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An interview with Robby Gordon and David Gilliland

 

June 20, 2006

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Robby Gordon


THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, welcome to today's NASCAR Nextel Cup Series teleconference.  This is in advance of Sunday's race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.  That's the Dodge Savemart 350, which is one of two road course events on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series schedule.  A great opportunity for the media on the line today with two Californians as our guests.

Our first guest, arguably the best road racer in all of NASCAR, Robby Gordon of Bellflower, Cal.  He drives the No, 7 Jim Beam Menards MAPEI Chevrolet.  At 12:30 or so, we'll be joined by David Gilliland of Chino Hills.  He drives the No. 184 Chevrolet Hype Manufacturing in the NASCAR Busch Series.  He comes off one of most stunning victories in recent NASCAR national series history.  He won the NASCAR Busch Series race this past Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.  This week David is going out to Sonoma trying to make his first start in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.  He'll be in the No. 72 Dutch Quality Stone Dodge. 

We'll open up today with Robby Gordon.  You were second in Sonoma in '01, you won there in '03, if you could just open up by talking about how confident you are when you go to Sonoma and later in the season to the other road course at Watkins Glen.

ROBBY GORDON:  Our road race program has been good for the last five years.  I know we only have a couple wins but we did finish second; I think we finished 12th or 13th at Sonoma. Just to get the facts straight, I am from Orange, California, instead of from Bellflower. That's just hometown. 

Q.  There was a lot of talk at Pocono how Denny Hamlin used video games to learn how to get around a track he had never seen, and he said that he plans to use the video games again this week to get ready for Sonoma.  Have you ever used video games to help you do a lot of different types of racing?

ROBBY GORDON:  I have played video games before, but I don't know how the drivers feel it could be the same on a video game to what we're racing this current day in NEXTEL Cup.  I mean, when a 25 pound spring roller makes a difference on how the car handles, a video game would be pretty hard to learn and drive from.  Hey, if it's working for him, maybe I need to take it up. But I haven't used it in the past, ever.  I know we have simulation programs for setting up a chassis and stuff like that, that's the closest thing to a video game, but I don't know anything about the driving it to learn the racetracks. 

Q.  Do you think NASCAR champions have common traits and abilities, and can you identify a few? 

ROBBY GORDON:  Well, NASCAR champions, I'm sure they have the same common traits, and that's being a race car driver and someone that understands race cars really good and has been to the tracks enough to learn what it takes to competitive.  I think the common traits that they all have is, you know, it's a team sport, and when they win a championship, they have a great team behind them.  They have a good crew chief, they have a good pit crew, nowadays they have good engineering staffs. 

The sport has changed, but at the same time, it's the same thing.  It's still race cars, and it's getting the most out of the race car package that you can on every given Sunday, and the guy that does it the most consistent, wins, that's it. I think that the common themes they have is they have always been with a good team, it's not just one person on the team that makes a difference to win the championship. 

Q.  Going to a road course, do you think this might be a chance for your team to break out and really show what they have got?

ROBBY GORDON:  Well, we've had some good runs this year.  Unfortunately we haven't delivered when it came time to finish the race.  You know, we had good runs, our mile and a half program has been pretty good, but then we have had some mechanicals that we've made some mistakes there and we've learned from those mistakes.  You know, the road course, finished 18th last weekend, it's not that good, but when you look at it, there's 25 guys that can win on pretty much any given Sunday.  Any time you can race inside the Top 10, you've got a shot at winning, and that's going to be finishing the race without any problems and if we do that we definitely have the potential of winning.

Q.  ... (line drop) ... considering what they are up against as far as the technology and everything?

ROBBY GORDON:  Well, you can call it a fluke if you want, but you can go back the other way and you can say that, like I said in one of the first questions, they are just race cars.  And I think we try to out trick ourselves and overdo every piece of the equation.  I mean, I'd be willing to bet that that race team has never saw a car in the wind tunnel.  If they have, it has not been more than one or two times.  It's a good, sound race car that had good mechanical grip and that's a 1.3 mile racetrack? 

