JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Qualified 2nd: "Track position is really important here and we're really happy to be on that front row right now. The car has been awesome all day long. What a great effort this team has put in...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Qualified 2nd:
"Track position is really important here and we're really happy to be on that front row right now. The car has been awesome all day long. What a great effort this team has put in here. I know we're going to be a little bit disappointed because we were real fast in practice and we thought we had a shot at them."
"Coming into the day, I didn't know what to expect. But the way practice went for us I knew we had a shot at the pole. That was very exciting. The car was just unreal all day today. The power was good. Everything was really lining up for us to have a good day and we did. I thought my first lap could have been a little bit better. I drove down into (turn) 1 and drove down in there real deep. The car turned for me so I was pretty happy about that. I got back on the gas real hard and got a push and got me up just a half a lane and that cost me some time on the first lap. I regrouped and took my time a little bit more on the second lap and made sure I could keep it on the bottom and came back and ran a decent lap. The guys wanted that pole today because they knew how good our car was. Second is the next best thing. To be up there on the front row and to have track position is good. We'll take that."
HOW ARE YOU FEELING?
"I'm on the upslope of getting better. I don't know what I caught, but I was in bad shape Tuesday and Wednesday - today's a lot better. I had a high fever. I'm on a decongestant and an antibiotic."
ON THE BUMPS IN THE RACE TRACK
"I don't think they're the type of bumps that guys can't find a way to stay down there (on the bottom). It's just going to make it a bit more challenging for our springs and shock packages. The fast line still seems to be around the bottom. These new tracks - as we get through the weekend with the Busch race - the groove seems to get a little bit wider. I see it here. You can really unwind the steering wheel up off the corner here. So if there is somebody who can keep it right on that white line - say in the middle part of the corner and off - you might be able to get an advantage on a guy and get up and at least get a fender up underneath the guy. I think you can run two wide here, we just haven't seen it work a whole lot in the past. We're hoping that we will this time. I just noticed the bumps being a little bit more drastic this time than the last time we were here."
"A lot of that comes from the way the cars unload in the corners like going into turn 1 - it's real ripplely there - and then also just past the entry going into (turn) 3 is a pretty good bump. If this track stays tight like it has in the past, and you have to free the car up, you're going to have to be a little bit careful on new tires so those bumps won't upset you."
JEFF GREEN, NO. 1 PENNZOIL CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Qualified 15th:
"We actually picked it up a little bit and I'm happy for that. The guys just give me a great race car every week. With this Pennzoil Chevy right now, we've got a great opportunity to win races and be competitive each week and we're proving it this weekend."
AFTER RECENTLY JOINING DEI, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING GOOD RUNS AND GETTING SOME CONSISTENCY WITH THIS RACE TEAM?
"Well, it means everything for both of us. These guys think like I do. I enjoy being around them and hopefully they enjoy being around me. They're going to have a hard time running me off right now."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Qualified 6th:
"It was a good lap for us. The grip on the speedway is pretty good. Sometimes a green race track is faster. We came close to what we ran in practice. A lot of guys have picked up, so I'm a little worried about our time holding."
ON THIS TRACK, CAN YOU WIN FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK?
"We almost won here last year and we started 37th (took a provisional) after I crashed the primary car. So we definitely have a shot at it."
JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX- Qualified 36th:
"We're disappointed. We didn't practice as well as we wanted so we aren't totally surprised with our starting spot. I think this car is going to race good. We say that a lot, but these days racing is a lot different than qualifying and we think we have a car to race here. We have been good here before and the guys were good here last year with Mike Wallace. This is my second time here and it's taken some time to get used to this place. But this is a place that if you are right you will go to the front pretty quickly."
RICKY CRAVEN, NO. 32 TIDE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX - Qualified 26th:
YOU REALLY IMPROVED FROM PRACTICE.
"Yea, we really needed to. Practice was a quick two hours. The Tide Pontiac didn't come off the trailer as quickly as we would've liked and we suffered because of it. But we made a good gain there, and I expect we'll make another good gain tomorrow.
DID YOU MAKE A LOT OF CHANGES FROM PRACTICE TO QUALIFYING?
"We really did. We made several changes, and the majority of them worked in our favor. I appreciate the fact that there willing to put it on the line. We needed to."
JOHNNY SAUTER, NO. 4 KODAK PONTIAC GRAND PRIX - Qualified 20th:
"We've had a good qualifying lap twice today. We did it in the Busch car earlier. This car was really good. We came here and tested two weeks ago and we knew we had something that we would could come and make the show solidly with. The boys must've tuned it up on the motor program because the car runs really, really good. We just need to free it up a little bit for tomorrow. I think we know where to go with it."
YOU GOT YOUR FIRST BUSCH WIN HERE LAST YEAR, AND NOW YOU QUALIFY FOR YOUR FIRST WINSTON CUP RACE HERE. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TRACK?
