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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Jeff Gordon
Jeremy Mayfield
September 14, 2004


JOHN DUNLAP: Welcome, media, to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. A few brief announcements before we kick in with our special guests today. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is back in New Hampshire, at the New Hampshire International Speedway for the Sylvania 300, which takes place Sunday afternoon, starting at 1 p.m. eastern time. The race will be broadcast on TNT with prerace coverage starting at 12:30 p.m. The NASCAR Busch Series is off this weekend but the NASCAR Craftsman Cup Series will be in action at the Sylvania 200 also at New Hampshire International Speedway Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. That race will be broadcast live on the SPEED Channel. The NEXTEL leader bonus is up to $70,000 at New Hampshire. A NEXTEL Cup Series driver can claim the bonus when he wins the race and is also the points leader following that race. Jimmie Johnson was the most recent driver to claim the bonus, claiming $90,000 at Pocono on August 1st. No bonus was claimed this past weekend at Richmond. The bonus will roll over another $10,000 and will every week that the money is not claimed. Obviously, we have many more candidates to win the NEXTEL leader bonus at New Hampshire with the field bunched up at the top. The NEXTEL wake-up call will be back at New Hampshire International Raceway. This week's guest is appropriate. Jimmie Johnson not only swept both races at Lowden in 2003 but currently sits second in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points standings as the chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Our guests this week both have plenty to be happy about. Jeremy Mayfield is happy to have made the elite 10 thanks to a stirring win at Richmond this past Saturday night and Jeff Gordon is happy to start the final 10 race chase atop the points standings. Let's start with Jeremy. Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge truly stepped up to the plate at Richmond and left no doubt that he belongs in the chase in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. His win there catapulted him into ninth place in the standings. It also was Jeremy's first win since 2000 at Pocono but arguably his biggest. He now enters the chase as a legitimate contender for the crown. Jeremy, what a great weekend for you. What a memorable weekend, that great win at Richmond. Let's talk about when you're coming off something like that, a race that's so big and so important, so much adrenaline gets flowing, now you go to New Hampshire hot on the heels of such a weekend, how do you bring all that elation back into check and start gearing up for Round 1 of the chase in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: First of all, thanks for having us on today. To start with, we just got to put it behind us. We come out there Saturday night, as you could tell, very excited, very happy with what happened, get in the Top 10 or win the race, first race in the 19 car. A lot of things happened to us Saturday night that were unbelievable. To be able to do that, we also got to remember that we come back Sunday and have a little bit of a break anyway before we started back home Monday. Most of the guys in the shop, just about everybody, we're ready to go again, to get after it at Lowden. Just makes it more exciting to get to the next race, especially being the first race of the NEXTEL Cup points race going on. We're pumped up about it. What a great way to start the first race for us, to come off our first win and get in the Top 10.

JOHN DUNLAP: Why don't we open it up for questions with the media.

Q. You sure sound a lot different this weekend than you did this time last week.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Thank you. A whole lot different. Last week, we were pretty pumped up. That started early in the week on the last conference call we had there.

Q. When we talked last week, you just really pushed the fact that you had to go to Richmond, you had to be fast, you had to win every lap, you had to win the race. Have you ever been as focused on winning a race as you were last week?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: You know what, that's something that was pretty wild. Last week was a really different week for us. We come off two bad races to start with. You know, when I talked to y'all earlier in the week, I was mad. I felt like we made it to the playoffs and we choked. That's what I felt like. You know, we just didn't run good the last two weeks. Then everybody just got their heads together and just stayed positive all week, nobody got down. I was pretty down on Tuesday, but not really down; just mad. You know, just intense. That's all I thought about all week, was, "We have to win at Richmond. We have to win at Richmond." All the guys thought that and the pit crews thought that. When you have that going on, that kind of mentality, man, it just shows right there what a bunch of guys can do when they really set their hearts and minds to it. So the pit crew bounced back like they did. We didn't make any changes. Come back, they had great stops all night Saturday night. Car was flawless. Kenny made great calls. Everybody felt the same way I did earlier in the week and it paid off.

Q. You were very critical last week of the pit crew. I'm wondering if maybe you give them a bit of a psychological push because they were aggressive. Looked as though they would run through a wall for you.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: I'm telling you, man. That was so cool. I've never been prouder of a race team and a group of individuals as I was Saturday night just because, you know, we were sitting there leading the race. You know, I had my concerns when it came down to it where we were going to be, whether we were going to have good stops or not. We come in, first time they put four on, man, I couldn't believe how good of a job they did to bounce back, what they did, like you said, mentally, psychologically, from two weeks of bad pit stops, to come back and have the best we've had all year just amazes me. There again, I was just overwhelmed with the fact they stepped up to the plate there.

