Catching Up With Jeff

BROOKLYN, MI. (June 15)- - After fulfilling one of his lifetime goals by driving a Formula One race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon headed back to the world of NASCAR to resume his quest for a fifth Winston Cup title. At Michigan, he sat down for an extended interview as the season nears the half-way point to discuss the recent F1 swap, the upcoming races, and the 2004 schedule.

Discuss the upcoming road course race at Sonoma
"We're looking forward to it. We had a strong car out there last year and unfortunately we had some problems. As little time as we were able to test at Virginia International Raceway, I think we actually learned some things that are going to increase the speed for us so we're excited about trying those things out also. For me, it's exciting to go out there. I have a lot of family and friends there and I've had a lot of success at that track over the last few years. I guess I got a little road racing in the other day (swap with Juan Montoya's F1 car at Indy) so I'm ready to get to a track and start turning right and left. It's just a beautiful area out there. I look forward to going out there because I just enjoy it so much no matter whether I'm on the track or off the track."

What's your take on the schedule change for 2004 with California Speedway getting a second race?
"I think it's a good move. California Speedway is a great track. I think it will go over well. It's unfortunate for Rockingham but when you look at the sport and where it's at and where it's headed, I think that's the right thing to do. And you know I'm excited about Darlington being moved to the end of the season because I love Darlington. You've got to constantly grow and try to get better. I think they've stepped it up. I think NASCAR has also kind of told some other track owners if they want a second date then fine. Move one of your other dates. That's pretty much what they did. I think they're smart in recognizing that as much as I like Rockingham as well, (you've got to) look at where it's located, look at the attendance, and how many times we're already in that market. It's hard not to see that as being one of the tracks they take off the schedule."

At Michigan do you have the freedom to run anywhere you want if your car is good?
"Yeah, you do. If you're car is right, you can run high, you can run low, you can go in high and then come off low. It's a great track. It's one of my favorites. It's not an easy track to get the car balanced on. But when you get it right, you're going to have a lot of fun all day. My car's very close. We're happy with it. It's been good since we unloaded. We don't really know what other guys had on for tires (during practice), so we're just going to play around with that a little bit. But things are good."

Now that you've driven an F1 car, do you want traction control on your Winston Cup car?
"I want a lot of things that I had on Wednesday (during the swap at Indy). But it was a cool experience and it was a lot of fun. I was glad I was able to do it. It is something I'll remember forever."

Do you forsee Winston Cup racing allowing traction control somedway? How would it change the sport?
"On these big heavy stock cars, I just don't see it. I think there are some things that we can do. I don't see why we can't have telemetry. Everybody has it. Everybody runs it- especially when we're testing. I don't think it would be a bad idea to have some of that on the cars on race weekend. But the Formula 1 guys look at these cars and think they're so primitive. But at the same time, they look at how great the racing is and how the costs have stayed low compared to other forms of motorsports. So, I think we all want to continue to do that and just keep the racing as good and as close as possible."

What stands out as the main differences in an F1 car?
"Where do I begin? Nothing is alike. It's just so different. You drive the car so deep into the corner. It has so much braking power that you're able to do that. But when you go to the brakes, you'd better be really prepared to make that turn. You had better be prepared to slow that car down in a hurry. It took time for me to adjust to the speeds going in the corner and learning how to use the traction control. It was just an awesome experience. It's like flying a fighter jet with tires. That's what an F-1 car is like."

Are there any other cars you'd like to drive?
"The 24 Hours of Le Mans are going on and those are like Formula-1 cars with full bodies on them. I think that would be really cool to do some day. But it just has to be the right time and the right situation. It's no different than if I get a chance to go scuba diving. If I can work that into the schedule then boom, I'm there. If the opportunity comes up then I'm going to take advantage of it."

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