Good Ol' Boys - NASCAR

Winston 500 Teleconference Transcript with Jeff Gordon and Robbie Loomis

October 17, 2000


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JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) ďConsidering all the changes weíve made and the struggles we had earlier in the season, Iím pretty proud of the way weíve come through some of the not so good runs and the way that weíve really come around here recently with some good finishes, some good qualifying efforts and itís very promising for what weíre looking to do during the off season to get prepared for next year. I think one thing we learned earlier in the year is that qualifying is very important. Track position this year has been tough to come by, so we focused on qualifying. We got our qualifying package better. We started working on keeping the race car up front. We learned a lot about the new Monte Carlo, getting more horsepower. There have been new setups that have come along. Those things we had in the past just donít work the way they used to, so I think just knowing weíre prepared and maybe even getting ahead instead of being as far behind as we were when we started this season. We have a pretty good idea of where weíre going. The communication process with Robbie and myself and the team, our pit crew is solid, basically the whole team is becoming solid right now and thatís what we look forward to getting started next year.

ďI do enjoy racing at Rockingham. Itís one of my favorite tracks. I like tracks that have a bottom groove, have a top groove, a lot of different ways to get around the race track. As a driver, if your car is not working in one place you can maybe search around the race track and find a place that works well. I look at how we ran there earlier in the year and we qualified well, but we struggled with getting the grip and traction up off the corner. Right now, Iím looking forward to a lot of places because I just really feel like weíve hit on some things with our bodies, weíve hit on some things with our setups, horsepower is there, communication is there, weíre just trying to build on some consistency and some good runs. I feel like Rockingham is one of those places we can do that.

ďIím still trying to catch my breath from Talladega. That was probably one of the most intense races Iíve ever run, just never a second to breathe and to relax which typically you do get every once in awhile at a two and a half or 2.66-mile race track. I canít say that that was the most enjoyable race I ever drove. I think it was definitely probably one of the most enjoyable races for me once it was over because I knew it was a great race. I knew it was a great race for the fans. There was a lot of action, a lot of passing going on there. I get paid to do a job. Going to Talladega and running three or four wide all day long is part of my job, and I race with however the rules are. I felt like the drivers did a good job using their heads for the most part. There were times out there I thought we were going to have a big wreck, but we didnít. If we can continue to use our heads like we did there on Sunday, we can continue to go by these rules and have great races there.

ďI think I was more in shock that I was having as much success as I was because I knew that it would end. You donít have that type of success and think that itís going to continue on forever. Even if we had made no changes this year and Ray Evernham was still there, it was getting tougher and tougher for us to dominant the way we did. There are just times when you hit on things. You put a team together and it gels and it comes together and goes extremely well. You try to hold on to it as long as you can. We did that, and now itís time to move on, rebuild and try to get that back and hold on to it as long as we can if we get it back.

ďIn some ways, yeah, itís been a different type of year for me. Iíve been more involved with the team, more involved with the decision making, just seeing it grow, seeing it come together has been very satisfying for me. Iíve also learned not to judge my happiness and my peace of mind on what happens on Sunday because you know not every weekend are you going to be happy with your results on the race track. Iíve just come to realize that racing is a part of my life, but it doesnít run my life. I have had a great year. Iíve enjoyed myself many times this year, but not all of them have been on Sunday. Youíve got to take the good with the bad.

ďI donít think weíre really looking at any major changes. We just need to look and find our weaknesses. Weíve already done a lot of that this year. Earlier in the year we werenít running competitive enough. The car just didnít handle, didnít feel the way I wanted it to feel, didnít have the balance. Some of that was the way I was driving the car, and some of it was how we set up the car and how we put bodies on the car. Just the same way we make fine tune adjustments throughout the season, weíll continue to do that during the off season. I donít see any major changes coming along unless we get the OK to make some changes on the body of our Monte Carlo. I think there are definitely some ways we can improve it.

ďIíve said all along that Daytona is night and day to Talladega. I know a lot of people find that hard to believe, but it really is a different place. Daytona, the corners are much sharper, the way you turn the car through the corners, you use a lot more steering wheel, which makes the handling of the car much more important. Thatís where weíre really going to have to focus for Daytona. I think these rules can be good for Daytona because I think we need something like that. Maybe even the one-inch restrictor plate might be good for Daytona. I just donít think they go hand in hand. You canít have the same thing at Daytona that you have at Talladega. The closing rate wonít be near as fast (at) Daytona as it was at Talladega. The biggest thing the teams have to adjust to is how to get the car to be comfortable and handle well in a large pack. Thatís really why thereís not as much passing at Daytona. Itís because the handling goes away and even if you gain momentum and get a run on the guy in front of you, if you get underneath him you canít stay in the throttle because your car is going to drift up the track. Trying to find that happy medium is going to be tough, but I thought we had a good handle on it with all that testing that we did to come up with these rules. They were really designed for Daytona, not necessarily for Talladega.

