NASCAR Media Conference
July 11, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR teleconference. It's in advance of Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Quick note for the media that will be at Chicagoland, David Stremme will be the guest for Friday's Nextel wake-up call media opportunity. That will be in the infield media center. 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
Have a great guest today, Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet, our four-time Series Champion and the current points leader. He's led the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series standings for the past 14 weeks. He's the defending race champion at Chicagoland. Jeff's been in the Top 10 for 37 weeks in a row, And that streak started at Chicagoland last season.
Before we get started today, maybe just want to say a couple of quick words for the media. NASCAR's received a lot of words of condolences and support regarding the passing of Dr.â Bruce Kennedy yesterday, husband of NASCAR Vice President Lesa France Kennedy. And those words of support and condolences from the media have been greatly appreciated.
And, Jeff, I think you want to mention a few words before we got started.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I certainly would. It is certainly hard to think about this weekend's race without, you know, Bruce Kennedy. And it's just a tragic, tragic loss. And I'm still in shock as, I'm sure, many are. And I just want to send, you know, from everyone at our race team and Hendrick Motorsports, certainly myself, send our thoughts and prayers out to the whole Kennedy family.
You know, Lesa and Ben, the whole France family, as well as the other families that were tragically affected by this accident, as well. And, you know, Bruce is just an amazing guy. I was fortunate to spend some time away from the track with him on several occasions, and just a quality person who is really going to be missed.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Jeff. And once again, thanks to the media for the support we've received.
Jeff, on to the Chicagoland event. Kind of jump started things last year, what are you anticipating as you guys go back there this year?
JEFF GORDON: I'm looking forward to it. You know, we've got basically, you know, without it being a C.O.T. race, we should have pretty solid notes and a set-up baseline that we can go from last year. And, you know, just try to move forward with things that we've learned this year to make the car even better. And I feel that we've made our car, and our whole team just better. So that's got me really encouraged about this weekend.
Obviously, without having Crew Chief Steve LeTarte there, we'll have our challenges. But our goals are to qualify better there than we did last time, and try to have a car that's as good as that one was last year and have the same results on Sunday.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thanks, Jeff. We're ready to go to questions for Jeff Gordon.
Q. Just want to say congratulations on your fatherhood.
JEFF GORDON: Thank you.
Q. One thing I wanted to ask you about, living in New York: Several weeks ago, kind of a paparazzi picture of Alex Rodriguez, sports figures as kind of the victim of paparazzi. What is your take on that? And do you think that some folks are crossing the line there?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, I don't live in New York, but I have an apartment here and spend, probably, a little less than half my time here and half in Charlotte. Obviously, I get to experience two totally different worlds from Charlotte to New York. And that's kind of why I like spending some time here, because it is a nice escape in many ways where you can walk down the street and not get recognized. But, at the same time, you know, there's, you know, more celebrities and entertainment industry people here as well as athletes.
You know, I think that when you are in the public eye, then you're going to be, you know, wide open for criticism, for being under a microscope. And, you know, it's very easy to get yourself in a situation where you feel like your privacy maybe has been lost.
But, you know, that's what you give up when you have any kind of celebrity status. There are so many pros that come along with it and great opportunities, but at the same time, there are negative things that come along with it. And obviously, you have to be responsible and be responsible for your actions, and nobody's perfect. And, you know, all we can all do is go out there and live the best that we possibly can, try to set good examples through our actions.
Q. How's your relationship with the media changed or has it, over the years?
JEFF GORDON: You know, I have a great relationship with the media. I think, you know, like most young people that come into a sport, you know, they feel like they're under a microscope, and, you know, you don't always understand the relationship between the media and yourself. And as years go by, you understand that the media, they have a job to do, and their job is to tell a story. And also it's a business, and they have to treat it as a business.
And it's the same for us, you know, as race car drivers. We're doing the best that we can to represent our sponsors, our fans, and go out there and win races and represent our team. And there is a balance there that works very well with the media to help those things.
