Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo - 4th quick in first practice session: Rusty Wallace thinks all hell is going to break loose this weekend. Is Martinsville going to be a crash-bang event? "I don't know about that, but I believe...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo - 4th quick in first practice session:
Rusty Wallace thinks all hell is going to break loose this weekend. Is Martinsville going to be a crash-bang event? "I don't know about that, but I believe Rusty is saying that. But this is the last short track race of the season and more is on the line at this point. Guys are battling for points and needing to win or wanting to win or whatever. But we'll just try to go out there and run the same short track at Martinsville the way we always have and hopefully we can get a good qualifying spot and a good place on pit road and stay out of some of that trouble out there. It's rare that you ever come out Martinsville without some pretty big dents in the body."
How quickly can the points championship turn around at Talladega? "It can turn around anywhere at any event. But I think Talladega is one where it certainly can get you. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be is the way I look at it. If we go to Talladega and luck is on our side and it's meant to be, then we'll miss the big one because I'm pretty sure it's going to happen."
Do you think we'll be able to go a second race caution-free? "I think we got so darn lucky the last time that I don't see how we can be that lucky again - not if the guys are driving the way they drove there last time. I think there were a select few that were up towards the front of that race when it was over that thought everybody drove a great race. And then the other 38 guys that were about fifth on back were saying that it was the craziest race they've ever been a part of."
What can they do to slow down the cars there? "They don't need to slow them down. They're slow enough as it is. They just need to do something to not make them bunch up so much. You see, we're punching a big hole -- which is slowing the cars down but then we've got a bigger restrictor plate, which gives the cars more horsepower. So it's doing everything they want it to do. I keep saying the same thing. We came out of Daytona one time when it was follow-the-leader and there was no passing. Everybody was complaining about it and I was one of them. We went down there and tested and came up with something for Daytona. That was not for Talladega. It's a shame that we have to run it at Talladega, but that's the way the rules are. I'm going to go there and try to qualify the best I can. And if I'm up towards the front, I'm going to try to stay there. If I get shuffled back, I'm going to the back. I'm not playing around in the middle. It's just ridiculous in the middle of that pack. Until you get to the end of the race, and then you've got to go for it."
How disappointed were you when no changes were made after that big 19-car test there? "Unfortunately we were testing somewhere else so I couldn't test there. It is a little unfortunate that we couldn't come up with something. I don't know what the real reasoning is behind it. I didn't talk to many guys that tested down there. But I think our old rules that we used to run there are better than what we've got there now. But it doesn't matter. That's what we're going there with and I'm just hoping we figure something out for next year."
Are you getting a little anxious that we're not making more safety changes? "I think they're moving forward. I think they're getting a lot of information and maybe it's not being put out publicly. But my car is much safer than it was in February and I feel very good about that. The things that I'm anxious about are if there is potential for soft walls, and if there are areas that absorb the impact around the body of the car. I don't know about the Humpy Bumper, but something in that concept. But inside, in the driver's compartment, it's extremely good right now in my car. I can't speak for everybody else. I think we've definitely made some improvements."
How do you plot strategy at this race? "It starts on Friday. You've got to qualify good. Everywhere we go these days, you have to qualify good. But at a short track like Martinsville, getting a good pit location and starting up toward the front is crucial. I'm glad we're running good and I hope we can back that up in qualifying. I don't think there is a real strategy plan. I've raced long enough to know that you can make all the plans in the world and it can get shot to pieces right away. You can't go out there saying you're going to stay out of trouble. You can't go out there saying you're going to stay ahead of everybody on every lap. It doesn't work that way. You've just got to run your race and fight hard for every single lap and every position every weekend."
How do you work with your crew chief, Robbie Loomis, during the race? "We learned a lot about pit strategy the last time we were here. We did everything wrong. I've got to give the input of what the car's doing because if I can tell that the tires are really shot, we're going to have to come in. If the car needs adjustments, we've got to make adjustments. But if it comes down to my saying that it's whatever the crew thinks we should do, they're going to make the call. I always believe that the best calls are made together. It's not just one guy saying here's what we need to do. You have to communicate. Ultimately one guy's got to make the decision."
At this stage in the season, do you race for the win or for the points championship? "Wining pays the most points for the championship. I think that our lead in the points right now is very minimal. That can go away in a hurry, so we're racing for wins right now."
How do you rate Jimmie Johnson's performance last week at Charlotte? "I know he was a little down because of the results, but I was highly impressed and everybody at our organization was very impressed with his performance. What he did was a very simple and easy mistake to make, and it's a great lesson for him. I'm impressed."
He said he almost took out the boss when he crashed. Were you watching him from inside the car? "Yeah, I couldn't catch him. So I was looking at his back bumper a lot."
What are your chances this weekend at Martinsville? "This is a good track for us. We've run well here. The last time we were here we a top five car, but we made some bad decisions in the pits or by not coming into the pits. And so we feel like we worked out way out of a top-five finish here the last time. We have the same car we had here last time. It sat on the pole. If we get a good qualifying run here today, that'll be a good start for the weekend and we'll go from there."