NASCAR

NTM Q&A: J. Gordon learns from aggressive teammate

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John Roberts

 
   
 
When started out as a Winston Cup driver, he was a very quick success, but as a car owner, he went right to the top even faster. As a driver, he's third in Winston Cup points, but as an owner, he's second. Winston Kelley is live with at the racetrack. Winston Kelley: I guess we'll have to start with the top number, the car owner number. I know everybody's surprised at the success of that team (Jimmie Johnson and the 48 team). Are you that surprised as well, and what do you attribute it to? : I've got to admit I am a little bit surprised. I knew that the tools were there. I knew that Hendrick Motorsports could provide a great team there. But I just felt like it would take time for all those new people to gel, a rookie driver and a fairly new crew chief. But they gelled really quick. In some ways, it's not surprising because I know what we have in the 24 car. I know why I've had the success that I've had, and and Chad Knaus are finding out the same types of things of why they're having success. It's a great organization to be a part of.
NASCAR on FOX June 14-June 16 at Michigan/Kentucky

  • Fri. June 14, Winston Cup: Bud Pole Qualifying, 3 p.m. ET on FSN
  • Sat. June 15, Winston Cup Happy Hour, 6:30 p.m. ET on FX and Kentucky 300, 7:30 p.m. ET on FX
  • Sun. June 16, Michigan 400, 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX
  • W.K.: For a team that's supposedly in a slump, third in points, that's kind of ironic to hear folks say what's wrong with ? Where do you think the team is? J.G.: What's funny is that we really haven't had things going extremely well, but we haven't had things going extremely bad either. We've just kind of been middle of the road. We've been quiet. When we get our top 10s, our top fives, we do it in a quiet way. We've led laps and looked like we were going to have an opportunity to win, and we seem to not be able to finish it off, or we've had some kind of bad luck or failure or something happened. So we're kind of sitting here going, "Now wait a minute, it hasn't been an awful year." It hasn't been a bad year. We're third in points so how in the world could anybody say there's a slump? But, you know what, we've kind of created our own monster. We typically win a lot of races in a season, especially when we're up there in the points, and we just haven't won yet this year. But the way I look at it, we've got a lot of races left to go, and the team is there. The team is as strong as I've ever seen it. : You're running very competitively in the top fives, top 10s. But can you put some fingers on some things? Is it a chassis/aero combination or the aggressiveness of some of the other teams, is that something that you guys have to look at, maybe start to move in that direction? J.G.: Well, obviously being as close as we are with that 48 car and /Chad Knaus, we know what's underneath their car. We know what their body is, and the cars are really identical. It's just the chassis setups are a little bit different. They've been a little bit more aggressive, and we wanted them to be that (way). We came off of a championship season. We kind of got to go with what works, and those guys have been making some more aggressive things work for them. I think you're going to start seeing now that they've made it work. You're going to see us start heading more and more in that direction if it continues to work. I think we're still kind of the points type of team where we know what it takes to win championships. We want to be up in the points, but we also want to win races. We realize if we're going to win races, we've got to start getting a little bit more aggressive. And it's not that we don't want to be, it's just there's a feel that I'm looking for, and (crew chief) Robbie (Loomis) is just trying to give me that feel. Until I get comfortable with some of these more aggressive setups, we're going to go with the more conservative setup. John Roberts: Before the season started, (car owner) Rick Hendrick said he wanted all the teams up on the same page, sharing information and everything. When you look at your team and Jimmie's team, obviously things are working well there. At this point of the season, do you guys concentrate just on your own team, or can you guys still work towards having all of Hendrick Motorsports up in the top echelon? J.G.: That's really our goal, to always have all four teams up there, and we do communicate extremely well. There are meetings every week. There's an open book policy of what setups are in there, where the body locations are, everything about those race cars. But again every driver has a little bit different feel that they're looking for, and it's hard to get everybody on the exact same page. One thing we've proven now is that by having two cars under one roof, and basically one solid team, it makes a huge difference. The communication just goes to the next level. It's tough to beat that. As long as the 24 and the 48 are running as well as they are, then that under-one-roof policy is the way to go. But we've got to make sure that we continue to challenge ourselves, push forward, and it's neat to have a young guy, and then more of a guy like myself that's been around the sport for a while. I learn from Jimmie. Jimmie learns from me and vice versa with the crews and the teams. We're going to look down the road at possibly doing the same things for the 5 and the 25 if it continues to work as well as it has for us.

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