Q. With that performance, do you feel, given the fact it was the very last race before the cut, do you have an advantage over everybody else right now?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: You know, we talked about that yesterday. I was at the shop yesterday. I really feel like we do. I mean, we've got not only momentum, but the 19 car, the 19 team, I guess you'd say, just won their first race. There's a lot of guys on that team, as I said last week, never been to Victory Lane. Now all those guys know what it's all about, they know what it feels like and they know that they can do it. I really feel like that was the turning point of that race team - you know, probably the biggest turning point ever. If you remember a year ago, a huge turning point was Richmond. A now a year later, we win the race there. I definitely think we have an advantage over the field just because of the fact that we're just now beginning, and they're kind of in their own rut and we're headed to the part we've never been before.

Q. How much fun was it?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Man, I tell you what, it was unbelievable. You know, it seems like every race I've ever won in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series has just been dramatic like that, you know. California, I was burned up, barely made it to the end. Pocono, the deal with Dale Earnhardt. Pocono was my first win. This one here pretty much said it all. It's by far my most memorable moment in racing so far. To be able to do what we did the other night was just outstanding. Just can't believe how -- just can't believe it happened. We knew we were close, but never knew we were going to be that good at Richmond to make that our first win.

Q. What kind of driver or performance do you think this last 10 race setup favors, the guys who are conservative and finishes seventh every week or a guy who takes chances, maybe it doesn't work one week, finishes 15th, works great the next week and wins?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: I tell you what, I can tell you what I feel like we're going to do. The reason why I'm saying this is just because we came in the last week with no holds barred attitude. We didn't even look at it like it was a points race because we couldn't. It was over then. The points race, being conservative, was over. I think that's the approach we're going to take every week, is we're going to run these guys as hard as we can run them. I mean, the pit crew, they want to have better stops than anybody on pit road. They're going to work out harder every week. I'm going to do the same. We're going to go all out every week and not even worry about the points. Points, numbers, that doesn't even mean anything. We're going to win every race and then go from there, you know.

Q. Does one DNF knock you out of this thing?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: I don't think so. I'll tell you what, anything can happen now. From what we experienced Saturday night going from 14th, we were 55 out of the Top 10, all that, doing what we done, I don't think anything is out of the question. I think you're going to see guys with DNFs and stuff. I think you can still come back and be there. The way the points system is set up, it's like we got our -- not like the Top 10 has its own set of points. It's still normal type racing as far as the points are laid out and concerned. But, you know, I wouldn't think two DNFs would get you anywhere. You might be able to get by with one, and hopefully not even that. Who knows. I don't know. We'll find out.

Q. What kind of an expectation is there for guys not in the Top 10 and how they race you and the other contenders these last 10 weeks?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: I don't know. You know, I was never on that side of the deal before. I was in the Top 10. I didn't even think about it. I thought, "I'm still going to try to win every race." I tell you what, the guys that are not in the Top 10 will definitely be running hard, especially if you were 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. I see McMurray, Dale Jarrett and Kasey Kahne, for sure, running hard, trying to win a race, win a lot of races the next 10 races because they're mad. They're pissed. I know the feeling. Now all they can do is just win races. Who is to say? This could probably be -- for sure will be the best, you know, racing you've ever seen just because of that.

Q. What do you expect, how they should race you out on the track and I think back to Saturday night with how Mike Wallace raced you? You had quite a battle for the lead for 30, 40 laps. Is that a case now in this last 10 that a guy like Mike Wallace or anybody else outside of the Top 10 should let you get the lead for a couple laps to get your five points or should they just still race you as hard as Mike raced you Saturday night?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, I don't know. I don't think anything different, especially out of Mike Wallace. He was just doing his job, doing what he's supposed to do, racing hard. We were pulling away from Jeff, you know. He was running third at the time. It was like, there wasn't any reason for me to get up there and take a chance and tear my fenders up or anything else. I just sat right there and rolled behind him. A as long as we were pulling away, we were fine. If the 24 had been real close to me and the other guy had been real close to him, Mike was in and out, he probably wasn't going to do that well at all. But regardless of the situation, the other night worked out good for him and good for us. I don't expect any difference. I think they're going to race us hard. Who knows what's going to happen.

