Talladega: Pole winner interview

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS - POLE WINNER Note: This is 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 is his third Bud Pole of...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS - POLE WINNER

Note: This is 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 is his third Bud Pole of the season and first ever career pole at Talladega Superspeedway

ON THE LAP

"Obviously it was a pretty good lap. I certainly was not expecting to run that fast. Inside the car, all you can do it pay attention to the sound of the engine and look at your gauges. I was pretty impressed with what kind of rpm we were running. And I thought it could be a pretty decent lap. Going out first was actually a benefit for us. It was for Denny Hamlin too. The winds were very calm and there were cooler conditions. And I think that really played a big role - especially when you look at Gilliland and myself tying. Had they gone out first, I think they would have been on the pole.

"I wish my whole team could be sitting up here because at Talladega, the driver doesn't pay much of a role. Getting up through the gears and getting up to speed is about all we do. Those guys work so hard to get these cars here to run that lap and obviously my guys are doing an awesome job everywhere we're going right now. It's pretty cool to run good on short tracks and intermediates and here, on a superspeedway."

YOU'VE BEEN ON AN INCREDIBLE ROLE LATELY. IS THIS YOUR BEST YEAR SINCE WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN GO ALL THE WAY THIS YEAR?

"Definitely. This is starting out to be one of the best years I've ever had. And I'm a little nervous about that because I know how hard it is to maintain in this sport. Every time we run good - and while it gives us momentum and confidence - it also makes the other guys that much hungrier to knock us off.

"So, it's a nice relief to get that win out of the way (Phoenix). The first win of the year is always important - especially if you can do it in the first eight or 10 races. It just is a bit of a relief to get that added pressure off where you can just focus on what you need to do as a team to go out there and perform week in and week out. And we've got that win out of the way and it was a big one, obviously, being at Phoenix and number 76. Now we can just stick to doing business as usual and trying to get that next one, whenever that may come.

"With the Chase format, you're afraid to peak to early. I hope we don't. I feel like we've got a team that can maintain and we're showing consistency, which means a lot to me. But I've always said that now with the Chase, if you can come into the Chase with a ton of momentum, you're in that driver's seat to win that championship. So I hope we can maintain, but we've still got a lot of racing left to go."

WHAT KIND OF RACE DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE ON SUNDAY?

"Oh, it's going to be wild. There's no doubt about it. This track right now, with the repave, it's so smooth and it has so much grip, with the restrictor plates that we have on right now, it's just tightened up the cars so much to one another, it's going to be really wild. When you have a car that's that comfortable, it allows everybody to push the limits that much harder. It's not a matter of if; it's when. When is that wreck going to happen? That, to me, is the unknown. That's why track position is so important here. Maybe it's not necessarily important where you start it, but it's making sure you're out of it when it happens. And that's why I think track position being up front, is definitely important. I'm not saying we can stay there with where we're starting, but I hope we can. And maybe we can stay out of it. I think NASCAR is going to have a tough job trying to police the bump-drafting we're going to have tomorrow. There is so much grip here that you can bump-draft through the corners and through the tri-oval. And when guys start getting comfortable doing that, they stop thinking about what's happening three or four cars ahead. And that's usually when one guy checks up and then it's just a domino thing."

HOW IS THIS CAR IN TRAFFIC RELATIVE TO CARS YOU'VE HAD HERE IN RECENT YEARS?

"Well, it's good. This track, before, handling was very minimal of an issue. You just wanted to come here with a car that had flat-out speed - as slick as you could possibly get - unlike Daytona, where you've got to handle really well and, you've got to have a really fast car. We had a fast car without the handling in Daytona. Here, it's just sheer speed. There is so much grip that handling is not an issue at all. You can just maneuver all over the track. Everybody can. Every car is driving good. Every car is good in the draft. And yeah, the aerodynamics are changing. They evolve every year in what we do with these cars. There are these pockets now, where you sort of get close to a car and it seems like you push it away, but when you break that pocket, you seem to be able to maintain and be right on the guy's bumper without really a lot of help from behind. So it's strange.

"There are things that you have to learn all the time. I don't think anybody is really dominant out there right now. I thought the No. 38 and the No. 88 looked the best yesterday and I thought they were going to be on the front row here today. I'm shocked that we are. I thought they looked really good in the draft as well."

WHY ARE YOU GUYS NOT ALL IN NASCAR'S HAULER RIGHT NOW SAYING WE CAN'T RACE LIKE THIS? YOU'RE SAYING THERE IS NO WAY WE WON'T HAVE A 15-CAR PILE-UP. THEY KEEP CHANGING THE CARS AND NEVER CHANGE THE RACE TRACK. WHY DO YOU GUYS DO THIS?

"We don't have a choice."

