SHARPIE 500 - WEEKLY TOP 10 BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS: ON RACING AT BRISTOL: "Bristol has been good to us. I like this track. We've run good here. I'm hoping to put together a solid effort. I feel...
SHARPIE 500 - WEEKLY TOP 10
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT MONTE CARLO SS:
ON RACING AT BRISTOL: "Bristol has been good to us. I like this track. We've run good here. I'm hoping to put together a solid effort. I feel like we are pretty good here. Obviously we're in the middle of the Chase with a few races to go and we've got to perform well and have a solid finish coming out of here. Our objective is to put a solid effort car out there but not put ourselves in bad positions."
THERE ISN'T MUCH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 6TH AND 10TH IN THE POINT STANDINGS THIS CLOSE TO THE CHASE: "You really can't even pay attention to where you are in the points right now because it's just so easy to lose those points. It's easy to be shuffled in and out of that top 10 right now. So for us, it's really just trying to put together our best effort and just focus on what we're doing and not pay too much attention to the competition. I think all we can do the next two weeks is just give it our best and then assess where we're at in Richmond and make some decisions as to how we're going to approach that race."
ARE YOU ON THE EDGE HERE? "Well, you've got to push hard to run good here. Running good at any track - if you're comfortable and have confidence and you're equipment is good, you're able to push to the edge a little bit more than normal."
WHEN YOU HAVE A REALLY GOOD CAR AND YOU DON'T GET THE FINISH THAT YOU DESERVE, HOW MUCH OF THAT DO YOU THINK IS OUT OF YOUR CONTROL? "I think a lot of it is in our control and that's what we've got to focus on and work on and obviously the first step is qualifying good to get a good pit stall. We've qualified very well here in the past; and then, just making sure we don't make any mistakes. You know the pit strategy is what has gotten so interesting over the last couple of years. We watch the Truck and Busch races and try to learn as much as we can as to when we should pit and shouldn't pit, because track position is extremely important here."
DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM YOUR BATTLES DOWN THE STRETCH LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR? "I can't really compare last year to this year because this year we have momentum and last year we were just fading. We were struggling. Right now I feel like our team is really strong, and our cars are great. We just need to make sure that we put ourselves in good positions like we had at Watkins Glen and Indianapolis. Last week in Michigan is a perfect example of what we're capable of when we put ourselves in good position."
HOW AGGRESSIVE AND CRAZY IS BRISTOL AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON? "Desperate moves can get you in trouble here, so I think you've got to know who you're racing and what this takes. Anytime you come into Bristol, to have a strong finish, you've got to be smart about when you're patient and when you're aggressive and I think obviously in qualifying, you've got to be aggressive and get a good starting position. When they drop the green flag, you've got to get yourself into position and then just start running your own race from that point on."
DO YOU LIKE BRISTOL? "I love Bristol. Bristol is one of my favorite tracks. It reminds me of tracks that I raced on back in the Midget and Sprint Car days. And I've always liked the high-banked, fast short tracks. They're a blast."
CAN YOU EVER RELAX DURING A RACE AT BRISTOL? "No, not really. Even if you're out front leading, it's not long before you catch the tail end of the field and you're in lapped traffic and that's sometimes when things get even hairier for you because guys are fighting so hard to stay on the lead lap. So, no there are very few times that you can relax here."
IS BRISTOL AS UNPREDICTIBLE AS TALLADEGA? IS IT WORSE? "It's definitely as unpredictable. I think there are a lot more cautions here, so in some ways it's more unpredictable. The difference is at Talladega and Daytona, when that big one comes - even though it's usually not that often - it's usually much bigger. I compare the two to be the same. You have a little more control over what goes on, but you have very little control over how to stay out of it if it happens in front of you."
DURING A RACE THIS INTENSE, DO YOU HAVE ANY TIME TO EVEN THINK ABOUT THE POINTS? "In the closing laps, when you're battling with somebody, the risk versus reward thing comes into your mind. But during a race, I'm never thinking about points. I'm thinking about how we can get the best possible finish we can."