But at the same time, sometimes we butt heads. And I try not to take those things personal. And hopefully, you know, if things aren't always going smooth back the other way, hopefully, the media doesn't take it personally either. We're just out there trying to do our jobs.
Q. I wanted to get your reaction to Kyle Busch's comment that you didn't help him on the track and blew him off after the race at Daytona? Do you think it might be best if Kyle finds a new ride this year?
JEFF GORDON: No, not at all. I mean, I think he's a great talent. I think that was a little bit of frustration from, you know, I think he had such a great car and a shot at winning that race. You know, I think that, you know, if he was driving my car he'd understand that I didn't really have the opportunity to get down there and help him as easily as it may have looked.
My car just didn't work good all night on the bottom groove. I had to stay up top. So there wasn't really much I could do for him. And I will admit there were some times throughout the race where I felt like he could have helped me, I could have helped him, and that did not workout.
But I'm moving forward from that, and that happens all the time. Every time you're at a restrictor plate race, whether it's your teammates or other guys out there. And after the race I was doing an interview, he came by and kind of grabbed me on the shoulder and said, Good race, or something, and I gave him a thumb's up. So I'm not exactly sure where that came from on the blowing him off.
But I'm obviously, a huge supporter of that 5 Team and what they're doing. And you know, we've got a lot of things that are going to happen this year also moving forward. It's only in our best interest to work together and make the best of the situation.
You know, I've just got to guess that the heat of the moment, that maybe Kyle said some things that maybe he wished he hadn't.
But yeah, I love racing with him, and I look forward to working with him the rest of the year as best I can.
Q. Are you getting any sleep with the new baby?
JEFF GORDON: Less, definitely, less. Actually, last night was the first night -- we've had a baby nurse that's kind of been helping us, teaching us some things. Which has been very nice to have an introduction into it all. But she wasn't with us last night, so it was fun and exciting and also a huge learning curve to go through, you know, and having to do everything on our own.
So it was a great night. We were giving her a bath, and you know, changing diapers and burping and feeding and all of the normal things that we do. But we just didn't have that, I guess, security blanket that's been there for the last several days that we could bounce off of. But it went well, and definitely less sleep. I'm getting sleep when I go to the racetrack these days, not at home.
Q. I can totally understand that. And on a totally different subject, the TNT documentary came out this last weekend, and it's on DVD now. And you come off, as always charming. And you also have another gig with Regis and Kelly Ripa. Have you ever thought about having your own TV show or anything like that in the works?
JEFF GORDON: You know, I never have. Believe it or not, I can't stand to see myself on TV. You know, we had a premier down in Daytona for the TNT show. I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I thought they did a really nice job, it was quality, and they got some neat things that are part of my life, that I was hoping to have documented.
And I know I live a very fortunate and blessed life and I wanted to share that with people. But also, I work hard at what I do, so we were able to share that as well. But I have a hard time watching myself. I'm the worst critic of myself when I'm on there. So I enjoy live television like the "Regis and Kelly" show, you know. And it's exhilarating and fun just like Saturday Night Live. It was a blast.
But you know, if it's something, you know, well organized like that that I could do that I'm not on my own that I could have somebody else help me out like Kelly, then I might look at it one day. But I'm not thinking about that at all right now. I love being a race car driver. We're having a fantastic year, and just looking forward to keeping this going for many more years after this.
Q. Very good, best of luck.
JEFF GORDON: Thank you.
Q. Jeff, you're a guy that's got a pretty wide marketing base. Did you watch what Dale Jr., has done to prepare for next year? Do you see him broadening his marketing base and what he's done so far? And can you see him sharing a Pepsi sponsor with you next year?
JEFF GORDON: I think anything's possible, you know. I mean, this guy has so much potential, especially in the marketing world. And I think, you know, really the only thing that he hasn't accomplished, you know, so far is a championship. He's won the Daytona 500. He's won at short tracks like Richmond.
And, you know, I'm looking forward to us putting him behind the wheel of a Hendrick Motorsports car and team and putting the best people in place there and just seeing him go out and get comfortable with being there, and get over all the hoopla and all of the criticism and whatever it may be, and just go racing.
