Saturday Garage Blog:”Don’t Count Jeff Gordon Out – Ever!” August 16, 2008Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, Drivers, NASCAR, Trackside, Transcripts.
Tags: claire b lang, jeff gordon, Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR, Sprint Cup Series, Transcripts, XM Radio
Image via Wikipedia Claire B. Lang
Saturday Garage Blog:
Michigan International Speedway – August 16, 2008
“Don’t Count Jeff Gordon Out – Ever!”
I’m here in the media center at MIS. I promised I’d post a transcript of what Jeff Gordon had to say when I asked him the questions you have been asking me on air and in email (firstname.lastname@example.org) about his team’s performance which has not been catastrophic yet -but not up to tradition especially at specific tracks where his fans expect a ray of light.
As always, which is a great thing about Gordon, is that when I went searching of an answer – he was open to answering a lot of questions – and for a man who is 6th in points headed into this race I don’t think that he’s in a crisis position. “Never rule Jeff Gordon out,” is what everyone in the garage, from his teammates to his fellow competitors will say when asked and I agree. But with so many callers asking me and wondering what I think I felt it was time to go ask him. You know it’s not like me to answer for the driver -I’d rather go ask him so that I’m fair and not making up as I go along with what I think he’d say.
Jeff answered everything and it was helpful (see post below). When I told Jeff that some of the fans feel that a champion like him should be able to drive through an ill handling race car – compensating for the lack of handling despite the challenges he didn’t want to comment. That ,he said, was best reserved for the way that the team handles issues which is internally. Later in the transcript he explained why. Gordon is not the type to slam his team – nor does he want to be lectured on how to drive a race car – not by the fans and not by anyone. I don’t blame him. No one except the guy behind the wheel, least of all the well intentioned who are fans of his, or not, but have never driven a race car or his race car.
Here’s the transcript of is answers. Most of the questions were mine – other reporters standing by added some good questions……
CBL: LATELY I’VE BEEN GETTING A LOT OF CALLS ABOUT EITHER STEVE (LETARTE) OR YOUR PERFORMANCE, IT’S REALLY YOUR FANS THEY LOVE YOU BUT THEY ARE GETTING UP ON THE EDGE OF THE WHEEL, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? “You got to love them for that but at the same time it’s a competitive sport. We focus on everything from how internal communication is, how people are doing their jobs. If making a change was going to fix it then there might have been changes, but that’s not the issue. I think Steve Letarte is doing an awesome job. I feel like last week was not a great performance for us. We’ve had that happen this year. It’s just been one of those years. I believe in what we have. There’s areas where we’re looking to getting stronger and better. The fans have to just be patient and I remind everybody of what we did last year.
“We were an awesome race team last year. Had one of the best years that I’ve ever had and Steve was the guy that was guiding that ship so I believe one hundred percent in him. Your confidence gets down and a lot of things happen. Performances aren’t always there and it’s the toughest thing to rebound from that and that’s kind of the situation we’re in right now. We’re working really hard. We tested this week in Kentucky and we just continue to work hard at it.”
CBL: HOW FAR OFF YOU? THEY SAID THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE FAR OFF TO BE WAY OFF. “Not with this car. You can actually have a good car and just lose track position and be done. That was a combination of what happened to us last week. We weren’t very good there at the beginning on the long run and then we had the radio problem. We lost a lot of track position and it’s just so hard to make it up. We didn’t have enough cautions to work on the car.
“All those things contributed to the type of day we had not to mention Robby Gordon spinning me out on the last lap. My favorite part about it was Mark Martin sending me a text, he said hey man we had a tough day but its tough days that make you appreciate the good ones a lot more. You know he’s so right and I appreciated that very much. That’s the way we think and focus.”
Reporter: IS THERE ANY ONE THING THAT CAN HAPPEN FOR YOU GUYS TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER? “Again, even though we’ve been hit or miss this year, I feel like those last ten races are all good tracks for us other than Texas. Texas is a track that has been our Achilles heel and we’re going to work hard to try to fix that. When you’re looking at a deficit of eighty or ninety points going into it from the way Kyle Busch has been running this year, that’s a lot to overcome. We know we need some bonus points before we start that Chase and all our focus is on is racing hard and trying to get those wins and get the best finishes that we can.”
CAN YOU TAKE A GAMBLE OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS IF THAT WIN IS THERE FOR YOU? “No, we’re not in a position to take a gamble right now. We’re in a tricky position right now because we have one or two bad finishes where we could find ourselves very easily slipping back and not be secure going into Richmond. We want to be secure going into Richmond and so these next couple of weeks if we put good finishes together then we might be in a position to take some more risks. I say risks, it’s experimenting with things that you’re testing, its taking gambles on pit strategy calls, those types of things.”
HOW MUCH ARE YOU WATCHING POINTS NOW? “I pay attention to it. I try not to get too caught up in it because it doesn’t change how we approach things every weekend unless you have a big points lead or if you’re on the outside of the top twelve. If you’re on the outside of the top twelve you’re going for broke right now. You’re taking gambles. When you’re up front, you got nothing to lose. We were in that position last year. Right now we’re pretty much just kind of doing what we normally do which is go out there race hard, clean and put the best average finish we can together.”
REGARDLESS OF YOU ARE FINISHING POSITION, WHEN YOU GET OUT OF THE CAR SUNDAY WHAT DO YOU NEED THAT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE MAKING PROGRESS AND HAVE SUCCESS ON SOME OF THESE BIGGER TRACKS? “I think that it’s being able to get to the front. I feel like if you’re talking about us being in championship position we got to go out there and lead a lot of laps and being in contention. It doesn’t necessarily mean we have to win the race which we do need the bonus points. We need to be out front, competitive, contending for the lead and then plan the pit strategy right. All those other things have been good for us, pit stops, communication and the pit strategy. We just lacked a couple of things, track position.
“If you have a car that’s working good you could take a few more gambles to maintain the track position. If your car is not good enough then you’ve got to work on it and put four tires on it. That’s what we need this week is a good enough car to be able to stay out or take two tires and do some of those things that are paying off for those other guys.”
IS THAT MORE HANDLING OPPOSED TO HORSEPOWER? “When have we ever complained about horsepower? Horsepower is not an issue with us, not at all. Power is good.”
CBL: YOU ARE GOOD AT WEATHERING TOUGH TIMES BECAUSE YOU’VE SEEN IT BEFORE
“Yeah, as I get older, it gets a little bit more difficult. Every race, every year, is crucial and important and you want to do well and you feel like you’ve got the team capable of doing well and it’s always frustrating. It’s just how you show it. I feel like if I go stomping my feet and throwing things around here, it doesn’t make me run good. It doesn’t make it any better. So going back to the fans talking and calling in and stuff, the reason why I don’t really respond to that is because we respond to it internally. We deal with it internally, like any good business should. When you start getting into trying to explain to outsiders, it doesn’t make it any better. I only hope that our fans support me and Steve and the whole team, and I know that they are. They just want us to do good. The funniest thing happened to me in 2000. I had a fan come up to me and said you need to tell Robbie Loomis he needs to get that thing going! And I said, ‘Hey, trust me. We’ve got as much on the line as anybody.’ And he goes, ‘I’m losing a lot of money on all my bets every weekend, because I pick you every weekend.’ And that’s when it hit me how far the fans take it and why they take it so avidly for many different reasons. It could be that type of situation or it could be just that they’ve been a longtime fan and their pride is on the line. But I still promise you, we all have a lot more on the line than anybody else.”
YOU SAID YOU DON’T STOMP AROUND. IS THERE EVER A TIME WHEN THAT MIGHT BE NEEDED FOR A TEAM?
“No, I meant I don’t stomp around and throw things out here (laughter). I do plenty of that. Don’t worry. We handle things the way that I feel like is productive. And you don’t just turn the other cheek. You don’t deny what’s going on. You face it head on. Everybody handles it professionally and you can only have the type of relationship like Steve and I have, where we don’t take things personally. He can criticize me and I can criticize him and we only want to get better and know that he’s the leader of this team and I’m the best tool that he can possibly have to help make the car better. And I have a responsibility; he has a responsibility, and that’s where our focus is.”
CBL: WHAT’S COOL IS THAT YOUR TEAM ISN’T EATING ITSELF UP ON THE INSIDE
”No, we’re very fortunate in that sense. We’re not having a terrible year, you know? It’s frustrating because I know we’re capable of running better and we should be. But we still are sixth in the points. We’ve been outside of the Chase before, so we’ve had worse years. So it’s nothing that we need to start quitting our jobs and moving to other teams and all of that type of things. It’s nothing like that. And we’re fortunate that when we do have tough seasons that our guys don’t leave. We’re still able to continue to get quality people at our organization and that’s what gets us through the tough times.”
So, that’s what he’s saying. He’s cool as can be – no sense of stress or lack of confidence that the team will figure it out. I have talked with the team and they are confident that they will find the answers and rebound because that is what this team does. My guess is that they will be ok – they have too good a driver and too many resources not to get over this speed bump.
Back with more later…I wanted to get this up and to you since I promised.
Hope all of you are enjoying the weekend. The weather is exceptional here. This is such a beautiful part of the country.
MIS Saturday 3:32 p.m. EST