Thursday, February 13, 2014
Jeff Gordon talks with NASCAR media at Daytona Thursday
Q. OBVIOUSLY THERE’S A LOT OF CHANGES THIS SEASON: CHASE, QUALIFYING, PENALTIES. WHEN YOU ADD IT ALL UP INTO ONE BIG PICTURE, DO YOU THINK THAT WILL BE A LOT FOR FANS OR PARTICIPANTS TO SWALLOW?
JEFF GORDON: Maybe. I think it’s different when there’s a lot of changes and some of them seem unnecessary. I like the direction and changes that have been made.
You brought up the penalties. I think that’s a structure that’s needed to take place for a while now. So I think if you have something that makes sense, why wait just because you’ve made other changes? So go ahead and incorporate that into there. We’ll adjust, we’ll deal with it. It’s going to take some time to work through it for NASCAR as well as for the competitors.
Same thing with qualifying. I feel like we needed to do that a few years ago. When F1 started doing it, I was instantly a huge fan and said, Man, I wish we had this. I love that they’re incorporating that.
Then there’s a few little tweaks that probably are going to need to happen with that as well. I was real happy to see them being open-minded and them recognizing some things that needed to be done and they did that.
The points, you know, I like it as well. I mean, I think the thing that stood out to me in the conversations that I had with NASCAR that really resonated was when the driver gets out of the car and said, Well, you know, third place today, it was a good points day. That just doesn’t sit well with anybody, not even us. I mean, we don’t want to say that. We don’t want to say anything other than, We won. If we didn’t win, that was not a good day. It’s win or nothing. That’s the attitude you want to have.
It’s not necessarily the reality, but getting us closer to that I think is important. I think this takes us that next step towards that, how important it is to win and the intensity level that’s going to be created from qualifying for all of us, crew chiefs, drivers, teams, as well as, you know, the importance of winning to get in and how important it’s going to be to compete at a high level and winning throughout the Chase.
Q. COLLECTIVELY EVEN IF PEOPLE DISAGREED WITH ONE OR MORE OF THEM, WOULD YOU NOT AGREE THAT TOGETHER THEY ARE GOING TO DRAW MORE EYES?
JEFF GORDON: I believe that for all those that are complaining about it and saying they don’t like it or will never watch another race, they’ll be tuned in, okay? It’s the ones that aren’t saying anything that you’re trying to grasp.
I have a lot of friends like in New York that are casual fans, and they’re talking to me about it. I think they’ve already made an impact and I think there’s a lot of interest around the things that they’ve announced. I think that interest is only going to get greater once we go through a couple of those qualifying sessions and go through one year of this points system.
Q. WHAT DO YOU THINK RAY EVERNHAM IS GOING TO BRING TO HENDRICK?
JEFF GORDON: Hopefully more championships.
I mean, I love Ray. Ray and I have obviously had a great working relationship, but we’ve also maintained a friendship over the years.
Ray is experienced in a lot of things: as a crew chief, as a car owner, as a businessman, TV producer. It can enhance what we do at Hendrick. I think it’s important to have someone that has been in that position as a crew chief, maybe doesn’t understand the engineering to the level today that some of our engineers go through, but he’s a quick study, he gets it.
I think that anything that Ray can do to help bridge that gap of communication between crew chiefs, engineers, the engine shop, the chassis shop, the team aspect from pit crews, all these things, he just has a great way of looking at things, analyzing them and giving good opinions to make it stronger.
JEFF GORDON: Do I think he’s missed competition? Absolutely, I think he has. There’s no doubt in my mind he has. I think he also knows being a crew chief today is a lot different than what it used to be.
I mean, if he was 30 years old and coming in, he would still make an excellent crew chief because he understands how to, you know, put a great team together and what it takes to go fast. That doesn’t mean that you always have to know everything about shocks to the level that they have to know or aerodynamics. You collectively bring that all together.
So there’s no doubt in my mind he would be an excellent crew chief. But I think what happened is if you step away from the sport for a period of time and try to come back, it wouldn’t work.
I say that as a friend of Ray because we talk and joke about it. On Twitter they’re constantly saying, I want Ray to be your crew chief, everything will be better. Not necessarily in all aspects.
