Darlington: GM teams practice quotes

MIKE BLISS, NO. 0 NETZERO CHEVROLET MONTE CARO Note: Crashed while running third during practice and will go to a backup car "We were in qualifying trim and we wrecked in Turn 2. I'm okay. We feel like our primary car was good and we should be...

MIKE BLISS, NO. 0 NETZERO CHEVROLET MONTE CARO

Note: Crashed while running third during practice and will go to a backup car

"We were in qualifying trim and we wrecked in Turn 2. I'm okay. We feel like our primary car was good and we should be able to apply all that to the back up car. Our back-up car is a brand new one. We tested it at Kentucky, but that's all."

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

(ARE THE HENDRICK CARS BETTER AT THIS TRACK THAN ANYBODY ELSE?) "I really wish I knew a good answer for that because I feel like we've had good packages here in the past and it changes constantly. We're constantly trying to make the cars faster and grip to this difficult race track more and more all the time. This time around we've got less spoiler, so again we're just trying to invent ways to stay ahead of the competition. But I like this race track. I can remember watching Jimmie Johnson drive this track for the very first time and I was impressed with him. I think he likes this race track. It probably has a lot to do with the combination of set-ups that work well and drivers that run this track well."

(WILL DARLINGTON BE THE BIGGEST EXAMPLE SO FAR OF THE SHORTER SPOILERS MAKING THE CARS HARDER TO DRIVE?) "Yeah, I would think so. This is a track where downforce is essential and you'd like to have a whole lot more here. And they can't do much with the tires here because it (the track surface) already eats them up. I know I felt it a lot in practice. We were really struggling trying to get the back end to stick."

(WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU HEAR THAT DALE EARNHARDT JR. CALLED JIMMIE JOHNSON AN IDIOT?) "Well, I think you've got to be careful saying things like that. Throughout my career, I've made plenty of mistakes and I'm not saying Jimmie did - I only saw the first incident (at Talladega), I didn't see the second one. I don't see how you can put blame on any one person, certainly. I think that was just frustration coming out of Dale Earnhardt Jr. knowing that those restrictor plate tracks are good tracks for them and that they want to keep their streak going. But you can't control what other people say, you can just control how you deal with it."

(HOW DO YOU THINK JIMMIE JOHNSON IS DEALING WITH THIS?) "Jimmie has a great head on his shoulders and he has a lot of support. He has a lot riding right now. He's leading in the points and he's been basically one of the top guys for the past couple of years so I think he'll be fine."

(DO YOU THINK HE'S A VICTIM OF HIS OWN SUCCESS?) "Yeah, it happens. It comes along. When you've had the type of success that he's had, you're going to get criticized when things happen that you're involved with. It's just the nature of life."

(WHEN YOU PRACTICE IN THE DAY AND RACE AT NIGHT, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FOR SUNDAY'S RACE?) "Well the good thing is that it's overcast and cool this afternoon. It's really just about track temperature more than anything else. Right now, I think we're dealing more with the spoiler and having less spoiler and less grip overall right now on the race track. We're trying to compensate for that and get some rubber laid down on the track. It's going to be interesting to see how much it changes between this practice to tomorrow night with as little practice as we've had and the rain and the Busch race running tonight. It's probably going to change quite a bit for tomorrow."

(WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED AND WITH THE SOFT WALLS JETTING OUT THERE, IS THIS TRACK AS TREACHEROUS AS YOU'VE EVER SEEN IT?) "It is. You're taking spoiler away. You're taking race track away. This track continues to age and it just gets more and more difficult. The bumps get worse. The grip gets less and it just makes you have to really fight that much harder to stay off the walls. I know what it was like for me in practice. To run all night tomorrow, it's going to be tough to stay off the walls."

(WHY DO ALL THE DRIVERS SEEM TO LOVE THIS TRACK?) "It's a drivers track no matter what the team does to the car. Don't get me wrong. You've got to have a good car. But I think a driver can make a big difference here and I think all drivers like that."

(IT'S CHALLENGING, BUT IS IT ACTUALLY FUN?) "It's fun when things are going your way (laughs). It can be fun. It's one of those tracks where you can't even blink. You don't want to break concentration one tiny bit because it just sneaks out and grabs you so fast."

(IS THIS A TRACK THAT NASCAR SHOULD KEEP ON THE SCHEDULE?) "I would love for this track to stay on the schedule. I like racing here. We've had success here and it would be great to keep it on the schedule. In some ways, you wish you could just dig this place up - pick it up and put it somewhere else. It's just that as big as this sport is getting with the fan base and marketing and sponsorship. When you look at the whole picture - including the history - you want to keep a track like this on the schedule but you've got to maintain the other things as well."

(DOES HOLDING THIS RACE AT NIGHT AND ON PRIME TIME TV GIVE IT A CHANCE TO BECOME MORE FASCINATING AND THAT PEOPLE WOULD FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET HERE?) "I hope so. I like this track. We put on some great races here; and with its history, it should stick around forever. But then that's what I thought about Rockingham too, so you never know."

(WHAT DID YOU MOM DO FOR YOU WHEN YOU WERE A YOUNG BUCK STARTING OUT IN RACING?) "She was very supportive. Really, one of the reasons I got into Quarter Midget racing was because of her. I was racing BMX bikes and she told my dad it was too dangerous. He brought home the Quarter Midget and I don't know if she thought that was the right thing, but she was very supportive. She was a big part of the racing. She traveled with us every weekend and got involved with the scoring of the cars. As we started getting into the Sprint Cars and Midgets and traveling around the country and things like that, somebody had to run their business and operate thing at home, so she did a lot of that while we were on the road until they sold their business and she could come back to the Midwest.

