Due to rain, the field for Sunday's New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway will be set on points according to the NASCAR rulebook. Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo is second place in the current ...
Due to rain, the field for Sunday's New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway will be set on points according to the NASCAR rulebook.
Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo is second place in the current Winston Cup Series point standings and will start on the outside front row. Gordon has won three Bud Poles at this track, more than any other driver. In his 16 Cup starts on this track, he has posted 10 top-10 finishes and three victories (7/95, 9/97, and 8/98). Gordon has led 912 laps at New Hampshire, leading the most laps in five races - both more than any other driver.
HIGHLIGHTS OF Q&A's WITH JEFF GORDON:
DID YOU TEST HERE AND HOW WILL TODAY'S WEATHER AFFECT THE RACE ON SUNDAY?
"Yeah, we tested here. And because we did test here and I feel really good about the race set-up that we had and the practice we had for race conditions, it's almost better. That's because we're good in points and have great track position and get a good spot on pit road and we've got a lot of laps on the track. So even if it rains tomorrow, we're looking good. That's when testing becomes a big advantage if you have some rain like this. Of course there are going to be races and rubber is going to be laid down and the track is going to change from what it was when we tested, but we should be able to start pretty close tomorrow. So I'm pretty happy with the way this has turned out. I was good to go either way because I felt like we had a good enough car to sit on the front row today and now we're going to start second."
BARRING SOMETHING UNUSUAL, IS THIS CHAMPIONSHIP DOWN TO A THREE-MAN BATTLE AT THIS POINT?
"I haven't even looking at it like that way (mathematically). I have solely looked at where we're at, what we need to do, and how far behind we are from the leader. I have not looked at it any other way. I may look at Jimmie's (Johnson) position and where he's at and what they need to do to get back in the hunt just because he's my teammate and I'm a partner in that. I like math but I'm not a mathematician so I don't know who is considered a threat or not a threat. All I know is that we are 165 (points) out and that a bad day for Matt (Kenseth, point leader) is 12th."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT COME DOWN TO A SITUATION OF YOU AND MATT KENSETH RACING EACH OTHER FOR THE TITLE?
"Obviously you want it to be narrowed down to as few guys as possible and to be one of those guys. I would love to be able to say right now that it's a three-guy battle, but I think it's still too early. But sure, that would be great."
"But right now it's not that way. Some guys could still get on a roll and make up a lot of points. And that's why I really believe that we realize it doesn't matter what everybody else does, it only matters what we do. That's what our focus is."
WEARING YOUR BOSS HAT, CAN YOU COMMENT ON JIMMIE JOHNSON AND MICHAEL WALTRIP'S COMMENT ABOUT THE GENTLEMEN'S RULE LAST WEEKEND AT CHICAGO?
"I'm going to move off of the gentlemen's agreement thing. I think it's been way over-publicized. What happened at Sonoma is a totally different deal than what's been happening since then that everybody has been trying to make a big deal about. I didn't see anything that showed up to give me enough indication to make any decision or choice on what happened. That was a totally separate incident."
ON HIS NUMBER OF WINS AND POLES
"Things have changed. The sport is extremely competitive. It's hard to get a lot of wins in a single season. My goals have never been statistically orientated or trying to break someone's record. I've just tried to be competitive week in and week out. If we can do that, we're going to win a lot of races and championships. Right now, if I had to say where I'm really at in my mindset, it's trying to get that fifth championship. It doesn't matter if I don't win any races from here on out if I win a championship then I'm happy. It would be awesome one day to be sitting on a porch or whatever talking race talk to be able to say I won this number of races and played a role in the history (of the sport). I've played a big role in that already. I'm not looking at any number and saying I have to get to that."
WHAT KIND OF ADVANTAGE WILL THE GUYS WHO TESTED HAVE?
