Jeff Gordon met with Daytona media Wednesday to discuss the Budweiser Shootout, bump drafting, new and potential rule changes, Danica Patrick and more.
Do you feel like there was a lot of bump drafting in the Shootout? How different or similar do you think the Duels and the 500 will be?
I didn't think that it was over the top or anything like that. And it's pretty typical here in the closing laps when the intensity starts to really crank up. The bump drafting starts to get more intense. And it's “bump-pushing” almost here because you can't do it in the corners, you can only do it on the straightaways and that's just a product of the grip level and the way the cars handle here. We saw a lot of that happening as the laps wound down and you'll see more of that, not so much on Thursday, but on Sunday, absolutely. It's the Daytona 500. You'll see plenty of it.
Does everybody understand that you can't do it in the corners? When the race is on the line, does that all go away? Do they get anxious and will there be craziness?
Yeah – what would you do to win the Daytona 500? I think there are some guys out there that they know exactly what happens when they run into the back of somebody in the corners, but they're willing to take the risk to try to win the Daytona 500. You certainly don't mind moving a guy and sometimes you have to do that, especially if it's for the win. If it's for 15th place, it doesn't make any sense. But if it's for the win, I think pretty much any guy out there would do that.
How much different is the racing going to be with the sun out and temperatures up?
Temperatures aren't going to be up much. It was pretty slick the other night but, yeah, the track temp will be up from the other night. And that's why we're doing some of the things we're doing today in practice to just try to get the car driving as good as we can because handling is going to be really important on Sunday.
What are the advantages of being in the Shootout?
I've always felt like the Shootout is an advantage to be in it to get those laps and work with your spotter and your pit crew and your crew chief and just get the communication and kind of get some of the bugs out and get the laps and experience on the track. It's always been an advantage and I've always enjoyed being in it for that reason.
Is it any different this year with the rules changes?
It's just good to get out there in race conditions. I didn't really feel like the Shootout was any different this year than it was in past years. It was exciting. It was fun. There was a lot of action and swapping back and forth and guys out of control, including myself at times, and a wreck on the last lap. It was a pretty typical Bud Shootout.
Have you talked to Greg Biffle about the end of the race?
Yeah, he was thanking me for pushing him (laughs). You know, I was a little concerned. I was pretty aggressive down that back straightaway. We all were in the closing laps. I felt bad that I spun him out. But I don't know if he had a tire going down or if it was just older tires versus the new tires. But I promise you one thing, I was giving him one heck of a push and it was sort of one of those pushes where this is either going to get us to the front or it's going to cause a wreck. And it was the latter instead.
Is your approach to the season just to go about your business and be kind of low key and quiet?
That's the advantage of being in the position that we're in right now. We haven't won a Daytona 500 in a while and so, at this point in the season, internally within our team, we feel like we're as capable of winning not only this race, but the championship, as anybody out there. We're really pumped actually, about getting this season started and what we have in store for ourselves. But from a media perspective, we're under the radar a little bit and I hope that's the case until the race is over on Sunday and a bunch of races are over on Sundays this whole year and when the season is over in Homestead.
What do you think about what Danica Patrick did, and about what she is trying to do?
I thought she did a great job (in the ARCA race). To be able to go out there and have that kind of pressure on you, to get spun through the grass, I think it was good experience for her. It's a totally different type of racing. This next experience (Nationwide race) is really going to be eye-opening, I think, for her. But after I read some of the comments about why they are running this Saturday race, it makes sense. She doesn't have the opportunity because of her schedule at IRL to really get that kind of experience. I think it's a little too soon, personally, but I probably would have made the same decision if I was in her position. And you've got to get that experience. It's better to get it sooner (rather) than later.