ďIt was good to see him (Dave Marcis) up there (at Talladega). There were times I could tell that Dave had not been up in the top five or 10 in awhile in a draft like that. You can tell when thereís guys who have a lot of experience like Earnhardt working the draft and working in traffic. Then sometimes you can tell some guys who havenít, but I know it was a good experience for him. It was great to see a guy like Dave, who has been around this sport for so long, running that well. I hope that we see it more in the future.

ďYou just try to spend more time with your family and friends and try to take a day off a week. Monday, I always spend time with Brooke and we go do things that are totally as far away from racing as possible. Sometimes we wonít even think or talk about the race coming up or the race we just run. Also, with the very few number of off weekends we have, I try to mark days off on the calendar to go take a vacation, get away and relax. Itís getting tougher and tougher all the time. There are more demands, thereís going to be more races next year. Trying to do the same number of appearances and things I have for my sponsors now and try to do Ďem next year when we have less to do Ďem is going to be tough, but to me, I think one of the most important things I do throughout the off season is planning and scheduling ahead and making sure I have enough time to do the things Iím required to do -- testing, racing and the things for the sponsors and fans -- and also making sure I have enough time to get away and relax and trying to balance it out. Thatís the most important thing.Ē

ROBBIE LOOMIS (Crew chief No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) ďItís been real exciting for me. The great part coming into it was I knew I was getting one of the greatest drivers out there. Brian (Whitesell) had been with the team since they started the deal, so I was getting to work with a guy who had won the three championships along with them, so that made the transition a lot easier.

ďTerrible, after starting dead last. I think I had the best speedway day and the worst speedway day of my life between Friday and Saturday, but it was really exciting. I said I needed oxygen after the race (at Talladega). It was like every lap you just didnít know what to do. We started the race and I think in like 11 or 12 laps Jeff took the lead, and I was like, Ďthat starting position (last) wasnít so bad after all.í Before youíd know it youíd get shuffled back to 15th or 20th. For the most part, I think NASCAR really accomplished what they wanted as far as a lot of lead changes and passing. It was exciting. I probably havenít been that tense at a race in a while.

ďIt keeps getting more and more demanding. Itís like each year when they add races we have always stuck with the same system weíve had for working the people preparing the cars. Brian and I have been talking about that a lot lately. I think heís working on scheduling stuff right now. How do we give these guys more of a break and how do we get a little break ourselves and still be able to keep the intensity level and focus in it? Thatís what weíre looking at right now, trying to be able to find that balance. Basically, when you make the decision to come into Winston Cup racing, itís your life and you have to love it and you have to enjoy it. Iíve learned to enjoy every moment and not just wait for an off weekend or wait until I get out of the race track. If Iím at the race track, Iím going to enjoy it while Iím there. I think that makes it a lot easier.

ďOne of the greatest things, looking at the race the other day, it brought back memories of how the races used to be before the restrictor plates. It brought back some of those feelings about how a guy could pass and not really knowing until the last lap who was going to win the race, or really right there through the tri-oval before it was decided. It is a tough balance because you want to keep the drivers safe, and thatís one of our main concerns right now is how can we keep making things safer for these guys in the sport.

ďWeíre going to be trying to do some off track testing, but mainly weíll be spending some time in the wind tunnel and on the chassis dyno trying to figure out where we can get better with these Chevrolet Monte Carlos. Thatís going to be the biggest thing. Weíre working hard on the schedule and stuff, trying to figure out how we can get a weekly schedule for the guys so they can get a life to take care of their stuff and all they need so theyíll be fresh and ready to go when we get to the race track on Friday.

ďWeíre going to get ready to win Phoenix. Really, Iíll probably go golfing (on off weekend) and just take a break, not wake up at 5:30. I might sleep until 6:30.

ďWeíve kicked around all sorts of ideas like that of having a crew thatís just for the race track, having a crew just for the shop. Weíve talked about mixing them and itís really hard. When you get to the race track, youíve got one hour of practice or two hours of practice before qualifying. Thatís when you have to be the most efficient, so it really helps if you keep the same guys together. Right now, weíre really kicking around a lot of different ideas thatís going to balance it out where everybody can still accomplish things and have a family life, too.

ďRight now, I donít think so. Iím not anticipating it (testing in December). There hasnít been a lot of rumblings about it. I think they were pretty happy with the results of the race. I think theyíll go to the wind tunnel and look at the results from that and they might make a rule change and then look at everything in January, but as far as a December test, I havenít heard anything on that.Ē

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