WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVY MONTE CARLO (quickest in first practice, 15.420/124.436): ON BREAKING THE NO-WIN STREAK RECORD: "I hope so. We're working hard every weekend to try to make that the track to break the streak. Bristol is a...
WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVY MONTE CARLO (quickest in first practice, 15.420/124.436):
ON BREAKING THE NO-WIN STREAK RECORD:
"I hope so. We're working hard every weekend to try to make that the track to break the streak. Bristol is a good track for us; we've won a lot of races here. We've never won the night race so we'd love to be able to pull that off. One of the hardest things lately is qualifying. We're running good today and I hope we can back that up (in) qualifying and get a good starting position. That will certainly help things."
WHY HAVE YOU NOT WON A NIGHT RACE HERE? IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN THE TRACK?
"There's a little bit of difference. We've been good here at times, even the last time we were here at night we were pretty good. It just depends on how everything goes for you. You've got to have a good car, obviously, and we've had that several times, but you've got to have the pit stops, the strategy, and the right adjustments to stay up with the track and everything. It makes it a little bit difficult. In the past we never really practiced at night to prepare for this race and that makes it a little bit different when you can do your Happy Hour later in the weekend."
ON THE POINTS RACE:
"I'm kind of surprised that we're right in it, because we haven't run better than we have and we haven't won a race. It just shows you a lot about how the points are structured and how consistency can really pay off. And the lack of DNFs that we've had has really been the key to keeping us in it. So, even though we haven't run as good as we would like, those finishes and the number of laps that we finished has paid off and maybe we can get the performance turned around late in the season and really make a charge for the championship."
IS THERE A DANGER OF OVER-ANALYZING?
"The frustration level at certain places, if it keeps going, what's going to happen is the pressure is going to build within the team, the pressure is going to build from the media and the fans and everything. Those just heighten your emotions. So, it's really important for us to stay together. We're a very good group. I don't know if there's too many other teams out there who could handle what we're going through right now as well as we are. Certainly that's the thing that you look at -- why you want to get there so bad -- is to kind of get those frustration levels toned down a little bit and keep the glue there and keep everybody excited and confident knowing that we can. Right now they're there. But, each race that goes by, if we don't win, would add to them."
TALK ABOUT THE ENGINE ISSUE FROM LAST WEEK REGARDING THE DYNO NUMBERS:
"We know what it is; we've got the horsepower sitting there, but we just haven't been comfortable enough putting it out there. Randy Dorton and Champ and everybody in the engine shop's doing a great job bringing it (up) a little bit more each weekend. Our motor was a lot better last weekend at Michigan than it was at Indy, but we need more, certainly. And when you look at our aerodynamic deficit that we have and the horsepower, it's a lot to overcome. It's making us have to get everything just right and be perfect out there. And we haven't been able to be perfect in order to win races. Those are things that we're looking at. You hear 'common templates;' you wonder; you don't want common horsepower too. The Dodge is one of the least horsepowered cars out there and they're really strong. Obviously, you can overcome it, and we have in the past also, if you get the cars right."
YOU'RE DOING YOUR BEST TO JUST CATCH UP, ARE WE LOOKING AT A NEW RULE JUST FOR THE SB2 (GM) ENGINES?
"I don't know. Some of the cars have been able to qualify real well. Jimmie (Johnson) seems to be able to make the most of it in race conditions. I think a little bit of it is that we just haven't clicked and a little bit of is that the Chevrolets are certainly behind. They (NASCAR) wouldn't have given us the (front valance) kick at Michigan if they didn't think that we were behind. A kick below the bumper does absolutely nothing. That part of the car doesn't even see the air until you get out in front of other cars. What we're up against is from the top of the windshield down to the bumper, with the Dodges and Fords. That's what we need. We've got that coming next year, but we don't have that right now. We've got to find some ways to get around that and qualifying definitely needs to be a key part of that and that's one thing that we have not done and that's one of the reasons why I think we haven't been as strong as we have, 'cause we have been fighting so hard just to get track position throughout the whole race."
ON CHALLENGE OF DRIVING AROUND DARLINGTON NEXT WEEK:
"It's just that both ends of the race track are so much different. You've got one end of the track where it's high banked and fast and sweeping, the other end of the track it's a little bit flatter and tighter. So, you're just never going to get the car to work just right; you're never going to be able to gear the car just right. Not to mention the abrasiveness of the pavement and how the speeds drop so fast. It's definitely a challenging place and maybe that's why I like it so much. Our guys have always done a great job (there). Downforce is becoming a bigger issue now at a place like Darlington; it's making these hard tires work a little bit better than they used to. It used to be it didn't matter how much horsepower, how much downforce you had; it was all about getting the actual mechanical chassis to work for you. We ran good there last time; so I'm looking forward to going back."
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON'S CHANCES FOR WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP; HE'S RELUCTANT TO TALK ABOUT IT:
"I remember the first year that I was in the hunt. I didn't want to talk about it a whole lot, because you're a rookie, you've got so many other things on your mind, you've got pressure from every angle, you feel like you're under a microscope every time you're out there, and the pressure is high. And as well as he hides it and as great of a job as he does, I think that he's smart in the fact that he just tries to stay away from it just so he doesn't get his mind caught in the middle of that. He knows that all he needs to do is go out there and just do his best and not really concentrate on the points. And if he does his best and the team gives him what he needs the points will come with that."
CAN HE WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR?
"I don't see why he can't. I think anybody in the top five or six right now has a shot at winning it. I think that if they were going to stumble at any time, they would have stumbled already. I haven't really seen that happen. Even if they have stumbled, they've come right back. They've showed signs of a team that has a lot of maturity and it's no different than us in '95. Everybody was just waiting and waiting and waiting for us to break down and we never did."
JEFF GREEN, NO. 30 AMERICA ONLINE CHEVY MONTE CARLO (ran second quickest for a large part of the practice session, ended up 13th quickest, 15.638/122.701):
DOES RUNNING WELL HERE IN THIS FIRST PRACTICE GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE AT A TRACK LIKE THIS?
"I'm pretty confident when I come here. I mean, everywhere. I've got a pretty good race car each and every week. The guys give me a great opportunity. We all grew up on tracks like these, and that gives you a little bit more confidence too, but having a good race car makes up for it for everything, I think."
HAVING GOOD RUNS BY RCR CARS IN THE LAST COUPLE OF RACES HAS TO BE A BIG BOOST:
"It is. I think we're just getting better as a team as a whole; not just my team, but all three teams (are) working really hard together. The drivers, I think, are seeing eye to eye more and more. That's just the benefit to us, I think. If you've got teammates you need to work with them. That's our philosophy. It's one big race team with three drivers. We keep using that terminology, I think it will go a long way to getting all three cars into victory lane, not just one of them."