Friday practice quotes
Daytona International Speedway
Jeff Gordon -- #24 DuPont Chevrolet
HOW WAS PRACTICE? Pretty good. These certainly aren't the conditions we'd like to be practicing in with the weather. Just getting any track time right now is good. You know, when you race at night, qualify in the late afternoon and practice during the day. It's a little bit a guessing game. Our car is fast, we're just trying to get it comfortable.
EVERYONE STILL SAYS YOU'RE THE FAVORITE FOR THIS WEEK. WHAT DO YOU THINK? Well, we've got a really good restrictor plate program. This is the same car we had at Talladega. I think it was a car that was backup car for us in Daytona. We felt really good about. So, I don't know how you could pick a favorite at a place like this. You know, it's not easy to get out there, get out front and hold those guys off. But, I feel like we've got one of the best cars out there-I definitely do believe that.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE A FAVORITE? I mean, you know, when I'm sitting behind the wheel of that car and it's driving as good as it is and as fast as it is, I think we're definitely one of the cars to beat.
HOW ABOUT DALE JR.-IS HE STILL THE GUY TO BEAT FOR YOU? You know, I think you single out these four restrictor plate tracks and it changes some things. So, different guys to look at and who can win here than a majority of the other tracks. And, I still the DEI cars are really strong. The Hendricks cars are really strong. I think Tony Stewart is going to be good. Harvick has shown, and the Yates cars as well.
HENDRICK-ROUSH DOMINANCE. COMMENT ON THAT Yeah, I think that there are other teams out there that are capable of doing what we're doing, it's just that, you know, we've focused in an area and gone that direction and had success with it. We've had definitely great people that have come up with the ideas and the resources that we have to tap into. So, I only know what we have. I haven't spent a day over at Roush or Yates or Penske or any of the other teams. Multi-car teams are definitely learning how to benefit from their teams and the number of people that they have. And, I think, Hendrick is one of the first teams to really get involved in a multi-car team. So, we've got a lot of experience there from doing it a long, long time. It's nice to see the benefits of it now.
WHEN YOU WERE HERE WINNING IN FEBRUARY, DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT THE OUTLOOK WAS ON THE SEASON THEN? Well, anytime you start off the season with a great victory like Daytona, it carries you for quite a while. I think it's still carrying us. Through the tough times that we've had here lately, looking back at the three victories we've had, especially Daytona-those are positive things that we know we've had to work from. Of knowing that we can win and we have won and we've been up towards the top (of the points). We can get ourselves back there.
HOW DO YOU ASSESS YOUR SITUATION RIGHT NOW? I assess only in one way: fourteenth in points. (It's) not where we want to be and we're going to do all we can to get back up there.
COMMENTS ON YOUR ABILITY TO HANDLE STRESS AND THIS SITUATIONS CALMLY Well, I think we all deal with stress in different ways. I feel like one of my strong suits is dealing with that. I've got a very short memory. It helps me put a lot of things that go wrong behind me. And, you know, try to work with the team to let them experience that same thing. So the only thing we can do is focus on the positives and the next thing. Instead of things that happened in the past. The downside of that is, you've got a Daytona 500 victory and 70-something other victories that you tend to forget about, just as much as you tend to forget about the bad days. That's why I'm glad you guys keep up with these things and keep the records and the statistics so that one day I can remember the good and the bad. I'm pretty quick to put those things behind me.
LIKE YOU PUT IT IN A BOX AND EVERYTHING IS SEPARATE? Yeah, you know, I guess throughout my life I've always just lived in the moment. You know, when the moment is there, I'm enjoying it to the fullest. And when the moment's over, I'm moving onto the next moment.
YOU WERE FRUSTRATED LAST WEEK AND YOU SAID YOU DIDN'T HAVE ANY COMFORT WITH DAYTONA COMING UP. DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT WAY? Yeah, but, as successful as we've been at Daytona and Talladega, I have the same feeling that most guys in this garage do about restrictor plate racing. That it's a white-knuckle experience of not knowing when the "big one" is going to happen. And not knowing whether you're going to be a part of it or not. I'd rather go to a track where I've got control over what happens around me a little bit more. Here, I'm really at the mercy about how the car runs and the competitors in the draft. We all make mistakes-me included and I want to be able to get to the front and try to stay away from that. I think we've got a car that's capable of doing that, but it's a lot easier said than done. Just because we're here at Daytona-and I think we've got probably the best car out there, I think we've got the best team and I feel very good about how I drive these restrictor-plate tracks-there's still no guarantees there, no matter where we go. But especially here when you know the past history of restrictor plate racing.
WITH THE RECORD YOU'VE HAD OVER THE YEARS, WHAT WOULD IT MEAN NEXT WEEK TO WIN AT CHICAGO? And we've run good at Chicago-we've had some top 5 finishes there. And, obviously, I want to win everywhere. It doesn't matter where we win. It sure would be great to know that we won at a track where we haven't won at yet. The only reason why we focus on that is because there are so few that we haven't won at. That's cool. That's a neat statistic. That's not one that we put high on our priority, but we do put high on our priority going to every track trying to win.
WHAT ABOUT TESTING THE REST OF THE YEAR? ARE YOU KEEPING YOUR TESTING THROUGH THE POINT THE CHASE STARTS? We're probably adjusting it just a little bit based on where we are in points. We might focus a little bit more on some tracks that are leading up to the Chase. Thinking right now off the top of my head I can't think of anything that really stands out in my mind.
DESPITE WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE A ROAD COURSE IN THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? Sure. I want to see a short track, speedway, road course, intermediates. I want to see every type of track in the Chase. I think that that really is a way to balance out a true champion by having those challenges. I think that the last thing you'd want to see is to have the majority of them be 1.5-mile race tracks. It doesn't matter to me if we actually have a road course in there. I just wish that we'd shake it up a little bit and right now, unfortunately, we have a lot of mile of 1.5-mile race tracks on our schedule in general. But, if we had a road course in there, it's fine by me. And I won't run that same transmission on the road course.
Robby Gordon -- #7 Fruit of the Loom Chevrolet
Note: Did not make the field for the Daytona 500 this year
And we didn't make the Talladega race either. I think our program is on two ends of the spectrum. Our intermediate package right now is very good. We qualified eighth at Michigan, which is a horsepower race track with unrestricted motors, so you make good horsepower. For us to qualify eighth was really exciting. Menard (Engineering, engine supplier) has done a really good job with our intermediate program. And then to qualify fifth on the road course (at Sonoma last week) shows that we're starting to make some torque as well in our road course application.
Here, it's a new animal, this restrictor plate racing. It's just a different philosophy on how to make power because you make so little power. These cars are around the 400 horsepower number. They (Menard) have been working really hard here in Indianapolis and also in England trying to get the motor package good. I think our car is decent. I'm not going to say our car is the best car in the field by any means. But it pushes down pit lane really free (smiles). We've done everything we really know what to do with the limited amount of resources we have for our restrictor plate program. This is probably the best we've been prepared for it because now we have an inventory of race cars built up to the point where we can spend some time with our restrictor plate car. We've found some horsepower and some cowls and some things under the car and have really worked hard to try and make it competitive so we can come down here (to Daytona) and have a good show. I think the combination between Menard and what we've done should be okay. I think we'll make the show. But then if it rains (and qualifying is cancelled), we'll take that too because we're in no matter what. Of course with my luck and the way the season has gone - I'll jinx myself right here (knocks on wood) -- the brakes will stick on going down the back straightaway in qualifying and it'll stop (laughs). So I'll take the rain.
But I go out dead last (in the qualifying order), so if anything is an advantage, that's an advantage.
WITH ALL THE WEIRD THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED THIS YEAR, LUCK HASN'T EXACTLY BEEN ON YOUR SIDE, HAS IT? Yeah, the oddest things have happened to us. And there is a saying that you make your own luck and that is true. You do make your own luck. And we're working hard trying to make sure we're very prepared week in and week out.
And yet, I think a lot of people forget this though. Even at the Daytona 500, any year but 2005 I start 14th in the Daytona 500. I finished seventh in the 150 (qualifying race) and went home, which is totally respectable. And I ran third for most of the 150 with this race car. So it's just with the odd way in which they've changed the point structure with the top 35 and provisionals and all that stuff kind of gone away, sent a new team like ours home. And that's why we're still outside of the top 35. You start the season in a hole and you stay in a hole. We are working hard, very hard, to get ourselves out of this predicament.
SO WHAT'S A REASONABLE GOAL FOR A NEW TEAM LIKE YOURS? To win a race. People are going to say, 'huh'? But we could have won last weekend (at Sonoma) and make sure we're inside the top 30 in points. You know, we have been running with the top 10 to 15 guys every weekend and something bites us at the end. We came close to winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. With ten laps to go, we're running fourth and break a brake rotor. What are the chances of that? But it happens to us for some reason. At Pocono, we were running good all day long. At Michigan, we were having a great run and lost a coil. At Sonoma, we should have run the race and got stuck in third gear."
DO YOU KNOW NOW WHAT THE REAL ISSUES WERE WITH THE TRANSMISSION OR GEAR OR SHIFTER AT SONOMA? I think it just stuck in between third and fourth (gears). I don't know if it's in the linkage or in the shifter box itself, but it definitely was an issue. I have run Mid Valley transmissions since 2000 and nothing but Mid Valleys and have had zero problems with them. The only thing different is it's a top loader shifter instead of a side shifter, and NASCAR really wants guys to move to the top loader shifter so in the future they can move the driver over to the right side. But I've already got that problem solved, as well. If they would stand the seats up flat, then the driver's head would be away from the wall. So I sit level to the ground. A lot of guys sit in there with ten degrees of rake, which puts their head outside the window. So they can fix the problem just by mandating how the seat sits in the car.
WHAT CHANGES WILL YOU MAKE FOR WATKINS GLEN? We'll go back to the old shifter.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES FOR YOU IN NOT MAKING THE DAYTONA 500 AND THEN MAKING THE FIELD FOR THE PEPSI 400? The difference between the 400 and the Daytona 500 is that Daytona is Daytona - that's the big one. And this one is a big race (too). I would call this race maybe fourth or fifth on the board as far as importance of the season. But for us with Fruit Of The Loom, every race is important. With any sponsor, every race is important. We've got to make the show and we've got to be competitive and we've got to have a good run.
YOU RECENTLY WON THE BAJA 500. WILL YOU BE DOING ANY OTHER OFF-ROAD RACING THIS YEAR? Yes, we're going to run in the Baja 1000 again, which is the same week as the Miami/Homestead race. This year's course goes in a big circle. And, we're going to run the Paris-Dakar Rally (across the Sahara desert) again early next year (first two weeks in January '06).