Bristol: Pole winner interview

JEFF GORDON , DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS - POLE WINNER "No matter what kind of laps you run, especially here, you always want to do better. I am just real proud of all the guys on this DuPont Impala SS team. I got a little bit loose...

JEFF GORDON , DRIVER OF THE NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS - POLE WINNER

"No matter what kind of laps you run, especially here, you always want to do better. I am just real proud of all the guys on this DuPont Impala SS team. I got a little bit loose getting in the corner but the only way you can get the car through the corner is have them really loose getting in. I am impressed with how fast we are going around here, I didn't expect us to be going around here that fast. I am obviously real impressed with my guys how well they have done. They just keep getting better, worked really hard after the test to get better and better each time we go on the track.

"I did it on the first lap and gave it up on the second one and did it on the first lap which is key.

"I just didn't think we would run these kinds of speeds. I just didn't think DuPont Impala SS would be able to run that fast, but it did. I owe to Kenny Schrader, he told me that I was going to run better than a .31 for some other reasons (Laughs). I just definitely didn't think we would run a .29. That is impressive. Just got to thank all these guys on the DuPont Chevrolet team. They made improvements all day long, and since testing, we've made improvements.

"We had it set up pretty loose, to get through the middle and man it was. But off the corner it is just fantastic.

"You aren't going to be able to run a car that loose all day long in the race. But you are going to have to run it loose because these cars just don't turn in the middle like the old cars do. I think we are going to have to have a compromise of pretty loose on entry, we'll see. We didn't play around with race setups today at all and it paid off for us.

"I am proud of Steve Letarte and all these guys to come out here for the first race with our Impala SS new race car and sit on the pole at such a tricky race track. This track is so tricky with the travels we had to work with, they did a fantastic job."

IS THERE A "FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL" FEEL ABOUT THIS?

"Yeah we're all going through some huge learning curves. We spent two days of testing here learning a lot. We took all that data and did a fantastic job coming back with a package. We focused solely on qualifying today and it's paid off for us. I felt like qualifying was going to be tough and it was going to be important. Each track we go to will have different circumstances. None of us have tested at Martinsville. It's going to be even more challenging in some ways than this track; although some guys really have their hands full because when you come from the straightaway down in the corner, it really falls off. First the car gets light in the back, you get a huge load, and there are some pretty big dips and bumps.

"The amount of travel we have with this car and how important that splitter is and on bump stops or not on bump stops and all that stuff and this car has so much less downforce than our current car. Those are big challenges. Those were some pretty fast times for a car that has as little downforce as this car does. We're going to be learning a lot tomorrow and then on Sunday it's going to be a whole new experience for all of us. I'm really excited that we qualified on the pole because I think track position is going to be extremely important."

HAS YOU OPINION OF THE CAR CHANGED AT ALL?

"Let me just say it's growing on me a little bit. The look of the car is the look of the car. The performance of the car, I feel like we've learned a little bit. I've said the whole time that whether I liked the car or not, we were going to do all we can to be competitive - me as a driver and us as a team. And that was the goal we set out to do. I don't care what car it is. That's our goal. I'm proud of that effort. That might teach people some things about me. Just because I don't like something doesn't mean I'm not going to work hard at it. The car is growing on me. The car had a much better feel on me today and I'll let you know a little bit more when we get through tomorrow. At Darlington, I thought the car was a little bit of an improvement. Some tracks are going to be extremely difficult to learn, like Dover. The road courses are going to be interesting. Each time I get in the car I learn a little bit more.

"I'm trying to answer your question. It's no Monte Carlo. It's an Impala. Ours was the best of the group today and that's really all that matters. But there is no way you're going to get the car to feel like our current car. It has twice as much downforce. It doesn't have the limitations that this car does. It's harder to adjust and it definitely creates some more challenges from a drivers' standpoint. Any time you have something that feels good, it's hard to step backwards. But as far as the racing, and as far as competition, it's still my hope that it does everything that NASCAR set out for it to do. And until we get on some faster tracks, we won't know."

WITH THE NEW CAR, DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF CHANGES TO MAKE FROM QUALIFYING TRIM TO RACE TRIM?

"I'll let you know after practice tomorrow (laughs). I don't know right now."

HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING WITH THIS CAR?

"Starting up front is always important here at Bristol and pit location is always important. So it doesn't matter what car we have here. But this car is punching a big hole in the air and it doesn't have a lot of downforce. When you get tucked up behind somebody, it's going to be very hard to pass. We're already working hard getting the car to turn in the middle without spinning out getting in the corner. You notice a lot of guys struggle getting in the corner. You've got to free the car up so much to get to turn - because it just doesn't have the front or rear downforce - and so you're fighting it.

"Track position is going to be real important. There will be guys that hit it on Sunday and there will be some guys who are way off in left field. That's going to get better as time goes by. But I don't know that track position has ever been as important here as it is today. I don't think you'll see any more or less cautions here. But I don't know what it's like to have a car behind me - or be behind another car. We haven't done it. It's all going to be a big test this entire weekend.

"Our race set-up - I don't think we're going to be where we are now. We're going to go in a much different direction to start with tomorrow. But we might creep back to this direction. We feel like this set up was good for one or two laps, but that it's not good for a run."

IF YOU'VE GOT HALF THE DOWNFORCE AND YOU DON'T HAVE THE SUSPENSION TRAVEL IN FRONT, WHERE ARE YOU PICKING IT UP?

"It beats the heck out of me. I never thought we'd go this fast today. Tires mean a lot. We're going to have to talk to Goodyear about what kind of tires these are compared to what we've had in the past. I don't remember if they're the same or different. We've learned a lot over the winter on our current cars that we can try to apply to this car. But I think this is one of those tracks that you can squeeze something out of it for one or two laps. But I am surprised at how good and how fast the car was for one or two laps today. But I don't have all the answers. We had the car so extremely loose for qualifying compared to our normal set-up and it worked because it just didn't have the front downforce to spin the car out."

ON HAVING HALF THE DOWNFORCE, ARE YOU GETTING ALL YOU CAN OUT OF THE WING AND THE SPLITTER ALL YOU CAN GET?

"Oh, we've got it maxed out. If you look at the rear wing, that's as much angle as we can get in it. That's as much wicker as we can put on the back, which is that little leading edge on the backside of it. We've got as much rear downforce as we can possibly get in this car and we have no more front downforce to get. That's all there is. That's been one of my complaints on this car.

"We are so limited on the front downforce. And because of that big roof, that just takes all the air off the car anyway, that when you're behind a car it's punching such a big hole. Everybody wants to compare these cars to the trucks, but the trucks have three times as much downforce as these cars and then they punch a big hole. So they're wide-open at places like Atlanta. I'm not saying this combination won't be good. It might be. It might be great.

"But from a driver's feel and from a team's standpoint of adjustments, it's been a real challenge."

WILL THE EXTRA WIDTH OF THE NEW CAR MAKE FOR A TIGHTER PIT ROAD?

"When I first started with the car, I was a little concerned about getting the right side into the wall like up off the corners because there are those extra inches. We're dealing with millimeters here when we're racing. On the race track on tight surfaces like this and at Martinsville next week, it's going to be a handful - and on pit road getting this car in and out of the pits is going to be a bit of a challenge. But I don't think that's one thing that I'm overly concerned about."

HOW HAS THE WEEKEND GONE FOR THE SPORT?

"A lot of us thought were prepared to go through some long processes. I feel like from what I've heard, the inspection process went pretty smooth. It was a long process. They knew that would be the case. But they didn't have to fix or change a lot of things. This is definitely an historical moment in NASCAR's history. It's significant. Since I've been in this sport, I would say between this and the points change for the Chase are the two biggest things I've seen as changes to the sport. It's a big deal and there's a lot of attention on it. It think they're going to be under a tight microscope. I commend them for being brave enough to build their own basically. NASCAR built this car to try to change the future. I hope it pays off. If we can work with what they've started as a foundation and tweak it as we go, I think there can be a lot of positives with this car."

WHICH CARS ARE YOU TAKING TO MARTINSVILLE AND THEN TO RICHMOND FOR THE TEST?

"I just drive when I get to the race track. I have no idea. This race car right here, my Impala, is going to be torn up. Even if we win the race, it's going to be tore up. I doubt whether we would have this car ready to go to Martinsville just because of the body damage you're expected to have here. For Richmond, we're probably going to take a different car. We plan on having 12 or 14 cars. Some people say you can get away with five cars. Maybe you can. We're going to build a bunch of them to be prepared. You've got testing and short tracks versus some of the other tracks. Body-wise, even though they're not that much different, some of the things we're doing geometry wise and with the travels, we want to build a bunch of them."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE STARTING YOUR CAREER ALL OVER AGAIN BECAUSE THESE CARS ARE SO DIFFERENT?

"From a driver's standpoint, you get in the car every weekend and you make it go as fast as it is capable of going and then you give feedback to the team to make it go even faster. This car is no different. It has challenges but you do the same thing and go through the same techniques. During the off-season, our guys make our cars better and faster. So you have to almost learn all over again when the season starts it was like starting all over again.

"I feel like one of the things we do best is we focus very hard on the next race and try to prepare in our shop for races further down the road than that. That's the way we're going to approach this car and every race.

"Have I told you how much I love that Impala SS?"

-credit: gm racing

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup