Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, met with media and discussed how he feels there is speed in the car and the results are improving for the team, upcoming races, the AJ Allmendinger issue, and more.
TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE IN THE SEASON GOING INTO NEW HAMPSHIRE THIS WEEKEND “Obviously our season hasn’t gone the way that we had hoped it would. We’ve shown a lot of speed. We’re capable of leading laps and we just haven’t come up with the results. But I feel like we’ve turned a corner. I feel like the last few weeks we’ve putting some good results together and getting to the finish with the car in one piece and having good runs. These next several weeks are obviously crucial for us. This is a great track for us. We had a shot, I felt, of winning both these races last year. We’re certainly hoping to redeem ourselves this weekend and this year here in New Hampshire because it’s such a great track for us and thinking back to last year. So, you’ve got here, you’ve got Indianapolis and we’ve got a bunch of tracks coming up that we’re definitely capable of winning at. And we know that we’re going to have to win at those in order to get ourselves in the championship Chase.”
YOU’VE NEVER REALLY BEEN IN THIS SITUATION BEFORE AND PEOPLE HAVE COMMENTED ABOUT HOW YOU’VE HANDLED IT IN THE LAST MONTH OR SO (BY) CONSTANTLY ANSWERING QUESTIONS AND HOW YOU’VE WORKED WITH YOUR TEAM. HAVE YOU HAD TO MAKE ANY MENTAL ADJUSTMENTS TO REALLY DEAL WITH THAT OR DO YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT THAT OR DO YOU NATURALLY REMAIN POSITIVE THE WHOLE TIME? “Well, there are definitely moments in the heat of the moment, especially, when you sense the frustration and it comes out in things you say on the radio or how you handle some of those situations behind closed doors. But, when it comes to how to handle it publicly, I just don’t think it does the team or myself or anybody any good to handle that negatively.
“And so whatever frustrations and challenges that we’ve been dealt this year, we’ve just continued to try to handle internally. And I would say that there has been very little questioning of anyone. It’s really been just how do we turn these great runs into great results. Obviously what makes that even more challenging as the weeks go by and you don’t get the results and the fans, the media, the social media and all those things start to weigh on you heavily. So, it’s nice to have a lot of support out there as well, like our sponsors and our fans. But most importantly, it’s what the team does. This team is one that has gotten through some pretty tough times this year and has stuck together.
“And like I said, I feel like we’ve turned a corner because I certainly hope that the worst is behind us, but I just feel like the last few weeks with things going more our way at the end of these races, that’s helped us to understand that hey, we’ve just got to keep sticking together and we’re going to get the results. Now, are they going to be enough to get us in the Chase? We’ll see. If we get in the Chase, are they going to be enough to win the championship? We’ll see. But I’ve been very proud of the way we’ve handled ourselves through all this.”
DO YOU EXPECT THAT WHEN YOU GET TO INDIANAPOLIS, YOU WILL THINK THIS IS THE NO. 24 CAR OF PAST INDY RACES? DO YOU GET A NEW INVIGORATION WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT INDIANAPOLIS? “Well, most importantly right now is what we did there last year. I think it’s the same tire, so that’s always good. But we’ve made some gains this year and the speed has shown many times this year, just the results haven’t. But I think back to last year at Indianapolis and how good we were and that’s what memory I’m going to have going in there this year is how can we be that good and improve on our performance versus our competition in these next several weeks.”
AS WE GET CLOSER TO THE CHASE, THE COUNTDOWN IS ON. IS THERE A GREATER SENSE OF URGENCY FOR YOU AND THE TEAM NOW TO CHANGE THE APPROACH OR IS IT BUSINESS AS USUAL? “The urgency to win starts in Daytona in February (laughs). So, we’re not doing anything different than we have all year long. We’re just trying to cross our T’s and dot our I’s and just do everything right. We know how hard it is to win and we also know how easy it can be when you do things right and have a fast race car. And so, is there urgency? Yeah, absolutely. One win is going to be great, but it’s still not going to get us into the Chase, I don’t believe. So, we know we’ve got to put a string of races together here to get ourselves in that opportunity to win more than one race. But, I think most people look at us while we’re in 17th or 18th or wherever we are in the points and no wins, as these guys don’t have a shot. We look at it as gosh, we’ve run so good at this track and this track and this track and this track (and being) capable of winning multiple races this year and we’ve got to put all the things together to pull off those victories. But we feel like we’ve run good enough to do it and are continuing to run good. And this is a good stretch of races for us to pull it off.”
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE AJ ALLMENDINGER ISSUE? MATT KENSETH SAID HE DIDN’T THINK NASCAR WOULD HAVE DONE ANYTHING IF THEY DIDN’T HAVE SOME ROCK-SOLID EVIDENCE. “I think we’ve got to wait to hear more results. I hope we get a full story. I haven’t asked anybody or talked to anybody that has any real details and I don’t even know if they’re capable of giving those details. But you’d certainly like to know what it is. Obviously the test came back with something positive. So, I have pretty strong faith in that system that when it happens, that they’re right. But what could have caused it? Is it something very minor that could have caused it or is it yeah, somebody made a mistake or that it definitely should have shown up that way. So, I was shocked. I didn’t expect it. I definitely have had a great relationship with AJ on and off the race track and didn’t see that one coming.”
HOW DISAPPOINTING IS IT FOR YOU THAT THE ATTENDANCE FOR THE BRICKYARD 400 IS GOING THE WRONG DIRECTION? “Very. I think it is such an amazing event to be a part of. From day-one, it never felt like it was the best fan-spectator race track if you look at NASCAR tracks. If it’s a mile-and-a-half, you can see three-quarters of the track from the grandstands, where at Indy (Indianapolis Motor Speedway), you see them flash by down the front straightaway. If you are sitting in the corner, you see them coming into the corner and going off the corner. But, from a spectacle, and just hype and excitement and energy to be a part of, I think it’s a huge event. Still, for the drivers, it still holds just as much prestige as it ever did. So, it is disappointing. As we’ve seen, many times over the last couple of years, many different factors weigh in as to why the fans fill the stands at some tracks and don’t at others. I would think Indianapolis would be one of those tracks that a lot of people typically travel to. When you have that many grandstands, it’s not just everybody Indiana filling it up. It’s other people traveling from further out. And, it’s expensive to travel these days with gas prices and hotel prices, and everything else. So, hopefully see a good crowd this year.”
ARE YOU GOING BACK TO RWANDA THIS YEAR? WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS YEAR’S TRIP FROM LAST YEAR’S TRIP? “Last year’s trip we went and looked at what PIH (Partners in Health) is doing there with their hospitals. We had already made a commitment to fund a cancer center there. Now, we are actually doing the grand opening and the ribbon cutting ceremony of it actually starting. It took a little while to get…the hospital is there, but to get the cancer center, which is the part that we’re helping to fund. It also took a while to get some pretty important people scheduled there. I am excited that Paul Farmer, he’s kind of master-minded it all, will be there. But we’ll also have President Clinton there, and the president of Rwanda, President Kagame. I’m excited. I leave Monday. It’s going to be a very short trip, but it’s one that I’m really looking forward to getting back there. It is such a beautiful area. That Butaro Hospital and it rural area. I’m able to be a part of something that is ground-breaking in rural East Africa. This is the first of its kind of any cancer center. When they look at the projections in a developing country like East Africa, cancer is on the rise there, and can be very curable and treatable in many cases. It’s just not happening. This is a big step, and I can’t wait to get there and be a part of this event.”