BEHIND THE HAULER TALK WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: HOW IS YOUR DAY SO FAR? "It's a pretty good day. We've made some race runs and I'm real happy with the car in race trim. We're right up there with about four or five other...
BEHIND THE HAULER TALK WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
HOW IS YOUR DAY SO FAR? "It's a pretty good day. We've made some race runs and I'm real happy with the car in race trim. We're right up there with about four or five other guys who are really good and we've made two qualifying runs. In the first one, we were hitting the race track real hard and in the second one we picked up a couple more tenths. I don't think we've got anything for the pole, but we can track in the top 10."
GIVEN THAT YOU OWN PART OF THE NO. 48 CAR, CAN YOU SEE DARIAN GRUBB SETTING HIMSELF UP AS SOMEONE WHO IS SOUGHT AFTER? "Possibly, if that's what he desires; if he wants to be a crew chief. He's kind of been put in that role -- not by choice. He's an engineer at heart and if he wants to pursue being a crew chief then that's something we have to look at at Hendrick Motorsports and talk to him. And it's something he's going to have to consider in his future as well. I like Darian a lot. He does a great job. We really like having him in our organization and we wouldn't want to lose him. But at the same time, I don't know if we have a position as a crew chief for him once Chad (Knaus) comes back."
WOULD YOU BE SURPISED IF DARIAN GRUBB'S NAME DIDN'T COME UP IN THE CREW CHIEF RUMOR MILL? "I think it's already there. And not to take anything away from Darian, because he's done a good job, but that team is well put together and organized. And unless he has that same opportunity that he has now, I think it would be a mistake for him to just go off and get a team going from the ground up or with a struggling team let's say."
ARE YOU POISED TO WIN ON DOWNFORCE TRACKS OR DO YOU NEED MORE DEVELOPMENT? "It's always a work in progress. We've made gains. What I like about what we're doing right now is we're making our own decisions. We're not basing them off what the No. 5 or the No. 48 or the No. 25 have in there. We're just doing it off of what I feel I need and we've made gains."
YOUR YOUNGER TEAMMATES ARE DOING WELL. ARE YOU AT THE POINT WHERE YOU WANT TO BE COMPETING WITH THEM? "I want to compete with whoever it is that's out there that we've got to compete with to win. Jimmie has been strong this year so he's obviously someone we've got to compete with. Matt Kenseth has been strong. And he's no young guy, and neither is Jimmie now. It's about just getting your car and team up to speed."
ON THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED FINISHING SYSTEM, ARE THOSE LAST LAPS PRETTY CRAZY OUT THERE? "Well, there are some tracks that are crazier than others. It's just sitting there in 10th or 12th place. At a track like this where you'd need tires, that could make a big difference. It's a tough decision whether to come in or not. We missed that opportunity in California. It bit us. Last week, the decision made worked for us. It changes how we go about racing when you have the green-white-checkered. But I think it's exciting. Last week's race wasn't necessarily the most exciting race, but that green-white-checkered made it a great one."
WITH THREE TRACKS LIKE ATLANTA, BRISTOL, AND MARTINSVILLE COMING UP, DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN BE AGGRESSIVE AND MOVE UP IN THE POINTS? "Obviously you've got to have the right cars and team. But when you have that kind of confidence and then you build it with momentum, that's hard to beat. Everything you do just seems to go right and all the decisions you make seem to be the right ones and it's a good feeling and place to be. When we go to Martinsville, I feel like we're one of the cars to beat. But I also feel like we constantly have to keep pushing our set-ups and myself to continue to get better because the competition gets better everywhere you go.
"Short tracks are good tracks for us. We've got to take advantage of the tracks that we run good at and capitalize on them. That was the one area last year that really bit us. Other than Martinsville, when we got to the road courses and short tracks, we had issues that kept us from getting those good finishes that kept us out of the Chase."
WITH COOL WEATHER PREDICTED FOR SUNDAY, HOW DOES THAT FACTOR INTO YOUR RACE STRATEGY? "We'll just get all we can tonight. We made a couple of race runs here today. The sun was out. We'll take that into account tomorrow morning. It will be overcast and we'll figure in for cooler temperatures on Sunday."