Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, met with media members at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed the new track surface at Bristol, the lack of Cup tire testing there, the working relationship with Kyle Busch, grip on the new surface, lack of...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, met with media members at Bristol Motor Speedway and discussed the new track surface at Bristol, the lack of Cup tire testing there, the working relationship with Kyle Busch, grip on the new surface, lack of practice time here, success in the new car and how it carries over to the Chase, more room at Bristol, the Chase format, Denny Hamlin, new drivers in the sport and Talladega's finish line location.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE TRACK? "I love it. The track is spectacular. I want to applaud them. They did an awesome job. I didn't think you could make Bristol any cooler and any more fun but they have. Unfortunately Goodyear is in the position, they were put in a position that they are in by not getting any testing. Our tire is not matching up to the race track. I don't know if that's going to be good or bad. I think for qualifying you're going to see a lot of guys out of control but I think for the race you might see some great racing. I don't understand why we got so little practice today. I didn't think that made any sense. We got no tire test in and the Busch cars got five hours yesterday but we made the best of it and we'll see where we end up."
WHY DID THE BUSCH SERIES GET TWO TESTS HERE? "Trucks and the Busch cars got tire tests and I don't know how much practice the Trucks got but I know how much practice the Busch cars got and it didn't make much sense to me. But I don't create the schedules."
ARE YOU ANTICIPATING MORE PASSING? "The potential for more passing is certainly there. We were all being pretty careful. here's the problem - when you have as little grip as we have because the tire is so hard, then you've got to be careful. But the track definitely has multiple grooves. Who knows, once we get running longer I think that there is definitely going to be more side-by-side racing than we've ever seen before. But you do have to be a little bit careful on the bottom getting underneath a guy like we saw the other night with Kyle Busch."
HOW CLOSE ARE YOU AND KYLE STILL WORKING TOGETHER? "We're working close together but he didn't get any laps in the Cup car. I think he may have got some laps in a Busch or a Truck, I don't remember exactly but none in the new car. And this car is night and day compared to the other car. But any information that they got from the Busch car, we gathered it up and we've been working great together, no issues at all."
IS IT AS SLICK AS YOU THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE ON THE TRACK? "No, it's better than I thought but it sneaks up on you. Everything is working good, working good and then 'whoom,' it gets your attention. So you realize the limit of the grip is a very fine line in between having good grip and no grip. That's the difference between a hard tire and a softer tire or whatever they call them these days."
DOES THE FINE LINE CHANGE WITH MORE PRACTICE OR THE BUSCH RACE TONIGHT? "The more time we get on the track, the more we can fine-tune the car and make the car better and handle better and create more grip. And that's why I think it was so important for us to get a heck of a lot more practice than what we're going to get. But that's obviously not going to happen and so we'll make the best of it and hope that we still put on a great race tomorrow night. I think the track itself is offering up the makings of a great race."
HOW MUCH IS THIS THROWING EVERYTHING OUT OF WHACK? "I'm telling you, I'm driving around here thinking this is the first time I've ever been here. It's a bowl, it's momentum now. You used to drive in and the car would get real light getting in. You'd stop the car in the middle of the corner, turn and go. Now it's a little more of a momentum track. Even though the speeds are slower, I think everybody thought for some reason the speeds were going to be a lot faster. But they're really not. That's just because the grip level isn't quite there. But I think the configuration and the transitions in and off the corner are phenomenal. They've basically made this track have more room to race on."
ON PRACTICE: "We were okay each time we went out. We went faster, faster and faster. But we just need more time. Hopefully we make the right adjustments for qualifying and then we go fast. I think in the past, track position was extremely important here. It's not going to be as important although still, pit selection is going to be important. So we want to qualify well. I think we've got a shot at top 10, if we're lucky we'll get further up in the top five."
DOES SUCCESS THAT YOU HAD IN THE NEW CAR CARRY OVER TO THE CHASE? "I think it definitely carries over. It gives us confidence; it gives us a direction to work in. It doesn't guarantee anything but it certainly is a plus."
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE ADVANTAGE? "I think Martinsville - we were very strong at Martinsville. I'm looking forward to going back there. Honestly, other than Martinsville, we've not been the best car. We just won the races so we feel like we don't have any advantage. We feel like we've got to actually find the advantage. I think over the majority of the cars out there we've got an advantage. Just not over the guys who I think are going to be competing for the championship."
WITH MORE ROOM ON TRACK, DOES THAT MEAN CONTACT IS NOW LESS ACCEPTABLE? "You never want to go to. the reason that we hit one another so much is because it's one groove. But just like we saw in the Truck race the other night, it's still going to be bumping and banging. Although now there's a groove to get underneath a guy or you can run on the outside of a guy, the cars are still sliding around and it's easy to lose control and get into one another. I think you're going to see just as much action, I just think you're going to see a little bit better racing. In the past it's been action, not racing. There's a big difference between good racing and just cars sliding and getting spun out and cautions every 20 or 30 laps."
