Hendrick teammates lead Team Chevy in qualifying at Sonoma

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson talk about their qualifying efforts

SONOMA, CA – June 22, 2012 – Jeff Gordon posted the second fastest lap in today’s qualifying session for the starting line-up for Sunday’s Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma. Gordon, who is the only driver to win five NASCAR races in Sonoma (1998- 2000, ’04, ’05, ’06) ran a lap of 95.067 mph in 75.357 seconds in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. This will mark Gordon’s fifth top-10 start of 2012 and his 15th in 20 races at Sonoma.

Teammate Jimmie Johnson posted his fourth top-10 start of 2012 at Sonoma, and will start third in his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet behind pole-winner Marcos Ambrose (Ford). Greg Biffle (Ford) qualified fourth and Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota) qualified fifth to round out the top five starting spots.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevy qualified 8th, Ryan Newman, No. 39 Quicken Loans/Children’s Tumor Foundation Chevy qualified 10th, and Juan Pablo Montoya will start 12th in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet, giving Team Chevy five of the top 12 starting positions.

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 2ND
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 3RD:

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN OUT THERE TODAY

GORDON: “I was very pleased with the lap. I know we got second, but it was a good lap. Marcos (Ambrose) put down one heck of a lap and that was going to be tough to beat. So, I wasn’t going to allow myself to be reeled in too much to try to get so aggressive to shoot for the pole to where we ruined a good, solid qualifying effort. So I tried to attack areas that I felt the car had it in it, and showed that in practice, and the car stuck; and other areas where I felt like if I attacked I could go over the edge. I was making sure that I didn’t do that. So it was a very solid lap, the best lap I’ve had here in a number of years and I’m very pleased.”

GOING UP THROUGH THE HILL PART AND ALL THE WAY BACK THROUGH TURN 7, IT LOOKED LIKE YOU WERE TRACKING A LITTLE BIT QUICKER THAN MARCOS AMBROSE. YOU SEEMED TO LOSE SPEED OVER ON THE BACK SIDE FROM TURN 10 GOING ON INTO TURN 11. GORDON: “That’s that area that I talked about that you can attack that area and then be off the track and end up 30th. The car, as I got through Turn 10, I realized I could have carried a little bit more speed into the center of the corner, but I got off there good. And I’ve been having some problems under the braking with the rear tires wheel-hopping getting into (Turn) 11 and so, I wanted to make sure I didn’t do that. But after I got in there I said, boy, I could have gotten in there deeper. So, those are the areas we gave up speed, which is always good to know when somebody like Marcos, who I have so much respect for, especially on the road courses, when he lays down a lap like that and we’re within a tenth or tenth and a half of him and that there were areas out there that I felt like I left a little bit.”

DO YOU FEEL THE DIFFERENCE IN DOWNFORCE WHEN YOU COME HERE DUE TO THE RULES CHANGE ON THE SIDE SKIRTS?

GORDON: “I don’t think you’re going to feel anything here on a road course. We’re focused on downforce but it’s certainly nothing like what we are in Kentucky and these 1.5-mile tracks where you’re in a continuous corner long periods of time. There’s a new tire here this weekend as well, so the speeds are good and the cars feel good. So I don’t think it’s a real issue. Even when they cut them earlier, it was very minimal. So it’s just another step in that direction. We’ll feel it slightly but not too much.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN I SAY THE ‘SOUND OF NASCAR’. WHAT COMES TO MIND?

GORDON: “Loud engines and roaring fans; that’s what I think of.”

ON HIS QUALIFYING RUN

JOHNSON: “Yeah, it was a decent lap time. I left some speed on the track in a few areas. We’ve really been struggling on comfort in the car today since we unloaded. It was a bit of a shock because we had an amazing test session. Granted, it was at a different track (laughs), but we really felt like we had something really good going on. Clearly the speed is in the car but the comfort is not quite there. We just worked on qualifying trim today and it was on edge the whole lap. So, I hope that we can get some rear grip in the car and get things to calm down for a race because I don’t want to drive 110 laps like the way it drove today (laughs again). But we’ve got some good ideas and some good direction. Jeff (Gordon) has had great comfort in his car so we’re going to look at the things the No. 24 is doing. It’s nice to have the speed. If we can just build some comfort into it, we’ll be really good.”

