Darlington: Jeff Gordon post qualifying interview

@JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD ESGR IMPALA SS -- Qualified 2nd ON THE RUN "We're very pleased with the effort. We were fast in qualifying trim in practice. And some guys really stepped it up, especially Matt (Kenseth). He really...

@JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT/NATIONAL GUARD ESGR IMPALA SS -- Qualified 2nd

ON THE RUN

"We're very pleased with the effort. We were fast in qualifying trim in practice. And some guys really stepped it up, especially Matt (Kenseth). He really put a solid lap up there, which I knew was going to be tough for anybody to beat. And it was. We gave it our best effort. We were a little bit too loose but all in all, a really great lap. The front row is a great place to be."

ON JIMMIE JOHNSON CRASHING DURING HIS QUALIFYING ATTEMPT, HOW EASY IS THAT TO DO HERE?

"This is a nail-biter, white knuckle experience qualifying here. I knew in practice when I made my last qualifying run just how hard I was pushing it and on the edge. We made a couple of adjustments and then you see the lap times following and guys running faster than what you felt you couldn't have gone any faster with it in practice. And I know for me, I didn't run a second lap just because it took everything I could to run that one lap. I came in and very rarely are my hands shaking when I get out of the car. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. It was just that kind of experience. You've got to push really hard here and you've got to be committed and it's a very fine line. This track is narrow and it's got a lot of grip but the edge is right there. You're right on the edge. It's really easy to break loose. I hate that happened to Jimmie and I know they've got another great car there in the truck and they'll get it out and those guys are a championship caliber team; they'll rebound I'm sure in a big way."

IS THIS GOING TO FEEL LIKE A SOUTHERN 500 LIKE YOU REMEMBERED WITH ALL THE HEAT & HUMIDITY IN THE CAR?

"Anytime I think of Darlington I think of the Southern 500. I always felt when they went to one race it should just be the Southern 500. And the Southern 500 had been really good to me and it doesn't matter to me really when it happens, I just love coming here to Darlington with the racing and the track and the challenges. So it certainly feels like a Southern 500 to me just because we're at Darlington. It's pretty hot & humid out there so the conditions are acting like it used to as well."

ON THE NAME SOUTHERN 500

"I guess I just relate to Darlington as the Southern 500 because of the history of that race and the history of this track our history with winning the Southern 500. I was a little disappointed when they went to one race and it wasn't called the Southern 500. I felt like there was really no question about that. So it's great to have it back and the stats are the stats. I just enjoy coming here. I want to win every race that I go into as well as this team and we've won here as many times as we have because we have great race cars and have put ourselves in the right position. I want to do that whether it's called the Southern 500 or not, but it does make it that much more special when it is considered the Southern 500.

"I know that you look at history at comparing who has won here and everything. To me, it's hard to really compare these days. The cars have changed and the track has changed and the competition has changed but to me a win's a win."

ARE THERE OTHER TRACKS BESIDES DARLINGTON THAT BRING THAT EDGE OUT?

"Yeah, I wouldn't consider us fearless; sometimes, not smart, but I think that in order to be a race car driver, especially at this level, it takes a certain mentality. What we are doing it sometimes questionable. Days like today are what separate the top guys in the world versus these 43 guys that made this race. And today was a very white knuckle experience. And there are a few other tracks out there. Any time you are qualifying, you are putting it on the edge. I would say that the tire and this new surface, I don't know if there is a place that's more edgy and white-knuckle and almost fearless than this place today. But I've always felt that a good race car driver is somebody that knows how to get to the edge without going over it. If you're fearless, you just go out there and crash every time. I don't want to crash. I definitely have a fear of that."

ON BEING FEARLESS, HOW MUCH OF THAT IS STUPIDITY BECAUSE THEY JUST DON'T HAVE THE EXPERIENCE THAT THE VETERANS HAVE?

"I don't care if you have a safer barrier or a Hans or better seats, it still hurts when you hit, and you don't want to do it. You've got to hit things to know what it feels like and know that you don't want to do that many times. Sometimes, when I was young and coming into this sport, I crashed a lot. It took me a while to find that edge. But I felt like the cars were so much different back then. Today, the way the tires are and everything, the cars don't change much from the beginning of the run to the end of the run. They used to change so much. I'm not saying it was harder or anything like that, when I grew up, but racing in this series, you just don't see the young guys crashing as much as years and years ago. You always just waited for the rookie to just hit something. The more things you hit, the more you learned and the more you learned where that edge is and how to get to it without going over it. And the more you know how hard it hurts to hit walls. I don't think anybody is out there going, I got the Hans, good seat, safe race car and a safer barrier and I'm just going to hold it wide open even if I hit it. If there's somebody out there like that, I want somebody to let me know so I can stay as far away from him as possible. And that ought to about cover it (laughter)."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon