The Brickyard Quotebook

SPEEDWAY, IN.- - Following are Jeff Gordon's comments surrounding Brickyard race weekend. From the days leading up to the event all the way thru Sunday's race, Gordon offers comments at each stage of the weekend.

Sunday, August 3. Raceday

Jeff Gordon finished 4th in the Brickyard 400 after a two-tire change on the final pit stop for track position.
Post-Race Comments: "It was a fight. I told the team before the race started that we were going to fight until that checkered flag. I'm so proud of the effort that was put out. It was a miserable weekend for us until we got that fourth place finish. That makes for a great birthday for me. I know we didn't get any points on (Matt) Kenseth but that was championship form as far as I'm concerned. From the type of weekend we had, we struggled so much. We were 40th fastest in practice yesterday. When you have confidence in your team and they have confidence in you, it makes a big difference. Those guys changed everything on that race car, came back with basically a brand new race car today, and it just drove to the front. We still struggled though. There was one time I got really loose. We made some adjustments and some great calls. I couldn't be more proud of Robbie Loomis on that last call to come in and get two tires."

Saturday, August 2. Qualifying/Practice Day

Post-Qualifying Comments (will start 19th): "As far as I'm concerned it was a perfect lap. I'm glad we drew early and got some clouds. The guys made a lot of adjustments that really picked up the car. I wish we had been that close yesterday. I would have loved to have just been able to fine tune on it. Unfortunately we had to make huge gains. When you're qualifying at a place like Indianapolis, it's really hard when you make that big of an adjustment to get everything out of it. But the car was good, real well balanced, just a little bit loose off (the corners). The guys did a really good job taking notes and getting information from the other teams, plus the track was really cool, so there's a lot of speed in the track. I'm really happy with the speed we've picked up. We haven't qualified well here the last few years, but we're still competitive in the race. I don't know what we need for qualifying. We used to kick butt here in qualifying, and I'm not doing anything different. The cars are still great race cars, but we're off somewhere and other guys have found something that works. Our teammate (Johnson) seems to have found it, and maybe we need to look at our approach, but for the race, we'll be fine."

Pre-Qualifying Comments: "We didn't test here so we were playing catch up. We tried similar setups to what Jimmie Johnson and some of our other teammates had. It just wasn't working for us. We were gaining on it and then we went to make our (mock) qualifying run and got a little bit loose. Whether it was the set of tires or the adjustments we made. We drew a good number (for qualifying order) and we have some cloud cover."

Friday, August 1. Practice Day

Gordon was 33rd fastest of 52 cars in the Friday practice session.
Post-Practice Comments: "We practice during the hottest point in the day, then have to qualify in the morning. I don't understand that logic. We were not as good as the other cars and not even as good as some of our teammates. Hopefully, we make the right calls and adjustments. It can rain in the morning, but I don't want it to rain in the afternoon. I would like to test every weekend at every track, but you do not have that luxury. It doesn't matter where you start in this race. It matters where you finish. I have been in this thing long enough to know that you have good days and bad days, but you work through the tough days and enjoy the good ones. We have a long weekend ahead of this before this thing is all over, and a lot of fighting. This is a very difficult place to pass, so I would say strategy here could definitely pay off. Track position is going to be really critical here. If you can stretch on fuel mileage or get out there in clean air, it is going to be a big advantage. You always want to have a good race car that you can drive up through there and pass. That is one of the funnest things about racing, is working on that car to make it better than the competition, then driving it and maneuvering through traffic and making passes. The stuff where you just get out front and hope for clean air to pull away from the field. You want to win any way you can, but it definitely takes a little of the fun out of it, but that is not necessarily anybody's fault. It is kind of the way technology has come into our sport. This track has never been the best as far as putting on a good race for us, because it is a flat, fast racetrack. That is not a good combination for us. It never really has been. It's a dramatic race. It's a spectacular race, and there is more hype than there really is great racing. It's not an Atlanta or Charlotte, but it is still the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we are all proud to be here and proud to win."

On Friday morning, Gordon attended the Winston Breakfast Club and sat down for an extended Q&A session.

Could the Brickyard 400 ever be as big as the Daytona 500?
"It's going to be hard to ever replace the Daytona 500 in our sport. It would be like the IRL running in Daytona and trying to replace that with the Indy 500. The Daytona 500 is always going to be our Super Bowl. It's hard to really compare the two. They're really different in a lot of ways, yet equally special. I've always looked at this race as the significance of what it means to me, not necessarily what it means in the sport. Every time I drive in here that special feeling never goes away."

Is it hard to treat this like any other race when it's such an amazing place?
"It is hard to do because of the facility and the attention it gets I think there is added pressure to go all out. But when you put that helmet on and get inside the car and drive out onto the track, and once you get up to speed, you're really not thinking about anything else except the speed of that race car."

Why is Indianapolis Motor Speedway so special to you?
"I guess just because as a kid, I remember coming here. I remember the first time I came here in the early 1980's when I was racing quarter Midgets. We came over here and went to the museum and did the tour with the bus and all that. I couldn't imagine racing in a facility like this. It was even more than a dream. It was too much to even sink in. The facility in general is so immaculate. They really put a lot of effort into keeping this place state of the art and first class. It's just a special feeling that you have about this place when you've been a part of the Indy 500 and you've been a part of the Brickyard 400. It's a place where every series in motorsports wants to be."

What is your opinion about drivers racing back to the yellow flag?
"I think you do whatever you feel like doing. When the caution comes out, I'm not racing unless the guy behind me races. I'm not racing unless it's coming to the white flag or for the win at the end of the race. There are so many different scenarios. If I've got a fender inside a guy and we're side by side and the caution comes out, I feel like we were racing before the caution came out so you keep racing. If a guy tries to pass me under caution, I'm going to try and keep him from passing me. There are so many variables. There is no one solid answer. It's not a black and white situation."

Is the media blowing the "Gentleman's Agreement" out of proportion?
"I think it's been blown out of proportion. I think the real story is what's changed with track position and competition. It's so hard to make a position up which is why you see guys risking fuel mileage. You see guys taking two tires instead of four tires. You see so many things changing. When it's that competitive and that difficult to pass and win races, then you look at any advantage you can possibly get. If there is one that you can get when the caution comes out, then you might think about taking it."

Discuss qualifying for the Brickyard 400
"I was looking at the statistics on our press release and I don't have any clue how I've won three poles here. Actually, I don't know how I've won three races either. To me, this is one of the hardest places to win a pole. It's a very challenging lap. It's a very aggressive lap. The car has to be right, the power has to be right, and the power has to be on. And I've qualified 17th and 25th the last couple of times I've been here. So I'm hoping we get that back and that we've got all the ingredients to put a great lap out there."

What's the key to winning this race?
"Being the leader when you come off of Turn 4! I don't know. I've been in positions where I've had the fastest car all day. I've been in positions where I've had a 25th place car but we were able to get it in position to win. So, it's just a total effort. I think that power, aero, driver, pit crew -- this is one of those places where you have to have it all."

Do you have special places for any particular trophies, and is this one of them?
"Definitely. At the new race shop we built, we built an area for every trophy-- every victory that's happened to us over the years. That's pretty cool for me. A lot of drivers don't really make a shrine at home for all their trophies and accomplishments but they usually have some area of the house that's separated from normal home life to remember some of the great moments of their careers. I have that. My house in Florida has that where I do have my Brickyard 400 trophies. I have both Daytona 500 trophies there. When I built the house I only made room for two Winston Cup trophies because I hadn't won three or four. So I have two there. And I have both Goodyear trophies that they give to the champion. I also have my IROC win trophy. I think I've got the Bill France 'man of the year' or whatever that award was. I think that was pretty cool. That's about it-- plus my golf ball signed by Tiger Woods."

When NASCAR first came to the Brickyard ten years ago, do you think that launched NASCAR into the popularity it now enjoys?
"I would definitely say it's one of the things that did it. I won the (insert popular but unnamed soda here) 600 in Charlotte and have had some huge moments. I won this race and it changed my life. I didn't go to Disney World after I won the 600. I went to Disney World after I won this race. The fan base changed. The sponsorship awareness changed. Everything just went to a whole new level. I think it had a lot to do with the Brickyard."

Was the win in 1994 a launching pad for you?
"I know I'll never be able to accomplish anything greater than wining that inaugural Brickyard 400."

How does winning the Daytona 500 compare to winning the Brickyard 400? Or is it a matter of comparing apples and oranges?
"It's apples and oranges the way I look at it because it was a dream of mine to come here and race. I thought it would be in an open wheel car, not a stock car. I remember when I moved down south and pretty much threw away the dream of racing here until NASCAR said they were ready to come here. All of a sudden I had whole new enthusiastic impression about Indianapolis. That was just to come here and race. I just always wanted to race here. I had no idea I was come here and win."

Wednesday, July 30. Calm Before The Storm

Gordon will make his 350th career start on Sunday. He looks for his 4th victory at Indy.
"A.J. was the only four-time winner when I first understood the magnitude of winning here. Every May, we all wondered if anyone would ever match that feat. It was great seeing Al Unser Sr and Rick Mears tie the mark, especially Rick since I was a huge fan of his and was lucky enough to get his autograph. It seemed like we drove by the speedway every other day when I was growing up. It's just a great racing facility with so much history and tradition. Just to win here once is very special. I'm excited that we have a chance to win a fourth Brickyard 400 and tie those guys, but I really don't think you can put us in the same category if we win. It's difficult to compare the two series and I think you need to keep their impressive accomplishment separate."

Discuss the importance of qualifying well.
"Track position is crucial here and there's no better place to be than out front. In 2001, the car was awful when we were deep in traffic (27th at the start). Robbie Loomis made some great calls in the pits to give us track position and the difference was like night and day. The car was great in clean air."

How will you mark your 350th career start?
"I'm not the type of person to get caught up in all the stats and records. I'm sure one day I'll sit on a porch and look back at what we've accomplished as a team, but right now we need to concentrate on leading laps and finishing in the top five. We've lost a lot of points the past few weekends and, with our past success here, we can get back on track. This team doesn't give up and we're not out of the championship hunt just yet. We've dug ourselves a hole, so now we need to begin climbing out. We can't erase that deficit in one race, but a strong run can start the process."

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