"She's probably more of a mother today than she ever has been. As I get older I continue to recognize the importance of how I was brought up and who really means the most to me in my life. She's an amazing person and I see our relationship grow all the time where I can go to her and talk to her about things that you didn't even think of as a kid. As you get older, you realize that your parents are a lot smarter than you thought they were."

(JIMMIE JOHNSON HAS GIVEN YOU A LOT OF CREDIT FOR HIS SUCCESS. HOW MUCH CREDIT CAN YOU TAKE FOR HIS SUCCESS AT DARLINGTON LAST YEAR?) "I had the opportunity to see him run this track for the first time and I don't think he needed much from me here at Darlington. He was pretty impressive on his own. This is a track where you definitely have to step up to the plate and be willing to be aggressive and to push and he has that. At the same time, this is a track that you have to respect. You have to be smooth and have a great feel for it.

"I can remember the first couple of times we came here with Jimmie in the Cup series. He and I talked about what type of balance we were looking for and what type of lines we were running. I don't know if any of that helped him or not, but he's certainly done a good job to have won those two races here last year."

(HOW DO YOU LOOK AT JIMMIE THIS WEEK?) "We're just close teammates who share a lot of information. We bounce things off one another. This difference is maybe that he doesn't ask as many questions. That's natural. That's what's going to happen when you get more experience and figure out your own way. He's also still humble enough to know you can always be better and you still need to get information from other people."

(WHO IS THE BIGGER THREAT TO WIN HERE NOW, YOU OR JIMMIE JOHNSON?) "Boy, I don't know. I felt like we were in a position to win the race here last time, but we got a little messed up on a pit stop. They capitalized on it and won the race. I think it's whoever gets out front in that last pit stop."

(IS THIS WEEK'S CONTROVERSY MOTIVATING JIMMIE JOHNSON?) "Oh, I know it is. It definitely wasn't something that made his week a lot of fun. I told him not to read too many newspapers or watch too much TV that had to do with it because you can get so caught up in it. And there are times when you just need to stay focused on your own program and not let those things affect you."

(WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT - THE NUMBERS YOU PUT ON THE BOARD OR WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT YOU?) "As far as Jimmie is concerned, I'd just be concerned with the numbers on the board because when you're on top like that, there's always going to be criticism the first chance they get."

(HOW WAS THE TRACK AT CHARLOTTE WHEN YOU TESTED?) "It was extremely fast. It was really smooth in the corners. I think the down side right now is that Goodyear is having a difficult time picking the tire because it's so fast. They had to go with a really hard tire and it kind of puts things back to where we were last year or even the year before where pit strategy is going to change because of that."

(HOW WILL THE STRATEGY CHANGE?) "You don't necessarily have to get four tires. The groove's changed. I think track position is going to be really important because of the way the track is and because of the way the tires is. Track position is going to be really important."

(IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BREAK UP THE PACKS AT TALLADEGA?) "No, I really don't think there is - not right now."

(DO THEY NEED TO CHANGE THE TRACK OR IS IT SOMETHING YOU JUST HAVE TO DEAL WITH TWO TIMES A YEAR?) "Well, you're talking to the wrong guy about that one because we weren't around any of that mess (crashes). When I was running throughout the day, I really saw pretty good stuff. But I was up front the whole time so. I did get shuffled back there one time and had to come up through there and it was a little wild and crazy. The problem is that all it takes is one little tiny thing, and boom - you've got a huge wreck. It's hard to ask that of 43 guys to not make any mistakes for four hours or whatever. So I don't know. As long as the handling is not an issue, you're going to see big packs like that. That's the difference between Daytona and Talladega. At Daytona, the car has to handle good and that spreads us out a little more."

(ARE YOU GLAD TO HEAR THAT DARLINGTON IS SOLD OUT?) "Yeah, that's awesome, I think the lights have been a big plus for this place and I hope the fans continue to support it."

(ON HIS INVOLVEMENT WITH A WINERY?) "We're doing our own wine. I'm teaming up with August Briggs Winery in Napa Valley. I don't know a lot about wine. I know wine when it tastes good and I definitely enjoy it when I get a chance to have a nice meal and some wine. We looked at a lot of different individuals and groups out there and felt that August Briggs was the best one for us to team up with. It's a high-end wine that is going to be exclusive to get. Yes, my name is on it and that certainly isn't going to hurt things, but it's not race-related and it's not something we're trying to take to race fans. They can (get it) if they want, obviously. We're having the Chardonnay coming out the end of this year - September or October - and then the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in '07."

(HAVE YOU TRIED ANY OF RICHARD CHILDRESS WINES?) "He gave me a bottle for winning the Daytona 500, but it's such a cool bottle that I don't want to open it up (laughs). But I need to try it."

(ON RUNNING UNDER THE LIGHTS) "We ran basically under the lights the last time we were here. It's not going to change anything. The only think that's different is the spoiler and less downforce and that will definitely make things a little bit more challenging. The soft wall made things challenging for us the last time. Hopefully the second time around we'll be more used to it. I was happy to hear what the start time is for this race because here lately, I feel like we've been starting too early and the sun has been a big issue."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson