JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVY MONTE CARLO (Polesitter; won pole here in the spring): "It seems like it's been 10 years since I've been in here. This is great; what a great way to start the weekend off. We were really psyched about coming here...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVY MONTE CARLO (Polesitter; won pole here in the spring):
"It seems like it's been 10 years since I've been in here. This is great; what a great way to start the weekend off. We were really psyched about coming here to Bristol because it has been a great track for us. We sat on the pole the last time we were here. And qualifying just has not been our thing here lately. Coming to a short track where you don't have to worry about aerodynamics and some of the other stuff, I think that just really made us focus on getting the car working good through the corners and getting a good, solid lap out there. We drew a good number, so that was certainly on our side. Some guys put some good numbers up there; we didn't know if we could do it or not, but it turned out."
IT HAS BEEN A LONG TIME:
THE LAST SIX RACES, NOT QUALIFYING WELL, NOT COMING OFF THE TRUCK WELL, IS THAT PART OF THE MENTAL THING?
"Yeah. It definitely affects you. We're a team that has done a great job of qualifying for so long that when you qualify good pretty much every weekend like we have in the past, you learn how you run your races from that position. When you don't qualify well you kind of have to rethink your approach to the race, and the strategy and your adjustments. And really how you set the car up, because, especially at these big fast tracks you've got to set the car up a lot looser to run through traffic so that you can pass cars. But once you get out in front of cars you lose. There's just so many things that you're fighting against and that's just something that we're not used to or haven't been in the past that we've had to try to work through this year. Qualifying up front is really, really important. I think it might be more important to our team than it is to most teams out there. This is why this is a good shot in the arm for us. We needed a good solid run. In some ways I wish it wasn't at a short track, because I think that -- we run good on the short tracks -- but I still worry about us struggling in qualifying when we get to some of the bigger tracks."
"It's just a track where the chassis and what I'm feeling is what matters. And the way those guys adjust it. Like Junior said, you get the car driving right. You get to a place like Michigan, Pocono and Indy and stuff and it's not necessarily about getting the car driving right; it's about putting as much downforce in the car as possible and horsepower and all these other things that we just haven't seemed to do a great job with."
YOU WIN THE POLE, AND EVEN IF YOU WIN THE RACE TOMORROW YOU DON'T FEEL YOUR TEAM IS OUT OF THE WOODS YET?
"I think it doesn't matter to me where we win. I'd like to win anywhere and as much as you guys like to write about me not winning I think you'd rather like to write about me winning A race, anyway. I'm saying that the majority of the races that we go to are not short tracks. They're the mile and a half, high-speed, high-downforce tracks and those are the ones that we've kind of fought, especially in qualifying. That's what I'm saying when I'm saying that. I'm glad to have a pole and I'm glad it's here at Bristol. We've qualified fairly well at short tracks this whole year, but I'd like to continue this when we leave here, to be able to qualify good some other places too."
COMFORT ZONE. DOES THIS GO BACK TO YOU YOUR ROOTS? DOES THIS FIT IN TO HOW YOU DRIVE?
"Maybe. I've always liked Bristol. I've always run well here. Yeah, I was kind of thinking of that today. I was sitting on pit road and going... I guess I kind of did grow up on Winchester and Salem and some of these high-speed -- I've always liked the high-speed, high-banked, half-mile or quarter-mile, whatever they were -- for me back then were big tracks. Just the fast tracks, the corner speeds. I love that. Maybe that brings a little bit back. Being in a stock car versus a sprint car and stuff is completely different. You just take all the politics out of the stuff when you come to a place like this. It doesn't matter if the nose is kicked out; it doesn't matter if you're down 20, 30 horsepower. You just go out there and go as fast as you can through the corner and that's what matters most."
WHY DO YOU FEEL IT'S IMPORTANT TO GO OUT LATE IN QUALIFYING?
"I don't think it's a must. We were pretty good all day today. I like it because I get to pay attention to what the other guys are doing, watch a few cars, hear their comments, see what I've got to run. Like in practice I ran a .42; I knew exactly what the car did in practice and we were sitting there waiting whether or not we should make adjustments to qualify. And when Junior ran like a .48^ÊHad he run a .42 or better we would have made adjustments. Since he ran a .48 I said, Guys, let's not make an adjustment, let's just leave it. I'd rather the car be a little too tight than get loose on me. It was tight. Had Rusty come after me and put a heck of a lap down and run in the mid .40s I'd be kicking myself. It all turned out good with the adjustments that we made. We kind of went the safe route and just tried to put a good, solid, hard lap out there. And I think that's what helps when you go a little bit later, you can evaluate all those things."
WHAT CARRIES OVER FROM TODAY TO TOMORROW? CONFIDENCE, KNOWLEDGE?
"I think one of the things that we have been lacking a lot of places this year is just when you don't qualify good it just kind of..whether it would be a little bit of confidence or just knowing that you're going to start middle of the pack and have to overcome a lot of positions and possibly do some different pit strategy. We all know what track position's all about these days; when the cars get in clean air they just run so much better. And it just makes your day go by a lot easier if you can keep that track position, keep that car in clean air. Even though we're at a short track it still makes a difference. That doesn't mean because we're starting on the pole that we're going to be able to maintain that all day, but it certainly makes it a little bit easier for us to try to maintain it. I think it also adds confidence to the team. We haven't had a whole lot to get excited about lately, I can tell you that. And something like this definitely put a smile on those guys' faces to know that we're still hungry, we want it, and we're not going to give up until we get to victory lane and until the last race of the season."
HAS YOUR NON-WINNING STREAK BOTHERED YOU AS MUCH AS IT BOTHERS EVERYONE ELSE?
"I tell you, it bothers me. I like to win. People have asked me for many years what is it about racing that you love the most. And I said, getting to victory lane and experiencing what that's like. And when you don't get there then you're not having as much fun. Even though I still know how fortunate I am to be able to get behind the wheel of a race car and do that for a living. And that I've got a great team. It's certainly not as much fun when you're not battling for wins. I didn't realize that it bothers you guys. But I'm glad to know that it does. I thought it just was interesting to you so that you could write about it. I certainly don't make as much of it as you guys do. We as a team just try to keep the glue together, try to stay focused, try not to let what you guys write, not that it's bad, it's talking about us not winning, affect us, and know that we just got to go to the next race and work just as hard. If we can do everything right, and these days that's qualifying right, practice good and do everything good and right on race day. You can't make a mistake anywhere or you're going to get behind. This certainly helps to start things off on the right foot."
YOU'VE SAID BEFORE THAT YOUR FOCUS IS 100 PERCENT ON THIS RACE TEAM. AND YET IS YOUR PERSONAL LIFE BECOMING A DISTRACTION?
"I've never said it wasn't a distraction, but it doesn't take my focus off this race team and what I'm doing. It's nothing that I want to be going through, but I don't have that choice, and I'm making the best of it. I can't say that our performance at the race track has anything to do with that. I honestly don't think that. I feel like our focus there and what's happening to us week in and week out has nothing to do with that."
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE KICK OUT IN THE NOSE ON THE MONTE CARLO?
"I've got to be careful here because I want the kickout but I don't think it does diddly squat, but I'll take it anyway. If you look at us compared to Ford or Dodge we need it from the top of the windshield to the bumper, not from the bumper below. The air doesn't even see the bottom of the bumper until you're out front leading the race. I don't think it did much good. We went into the wind tunnel; it didn't really do much. What we're working on for next year and what we would like to have probably isn't available. It's really that whole front downforce all the way from the windshield from the cowl and the nose and the hood and all the way it slopes all the way down to the bumper. I think that's far more effective in getting front downforce, especially in traffic, than from the bottom of the bumper to the race track. But if that's all we're going to get, then I'll take it."
NEW HAMPSHIRE IS IN THE NEWS THIS WEEK; THEY'RE SAYING THERE WASN'T MUCH WRONG WITH THE TRACK:
"I love Bob Baer; he's my favorite track owner out there, but they've got a real problem up there. And if they're denying that then that's a shame. They've done so much to help us up there and try to make things right that this is not characteristic of him. If we go back there and it's the same, I'm going to voice my opinion about it. I don't know if they need to do anything. That pavement might cure itself. It might cure and it might not tear up when we go back there."
"And who knows if they did put new pavement there if it not might tear up again. Hopefully this time around..I don't think they had enough sealer up there on it personally. Maybe they can just seal it up a little more and it might fix itself."
"Not that his efforts were unacceptable; it's just what we had up there was unacceptable. This is Winston Cup racing. Man, we've got way too much invested. There's just too many fans out there that want to come and watch a good race for us to go some place and have pavement tearing up. I think there's a lot of smart people out there who should know how to make sure that that doesn't happen. All I know there's race cars that were torn up because of it. I got out in it one time and almost hit the wall. And it was scary. If you stepped two inches outside of that groove -- I don't know what they're calling it, but I call it pavement that's tearing up and then it's like being on ice. We don't need to have that happen. We don't need there to be a caution every 15 laps so that they can sweep it up."
COMPETITIVELY, YOU'VE LOST GROUND. ARE YOU EVALUATING HOW YOU'RE DOING THINGS?
"We're not going to try to reinvent the wheel, because we're a strong team. The thing I'm most proud of is how well these guys have stuck together and not started doubting themselves or pointing fingers. That's usually the first thing that comes when the frustration level gets high and you're not winning and you're a team that has won and has come off of winning a championship. Maybe being in the top five in the points has probably helped that along a little bit more. We know we need to be performing better; we want to perform better. All we're trying to do is just go to each race, perform at our best, do our best, work hard and evaluate it when it's all over and figure out what we could have done better. The thing is there's moments during those races where things go pretty good and then there's moments when it kind of falls apart. The moments when it's going really good you're like OK, we're not really doing anything different for that. And then all of a sudden it just starts to fall apart and we're not really doing anything different then. You scratch your head a lot. And that's what the frustrating part is, that you don't really know how to put your finger on it. It's certainly been a little bit of a wake-up call for us here lately, because of the performances that we've had. The neat thing is about this team is that usually motivates them and inspires them instead of gets them down and allows them to fall apart."
TALK ABOUT HOW STARTING UP FRONT MIGHT HELP YOU WITH YOUR FIRST WIN AND HAVING A CAR QUICK ENOUGH TO START UP FRONT:
"I think starting up front is good everywhere. It's a positive. It's good for the team, it's good for track position, it's good for so many things. That doesn't guarantee anything, it doesn't guarantee a win. You've got to make that happen. This next practice is going to be really important for us to get the balance right. It's going to be darker tomorrow when we do race. You've got to take that into consideration. Sitting on the pole certainly doesn't give it to us, but it gets us started in the right direction and maybe helps things along a little bit. And this is Bristol. You can be up front or you can be at the tail of the field and it doesn't mean that you're safe. We recognize that too. Were just going to try to put a fast race car out there and try to stay out of trouble.