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Saturday Garage Blog:”Don’t Count Jeff Gordon Out – Ever!” August 16, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, Drivers, NASCAR, Trackside, Transcripts.
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Jeff Gordon in August 2007 a...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 (insidercbl@aol.com) 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.

Enjoy!

Claire B
MIS Saturday 3:32 p.m. EST

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BLOG breaking news MAJOR TIRE NEWS CONF TODAY – TIRE ISSUES TRANSCRIBE July 27, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, NASCAR, Trackside.
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2007 Allstate 400 at the BrickyardImage via WikipediaIndianapolis Motor Speedway
Race Day- Allstate 400 at The Brickyard

Claire B Lang – July 27, 2008 1:00 p.m.

Hey: Just about to head to the grid for the start of the race. I wanted to transcribe part of the news conference this morning regarding the tire issue so that you could read it. I finished most of it and am posting it now before running back into the garage and then to the grid.

The News Conference began at 10:00 a.m. EST this morning and was called this morning:

NASCAR Spokesman Jim Hunter: All of you probably know why we are here. The track improved between practices yesterday which is a good sign and once the field takes the track today – we think the track will get back to normal conditions. We’ll have a competition caution at lap 10 and we will evaluate and announce additional cautions if needed. As a contingency we have Pocono tires on hand. Goodyear is mounting back-up tires in an impound area. At 12 noon the teams will have access to the tires in an impound area. That’s only to prep them and everybody gets the same opportunity to prep them at the same time. The back up tires will remain in the impound area in the unlikely event we need them. Then all teams will be required to switch over at the same time. So at this time we are going to take questions. I think everyone knows the folks up here – Greg Stucker is Director of race tire sales for good year, Robin Pemberton is our VP of competition and Joey Chitwood is VP and General Manager…

Chitwood: ” President”

Hunter: “President…damn,”

Pemberton:” Let’s see how the day goes..”

(Loud laughter from the media audience)

Chitwood: “So I’m glad you could all join me for the F1 race today (laughter) I’m sorry 🙂

(More loud laughter)

Q: What’s the likelihood and I assume you are considering mandated intermittent cautions?

Pemberton: “This track surface and the tires – this is not anything that we don’t go through leading up to the race and for the most part early in the event. Jim stated that we’ll have a competition yellow at 10. We will evaluate how the tire wear comes. We’ll make a call on if it’s ten more laps or 15 or however we grow the green flag laps and we’ll make a call from there and see what we’ll have to do. It looks like it will be multiple competition cautions – at least two right now.

Q: What is the criteria used as to whether you get to the point of switching over to Pocono tires? Will it be NASCAR getting word from the teams that they have gone through most of their Indy tire supply?

Pemberton: Exactly. We’re going to monitor that. The teams will have the opportunity for about ten sets when it all unfolds. We know that a number of teams yesterday didn’t run all their tires so that inventory has gone into their race sets so there are many teams that are out there with 12 sets of tires without getting another set. We’re going to monitor the wear and the laps that we can run and early on we’ll be able to make a call as to how far we will be able to go with the Indy tires. If the wear characteristics do not improve enough…ahm once again it’s not unlike everything we deal with at this particular place getting the track rubbered in so like I said we started with about 5 or 6 laps in the first practice , got to about 10 yesterday in the second practice so we anticipate that it will fix itself and we’ll make that call early on – we’re going to have a good plan.

Q: If the field is going to be switched to Pocono tires will you simply red flag the race and bring everybody in at the same time – and make them switch then – how will the mechanics of that work?

Pemberton: “If it gets to that point. It will be a caution and the teams will already have had their tires up in their pit area. It will be similar to if we had rain tires or dry tires. We will make a call..all the current Indy tires will come out of the pit area and we will issue the Pocono tires and everyone will be on the same tires at the same time.

Q: You guys have mentioned before and we’ve heard talk in the garage about how this is not an unusual situation for this track how we’ve been through it before. But if we’ve been through it before and if you guys came in and had a tire test then why are we sitting here having this press conference.

Pemberton: “We have been through this before but one of the things that has changed is that we have a new car. And as everybody understands the car loads right side tires different than what we’ve run over the last 15 or 20 years. We had a chance to tire test here and when you come to tire test and you only have two three or four cars – it’s difficult to rubber in the race track. Obviously you’ve seen it with 43 cars out there yesterday -it’s still difficult to rubber in but it does happen. So this being the first event on this car and I think the way the tires have extra load on them – we have had tire improvements the cars do handle good and I think they are doing a great job with it and next year under different circumstances and test policies we will probably see some improvement early on.

Stucker: “Just to reiterate, I mean we have seen an improvement. If you look at history last year the actual number of tires that people used was well within what they have available to them now so being we run a very similar tire and using the same right side compound we expect that same thing to happen so we’ll be fine once we get into the race.

Drivers Meeting:

The drivers meeting was relatively quiet. The above (tire issue) was mentioned.

Pit Road Speed: 55 mph
Caution Car Speed: 70 mph
Pit Road Speed Begins: 180 feet before the first pit box
Pit Road Speed Ends: 150 feet past the last pit box
Minimum Speed: 56.16 seconds

I’ll be back with more later. I wanted to get this posted ASAP.

Claire B

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