Bristol: Top three starters interview

Qualifying For Sunday's Food City 500 Was Cancelled Due To Rain. The Lineup For The Race Will Be Set On 2007 Owners Points, Which Puts Jimmie Johnson On The Pole, Jeff Gordon Starts Second, And Clint Bowyer Will Start Third. JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO.

Qualifying For Sunday's Food City 500 Was Cancelled Due To Rain. The Lineup For The Race Will Be Set On 2007 Owners Points, Which Puts Jimmie Johnson On The Pole, Jeff Gordon Starts Second, And Clint Bowyer Will Start Third.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S IMPALA SS -- Will start Food City 500 from the Pole:

"It's going to be nice to have that first pit stall. And I don't really care how we got it (laughs). We worked awfully hard last year to be where we are in points. We had a good day in practice today. We didn't get a chance to make a qualifying run when the rain came. But we'll take it and move on. It's the last week for this luxury and we'll take advantage of it and try to have a good race on Sunday."

WHAT KIND OF RACING WILL WE SEE ON SUNDAY?

"I think we're all a lot smarter now than we were when we came here last fall. I think that on the short tracks, the issues with the lack of downforce and this car construction and tire situation and all the latest talk we've had about everything after Atlanta; those issues don't show up as much here as they would at Atlanta. So I think the quality of racing will be a little bit better. I think since we raced here last fall that the teams will improve. Everybody knows what to look for and I think the racing will be better this time than we had last fall."

ON NOT WINNING YET THIS SEASON

"We wish we were winning. We're not excited to be driving our hearts out to finish 13th at Atlanta and then the week before at Vegas was a disaster. We're not happy to be in that position, but it's racing. Everybody goes through lulls. It's uncharacteristic for us to start the season like that. I think it's probably the first one for the No. 48 car, but it is what it is and we feel like in the last few weeks we've identified the problem and the areas where we need to work and we're making good gains. So, I'm not happy to be where we're at, but we found a direction and we're going the right way."

WHEN YOU RUN LIKE YOU DID IN LAS VEGAS, WHEN NOTHING SEEMED TO WORK, DOES IT EVER SHAKE YOUR CONFIDENCE OR DOES YOUR CONFIDENCE CARRY YOU THROUGH THAT?

"The confidence carries us through. In '05 we had a really tough year even though we finished well in the points. We had a couple of months that weren't what we wanted out of it. But through all of it, after we got our first year or two under our belts, we knew where we stood with one another. I know what Chad can do and he knows what I can do. It's not like those issues that you might have with a young team and driver pointing fingers at each other saying it's his problem, it's his problem. We're in this thing together and we're making it better each week. And the confidence carries us through the tough times. It questions you. But the confidence from success carries us through. I'm really falling back on the '05's experience and how difficult it was for us to understand coil binding and making that work right. Once we got it, man we were spot on. And I feel like this car is doing that and we're going down that same road right now. Once we get it, we're going to be right on top of things."

IS IT JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE YOU LIVE UP TO PEOPLE'S EXPECTATIONS?

"Yeah, I feel that way. I really feel we've got some good tracks coming up for us. We have some down time for these 1.5-mile tracks so we can do some testing to get our car sorted out. We're working really hard to get back to where these expectations are. We've set our own expectations too."

DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR THE OFF-WEEKEND?

"I had great plans, but since we've been running bad I'll be testing. So I'll be at the race track testing. We've got test sessions all over: Kentucky, Nashville, and Milwaukee, we're going to be busy. There is nothing more important than driving this race car and performing on Sundays. So whatever it takes is whatever we've got to do. My team knows that commitment to me and the exciting thing, from a driver's standpoint, is to look into these guys eyes and see the fire. They've been busting their butts to get these cars ready and get prepared for the season. And to see that fire in their eyes where they want to test and they want to go do it, it pumps me up. I'm real excited to get to the track and sort out some stuff."

YOU DON'T WANT TO GIVE US YOUR RECIPE, DO YOU HAVE A DIRECTION TO GO IN? IS IT HANDLING? IS IT MOTOR? WHAT CAN YOU TELL US?

"It's certainly handling. I think engine-wise we've been very strong and where we need to be with low in torque and how the car accelerates up off the turn and even at the end of the straightaway we've been strong. That hasn't been the issue. It's really been the balance of the car. I typically love these race cars. We had a hard time with the old car making them loose enough. With this car, and the way we're thinking and adjusting and setting it up, we can't get the loose out of it. It's been extremely loose. So it's been a flip for us and maybe some of the areas we've worked in that have been a go to area for speed, maybe that's too aggressive now. Maybe we've been a little too aggressive in some areas and just made the cars mad and just inherently loose in trying to get around the problems we've had with this car being tight all the time. We may have just gone a little too far and we need to get testing and really prove through some stuff."