Q.  One and a half, I think. 

ROBBY GORDON:  That's quite an accomplishment.  I think that's really, really cool.  And I think, you know, for teams like myself, I know we won Busch races, I think it took us 20 races to win, and they did it in seven.  And you know, it proves that if you do the basics right, you can still be competitive in this sport.  You look at all of the tools and all of this things that these teams have today to go race the NEXTEL Cup, you don't need 90 percent of them, because it's more tools to get you in trouble with. 

Q.  As a follow up to that question a little bit, you know, the Cup guys, the drivers and the owners have kind of caught a lot of flak this year for the number of guys that have kind of come in and really kind of taken away your true Busch Series driver, per se.  Do you think that's just because of, you know, the more lap time, because, you know, it's more sponsorship dollars that are out there?  And do you see it hurting the series, or kind of what is your take on what everybody has said about that situation?

ROBBY GORDON:  Well, I think it helps the series.  You can't that I that having Kevin Harvick or Kurt  Busch or whoever happens to drive on the Busch Series on any given Sunday; followers, as far as the followers who watch racing, you know, they watch because those guys are playing.  What it does is it helps bring attention to the Busch regulars when they are there because they are racing against maybe some of the fans' heroes.  You know, they are beating those guys or they are competitive against them. 

I think without having the Cup guys there, obviously the attendance ratings and media following to that series will be less.  And without that, that would be even less funding and sponsorship for the Busch regular teams as well.

Q.  Do you think that really your true Busch Series driver is kind of almost a thing of the past, considering pretty much most of your teams, it's either a development driver from a Cup team or a Cup team coming down and just running some Busch races? 

ROBBY GORDON:  Well, David Gilliland, that's a pure Busch team that's up and running and now has won a race.  Heck, I think it had HYPE on the hood of it, but it didn't have anything on the quarterpanels.  That's just cool. 

Q.  You mentioned two or three of those things, that 90 percent were not needed.  Can you give us an example of what those things are? 

ROBBY GORDON:  Where do I start?  400 employees, I think, what did they say, they had 17 people on their team completely?  We look at our one Cup team right now, and I know they are not running a full season and that had a lot to do with it, but we are 50 something employees now at our place.  I don't know, that's just I think the true racers just came out in that deal there and that was just really cool. 

You know, there are so many things and we talked about this, back at IndyCars, when you have engineers like we have in our sport today, it gives us so many tools to play with, and there's so many adjustments you can put on these cars to be competitive and to make the car do certain things as far as handling, etc.  You know, you just you've got to pick the right pieces and you've got to pick the right adjustments.  And you can't get confused and think that the trick of the week is always going to make you faster and win races.  You know, I'm sure that was pretty much a standard Hopkins chassis, I think TEI still uses Hopkins' chassis.  I know RCR did and they win races, too. You know, there's a lot of things that you can do to get confused in the sport, as well. 

THE MODERATOR:  Robby, best of luck to you, although obviously you don't need luck on road courses, but best of luck anyway.  Hope to see you soon. 

We've been joined give David Gilliland, very happy to have him on the call.  This has been his week.  He won this past week at Kentucky Speedway in the NASCAR Busch Series race.  David is going to be trying to make his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start at Sonoma where he has some history, 2004, David won there in the NASCAR Southwest Series.  He also won the 2005 Toyota All Star Showdown at Irwindale, California, which was his biggest victory to date prior to this past Saturday night of course.  David, three days later, are you still feeling pretty excited about what happened Saturday night at Kentucky? 

DAVID GILLILAND:  Oh, yeah, this morning I woke up and asked myself if it was all true.  It's been a dream come true for us.  We've worked our whole lives for that and an opportunity like this.  It's just really opened a lot of doors for us I think.  It's just been great for our team.  We've been running unsponsored and hopefully this will help bring some attention our way. 

THE MODERATOR:  You really held them off down the stretch there, and it was actually toward the latter stages of this race it was almost looking easy up there, but I know it wasn't easy. 

DAVID GILLILAND:  Yeah, it's not easy.  We build our own motors and do a lot of that stuff.  Since we're a new team, running against those guys is never easy, but from the lap that we unloaded our race car there at Kentucky, our car was really, really good from the first lap.  We fine tuned it a little bit and it was just a perfect weekend.  You know, the car was really good, and I adapted very well to the track, even though I've never even seen it before Friday.  So we adapted very well and everything just went our way. 

Q.  This attempt to qualify for the Cup race this weekend, was that something that you had already planned on doing before your victory, and is this your first attempt to make a NEXTEL Cup race? 

DAVID GILLILAND:  Yes, it is it is something that I've had planned prior.  I've had it planned for probably about a month and a half now.  We've been working on the car and we're looking forward to really going to Sonoma again.  I ran pretty good there in some Southwest Tour stuff.  We had a victory and I'm really looking forward to going back there.  Yes, it is my first NEXTEL Cup attempt and hopefully, you know, with everything last weekend, we'll be able to go out there.  We've got a lot of interviews lined up.  It was really good.  Everything kind of worked out really good and good timing to be there. 

Q.  If you could address now Jerry Nadu (ph) was able to help you with last week's win, and also does that win in the Busch Series help you gain any sponsorship or needed dollars for this weekend at the NEXTEL Cup race?

DAVID GILLILAND:  Jerry Nadu has helped me a bunch.  Clay Andrews, who I drive for, is my Busch car owner.  He hired Jerry to be a coach and to go to a lot of these tracks that I've never been to.  He's really helped me a lot to give me a lot of little pointers. I can't put enough emphasis on how important it is to have a guy like Jerry at a track.  We go out and practice at a place like Kentucky, and I can go five laps, put my window down, reach out and ask him a question and have an answer in two minutes, because he's been there and done that.  So it's really been great and I think, you know, he's part of our such rapid success with our team.  It's been really great having a guy like that.  He's got a lot of experience and he's really helped me a lot.

Q.  Did that win help you gain anything as far as sponsorship or any other needed items for this week's attempt in the NEXTEL Cup?

DAVID GILLILAND:  This week for the NEXTEL Cup I'm driving for a different team, it's CMJ Racing, not Clay Andrews Racing.  So really they already had their stuff kind of set aside for the Nextel Cup weekend. But for our Busch Series team, it has drawn a lot of attention and we've gotten a lot of phone calls, and hopefully we can secure something to go on the side of our race car so we don't have to run it there anymore. 

Q.  Talk a little about your dad, people who haven't been around the sport or a long probably don't know a lot about them, but talk about him and the influence, his influence on you as far as your racing career goes. 

DAVID GILLILAND:  He really helped me a lot when I was younger.  I grew up around racing, so I thank him very much for that obviously and being around it every week from the first time as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to race and growing up around him racing he give me the ability to work on the cars and go to the track and kind of learn how things work. Then when I was 18, I split away and did my own thing.  I started racing for somebody else and got my own deal going.  But he's always there to he don't come to a lot of the races but he's a phone call away and always calls when we do something.  He's always there to support us. 

Q.  He really captured what Southwest Racing really was; is there something to there that mentality that you absorbed from watching him pretty much as an independent try to break into the big leagues of NASCAR?

DAVID GILLILAND:  Absolutely.  He won the championship in 1997.  I was his crew chief at that time.  That was a big deal for us.  The reason we got there was because of hard work and determination, and that is one thing that I got from him.  And always he always told me:  You know if you work hard enough, you can get anything you want with hard work.  Our win on Saturday night was a true testament to that, I feel.  Our team didn't win because we spent the most money and didn't win because we had the most horsepower, we didn't win because of our pit stops.  We won because everybody on our team is 150 percent dedicated to what they do and our race team.  It's good for NASCAR to show that hard work and a little guy can still come through and get it done. 

Q.  Your car has it been through the wind tunnel a lot, sort of where it did come from and what have you done to it?

DAVID GILLILAND:  The car we raced out there, when we got started, we moved into our race shop here in North Carolina on January 15 of this year and we bought four used cars, and this particular car we bought was from Michael Waltrip Racing.  It has not been to the wind tunnel.  We have a local guy here in North Carolina put a body on it for us and we've just kind of massaged on it and fine tuned the best we could on it. 

