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Gordon Talks About New PIR Track

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 5 2011

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR Vice President of Competition, (R) and Dave Handy, NASCAR Tire Engineer, walk the new backstretch at Phoenix International Raceway on Tuesday in Avondale, Ariz. (Photos by Norm Hall/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR officials and drivers were at Phoeinx International Raceway on Tuesday, and will be there on Wednesday as well, to test the track’s repaved/reconfigured surface.

One of those drivers was Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsports. After the test, Gordon answered some questions about the new surface, which will be raced upon for the first time next month when the Chase moves to PIR for the second-to-last race of the season.

The following is a transcript of the Gordon Q and A:

JEFF GORDON – opening statement: It was exciting to come here and see what had been done. I saw Jimmie Johnson had some type of video from his car when he tire tested here for Goodyear several weeks ago. I got kind of that visual.

Then to go and drive it yourself was something I was looking forward to. It’s obviously very smooth. Nice to have that wide front straightaway. I like the new pit road, as well. Getting used to the dogleg now on the back straightaway which is quite a bit different than what it was before. Then just trying to find the grip took a while, to get the track cleaned off, get the rubber laid in. Once we did, started having fun and enjoyed making the laps out there.

Q. Jeff, how do you think it will race in November with all 43 cars out there hopefully laying down more rubber?

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, that’s the thing, when we come here to these tests, we’re all trying to learn things, get laps, do our own thing. We’re not racing. We’re not getting side-by-side

Jeff Gordon talked to the media at Phoenix after Tuesday's test day at PIR.

with other cars. So naturally you’re just going to see one groove built in there. It is a very narrow groove right now.

I hopped outside of it on more than one occasion today, and it was exciting to say the least. You always hope when you come back, there’s multiple cars and series that are going to be here, that that groove will widen out, especially the Saturday race, double-file restarts. Then just the double-file restarts in general with our race should widen it out.

Regardless, it’s going to be a narrow groove the first couple times we’re here and it’s going to take time and guys are going to have to push that edge, keep cleaning it off as we go. NASCAR is going to have to do a good job of keeping the debris and rubber and things that build up out there cleaned off as best they can on cautions, as well.

It’s hard to say until we come back here and we have all of those cars and series running.

Q. John Darby just likened the repaving to your wife changing the furniture in the middle of the night, you walking in, bumping your way through. Give us your thoughts on that and whether or not you agree.

JEFF GORDON: Well, that’s an interesting analogy. My wife has really good taste in furniture, so usually I’m pretty happy with the results, just not happy with my bank account afterwards. I don’t know if that applies here (laughter).

You know, all I can say is that my impressions, the day started off really, really edgy and uncomfortable, an eye-opening wow experience of, Oh, my gosh, what’s happened here? As we got halfway through the day, the grip started coming. Then there’s the challenge of pushing the car, finding what you need to make it go faster.

Like I said, then I started having more fun, enjoying the laps I was making, the challenges the track had. Every track has its challenge. This one has in the past. The new pavement certainly creates new challenges that we’ll have to deal with.

It’s the case at all new paving. We have a lot of them that are going to be coming up. Everybody is wanting to repave or needing to repave, I should say, more than anything. I don’t know if anybody really wants to. I think it’s usually just something that over time you have to do for a lot of different reasons. Eventually the track will offer up that side-by-side racing that we all come to love at tracks like here in Phoenix.

Q. Could you just please reflect back on your victory here in February, especially the incredible fan reaction, what that meant to you in that moment.

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it was awesome. What a way to get our season started. I knew this was going to be a special year going over and working with Allen and his group, basically a new team, having Drive to End Hunger onboard as well, all the great things they’re doing. To come here to win the race battling Kyle at the end.

The thing I think that was the coolest part of that win was the reaction from the crowd. It kind of seemed like, Hey, where had Jeff gone? Look, he’s still here. That was a great race. A lot of fans were excited to see us win. That’s just made the victory that much sweeter for me, for sure, this team.

You know, we hated to hear about the repave on that one because I felt like we really had gotten this place figured out and I was looking forward to coming back under those conditions. But we’re also looking forward to the challenges that we’re going to face here and hope that we can get that performance back.

Q. Jeff, turn one, the additional banking they put down there, as well as moving the dogleg out 90 feet, what do you see different there than you used to?

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, so what happened is turn one is about the same. You drive in really deep using a lot of brake. The left front tire gets real light as you sort of crest that hill, as you get down in the banking. All that’s basically the same. Once you get to the middle, you just put your foot in it. You have so much room off there. Actually the engine lugs quite a bit because you’re slowing the car down so much getting in there, so it lugs quite a bit. Then you just have this run down the back straight. It’s kind of like a rollercoaster ride back there. You have all that space out there. It drops down. The car compresses into the racetrack, touches a little bit with the splitter, then you come back up out of that hole as you get to turn three.

I haven’t run side-by-side with anybody back there. But just looking at it and driving it, it’s a lot of fun. I mean, it gets your attention the first couple times you go through there. Other than that, you know, it’s a heck of a ride.

Q. I was referring to that quote that you said at Dover about the backstretch, you thought was eye-opening and not in a good way. Could you explain a little bit more about what you were seeing on the video from Jimmie Johnson.

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it’s different being here than it was on video. On video it’s a narrow window looking through the windshield. I didn’t like what I saw there.

But today driving it, I liked it. I don’t know if I want to go through there side-by-side. Driving it, I really enjoyed the elevation change that it has. But looking at it on video, it didn’t look like it was going to be very enjoyable.

But just like Jimmie had told me, he said the first couple times through there when the track wasn’t clean, it was a handful. Once the track got cleaned off, rubber got laid down, going through there no problem, a lot of fun.

I mean, I don’t know if I would have designed it that way, but I’m not a track designer. But I think certainly I like having the back straightaway elevated up for the fans so they can see what’s going on back there. I feel like we sort of used to get hidden back there when we were racing. Now they’re going to be able to have a heck of a view all the way around there.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 5 2011
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