Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger/AARP Chevrolet, met with media and discussed the current point battle between Johnson and Keselowski, head games, the upcoming Phoenix race, and more.
HOW WAS PRACTICE? ‘We’ve been trying some things out to learn so we come up with a good plan for tomorrow and for Sunday. We were a little disappointed when we switched over to qualifying trim. We of course, knew the track was a little bit slower from the guys that went out early, but still we were two our three tenths off of what I felt like we needed to be there at the end. So, we’ve got some speed to gain and to pick-up for our qualifying run.”
IF YOU COULD TAKE YOUR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAT OFF AND LOOK AT THINGS OBJECTIVELY, AND YOU HAD TO PUT MONEY ON BRAD KESELOWSKI OR JIMMIE JOHNSON GOING DOWN THE STRETCH WITH THREE RACES REMAINING, IS IT EVEN A QUESTION GIVEN JIMMIE’S HISTORY? “Oh, it’s definitely a question. And Brad has put a good fight. If you’re putting money down on it, it’s hard to go against that No. 48 teams. They’re just so rock-solid at so many different tracks. They’ve won five championships so it’s not like they’re nervous. They’re pretty relaxed and in a comfort zone and it’s really nothing to lose. They’ve won five championships and they’re in great position.
“But, where Brad going for it, basically for the first time, but you know what, they’ve done a great job. So, it’s not just a hands-down; one’s got it in the bag.”
JIMMIE’S LEAD FEELS ALMOST BIGGER THAN IT IS BECAUSE OF HIS HISTORY AND THE TIME OF THE YEAR AND ALL THAT STUFF. “Well, it’s just like what happened to the No. 11 car (Denny Hamlin) last week. Anything can happen at any time. There’s just no way to predict it. If you just look at flat-out speed and performance, then I would give it to the No. 48. But that’s not always the case.”
DO YOU SEE JIMMIE JOHNSON PLAYING THOSE HEAD GAMES WITH BRAD KESELOWSKI AT THIS POINT? OR, IS IT JUST THE REPUTATION AND THE SUCCESS RATE THAT GETS INTO PEOPLE’S HEADS? “The No. 48 has one things on their side and that’s five championships and the fact that they go out there and perform. I think the only thing that Brad has done this year that’s really combatted that was what they did at Chicago. That was a great way to get it started as well as they’ve hung in there. Like last week. To come out of there I think with a sixth place finish for Brad at Martinsville they way his day was going, that was actually a very positive result for them that I think they actually, even though the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) won, they carried a little bit of momentum themselves out of there. So, I’d kind of call it even, really.”
WOULD YOU RATHER BE THE CHASER OR THE CHASEE? “No, you always want to be leading. I think you’d rather be leading if you’re the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) because they’ve won it five times. So, by being up front, they don’t sit there and protect and worry about what we have to do to win this championship. They just go out there and perform, focus, and do their jobs. But when you’re new to it and you’ve never won a championship, being out front sometimes can get you off your game. So I think it’s better for Brad to be chasing and I think the NO. 48, as long as they’re in reach, they’re comfortable and have a great shot at it.”
YOU’VE BEEN THERE BEFORE; WHAT ARE THE LAST THREE WEEKS LIKE AS FAR AS PRESSURE? “You know, it’s intense. Every practice lap; every lap in the race; every position; every moment is intense. You know that there is a lot riding on everything that you do. As a team you have to come together, and step up. It’s tough. It’s intense, and exciting as well. All at the same time. I’m just anxious to see how these next couple of weeks go because I think we all want to see a great battle come down to the final race at Homestead.
“I think you have to think, with the results the last time we were here, that the No. 48 has an edge here. I don’t know about Phoenix with the new surface, but at Homestead, the No. 48 has struggled there. Not run as good. This thing could be very interesting.”
WITH THE NEW LAYOUT AT PHOENIX, HOW DIFFERENT IS THAT TRACK NOW? “It’s changing fairly rapidly as it goes through the weathering that you go through, especially during the hot summer in Arizona. The tires haven’t changed as far I know, so that is kind of keeping things fairly even. We saw the grooved widen out the last time we were there; I would like to see that again. Track position is still going to be very, very important.”
HAVE YOU CHANGED THE WAY YOU DRIVE THAT TRACK NOW? “I’m going to have to change the way I drove it the last couple of times just because we haven’t done very well there.”
BRAD WAS A PART OF THE HENDRICK FAMILY FOR A SHORT WHILE; DID YOU GUYS GET A CHANCE TO KNOW HIM AT ALL? “He was more of a JR Motorsports guy, so they probably got a chance to know him better than we did. But, he definitely was a great addition; we just didn’t have a place for him, or sponsorship to keep him there longer. It certainly is nothing but positive things to say.”
AT THIS POINT OF THE SEASON, DO THE WEEKS KIND OF SLOW DOWN AND SEEM TO COME FURTHER APART, OR DOES IT PICKUP AS YOU HEAD TO THE END OF THE SEASON? “It is amazing how fast a season goes by, and you are at this point. You go ‘Wow, I can’t believe we only have three races left, then this season is over’. For us, we’re sixth in points, and we are just focused on how we get to fifth, and, how we perform in each race, and make the most out of these last three races and come out with something positive from what has been a pretty up and down season. That makes the time go by pretty fast.”
NASCAR RACE HUB IS DOING A MOCK ELECTION FOR THE OFFICE OF THE NASCAR PRESIDENT BETWEEN MATT CLARK AND JIMMY SPENCER AS YOUR CANDIDATES. WHO WOULD YOU SUPPORT FOR NASCAR PRESIDENT? “Why would either one of those guys be NASCAR President? (LAUGHS) I like Mike Helton! (LAUGHS) I love Jimmy, but sometimes he’s a little bit too far out there, so I’m going to go with the one that I think that would use the best common sense most of the time, so I would go with Matt.”