Darlington Saturday notes

Notes regarding the cancellation of Winston Cup qualifying due to fog: Jerry Nadeau, No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo (will start 8th in Sunday's race): "Not qualifying is not going to affect us much. This is a brand new Monte Carlo.

Notes regarding the cancellation of Winston Cup qualifying due to fog:

Jerry Nadeau, No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo (will start 8th in Sunday's race): "Not qualifying is not going to affect us much. This is a brand new Monte Carlo. We've never even turned the wheel on it yet. But we get to start 8th in the race, which is good. I enjoy this racetrack. It's a tough track. I've never finished well here before but it's one of my favorite tracks because it's so demanding. It takes mental work and physical work, but I think we'll be okay. Today, it's better for us to be working on race set-up.

"Qualifying can be important, but really, if your car's good, you can start in the back and work your way up. It's a handling track. It's a driver's track. You've got to have a good car; you've got to maintain your tires all day long. I've seen guys come from the back and win this race. So a good car and a good driver and we'll have a good day."

Mike Skinner, No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo (will start 15th in Sunday's race): "If you look at Rockingham and Vegas, not qualifying is good for me. This has been a place where we've qualified fairly well. I think last year we qualified 6th here - we was right up there. But this is probably the fair way to do it. They've got to have a system and as long as they do it for everybody, it doesn't matter.

"I like the short schedule. I think it's a good thing. I think it's unfortunate that we had a little fog this morning. It's no big deal. Look how many places we've gone and watched it rain all day. So it really doesn't make much difference. A good starting position always helps, but it really won't matter for this weekend. So that's the good thing when these things happen. But the big show is Sunday, and the better we all practice for that, the better it'll be for the fans."

Mike Waltrip, No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet Monte Carlo (will start 6th in Sunday's race): "I don't care that we're not qualifying, but I feel bad for the guys that didn't get a chance to qualify. But then, when we went to this two-day format, we knew that everything had to work perfectly in order to get everything into a short schedule. It's unfortunate that this morning we had a little fog. For me, in my situation, I'm more anxious to get out there and get working on our race set-up right now. But I still feel bad for the guys that would want to get a better starting position by qualifying. I like the short schedule. I think most people do."

Q&A with Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet Monte Carlo after Practice Session 1:

How do you feel about starting on the pole and not having to qualify?

"Well, it's a good day to be leading in the points, I guess. I think we have a good car for the pole based on our record here in the past, and I would have liked to have given it a shot. But hey, I'm pretty happy with the outcome either way."

How important is starting up front here?

"It's real important. The way I like to drive a car around this place and the track characteristics - the way it really eats the tires up - if you can be up front and have track position, you can save your tires a little bit and you don't have to work 'em as hard. That's the way I like to run the race here. You got to run your own race. Just like right now in practice. You can't pay attention to what anybody else is doing or how fast they're going, or how fast they're not going. You've just got to pay attention to what you're doing and your speed and what your car is doing."

How much does it help to get on the track for an extra practice session?

"It helps to get on the track and get some time. But there's not enough rubber. I'm waiting for the rubber to get down after the Busch race. I think that'll be a really good test for us also. But we put a pretty good amount of rubber out there that time. For us, obviously because of the way the starting grid's going to be, just going straight into practice when we did, and then having practice after the Busch race is going to work out perfect."

What kind of advantage is there to not having to worry about qualifying?

"Well, there's advantages if you're high up in the points. You're going to get good track position. Obviously, qualifying is very crucial these days in order to get a good starting spot and a good place on pit road. And that track position just means so much when they drop the green flag; and it can help you out the whole day. Maintaining it is the most important thing."

It is a good feeling to be back in the points lead?

"It is, but it's also very early in the season. I know what you guys are going to do to me right now when I'm leading the points; you're going to put a lot of pressure on me. We want to make sure that we go out there and perform and keep doing the things that got us to the points lead. Hopefully we can maintain that and just continue to work hard and put the effort out that we've been putting out and bring good racecars. This is the same car we had a Rockingham. It's a very good car and it should work very well here. We've got a lot of work to do. It's too early to say what's going to happen in points right now."

Are you happy with your car?

"I'm real happy with it. Like I said, that speed chart doesn't mean a thing. It shows nothing. It's how good you are and what you do over the long run."

Is your team now performing like it used to?

"Well, look at the way they've been performing lately. They've been great in the pits. The attitude. Everything. It couldn't be much better right now. I'm very pleased with the way things are going. I haven't seen a weakness yet, but we haven't been to short tracks, we haven't been to road courses. So we've still got some work to do. It's really all about getting some momentum early and getting the team to gel early. And we've done that. But it's also about maintaining that and how you keep them together and keep 'em hungry all year long. And myself. We've got a lot of work to do."

