Watkins Glen: Front row interview

ALL BOWTIE FRONT ROW: JEFF GORDON ON POLE, DENNY HAMLIN OUTSIDE FRONT Watkins Glen, NY - Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, and Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Impala SS, will lead the field of 43 starters to the green flag at Watkins Glen ...

ALL BOWTIE FRONT ROW: JEFF GORDON ON POLE, DENNY HAMLIN OUTSIDE FRONT

Watkins Glen, NY - Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, and Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Impala SS, will lead the field of 43 starters to the green flag at Watkins Glen International. The field was set by the rulebook when inclement weather forced the cancellation of qualifying for the Centurion Boats at The Glen. Eight members of Team Chevy will line-up in the top-10 for the 22nd race of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season.

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JEFF GORDON,

NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, STARTS SUNDAY'S RACE ON THE POLE:

RAIN HAS CANCELLED QUALIFYING AND WE WILL SET THE FIELD ON POINTS. QUALIFYING IS IMPORTANT AT WATKINS GLEN, BUT WHAT IMPACT MIGHT THAT HAVE ON SUNDAY'S RACE?

JEFF GORDON: "I keep trying to find the reasons that where the payoffs and benefits are in leading the points like we are right now, and it's moments like today that it does pay off. You hate to see this weather come in like this, but it's just been one of those days. I was in the pace car riding around and the track was dry but the windshield was wet. And I thought we were going to find a window but it just keeps rolling in and keeps making parts of the track wet. So there is just no getting around that. I didn't draw a good number for qualifying today so going out second wasn't going to benefit us. But I thought we really made some gains there toward the end of practice. I don't think we were going to be on the pole today if we had gone, but I think we had a shot at a top five. So either way, I was looking forward to it or looking forward to taking advantage of our points position and obviously starting up front is going to be important here."

WITH THE WEATHER CONDITIONS CHANGING, HOW CRITICAL IS FINAL PRACTICE GOING TO BE?

"It was good to just get some laps on the track. With this new car and a track that we don't test at, we had no idea. We tested at Road Atlanta. We ran at Sonoma. But this is totally a different type of track. So it was valuable information in just those few laps that we made. We would always like to have as close of conditions in practice as what we're going to actually have for the race. I don't even know what the forecast is for Sunday, but I'm hoping that we'll have some clear weather for tomorrow so we can make some laps because every lap we make is going to be crucial for us fine-tuning our DuPont Chevrolet for the race on Sunday."

HOW COMFORTABLE WERE YOU OUT THERE TODAY AND HOW COMFORTABLE WAS YOUR CAR?

"Like I said, we tested at Road Atlanta last week and I was feeling really good about that test. And it's the first time we've ever tested there to prepare for Watkins Glen so I was hoping it was really going to be beneficial. And I've got to tell you, the first couple of laps I made today I was feeling pretty lost. We had to make some pretty major adjustments to get the car where we needed it to be and we still didn't have it perfect toward the end. But with new tires we made a qualifying run and picked up the pace. So I was feeling a lot better about it at the end of practice than I was at the start of practice."

HOW EXCITED WILL YOU BE TO GET STEVE LETARTE BACK NEXT WEEK?

"I'm excited about it. We've stayed in pretty close communication during the week. Even if we have some down time here at the track I'm talking to him on the phone. I'm really proud of the way he's handled himself through all this. I'm extremely proud of the team and how they've handled the situation and I really think our team has become stronger in a lot of ways because of it. When he comes back, I think maybe he'll be a little nervous about trying to get started off on the right foot. And he's gearing up for Michigan, which is the track we didn't run very good at earlier in the season. I'm excited about it. I think the whole team is excited about having him back. He's made some great calls this year and I really think he's the reason this team is elevated up to the level we're at right now."

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DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX GROUND IMPALA SS, STARTS 2ND ON SUNDAY

YOU GOT SOME LAPS OUT THERE TODAY. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO SUNDAY'S RACE?

"I thought we were pretty good in practice. We weren't obviously the fastest. But qualifying could go either way here, definitely. We could have had a shot at the pole, or we could have ended up running off the course and running 30th. So, I definitely will take second. That's good for us. But I would have like to see what we could have done in qualifying. And you hate to see road course guys; some of them having to go home, and I hate to see that. But it's part of our system and the way things work. I'm definitely proud that the team gave me such a good car this weekend in particular. We actually geared toward not having fast lap times, just a car that will get good fuel mileage because it tends to go that way during these races. So to have a car as fast as it was during practice just tells me how strong it was."

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET QUALIYFING IN HERE? YOU GOT A LITTLE PRACTICE TIME AND GOT ON THE COURSE. IS IT A BIG DEAL THAT IT GOT RAINED OUT OR IS IT OKAY THAT YOU START SECOND?

"Yeah, I'm definitely fine with it. But yeah, you'd like to see qualifying because a lot of guys have to qualify on time that deserve to be in the field based on their speed. But they just don't have the points. So yeah, you'd like to see it but that's just the system we work in. If you're not here every week, then you don't get the perks of being guaranteed in the show. It's definitely okay from our standpoint."

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE TRACK? WHAT IS YOUR COMFORT LEVEL OUT THERE

"Oh, it's pretty good. The track definitely had a lot more grip than I expected. The Car of Tomorrow drove a lot better than I expected. I'm definitely pleased with where we're starting out with tomorrow's practice because I think we have a very, very good car. It seemed like it was misting all day so we were a little hesitant to go all out. But right there towards the end of Cup practice it started getting a little bit dry; drier than it was in the beginning. It's just a shame to see the rain here now."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon