MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
MONSTER ENERGY ALL-STAR RACE
CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MAY 18, 2018
Sam Bass, Jeff Gordon and William Byron driver of the no. 24 CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at Charlotte Motor Speedway and debut the throwback paint scheme he will run at Darlington and much more. Full Transcript:
WHAT DOES THIS SPECIAL TRIBUTE PAINT SCHEME MEAN TO YOU?
JEFF GORDON: “Obviously, a lot of memories for me with Sam (Bass) and going back to the first time that I drove that rainbow paint scheme in October or maybe it was November of 1992 at Atlanta and then of course my rookie season, 1993, so, it certainly changed my life forever as a race car driver. Coming to Hendrick Motorsports and having a paint scheme that now looking back on it was so iconic. I now get to meet a lot of fans or sort of get into these conversations with long-time fans when they say ‘I became a fan because of this paint scheme. I came to the race track my parents brought me to the track and I saw the brightest car out there and I said, I want to pull for that driver.’ And so, obviously, also as Sam (Bass) mentioned in the video there is a certain magic that Sam Bass brings to your race car when he designs it. We heard that with Bobby Allision and I would certainly say that was the case for me too. Not just the rainbow paint scheme, but other paint schemes that he did. We had some great success on the track. So, William (Byron) ought to feel pretty good about that knowing what that is going to do for him at Darlington.”
WILLIAM BYRON: “It obviously means a lot. It’s really special to have that paint scheme and really, like Jeff was saying, Sam Bass’ touch on the car has been incredible just to see the flames this year and be able to drive that car is always special and this is going to be even more special. It’s going to be a lot of fun and hopefully we can bring it good success at Darlington. It obviously looks amazing and great job to him and growing up as a kid watching Jeff in that car there are a lot of memories there and some similarities in our age and how we started. Hopefully, I can carry that on.”
WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE VERY FIRST RAINBOW PAINT SCHEME?
SAM BASS: “Ray Evernham came over to my shop looking for a birthday present for Jeff and he picked out a print and he was getting ready to leave and he wanted to pay me for it and I said, no, I don’t want your money, I want you to give me a shot to design the race car for Jeff Gordon. And I didn’t really think he would do it, but he called me back in a couple of weeks and said, hey you’ve got a shot. So, I worked on three designs. I had two of them done the day it was due and, on my way, driving to work, I kept thinking in my mind that DuPont had said they wanted a rainbow of colors. They wanted the car to show that they could produce a rainbow of color. I went back to the shop and started working on something and I knew when I got it done if they would paint it that way, it would definitely be different. I thought the guys in the body shop were going to kill me when they saw it because they knew how difficult it was going to be to paint, but to their credit they did it and they were so proud of it and I have been so proud to have a 26-year relationship with Axalta. They do everything I’ve ever asked them to do. It’s just an amazing relationship that I can’t say enough. To get the chance to work with Jeff for 23 years and now to extend that relationship with William, I mean I feel very blessed.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE HAVING DRIVER’S HONOR YOU DURING DARLINGTON THROWBACK WEEKEND?
JEFF GORDON: “It’s cool. I love that. I love that weekend. I think what Darlington has done is just incredible and so I know as a race fan I get really excited to see what is going to come out of the garage and it brings back the history of the sport. I have moved on from driving and I love the fact that I have had a role in the history of the sport. I think William has done an amazing job representing the No. 24 car and I think to see a young up and coming future star of our sport get behind the wheel of that rainbow paint scheme brings back a lot of memories for me and I’m really proud of what I accomplished in the car, but I’m proud of what he is going to accomplish in it also.”
WILLIAM BYRON: “I think Jeff has got a huge history in the sport and to follow that and be able to I guess kind of carry his legacy on, hopefully and have success with it is my goal. That is kind of my plan and it’s a lot of fun to have a chance to do that.”
WHAT WERE THE TWO PAINT SCHEMES THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT?
SAM BASS: “Well, one of them looked like the car was running through paint and it splashed back on the car. The other one was just kind of it didn’t really have the rainbow graphics, but it had the fluorescents on it, but hands down I knew the minute that I did that third one that was going to be the one. I think they had 43, ironically, 43 drawings that they looked at and they chose that one from them. So, it was pretty cool.”
DO YOU SEE ANY PARALLELS BETWEEN YOU AND WILLIAM?
JEFF GORDON: “No, let’s see he has a Xfinity championship, I didn’t have that. I wrecked a lot more cars at this stage in my rookie year than he has (laughs). I have been so impressed, even more so knowing his background. Knowing that he didn’t start racing until he was in his teens and doing it on a simulator and then legend cars and the way he’s done it and the speed in which is has accomplished that. When you watch him, he looks like a veteran driver with the moves that he makes, especially when he is racing against other veteran drivers. I say that obviously joking because I don’t think that I was as poised or as mature when I was his age accomplishing… things picked up for me in 1994, mainly 1995, so I think if he continues to grow at the pace he is going, it’s going to be pretty special to watch.”
AT WHAT POINT BACK IN THE MID-90’S WHEN YOU WERE GETTING STARTED DID YOU BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND OR GRASP THE TRACTION OF THAT PAINT SCHEME?
JEFF GORDON: “The only thing I will comment on is, yeah, I think you really go a little bit ’94, but you really go to ’95 when you had this bright colored rainbow paint scheme going against a black No. 3 car. And if you think of the contrast there, right? The driver obviously quite a contrast in drivers not just their age, but personality and fan bases then you go to the contrast of the paint schemes themselves and maybe even driving styles. We all know what that did for the history of the sport, especially through the ‘90’s of building quite a rivalry and building up the fan base and so, when I think of what this meant to fans and to the sport that is the first thing that comes to mind for me.”