HAVE YOU GONE A LITTLE BIT BEYOND THE EDGE?

"It's tough to say. When we complete the cycle and know where we're at, I'll be able to speak on it. Right now there are still question marks. We're going to go testing and sort it out."

***

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS -- Will start 2nd in Sunday's race:

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF STARTING SECOND:

"Today was a unique day. We were looking at the forecast and the radar and we didn't think we were going to get qualifying in today. So we did nothing but race runs and I was a little concerned with what was going to take place. I love to qualify here and it'a a fun place. We've qualified well here before. But this is a great place to start on Sunday."

ON KYLE BUSCH HAVING A RED HOT START TO THE SEASON

"Kyle has had a great start. He's a talented driver. That team has given him some great equipment, so it's no surprise to me. We're dealing with our own battles. If' we'd finish as good as we've run this year, we'd be leading the points. One of the true tests for Kyle is does he have what it takes in the heat of the moment throughout the whole season to be able to stay consistent. We've seen him go real fast. We've seen him win races. Has his maturity level and his experience now reached the point for him to be able to do it on a consistent basis. Only time will tell. Talent wise, he's through the roof. That's not the issue. It's how solid is that team and how solid is Kyle in the long run. None of us can answer that question right now. But I think they're going to be really tough."

DOES IS PLAY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE CONCENTRATING ON CUP ONLY? OR ARE DRIVERS HELPED BY RUNNING BOTH NATIONWIDE AND TRUCK AND CUP?

"It's all about what works for your routine. It doesn't work with the way I like to do things on race weekend. I try to stick with that and it's just about not shaking up that routine. If it works for him and doesn't run him ragged or take his focus, then all the better for him. I'd recommend staying on the race track and not on the apron in the Truck race as often as possible, but whatever is working for him."

ON THE RAMIFICATIONS OF HAVING MORE PERSONALITY AND TAKING A STAND IN THIS SPORT

"That's the whole issue that I have with it, and the reason why when Jimmie (Johnson) came along, I made my recommendations on how to stay focused and win races. In my experience and personal opinion, it's better off to stay non-confrontational and stay away from the controversy. And sometimes you don't speak your mind and show all your feelings as much when you do that. The down side to our sport is that there is so much focus and attention when there is controversy, is it worth it? I think it's great for the sport when Tony (Stewart) speaks his mind and does some of the things he does. It doesn't mean I agree or disagree with. But I think he took it a little too personally. But what he was saying, I agreed with. We all agreed that the tires were not the best in Atlanta. I don't know how that is working for Tony this week. If you are going be the type of person to say those things, you've got to be prepared for that. If so, he should continue to do those things."

ON BEING A LEADER IN THE SPORT

"Well, do you want to be a leader on the track or off the track? In my opinion, I'd rather be the leader on the track and let the actions speak for themselves, then be somebody off the race track trying to change the world. I'm just saying if I had a choice. It would be nice to have both those things working for you. There is probably a balance there. Life is tough enough as it is. It's competitive. I'm just trying to do my job and do everything I can. Trust me, I want more of my personality to come out but I can't help the fact that when that time comes, in the back of my mind I'm thinking what are the repercussions of that. What am I going to go through? Tony doesn't have as much of that until after the fact (laughs)."

***

CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS IMPALA SS -- Will start 3rd in Sunday's race:

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT STARTING THIRD?

"I'm excited about that. We weren't the best in practice there and certainly starting up front could go a long ways. It could be bad. It will be bad if we don't get it fixed (laughs). But I think the guys have kind of narrowed down the problem and we'll go from there."

HOW BAD DO YOU NEED PRACTICE BETWEEN NOW AND RACE TIME?

"I'm hoping for it. I think we definitely need some practice. We need to pick up some areas. That's what's so hard about this car this season. It's really been hit or miss for us on the 1.5-miles. We were loose, loose, loose. We could make the front end turn but we couldn't keep the back end up with it. But we've certainly gained a lot of ground last week at Atlanta. I feel confident about that. That path didn't work. Last year here we were really good. We finished seventh and third I think. We're looking forward to the race. I think we can get it ironed out and be good."

ON RACING AT BRISTOL:

"Oh I love this place. I got to fly with Richards (Childress) this morning on the helicopter in here and we circled around the race track and you just want to win here, you know what I mean? It's a really, really cool place. It reminds me of the movie Gladiator, you know, where the stud wins. So hopefully we can win here some day."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR THE CUP WEEKEND OFF?

"Next weekend I'm going to race the Nationwide car, the BB&T Chevrolet in Nashville. I'm looking forward to that. I love that race track. That's where it all got started for me. Carl (Edwards) has kind of been the king over there so hopefully we can whoop up on him on that concrete."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Clint Bowyer
Teams CIP