Discussions In Darlington

DARLINGTON, S.C.- - Jeff Gordon chatted with the media following Saturday's practice session at Darlington Raceway. He discussed the race at Darlington, the issue of "dull races," the upcoming schedule, and an aviation incident that occurred on Thursday night.

How will you drive this race and will the wall tell the story?
"I think it's already told the story of what it's going to be like tomorrow. We've seen more guys scrape the wall the last two days than I can remember in a long time here at Darlington. Tomorrow, it's going to be more important to race the race track more so than ever in the past just because the track is narrower than it's ever been and that wall is going to bite a lot of guys. It's our job to stay out of it. I think it's going to take a little bit away from the racing but I think it'll still make for an exciting race."

How will the safer barriers change the side-by-side racing?
"I think it's just going to be that much tougher to get side-by-side. It's going to be that much tougher to get up to the guy. You can still pass, but you're going to see us trying to intimidate one another and force somebody to make a mistake more than have in the past instead of actually being able to race with the guy."

Will you need to have more focus than normal?
"I think so. Common sense and focus are going to be really important tomorrow."

With all of these factors, is it hard to assess your chances?
"I definitely think we have a top five car, but then I always do at Darlington. I just like Darlington. The track is different, but it's not that much different. It's still basically the same type of fundamentals that you would typically see at Darlington. The driver, car, crew chief, team, and set-up combination is what is going to make it happen."

How good is the depth perception of the NASCAR drivers in adapting to the new 30-inch difference in the track width?
"I think depth perception is important as a driver, but I don't know if that wall being 30 inches closer means that much about depth perception. It's all about trial and error, really, more. You go out there and you know how hard you can drive into the corner based on how much the car slides up to the wall. The first couple of times you go out there, you take it a little easier than you have in the past and you learn where that wall is and how much speed you can carry. So it's still depth perception. It's all those things."

Do you have to brush the wall to know how close it is?
"Yeah, I did that yesterday. So, I should know where it is now."

With the racing being somewhat dull of late, should we be more patient with the new spoiler and tire rules?
"I think we need to have some more downforce taken out of these cars. That might help a little bit. We've still got a tremendous amount of downforce versus the tire that we have and I think that might help things a little bit."

Should the tracks be fixed rather than the cars?
"That's not a bad idea. They fixed Homestead. If I could have them all, I'd love to have variable banking at every track we go to. That's more important, yeah, than fixing the cars. I agree with that."

Discuss Friday's practice session
"What we did yesterday was we put the car in race conditions. We opened up the grill and ran different springs and shocks. Robbie (Loomis) talked about it earlier in the week. Once NASCAR gave us that extra set of tires, we didn't need to go out there and bonsai right from the beginning. We could go out there and run 10 or 15 laps to get a feel for how much that wall was moved in. I hit the wall on the 12th lap, came in on the 13th lap, and we put new tires on it (laughs)."

Should these guys even bother to fix the quarterpanel damage?
"We didn't put new decals on it. We'll but them on now because we didn't put any on and I never touched the wall today. I'm hoping that's the same case tomorrow."

Discuss the tires and the residue
"When you change the sidewall and the compound, the cars move around a lot more. They just give you a different feel and a different sensation. Depending on the compound is how it comes off the tires. All in all, I'm feeling pretty happy with the tire. I don't have any complaints. I just think the cars still have an awful lot of downforce."

Discuss Kasey Kahne's season so far
"I think he's talented. I think he's got a head on his shoulders. I like that. But that car ran awful strong at the end of last year. They figured some things out at the end of last year that have transferred over to this year. He's aggressive. He's smart. Those are great combinations."

Is he the next Jeff Gordon?
"I don't know. Is that a good or a bad thing?"

Did you test at either Bristol or Texas coming up on the schedule?
"I didn't. We're saving our tests, man. There are only 10 races that count. Those are the last 10 and we are fifth in the points right now. We've been consistent. We're waiting to test at certain places. We'll probably test at Kentucky in a couple of weeks."

On the incident regarding the plane issue and the encounter with a Cincinnati cameraman
"It was an unfortunate situation. I hate that it happened. I was very frustrated, not only with what was going on with my airplane, but the story has been very misconstrued. They have all the facts wrong and that's unfortunate too. But there's nothing more I can say other than I was frustrated, and at the time I certainly said some things I shouldn't have said. Somebody sort of egged me on and it is what it is. I can't take it back. You just learn from it- just like I do from everything else that's happened in my life."

Was your safety threatened with the plane issue?
"It was scary. We were actually leaving Kentucky. We took off and had a light that came on on the dash that showed that there was a problem with the left engine. They shut the engine down and pulled the fire extinguisher because it said there was a fire in there. But there really never was a fire that we know of. But we turned around and came back and landed. We had to wait for a plane to come pick us up. I still don't know exactly what happened. I'm waiting to hear back right now."

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