"Today, by not qualifying, because I'm high up in the points I think it's an advantage for me. But the less time that the competition has on the track the bigger the advantage for the guys who tested. I also recognize that track conditions change when you get a lot of rubber down. I want to practice tomorrow but if we don't I think we're in a good position because of the test. We can roll out there on Sunday with a set-up that is close that we can adjust on and there may be a lot of guys out there that are pretty far off because they didn't test. It could really separate the field. It's not going to hurt us either way. We got some good information during our test. I'm pretty excited about being here in New Hampshire and I haven't felt like that in a couple of years. We haven't been competitive the last couple of years and we used to really dominate this race track. I feel like we're getting close to where we were at this track."
IF THE POINT SYSTEM WERE CHANGED TO MAKE WINNING A RACE WORTH MORE, HOW WOULD THAT AFFECT THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"I've won 62 races and I feel good about that. But the way the championship points are structured, winning is not the most important thing. Yeah, it pays the most points but a top five these days is almost as good as a win. If you can get those top fives every week and do like Matt Kenseth does where a bad day is 12th, then it's all about the championship."
"A Winston Cup championship is the most difficult thing to accomplish. People win more than one race. But to win these championships, it takes a whole effort. It takes luck, skill, experience, and chemistry. It takes so many things. Plus, it pays pretty nice too. With the competition the way it is today, it's a lot harder to win a lot of races. So you realize that if you get those top fives you're going to be happy and satisfied with them."
CAN THAT BALANCE SWING BACK?
"It's not that we're not trying to win races. It's just that it's more difficult. Like last weekend, I was just as happy coming in and not even changing tires - just putting gas in the car. The tires don't fall off and when you put new tires on, they don't seem to be as good as the older tires. The cars stuck like glue. Track position is everything. I would love to see the point structured in a way that the top fives or winning paid greater than they do today and a bigger spread among the points. Yeah. I would like to see that. But we've got to race the way it's structured today. I don't have a problem with it."
"I do have a problem with the way it pays points all the way back to 43rd and that we have to go back out there with these wrecked race cars and ride around at a minimum speed. What is the reason for that? It's no fun for anybody. It's not fun for the teams to put those cars back out there. It's not fun for the drivers. And I don't think the fans want to see those cars ride around. I know the competitors don't like it because you're in the way."
IS THERE MORE PRESSURE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP OR TO DEFEND A CHAMPIONSHIP?
"Definitely to defend a championship. When you've won a championship, you're now the target. Whoever the guy is that people expect him to win the championship has a lot of pressure. The champion is typically the favorite to go on a win another one. As the past champion, there's a lot of responsibilities and pressure on you and makes it really tough."
REGARDING TEAMS, IS IT MORE IMPORTANT WHEN THEY'RE WINNING OR WHEN THEY'RE FALLING BEHIND AND HAVE TO PICK IT BACK UP?
"It plays both ways but I would say it's more important how you react when you're down. Being able to handle that type of pressure and making sure you don't crumble. But if you win and you get cocky and think you're unstoppable, that's when you go to the next track and blow up and everything happens. This sport can bring you back down to earth in a hurry. So, there's something to both of those team situations."
WHEN YOU HAVE A BAD YEAR, DOES IT KEEP YOU HUMBLE WHEN YOU SEE ANOTHER TEAM LIKE THE NO. 88 OF DALE JARRETT HAVING PROBLEMS?
"It sure keeps me that way. The year 2000 was a very humbling year for me. We went through a lot of changes and a lot of criticism. I learned that change is not bad. Change can be good, but it can be very tough. You don't realize just how many eyes and ears are out there. It's tough enough to deal with it internally, let alone to deal with the outside criticism. You can have a lot of good people that do their jobs really well, but until you create the chemistry among them, I don't think they're going to battle for a championship. I don't know how you find that. Sometimes it just happens. Certain people step up at certain times. But when you see other guys go through it, it makes you recognize how humbling this sport can be. I hope that DJ and those guys get back on their game. Getting back on top can make you so much stronger like it did for our team. It makes you realize that you're going to go through some rocky times and that's when you really have to dig deep and find the right people to get that chemistry. We're a better team today because of that then we ever have been. I hope it makes them stronger and that it doesn't tear them apart. So ease up on them a little bit (laughs)."