And I know that we can put a championship caliber team underneath him. I look forward to battling him for those championships, hopefully. And, you know, I think the sky is the limit, you know, on the marketing and what he wants to do and what we're capable of pulling off at Hendrick Motorsports.
I think that, as far as who it's going to be and all that, nobody knows. There are just so many things to work through that Rick's the master at, and I'm leaving it in his hands.
Q. A follow-up, too, on Kyle. Jimmy said on his radio show last night that he could see problems escalating as the year goes on with him being a teammate. Do you see that possibly happening?
JEFF GORDON: I think it's in Kyle's hands. I think he's got the utmost support from me. I showed him that before and these moves happened. I had a meeting with him, and you know, he and I have been texting one another back and forth. He's going through some of the tough things that happened from the All-Star event with his brother. And you know, I was just giving him some advice.
Throughout this whole thing, you know, I've told him hey, I'm going to support you, race with you hard, but, you know, be your teammate at the same time. And you know, I plan on continuing to do that, because it is in our best interests. Because that 5 Team is such a solid team. Alan's done such a great job, and we want to see that team continue to do well. And, you know, have a lot of things to be excited about going into next year, you know, even though there's going to be a driver change.
You know, I think that it's really in Kyle's court. Because he is the one that's going to control it, and how he handles things. And he's got a lot on his plate, I'm sure. He's a young guy, he's vibrant. He gets excited, and sometimes he the heat of the moment gets the best of him. Those are the things that I talked to him about. Always try to take the high road. Don't let those moments effect what you say and your decisions that you make, and you're going to be a lot happier moving forward.
Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit about if you could kind of remember last year when you won down at the Chicagoland speedway? You know, toward the end of the race you kind of bumped Matt Kenseth a little bit in the back. It seemed like the fans down in the Chicagoland Speedway kind of reacted with a little bit more emotion than maybe some people expected. What kinds of things are you expecting from the fans this year? Do you think they're going to remember that race as clearly as maybe some of us in the media do?
JEFF GORDON: I wouldn't doubt it. You know, everywhere I go, when I see fans and I'm doing questions and taking questions from fans and answering them and things, you know, it's fairly common for things like that to be brought up. Because what the fans remember more so than just the bump is, you know, what happened at Bristol, and kind of is there a rivalry among me and Kenseth.
And you know, Matt and I have been getting along really well. We've been racing really hard and clean on the racetrack. You know, we've been trying to set a precedent from Chicago last year moving forward, to let him know that, hey, I've got, you know, no grudge, no nothing. It's just we were battling hard and then an accident happened. And you know, all he can do is, you know, take what I say and all I can do is hope that he, you know, knows that it was an accident.
And you know, we've been racing good and clean since then. I can't always control how the fans are going to react to that, but certainly something that I remember as a great victory. But it was overshadowed by, you know, by that spin. And, you know, I felt bad about it, and I didn't want to win the race that way. I wanted to win the race by making a pass clean and going on to victory.
And you know, hopefully we can make up for that this weekend, and maybe Matt will be leading, closing us when we go there and make a nice clean pass on him and win another race and kind of earn that respect back.
Q. So far, you know, this season has been just really going beyond successful for you so far at this point. What do you think has been a couple highlights? Maybe a couple races that really stand out in your mind as a turning point for you?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, I mean, there are so many things that have been going great for us this year. I mean, I think that a lot of it was just the fact that we've been building on this team for, you know, over a year and a half. Trying to just improve and get better, find all the areas that we were weak in. Trying to make our cars better, our pit crew better, our communication.
I think Steve Letarte really deserves a lot of credit for really elevating this team up to the next level and making them a championship caliber team on a consistent basis.
And, obviously, he's made some great calls as well that have gotten us into victory lane. So we're missing a little bit of that chemistry and momentum that was built with him. We're going to try to maintain it as best we can over the next four weeks and keep this team strong. Hope that when he comes back, we just jump right back into things and really get ourselves set-up and prepared for the chase.
Because, you know, we've had a great year. We've had some great wins. You know, and I guess Darlington's probably one that stands out the most to me as just a fun and a great victory of how things are going for us this year. We had a great car, but we made some great calls and had fortune on our side, too, that the engine made it.
But, you know, it's so important now with the Chase that you have your momentum and everything going your way in those last ten races. So I hope we didn't use it all up to this point in the season. I don't think we have, and we're going to find out here soon.
Q. Last question, I know it's been difficult not having Steve there with you because of the suspension. How have you guys been able to adjust to that?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I think he's a great communicator. And he touches base with me frequently during the week. You know, he's at the shop working, you know, in the 7 Post, and also, you know, just trying to look ahead. And, you know, he's giving guys like Jeff and me the ability to step up, as well as a lot of other guys, and take responsibility.
But he's guiding them through it. He's helping them all the way until they get to the racetrack. And yeah, we might talk on the phone on Friday or Saturday, but on Sunday, you know, it's all in our hands. And I think that it really, truly shows how good and how strong our team is when, you know, Steve steps away. We need him. I mean, I want him there, And we're definitely missing something by him not being there. But it shows how strong our team is that when he's not there, we're still being competitive.
Q. Jeff, is the jury still out, maybe, on whether that tremendous Hendrick streak of dominance early in the season has cooled or leveled off? I mean, yeah, you guys had the great run at Newâ Hampshire, but those wins like Darlington, like Pocono, the sort of win-by-a-thread kind of thing haven't been there lately. Is it too soon to tell whether some more of that dominance can come back this year? And when you get to Chicagoland, as the classic mile and a half track, is that going to be a place where you get a lot more gauge on where Hendrick stands, vis-a-vis the other teams?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I'll tell you what happens is throughout the season, things change. You know, you're constantly learning and evolving to stay, you know, up with the competition. Trying to, you know, make your cars better all the time and your team stronger. And your competition is doing the same thing, that's why you've got to do it.
And so number one, the thing I want to point out is while we were winning races, we weren't the dominant car. We were dominant in the win column, which is fantastic, you know, and great to see things going our way. But you really want to be the dominant car. You know, so that when the time comes, you know, like I said in the Chase, you know, that you're on top of your game. And hopefully things also, you know, you can learn from maybe what didn't get you to victory lane.
And that's why I looked at the Gibbs Team as really the teams to beat. Because they really, truly have been the dominant car. Now here in Newâ Hampshire, they weren't, and, you know, the DEI cars were. Certainly Truex. And yet Hamlin and those guys made a call like what Steve made for us early in the year that won him the race.
Yeah, I think that it's constantly evolving. Your cars are constantly trying to get better. Your competition's getting better. You're learning from each race on what strategy to use, and what's working, what is getting you to victory lane? What is getting other teams to victory lane? And you've got to keep moving forward with it.
So you go through different swings. Yeah, I think we're still on a consistent basis, the strongest team out there. But, you know, we've got to have all those things going in our favor in the same direction when we get to these last ten races. And that's why I think momentum and chemistry is so important throughout the year. It can't stop. It's got to continue to grow and move forward.
Q. One other quick thing about another team moving, it seems like while we were all enamored with how well Hendrick was doing earlier in the year, in the background was also poor old 4, and poor old Roush. They can't go anywhere they're so far behind. Now Michigan to Daytona and even Sonoma, it seems like, wham, all of a sudden Roush is there again. Do you think now they are back? Or has that just been circumstances for them these last few weeks?
JEFF GORDON: Hey, I never count those guys out. I feel like Carl Edwards has been strong sporadically throughout the year. But when he's strong, he's real strong. And they have had some things that have kept them out of being in contention to win more races. You know, and of course, Matt Kenseth is the most consistent guy out there. I mean, you never count those guys out. I mean, they're always there and fast, no matter what kind of season they're having. So I always think that they're going to be a factor.