"It's close to home, close to Wisconsin. I mean, Milwaukee was my main focus to try and win this year, but Chicago's close and I'll take that if we can get it. This track just must suit my driving style. I'm really looking forward to this whole weekend."
TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Qualified 1st:
"If we can stay up there with it, we'll be all right. It was a good solid lap. It's better than what we practiced. With the rain I didn't know how much grip the track was going to have in it."
WHAT WILL YOU NEED TO STAY UP FRONT ON SUNDAY?
"A good balanced race car that runs good behind somebody."
TONTY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Pole winner's press conference:
ABOUT YOUR LAP.
"It was good solid run. You don't get into this room at this part of the day if you don't have a good solid run, obviously. It went around there, I went in a little deeper than I had in practice, and got in the gas about the same point. It turned in and it stuck, and I could get back in the gas, and I got back in the gas as soon as possible and then did the same thing at the other end. It was almost two tenths faster than we were in practice, so it was just a good solid run. The biggest think was the condition with the amount of rubber on the racetrack that we had to deal with after the rain. It changed around just a little bit, but for the most part it was a good solid run. I heard Bill (Elliott) say that his lap made his heart beat up and down a bunch, but the car was smooth for me. If I had to go out and do it again, I'd feel comfortable trying to do the same run all over."
YOU'VE SEEMED TO RUN STRONGER SINCE THE RACE IN DOVER - IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIFIC THE TEAM HAS DONE TO TURN THINGS AROUND?
"Not that I know of. We've been doing the same things each week, I think we're just finally, hopefully, starting to get some luck turned around. As a race team we haven't done anything different, and I haven't done anything different. We just really haven't had the luck we had at the end of last year."
WHAT WAS THE IMPACT OF THE RAIN ON THE TRACK?
"I talked to Johnny Benson who was one of the early qualifiers, and he was talking about his car chattering across the track. That's normally an indication there's not a lot of rubber down yet. So I was a little concerned about the amount of rubber being on the racetrack on my qualifying run, but when Jimmie Johnson ran the lap that he ran, I was pretty comfortable thinking that the track was right back to where it was at the end of practice. We knew the speed was there, it was just a matter of going out and driving the lap.
THIS IS YOUR SEVENTH CAREER POLE - WHAT KIND OF QUALIFIER DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF?
"A terrible one, to be honest. If I can get Ryan Newman to wear my uniform and drive my car for qualifying, I'd feel a lot better each week. He's the qualifying king. There's guys who are really good qualifiers like Ryan, and there's guys whose strong points are in the races. I feel like I'm a better racer than I am a qualifier. I've kind of always been that way. The thing that I'm proud of about today is how hard our race shop has had to work this year switching from the Pontiac bodies to the Monte Carlo bodies this year. And to not only build cars with different bodies, but to build the bodies well and make them efficient aero-wise, and at the same time have good downforce and good balance fornt to rear. I'm really proud of the team from that standpoint. The engine department, same deal. They really have picked up their program over the winter. At a track like this where you're in the gas so hard and so long anyway, it's the horsepower and it's the body that gets it done. And those two groups are really responsible for getting us here."
JEFF GORDON SAID HE NOTICED SOME NEW BUMPS IN THE RACE TRACK. DID YOU NOTICE ANY, AND DO YOU THINK IT WILL CHANGE THE NATURE OF THE RACE?
"I noticed a couple of bumps. I don't know if they're new, I just think there more pronounced than before. Anytime you can have an irregularity like that it's good because it's one more variable that you have to overcome in the race. It creates a new challenge. I don't want them to go out there and create a set of moguls, and some doubles and triples for the weekend, but a bump here and there isn't bad and actually gives the track a little bit more character. Hopefully it will be an area that will cause some guys problems and make you have to work on your car to be good there for the whole day."
LAST WEEK, ROBBY GORDON'S HOOD WENT INTO THE GRANDSTANDS AT DAYTONA. WHAT IS YOUR FEELING ABOUT CARS GOING BACK OUT ON THE TRACK AFTER BEING PRETTY BANGED UP IN A CRASH?
"How many times in the last five years did we have anything go into the grandstands? I don't think that's probably the first time. I don't think it's bad. We're all racing for points. The people in the grandstands pay good money to come out and see us race and even though their favorite driver may get in a wreck, they'd rather see that driver come out and at least have an opportunity to finish the race. We're racing for a lot of money at the end of the year. And if you can go out and get five or 10 points by getting a couple of positions late in the day after you get your car fixed, I think it's fair to do that. The good thing is that NASCAR sets a minimum speed that you have to run for the whole day. If your car is bent up so bad that it won't beat that speed, most likely it couldn't be fixed right. So if it was unsafe it won't meet that speed anyway."
HOW MUCH OF A DIVERSION IS IT FOR YOU TO LEAVE HERE AND GO OVER TO THE OUTLAWS TRACK?
"I've got responsibilities as a car owner that don't pertain to some of the drivers in the Cup Series owning Busch teams and so forth. Any time we can have the Outlaw Series running close to the Cup cars it's a nice chance for me to go over and make sure everything with the crew is fine to see and be hands on with the race team. If we need anything, I can be there first hand to address it. But most of all, I'm a race fan when I go over there and watch dirt track racing which is where my heart is. I get to have fun when I go over there and be a car owner at the same time."
ON CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY
"This place is just so new. The rule of thumb is pretty much that every year that you run a race track it gets a little more worn out and the groove gets wider. So between year one and year two, it seemed like it widened out considerably in over one season. Hopefully this year it will widen out even more and not be such an issue. By looking where the groove was in practice, it didn't seem like it was as tight as it has been in the past. Hopefully by race time it will move up quite a bit and give us an opportunity to not have to worry about the dreaded aero-push that I'm so sick of talking about."
WHEN IT RAINS LIKE THAT, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT CHANGES TO MAKE TO THE CAR?
"Really at that point, the only adjustments that we would make typically would just be air pressure adjustments at the last minute. That's why I talked to Johnny Benson on the way out. Mike Arning stands out there and takes all the times so I'm aware of what every driver's laps are. I'm able to follow that, this guy ran this lap, that guy ran that lap, and knowing what they ran in practice, that's kind of how we make those decision and adjustments off of. What other guys are running and how they ran time-wise in their qualifying run versus their practice run. When Jimmie (Johnson) ran a lap that was comparable to what he ran in practice, we felt pretty comfortable just sticking with what we had planned."
IS THIS GOING TO BE A STRATEGY RACE WHERE YPU'RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO PASS AND HAVE TO CAPITALIZE ON OTHER PEOPLE MAKING MISTAKES?
"Unfortunately, with it being a newer racetrack, the bottom groove is still really fresh and has a lot of grip in it, and that doesn't give you any reason to move up and run outside of that and a longer way around the racetrack where it doesn't have a lot of rubber. But even last the groove started moving up a little bit. For a track that only had a year on it, going from the first year to the second year, it had changed quite a bit. Hopefully after we run a Busch race tomorrow and an IROC race, it will wear the track a little more and by Sunday it will have moved up to two grooves. Like Jeff had mentioned with the bumps, any time you can throw a couple of variables in like that it also will get the cars to move around and create a second groove. I anticipate having a two- and three- groove racetrack by the end of the weekend."
WHEN IS YOUR CONTRACT UP AND HAVE YOU TALKED TO JOE GIBBS ABOUT EXTENDING IT?
"My contract is up at the end of next year. Joe's been gone and I've been gone, but I know that he re-signed Bobby (Labonte) already and Greg (Zipadelli) talked to me about Joe wanting to sign me soon, so I'm sure that will happen pretty soon."
IS THE KEY TO GET THE CAR STABLE FIRST AND THEN JUST BUILD ON IT?
"Yea, I think so. That's what we worked on the first thing today, getting the car stable enough to where it wasn't doing anything I didn't want it to do. Then you work on trying to get the speed afterwards."
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 GM GOODWRENCH CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - the two-time defending race winner Qualified 11th:
"That was a good lap for the Goodwrench car. It was a little bit faster than we thought we'd run going through inspection. All in all it was a good lap for us and that should get us in the top 10, which was a lot better than last year."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY THAT SEEMS TO MEET YOUR DRIVING STYLE?
"I don't know. I think a lot of it has to do with the good set-ups and the stuff that we bring here. But it does seem to fit my driving style. The car feels really good. It's been good since we unloaded. It's going to be better than the 32nd starting position that we had last year."
REGARDING PASSING HERE, DO YOU HAVE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ANOTHER DRIVER'S MISTAKE?
"Yeah, the thing here is you get tight up off the corners and if somebody slides the tires you need to be right on him so that you can get up underneath. But we came from 32nd to 4th here last year under green and then spun out but the fuel mileage worked our way. I'm not a very good qualifier. We've qualified in the top 10 the last two or three weeks and that should get us in the top 10 again. But for the most part when you go someplace where you've won two times in a row, and you're going for a third, it gives you a lot of confidence."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Qualified 12th:
"Anytime you're not first, you're not where you want to be. But we really improved after practice. We made our car better. I just didn't get everything that it had to offer. We were real close to nailing our lap in the NAPA Auto Parts Chevy, but we came up a little short."
JOE NEMECHEK, NO. 25 UAW-DELPHI CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Qualified 17th:
"We were just a little bit free, but we should be really good in the race."