NASCAR Media Conference
July 5, 2006
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon. Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series teleconference. First our usual bit of housekeeping. This week's Nextel Wake-Up Call begins at 10 a.m. Friday at the Chicagoland Speedway and Kasey Kahne is the guest. Today we are joined by four-time series champion, Jeff Gordon, looking to regain the momentum from two weeks ago when he got his first 2006 victory. He had an you untimely accident last weekend at the Pepsi 400 and that bumped him from 8 to 12th in the standings. As we head to race two on the Race to the Chase, Jeff expects to be back in the Top-10 by sometime late Sunday afternoon.
You've yet to win at Chicagoland, yet you were buoyed by your 8th place finish at Michigan. Is this the week for that Chicago victory.
JEFF GORDON: I certainly hope so. We've been working really hard on our mile-and-a-half program. And I think that we're really starting to make some gains there. So I'm excited about the things we are doing, learning at Texas earlier this year and I hope that we can get our first victory in Chicago, but more importantly we just wanted to come out there have with a strong overall performance and hopefully finish as well.
Q. I just wanted to ask you your thoughts about racing back in the caution, back in the start finish line when the field went under caution, and do you think you would like to see that rule changed or do you think it's just about right the way it is?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I think that it's right the way it is now. I mean, this was changed a few years back, and I think it was definitely for the better. I think that racing back to the caution is dangerous. And you know, I think that now the technology that we have is so much better to be able to freeze the field when the caution comes out.
I still think that it would be nice to have even better technology to be able to know exactly where everybody is at that split second right now, where we kind of go back to the video, and it gets tricky at places like Daytona or Talladega. I'm definitely a big fan of not racing back to the caution.
Q. If you can make one or two change right now in the Chase of rules as far as ultimately deciding who makes the Chase field, what would they be?
JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, I've been hearing a lot of buzz about changes coming and tweaking it here and there. I guess, you know, it was such a drastic change going to what we currently have from the old system that you know, now we've had a few years and we can look at maybe tweaking it a little bit.
My thoughts have always been the same where I feel like, you know, it would be nice if we didn't pay less points or after about 25th, 30th place, it's sort of paid the same amount of points. I feel like -- and then would I like to see maybe some bonuses go a little bit more or further spread between first, second, third, fourth, fifth in the points there. As far as how we pay points is the only thing I would want to see changed.
As far as the Chase is concerned, I like it. I think you don't really want -- I personally don't want more than ten guys in it. I think that maybe some others might like to see more people in the chase but I think it's pretty exciting the way it is. And it's very competitive and it's certainly a real challenge for everybody. And that might be the only thing that may be coming is, hey, let's just kind of reset it for everybody, which I'm not so sure that's fair. But you know, it's quite an adjustment to get used to this new system, so I really don't want to see any changes really made to it.
Q. You've known Tony Stewart a long time, he's obviously gone from sort of being the quote "bad guy" to the people's choice, climbing the fence and everything. Can you just talk about maybe he hasn't changed from the guy you know, but in the public perception, certainly he's changed?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I think Tony has definitely gone through some transformations over the years and I think a lot of us go through it. Maybe he's a little more publicized, or his temper has maybe gotten the best of him at times. His emotions may be came out when it wasn't the best timing for him.
I think that we all go through that as we come into the sport, you try to adjust, and especially if you're successful, you have to adjust to a lot of things that are different before when you're out there racing and you didn't have to worry about perceptions or expectations that are as big as they are at this level.
I think that Tony is really the same guy he's always been. He's just a little more comfortable with the sport and the fans, the media, sponsors and all of those responsibilities that come along with it, and I think he just got more comfortable with it. He's always been a fantastic race car driver, and now because he's sort of allowed himself to adjust to this situation; that, you know, that he knows what's coming or what to expect and just allows him to go out there and kind of be him. Maybe the fans are just seeing a little bit more of that nowadays. And maybe he's learned how to stay a little calmer in some other situations, and you know, be able to show the good emotions when he wins races, and certainly the fans have really taken a liking to his style. I think that's great.
Q. Being a veteran and four-time champion that is aware of the ups and downs in the sport, does that help you become, I don't know if comfortable is the right word, but dealing with the ups and downs you've had this year?
JEFF GORDON: Definitely, every year that's gone by, you experience things that only help you for the future and down the road, and winning as many races as we've won and championships over the years have helped to know how or learn how to try to do more of that.
You know, you have to balance a lot of things out in this sport in order to stay on top or be your best. You've got to learn from the good times and the bad times, and I've had some tough seasons to where those things have taught me as much or more than the good seasons did. I think one thing for sure, when we hit on it and when we get our performance where it needs to be, I don't think there's anybody, you know, better than our organization, our race team taking advantage of that and making the most of it when it really counts. I really hope we get that opportunity to show that before the year is out.
Q. We had a call on Monday and fans continue to be armchair quarterbacks, so I'd like to let you answer this. Evaluating your pit positions, a huge fan of yours so frustrated over the pit decision at the end of the race, can you talk through that at all to talk to your fans?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it's pretty simple. Look who won the race. The guy who won the race did the same strategy we did. I actually after the race complemented Steve Letarte. We were doing our debriefing and obviously we were very upset and frustrated with getting caught up in a wreck. I think if you've got to be upset with anybody, you've got to be upset with the guys that caused the wreck. Tony took four tires, we took four and I thought that Steve and the guys really could not have called the race any better. You know, it did work out well for Boris. He didn't win the race, but it certainly got him a good finish.
If we are at fault in any way, I go back to Talladega in the same situation, I made a move there late in the race to win the race and it cost me back to a 15th place finish, and maybe I should have just settled for a top five. But that's just not the way I race, it's not the way we race, and that's kind of the same situation that happened Saturday night is that we were racing to win.
We were not racing only for points and trying to be fifth. We wanted to be a team that, you know, came out on top and that's how we raced every weekend and we made the right move to try to win the race. Fortunately, the guys, Biffle and JJ Yeley crashed in front of us and we got caught up in it.
Q. Is it frustrating to you that your fans try to protect you so much that they are jumping down the throat of your crew chief at this stage, where you almost would not say if it was a bad call?
JEFF GORDON: I appreciate all the support and our fans; that's what makes them fans is that they are avid and they are passionate about it. It's unbelievable, really, when you think of it, to have people that are on the outside looking in that don't have any control over it to be that passionate about it and feel our same frustrations that we feel.
As a true fan if you're going to be frustrated at anything, be frustrated AT the bad driving by the guys in front of me. (Laughing).
Q. Just wanted to ask you about Kansas Speedway and do you have any special memories about it or anything like that?
JEFF GORDON: I love Kansas. Winning the first two races out there, obviously we got started off on the right foot there, and to me, Chicago and Kansas remind me a lot of one another. And knowing that we've had the success at Kansas and haven't had the success at Chicago has been a little bit frustrating.
But I love going out to Kansas. And you want to talk about a huge fan base, wow, it's amazing, the reception that we get when we go there, and it just continues to grow and grow. So I think it's a great market, a really nice track, and looking forward to going back there.
Q. You were at the F-1 race on Sunday, do you get an urge to try one of those cars or an Indy 500?
JEFF GORDON: I've always had the urge to when I had that opportunity a few years ago when I drove the Williams BMW. It was just one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life and I thought it was g
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