Q. Looking at the last 10 tracks, is there one that you kind of circle and say, "We can do well there," and is there one you look at and say, "We've always done poorly there, if we can just get by that one unscathed, we're all right"?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah. I'll tell you what, the thing we said at the beginning of the year, if we can get in the Top 10 after 26 races, the last ten is my favorite racetracks. Other than Talladega. I mean, we're sitting there now, we're going to Lowden, which we know we're going to be decent at. Take the same car there last week. Dover, one of my favorite places. Sit on the pole. Should have won the race. Darlington is definitely my favorite racetrack. You know, Phoenix, all the ones coming up are our type racetracks. The only one I think everyone will be concerned about is Talladega because you just don't know what can happen there. As far as the rest of the tracks, I love them. I think that we looked up yesterday that the last 10 races of last year, we outscored five of the guys that are in the Top 10 now in points. So we feel good about the last 10, all the tracks.

Q. In terms of Talladega, obviously Dale, Jr. has done well there, but is that kind of the big crapshoot where anybody could gain a lot of points or lose a lot of points that you don't really expect?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: We'll see. That's the place where you don't really know. I mean, if you're really good, you know, I'm sure, you know -- we just haven't run that good on speedways yet, so I'm not sure how to look at Talladega. I know the guys worked really hard on Talladega so we don't have a little slump there. I don't know. I think it's just going to be a deal where you -- I don't know, it's going to be good or bad. I really don't have an answer other than I think everybody will be wary about Talladega because, you know, you just don't know.

Q. Obviously with the wrecks.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Right. That's what I mean. Then you could be first one lap and last the next lap. So it's definitely going to be, I'm sure, an exciting race for the fans on that night.

Q. Has your wife come down yet? She was so in shock Saturday night.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, she was very excited, very happy. She's definitely not all the way over it yet. We still look at each other, we've already done this week several times, "Man, we can't believe we won at Richmond." Definitely a great feeling

Q. You said Saturday night also that you didn't really think you guys were at the top of the 10 going for the championship, that this was kind of a training year, but next year would really be your breakthrough year. Do you jump in there and learn as much as you can and absorb it so you will be ready for 2005?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah. I think that, you know, that's why -- I feel like we still got a great, huge advantage over the rest of them guys because, you know, we're in as the underdog, you know, and we like that. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If we finish ninth, eighth, seventh, sixth, anywhere, we have nothing to lose. And to be in that situation, we can do it, gain the experience being in the championship hunt, gain the experience of now we've won one race, let's try to win more. That's what we're after. I'm telling you, we're going to run as hard as we can possibly run for 10 weeks straight, whatever we got to do. That's going to be from the time from the go to green till the checkered. I know everybody says that, that they're going to do the same, but a lot of them guys are going to be (inaudible) racing also. We're not going to do that.

Q. Can you assess your pit crew at this point?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Man, I just know that I'm very proud of those guys for bouncing back like they did after two just bad weeks in general, performance-wise, on the track and in the pits. And for all of them to come back and -- we didn't change anybody. Come back, they worked their butts off last week in practice, figured out where they made mistakes, what they can do better. They came into it this week, we're not going to let this team down. And that's what they done. To me, that tells me they're a championship-type pit crew. The way we performed Saturday night in general, pit crew, the way the car ran, everything, the way Kenny called the race, was definitely I feel like a championship-type race team. To overcome everything we did, the pressure we had coming into the race.

Q. You guys are going to be entering some unchartered territory driver etiquette-wise. From guys not in the chase, if they look in their mirrors, see one of you there, should they give you a break or treat you business as usual?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, you know, that's something that you see in this series, is that everybody races hard. You know, we have a lot of respect for each other, everybody out there does. But, on the other hand, nobody wants anything given to them and they're not going to give you anything - that's including myself. We're going to race hard. I bet you won't see any difference in the racing as far as guys in the points, you know, coming up to guys not in the Top 10. Let this guy go, let that guy go. You might see teammates doing that, but you won't see that from other competitors. They won't worry about that. They could care less about the Top 10, the guys not in the Top 10. All they're worried about is finishing the race and finishing 11th, get as high as they can. They're not worried about us.

Q. You don't think there will be a profusion of radio traffic, the guys who are in, the guys who are out?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, I'm sure, but that's every week. That's every week that's going on. I think, yeah, you'll see some people trying to do things, you know, that goes on every week now because of this points race. We've been doing that all year long to make sure that we got in the Top 10. That's why I'm saying, I don't think anything's going to change. I think everything will be the same, as far as the way they race each other.

Q. There was a lot of talk last week about what the last 50 laps would be like at Richmond and how you guys would race those, how you would feel, because you've never really been in that situation. Can you sort of take us through those last 50 laps? Did you race them any differently? Were you feeling any anxiety? I'm not talking so much about your feelings of when Curt ran out of gas, but your feelings as a racer, and was it different than any other race you've been in?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: It was different. The mindset we had going into that race, we knew what we had to do as a race team. The last 50 laps was the kind of deal where, okay, we've gotten this far. We've led a lot of laps. I still did not know whether we were in the Top 10 or not. I didn't ask and didn't want to know. I ran every lap trying to pass everybody in front of me, no matter what. I really didn't stop until it was over. That's including the 50s or 30s, you know, 10 to the final lap, I ran like there was no tomorrow. Then it was over, I stopped, took a breath. So really, I didn't do anything different from the first lap to the 50th lap, all the way to the end, you know, just make sure I didn't want to know where I was in the points or nothing. All I knew is when I walked out of there Saturday night, I just wanted to know we did all we could do, and that's all we did.

Q. Was it a different race for you than, say, a couple weeks ago, the mentality of wanting to pass everything? Earlier you might have been a bit more conservative.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Right. That's a good question because, you know, I think what happened to us a couple weeks ago, three weeks ago we were actually in the Top 10 and then we -- when you're -- like when you're just hanging onto 9th or 10th, at that point in time, then you start playing conservative defense type racing. You can't race like that any more; you got to go all out. As soon as we done that, we fell out of the Top 10, had a bad week on pit road. Everybody was trying to be conservative, not mess up. Next thing you know, we're 14th in the points in two weeks because of that. Kasey is going to do that, too. They got in the Top 10. Now it was, "Hold on for what we got." It hurt them, too. That's what it was. But I feel like that's part of it. So I think you can't worry about where you're at in points. You just got to run as hard as you can and let the points just fall where they may and run as hard as you can.

JOHN DUNLAP: We're going to cut in and bring in our second guest because Jeremy has been kind enough to be on with us for 20. Jeremy, congratulations on your incredible week at Richmond and now you get to start this race at New Hampshire 40 points behind, only 40 points behind our next guest.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Thank you. I'm sure our next guest will appreciate us gaining that many points on him (laughter).

JOHN DUNLAP: Our next guest is, of course, our points leader, Jeff Gordon. Obviously, post race at Richmond, a little joshing was going on about that. I know that Jeff, for you still, I guess it's better to be starting 40 points ahead than 40 points behind. But Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet, tell us your thought patterns now obviously as we get ready to head into New Hampshire on what's going through your mind, taking the lead you had, now dealing with what you got.

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, I definitely wish we could have, you know, kept a big points lead over a lot of the guys. I mean, we've been battling with two or three other guys for most of the season, or at least the last, say, 10, 15 races. You know, we would have liked to have kept it narrowed down to just a few. Now we got to deal with ten or nine other guys. It's certainly exciting for the sport. You know, I think that we've got a great race team and great opportunity to do that. You know, the last 26 are basically we don't think about those any more other than try to carry some momentum from the good runs that we've had and, you know, really stick it to them in these last 10. We saved a lot. We were fortunate, we saved a lot of our tests for these last 10 tracks, the end of the season. We're going to be busy, hopefully learning a lot and being well-prepared when we get to every track in this last 10.

JOHN DUNLAP: Before we open it up to the rest of the media, could you talk for a second about your own personal chase for the premiere series record of seven titles, which is held by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt? Can you address the fact obviously you're in the position to go after another one, talk about that personal chase?

JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, I've always taken the approach or attitude, and I feel like this team has always taken the approach, that we really don't think about number seven, which is to tie Richard and Dale; we think about the next one. You know, I'm amazed and blown away that we have four under our belts, and it's awesome right now for us to be talking about the drive for five, which is the motto that we have going around our shop and within Dupont, you know, fans out there that are pulling for us. We would love to get number five, but we can't think about number six until we get number five, we can't think about seven till we get to six. Right now I know we've got a great opportunity this year, as well. Hendrick Motorsports, their resources have provided us such awesome equipment this year. My race team's on top of their game. The communication, the chemistry, it's there. As well as for the 48 team. I think we've got a great opportunity to win another championship. But got to get number five first.

JOHN DUNLAP: Let's open it up to the media, please.

Q. Going into these last 10 races, is there a different game plan than the regular season?

JEFF GORDON: Does that mean I get a trophy for that regular season (laughter)? You know, I only know -- I think this team only knows one way to race. Unless you're in a points chase that, you know, we have seen in the past where you get a 150 or 200 or 250-point lead and you do have to play conservative, there's a big difference. The way this points system is, it really doesn't allow that to happen. And I think that's good. You know, I like going out into every single race trying to win, trying to get the best finish that you possibly can, and that's the way we're going to approach these last 10 races.

Q. Is there a different feeling in going after this championship because the way it is set up than the other four that you have won?

JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. You know, every type of racing series that I've been in and championships that I've raced for, you race the points structure. You know, if that means that you have to be very aggressive to win a lot of races and you can throw some races away, because that's the way the points are structured, then that's the way you go about it. If it's a points structure that pays consistency, then you better be consistent and not have failures. Our points system still, I think, even though we closed the gap tremendously among these Top 10, it's still a points series that pays consistency. 10 races is a lot of races in my mind, and we don't feel like we have to go out and win every race. We need to be competitive. We need to lead laps. We need to battle for wins. But we don't have to win. We can finish Top 5s and even Top 10s. It's making sure we don't have the big failures or the 30th-place finishes. That's going to be the most important part of these last 10 races.

Q. When it comes to winning championships, you are obviously a proven commodity. What do you see in Jimmie that makes you think you can hang in there mentally for a championship run?

JEFF GORDON: I think experience is key, performance is key. Those guys have what it takes certainly week in and week out to battle. The experience that I think they have, even though they haven't won a championship, you look at their last three years, couple years in this sport, and they just continue to knock on the door and creep their way further and further up in the points. You know, I think just that momentum that they've carried, being able to pull that off over the last couple years puts them in a great position to go out there and battle for this championship, not to mention they've had the lead in the points for a while this year and feel what it's like to be in that position. I think they approach things a lot like the way the 24 approaches it, where they go out there to get everything they can out of it, they don't conserve. They do what they think is smart and hard-fought racing.

Q. In terms of Jimmie specifically, is just being levelheaded an advantage?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, one of the things that impressed me the most about Jimmie is that you can drive the wheels off a car, whether it's sideways, however the car is handling, whether it's perfect, he knows how to get the most out of the car. Where he's also impressed me, and he's certainly matured in this sense, is just being a smart race car driver. And I've always said that the drivers that impress me the most are ones that use their head, and they're smart race car drivers. I think Jimmie Johnson's one of the smartest guys out there. He just gets it. You know, he understands what's going on around him at all times.

Q. Is it weird for you guys being each other's biggest rivals for these last 10 races?

JEFF GORDON: You know what, Jimmie and I are such good friends and our teams, you know, have worked so well together that until it comes down to that final race and we're battling neck and neck, the two of us, if that happens, you'd be amazed at how well the chemistry is among myself and him, among the teams, Chad, Robbie, the open line of communication. They were testing yesterday in Talladega. You know, Robbie was talking with Chad, about the things they learned. We're up here in Dover testing. I'm sure at lunchtime Robbie will be calling Chad and talking to him. I talked to Jimmie last night about his test in Talladega. I'll probably call him when I get done tonight, tell him about our testing in Dover. That open-book policy is what got us here. I think it's what's going to get one of us to a championship this year, and I think we both understand that.

Q. You talked about going down to the last race. Can you foresee any scenario late in the season where maybe you and Jimmie wouldn't exchange everything as you have all season?

JEFF GORDON: I certainly don't see that being the case. You know, if we get down to the last, say, couple races and, you know, it's going to be decided between the two of us, I mean, if that was the case, you know, who knows, you might start to see us start to hide our notebooks a little bit. But, you know, that's the competitors inside of us. And I don't foresee that happening because the way we've worked for the last three years is, you know, you'll give all the information that we can and then, you know, let the cards fall out there on the racetrack the way they're meant to fall, and do our best as a team, as a driver. You know, we each have enough confidence in ourselves that if we do our jobs right, no one else can beat us. You know, that's the way I think that it's going to go till the end of the season. But you never know till you get into that position. But I just think, you know, certainly as far as Jimmie and I, our personalities are the type to where I have accomplished so much that, you know, everything I get from here on out is a bonus. I think Jimmie feels very thankful and grateful for what he's accomplished and somewhat feels the same way, even though I know he really wants to get that first championship.

Q. You talk about experience being a big factor. Why does it matter or how does it matter? What are things that experience can help you with either on or off the track, during the race, away from the track? Why is it a big deal?