I think to me the biggest gainers here recently have been, you know, the dei cars especially Truex. I mean, he's been really strong. I think they can be a real serious factor in this chase, as well as, I think, that the Penske cars seem to be getting better and better. So I mean, it's anybody's game right now as far as I'm concerned.
You know, what you do early in the season is nice to maybe help you get into the chase, but it doesn't mean anything once you get into the chase. It's really about the teams that get through the summer months that are August, September, the teams that are strongest there, those are the guys and teams that I look at are going to be the real threat for the championship.
Q. Talk again a little bit about the team work thing. Racing isn't like football or basketball. I mean, you guys are out there and you're pretty much alone in your car in a lot of ways. You have contact with other people, but how big is this team work thing, even in a race like Daytona? I mean, how much do you even think about it when you're going into these races, the restrictor plate races or other races? You know, after listening to Tony Stewart, and Danny Hamlin get on each other after that race and Kyle complaining, it sounds like it's very important. But how important is it, really?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, you know, to me the most important part, when you're on a restrictor plate track, yes, it's important. You need to have a drafting partner, you need to have that push if you're going to win the race. And we've seen that with the win that's I've had in the past, when I've had, whether it was Scott Riggs or Jimmie Johnson or one of my teammates that helped push me. I mean, that's what you've got to have. And everybody has that. And, you know, even Jamie McMurray had that this past weekend.
But I think that as far as other tracks, the team work that goes on is the communication between practices, the debriefing sessions that we have after the final practice on Saturday, fine tuning the cars. And then the real thing is the team chemistry that you have within your own team, and you don't want anything to really get in the way of that. If there's rivalries that are going too far within your own organization that start to disrupt the chemistry, then that can be bad.
You know, it's good to have other teams pushing you within your own organization. It makes you more competitive. I think one of the reasons we're more competitive this year is because Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knauss and that team won the championship last year. It only motivated us that much more.
So there are good things that come from that. But at the same time, you've got to be able to find ways to work together. You know, once you get out there on the track, it's all about you and your team, except for those restrictor plate tracks. But it's what happens during the week leading into Sunday's race or Saturday's race.
Q. You started this call mentioning the tragedy yesterday.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah.
Q. Every time something like this happens, we can't help but think about how many times you guys are in the air.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah.
Q. Especially traveling back and forth from New York to Charlotte, as you mentioned. Does something like that make you think twice, especially now that you're a dad, how you do that?
JEFF GORDON: Well, you know, I was in Pittsburgh yesterday when I heard the news, and I was getting on a plane coming, you know, back home. And I mean, I couldn't help but the thoughts be on my mind. You know, we're on helicopters, we're on airplanes. And you know, it's definitely that lifestyle and that schedule, it's a necessity more than just a luxury. I mean, we really, truly have to get to places as fast as we can.
But you've got to focus on the safety of it as well. And I think that, you know, through the whole tragedy that we have at Hendrick, it made all of us step up our safety and just really try to look at fine tuning everything.
And so, you know, I feel very confident in the way that, you know, I travel. But there are holes out there. And they can happen to anybody. And you do the best that you can, and, you know, it's a part of life, unfortunately.
I drive a race car 200 miles an hour every weekend, and it's dangerous. And it can happen there. Or it could happen walking across the street, you know. And all you can do is try to be as preventative and try to be as structured and organized as possible to make sure that those things don't happen. But there's never any guarantees.
Q. Did you have to reassure your wife yesterday that you were okay?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, you know, she has been introduced to my lifestyle, through, you know racing, and I think she got to know me early on through some things that I said to her that, you know what, I live a great life. I'm very fortunate. And I know that it's dangerous out there, but I choose to be out there. I choose this lifestyle and I love it. And something could happen to me, and, you know, we've had those discussions to where it could happen to me, it could happen to our family, and we've got to be prepared if it does. And that is the best that we can do. And she's very understanding towards that.
Q. In following up the violations and so forth a couple weeks ago. I'm just curious do you want to know everything that's on your car or that's being done to your car? Or would you just rather get in it, and practice, and qualify and go race?
JEFF GORDON: I mean, I like to know what's in there, you know. I don't like any surprises. I knew all about what our fenders looked like at Sonoma. And I didn't have an issue with it. I didn't think it was a big deal. You know, I felt like the worse that could happen to us was that they asked us to fix it and maybe we'd lose 15 minutes of practice because we didn't get through inspection on time. I mean, that was the mindset of everybody.
And it goes back to, you know, what I was saying earlier about, you know your competition's stepping up and getting better. And we try to do the same. You know, the one thing that really bothers me about this whole thing is I saw where, you know, the cover of U.S.A. Today and cheating and all of these things.
And it really bothers me that not just us, but any team in our series that does something similar to what we do, and they're considered cheaters.
When, you know, in racing ever since I've been racing, you're always trying to get a competitive edge. You're always trying to push the limits. And if you're in football, if you're in basketball, it's no different than an offensive lineman holding a guy from getting to the quarterback, and they say okay, well, that's a 10 or 15-yard penalty for holding. They don't say, Well, you're a cheater, and we're going to take your coach and suspend him. I mean, it's just our sport is looked at so much different. And I don't think it really should be in these situations.
And you know, I commend our team finish pushing the envelope. We've learn aid valuable lesson with this new car that that envelope is a much tighter, you know, thing to push. And we've got to be extremely careful in the areas that we try to find advantages. That obviously, we know that the body on the car, and the aerodynamics of it are not an area that we can do it in. Not by doing it to the body. We've got to find other ways that NASCAR, you know, has been clear about on what we can and can't do. And now we're very clear on what we can, and can't do, and we're going to go to work in those areas now and push the limits there.
Q. You mention aid while ago that the most important part of team work could be the communication between your teams, between practices and during the week and things like that. Has that change in relationship to Kyle and his team? Are they still full members of the communication society?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, absolutely. Nothing's changed there. Again, I go back, you know, I know some of the things that Kyle said after the race. I think a lot of it had to do with being frustrated. Because he probably feels like he should have won that race, and he was so close to winning it.
And I think he just said some things that, you know, that really didn't add up. Because, you know, he's been in every team meeting. There's not been one conversation about him not being in team meetings. And, you know, we're doing everything we can to win the championship this year.
And we've got, you know, we've got three teams that are right now in there. We've got the 25 team has really been running strong lately, and we're doing everything we can. Because the better that the 5 and 25 are and the 48 are, then the better we are with the 24. So it's only in our best interests to make sure we give as much information to them, and we get as much information back from them to make ourselves stronger and make sure that they're stronger as well. Because that's the only thing that's going to elevate the whole organization.
Q. Good morning, well, might be morning, with the baby, that was one of the things I was going to ask about.
JEFF GORDON: I've lost complete track of time, so I'm not sure what time of day it is. All the shades are closed. And we try to do whatever is going to work for her to sleep as much as possible.
Q. Understood. Two quick questions, one regarding the newborn, with not just yourself but all the athletes and all the celebrities having kids the last couple of years. Is there a little inside network with you guys? Where you exchange with --
JEFF GORDON: A baby boom going on?
Q. I'm guessing you probably don't have babysitters right now. But do you exchange notes or be prepared for this, be prepared for that? Or are you almost absolutely on your own?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean you're on your own as much as anybody else is. You have your parents. You have plenty of books that I've read as well as friends. I have a good friend of mine who just had a baby girl about three months ago. So, you know, he's been giving me a lot of information. They've just been two or three months ahead of us throughout the whole process. I've been leaning on him quite a bit.
It's funny because as soon as the baby was born, I didn't hear much from him. I had to contact him. So that was my first sign of what's to come for myself that you're just too busy with everything, and caught up with everything, to even, you know, really touch base with your friends and give them advice with what's going on. You know, but it's a great experience. It's been awesome. But you know, it's gone very well.
I mean, Ingrid's fantastic. She's doing such a great job. And you know, our little girl has been great. And we go through our tough times as well as the great times. But we did have a baby nurse that's been helping us, and we will taper off with her over the next couple of weeks.
Q. So it's not like you called Tiger Woods and said, Hey, Tiger Woods, what's up with Sam and whatever?
JEFF GORDON: I'm not so sure if I called Tiger that he would answer my calls. But, you know, we've touched base through our foundations and I played some golf with him years ago. I think he's pretty busy right now. So I don't want to bother him. Even if I could call him, I probably wouldn't because I wouldn't want to bother him.
But we certainly send our congratulations to him. And it's really cool, you know, the fact that yeah, I've seen his career come along, and my career come along, and you know, having babe he's around the same time. I know that there's certainly been a lot of speculation as to what's going to happen with his career, you know, and his game while he's now a father, and the same thing with mine. So I do look forward to getting a chance to talk to him some day about some of those things.
Q. On the racetrack, this has been hit on before, but just maybe getting another little spin on it. With Juan Pablo this year, looks like there are going to be a couple more Open Wheel guys headed into NASCAR next year. What is it that makes the jump or what is it do they bring that makes the jump seemingly a little bit easier for them or a little bit more transitional for them in order to get it done quicker? I mean, you came from Open Wheel. So many of you are coming from Open Wheel now. Is there something there that translates well to adapting real quick to NASCAR?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I don't know if you talk to Juan Pablo he would say it's been a quick and easy transition. I mean, I think that, you know, some critics probably think that he would have come along faster. Others, kind of expected him to have a tough time with it. I think he's done exactly what I expect him to do. He is extremely talented, and his talent is going to show through. And he's going to continue to get better, especially the second half of the season.
He's going to go through some tough times and frustrating times and not run good at some tracks. Maybe even get beat up by some of the other guys on the track a little bit, pushed around a little bit. But he's a very aggressive driver and very talented driver. And I think that's the key. You know, if you're talented like he is, you can transition.
You know, I think it's tougher to come from, say, an IndyCar or Formula 1 car, because you've got a lightweight car, high downforce car, that has a ton of grip that you can drive extremely aggressive. Where our cars are the exact opposite. You have to be very patient. You can't overdrive it, and you have to be really careful especially around other cars.
You know, for me, I was young enough that I never really gotâ -- you know, I didn't have any bad habits. I've got plenty of bad habits, but as far as habits of driving one particular car for a long period of time. So I think it's a little easier if you're young. And I think it certainly is easier if you grew up on ovals, which I grew up on ovals.
So I think it's very challenging for guys like Sam Hornish who comes over, and the transition could be tough for him on the Busch Series. But I think if anybody can do it, I think he can.
Q. Is that the bigger issue and area of being comfortable on ovals?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, our series was primarily ovals. And I think that the reason why our series, most of the drivers have come from racing late models, ASA, All-Pro, ARCA, things like that. Because those series are not just stock cars, but they're oval racing series. And an oval or an IndyCar is not anywhere close to what an oval is like in, say, like a sprint car or midget or a stock car. And I think that those guys or girls that are racing those kinds of cars are going to transition easier than somebody that has a rear engine car with wings on it, tons of downforce, running road courses and a few ovals.
Q. What do you think the lure is, if it's that much of aâ --
JEFF GORDON: Well, that's why I commend Juan Pablo. I give him so much credit for having the guts to take on this type of a huge transition. Knowing what he was getting himself into, and the same for Sam Hornish or anybody else that comes along, because it's not easy. It's very competitive. And you're going to go through a lot of learning, you know, curves that are going to be tough ones.
But I think what the draw is is that this is the number one series in America, and this is where the sponsors are. This is where the fans are. Television audience, and where the money is as well. And I think there's prestige, there's challenges. There's competition, and there's money. And that's what's going to draw guys to this series.
Q. Jeff, want to look ahead a couple of weeks to the Brickyard race that you seemed to win about every three or four years.
JEFF GORDON: I hope it's been three or four since I won it last.
Q. I think it has.
JEFF GORDON: I think it's been a little longer, maybe.
