Phoenix: Pole winner interview

JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS - POLE WINNER ON HIS RUN: "We were kind of guessing that the track would cool down and get a little bit more grip with the number we drew. And it did. It really paid off. The first lap, I knew I couldn't...

JEFF GORDON , NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS - POLE WINNER

ON HIS RUN:

"We were kind of guessing that the track would cool down and get a little bit more grip with the number we drew. And it did. It really paid off. The first lap, I knew I couldn't go fast enough to sit on the pole on the first lap so I just gave it up and drove in nice and easy and got heat in the brakes and the tires and everything. And then I got a good drive off of Turn 4 and took the white flag. The car really did a lot that I wanted it to do. I didn't get through Turns 1 and 2 perfect, but man, I got through (Turns) 3 and 4 I think better than I've ever gotten through 3 and 4 at this track and that really made up a lot of speed."

ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW MUCH FASTER YOU WERE THAN THE SECOND PLACE CAR OF JAMIE MCMURRAY?

"I think I was more surprised at how fast he went, when he went, you know. That was an incredible lap. I felt like we needed three-tenths from practice, which would have gotten us ahead of Junior when he was on the pole, but I think we got four-tenths. And then when McMurray went and ran a .15, I said, 'Sorry, we got four-tenths, we don't have that much' (laughs). And then to go out and run that kind of lap was surprising. I came on the radio after the lap and said I got through (Turns) 3 and 4 really good, but I don't know about (Turns) 1 and 2. And then Steve Letarte said, 'That's the pole'. And I was shaking my head. We couldn't believe that we ran that fast. It's pretty incredible how much this place picks up as the sun goes down."

DO YOU HAVE A FEELING IN YOUR MIND THAT THIS MIGHT BE THE YEAR WHEN YOU BREAK THE PHOENIX JINX?

"Yeah, just like the last 10 years we've been coming here (laughter). I've been on the pole here. We've been fast here. We've been consistent here. We've been everything but in victory lane here. We're just going to work just as hard as we can - the same as we do everywhere and I'm going to try not to make the mistake we made last week because I felt like we had a good shot at winning last week in Texas and I blew that one. But as long as this team continues to give me the race cars that they're giving me right now and the effort they're giving me, then we're going to win races. And I would love it if it would come here. I would love to finally be able to get this one checked off our list so I don't have to hear that question again. I don't blame you for asking it though." WHAT'S YOUR VERDICT SO FAR ON THIS NEW CAR?

"I've warmed up to it a little bit because as a team, I think we've found a little bit of the ingredients as to what this car needs to feel good. So that's a good thing. But I'm still not convinced of this car in traffic. I think we'll learn a lot more tomorrow when we're running around other cars. And then on Saturday too. I didn't think we'd go as fast as we did today. I will admit that. When I took off in practice today, the car would not turn in the middle of the corner. And I didn't think we'd ever get it to turn to be honest. So that's promising. But I'm still not convinced. Its just physics. You've got a car punching a really big hole. You've got a car that has less downforce - especially front downforce. If you go behind that car, I don't see how you're going to be able to have downforce to be able to make the pass. But I'll be honest. The aero push last week was the worst I've ever seen it and that was with the older car. So, I don't think it can get much worse than that."

DO YOU LOOK AT TAPES OF OLD RACES?

"You don't have to look at tapes these days. You watch enough of the shows on SPEED and on ESPN and it pretty much highlights it enough that I rarely ever watched taped versions of it. But if I'm flipping through the channels and the race is on, I'll watch it. If the highlights are on, I'll watch - just because I don't have enough knots in my stomach, I decided to watch it one more time last week. It was pretty sickening. I'm still baffled that it happened (scraped the wall at TMS) because I came off there just holding a nice wheel and not doing anything crazy and feel like the car took off on me. At the same time, it was still my mistake. Nothing broke on the car. Nothing happened. And we were pulling away from those guys. And yeah, I was getting tighter, but it still shouldn't have happened. I still beat myself up on it pretty bad. When I do see it, it only makes me beat myself up that much more because it's like, how did that happen?"

HOW MUCH DIFFERENCE DID YOUR LATE DRAW MAKE?

"It made a difference. The sun here can hurt you just from the glare in your eye just as much as it can help you to make a good lap when it goes down. So I was pretty concerned with just having the sun in my eyes. I ran a really dark shield and put some tape on the windshield. And the sun really wasn't bad. And the track temperature through (Turns) 1 and 2 had really come down. It certainly picked me up a lot. That was six and a half tenths faster than we ran in practice. But there was still quite a bit of sun in turns 3 and 4. Towards the end there, I saw that sun really going down. Guys like the No. 17 and 07 and the 10 were capable of knocking us off there and I was surprised that they didn't go any faster as it was going down more."

IS YOUR SEASON STARTING TO LOOK LIKE 1998 WHEN YOU WON 2 RACE THROUGH THE MONTH OF MAY, AND THEN YOU RAN THAT INCREDIBLE STREAK AND WON 13 RACES?

"Man, I've got to go back and look at some stats because I'm sitting here kicking myself every time we finish second and third and fourth, but man, if we've still got a run like that ahead of us then shoot, I'm going to start complaining about stuff so much! I don't know. Things feel good. But with the Chase format, you know, I don't like giving up any wins. Maybe in 1998 it didn't bother me so much as it does today. I feel like they come further and fewer in between these days so I guess that's why it means that much more. We need to capitalize on that moment when it's there - especially on places where we haven't won before. 1998 was an incredible year and I'd like to have another one like that. I feel like we've got a team that's capable of giving us what we had in '98 for sure. The chemistry is really strong. But with the Chase format, it's just so much different now. Those last 10 races are everything. What you do up to that is more critical this year because of the bonus points. I like to lead laps - the most laps - and get those extra bonus points. That's one thing about us when we're battling for championships, we're also accumulating bonus points. And bonus points are on wins these days, so I want to get those wins to go along with it to really carry the proper momentum. I'd hate to go into the Chase and have somebody else have that momentum of having those points and us not. I know there is still a long way to go before that comes, and I feel like we're going to win some races, but that's what changes that feeling this year from '98."

ON THE SATURDAY NIGHT SUN

"I noticed today the direction the sun was falling. It seemed to be a little bit different than in the past year where it was sort of going back behind the front straightaway grandstands instead of falling right down in front of Turn 1, which is a plus. When it falls straight down on the front straightaway, that's really bad. I really question some of the times of day that some of the races start. This is one of them. It's really a bad time to start the race for the drivers. Today, it wasn't that bad for me. So I'm not sure. If the race starts a little bit earlier than when I went out, it might be a little bit worse than that. It might not be too bad this time of year. In the past, I've felt like it's been really bad. It's not as bad here as it is in Homestead. And I really think it's dangerous in Homestead with the time that race starts. I can run a dark shield and tape the windshield and all those things, and you can't block that kind of intense sun."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup