Gearing Up For The Road Ahead

BROOKLYN, MI.- - Jeff Gordon sat down for a conversation following practice at Michigan Speedway. He discussed the Michigan track, the second half of the season, road course racing, and his teammate Jimmie Johnson.

On Michigan International Speedway
"This is definitely one of my favorites, if not the favorite track. There are so many ways to get around this track and it is so wide. We go to a lot of tracks these days where we talk about 'aero push,' but if you get that aero push when you come here, you move up a lane. Or if the guy is running high, you move down. There are so many options. Plus we're fast and unrestricted. It's everything that I like in a racetrack. We're trying to concentrate on getting top fives and top tens and I know this is a place we can win at so I'm really excited about that."

Going into the second half of the season, what would you improve on?
"Maybe just leading a few more laps and qualifying a little better and winning a race-- I'd like to start winning some races. We're certainly haven't had a horrible first half. We're third in the points and we've had top fives and a couple poles. I definitely think we could improve in some areas and if we do, there's no telling what we'll be like the second half of the season."

How do you prepare for that long 20-week stretch without a break beginning with Daytona?
"I'm ready. Let's do it right now. I think a lot of it is just in preparation of the team. By not having things torn up the first half of the season certainly helps. With Jimmie Johnson running as good as he has run during this first half of the season, there's a lot that we can take out of that and apply it the second time around."

The #48 team has several of your old cars. Could you have those cars back now?
"I guess if I was really struggling and I wanted it back, I probably could. But they've built new cars and we've built new cars. They do have some of our older cars. But we feel like every time we build a new car, it's a better car. I think we made a few mistakes on the car we built and took out to California. They (the #48 team) have really done a great job with some of the set-ups they put underneath their cars to make them fast. We know what they are. Some of the things that we've learned from them we can apply the second half. Usually what you win with one year isn't going to be enough the second year. Usually you've got to have something better. You've got to have more. And when we build new cars, we go into them saying they're going to be better than we had before. Plus, we've gotten so good these days at duplicating cars today."

Will it help to have Ken Howes back in his position of HMS director of competition full time after seven races as interim crew chief on the #25 team?
"It's going to be a huge help. Ken wasn't able to focus on all the teams and I think that was a hindrance. But it was something that had to be done. We needed to do something to keep the #25 team going. But we're really happy to have Brian Pattie there and I think he's a great guy and a great crew chief. And, obviously he and Joe Nemechek connect very well. But to have Ken back is a big plus for all the teams."

Regarding road course racing at Sears Point, have the competition caught up with you?
"They have. That's why we decided to build a new car. We had one car that won all those races and was so good and we were afraid to change it-- afraid to do anything different. As a matter of fact, I tested that car against a new car a couple of years ago and liked it better than the new car. So, we stayed with that older car. But, once we ran those races, we realized we weren't the best car. We won at Watkins Glen, but mainly because Robby Gordon fell out. So, we built a brand new car and tested it at Virginia International this week. It was fast and we're happy with it and we're hoping to gain something with it."

Do you have any impact on the building and/or submission of the new Monte Carlo?
"No, I don't have anything to do with that. I think the templates are going to be pretty close on all the makes. I think they know what I want based on my comments every weekend and what I see in a Dodge, a Ford, a Pontiac, and a Chevrolet. And I tell them what I think we need to be better and they try to apply that in this new car. But we've got to win races this year and we can't worry about that right now."

What's your secret to Michigan Speedway?
"I just like it. The guys have built great racecars and put good set-ups underneath them. It's hard to really point at one thing that makes it happen. There's not any one thing that makes you like a track, and there's not any one thing that makes the car go fast."

On giving young guys a chance to get into Winston Cup?
"I was one of the first guys who was young and that got into a top team with great equipment and top sponsors and all those things so we could go out there and be competitive right away. We finished second a couple of times in 1993, but we didn't really start winning until 1994. But now, you've got these young guys coming in with top teams and sponsors and winning races their first year. Each time that happens, it opens the door for the next guy. These young guys can win if you put the right equipment under them. A lot of sponsors want young and enthusiastic guys in there that they can do some good marketing with and can win. So it's paying off for everybody."

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