Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "I think if there's anyplace we can find our way to victory lane it would certainly be here. Charlotte has been a great place for us, and the 600 has been a good race for us." On a NASCAR race ...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "I think if there's anyplace we can find our way to victory lane it would certainly be here. Charlotte has been a great place for us, and the 600 has been a good race for us."
On a NASCAR race stealing the spotlight from the Indy 500 "The Indy 500 is still a great race and we are great fans of it. You can't always control who watches it from home and what takes off in popularity and what doesn't. But ever since the split (from CART), it's taken some time for it to regain its popularity. But it seems like it's coming back. We're real proud down here to be a part of this event and see it doing well."
With the race starting earlier, does it change anything? "If I had one wish it would be that we were doing Happy Hour about six o'clock tonight instead of in the middle of the day. It seems like when we run night races, they seem to try to find ways to do that. So many things are going to change. The track not only changes from the beginning of the 600 to the end, but it changes a lot from when we practice to when we actually race."
Do these practice sessions help at all or are they useless? "It's almost more of just making your feel good - or bad - depending on how you run. There's guys out there that are running real good and are feeling real confident that they have the car to beat tomorrow. And there are guys who aren't running as well that know the track is going to change a lot and there's really no reason to run fast."
Are you feeling good or bad? "We were horrible for most of practice. We were real loose. At the end, we got it tightened up and I ran some real good laps. We're just going to go off our notes from The Winston and what we learned during that practice and try to make a good judgment of what we're going to do."
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We were fifth fastest in the first practice and the balance of the car was really tight. We tried to free it up and got the car too loose. We put the car on the scales and kind of blended the two set-ups that we had and hoped it would be on the money and it was."
Does practicing at this time of day help for a night race? "I don't know what to expect. Everybody was saying that the first practice would be the closest session to what it will be at five o'clock on Sunday. The track seems to me like it gains or loses grip. If you have the balance right and the track is hot, you'll just go slower. If it's cold, you'll go faster. We really worked on getting the car neutral and I think we accomplished that."
Will adjustability be the key on Sunday? "Yeah, we're trying to avoid using spring rubbers and different things that take a long time to change during pit stops. At the same time, we're trying not to use the wedge and the track bar as the adjustment because that's the quickest change in the stop. But I'll know a lot more after the race is over.
"I've got Terry (Labonte), Joe (Nemechek) and Jeff (Gordon) telling me what they need. But everyone has a little twist on it of what they think they need. I've heard it all. So, I'm going to do what Chad says and hang on."
How much information do the Hendrick Motorsports teams share with each other? "We all share information and there are crew chief meetings and other meetings where information is passed among all the teams. The No. 24 (Gordon) and the No. 48 are in the same building and the cars are all built the same from the chassis shop to the motor combinations to the body placements and components are all the same. The seats and paint jobs are the only things that are different. That way, when we test, you don't have to factor in a different powerplant combination or a body location to get your answers. They first tried it with Jack (Sprague) and Ricky (Hendrick) in the Craftsman Truck Series and it worked pretty good. It's worked very well with the No. 24 and the No. 48."
How are you handling your new "celebrity status"? "The season has been good. We're taking it in stride. Luckily, they keep me pretty busy so I don't have much time to think about it. I've tried to keep a balance at home and have a couple of days a week at home so I can do nothing - do laundry and pay bills - stuff like that. When we go to the racetrack, my list of things to do is just chalk full."
Are you enjoying it? "Definitely. The part I love it putting the helmet on and racing. That's where I want to be - inside that racecar."
Were you ready for the Winston Cup Series? "You always thing you're ready. Until you're thrown into the fire, you just don't know what it's about."
On the young generation having success in Winston Cup "I thought I'd be the rookie that never won a race. I thought I'd be the exception that it didn't happen to. But you get the right chemistry and the right people around you and anything can happen."
What is the biggest thing you've learned so far? "Patience."
Who has given you the best advice about racing and what was it? "It was something that I heard recently and it was from Rick Hendrick. He told me to be yourself and believe in yourself and that everything would happen the way it should. I wish I would have understood that a long time ago because you try to be what everyone wants you to be. But if you just believe in yourself, everything will be fine."