Loudon II: Chevy top 3 qualifiers press conference

Qualifying rained out, field set by points. Highlights of the top three press conference. JEFF GORDON: ON RACING IN THE CHASE AGAINST JIMMIE JOHNSON AND ON THE TEAM SHARING INFORMTION "Our teams work the way they work and this is really the...

Qualifying rained out, field set by points. Highlights of the top three press conference.

JEFF GORDON:

ON RACING IN THE CHASE AGAINST JIMMIE JOHNSON AND ON THE TEAM SHARING INFORMTION

"Our teams work the way they work and this is really the only way we know to go about it. The guys in the shop work during the week and sometimes they don't even know whose car they're working on. When we get to the race track it's an open-book policy of information. We know what every Hendrick car has underneath the car. As soon as that practice starts, we're both making comments to our crew chiefs. But when we get out of the car, you'll usually see each other talking to see if our cars are doing the same things. If they are, we compare. That's the same this week. It should be the same every week. We leave the rest of it to the race track and what happens there. When we're on the race track we're competitors. There are certain parts of the race where maybe we're racing each other like teammates and with the respect of being teammates. But you also need to race everybody like that if you want to make it to the end. There is a time to race hard and a time to be smart. When it comes time to race hard, Jimmie and I are going to race each other as hard as we race anybody. That's my philosophy on it. We want one of us to win this championship. If I can't win it, I want him to win it. I think he feels the same way. Obviously it's going to intensify as we get closer to the end if we're both battling for a championship. But as far as sharing information as to what the cars are doing, I don't think that's ever going to change because I'm going to him to confirm what I'm doing and vice-versa. It helps both of us out. It only helps our cars go faster if we continue to do that."

JIMMIE JOHNSON:

"That's exactly how I see it. I don't see it changing. We're teammates. We're intense. We're that way with everyone else on the race track and with each other at the right times. We treat each other with respect and race each other hard. That's what you're going to have to do to be a champion in this sport."

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:

THIS IS THE FIRST RACE IN THE CHASE. DO YOU FEEL EXTRA PRESSURE?

"No, no more than normal. It's kind of been a relief the last four or five weeks to be able to race and not have to worry about anything else. My car wasn't running that great (today during qualifying). So I was under a little bit of pressure to get faster. But the start of the race is when you'll know what you've got and then you'll know whether you've got pressure there or not."

To All: THESE DAYS, ARE YOU MORE AWARE OF YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP OPPORTUNITIES AND NOT LETTING THEM SLIP AWAY?

JEFF GORDON:

"Every year brings more and more to my attention. If you go back to '95 when we won our first championship, it was our third year in the series and we didn't know what the heck we were doing or how we got there and just kind of found ourselves in the position. We worked hard, but we weren't expecting to be a championship contender that year. But we won the championship and all of a sudden those expectations rose and we tried to do it the next year and the next year and the next year. Each year that goes by that we win it, we appreciate it more and each year that we don't win it we appreciate it even more. The last couple of years have been decent for us but we've been missing the boat and not been in that championship battle. This is very exciting and certainly an opportunity we want to take advantage of."

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:

"Yeah, it's awesome for me. I get a big kick out of just being competitive enough to be in the Chase and be in the points battle. I think Tony Jr. and Tony Sr. focus solely on that championship. But the fact that I'm even competitive enough, I've reached a goal personally in life with that. So I'm just real happy to be in the race with Jeff (Gordon) and keep up with him after years of watching him race, plus all the guys who have been in the sport for a while before I came here, and just keeping up with all the stuff with Jimmie and the younger guys coming in. If and when I win that championship, it'll be a great day. But just to be able to have a car that's competitive is all I ever wanted. So I'm pretty happy."

JIMMIE JOHNSON:

"I have to agree with what Junior is saying. I'm very fortunate to come in. My three years in the sport, I've been in the championship battle in some point during the season. That's a lot more than I ever realistically expected to happen. I knew the potential was there by driving for Hendrick Motorsports and being associated with Jeff and the No. 24 and everything that brings to our team, but I had no clue that any of this was ever going to happen. I'm very grateful it all has. It's been another great season for us. Hopefully we can take advantage of these roles that we've had, and maybe this year or next year (we can win), who knows? This new point system has everything shaken up. I've won four races this year - more than any year I've had so far and we still have 10 races to go. That was probably one of the biggest goals I had this year was to try to win more races than I did last year and we've done that."

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:

ARE YOU BACK TO NORMAL AFTER YOUR BURN INJURIES?

"Yeah, pretty much. As I got better, our runs got better and the team got better and our communication and morale and everything got better. When I was unplugged from the situation because of the injuries, it really set a definite tone within the shop and the team that something was missing and there was a void there. It showed in the way the cars drove. When I got back in the cars, I didn't even want to drive them they were so bad. We got better. I still don't think we're as good as we were when the season started. But we've got enough time to put it together and race by race we'll try to do that."

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:

IS THERE ONE SPECIFIC AREA YOU THINK NEEDS IMPROVEMENT?

"No, you can't really point out where you need to be better. Every team within the garage has something they'd like to work on. Everybody wants more horsepower or for the car to turn better in the center. I don't think anybody thinks they're perfect. That's what makes a champion is the guy who is never satisfied with what he's got and keeps trying to get that. That's the way Tony Sr. and Tony Jr. and other teams are. I'm like that to a certain extent. But there's nothing I can say where this is where we're going wrong. We've just got to get better. Relatively, we're still a young team and making a lot of changes and have a lot of gelling and stuff to do. Hopefully we'll perfect it one of these days."

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:

WAS BRISTOL A TURNING POINT FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU HAD TROUBLE MASTERING IT IN THE CUP CAR?

"I don't know if Bristol was kind of like a diamond in the rough or a mirage that came through. As Jeff and Jimmie will tell you too, you just go through the motions week after week and every once in a while you just go to one track and everything goes right. That's kind of how it went. It started out in the Busch car and the whole weekend went great. We ended up winning the race. We ran good at Richmond, which we wanted to and expected to. Midway through California, we got the car really, really good and that was kind of like a light at the end of the tunnel for those types of tracks we always had trouble at. Yeah, Bristol was a big help at boosting the team's confidence to go into the shootout and be able to compete with the 24 and the 48 and everybody else who is strong."

To All: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A TEAMMATE IN THE CHASE?

JEFF GORDON:

"A lot of us have teammates even though Junior doesn't have one in the top 10, he still has teammates he can utilize just like Martin Truex Jr. was here testing when we were testing. I'm sure that information got transferred back to DEI. For us, it's really about having good information and utilizing tests. Jimmie was in Talladega - I think Truex was in Talladega too (laughs). Even thought he doesn't have a teammate in the top 10, he's got teammates he can get information from. And so, I got that information from Jimmie. That's where it really pays off. If one of us is struggling on a particular race track or race weekend, maybe we can help one another out. It's not like he and I gang up on Junior or other people. He's running his race and I'm running my race. We just try to race hard and smart throughout the whole race. And then when it comes down to the end when those positions mean everything, then we race one another just like we'd race anybody else."

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:

"That's exactly the truth. We use a lot of information from each other. I know exactly what's underneath Michael's (Waltrip) car and vice-versa. All teammates should work that way. But during the race, there's really nothing that Jimmie and Jeff can do to really help each other - except for Talladega. That's really the only race track on the whole circuit that you do it. At Talladega it'll come in real handy to have a teammate working with you. But at other tracks, you can't really do it."

-gm racing-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Martin Truex Jr.
Teams Hendrick Motorsports