YEAH, YOU COULD (DECIDE TO) NOT RACE AS A GROUP

"That's not a choice to me. Mark Martin is the only out there who has got a choice (laughter). He's the smartest guy out there right now (more laughter). You always hope that it's not going to happen. Every year it gets tighter and tighter. Since they did repave this race track, it's allowed the teams to get a little more aggressive with their shocks and their springs and make these cars grip that much better and get through the corners better, where we don't have these huge bumps and dips that we used to have to adjust for. And this restrictor plate. We were going too fast, and they had to put a smaller restrictor plate on us last time we were here and that just tightens up the field that much more. There is just nothing you can tell the drivers - including myself - like don't bump draft. If everybody doesn't bump-draft all day long, on the last lap it's still going to get out of control and there is still a chance for it to happen. So I don't know. I don't have an answer. Why are we not? I don't know. But we've been in this situation for years as far as I'm concerned here. It is what it is. We're racers and we go out there and do the best that we possibly can and hope it doesn't happen. And when it does happen, you hope you're not in it. I feel very safe inside the car; don't get me wrong. Even if that wreck happens, I still feel very safe. I don't feel like it's as much of a safety issue as it is tearing up race cars and ruining your day. Not to mention, I don't think it'd do any good (laughs). Somebody is going to get inside that car and drive it."

HOW FAR AWAY IS THE NEW CAR FROM BEING READY FOR THIS RACE TRACK?

"I don't know. I didn't test it here. Jimmie Johnson did. Talking to him, it was a little ways away. I don't think they had enough cars to really draft with. I'm curious to know. Honestly I think we could get out there and race it today at this track, anyway. I think Daytona is a much bigger issue than this track because handling is an issue at Daytona and it's not here. So we could get out there probably today with that car and put on a pretty good race here - at least as good as what we're going to put on here tomorrow. So I'm anxious. If there is any track that that car suits, it's this one. The bumpers line up. They punch a big hole in the air. Handling is not a big issue. So I would think if it suits any track, it suits this one. So we'll have it here in October and we'll all know."

DOES YOUR POLE THIS SET THE STAGE FOR BETTER ENTERTAINMENT TOMORROW?

"Possibly. The pole doesn't guarantee you anything but it might fire up some of those non-Jeff Gordon fans out there. I know it's got the Jeff Gordon fans fired up but they don't make the most noise here so they kind of get overpowered. We're serious about every weekend and we prepare for it and we've been capable of winning several races this year. We're going to keep trying to do that same thing to come to every race to win. We're here to win and that would be cool to pull 77 (wins) off here. If it doesn't happen here we're going to go to the next race at Richmond and try to do it there. I do think driver introductions should be entertaining tomorrow."

DO YOU AGREE WITH GILLILAND WHEN HE SAYS THE OUTSIDE LANE IS THE FASTEST? WOULD YOU WANT TO START THERE INSTEAD?

"No, I'll take the inside. It just depends on who's pushing. I don't think so. I hadn't even thought about it. Maybe I will (laughs). The outside lane is not a bad lane but when you're starting up front, either lane is good. As long as you're leading that line, then it's a good line as long as you get guys that get the right start and get a good push. Even if we get shuffled back a little bit there's no guarantees for the inside or outside lanes. I do think that guys are going to be protecting the bottom most of the day and getting that run on the outside, you're going to need a line of cars and a lot of help. I think they're going to get three wide pretty fast. My biggest thing is to make sure they don't get me on the bottom as they're three wide and I'll be watching my mirrors really heavy tomorrow."

YOU MENTIONED PEAKING TOO EARLY IN REGARDS TO THE CHASE. ARE YOU THINKING THAT FAR AHEAD RIGHT NOW?

"Absolutely. Whether I'm thinking about it for myself or watching just how things happen over the last several years of the Chase, ever since they introduced the Chase, it's something that you have to think about this championship from race one. That's the way we look at it. We go into every race preparing to try to win and put ourselves in position to win the championship. I think that anybody that tells you they're not is someone that's not going to win the championship. I'm not saying that we're going to peak too early, I'm saying that it's important that we don't. That we don't do too much too early and get complacent. I think it's going to be real important for us to continue to push forward. When you get a team that comes out strong early in the season, a lot of times the competition says 'we've got to catch up' and they go to work and they do. If we don't put the same work and effort in and maintain that edge that we have then we could get left behind when that Chase comes. It's about staying hungry, staying after it, keeping the Chemistry, the confidence and continuing to bring great race cars to the track like we are right now. So yeah, absolutely I'm thinking about it now."

WHAT ARE YOU DRINKING?

"I'm drinking energy drink - Jeff Gordon Energy Drink, from the makers of Pepsi. Where've you been? (laughs). I appreciate you bringing that up."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Darrell Waltrip , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin