All-Star: Jeff Gordon - GM Top-10 interview

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES WEEKLY TOP 10 Behind the Hauler Chat with Jeff Gordon JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS: Do you try to play the chess game of inversions? "No, what we do is try to get the best starting position that...

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES WEEKLY TOP 10
Behind the Hauler Chat with Jeff Gordon

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO SS:

Do you try to play the chess game of inversions? "No, what we do is try to get the best starting position that we can with the best race car that we possibly can and hope that it falls your way. I feel like you know it's going to be inverted somewhat and we certainly lean towards that so it's not a bad idea to necessarily fall back or at least be back a few positions. All I know is that I want the best car I possibly can have and 20 laps in the last segment is still a lot of laps.

Can you have a strategy for the inversion? Yeah, one is with this tire - number one - is don't wreck. It's near impossible to drive down pit road let alone be out there at 190 mph. Right now cold tires are a real handful when you're trying to get the car to come to you and the track to come to you, I think is your number one strategy. Next is just to have a good, balanced race car along the run.

What do you think about this event? I love this event; I think it's a great event and it's exciting for everybody. The competitors, drivers, pit crews, the crew chiefs, the strategy, all of that. For the fans as well. It's very exciting.

What are your expectations with the new surface and hard tires? Well, the toughest thing is to get heat into them (tires) and once you get heat into them they're not too bad. Today we had a day practice with a pretty hot race track and a tire that just doesn't have a lot of grip so it was a handful for everybody. We're going to be racing at night; I think the trick is to just get some temperature into them as fast as you possibly can.

You sounded pretty happy on your radio the way the car was handling today. Man, you must not be listening to my radio. I'm very happy with my race car, but not in these conditions. It's really a waste of time to be out there at two or three o'clock in the afternoon when we're racing at night.

You said you'd be better off when it's cooled down a little bit? I think so. I think we're going to be real good like we were in the test. I thought in the test we were real good at night. A lot of guys have got their cars tuned up to run pretty good; they might even qualify pretty good but hopefully we're going to race real good.

On taking chances: Well, with this tire you have to pick and choose when you can take chances and in this race you have to take chances. The only way you're going to win this race is to take some chances. But I think it's about picking and choosing when that happens.

How is the tire affecting what you can and can't do? It's affecting it a lot. Like tonight, for qualifying. You can't get the tire to stop in your pit stall, you can't get it to take off, you can't get any temperature in it to take off to run just a couple laps. I think the trickiest conditions we're going to have is qualifying. Especially for tonight. You're going to see a lot of penalties tonight from guys missing pit road, missing their pit stalls. Possibly even guys losing control of their cars on the race track because it's so hard to keep temperature in their tire. Once you get about five or six laps on the tire and get some temperature in them they feel really good.

So are there concerns for the actual race? Not as far as having tire problems but for getting grip there's a lot of concern. I'm very concerned. I still feel the same way - I think the tires are way too hard, the fuel cell is too small and we're just going to have to do the best we can with it. I think 600 miles next week is going to be a race of survival and a race of being smart, especially with this race starting during the day. I think that you'll have issues with trying to get temperature in those tires and the car being underneath you under slick conditions during the day and still be good at night.

What do you mean by not wreck? It's just so hard - you have no feel. The first 10 laps out there during the heat of the day, I've about wrecked four or five times. It's literally that out of control. It's not a fun feeling and everybody's experiencing the same thing. After you get temperature in the tire it's not bad. Running at night under good conditions if we get some temperature in the tires we're going to have a lot of fun with this tire. We're not going to have to worry about it blowing and having tire failures but there's still a major concern as far as just having enough grip to be secure out there.

Is this one big test session for the 600? We're all competitors and we get out on that racetrack all wanting to win. There's some guys who are going to want to go for it more than others. If a guy picks and chooses correctly when he goes for it he can take risks to win. If you try to take risks too early on a set of tires you're going to find yourself in the wall without a chance to win this race. I still think there's a lot of strategy that's going to come in and obviously a good car is going to be important. There's some guys that are better are colder tires and some guys that are better on older tires and that's going to be the real balance as to who's going to win this race.

Is this race something you consider a lot of fun? Yeah, I do. I like the challenge it puts out there. It's fun, it's different and I always look forward to this event.

Mark Martin says that only sissies play games with the inversion. I can see Mark Martin saying that. That's kind of the way I've always looked at it. If you knew exactly what the inversion is going to be and you're trying to win the race then your objective is to win the race. I've always just gone out there and run as hard as I possibly could and if it's mean to be it's meant to be. You just try to get your car into the best position you can in every single segment.

If you mess with the inversion, sometimes it will bite you. You don't know for sure what that inversion is going to be. I think the only guys that play the inversion are guys who don't have a shot of winning with their car being fast enough to win.

How does the track compare to last year? The race track is fantastic. I think they've done an awesome job with it. It's smooth, it has a wide groove to it, I think race track-wise I'm very happy with what they've done.

How would you have described it last year? It certainly wasn't optimal. They definitely made some mistakes trying to grind the race track. I think they were trying to prolong the inevitable of needing to pave this race track and I never blame anybody for trying to do what's best but that work certainly didn't turn out all right.

How much more do you have to 'race the racetrack' this week? For me I'm finding that I've got to race the racetrack a lot at the beginning of a run and five, six seven laps on a run I can't pay attention to what the other competitors are doing; I've just got to race the racetrack. Once I get past that and my car really comes in strong I can worry about the competitors.

Are you more worried about the hard tires this year or last year's tires blowing? Good question - I think I was more concerned with tires blowing but I'm still very concerned about the hard tires. It's not a lot of fun. I just really question the fact that they know we've got a hard tire and not a lot of grip and the only practice they gave us was a day practice for a night race and night qualifying. I don't think that made much sense at all.

If guys push it early will it cause more wrecks? If guys push it early, yeah. Like I said, these tires don't have any grip until they get a lot of heat in it and then it's pretty good. Every time there is a caution when they drop the green I'm going to be concerned with myself and everyone else around me and that's going to happen every time. Every time you put cold tires on when it's green or after a caution I'm going to be concerned.

-gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin