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Saturday, September 4, 2010

News Conference Notes from Saturday Morning: Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon was to kick off the Saturday round of news conferences with an early 9:45 a.m. time slot. Atlanta Motor Speedway media leaders seemed to have forgotten to change the back drop behind the seating for interviewees however and changes to the backdrop delayed the beginning of the news conference several minutes. At 9:50 a.m. a voice is heard saying "Are you all ready? I think he's on his way." Evidently Jeff wasn't quite ready at his scheduled time, either.

Jeff took his seat and opened with comments regarding how good a track Atlanta has been for him through the years. He mentioned how special it was to be driving the Jeff Gordon Foundation car designed by his daughter Ella, who traveled with her Papa to the track this weekend for some father-daughter time.

Gordon answered a first question about likelihood of of an experienced or inexperienced driver to win the Chase. Jeff indicated that Jimmie Johnson is still the favorite in Jeff's mind as the favorite to win the Chase. Jeff also discussed Harvick being a solid driver for a solid organization that has their act together this year. Gordon went on to discuss his own Championship hopes and says he thinks that he "has as good a shot as anybody" if he can cut into Harvick's Points lead over the next two weeks.

Jeff said that the guys on the team with him suggested that he needs to run fast this week since the Ella designed car has a lot of pink on it - this is not a car that Jeff wants to be running in the back. He went onto say that if he wrecks, Ella is going to  be mad. Jeff seems to be very determined to run fast and at the front tomorrow during the race.

Asked how racing has changed over the years at Atlanta, Jeff answered that the repaving and reconfiguring of the track 13 years ago gave Atlanta a lot of grip and speed. Jeff loved the wideness of the groove over the first two years post-repaving but loves the big sweeping corners and available grooves at Atlanta. Gordon says that after the first two years, it went back to "the same old, really fast, hard to get a hold of, kind of like Darlington race track...that's what I love about it."

Asked about Richmond and the level of confidence he has going into RIR, Jeff said that Richmond is a very tough race track. He said that he feels like he had a legitimate shot at winning at the last race at Richmond and thinks that with double file restarts, slipping and sliding until the sun goes down it can be a tough track to figure out. Jeff thinks that struggles with track transitions is what lost him the race last time around at Richmond.

In regard to how where a driver is in the Points Race and how that changes racing strategies Jeff said when you are in sixth through twelfth all you can do is show up and perform at your best. When his team is struggling it's frustrating for Jeff. He said when teammates are in the Chase you can learn from their set-up and work toward getting better. He said it depends on what position one is in on how the team approaches a race and right now his team isn't thinking about next year but is focused on winning this year's championship.

Jeff talked more about the track at Atlanta and how much wear the tires take. He said staying out on old tires, you are going to get beat other than under very few circumstances. Gordon said you almost absolutely have to take tires late in the race to be competitive. He said "MAYBE if you have just one or two laps...but even then I think you need tires." Gordon said brand new tires can be run wide open giving the driver a huge advantage.

Gordon was asked a final question about how the drivers on the bubble are feeling at this point. "Oh man, being in that position is not a fun position to be in." Jeff said that he has been there and the guys who are "that close to it" count every point, and says "that intensity and pressure are hard to deal with....the added pressure from the media and the fans..."

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