WE’VE SEEN A LOT OF AGGRESSION HERE OVER THE YEARS. IT’S CALM NOW. DO YOU SEE RACING AGGRESSION AS YOU DID IN A COUPLE YEARS PAST?

JOHNSON: “Yeah, it’s been building. We’ve been on race tracks that are way too fast to really express yourself. So, with the lower speeds here and how close we run and how easy it is to aggravate each other, I would anticipate a very wild and crazy Sunday afternoon out here. So, that’s why coming in here I knew track position was going to be everything in making sure we had a strong qualifying effort. It’s really important. You can play the give and take game in top three, top-5; but when you get to tenth on back, and it’s a cutthroat world. I’m glad we’re at least not starting there. We’re up front.”

WHEN YOU HAVE A GOOD CAR, CAN YOU HEAR THAT YOU HAVE A GOOD CAR? I’M ASKING ABOUT THE SOUNDS OF THE CAR. CAN YOU HEAR IT?

JOHNSON: “No, it’s one of our senses but the exhaust pipes are pointed out and away from us. It’s actually a little quieter in the car than you would imagine and I think the loudest place to be is in the Infield, watching; or up in the grandstands where the exhaust pipes are pointed. But inside the car, there are noises. You can hear rocks hitting the bottom of the car from time to time when you get out of the groove. There are a lot sounds inside the car but the engine noise, it’s hard to tell. When you’re going fast, it’s more of a visual and also the forces put on your body through the turn, you can tell when there is more force on your body, you’re going faster.”

EARLIER THIS WEEK, RICK HENDRICK TALKED ABOUT A CONVERSATION WITH DALE EARNHARDT JR. HE SAID TO RICK THAT HE WAS THE NUMBER ONE GUY ON THE TEAM NOW. WITH FIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS TO YOUR CREDIT, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?

JOHNSON “No, I hadn’t heard that. But he’s leading the points as far as the Hendrick guys are concerned, so rivalry is great, especially within a race team and a shop. And I think even Jeff (Gordon) and I, when things got maybe a little bit more than they should have, it was still good for the company and we’re still making our cars better. But we all need to climb in a race car thinking that we’re the best and believing in it and then going out there and backing it up. Junior’s had been highest in points all year long. He got his win and all four cars are in great shape and we all want to be that guy. I’m happy that he has that attitude and I certainly want to beat him and show him that I’m the guy (laughs). So, now it’s time to go racing.”

COULD YOU ELABORATE ON THE LACK OF COMFORT YOU FELT IN THE CAR TODAY?

JOHNSON: “It was really just overall grip like the stopping ability of the car, the turn in the car has been uncomfortable, the longer I run, the more the rear of the car slides around on the race track. That’s all very abusive stuff to the tire and to the brakes and can really make it difficult for a long run. So, today in qualifying trim is one thing; you want to get all that you can out of the tires for one lap. But when you have to run a fuel run, it’s a different story. So, we need to preserve the tires a little bit better and take care of them a little better. We didn’t do any race trim stuff today, so tomorrow when we go into race trim a lot of my sensations just may disappear as we back down on some of the settings for the race itself. But I’m eager to get on the track tomorrow and make sure I get a good, comfortable race car that I can drive in a lot of conditions. If you have the whole race track to yourself, there’s so much more room to put together a nice lap and run a good lap time. But when you have to turn in underneath someone or your side-by-side through a set of corners and you’re off line and don’t have all the race track, if you’re car’s not comfortable you really don’t want to put yourself in there and lean on your race car to pass someone. So, we want to have a car that we can race with, for sure.”

Source: Team Chevy Racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Interviews
Tags chevrolet, gordon, hendrick, johnson