SAM BASS: “The kids just seemed to love the paint scheme and the youth attraction of Jeff that he had in the sport at that time, it was just like everybody just gravitated towards that car and driver. Then with the success that Jeff had, it just compounded. It really made me very proud to have something that became such an icon in the sport. It was so radically different whenever it came into the sport and like I said, I owe a lot of that to the guys at the shop that maintained that car week-in and week-out by painting it and going through the complexities of it to get it out there and make it look that good all the time, so consistently. And then with all Jeff’s wins it certainly helped it.”
WITH THE NEW RULES PACKAGE, YOU EXPERIENCED IT AT THE BRICKYARD LAST YEAR AND CAME AWAY WITH A VICTORY. HAVE OTHER DRIVERS BEEN PICKING YOUR BRAIN ABOUT WHAT YOU EXPERIENCED THERE LAST YEAR AND WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?
WILLIAM BYRON: “I think it’s a different style of racing, but I feel like as a driver you just try to go out there with whatever rules package there is and try to succeed. Really for me last year that was the goal and I’m glad that I got a little bit of a head start on it to know what it’s going to be like, but it’s going to be short runs during the race. The biggest thing is going to be the restarts and how you get through those and I feel like our car… we only got one lap in today so I’m not sure what it’s going to do, but I feel like during the race hopefully we can just look back on some notes form last year and have success with that. Honestly, the goal is to get into the All-Star race and if we can do that it would be a big success.”
HOW WEIRD DO YOU THINK IT IS TO SEE THESE CARS ON A 1.5-MILE TRACK WITH RESTRICTOR PLATES?
JEFF GORDON: “I got back to Indianapolis last year with the Xfinity race and we have seen where that track it’s really difficult for these types of cars to pass even through you have those long straightaways. It’s hard to get that run. I saw where that really enhanced the racing there, so I was excited about it then and was hoping that there would be a way for NASCAR on the Cup level to incorporate it into say maybe and Indy or a Pocono or maybe even a Michigan or Fontana (Auto Club). But I think there is a perfect opportunity to try it at a 1.5-mile. We have seen where passing and track position has become so key at the 1.5-miles, not all of them. I loved the racing that we had at Kansas last week. We had an older surface and they were up on the fence and down on the bottom and I thought we saw some excellent racing, but here we have seen where track position has really been important. We saw last year, credit to Martin Truex, Jr. phenomenal run, but I mean he dominated and it was hard to pass him. I think there is an excellent opportunity. This is the All-Star race. It’s an exhibition race. There is a lot on the line, a million dollars, but it’s also an opportunity to do something unique and different and I applaud NASCAR, I applaud Marcus Smith and his group for trying it here and the drivers for embracing it. They seem to be very positive of ‘hey let’s give this a try’. Let’s see how it works and I know we haven’t seen enough laps, so let’s hopefully see some more laps. The race is certainly going to be an interesting and exciting one.”
WHEN YOU FIRST CLIMBED INTO THIS CAR DID YOU EVER THINK IT WOULD BE A RETRO THEMED CAR THAT WOULD BE HONORING YOUR TIME IN THE SPORT?
JEFF GORDON: “No, not until we talked about bringing it back, something like this a few years ago. No, of course not. I was just a young kid that was anxious to get out there and show what I could do and excited about the opportunity to be at Hendrick Motorsports and hoped that I would be able to do my part and go on and win a race. Let alone 93 of them. I certainly never looked far enough ahead that I would have ever thought that we were creating something that would be a part of NASCAR history or a ‘throwback’ to the history at Darlington with a 20-year-old kid behind the wheel that wasn’t me.”
WHAT ARE YOUR EMOTIONS LIKE RACING AT YOUR HOMETOWN TRACK?
WILLIAM BYRON: “Well, I think it’s always special coming here. Obviously, for me a lot of the drivers live in this area, but I grew up here and this is the race that I would go to as a kid and sit up there just passed the start/finish line and watch as a kid. This is a special place for me. Obviously, I want to get in the All-Star race and have a chance to win a million dollars, but I think that for me coming here every time it feels like home. It’s just a fun race track to come to. Now, I’m in the Cup Series and in the Cup car and a chance to race the next couple of weeks, so that stuff is all exciting and as a 20-year-old kid you wouldn’t dream of that at probably 15 or 16 years old. It’s happened quickly and I’m excited for it.”
THE HALL OF FAME VOTE IS NEXT WEEK HAVE YOU GIVEN ANY THOUGHT TO IT?
JEFF GORDON: “You know on one hand I’m excited on the other hand I’m like too young to go into a Hall of Fame or have a throwback paint scheme. I am really just kind of waiting until next week. I’m trying not to think too much about it, but I’ve gone to the Hall of Fame for the inductions many times and seen some great speeches and legends in our sport and so, whenever that day comes it’s a huge honor. I’m thankful that timing has definitely been on my side with motorsports and 10 or 15 years ago the Hall of Fame was not what it is today. It’s pretty special the Hall and the museum and all of that, that goes on, but that ceremony now what it means to be in the Hall of Fame is on a whole other level than it’s ever been. Whenever that day comes I will be very proud and there definitely, maybe not next week if it happens, but I am definitely going to have to get ready for next January or the January after that or the January after that whenever that day comes.”
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