ON THE FORMAT OF THE CHASE: "It's good news in my opinion for the whole sport. I don't see a negative to it at all because it creates great racing. If a championship is going to be decided down to the final race, it's anybody's championship to win. I still feel we're one of the teams to beat based on just how good we've been week in and week out. We're consistent, we're solid and we're just constantly getting better so even though we're going to lose that points lead that we have, I still think that we've got a heck of a shot at it."
HOW ARE YOU HANDLING THE HEAT? YOU LOOK DRY. "That's because all the sweat has soaked into this thing and I'm soaking wet. It's hot out here and it was hot inside the car. None of us should be standing out here right now."
DO YOU THINK THE CHASE HAS TAKEN AWAY THE LAST LINK TO THE PAST IN TERMS OF HOW CHAMPIONS WERE DECIDED? "Definitely. To me there should be an asterisk next to the 2002 season because once the Chase format was formed, champions were decided in a much different way. We talked about modern era championships and races won in a single season, comparing it to the past, I think it's the same thing with the Chase format ever since that's come along. In my opinion, though, it's a move for the better. I think it's more exciting. It's more challenging, which makes it more rewarding to win the championship."
HOW WOULD YOU DETERMINE A CHAMPION - THIS WAY OR THE OLD WAY? "I would be doing it the way they are doing it now. Although what I might do is maybe award something to the team and the guy that does lead after Richmond or after 26 races. I think maybe if you have a certain amount of lead over second place, maybe you get some bonus points or there is some incentive to that. It is a shame that the leader gets it all taken away from him but I still think that the Chase format is great, to be decided among 11 or 12 guys for it to come down to the final race of the year, I think that's all great for the sport."
YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE RACING SURFACE: "I love it. I think they did an awesome job with the race track. I'm disappointed that Goodyear didn't get an opportunity to tire test and that we didn't get more time to practice today. This is not the same Bristol, this is a whole new race track. You can throw out all the old notes right out the window and to only go out there and get an hour-and-a-half of practice was a real challenge but we're all in the same boat and making the best of it. But the track itself, awesome."
DO TWO GROOVES MAKE FOR MORE BANGING OR LESS BECAUSE OF MORE MANEUVERABILITY? "I don't know, I think the conditions are tricky so the cars are hotter to get a hold of the race track with. That's going to make challenges, create instances. But I think as far as passing is concerned, you've got the opportunity to make cleaner passes here. That doesn't mean they're going to happen though."
ON DENNY HAMLIN: "He was in contention for a championship the first year. He's definitely impressed me. He's done a great job, has handled himself well. He's a smart driver but also an aggressive one. That's always been something that's stood out in my mind as a guy that does well - a guy that knows how to push hard but think about it at the same time, about when to utilize that. I think he's pushed (Tony) Stewart to elevate his level of competition and driving so it's only making both of them better."
IS IT EASIER FOR A YOUNG GUY OR DID YOU COME IN WITH MORE OF AN EDGE THAN DENNY? "I came here with a lot less experience in a stock car. I came in from a Midget and a Sprint car and I think the setups in the cars certainly have changed. Cars have a lot more downforce now than they used to. In some ways that makes it a little bit easier for a young guy to come in and be more aggressive and not bust his butt as much. Most of it was for me, just the learning curve. I had so much to learn, run 500-mile races and be in these big, heavy cars when I hadn't driven a heavy car a whole lot prior to that."
IS MONTOYA'S SITUATION SIMILAR TO YOURS IN LEARNING TO DRIVE THESE CARS? "Yeah, he's definitely in a position where he comes from a very different race car than what he's in now. He's got to learn the competitors, the race tracks, the race car, everything. I knew it was going to be a big challenge for him this year. The thing though about him. like for me, I wrecked by myself. My first year I was spinning out all by myself and he doesn't do that. He only seems to wreck when he's racing with other guys. So it's still a learning curve. It's things that he's going to learn and get better with and do a great job because he's got a lot of talent."
HAVING CLINCHED THE CHASE, IS IT AS ALL-OUT AS IT CAN BE FOR YOU? "Yeah, I feel like that's really where we're at. We're just in the mode of 'how can we be better, how can we step everything up to get better for the Chase and get 10 more bonus points?'. That's what it's all about for us right now."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE LOCATION OF THE FINISH LINE AT TALLADEGA? "Definitely there's a lot of momentum that shifts from turn four all the way to turn one. So the further you put that start-finish line down there, the more lead changes that you're going to see. Plus the way that the tri-oval widens out so much, it makes so many lanes for guys to get momentum and make passes. That's why we've seen three, four wide come to the line there numerous times. It's quite a bit different deal than what you see at Daytona."
-credit: gm racing