Pole winner, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet: "I'm really proud of this team and the effort they put out here. We brought a different car. We sat on the pole here - not last year's but the one before that - and we had a different style ...
Pole winner, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet:
"I'm really proud of this team and the effort they put out here. We brought a different car. We sat on the pole here - not last year's but the one before that - and we had a different style racecar. It qualifies great, but it hasn't been that successful in the race. So we made a group decision to bring this car. We struggled with it in practice, but we kept working on it and made a lot of gains there toward the end. They made a few more adjustments and they were obviously the right ones. The car did everything I wanted it to do. Drawing a late number probably didn't hurt at all either. I watched a few guys like Bobby Hamilton and the lines they were running."
Q:How often does a driver practice 25th quickest and then end up on the Bud Pole?
"Well, I figured last week at Texas, I practiced first and second and qualified 26th. So it's a nice change to do it this way this weekend. Maybe this is how we'll do it from now own. We'll practice slow and qualify fast.
"We've been running good, we just haven't been finishing good and that 2nd place finish at Texas definitely did a lot for the morale and momentum of this race team. That was evident today. I hope we can continue that the rest of the weekend and the rest of the season for that matter. We've had cars capable of winning races this year, we just haven't been able to put it all together. In the last few weeks, things have been going our way pretty good."
Q:On the differences between this car and the car he raced at Martinsville last time
"The other car really qualified well and it rolled through the center of the corner well. It carried a lot of momentum through the corner. It did it in the race too, but as the pressures built up and the tires started going away it just got real loose. We just could not find a way to tighten the car up. It just wasn't working out for us.
"This car seems to stay real consistent. It doesn't turn in the middle quite as good in qualifying, but in the race when the pace slows down you can drive in nice and easy. It seems to turn in the middle good and drive off real nice and solid all day. Our biggest worry with this car was qualifying. That worry is gone now. This should be a strong car for the race."
Q:Is this the same car you ran at New Hampshire, but with a changed front-end?
"Yeah. We had to change the front. It didn't have any front end left on it after I drove into Robby (Gordon, race-winner). This is like a small Loudon in a lot of ways other than it not being concrete up there."
Q:On his success at short tracks
"What's helped me at a place like this or like Bristol is just the type of racing I grew up doing - a lot of short track races and Spring Car racing. Just racing on so many different types of tracks as a kid has helped me to learn and adapt to tracks like Martinsville."
Q:On winning the Bud Pole at Bristol and spinning out toward the end of the race
"It certainly can happen here just as easily. But a lot of it had to do with the banking at Bristol, you do a lot of different things with camber curves and we were very aggressive on our camber curves, which makes a car turn extremely aggressive. When I drove in there easy and turned underneath Buckshot (Jones), it spun out. We try to learn from our mistakes and we hope I don't make that same mistake twice. Camber curves are a lot different here. Spinning out going into the corner here usually happens here because somebody helped you - not you doing it on your own."
Q:On Robbie Loomis nagging him about staying off the brakes
"He's pretty good. He lets me do my thing. If he sees them going red, or using them too much, he reminds me. I like him to remind me every once in a while, but he doesn't nag too much."
Q:On the importance of qualifying
"I contribute a lot of our success last year to our qualifying effort. We know how important it is. We seem to have our act together right now with the short tracks. You never know what contributes to it. But track position is more and more important because it gets tougher and tougher to pass every year."
Q:On the one-engine rule
"Hendrick Motorsports has the best engine department out there. The one-engine rule might be helping us in qualifying right now. We've brought an engine here that we're not going to do much at all. That was basically a full-blown race motor that we qualified with today. We should be just as strong with that motor in the race. Things are staying together. We haven't had a DNF in something like 38 races. When it comes to durability, I have no doubts as to the capabilities of our engine department. And, we seem to have the horsepower these days too."
Q:On qualifying late in the day
"You never know. Sometimes it just lays more rubber on as the qualifying goes on. I never like to be the first guy out because I feel l like the track sits and it doesn't have any heat on it. But more than anything else, is being able to watch the other cars and the lines they take. I always like to go later to see how much I've going to have to run and see how much I have to step it up."
Q:On positioning himself to get through 350 laps
"Because it's so hard to pass here and track position is so important, you pretty much drive as hard as you can every lap to hold on to that position. With the tires we have now, there's so many different pit strategies. Some guys take two, some take four, and different things work. That's why we've seen so many different winners in the past year and a half. With the tire that Goodyear has, and as competitive as it is, there's so many different ways to win these races. Sometimes, being the leader can be a disadvantage. We're just going to fight as hard as we can for 500 laps. I have confidence - even in my brakes - that I can run pretty hard for 500 laps here and not wear them out."
Q:On different groups of cars that pit at different times
"It confuses the heck out of Robbie (Loomis), I know that. There are a lot of different pit strategies that will work at a place like this when you've got a tire that lasts as long as it does. Some stay out and chance it. We learn more and more about the tires with every race. Even here last year, we put two tires on and it didn't work out for us. So we're going to stay out there as long as we possibly can. We'll watch and see what other guys do. We don't do our two tires or no tires and stuff like that until late in the race."
Q:What changes did you make between practice and qualifying?
"I never really got a solid clean lap all day. We had been working on turns one and two all day and got them going pretty good and then I started struggling in turns three and four. But we ran out of time. The adjustments that he made worked. He changed a spring and changed the wedge a little bit. They weren't major adjustments. You never know. Sometimes a set of tires matches up a little bit better as to what we're looking for also. I think I finally put both ends of the track together and it came together at the right time."
"We were working pretty hard at trying to get a good qualifying run. This car doesn't typically qualify as good, but it races real good. We've got to work real hard to get it qualified decent so we can start with some good track position."
Q:What do you think about Darrell Waltrip racing the Craftsman Truck event?) "Wasn't he faster than Kevin Harvick in practice? That was pretty funny. I'm sure he's thinking that he's still got it and can still do it if he could just put the right team together and the right truck out there, I can have some fun. More power to him."
Q:Do you think a common template car would help Chevrolet?
"Well, I think we're definitely a little bit behind the Dodges and Fords right now. They're basically a common template among the two of them. I've always said I'd just love to be on equal ground with everybody - all the competition - and just let our team, our people, and our engines speak for themselves."
Q:What's the key to winning at Talladega?
"A lot of luck. You're lucky just to get out of there in one piece so it obviously takes a lot of luck to win. I don't know what it's going to be like this time. The rules are a little bit different than they were when we were there last time so we're just going to have to wait and see how you've got to race and how you've got to race with those rules."
Q:Is Chevrolet at a disadvantage going into Talladega?
"I don't know. We qualified good at Daytona, but they made so many changes during that week after we qualified, that I don't know where we stack up. I haven't been able to keep up with all the rules changes that are going on in the last couple of weeks with the superspeedway rules for the Fords and the changes for us (Chevrolet). I don't know where we're going to be."
Q:Is the body style the biggest comment thread between all the Chevy teams and their performances so far this year?
"Usually when it's consistent, that says something. It started to become consistent toward the end of last year. I think those guys really had their cars figured out the end of last year and they made it better during the off-season. I feel like we were limited as to what we could do coming into this season. That's why NASCAR made the concession to help us out with a little front downforce. It's helped a little bit. I can't say it's helped a lot. We've run good this year, though. I haven't really felt like our problems have been that we haven't run fast enough. We've been fast. We've just had a little bit of bad luck. I can't put a whole lot into all the rules and the way they are right now."
Q:Has blocking become common practice on the speedways?
"Oh yeah, but it has been for years and it always will be. It's just a big, wide, fast racetrack and if you get out of line you get hung out to dry and you're in big trouble. When you know how important that is, you (want to) hold your position and you block and you do what you can. We saw at Daytona what the consequences can be of blocking. I think that we've all got to respect that when we're out there."
Q:Do you watch racing when you're not racing? Will you watch Harvick and Waltrip in the truck race?
"I always watch the Truck races and the Busch races and Cup races from the past. I love races. A lot of times I watch other types of racing like motorcycle racing or Formula I - things like that. But when I'm at a racetrack and I'm in my motor coach and the Busch race or the Truck race is on, I'm definitely going to watch it."
Q:On the new format for The Winston
"I think it's a great format. It's going to be extremely exciting and it's already an exciting race. It's hard to make it much better than it is, but I think it will be. I think it's going to be a heck of a race. Your strategy is going to change a little bit this time around, which always makes things interesting for the competitors also."
Q:Regarding handling, what is the difference between Talladega and Daytona?) "Talladega and Daytona are almost as different as Bristol and Charlotte. It really is that much different. It's hard to imagine because there's only almost two-tenths of a mile difference between the two. Handling at Daytona is very important and at Talladega it means absolutely nothing. The corners are so big and so wide, it's really almost like a dragstrip. You just get your car to get through the air the fastest way possible with as much horsepower as you can get, and then just get yourself in position. It's not about whether you lift the gas or not. I think that's why it's a little bit tougher for us at Talladega because at Daytona, handling is a component that we can utilize. We have typically handled real good at Daytona like we did this year."