BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: ON WEATHER DELAYS: "I know we really wanted to get qualifying in today for our sponsor, Georgia-Pacific, that was sponsoring Pole Day, but I know they were really...
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
ON WEATHER DELAYS: "I know we really wanted to get qualifying in today for our sponsor, Georgia-Pacific, that was sponsoring Pole Day, but I know they were really disappointed in that. But, we haven't been a threat for the pole here for a little while, and so we weren't really sure what we had in store. Our average qualifying is around No. 12 or so, so to be No. 9, we'll take that. I just want to make sure we get on the track tomorrow, and then really get the set-up for the race dialed in."
ON HOW CHASE IS SHAPING UP AFTER CRAZY WEEKEND IN MARTINSVILLE: "It's been really crazy. To know that we have had three horrible finishes, and are only 141 points out is certainly, that says it all about how crazy it has been. That is what makes the Chase so exciting, you have so many guys that are going to be a part of this thing until the final race in Homestead, and that you are never out of it, and can never give up. That is the philosophy that we are taking. Yeah, we are No.9, we are way back, and we have said: "Hey, we've got nothing to lose". We have to be a lot more aggressive, and be bigger risk takers where we are at, but we also know that we are not out of it."
ON HOW WIDE OPEN THE CHASE IS WITH FOUR RACES TO GO: "It is extremely wide open. You have four unique tracks that I think you've got guys run good at one or two of them, and another guy that runs good at the other two. It's going to be about the guy who doesn't have problems, or the least amount of problems from here on out, and can be consistent on those four tracks, and that's been the issue with where we are at. We have to go out there and be spectacular, and not have any issues."
ON HOW NO ONE HAS REALLY RAN AWAY WITH THE CHASE: "Well, I thought (Jeff) Burton had done that up until last week. It is just a true sign that anything can happen to anyone at anytime, and ten races is a lot longer than people think."
ON KASEY KAHNE'S PERFORMANCE AT UPCOMING TRACKS IN REGARDS TO THE CHASE: "I think that Texas, he is definitely strong there. A track like this it is really a track that wears out, and the groove moves around as much, he isn't usually as strong at a track like this as he is as some others. But, I think Junior runs good here, and Junior runs good at Phoenix. Jimmie is just an all-around solid competitor, as is Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton. So, I don't know, I don't see how you can pick anybody. I think we have performed as good or better than most guys during the Chase, we just haven't been able to put those finishes together. It's not necessarily about the guy who is dominant; it is about the guy who doesn't have a big issue."
ON LOOKING TO THE FUTURE IN THE CHASE AFTER PROBLEMS IN PAST RACES: "One thing that we are good at is that when we do have a problem, we make sure that it doesn't happen again. Those two issues that we had were issues that had never happened to us before. They are new, and we have addressed them, and I feel confident about that. But, two out of the three mile-and-a-half tracks I feel great about, Texas I am still questioning and am optimistic and looking forward to the changes that we have made with the car and the team, set-ups and everything to get back there. Then, Phoenix, I feel we learned a lot the first trip out there where we should be a lot better out there the second time."
ON CHANCES OF FELLOW COMPETITORS IN THE CHASE: "I think that the fact that you have ten guys that are still mathematically in it, you aren't going to have seven guys that are going to have trouble. Eighth, ninth, and tenth place guys are going to have to be spectacular, and not have problems. The guys in the top five or six, they just need to be solid and not have a lot of problems, and any of those guys can win it. If I was in the top five or six, I can tell you that I would be playing the points game, and I would still be trying to win races, and would be more conservative side to not have problems than I would be on the aggressive side."
ON BEING CONSERVATIVE WHILE IN THE TOP-FIVE: "It is only tight because guys have had problems, so make sure you don't have problems. I would lean more towards, and we only have four races to go. You have to make sure that you are finishing in the top-ten every weekend, and it is not about going out and leading the most laps and then winning races, and then the next week finishing No. 20. If you could do top-10 the next four races, you are going to win this thing."
ON WHETHER WINNING THE CHASE THIS YEAR IS MEANT TO BE: "Martinsville changed it a little bit, because Burton had his problems. But, it is going to take something pretty spectacular for us to get ourselves a real, legitimate shot in Homestead, and I am not saying it can't happen, we are definitely going to push and take chances and get outside the box an try to make that happen, and if it is meant to be, then we will find out."
ON THE AMOUNT OF RISK BEING TAKEN IN THE CHASE: "Well, it hasn't been the case for us, that is not why we had our problems, we have been running that stuff the whole year. Charlotte was a rare occasion, it was cold, the track was extremely fast, and we were turning the engine harder than we had all year long. That is why we had the issue that we had, it was not like a test product or an unproven product, I am not sure about other guys. I think for us, we have not done anything experimental until we started having problems in the Chase."
ON CHANGES HE WOULD MAKE TO THE CHASE FORMAT: "The thing I have been leaning towards recently, is having those guys in the Chase, have their own points standing within the Chase. We all hear about, there are 43 cars out there and we have to race against other drivers that are not in the Chase. I think to have them still on the race track, but to no have them be as much of a factor if you made your own points system, which would make things really cool and positive."
ON HOW MUCH TIGHTER CHANGES WOULD MAKE THE CHASE: "It would tighten it up a bunch, and you know NASCAR wants that. I don't think they want any driver to go into Homestead and not have a legitimate chance."
ON TREATMENT OF WINS IN THE CHASE: "I think that you have to reward the wins a little more that what we are now. I think that everyone is trying to win, but there are moments that you don't want to risk the gas and go or the two tires or even stretching the fuel because I would rather get a fifth or sixth place finish instead of going for the win. So, if you make the win worth more, then it might be worth the risk."
ON WHAT IT TAKES TO GET AROUND THE TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY: "I wish I knew. (Laughs) Obviously you haven't seen my previous performances the last couple of races there. It is a difficult race track, it is very fast, the transitions in the corners are very abrupt, and the walls come at you pretty fast. It is just a track that challenges all of us, but it is one that I enjoy. I just haven't had the chance to win there. I am looking forward to heading there again, and having two races there a year will help us get our first win there."
ON WHAT THE LAST FEW WEEKS WILL BE LIKE FOR THE TOP POSITIONS IN THE CHASE: "It gets more and more intense as the weeks go by, and it gets more and more intense as the weeks go by. I think that is the toughest thing as a team and driver, to handle the pressure with the media, and knowing how close you are to pulling off that championship. Someone like (Jeff) Burton, or Jimmie (Johnson) who have never won it, or someone like (Denny) Hamlin, who is a rookie, the Chase format is just that spectacular and that hard to win. And, it is that much more rewarding, as well. What stinks is that you have to go out there, and you run well here at Atlanta, but yet you are thinking about just not having a problem. You know that if you don't have a problem, and don't get caught up in a wreck, that you are going to finish in the top-10, and know that that is what you need to do, but yet there are those unknown factors that come into play."
ON THE CHALLENGES OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLES IN THE PAST COMPARED TO THE ONES RECENTLY: "To me, the most challenging one I ever had was where we were battling with (Mark) Martin and (Dale) Jarrett in 1997. We came down here to Atlanta, and that was the final race and that was probably the most stressful day's I have ever had in my career. Until I get to that situation, we had a close situation- we were the guys chasing, which was a few years back when Kurt Busch won the championship down in Homestead, when we had the opportunity to win it when he had his problems."
ON NASCAR'S DECISION NOT TO APPROVE DAVID RAGAN FOR ATLANTA: "Let's just say I was one of the victims. Not much as much of a victim as some of the other guys, but in Martinsville I was one of the ones who wasn't really pleased with some of his actions and watching some of the things he was doing. I question more if he wasn't ready for Martinsville than he wasn't ready from here. I think he probably would have been fine here."
ON BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, A.J. ALLMENDINGER AND OTHERS COMING FROM OTHER SERIES: "The biggest challenge is if you have been driving a certain kind of car long enough that you have become adapted to that environment, whether it be road courses or rear engine, high downforce cars, anything other than a big heavy stock car on a high-banked oval track. The guys who usually do well in series are the guys who haven't spent too much time in one series. They have been able to come up through the ranks fast. Tony Stewart ran IRL but he was midgets, sprint cars, dirt, pavement, high banks, flat tracks, short track, big tracks - but he wasn't road racing. That, to me, is the biggest challenge is the guys without it. We see it. Why do some guys like Boris Said and others come in and do so well on the road courses? It is because it is a totally different type of driving style that it takes for the road course versus the ovals. But to be successful in this series, you have to be good on ovals. You have to get used to a big heavy car that doesn't give you the feedback, doesn't give you the feel, and doesn't have the grip. You are also racing around other cars that change how your car is. Those are the biggest challenges. I think the cool thing is you have Montoya, Allmendinger; these guys have a tremendous amount of talent. They have what it takes. They have teams that want to support them and back them and take the time that it takes to get them comfortable with this series, these cars and it is just going to take time."
ON HIS BEING ON THIS WEEK'S WIND TUNNEL AND ADMITTING COMPLAINING: "I kick myself when it is all over. I say why did I say that, why did I do that. But when you are in the heat of the moment and you are on the radio and you are trying to win races, sometimes that intensity takes over. I am not going to apologize for it, but I will admit that it does happen sometimes. I love that show. I think Dave Despain is one of the purest, most honest, unbiased racing show on TV that is out there and that is why I enjoy getting to do it every year. You talk about other types of racing and a lot of other things. Trust me, I don't want to talk about myself all the time; I want to talk about other things too.
ON THE RAIN: "It is unfortunate. I just feel sorry for Ed Clark and the people at Atlanta Motor Speedway. They move the dates and they still get rain. Long as we get it done by Sunday, we will all be happy. Starting ninth isn't a bad start. I don't know if we had a shot at the pole anyway, but it would have liked to be out there for the opportunity. I think we all just want laps."
ON NASCAR HAVING A TRAVELING SAFETY TEAM: "My opinion is yes they should. I kind of share what NASCAR's feelings are and what say, the IRL, has done. You have to have local medical staff that knows the area, local hospitals and staff but then you have to have a specialized group that is trained for these cars, the kind of conditions we are in that travel with the series everywhere we go. You can have arguments on both sides, but I think it would be a big plus for all of us."
-credit: gm racing