It's pretty amazing, actually.  Chevrolet called us today and told us we won there the race we won this weekend was their 300th Busch Series win.  So big as it was for me to get my first win, it was big for Chevrolet to get their 300th win.  They stepped up and they can help our team a little bit more and possibly give us some opportunity to go to the wind tunnel.  So we're excited about doing that, and we think we will be able to make our program better with it.  But as of, you know, prior to now, we have not been able to do that.

THE MODERATOR:  Some quick stats on Butch Gilliland, David's dad.  He made 10 starts in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup between 90 and '99.  He made 12 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series between '95 and '97.  As was mentioned, he was the 1997 NASCAR West Series Champion. 

Q.  Can you talk about how you and Clay Andrews got together, what was that like, and stuff like that.

DAVID GILLILAND:  I had raced against them.  He started with the Grand National West Team last year and they ran one race and they ran really good and they caught my attention.  They actually qualified second and I qualified third, and I was pretty impressed with their operation and for them to just be able to come in and do this. 

So at that time we were running the full series.  Towards the end of the year I had heard that they let their driver go and I gave Clay a call and he never called me back.  I just continued on racing at Marin in Bakersfield, California, and I won the final race there, the final October Classic and Clay was there in the stands.  Well, he called me Sunday morning the day after and asked me to drive for him.  And ever since then, we've had a really good relationship and he's given me a good opportunity here.  I brought a lot of my guys to his team and together we've been able to accomplish quite a bit. 

Q.  Does the victory and everything surrounding it, does it change any of the Busch plans later in the year, or are you adding any races, anything like that? 

DAVID GILLILAND:  We'd like to add races, but like I said, Clay Andrews has been doing this deal out of his pocket for seven months.  And our original plan was to run 20 races and that's kind of what we're sticking to as of right now, unless we can get sponsorship, which you know hopefully will happen.  We've got a lot of attention from this win, and it's been a pretty big deal, bigger than I ever imagined. 

Q.  Have you gotten any phone calls from any maybe NEXTEL Cup owners or anything like that yet?

DAVID GILLILAND:  Yeah, I have, actually.  I've gotten some pretty good phone calls, pretty neat.  You know, you race your whole life for an opportunity and to try and succeed in NASCAR racing.  To see it all coming true before your eyes is a pretty amazing sight. 

Q.  You must have learned a lot with the Busch win.  Do you believe the driver learning curve ever has an end point?

DAVID GILLILAND:  No, I don't.  I think for me it don't anyway.  Every time I race, I learn something.  For instance, the week before, a month before, we went to Lowe's Motor Speedway and we missed the race.  We missed the race, but we learned something and we took that to Kansas and we won. Every time you race, you learn.  And that's what I like about racing against the NEXTEL Cup guys in the Busch Series is that it pushes you to learn more and it's made me a better driver, and that's why I race, to be the best driver I can be.  So racing against them guys and learning every week we race, that's what it's all about. 

Q.  We were trying to figure out actually which short tracks around the inland empire of southern California you had raced on, so I was going to ask you if there was any you haven't raced on around the area? 

DAVID GILLILAND:  No, I mean, we've raced El Cajon, Orange Show, Bakersfield, Irwindale, the dirt tracks, we raced Imperial Speedway (ph), we raced quite a bit of them out there, dirt and asphalt. 

Q.  And the other thing I was wondering is some of you brought up talking about the setups of the car.  I mean, how much involvement do you have being a former crew chief, do you have any say in when you guys are trying to work on stuff at the shop?

DAVID GILLILAND:  Absolutely.  I'm there every day working on the cars with the guys, and that's what's made our deal pretty good I think is that Billy Willburn, my crew chief, he's very smart and very knowledgeable.  But he also puts a lot of trust in me, and he knows that I know a little bit about what's going on on the cars; so that when I tell him information in the car, he never second guesses me and I don't have second guess him.  We have 100% trust in each other, and that's what's made our team so strong so quickly. 

THE MODERATOR:  David, thank you for joining us.  I know it's an exciting time for you and we appreciate you sharing some of that time with us. 

DAVID GILLILAND:  No problem.  Thank you for having me.  I hope to be back again soon. 

THE MODERATOR:  Best of luck this weekend.  And I don't think anybody would be surprised if we didn't have you back on a call in the future after a similar success.

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