Q. We know what that place means to you personally having grown up where you did and that sort of thing. But as a racetrack, what is it about you and the racetrack? Why do you seem to get along?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, you know, I mean, I think I bring something to the table. But most of the guys that run well are there, their teams hit on the right set up and the right aero package and just go faster. But it's probably one of the most challenging tracks that we go to.
It's, you know, it takes, obviously, a good race car and lots of horsepower. Because the long straightaways and the way that you come off those corners really lugs the engine down. So you have to have that. But having four, even though they look the same, they're four completely different, unique corners. And they're flat for how long the straightaways are.
So from a driver's standpoint, you know, getting comfortable there is not easy. I tell you, I've gone to Indianapolis before and been there on Friday or Saturday for the race, and absolutely struggled more than I've struggled any other racetrack. Then get into the race and things start to come together for us. It's just that challenging of a racetrack.
So I think that like most tracks, it's the combination of the team, the driver. But, you know, I go there every year, you know, feeling like we could win. And no matter what the car's driving like and what's happening during practice whether we're fast or not, I feel like once we get into the race and get into a rhythm, start working and tuning on it, that we're going to have a shot at winning.
Q. In a lot of ways it seems like sort of a lifetime since you won that first one, I guess. So much has gone on.
JEFF GORDON: I can tell you it's been one heck of a life ever since I won that first one.
Q. So much is going on. Can you kind of compare and contrast yourself both as a driver, and maybe just as importantly as a person since winning that first one?
JEFF GORDON: It changed my life, literally. As a kid growing up, watching the Indy 500 Tournament of Races at Indianapolis, and then going to NASCAR thinking that that would never happen, it was a dream come true to get to just racing in that event in 1994. And to go on and win it was just mind-boggling.
And still to this day when I'm asked what my biggest or favorite win I've ever had was that inaugural Brickyard 400. It's just because my up bringing, the type of racing I did.
Growing up in Indiana, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was, for me, was it. I know it's not the Indy 500, but in my mind it is the Indy 500 for me. By going to the Brickyard 400 every year, it is. It's a thrill, and life changing in many ways on that day. And my whole career just seemed to take off to another level after that win, and it's been fantastic.
Q. Can you just kind of compare it, I guess, compare your life. I mean, as you say, you were just a little Indiana kid who got, when he got there, was a huge, huge deal. Now you're sort of this worldly guy. You know, apartment in New York, new father, all that stuff. Compare your life now to then.
JEFF GORDON: Oh, it's changed tremendously, that's for sure. I mean, I never knew I was going to be a race car driver, number one. So I didn't know that that was actually going to be my career. I had no idea that racing was going toâ -- I didn't know thatâ -- you know, they don't give you a manual through rookie orientation coming into a top series like whether it would be IndyCar Series or Formula 1 or NASCAR.
I know in NASCAR they just don't give you a booklet that says here's all the things you need to expect, and you need to expect that. You're going to be extremely busy. You're going to be testing. You're going to be racing. You're going to be doing things for your sponsors, and doing things for TV and fans. And then, oh, yeah, by the way, in case you get popular and start winning, all of a sudden you're going to be doing autographs and photo shoots, and all these things. Then, oh, yeah, by the way, try to have a relationship with your family, and you know, get married and have kids.
I mean, it's likeâ -- it's so incredible of how to balance out all those things. It's taken me many years to even get it to where it is now. And that's certainly still not perfect. But you know what, amazing opportunities have come because of it and I've tried to take advantage of them the best way I can. By traveling to other parts of the world, learning other cultures, to, you know, driving fancy cars and hobnobbing with celebrities.
But when it all comes down to it, I'm just a regular guy that enjoys being at home with my family, with my friends. You know, doing normal, fun, unique things. Yeah, maybe once in a while I want to swim with sharks in the Bahamas, but that's the little bit of risk taker in me. On a normal basis I'm calm, and love to watch TV and do normal things.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jeff, for taking time out to join us today. We really appreciate it. Best of luck to you this week and at Chicagoland.
JEFF GORDON: My pleasure, enjoyed it.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you. And thanks to all the media for participating today.
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