HAMPTON, Ga. Jeff Gordon has shown tremendous resolve in the last two races, rebounding from two crashes at the Lowe's Motor Speedway to finish second, then finishing ninth Sunday at Martinsville, Va., after losing a lap early in the race.
The four-time champion talked about his season, his 96-point deficit to points leader Kurt Busch in the Chase for the Championship and his relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Question: Do you have a rivalry with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and does the Chase for the Championship dilute that?
Gordon: The Chase was created to make more excitement and have more people part of the championship because in the past it was only two guys. Or maybe one guy that's got a pretty good car left. If they left the points system the way it was, you're going to have a battle all the way down to the last race and some years you're going to have a blow out. It's really not a rivalry between Dale and myself. It's competitiveness among all of us. The rivalry is up there in the grandstands. The rivalry is the fans that separate themselves whether they are Gordon fans or Junior fans because they're rarely ever both (laughs.) That's where it really begins. For us, we still are competitive rivals. I want to beat him because I want to win the championship. No different than Kurt Busch. No different than Elliott Sadler or Mark Martin or whoever else we're battling in this championship. You want to do that because you want to win the championship. You want to do that because you want to win the race. If it's Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace this weekend, I feel the same way. I know that a lot of people would like to see it come down to us because of the popularity. It was the same way with Dale. Sr. I've been fortunate enough to be one of the popular drivers to be a part of that. It's been fun. It's exciting. You know when you race one another, those fans are going nuts. They love to see him pass me. Half of them like to see me pass him. It makes them stand up and get excited. I'll be honest: I like the Chase. I like having 10 drivers. I still think there needs to be some adjustments made to it. It's not where it needs to be. It's still really a consistency points system even though we've narrowed it down to 10 drivers for 10 weeks. It's consistency. They haven't changed that part. We're still battling with him. We just have Kurt Busch in there as well which I think is a good thing.
Question: What would you change in the Chase?
Gordon: I don't think we need to get too complicated. I heard about our own points system and all that. I think that just gets too difficult to try to figure out. I think there's a couple of ideas. One I've talked about for years is the points system in general that I would like see. If we did it this way, it either means we're going to have a really close points race or we're going to have a blow out. I'd like to see more points awarded to the winner and through the top five and more points spread out between first to second, third, fourth and fifth. Those top five to six positions (should be) awarded more points than what we currently have. Then when we get down to 25th and 30th, it ought to say the same amount all the way to the finish. I don't think we should have wrecked race cars out on the race track riding around for points. I don't think it brings any entertainment value to the event. I think it puts some safety at jeopardy. For a driver, the worst thing that you can go through is to wreck on the first lap and have to ride that race car around the racetrack all day long. That's a biased opinion on that one. Another thought could be if they wanted to have their own points system is maybe go somewhat like the rookie points system. Let's say we take the top 10 guys that get down to the last 10 races, if a guy finishes fifth and another guy in this Chase finishes 12th, he gets the points right up behind that guy. Basically those 10 guys are scored on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-type system. There's a lot of things they can throw out there and do. I don't think it's all that bad. I think there are some fun ideas that you could do just because it's so unique and different than what we've had in the past that you can play around with it. I think that right now the system has just a little bit too much consistency still on top of it which was a criticism of the old system.
Question: Now that Jimmie Johnson is getting married, have you thought about inviting Dale Earnhardt Jr. on some of your trips around the world?
Gordon: I've invited Dale Jr. many times to New York and he says it's just not his thing. You make friends on the circuit. You make friends with people off the circuit. Jimmie was a guy that came along and I said, 'Hey, I'm heading up to New York. Come with me.' He's like, 'Yeah, OK.' Jimmie and I hit it off and when we went places he shared the same passions about these things that I did. Not everybody shares those same passions for the same things that I do, but Jimmie did. I don't think that getting married is not going to make him travel the world and still enjoy life. I introduced him to his fiancee. The two of them are a lot of fun together. If she's not with him, he and I have fun as well. Dale Jr. likes to do his thing and I like to do my thing. We tried to get together and go explore these places together. Again I will say he's too much competition. It just hasn't worked out. I don't know if he likes to travel around the world to some of these places that I do. He has his group of friends he likes to hang out with and I have mine. We have hung out at times and have had a lot of fun. It just hasn't been anywhere exotic or somewhere outside the country or New York or anything like that.
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