Is that the reason why you're going to test at Martinsville?

"I feel like we had a great package at Martinsville two years ago. But people have caught up to us. Maybe we've lost a little bit. So we're going to go there. One thing I'm really proud of is the way we've scheduled our tests. We tested three times in January which really got us prepared for not only Daytona, but for Rockingham and Vegas. And look how they turned out. And this Martinsville test is going to help us with the short tracks. I'm really pleased with the schedule that we picked."

Does making a statement early make a difference?

"Well, I don't know about a statement - we just want to be competitive. If that's a statement, then okay that's what we're trying to do. You look at just the momentum we carried from the end of last year, the competitiveness of this team, the consistency of this team, and luckily it carried into the off-season and we've put some great racecars together. We were able to maintain all that coming into this year."

When it comes to expectations, do you think that sometimes you're a victim of your own past success?

"Oh, absolutely. And we knew that. As soon as you start having the type of success that this team had several years ago, we knew that it was only time before we were going to have a bad year. And that people were going to say what's wrong and start pointing fingers and think that if we're not winning ten races there's a problem. I think that has actually done more good for this team than bad because I think it made us who we are today and made us that much stronger to go through that. Last year, when we had that down year - in our books, the down year - it was either going to tear us apart or bring us together. Fortunately for us it brought us closer together."

What do you think about being on Larry King Live?

"Very cool. The PR folks have been working on that for a while. It's not easy to get on Larry King so we must be doing something right. It's a positive aspect, the angle that they want to take. The ratings have been superb and the racing's been great. I think it's a big tribute to NASCAR and this sport and I'm excited about it."

How do you decide which programs you're going to be on?

"There's a lot of requests that come in. It has to do with timing and it has to do with image. When I say timing, I mean like after Daytona we got requests from some of the biggest media there is. But it wasn't the right time to do it. If they were calling under different circumstances, it would be a great opportunity. We try to do the best we can and get the ones that we feel like are not only going to help me, but help the entire sport."

How difficult is it to drive both Busch and Winston Cup like Kevin Harvick is going to do?

"Based on experience, I did five Busch races last year and all the Winston Cup races, and it wore me out. I don't know how he's going to do all the Busch races and all the Cup races. I think that's an awful lot. But he's young and in good shape and he's doing a good job and making good decisions right now. I think its good for him right now. But he's got to make that decision based on his focus. If that starts to suffer, he'll try to do something different. But so far it hasn't."

How much of a role does your faith play in your life?

"It plays a huge role in my life. I think that faith allows me to go do what I do and be comfortable with whatever the outcome - win, lose, no injuries, injuries, life, or death. I think that helps me and my wife and our entire team get through the days and the bad days. It helps us to understand what our role is in this world."

Are you comfortable going back to Talladega with the same rules, or would you prefer a change?

"I'm going to race with whatever rules we're dealt. If we use our heads we can get through it. Yeah, would I like to see something a little different? Maybe. We're awful tight together. I think those rules might be a little bit better for Talladega than they are for Daytona. Daytona is such a tight and narrow racetrack compared to Talladega. I'm not going to fight it, put it that way. I'm going to make a car the best we can make it and make it the safest we can make it. I'm going to use my head the best that I can and whatever happens, happens. With any type of restrictor plate racing we're going to be tight and closed up. They made changes due to some of the complaints about not being able to pass at Daytona last July. I think the rules have helped the passing, but I think maybe it's just a little bit too much. I'd like to see it just shaved down a little bit. Maybe keep the restrictor plate, maybe shave a little bit of the roof spoiler, maybe shave a little bit of that wicker bill in the back. But that would be my thoughts. But I'm not the ones over there making the rules. So whatever we're dealt with is what I'm going to go race at Talladega. I'm not going to complain about it or be concerned about it because it is what it is."

Are you getting more comfortable with the HANS device?

"Oh yeah. They're starting to work with me more. I think as the year goes on, we'll keep getting it better and better."

Are you looking forward to racing at Bristol?

"It's just one of those race tracks that I took to right away. It reminds me of some of the tracks I used to race with the Sprint Cars and Midgets. It's really fast and high-banked. We've had good success and I always look forward to going back to Bristol. I know the fans certainly enjoy it, too. There's no more spectacular place to race than at Bristol. It's pretty awesome."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Jerry Nadeau