JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO -- Wins Pole: THIS IS YOUR THIRD STRAIGHT SHARPIE 500 POLE "I didn't know that. That's good to know. We were talking earlier about going for a sixth front-row start. I knew we had some poles...
JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO -- Wins Pole:
THIS IS YOUR THIRD STRAIGHT SHARPIE 500 POLE
"I didn't know that. That's good to know. We were talking earlier about going for a sixth front-row start. I knew we had some poles in there, but I wasn't sure that was the case. So that's awesome.
"It was a great effort today. We brought a new car and it certainly paid off. We've just been real happy with it right from the beginning. We had a few issues with the brakes early in the day and we're not sure if we've gotten it completely figured out yet. It didn't affect the speed of the car. It was more of just a feel thing. The guys just did a great job just fine-tuning and keeping up with the conditions of the track. It definitely got slick as the track sat in the sun there. All of us were slipping and sliding around there a little bit, which was surprising to me that we were able to back up the speed we ran in practice."
DID YOU EVER THINK YOU'D SEE SPEEDS THIS FAST AT BRISTOL?
"No, never. It's amazing at how the teams are getting these cars to hook up better at these race tracks and the power we're making out of these engines. I like to always think it's a combination of things, but most of it is Goodyear. They can dictate the speeds so much just by tires. We started with a softer tire this year and you take what the teams have done with the combination of the tire and you're going to see those 14-second laps."
HOW CLOSE DID YOU COME TO PUSHING IT TO THE LIMIT? DID YOU LET IT ALL HANG OUT OR DID YOU HAVE SOMETHING LEFT?
"No, we pushed the limits. We wanted that pole really bad today. That car was really good in practice. When I made the lap in practice, the car was tight. It wasn't like a lap I was about to wreck on, so I felt like we could certainly push the limits for qualifying. To show you the limit it was pushing, I ran the first lap and I thought it was a good lap but I didn't know if it was enough. So I was pushing so hard in the second lap that I almost wrecked in Turns 3 and 4. I got really sideways and I would have felt awful to know what kind of lap we had in that first lap and to tear it up on that second lap - we got lucky there."
HOW DO YOU BALANCE KNOWING YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL HERE, BUT NOT BEING TOO CAREFUL BECAUSE YOU CAN GET RUN OVER FROM BEHIND?
"Most of it is trial and error. I've race here long enough to try both things - try to be careful and stay out of trouble to get to the end of the race and then go hard, and I've been caught up in wrecks. And then if we start up front, to just go like crazy and I've still had problems. So I think you've just got to be smart. That's the bottom line. You've got to know when to push and when not to push. If you're in clean air and out front, you want to try and maintain that and you're going to push a little harder to try and keep it. Once you lose it, then you don't want to push so hard that you've got guys trying to poke their noses inside you and you just keep blocking and blocking. I've watched the Busch races and I just keep saying, 'Let him go. Let him go.' And then there's a bump and you just think whose fault was that? Well, it was the guy up front who didn't let him go in my opinion.
"Well, when I'm racing I try to think of that. I might push the limits and make a guy work on me a little bit, but if I know he's faster I'm going to try to be smart and get back in line. You've got to be here at the end if you're going to have a shot at it. The last time we were here I made a mistake. I did the stupid pit road thing again and took us out of a shot at winning this thing. I don't know where we finished, but I believe it was in the top 10. We would have had a shot at winning if I hadn't done that. So, third time's the charm is what I'm hoping for."
WITH THE POINTS LEAD AND BEING ABLE TO GO OUT THERE AND RUN THE RACE YOU WANT, IS THIS THE MOST FREEDOM YOU'VE HAD GOING INTO AN EVENT?
"Well, that's the advantages of this point system right now if you're up front. So I would say yes. This is definitely the most comfortable I've ever been at this point in the season and in a position where you can just go out there and go for the win. Finishing second, third, fourth, fifth, or whatever doesn't really matter to us. We're trying to gain momentum going into those last 10. We want to gain confidence in ourselves and show what we've got and what we're made of. We're certainly not here just to ride around and wait for those last 10 races. We're here to fight and charge from here all the way to the end of the season. We want to show ourselves that and everybody else out there. But as relaxed and comfortable as I am right now, once we get in those last 10 races the intensity level is going to go completely opposite with the pressure and everything that's riding on those last 10 races. It's nice to be in that position now, but boy it's going to change in a big way here in a short period of time."
THE GUYS FIGHTING TO GET INTO THE TOP 10 HAVE MORE PRESSURE RIGHT NOW. DURING THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP, MIGHT THE TOP 10 GUYS FEEL MORE PRESSURE THAN THE GUYS IN THE BACK?
"I agree with you right now. They're going through a lot right now and intensity level for them is great right now. That's why I think it's important for us not to let down our guard and to keep pushing forward and winning races and treat this race as if it's one of those last 10. Even though the pressure's not there, I think the intensity level of going out there to win is just as high. Yeah, those guys are definitely fighting hard to get in that top 10 now.
"When they get in those last 10, they don't have anything to lose. But I still think the team that does the best job is still going to be the team to come out on top. And 10 races is a lot longer than we tend to think."
IS THIS THE BEST YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN SINCE THE EVERNHAM DAYS?
"Yes, you can say that. We've just been building each year - the chemistry of the people and the performance of the team. Hendrick Motorsports as a whole is as strong as I've ever seen them. The chemistry from the crew chiefs and drivers and the whole organization as a whole is better than it's ever been. All of this trickles down into confidence and performance on the race track. Robbie and I have a great line of communication and a great amount of respect for one another. I like the decisions he's making and he likes the decisions I'm making. We're just building on that. If you look at how tough the competition is right now, we're as good as we've ever been."
SOME PEOPLE HAVE SAID THAT ONCE A DRIVER GETS A SPOT IN THE FINAL 10, THERE WOULD BE A TENDENCY TO COAST. DOES THIS POLE COUNTER THAT?
"I wasn't one of those crtitics that ever said that. All we're doing all year long in these first 26 races is prepare for those last 10. By laying down in a race when you're secure, that's only going to cost you momentum and what you need to have to go into those last 10. I think we're all learning a lot about this new system as we go here. We're all seeing a lot more going into it. The attention is really strong. These last 10 races are going to be very intense and exciting. Right now, being on the outside looking in, I'm a big fan of the system. Being involved with the system, it's really the last 10 I've really always been concerned about and I'll speak my mind or my opinion on it as we go through those last 10."
HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING IN TURN 3 THAT COULD BE GIVING DRIVERS TROUBLE?
"I haven't seen anything over there, but I felt it. I got sideways over there myself on my second lap. To me, we're running fast and the temperatures are hot. The tires are softer. I think you can really only push the cars hard for one lap. If you try to push them hard on that second lap, the grip level is just not there.
"Other than Kasey Kahne - I think he's the only one who went faster in the second lap - you've got to be careful once the grip starts to go away with the temperatures we're dealing with. In Turn 3, you've got to be a little bit cautious. There is something about the transition or the grip level of the track over there or it's a bump or I don't know what it is, but it will really grab the front end of the car and make the back end get around."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO HAVE THE POINTS LEAD AT THE BEGINNING OF THE CHASE?
"It's worth five points. It's more mental than anything else. We feel good about where we are right now and the way we've been performing. I don't see why we can't continue to do that in the last 10. Forty-five points from first to 10th is not that much. Anybody has a shot at this championship. Those guys further back has basically nothing to lose. We've got to run those 10 consistently - not necessarily by taking a lot of risks and pushing the limits until you get down to those last couple of races and then you feel like you have to do that."
CAN YOU TAKE ANYTHING FROM BRISTOL TO MARTINSVILLE?
"There is never a time when you can take anything you learned at Bristol to Martinsville - with rpm and power range and engine stuff. But this is as different as Talladega is to Martinsville as far as I'm concerned."