Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo: On his qualifying lap "I knew we were better than what we had practiced. We had made some adjustments that should have been better. Darlington is one of those places where you've got to be ...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo:
On his qualifying lap
"I knew we were better than what we had practiced. We had made some adjustments that should have been better. Darlington is one of those places where you've got to be really committed to the lap and hope the car sticks. And that's what I did. I drove into (turn) one really hard and stepped on the gas hard and hoped it would stick. And it did. It was by far the best lap we put together all day. The ends of the track changed for me. All day I'd been tight in (turns) one and two and really good in (turns) three and four. During that lap I was good in one and two and tight in three and four. It's just awesome to have a shot at it and be that close. We've been on both sides of this one before where I've beat Ricky Craven by a few thousandths and he has beat me by a few thousandths, and I don't mind sharing every once in a while on those types of situations on the front row.
"It was a good day for us. We needed to get a good qualifying run and this is a place where I knew we could do it at. We haven't been qualifying the way we are capable of the last few races. I think we've been struggling in the race because of it. I like to qualify up front. Because I've qualified up front as many times as I have, I'm maybe not as good at getting from the middle or the back of the pack to the front like some other guys are. Hopefully we can capitalize on it (this qualifying spot) this weekend."
Because of the turns, is this track more unique than any other oval track on the circuit?
"I think Pocono is probably the extreme because it has three separate corners that are different. But as far as an oval is concerned, there's no doubt that the ends of this track are total opposite. When you go into turn three here, you slam on the brakes pretty hard. You have to really slow the car down compared to turn one. Turns one and two are really sweeping. You really have to compromise here as a driver and the team has to compromise on the set-up because you're not going to be perfect on both ends. You just have to get both ends as close as you can. We had a good combination today."
Do you have to like the track in order to run well, or do you have to run well in order to like the track?
"I've always had a lot of respect for this track and all the stories around it and how this place will just reach out and grab you and the Lady in Black and all that. It was the same thing when I went to Winchester for the first time in a sprint car. They try to intimidate you before you get there. So I just try to have a lot of respect. I've never had a problem running fast up next to the wall. I've always liked a track that you run up high against the wall. I like this place a lot when it comes to qualifying. I like it a lot in the race until I get about 50 laps into the run and I start sliding and hitting the wall and bouncing off of it. As soon as you think that nothing can mess your lap up, you hit the wall and you don't know why. I've had success here and I guess you tend to like it more because of that."
On the current points race
"My only concern is that we've not run as well as we would have liked. We haven't battled for wins other than Daytona and that's been disappointing. We're not going to panic because we're 11th in the points this early in the season. I've seen guys have much rougher starts than we have and come back. We're going to fight to the last lap of every race through the whole season. If it's your year, it's your year. Things just click. Today was a sign for us that things, hopefully, will start clicking for us."
Would giving the Chevrolets a rules change give the No. 24 car another weapon?
"Why shouldn't the cars be equal? That's what I ask. You can't not give this guy or that guy something because of what they might be capable of as a team. There's no doubt that Hendrick Motorsports has unbelievable resources and great race teams. With the right ingredients, we've certainly proved what we're capable of.
"All I ask is that we're equal. And when they go to the wind tunnel and they come back and say that we're not (equal), I've got a problem with that. Now that wasn't our racecar, but I know just by watching other racecars out there that we're off in a few areas. We're trying to get everything we can out of it. I didn't say, 'Hey, we need help'. I said to go to the wind tunnel and let's see what the numbers show. And they came back and said, 'Yup, you're right. The Chevys are at a disadvantage.
"They didn't jump to conclusions and make a quick change this week. We're at Darlington this week; we're at Bristol next week. We can probably get away with that - a very abrasive high-banked race track at Darlington and then a short track at Bristol. But when we get to Texas and California, if we're not equal with the competition, that's not right. That's all I ask is that we're on equal territory."