But just having him involved, having him be a part of the organization again is exciting.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it’s not even a thought. It’s not on the radar in any way, shape or form. Yeah, you can just put that to rest.
Q. OF ALL THE ELIMINATION ROUNDS THAT ARE GOING TO HAPPEN WITH THE CHASE, THE GUY WHO ENDS UP WINNING IT, HOW SATISFYING WILL THAT BE? EVERY COUPLE RACES YOU HAVE ANOTHER ELIMINATION.
JEFF GORDON: You do. But, I mean, if you’re leading the points, you’re going to move on, right? You don’t necessarily have to win a race, but you still have to compete at a high level.
I still think the best team is going to win this championship, just like they have back before they made the points change to the Chase and since they made the points change to the Chase. In the future, whatever points system is in place, I still think the best team is going to win.
The best teams know how to put themselves in position to have things go their way. I’m a big believer in if you’re that talented, you’re that good, you communicate that well, you have the resources, you’re going to find a way, no matter what the system is, to rise to the top.
JEFF GORDON: In which race? Any race? I think where it’s possibly going to change, you got to understand the mentality of a racecar driver is win. You don’t have to dangle a carrot out in front of us. With double-file restarts, closing laps, let’s say a guy is leading by two or three seconds when the caution comes out, you have this new life in you that, I can win this race. By the way, that win can lock me into the Chase pretty much.
There’s guys that are going to have just that thought on their mind, and that’s going to make you take a few more risks and push just a little bit harder because a win now has become more important than it was before.
So I don’t think you necessarily want to just say, I’m going to wreck it, it’s either a win or bring it back on the wrecker. I might not have that approach, but some guys might. You got to weigh that out.
The risk versus reward is what it’s always been about. And the reward for being consistent was very high in previous points systems. The reward for taking more risk is now greater, so guys are going to take more risk.
Q. WE’LL SEE A LOT MORE GUYS RUN OUT OF FUEL?
JEFF GORDON: You’ll see more people running out of fuel. You’ll see I think a little bit more bumping and banging on restarts and closing laps. The cars are still really stuck to the racetrack. That aspect is a little bit unknown.
But definitely, you know, this heightens things up a bit.
Q. THIS WILL BE THE 10TH SEASON FOR KYLE BUSCH IN CUP.
JEFF GORDON: Man, he’s getting old. Is he considered a veteran now (laughter)? No longer the kid. Okay, good.
Q. I WONDER HOW YOU’VE SEEN HIM EVOLVE OVER THOSE 10 YEARS (INDISCERNIBLE).
JEFF GORDON: He’s got a good memory, a better memory than I do. I just remember poking my head in the window and just saying, Man, that’s not really necessary right now. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but we don’t need to be three-wide out there in practice. There’s no good that’s going to come from it.
Also I think back to when I was young and coming into this sport, we got some great young talent coming up right now, rookies. That’s what I love about the young guys: their enthusiasm, their rawness. They’re just like young kids: you never know what is going to come out of their mouth or what they’re going to do.
It’s the same thing when they get in a racecar at that level. They don’t know exactly what to expect. They don’t have all this experience that’s sort of setting their mindset already for them. They’re just fresh, pushing the envelope, doing things unique and different.
I mean, that was Kyle being Kyle. If you asked Kyle, Would you still go do that today, I would guarantee he would say, No, I don’t see the benefits of it.
Q. WHAT IS KYLE BEING KYLE NOW?
JEFF GORDON: I think Kyle has learned. He’s still an aggressive driver, so it’s just how to make the most of that aggressiveness at the right time. It’s balancing the aggressiveness with patience.
I’ve always said that’s what makes a great racecar driver, is somebody that has the ability to be super aggressive. Now, of course, Kyle, you can guarantee if he’s behind you on a restart, he’s going to go and dust the wall and make it three- or four-wide. You just know that’s going to happen. He’s done it very successfully, so why wouldn’t he do it? He still has that in him. But it’s not every single restart and every single lap.
The best story I have is Alan Gustafson, when he was his crew chief, the frustration I could see on his face in debriefs or drivers meetings because they only got to practice half of the practice because the other half they were fixing the damage on the right side because Kyle constantly hit the wall, just brushing it. Darlington, boom. Richmond, boom. That shows you how far on the edge that Kyle was pushing it.
Now he does it once in a while but not every weekend.