Charlotte II: Pole winner interview

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET -- POLE WINNER'S PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT: YOU'VE GOT TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT HOW THINGS ARE SHAPING UP "Oh, I'm telling you. This was huge and a huge shock. We just have not been qualifying good this year...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET -- POLE WINNER'S PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:

YOU'VE GOT TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT HOW THINGS ARE SHAPING UP

"Oh, I'm telling you. This was huge and a huge shock. We just have not been qualifying good this year and as you mentioned, we haven't qualified this well in Charlotte for 10 years. And I felt like there was a time when we were almost the pole king, like Ryan Newman lately. When it comes to Charlotte we used to qualify so well here but competition and cars and different things change over the years, we just sort of lost our way here. I'll be honest. Today, the way it was going, I didn't think we had any shot at this pole. The only thing that sticks out in my mind is that there were times when the car got through Turns 1 and 2 really good and the sun was beating down pretty hard on (Turns) 3 and 4 and this is just one of those place where when the sun goes down and the temps cool down, the cars react totally different. So we really tried to adjust more for what was happening down in (Turns) 1 and 2 because that end of the track was shaded and looked at what our teammates were doing.

"So we made some changes based on that and worked real hard at it. Even though we were thirty-something in practice, we went out there trying to get the best lap that we could. We didn't think it was going to be a pole. We were going to be happy if we were in the top 15. And it came to the green good. I thought I got through Turns 1 and 2 okay; I didn't think I got through there great. But I thought I got through (Turns) 3 and 4 really good. So, I thought for sure half a dozen guys were going to beat us. And I'm shocked right now that we're here on the pole. But awesome timing in the Chase after the way we ended last week's race. This is definitely a little small momentum and confidence booster for us that's great timing."

IS WINNING THE POLE GOOD TIMING? IS IT SOMETHING TO HANG YOUR HAT ON AS SOMETHING YOU HAVEN'T HAD IN A WHILE?

"When it comes to wins and poles, I feel like there is a lot of correlation there you know, even though we've not been on a pole this year, and we haven't been on one in 10 years here at Charlotte, it doesn't stop us from working as hard as we can and communicating and trying to figure out what the car needs and what I'm looking for and looking at our computer simulation and getting with our engineers and sharing information with our teammates. And that process is the same thing in the race. We do the same things in every race. Sometimes you get the results and sometimes you don't. I think that one of the toughest things about this sport is losing confidence, whether it be the team losing confidence in me or me losing confidence in them or the cars or adjustments and I think the thing I'm the most proud of with this team is that while we haven't won in quite a while, we haven't been like fighting with one another. We're not second-guessing one another, we're just continuing down that path of what we do and I think that's so important and I think that's what's kept us second in points this year before the Chase and I think that's what's allowed us to stay in this battle for the championship in the Chase. And I think that if we can get that confidence back, that's what's going to help us win this championship. And a pole is definitely that little step. A win would be a huge step for us."

IT'S BEEN 10 YEARS, BUT WHEN YOU WERE THE POLE KING HERE, YOU ALSO WON THE RACE 3 OUT OF 7 TIMES FROM THE POLE. CAN YOU TAKE ANYTHING FROM THAT? IS IT LIKE WHEN YOU START WELL YOU FINISH WELL HERE?

"Yeah, I think you could go back through my stats throughout my career and that kind of is the case, not just here at Charlotte, but at a lot of places. Actually me and (Kevin) Harvick were having a conversation about this today. Throughout my career, I've qualified pretty good. And when you qualify good, and you have good results, it's whatever you're used to and whatever seems to be a trend for you. Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth, they're really good at qualifying further on back and racing their way to the front. It's just not something throughout my career I've had a lot of experience at and so I'm not really good at it. I can tell you here lately we've gotten really good at racing from 15th or 16th because it seems like we qualify there about every weekend (laughs).

"This is definitely a boost. That number one pit stall is great. And we do run better here when we start up front just not having to deal with all the aerodynamic stuff that goes on. It doesn't guarantee anything. The nice thing is that tomorrow, when we're working through our race stuff, we're not going to be sitting there at the end of practice going okay, we're starting 15th, so we need to start the car a little bit freer or we've got to do it this way because we've got to work through traffic and keep the car adjustable and then if we get to the front, then we'll be able to pull that out. So that's the nice thing. You don't have to worry about that. You're thinking more along the lines of we're going to be in clean air; let's adjust the car for night conditions and clean air and then if we get shuffled back, we'll adjust. So there's definitely a lot of plusses that come along with it. Just that little bit of confidence that we're starting up front and now we can just go to work on the race."

TONY STEWART SAYS THAT MOMENTUM DOESN'T MATTER, DOESN'T COUNT, HE SAYS WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS WEEK, YOU SEEM TO THINK THAT IN THIS CASE, MOMENTUM CAN BE A POSITIVE FOR YOUR TEAM, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND MAYBE HIS?

"I think confidence if more important that momentum. I think momentum has a small part in it. I think that they kind of go together because usually when your confidence increases and you have the results, usually the momentum comes along with that. But, the momentum can be broke down pretty quick. The confidence takes a lot more to break down. It also takes a lot more to build up. To me, I think that when you, like for Tony, they win coming into the Chase and I'm sure they probably felt pretty good about the way things were going coming into the Chase. Then has a couple of hiccups, they needed that win. Now whether that is confidence or momentum, I don't know.

