Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo On faster practice speeds than qualifying speed: "I think you get some heat in these tires and the cars get faster and faster as you go. Plus a little bit of drafting out there probably helps the...
No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo
On faster practice speeds than qualifying speed: "I think you get some heat in these tires and the cars get faster and faster as you go. Plus a little bit of drafting out there probably helps the speeds. That's pretty rare that you see faster speeds in practice than we do for qualifying. But it's a new racetrack and everybody is still getting adjusted to it."
With this track being new and probably one-lane, where do you think the passing will happen? "There's not going to be a whole lot of passing - it'll probably be in the pits. We're going to rely a lot on our pit crews. But it's very tough to pass if you're not extremely faster than the guy in front of you, it's very tough to pass here unless he makes a mistake or gets loose or something like that."
It seems like there are a lot of fans in the garage area. Does that hamper you? "No, we're thankful for the popularity of this sport. We get a lot of fans that come out. They fill the stands. I do think this track did a great job in taking care of the fans and we're thankful for that. They took care of the competitors also. The garage is nice. The racetrack is really nice. I don't know if we'll be able to pass much this first time around, but as we come back here more and more, we'll make an outside groove and you'll start seeing a lot more passing."
It seems like the superspeedways and the half-mile tracks don't have a problem of being one lane. What do you prefer? "I really like (tracks like) Richmond - a three-quarter mile track with pretty decent banking. The problem that you get into with the mile and a half racetracks is that they're so fast and they want to make sure that IRL can race there, they can't put too much banking into them. The less banking we have with the stock cars, the less passing we're going to have. But like I said, this is a new surface and as it gets worn in and we have a few more races on this track, you'll start to see good races."
What did you learn in today's practice that will help you with Sunday's race? "We were just trying to get a balance on the car. We were trying to get the front end to stick a little bit better. We were real tight. And especially in traffic, we get up behind other cars and you just try to find ways to be faster than the competitors. We're pretty happy with the car. It's not a rocket. But we certainly have something that is capable of running up front all day so we're pretty happy with it."
Is this the exact same car you were here practicing with a few weeks ago? "We brought two cars out here. This is the one we picked, and thought it was the better of the two. So far, it's proven that this week. It's been really good."
Paul Andrews, crew chief, No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We were really good in Thursday's race practice and in Thursday's qualifying practice, but we just didn't make enough changes when it came down to qualifying for Friday. But today, we understand where we need to be off of Thursday's practice and I know where the track went. Everything clicked today. There's a lot of rubber on the track, a lot of heat in the track - especially in the last practice. I think we've got our car working pretty good. A lot of cars are scuffing, so we're probably not as fast compared with some of the other cars, but yet we're really happy with the car. It's turning real good in the middle of the corner and coming off the corner good and strong, and that's what you're going to have to have here. You're going to have to be able to turn underneath somebody to get up under them up off the corner. I think we're there right now. We're not starting in a great position, but a couple of early cautions and getting some track position with right side tires or something like that or whatever it will take will put us up there. Right now, we're pretty happy. We're going to monitor the Busch race real close and see where the track goes during the race and just try to understand how the track is changing so we'll be ready or tomorrow.
"There's not an extra groove yet, but that's one reason we want to monitor the Busch race real close and just watch it. Hopefully we'll see some extra grooves. The potential is there. If we get a second groove, it will probably just be where you won't lose a lot of positions - I don't know if you'll be able to race in the second groove. But if you can just get up there and maintain your spot and not lose positions, that will be real good.
"I think we'll see a good race tomorrow. I think we'll see a good race today. I think next year might be a better race. But it rains a lot here and it might wash all the rubber off. It's just hard to say. There are different types of asphalt and it depends on how it cures over the winter. But I do believe we'll see a good race tomorrow and a better race next year."
What's your son, Tim, doing this weekend? "Right now, he's at Martinsville, Virginia at the Late Model Stock race where there's a huge race - probably 120 cars over there - and he's getting ready to qualify today. He's practiced yesterday and today and it's pretty neat. I've been back and forth on the phone with him and trying to talk to him and trying to get better cell (phone) service so we can communicate a little better, but it's been a lot of fun. He's up there and is going to race tomorrow while we're racing. Hopefully he'll have good luck. He's 18 years old and this is his second year in Late Model Stocks, but this is the first year that he's gone to different tracks. Last year he concentrated on one track only and this year we've been trying to get him to run a little bit here and there. This is the first time he's been to Martinsville."