|Jeff Gordon made his first career Sprint Cup start at Atlanta in 1992|
Following receiving a commemorative photo of the souvenir program art and bandolero from US Legend Cars for his two children Ella and Leo from Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark, Gordon made the following comments:
“That is amazing. I appreciate you not giving me anything. Leo is going to want to sleep in this thing at night. I have a feeling this might end up in his bedroom for a year or two before he can drive it. That is awesome. Thank you so much. I was watching practice earlier with Xfinity and I saw the ‘Thanks 24’ out there in the grass. It really put a big smile on my face. I appreciate all the effort you and your staff have done. Not just this weekend, but over all the years. You are right this is a very special place to me. I will certainly never forget that first race here. I will never forget that driver’s meeting. Do you remember that driver’s meeting? That was an amazing driver’s meeting. For it to be my first one in Cup and Richard’s (Petty) last one and the faces that were in there beyond just the drivers was pretty impressive. I know I have told this story many times; I still have that money clip that Richard handed out that day with my starting position. I wasn’t that proud at the moment because we started 21st, but I will remember that forever. I will always remember Atlanta Motor Speedway as one of my fondest, not only did I start my Cup career here, I won my very first at the time Busch Grand National race here. Luckily, Rick Hendrick happened to be here that day and watch. This place has done so much for me. Now look what it might do for Leo. Thank you.”
YOU MENTIONED THE XFINITY RACE YOU WON HERE IN THE SPRING OF 1992 BEFORE YOUR CUP START. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT THAT DAY? WHERE DO YOU RANK THAT WIN AS FAR AS A MILESTONE IN YOUR CAREER?
“It was a big one. Not only was it my first win in NASCAR, but there were no slouches that I was racing against that day. If I remember correctly it was Mark Martin, Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt, Sr., three guys that I had to battle with to win that race, not to mention some other Cup drivers as well as Busch Grand National drivers at the time. That was a big moment.
“Bill Davis Racing had really brought up their game as far as their race cars and primarily the horse power under the hood. This was the first chance that we had to really showcase that that year. We really struggled on the bigger tracks the year before that. We dominated those types of tracks in ’92. As I mentioned Rick Hendrick being here that day, I know there was a lot of controversy with me and Ford and Bill (Davis) moving forward not being with Bill. I can easily say now that it was the right decision to go with Hendrick Motorsports and I can honestly say that as grateful as I was for Bill and Ford at that time, my life and my career would not be the same if Rick Hendrick hadn’t of been calling me after that race.”
HAS ALAN GUSTAFSON GIVEN YOU ANY LIMITATIONS OR GUIDELINES AS FAR AS USING THE TRACK BAR ADJUSTER? HAVE YOU USED IT MUCH IN PRACTICE?
“I was talking on the radio to them and all of a sudden I saw the number on my dash going up because I was hitting that button as well. That is the only time I have used it so far. I am not really one to be big on moving the track bar around. It is nice to have a tool. You have to understand it moves very slow. It’s like almost five seconds for it to move an inch. It’s not like it’s a tool that you can use every corner or that you plan to use every lap. Some guys might use it more than others, but it is nice to have. I think as the season goes on we will get more and more comfortable with it. There will be certain tracks that you will want to adjust it more than others.
“You have to understand that these guys they put so much detail into the set-up’s. To get the set-up’s right so that the springs, shocks, the cross weight we have in, all those things that we have going on, bar load is to give the car a certain amount of grip. Going in the corner and doing something a little bit different as it loads in the middle of the corner and something different on the exit. Sometimes making that adjustment with the track bar can only hurt some of those other things instead of helping you. I really look at it as a tool of when you need something fairly major to happen. Other than that I don’t plan on adjusting it much. It is nice as that fuel burns to have something that can help you. I will let you know more after this weekend how much we play around with it, over the next five races especially.
“He hasn’t given me any guidelines, no. We have just discussed that we are going to do some runstomorrow by me adjusting it and go from there.”
YOU MENTIONED THAT ELLA WAS INTERESTED IN BEING A CELEBRITY. WOULD SHE EVER WANT TO GET IN A CAR? DO YOU THINK LEO WOULD ACTUALLY WANT TO DRIVE?
“I don’t think she is interested in being a celebrity. I think that she enjoyed the moments of celebrity that she has gotten. Who doesn’t like some attention? I think that for her it’s more of kids telling her at school. Being seven and eight years old that well you are not going to be on TV anymore after this year. I think that sort of took her back. But it’s been a good life lesson trying to teach her how to handle those types of situations. What were you asking about Leo?
WOULD HE EVER DRIVE THIS CAR (REFERRING TO THE BANDOLERO)?
“Well first of all Mom and Dad are going to have to figure out if he can because we did the quarter midget track last year a couple of times. Ella was ready to go. Leo is not quite ready, but I can see him being ready soon, but Mom and Dad were not ready for that. That was terrifying. This thing goes a lot faster than a quarter midget. As cool as this thing is it is going to be more on me getting my heart ready for it. We have ordered two quarter midgets this year because we do plan on doing more of it.
“When Leo is ready we have got one for him. I think that they are going to drive some cars I just don’t know where it all is going to go."
KYLE LARSON WAS IN HERE YESTERDAY TALKING ABOUT THE ADJUSTABLE TRACK BAR AND HOW HE KIND OF COMPARED IT TO HIS SPRINT AND MIDGET RACING DAYS. ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF THE SPRINT CUP CARS MOVING FORWARD TO HAVING MORE THINGS THAT THE DRIVERS CAN ADJUST?
“I am but I can promise you that on most of those adjustments, I’m going to defer back to the team and say, ‘Here’s what I’m feeling. What adjustment would you like me to make?’ The setups have gotten so advanced now that what I grew up racing with and what used to be common sense as to what works is not the case anymore. It’s the exact opposite. Everything you do today is about body attitude and aerodynamics, and that outweighs a lot of the mechanical grip things and tools you can use inside the car. I like having tools. It’s a way to sort of separate the competition a little bit. We’ve gotten into this common template where the cars are so much alike that it’s tough to find an edge. That’s one of the things I love about tracks like Atlanta. The edge comes from the tires wearing, the pace falling off and the groove moving around so you can separate yourself. There are some tracks where you don’t have that ability to move around. Really this track bar adjuster was created more for traffic. The cars are different in clean air versus dirty air. In dirty air, a lot of us are complaining about the cars being loose. They’re hoping that in traffic, that track bar adjuster will be beneficial. So I’m open to some of those ideas but I do think we need to take them one step at a time and not get too many options in there too quickly.”
YOU HEARD ABOUT THE 44 CAR GOING MISSING TODAY. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT TRAVIS (KVAPIL’S) TEAM IS GOING THROUGH?
“That’s tough. We had kind of a tough start to the day and had an issue with an oil heater and had to switch out some oil lines and the oil tank. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) was not real thrilled with how our morning started. I wanted to tell him that it could be a lot worse; your car could have been stolen last night. But I hate that for Travis and those guys. That’s a really, really bad way to get your weekend started. I hope they get they get to the bottom of it.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THIS TRACK, WHAT WAS THE GREATEST THING YOU LEARNED THAT HELPED YOUR CAREER?
“The track’s changed quite a bit over the years. I loved the configuration that I started with here and then they redid it with the pavement, and it was tough to get used to get used to that new configuration with the pace and the grip level. So I had to change and adapt to that. I really like how it started to wear out to get to where it is today. This type of track I really love. What you do on those tracks in these circumstances is you still work hard on getting the balance right but I love that you never get yourself locked into one particular place on the race track where you think you need to run. You need to search around and find things. I go back to the tools. We don’t really have tools in the car – now we have is the track bar adjuster. Prior to that, your tool was moving around and how you brake in the corner, how you use the throttle and how you get out of the throttle. I’ve always tried to be real smooth, manage the tires and not abuse the tires. But some of that also can be utilizing the track and the width it has. I still think Kevin Harvick is the best I’ve seen at going around the bottom and using the yellow line. I had to adapt to that last year to hang with him on one of the runs when I got loose running up top. I kind of think that when it comes to running at the top, that’s my bread and butter at this place. I’ve got a certain line in turns 3 and 4 that I use and sometimes I can make a different one work there, too. When those lines and the car is working for me and I hit it right, I feel like we’re almost unbeatable.”
WHAT HAS IT MEANT TO YOU TO SEE THE FANS AND HAVE THE TRACKS RECOGNIZE YOU FOR THE CAREER YOU’VE HAD?
“That’s been my favorite part of the season so far. I met with a group of fans earlier today, and just to hear their stories and share pictures – whether it is on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or in person – it’s amazing to experience that with them and it takes you back to those memories. Sometimes I remember those moments and sometimes I don’t. But definitely so far the highlight has been making the announcement and hearing the overwhelming praise from not just my peers but the fans and the media. That’s not really something you can anticipate or prepare for. There are a couple of times that it’s gotten me pretty choked up to think of all the things I’ve accomplished and the way people have viewed it over the years.”
GETTING BACK TO THE TOOLS IN THE CAR AND THE ADJUSTABLE TRACK BAR, DO YOU THINK THOSE TOOLS AND ADVANCEMENT CAN GET DRIVERS IN TROUBLE ON THE TRACK?
“By trouble, I hope you mean dial the car out because absolutely. When I was racing sprint cars, it was when the hydraulic wing adjusters really started to come on. We had one that went forward, back, left and right. You had two valves – one that moved it left and right, and the other that moved it front and back. I can remember being pretty good to start the race and wanted to make it a little bit better. I adjusted the wing and thought that was good and the next thing I knew I was going backward. Then you’re trying to figure out where it should be, what went wrong and what’s going to get you back. That can easily happen with the track bar. We have a nice readout on our dash that tells us where it’s at. You just have to read the plus and minus well or you can get yourself tuned out the wrong way. The adjuster has to work real well and not have the issue I had today where you can hit it too easily. I’m going to be using it very cautiously.
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