Talladega: GM teams qualifying quotes

Jeff Gordon Captures 60th Bud Pole And First Ever At Talladega Six Team Chevy Drivers Qualify in Top Ten for Aaron's 499 JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED FIRST This was Gordon's 60th career Bud Pole, which moves him into...

Jeff Gordon Captures 60th Bud Pole And First Ever At Talladega
Six Team Chevy Drivers Qualify in Top Ten for Aaron's 499

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED FIRST

This was Gordon's 60th career Bud Pole, which moves him into fourth place on the all-time Bud Pole winner's list - breaking a tie with Darrell Waltrip. This was his third Bud Pole of the season and first ever career pole at Talladega Superspeedway

ON HIS RUN: "We didn't make a qualifying run yesterday, so I was a little bit unsure of what we were going to be able to run. But everything came up to temperature and the guys just did an excellent job of getting this car prepared. We saw that we had a good race car yesterday and now it shows we have a good car today too. I don't know where we're going to end up. I'm pretty sure we won't be on the pole.

"We were the first car out so although there have been some pretty good cars that have gone out behind us, I know we're not going to be on the pole. There are some really strong cars out there that I think are going to get us. I'm hoping that it will be a good starting position for the DuPont Chevrolet. The guys have done an excellent job preparing this race car. This work starts way back in November - December of last year. I believe this was our back-up car for Daytona. We massaged on it. Obviously we didn't have a car left after Daytona. So a lot of work went into getting this car prepared for this race, not to mention just the things that you have to do in the engine department, the body department and all the little details that our guys do and do so well. So things have been going pretty well for us this weekend. We'll just have to see where we end up."

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SITTING ON THE POLE AT TALLADEGA "I want to be up front every time we're on the race track. Yeah, you can move from the back to the front, but you've still got to avoid that big wreck. And with what I saw in practice yesterday, the bump-drafting is going to be pretty severe because this track has so much grip and it's so comfortable and so smooth that it only allows you to push the car and push everything that much harder and be that much more aggressive. So I want to get as far forward as I possibly can from the start to the end."

ON HIS RADIO RELATIONSHIP WITH CREW CHIEF, STEVE LETARTE "We did talk about that. I gave him expectations that I had and what his expectations. The first thing I told him is that I wanted him to treat me like anybody that's out there. I don't want to be treated with any special privileges because we've won a bunch of races and four championships. I want him to crack that whip on me when he needs to crack the whip and pat me on the back when I need that. We've gone through a lot of things this year when we've been so close but we've missed winning the race. There have been times when it's been my fault and times when he's felt like he let me down.

"And we just push one another. But on the race track, there are definitely times when you've got to have the crew chief tell you you're not as far off as you think or you need to push to maintain that position. You get frustrated very easily when you're inside the car. He's able to stay very calm and cool and I love that."

DOES HE GIVE YOU A BROADER PICTURE OF THINGS OR DO YOU REALLY GET FRUSTRATED IN THE CAR? "No, it's just the Adrenalin is flowing and your heart rate it up. And the competition on the track is so intense. From where he's sitting, the competition is just as intense. But yeah, he's getting a lot of information from people and he can see the bigger picture. He's in a position where he can be a little bit calmer than what I am. I just think his personality, when the heat is on; he knows how to be calm and cool when it calls for that. And it's kind of vice versa. There are times when I've got to calm him down and times when he's got to calm me down. But I think last week was a perfect example of how well he handles the pressure in those pressure situations - besides what happened on pit road before the race and what happened on pit road during the race at the end."

IT'S HARD THAT A DRIVER LIKE YOU, WITH SO MANY WINS, NEEDS AN ENCOURAGING CREW CHIEF "Yeah, I don't need that a lot. But there are times when I do need that. The most important thing I need in a crew chief is somebody who believes in me - and I need somebody I believe in. And he and I have been honest with one another from the beginning. I knew that we clicked personality-wise. It was just about how he could be a leader. And that's where he stepped it up to me. You can only tell a guy so much or you can only do so much as a driver. The crew chief has to lead that team. I don't have the time because of all the activities I have to do. I can't be there motivating that team every day. He's got to do that. And you've got to make it your team. And he does do that."

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DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX GROUND MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED THIRD

ON HIS RUN: "It was fairly smooth. Usually it doesn't take too much effort to get around here. But we had to try to keep our car off the apron most of the time. But the FedEx Chevrolet was really good and hopefully we'll end up somewhere in the top 10."

ON THE NEW SURFACE: "It feels very similar to when they first repaved it. You can pretty much steer the car just about anywhere you want to go."

IS HANDLING AN ISSUE AT THIS TRACK? "It's a non-issue, really. If you can work the draft, it doesn't matter if you're on the same tires you started the race on, you could win the race. It's fun for us drivers. We are able to maneuver the cars around. And obviously the guys who paved it did an excellent job."

HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALIFYING? "You could go from first to 30th and from 30th to first in one lap. It's really a non-issue. However, you do want to start up front for a good pit selection. And hopefully we'll have that."

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CASEY MEARS, NO. 25 NATIONAL GUARD/GMAC MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED SEVENTH

TALK ABOUT HENDRICK'S STRENGTH HERE: "Hendrick Motorsports does a great job. The engine shop does an unbelievable job. All the guys worked very, very hard on the car. Collectively, there's a lot of good information to pull from and they've been fast at Talladega and Daytona in the past. It just feels good to have a good qualifying run. Hopefully we'll have a good, solid pit stall and the biggest things we need on the No.25 side is a good solid day. No issues and just come home with some good points."

IS QUALIFYING REALLY IMPORTANT HERE? "Anytime you can qualify up front it's better. At this place it probably means maybe the least because if you start in the back you can get to the front fairly easily if you have a good race car. Anytime you can start at the front, though, it's a little less of a headache and gives you good pit stall choice. Hopefully that stuff will benefit us. There's still quite a few cars to go but if we can stay inside the top five that'd be great."

HOW IMPORTANT IS BUMP-DRAFTING HERE? "NASCAR's been harping on us not to bump-draft but really, it's the only way to pass here. If you can't, you've got to get your lane moving otherwise you're just riding around hoping that your lane moves. It's the only thing that you have as a driver that can kind of dictate which way your lane is going to go. You have to be careful with it; it seems like the pavement is so smooth here and the speeds are down that you can bump-draft in the corners and it's not really much of an issue. But you've got to do it right and at the right time and I know NASCAR doesn't want us to do that. We're going to have to be patient with it; it's going to be a long race and the biggest thing we need to do with the National Guard/GMAC Chevrolet is finish. Where we're at in points right now we just need a solid day."

IS THE TRACK MUCH BETTER THAN IT USED TO BE? "It's still smooth from last year. It may be a little bit more wavy than last year but it's still really smooth. It's going to create a lot of four-wide racing for us and the tires aren't going to fall off. It's going to be exciting for the fans but from our end we've just got to get through it safe."

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JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED EIGHTH HOW IS THE CAR FEELING? "It's not bad. I think we learned some things from Daytona and we should certainly be good for the race, so we're excited."

DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE MORE PASSING THAN NORMAL? "The track is a little more forgiving with the new asphalt. I think it's going to allow more teams to be competitive with less emphasis on handling and more just on the draft itself so it does have that potential. But I don't think this track lacks for any type of side-by-side racing because we're always three, four or five wide and it's always a good show."

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KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 CARQUEST/KELLOGG'S MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED 13TH DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE MORE PASSING IN THIS RACE? "Not really. It's a restrictor-plate race. There's always going to be a lot of passing. There's always going to be a lot of side-by-side, three, four wide sometimes. For the race setups, running the whole time here, it's not going to make much difference."

PRACTICE TIMES ARE GETTING FASTER HERE. DO YOU THINK NASCAR WILL CHANGE THE PLATES? "They would have done it by now. I think we're all set. They believe what they saw was okay."

WILL THAT SPEED DIFFERENCE MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR YOU GUYS? "Not much. The biggest thing is that the engines tend to respond less with smaller plates. You don't have as much recovery time; you're not able to get going as quick. It's going to be a little bit different if they did but they didn't."

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS' RESTRICTOR-PLATE PROGRAM HAS IMPROVED. WHAT'S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE? "I think the biggest difference is having a specific team of builders that are building our cars. The same guys build all of them. That's what brought Hendrick Motorsports' all four cars closer together. Just all the research and development. There's specific restrictor-plate building guys that's probably why we've gotten better - because they've been researching."

ON YOUR QUALIFYING LAP: "It was pretty uneventful. I just laid down a lap and it was pretty good. The CARQUEST/Kellogg's Chevrolet lined up in the top four right now. We'll see how that plays out here when qualifying is over. We're not too worried about where we qualify here. Passing is always the easy thing to do when race time comes. We'll just have to play it out and hopefully we can keep the No. 5 Chevrolet up front somewhere and keep it out of trouble."

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TONY STEWART, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED 32ND

ON QUALIFYING AND CHANCES FOR TOMORROW: "Qualifying is not a huge deal here, obviously, because of the way the field gets shuffled around. It's more for your pit selection than anything. Our car worked pretty good in practice yesterday. I'm pretty happy with it. We just have to wait and see. I'm pretty excited. The Home Depot team did a great job and (crew chief Greg) 'Zippy' (Zipadelli) and the guys did an awesome job of building a brand-new car after we totaled the one we had at Daytona. This car seems to be just as good."

J.J. YELEY, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED 37TH "We brought a car here that races very good and the car was very, very fast yesterday in practice. We knew that it wasn't going to be a pole-contending car. But we'll start wherever we are and then we'll take the Interstate Batteries car to the front."

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JEFF GREEN, NO. 66 BEST BUY MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED 40TH

ON QUALIFYING: "I knew we wouldn't qualify well. This car didn't qualify that well at Daytona, but it raced incredibly well. With this being an impound race, it's all about how the car's going to perform in the race, and we were really fast yesterday during race practice. I think we ended up sixth-fastest overall in final practice. I'd love to start closer to the front, but I'm confident we'll be able to get up there very quickly, especially with some of the help we'll have around us."

YOU'VE HAD A GOOD START TO THE SEASON AS FAR AS PERFORMANCE, BUT BAD LUCK IS FOLLOWING YOU AROUND. IS THERE ANY CONSOLATION IN THE FACT THAT THE CARS ARE RUNNING GOOD EACH WEEK AND YOU CAN POSSIBLY GET THAT MONKEY OFF YOUR BACK? "I sure wish I knew what it took. As long as the guys can stay upbeat.. We're fast every week. We just need to get through all the little bad things that seem to happen every race. And they always happen at the end it seems like. Hopefully we can make it through this race here at Talladega; we finished 11th in this race last year so we'll try to build on that a little bit."

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DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 8 BUDWEISER MONTE CARLO SS - QUALIFIED 42ND

ON HIS RUN: "The car is fast. We just can't qualify good for some reason. With the impound races, we don't like to run that much gear in these races and it hurts us real bad in qualifying."

SO THE CAR IS SET UP FOR THE RACE, BUT NOT NECESSARILY FOR TWO FAST LAPS HERE TODAY? "Exactly. It's set up for drafting and for all those things I need to do tomorrow."

HOW IS THE CAR? "The car was good yesterday. I was pretty happy with the way it is running."

ON THE TRACK SURFACE: "It's about the same to me. We were going around there as fast as we could go then, and we're still doing that. I don't think the new surface really made the track that much quicker."

DOES IT MATTER IF YOU WIN THE POLE? "Well, we can't qualify that good here. We just don't. And with the races being impound, we can't put the gear in it for qualifying and we'd rather have the right gear for the race. And this car is where we want to be. So we don't qualify that well, but we race good. It don't matter where you qualify, it just matters where your pit selection is. Pit selection is pretty important."

WE HEARD YOUR COMMENTS ON THROWING TOILET PAPER INSTEAD OF BEER. WHEN THE FANS THREW BEER CANS AT JEFF GORDON, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO STEP UP AND PREVENT THAT FROM HAPPENING? "I can't prevent it from happening. I can just give you my opinion about it. Beer is for drinking. Toilet paper is for throwing."

HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOUR FANS REACTED THAT WAY? "At first I thought it was really, really funny and I felt vindicated because I felt like we had the race stolen from us. And I still feel that way. And the great thing about NASCAR is that they'll agree to disagree with you if you present it in a proper context and whatnot. I really didn't go after NASCAR as far as that decision on the race, I just feel like I won and had it taken away. My fans feel pretty strong about that too.

"A lot of fans were doing it (throwing beer cans) because they didn't want the race to end under caution, which I can understand. But after I read what I read throughout the week and read all the stories about how people were getting his and stuff like that, then I realized the danger of it and how ridiculous it is. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. When you're that mad and angry, you don't think about the repercussions and consequences - especially of putting other people in harm. After a while you realize how ridiculous it is. There are people here who are trying to enjoy themselves and watch the race and yeah, maybe they feel the same way you do, but they don't want to get beer thrown at them or in their direction."

ON THE FAN VOTES FOR THE ALL-STAR RACE "Hopefully they'll get out and vote for Martin (Truex Jr.). He asked me yesterday to give him a plug. I told him I'd been plugging him, but I'll keep it up. It's a lot of fun. It's great to have that many fans helping us in those situations. If they get angry and don't like the race is run or who won, find a fan and give them a good rolling of toilet paper on their car instead of throwing a beer on the race track. Beer is for drinking."

EVEN THOUGH YOU'VE LOST A LITTLE OF YOUR DOMINANCE AT TALLADEGA, DO YOU ALWAYS FEEL LIKE YOU CAN GET ON IT AND SOMEHOW MAKE IT UP? "Absolutely. I think I know what I need to do here. I know what it takes to win. I know how to make the right moves. I know what's going on around me and I know how to use that to my advantage. A lot of times I don't make the right moves, but for the most part I think I'm one of the better restrictor plate racers out there. The guys have got to be confident of having that going for him when they're building the car. Tony (Eury) Jr. makes it real fast. We don't qualify (well). We just don't run the same gear that those guys do. We just ain't got that emphasis on qualifying and trying to learn how to make the car go fast for two laps. It really don't matter to us. During the race, the car is going to go right to the front. I'll take some of the credit, but a lot of credit goes to the car. Tony really builds a good car."

DO YOU WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RACING THIS CAR BEFORE GOING TO THE NEW-GENERATION CAR NEXT WEEK? "I want to take advantage of all of them. We'll take some wins whenever we can get them. We're going to buckle down and really try to get one here in Talladega."

IT WAS PRETTY CRAZY DURING BUSCH PRACTICE YESTERDAY WITH THE CARS THREE AND FOUR-WIDE. HOW DOES THAT APPLY? "I only ran the first one for about six laps until a tire came off another car and hit mine and tore mine up. We didn't run anymore. I don't know what to look forward to out there in the race today. Hopefully it'll be pretty clean and pretty safe and we'll have a good time."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip
Teams Hendrick Motorsports