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Hood: Take My Crew Chief…Please

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 17 2009
Friday press conferences at track media centers can be informative and entertaining. This one at Kansas Speedway with Jeff Gordon comes to mind. (RacinToday file photo by Tony Bush)

Friday press conferences at track media centers can be informative and entertaining. This one at Kansas Speedway with Jeff Gordon comes to mind. (RacinToday file photo by Tony Bush)

On a typical weekend, race fans are bombarded with information on NASCAR and its competitors.

Information flows to the public from television, radio, newspapers and websites such as www.racintoday.com.

On most Fridays, NASCAR will allocate time for top drivers to chat with the media. Later in the weekend, the top three drivers in qualifying and the race are required to return to the media center to field questions from the press.

A few of the conversations ignite laughter, generate a few ooohs and ahhhs or just become legendary. Ultimately, NASCAR fans miss out on many of these moments.

Here are several memorable exchanges between drivers and the media from the 2009 season:

* After winning the pole for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jimmie Johnson attempted to explain to a reporter how he slid out of the groove during practice earlier in the day and nearly tagged the wall.

Reporter: “So is that like an ’oh shoot moment’?”

Johnson: “And you guys call me vanilla? (as laughter erupts). In practice, it was that ‘oh sh*t moment…”

* Joey Logano suffered what appeared to be a horrifying wreck at Dover International Speedway in September when his No. 20 flipped repeatedly. The following week at Kansas Speedway four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon was peppered with questions concerning safety.

A veteran reporter became somewhat animated as he started discussing concussions and the impending results, such as memory loss.

Reporter: ”Do guys like you keep track of their hits and the G’s and go to the doctor every six months to make sure everything adds up and say ‘well, maybe I shouldn’t hit the wall next week’ or something like that?”

A sly smile appeared on Gordon’s face as he paused before deadpanning: “I can’t remember (laughter).”

* As rumors began to heat up in the fall over the possibility of Danica Patrick jumping to NASCAR, Tony Stewart was asked in Kansas to share his thoughts on what kind of impact the open wheel driver would have on NASCAR.

Needless to say, Stewart doesn’t like to repeat himself.

At Texas Motor Speedway in November during Stewart’s media availability, NASCAR’s Kerry Tharp, who was serving as moderator, called on the “gentleman in the back of the room” who had a question for the two-time Cup champion.

Reporter: “Tony, obviously, there’s been some talk about Danica joining the NASCAR series. Just what type of impact might she have coming over here?”

Stewart: ”The same ones I mentioned two months ago when somebody asked me that. Go back and look at the notes.”

Seconds later, Stewart looked over at Tharp and said: “That could be why he’s back in the corner of the room, right?”

* At Talladega Superspeedway on Nov. 1, Kurt Busch slammed the wall after his No. 2 Dodge received a nudge in the rear bumper from Brad Keselowski.

The following day the two officially became teammates at Penske Racing. They wound up flying together on Busch’s plane to a tire test in Daytona.

The following weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Busch recalled an in-flight conversation with the driver who had wrecked him a day earlier at Talladega.

“He flew with me on my own plane down to Daytona and we talked about things,” Busch said. “I joked with him and said ‘Hey, we’ve got five people in this plane and we have four parachutes. Where’s yours?’”

* Stewart inserted some humor into his response to a question he received from a reporter at Michigan International Speedway in August.

Reporter: “What was the first car you ever had when you were 16 years old? And if you could not race at all, what would you be doing?”

Stewart: “I wouldn’t be foot racing because I’m too lazy for that. Probably be sitting and watching a lot of softball and baseball games in town. That seemed to be the only other thing I did in Columbus (Indiana) other than racing.

“The first car I had I wasn’t even 16, I was 17. My parents wouldn’t let me have my license when I was 16, which was probably a very smart decision on their part.

“I paid $350 for a 1979 Plymouth Volare was the first car that I had. It was used as a mail route car in the country. That was my very first car. I think Dustin Long (another reporter, who happened to be sitting in the room) owns it now and drives it every day (laughter).”

* But the year’s most memorable exchange might have occurred following Stewart’s victory in Kansas when a reporter and Smoke had the following conversation:

Reporter: “Jeff Gordon was in here and mentioned that…”

Stewart: ”He came in here? Jeff Gordon came in here? Wow.”

Reporter: ”I know you’re amazed.”

Stewart: ”That’s awesome. I never would have thought Jeff Gordon would have came in here. (Laughter.)

Go ahead. I’ll try to contain myself.”

Reporter: “He said if this was the old system you’d be running away with it…”

Stewart: “Yeah, but it’s not the old system, so why are we talking about the old system? In case you didn’t know, we haven’t used that system for five years now, so why are we talking about the old system? Who cares?”

Reporter: “That’s what I was going to ask you…”

Stewart: “No, you guys are the ones that bring it up. We don’t know. We know what the system is.”

Reporter: “Jeff Gordon mentioned it. He was sitting right there. He used that same microphone.”

Stewart: “You would think I would feel the vibe from it right now and understand that.

I don’t even talk about the old system because we don’t use it anymore. It’s not even a factor in the equation. It’s like, yeah, we know we would have, but that’s not what system we run under. We all know it starting the year. Unless they go back to it, who cares? Except for Jeff Gordon.”

Reporter: “I guess my point was after leading in the points all year long and then not – and then falling back a little bit at the beginning, that wasn’t a factor at all for you guys.”

Stewart: ”In what way?”

Reporter: “I mean, you didn’t let that get you down at all.”

Stewart: “You’re kidding, right?”

Reporter: “I’m struggling.”

Stewart: “We know what the system is, so we knew that when we got…”

Reporter: “But you fell from first to…”

Stewart: “Yeah, but you know that can happen. Everybody’s points are reset. The whole field was within 40 points of each other going into Loudon. It doesn’t take a math major to understand what the system is.”

Reporter: “Or a journalist.”

Stewart: “Obviously. You said it this time.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, December 17 2009
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