JEFF GORDON: You know, to me it's all about expectations. And if you don't know what to expect, if you don't know how to deal with circumstances or certain situations, they catch you off guard, they mentally take your focus off of what you're there to do, which is drive the car to the best of your ability, communicate with your team, those type of things. And so, you know, the experience of dealing with the media, the experience of dealing with the pressure and just knowing, you know, how we have to focus on our own team and not the competition, just the experience of that I think is a key and certainly something we want to use to our advantage out there.

Q. Looking at the last 10 tracks, I think you've won at all but Homestead and Phoenix, is there one that you say is going to be one of your favorites that you can't wait to go there and one where you're more concerned about trying to just get through there unscathed?

JEFF GORDON: You know what, I always hate to look at it that way because, you know, if I say Martinsville is a track we have run so well at, looking forward to going back there and all that, that will be the one track that bites us (laughter). Then if I say I'm dreading Charlotte, because we were so horrible there in May, that might be the one track that we go out there and excel at. You know, we approach every track the same, and we go in there and put out as much effort as we can. I was so proud of my team this past weekend in Richmond because we start off the race great, it went away from us, and we struggled and we fought and we fought and we clawed our way back, and we got a little bit lucky at the same time, and we come back and finish third. You know, that's the type of effort that needs to be put out every single, you know, weekend. If we continue to do that, then, you know, we're going to have good finishes and we're going to get more out of some tracks than others, and hopefully the ones that we feel like we can run well at and excel at, like a Martinsville, hopefully we will get that finish.

Q. Regarding testing, I know both you and Jimmie have been saving your tests, where some of the other guys in the Top 10 have had to use them up just to get in the Top 10. How big an advantage do you think that will be? How much can you gain out of these tests?

JEFF GORDON: I will say that if there is any advantage at all to this points system and this chase for the championship, we have been in a good position, and we took a little bit of a risk early in the season hoping we would be in the Top 10, you know, having some confidence maybe from last season and the way some of the couple off-season tests we did have, that they structured it that way purposely. And I think the advantage we have is you got these guys that were fighting hard to get in the Top 10, they had to use up a good portion of their tests at those types of tracks, Bristols, Richmonds, Californias. We didn't have to do that. So now we're test loaded heavy. We test at New Hampshire, we're testing here in Dover now. Jimmie tested in Talladega. We're going to be in Phoenix, Martinsville, Charlotte, Homestead. I mean, we have a lot of tests coming up. I think the important part for us is not wear our guys out being on the road too much and make sure we utilize those tests to be well-prepared. And hopefully that does give us an advantage over the guys that are just trying to get in and stay in the Top 10 versus the guys that we're already locked in early.

Q. What is your philosophy regarding testing? Do you like to test the tracks where you have done well in the past or the ones where you haven't done well?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, there are different circumstances that determine why we want to test places. Of course, with this new points system, I mean, you want to test pretty much everywhere you possibly can, you know, on these last 10 racetracks. We probably weigh more towards the tracks that we haven't won at or struggle at. Certainly Phoenix, Homestead are tracks that are big on our list. We ran horrible in Charlotte in May, so that one is definitely on our list. We blew a right front tire here in Dover earlier in the year. This one's on our list. You know, felt like we were pretty good in New Hampshire, you know, earlier in the season when we finished second there, but we didn't have a car capable of winning. And there's a few things that, you know, I really wanted to work on, that the team wanted to work on, to get better there. So I guess that, yeah, we probably lean more towards tracks that we struggle at than anything else.

Q. With a DNF being potentially disastrous in these next 10 races, back at the shop, are they checking every part, rod, crank, or is it business as usual on that aspect, too?

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, you know, the only thing I know to say on that is, you know, we feel like we do that every weekend, you know, all season long, go to every racetrack. I know we've had engine trouble. Some of that stuff has caught us off guard. But there's no extra incentive or pressure that we are putting on Randy Dorton or any of the engine assemblers or guys in the engine shop or at the race team. You know, it's like business as usual really for us. I mean, if we found a problem, we want to make sure we fix the problem. But we're not really trying to do anything over and above to send up any red flags that, "Hey, guys, all of a sudden now the pressure is on." It's just, "Let's keep going along and doing the things we've been doing great all year long and keep it going."

JOHN DUNLAP: Jeff, thanks so much for joining us. Congratulations on your first 26 races and obviously best of luck for these final 10 coming up.

JEFF GORDON: All right. Thank you very much.



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