PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 PITTSBURGH PAINTS/MENARD CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 2ND:
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT QUALIFYING AND YOUR STRATEGY FOR THAT “We definitely thought it would rain out qualifying today so we did one mock run yesterday early in practice trying to post a good time. We thought that would be our qualifying run, honestly. And we were hoping for rain. Starting second, I was talking to Carl (Edwards) and if we saw any raindrops we were going to say hey man, it’s raining. But it didn’t. To qualify second and actually put a lap down was pretty cool; much more meaningful that way. We have a really good car, a really fast Chevrolet. I did a lot of long runs yesterday in both practices and am very comfortable with the way that the car falls off. It doesn’t fall off as much as a lot of cars do.
In qualifying, I nailed (Turns) 1 and 3. I was really happy with 1 and 3. I feel like I lost some out there on the exit of Turn 2. I was a little disappointed. I thought we might have had a better lap. But overall it is a good day.”
DID THE CLOUD COVER MAKE QUALIFYING CONDITIONS RELATIVELY MORE CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT THE SESSION? AND DID THAT HELP YOU EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS NO RAIN? “Yeah, we gambled. On a day like today, under normal circumstances, you want to go out early before the track heated up. But we really thought it would rain, so we posted a good lap in practice, which made us go out late. But looking at the hourly forecast, it was 70 degrees from start to finish, and cloudy. So the track conditions didn’t change a whole lot. It might have gotten a little bit hotter, but I think we had a little bit of cloud cover right at the end and that helped.”
HAVE YOU BEEN BITTEN BY FUEL MILEAGE IN THE LAST THREE RACES? THIS WILL OBVIOUSLY COME INTO PLAY TOMORROW “Yeah, it’s going to be a factor tomorrow, I believe. Starting up front here is so important, but the last couple of races it’s just come down to fuel mileage and who can stretch it at the end. We weren’t in a position to stretch. I think last week we were six laps short, which you can’t make up. So we had to short pit. It’s frustrating in one aspect that it comes down to that and we probably would have wound up about 12th; instead of 19th last week. It also opens up opportunities for guys like Brad (Keselowski) to sneak one out. And we know that we can probably sneak one out one of these days too if everything goes our way and we play our cards right.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 3RD:
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT: "I'll be honest, prior to that run, I was kind of hoping it was going to rain, because we made a couple of qualifying runs yesterday and weren't really thrilled with the pace. The track was definitely a lot different yesterday. Hot and slick. We actually made our fastest lap in race trim yesterday. So, I was very happy with the car in race trim. Wasn't really sure what to expect today. Obviously, looking at the lap times and seeing how fast the track was today, it always gets you anxious when you ran a 54.10 and guys are running in the 52s. It was interesting because right before I left the truck, I told Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) it looks like about a half of a second per corner. And a half of a second per corner as a driver isn't fathomable. To go out there and do that and put up a good lap and be third, I'm thrilled. Very, very, very happy."
... as good as the grip level was ...
WITH AS FAST AS THE TRACK WAS AND THE CLOUD COVER, DID IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IF YOU WENT OUT EARLY OR LATE? "No that is what saved us. That is the one interesting thing that I'm seeing about the new setup this year with practice speeds determining when you go out. I love the fact that you have to earn the right to go out later, because everybody always wants to go later. But now that they are starting to do qualifying on Saturday and early on Saturday, you don't want to go late, you want to go early. But, today, due to the cloud cover, it allowed for the qualifying session to stay exciting throughout the entire session because the faster cars were going late and in good conditions. I got a little concerned right there before I went out because there were quite a few good cars that weren't getting themselves in the top-10. (Greg) Biffle went like two cars before me and he is way back. So, it definitely had me a little concerned whether the track was losing some grip. Plus I saw rain drops, just a little mist of rain, even as I took off of pit road, so, you never know. When you are pushing the car to the limits under those kinds of conditions, the slightest little thing can change it. Even the amount of rain that we had last night, I was concerned if it was seeping up through some of the seams. Coming to the green I felt the grip level and it was very good. I just pushed the car as hard as I could. I didn't think I had the best lap. I'll be honest. I got deep into one but when I went to do my downshift, I jerked it up the track a little bit so I didn't think I made a great turn one. I thought I got through the tunnel decent and I thought I got through three really good. But, as good as the grip level was, I thought it was going to take a whole lot more than that."
-source: team chevrolet