Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Note: Will start third in Sunday's line up based on points, and will be going for his 60th Winston Cup career win: ON QUALIFYING BEING RAINED OUT AND STARTING BY POINTS "You have a lot of...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Note: Will start third in Sunday's line up based on points, and will be going for his 60th Winston Cup career win:
ON QUALIFYING BEING RAINED OUT AND STARTING BY POINTS
"You have a lot of mixed emotions on days like this because you've got the guys that are in the top five in points that don't really mind if it rains, and then you've got the guys that are further back in the points that don't want it to rain. It's hard to judge what works best. For us, I think we've be on the front row here the last three times in a row. This is a good qualifying track for us. We've been talking a lot about track position and starting up front and having a 3rd place starting position here for Sunday is excellent.
"I just hope that the weather clears up here tomorrow so that we can get our race practice in. That's really the most important part of our week other than race day - getting the car dialed-in in race condition and getting the tape off the grill and seeing how it handles in the long run."
ON COMING OFF A WIN LAST WEEK AT BRISTOL
"A win does a lot for you no matter when or where it is. It seems like this one at Bristol came at a really good time for us. We're coming up on some tracks that are extremely good for us. Darlington is one that is high on our list. Aerodynamics is important, but not as much as the bigger mile and a half race tracks. This place still needs a lot of mechanical grip. The track is very abrasive. Tires still go away. How well we get the car connected to the race track is extremely important. Darlington is a track that we're really excited about right now. We've raced well here. Last time, unfortunately, we got caught up in a mishap off of turn two, but before that we thought we had one of the best cars all day."
ON DRIVERS WHO CAN OVERCOME ADVERSITY AND COMING ON STRONG AT THE END OF THE SEASON
"Every guy who has won was in the thick of things towards the end of the season and had to overcome whatever adversity or do whatever it took to get that first championship, so I don't put as much into that. I know that our team's winning the championship last year and three championships before that certainly allows us to be a little more patient and not get caught up in every position or every point if it doesn't happen the way we want it to happen. Really, all you can do is come together as a team and fight hard every time you're on the race track and just get the best possible results you can get. When you're putting that effort forth to win the race and finish the race, whatever happens is meant to be. All you can do is try your best.
"I look at Sterling (Marlin) for instance. Last week, we won the race and led the most laps. Sterling came home with a 7th place finish. That's what you've got to do. With us being back 111 points, we've got to win the race. We've got to lead laps. We've got to get those top five finishes. We've got to put more pressure on. It's funny. The week before Bristol, nobody would have thought we'd even have a chance at this thing (title). One win and the most laps led one night and all of a sudden it's like, 'Watch out!'. It's just funny how things turn around. I've been saying for weeks if we could just get something to go our way, and get that win or that strong finish, then watch out. I hope that that means good things to come. Mark Martin has run for many championships and he knows what to do. He knows what it takes. If it all works out, then it'll happen.
"But I think you've got to take advantage of the tracks that are your strong suits, and try to get through the tracks that are your weak points. The guy who does that the most consistently is the guy that'll be on top in these closing races."
WOULD IT BE EASIER TO WIN THE TITLE IF THERE WAS A BIGGER POINT SPREAD BETWEEN THE TOP 6 DRIVERS?
"It's never easy. It doesn't matter how many points ahead or how many points behind you are or how many guys are going for it. It has been a unique year. There are a lot of guys in the thick of things. It doesn't seem like there is any clear cut guy that is just standing out that is making things happen on a consistent basis. I think that says a lot about how competitive the sport is and how important track position is. Just look at how the bonus points are down quite a bit from last year. It's just that much harder to lead laps and lead the most laps and be here at the finish when it counts. It's going to be an extremely exciting championship where nobody really knows what's going to happen. If, during this last stretch, one guy can rise to the top and get some momentum, watch out for that guy. That could be the determining factor of the deal."
ON WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP BY COMING FROM BEHIND
"Tight battles are the toughest ones. Every little thing that you do really counts and every mistake that you make can really hurt you but every good thing that you do can be a big plus. We've got to be on top of our game right now. Our win at Bristol gets us back in the right mindset. We always knew that we could do it. But having the confirmation of that victory just did a lot for us. That's going to allow us to pick up our game at a lot of tracks we haven't been as strong at this year and take advantage of the ones - especially the short tracks, the mechanical grip tracks. I would love to win a championship by coming from behind because it's something I've never done before. I love accomplishing things I've never accomplished before - just like winning a night race at Bristol."
AT DARLINGTON, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO AVOID INCIDENTS LIKE YOU GOT INTO IN THE SPRING IN TURN 2?
"Obviously it's pretty difficult because I saw it long before I got there. I was in the middle of (turns) one and two and I saw the two cars get together. I started letting up then, but it turned to pure smoke when I got there and I went into it completely blind. As soon as the smoke cleared, I was hitting somebody's bumper. That was pretty frustrating. You basically have one line around this track. When you get cars side by side, somebody's got to give. And when somebody doesn't give, a crash is going to happen. When you're in that line, you really don't have many choices or opportunities to get away from it and make it through the crash. It's already a narrow track when everybody is in line. When they're in a wreck, it's almost impossible."
ON THE CHALLENGE OF TURN 2
"Turn 2 is my favorite part of the race track. Some may think it's hard. Maybe I love it because it's hard. It's definitely a challenge. In qualifying, the more aggressive you can be over there, the better. But in the race, the more aggressive you get in turn 2, the slower you're going to be down the straightaway. You've got to know where to ease out of the gas to get the car to turn late up off of turn 2. To me, the hardest part of this track is probably turn 3 and just judging the correct speed entering that corner. You want to slide up to the wall, but you don't want to hit it. You want to carry enough momentum to where you're getting on the gas at the right place in the corner to carry you up off the corner."
ARE ALL THE EMOTIONS AND INCIDENTS BETWEEN YOU AND RUSTY WALLACE DURING LAST WEEKEND'S RACE AT BRISTOL IN THE PAST NOW?
"Well, we'll find out (laughs). I've made contact with a lot of guys over the years and guys have made contact with me. I can't predict how everybody else deals with it, but I deal with it in that I'm going to race the person hard and as clean as I possibly can. But when it comes down to a win, you can guarantee that I'm going to be aggressive and I'm going to do what I can to win. I expect the same thing from the competitors. The teams have handled it extremely well from what I understand. My guys and Rusty's (Wallace) guys have been really good and I think that's probably because if they were in the same position, they would have wanted Rusty to do the same thing. And I believe he would have. There's a difference between bumping a guy, taking the air off a guy, or just flat-out wrecking him. I hope that can be recognized in that situation and I think it was."
IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH SHOWING EMOTION?
"Gosh, no. I think that's one of the things that makes our sport so great is that not only are guys going to show their emotion, but you're going to see it. And the fans are going to see it. I don't know of any other sport where they stick a camera and microphone in your face moments after you get out of the ambulance (laughs). I wish you guys wouldn't bust on Tony (Stewart) so much because now he's calmed down and we don't get to see all that. That's entertainment for me. I like seeing guys showing their emotions. I get made and show my emotions too, but maybe I just go about it in a different way. I think it makes for a great show. There's obviously a line and a limit. We don't want people throwing things. I had to talk to my driver (Jimmie Johnson) this week about throwing certain gestures. But I hope that doesn't keep the emotions from coming out. I hope that everybody recognizes that that's good."
ON HIS INCIDENT WITH ROBBY GORDON AT LOUDON LAST YEAR
"At the time, I was mad and I showed my emotions on the track and off the track. But if we had gone to a race the following weekend, I'd race him the same way I do today. I'd be careful. I'd try to make a clean pass. If he gives me any trouble, I' m going to have to get aggressive. And if he bumps me, I'm going to have to bump him back. I don't ever hold grudges and do paybacks. I'd rather pay a guy back by passing him and racing him and beating him. That's what I was taught by my parents when I was racing Quarter-Midget Go-Karts."
WHAT IS A WINNING PERCENTAGE OF TEAM CHEMISTRY VS. THE CAR?
"I think it's 50/50. The team is extremely important and the chemistry is extremely important. But it's amazing how the chemistry can come together if the car is working. When the performance is there, it brings the chemistry together. When the car is not always the best, our team finds a way to keep the glue together and keep them a strong team so that when things come together, we're at the top of our game. Maybe that comes from winning championships. I don't know how you form that. I work hard, Robbie (Loomis, crew chief), Rick Hendrick (team owner) works hard at keeping these guys close and together. It's amazing what one race can do. These guys were pretty dejected after Watkins Glen and Michigan. They still just kept working the same way. All of a sudden with a night like Bristol, these guys are on fire. They've experienced again what it's like to win. It's amazing what that first win will do to you. You hope you get it out of the way early in the season to get that pressure off of you, but the pressure was obviously building quite a bit. To finally get that first win off of our backs has taken extreme pressure off of us. Now, we don't have to worry about it. We can just go out and race hard and see where this whole thing ends up."