, have gone to NASCAR, the networks getting involved. For whatever reason, NASCAR has just really taken off. So now it is the top series and most popular series in America. I mean, it's starting to get up there with other major sports. So it's not just auto racing.
I think that people want to be in the most competitive top series that there is. And I think it's changing a lot about the way kids focus on what type of cars they get into at a young age.
I grew up in a quarter midget that I raced on ovals my whole life. So I was more interested in oval track racing than I was in what type of car it was. So when I was racing out in Indianapolis Raceway Park, everybody said Indy, Indy, Indy. I was interested in Indy, I wasn't interested in Mid-Ohio and Elkhart Lake. That was something that was very foreign to me. So when I went and drove a stock car, you know, I just didn't know, I wasn't knowledgeable about NASCAR, I didn't grow up watching it. As soon as I got in the car at Rockingham for the first time, I was like, This is where I want to be. Man, this is cool. Maybe the car is not the most technically advanced car, but racing on a high-banked oval race track in cars that are this competitive to one another, man, I'd love to do that. So it sold me right away.
Q. You referenced Juan Montoya. When you had the trading paint event here with him a few years ago, did you realize that was basically a test drive for him?
JEFF GORDON: I thought it was a test drive for me (laughter).
No, I had no idea. I really didn't think there would be a Formula One driver of his stature that would ever want to come back to race in America. If he did, certainly I wouldn't think it would be stock cars. You know, I'm happy to hear it. I'm curious maybe to talk to him a little bit more about if he was thinking that at the time, you know, when he drove that car because I can't imagine after driving that car he thought, Boy, I'd like to come back and do this.
His car did everything the exact opposite of my car, you know. It's just complete opposites. I wouldn't think he would think of that as an exciting, fun thing.
I think really what sold him is probably just watching the sport grow and the competitiveness of looking at F1 and how little overtaking there is, how you're so dictated by your team and the manufacturers, who hits it that year or what tire hits it that year, which strategy. Where in NASCAR, I think there's a lot more driver involvement in how you're going to perform. I think he's a great driver, so of course he's going to think like that.
THE MODERATOR: They just called drivers to their cars. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate you coming in.
JEFF GORDON: Thank you.
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