ON RACING WITH THE GUYS WHO ARE CLOSE IN POINTS: "I know there are a lot of strong guys right around us. This is a great track for Dale Jr. He's right in there. It's a great track for Tony Stewart. It's really about us focusing on doing our best. We've run good at this race. We've run good at California. We've struggled at Richmond lately, but I feel we're capable of running good there too. So I try not to focus too much on what the other guys are doing and concentrate on what we're doing."
ON THE GORDON - KENSETH RUN-IN AT BRISTOL IN THE SPRING "Every race is important. When you've got a strong finish like that at a track that you know is a good track for you, you want to come out of there with a strong finish. Matt got shuffled out by Kurt (Busch) and I think he had a little bit of anxiousness and aggressiveness built up there from that. And then I came up there and moved him out of the way too. I really don't believe he meant to spin me; but I know he meant to hit me. So it was just one of those situations where I couldn't home my frustrations back when he's walking up to my car on pit road after the race was over."
ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW TEST: "I have some concerns; there's not doubt about that. I feel like it's a work in progress. They've come a long way with the car. I feel like a car punching that big of a hole in the air, in a pack, that it has a lot of challenges. It seemed to me like the lead car was in full command of being able to control the field. I don't think that's really what we're looking for. I thought we were able to make some passes and do some maneuvering but it was because we had a five and six-wide race track at Michigan instead of just the car being able to do that. I was pretty happy with the way the car drove on it's on, and with some of the adjustability in the car. But I feel like we still have a ways to go. We'll see.
"I think the one good thing that came out of it was that every test that happens, we get more teams and drivers involved and get more input to take to NASCAR. I think the more we get involved with it, the more they're going to be open to ideas. The biggest thing was to get them to sell us on the fact that we're actually going to be running this car. I think for the longest time, none of us believed it and supported it because we thought that it was just a phase. Now we realize that that's not the case and we've all got to get serious about it. And we are. I think NASCAR is going to get serious - they've been serious, but I think now they're going to take a lot more of our criticism and our ideas and maybe incorporate them in there."
WOULD YOU RATHER SEE THEM PHASE IT IN LIKE THEY PLAN TO DO IN '07, OR TELL US WE'RE RUNNING IT EVERYWHERE? "I'd rather see them wait until 2008 and just run it everywhere. The things that we're having to do as a team to try to build two different cars that are inspected totally differently - we're even having to change different things in the engine for that car. It's basically like running two different series. I think it's kind of crazy, but I think that's their way of telling us, hey we're serious about this. This is coming; get ready for it. I do wish we could just phase it in 2008 all together completely every weekend."
IS KURT BUSCH THE CAR TO BEAT AT THIS RACE? "Kurt's program has really been strong and has pretty much controlled this race for the past several years. I definitely think they're the car to beat. They look fast in practice and I look to them to be the car to beat."
DOES EVERY DRIVER NEED TO GO THROUGH SOME HUMBLING TIMES DURING THEIR CAREER? "Oh, yeah. You learn from all your experiences - the good ones and bad ones. But there is nothing wrong at all with having some not so good moments or bad things that happen that are really eye-opening experiences that you learn from. Sometimes you learn more from the hard times than you do from the good times. If we're in this thing long enough, it's going to happen to all of us."
HAVING BEEN IN THE PUBLIC EYE YOURSELF, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEBODY LIKE ERIN CROCKER? "I think there are certain areas that are off limits. I think that what happens here at this race track and involves racing, you'd better be prepared for what comes. The best thing you can do is to try not to take it too serious. You have to he media has a job to do. It's not personal. It's just their job. We're doing our best to get through everything and recognize that you are open to certain things and to try to go with it and work with it. Sometimes have fun with it and laugh at it. Other times, know where that line should be drawn."
HOW IMPORTANT IS QUALFIYING AT BRISTOL? "It's extremely important here because it's not an impound race. This is one of the most important qualifying sessions we've had in a long time because it's a very difficult track to race on and there are very few good places to pit the car at this race track."
-credit: gm racing