"Everybody can probably describe it in different ways. I think they kind of go together in my opinion. When you have a big win like Tony had last week, he basically had to have that win to stay in this championship. We're kind of there on that brink too. Each race that goes by, the more winning becomes important and crucial. For us, the momentum for us and confidence for us is that we were 24th with 10 to go or 15 to go last week and we came back and finished ninth. Then we follow that up with a pole here. To me that is confidence and also a little bit of momentum."

HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT FROM PRACTICE TO QUALIFYING TODAY AND HOW IMPORTANT WAS YOUR WATCHING THE GUYS WHO QUALIFIED BEFORE YOU ON TV?

"This is one of those places where we practice during the day and qualify at night. The track conditions change so much. I don't have the numbers, but the temperature change in the track in three and four is a huge swing. So, you do down in there and you are sliding the front end, for me anyway. I slide the front end so bad in three and four in practice and yet I was loose in one and two.

"I just knew that the track was going to get freer because the last time we were here, we had that same issue and we went out to qualify and we were really loose in three and four and then just loose on the whole run. That was in three and four coming to the green. So we tried to make sure we didn't do that again. We looked at what our teammates were doing. Mark Martin was pretty fast at the end of practice and we looked at what he was doing, he was pretty close to us already so we made a few adjustments based on what we saw there.

"We had a good draw and the car did what I wanted it to do that it was not doing in practice and most of that was just as much as, we were pretty good through one and two, little bit loose. But, we tightened up for that end and hoped it would turn down here and it did. That's the prediction that you have to make from practice to qualifying here that happens every time we come here."

YOU SAID AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON THAT YOU AND STEVIE HAD TO GO TO WORK ON YOUR COMMUNICATION ESPECIALLY IN THE CHASE, IN THE PAST WHEN YOU WOULD DRIFT BACK TO 25TH POSITION, THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN WHERE YOU WOULD END UP, NOW IT IS NOW TOP-FIVE OR TOP-10 AND YOU ARE IN TOP FORM. IS THERE ONE TIME THAT YOU REALLY SAW THINGS CLICK BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU?

"I wouldn't say we are in top form. We're fourth in points and we haven't won a race this year. I will say we are improved from last year. I feel like even though we were third in points last year, I feel like there was room for improvement. One of those areas were where me and Steve having confidence in one another and understanding what is going on in the race. It is so important, that relationship between the driver and the crew chief. It is so important for nobody to take things personal. In the heat of the moment, adrenaline, tone of voice on the radio and things that are going on.

"Over the off season, we just worked really hard at trying to understand how each of us was thinking. Also, what we needed to do going forward to just be better. We wanted to go from third to a first place championship-caliber team. And while we haven't won this year, I still think we are better than we were last year. Our pit stops are way better, so much more solid. I attribute that to Steve, he's been working out with that pit crew all winter long and during the year. He's built a great relationship with them. I think that has definitely helped. I think that how we got about our engineering, our communication, its better. I mean we could be sitting here talking about four or five wins that have been right there that just haven't happened and then we would just be fourth in the championship. It wouldn't be, oh and you haven't won. We're very capable of it. We are a very strong team.

"One of the things I think we are really good at this year, is we never give up. We always go as hard as we can until the checkered flag, you can't ever count us out.

"We are consistent. We have run good at a lot of tracks. But, we're realistic too. We know that we are up against three, four of the best teams out there which are the guys that are right there in points and in order finish ahead of them in points, we can't make mistakes like I made on pit road last week. But if we do, we have to rebound and we have to finish better than ninth. That's not going to cut it. It never does and while we have a good average finish, we've got to get up there. I'm not saying we have to win, not yet. But we definitely have to be battling up front for those wins and leading laps. And, we have to out run our competitors. We don't have to win, we just have to out run those guys and finish ahead of them. We know we have to do that. We have 80-something points to make up. It doesn't all have to happen this weekend or next weekend, but when we come out at Talladega, we've got to be pretty close to them."

HAVING YOUR CHOICE OF PIT STALL, I'M ASSUMING IT'S THE FIRST ONE, DOES THAT KEEP YOU FROM MAKING A MISTAKE LIKE LAST WEEK IN TRYING TO GET AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ON PIT ROAD

"No, what's going to keep us from having the mistake last week; I blame it all on myself because I know how our light system is on our tach. It's so much different than what it used to be. We don't look at the rpm's anymore. We look at lights. Maybe not all the teams have them but the majority of the teams now have a light system on their tach. And the lights are just a correlation of rpm. But it's easier to read a light than it is a little needle; or maybe I'm just getting old. I don't know. And the way we had our light system set up, there's a buffer in there so the way on the light that I was running, I could run 15 or 20 rpm over the pit road speed. You guys need to understand. This is how close we push everything. You go out there and look at qualifying and there were hundredths, thousands of a second in between cars. So we don't want to give up anything on pit road. And it's just so hard to do. It's like a perfect storm that happened. My engine ran perfectly smooth. I just got the throttle pedal in the right place and I just creeped it up, creeped it up, and it never went to the next light. If it goes to the next light, I lift and I don't speed. I creeped it up so close to that second light and it never came on; I actually was speeding. And it didn't surprise me when they called me. This week we've got that light system set up a little bit different because they didn't think it was possible for that to happen. Now we know it is possible. And my mistake because I knew the system; we do have a way within the team to prevent that from happening. It has nothing to do with where the pit stall is. What the number one pit stall does is gives us a clean shot off and a clean shot in and under caution, that's big. If we pit under caution it's a great advantage."

-source: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Ryan Newman , Mark Martin