JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: ON BEING RANKED NO. 1 IN THE PRE-SEASON MEDIA POLL... "It's pretty overwhelming, I guess, when you look at our season last year and some of the criticism that we took last year of the mistakes...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
ON BEING RANKED NO. 1 IN THE PRE-SEASON MEDIA POLL... "It's pretty overwhelming, I guess, when you look at our season last year and some of the criticism that we took last year of the mistakes that were made and where our focus was.
"I think the media is recognizing where we ended last season and where we went into the off-season, that we've got a new Monte Carlo that we're excited about. It's awesome for me that I see other people out there that feel the same way that we do inside our team. Inside our team I see a fire in their eye, I see these guys working extremely hard at a goal and that goal is to win the championship. Now, I also know that is a very hard to predict who is going to win the championship - what's going to happen. This is a very difficult series to predict anything in and we hope we can live up to that. It's certainly going to add some pressure. I was kind of looking forward to this season, sort of starting out the season under the radar. But, I don't think we're going to do that now."
ON NOT BEING LISTED IN THE 'ALL-TIME TOP 10' "I hope that in 20 or 30 years that I'm on the top 10 list. I think that is the type of impression that you really want to make and that is obviously the impression that was made by these guys, which is pretty awesome - to go back in time throughout this sport's history and see who really has stood out. I hope that somewhere down the road that I'll be able to stand out in a crowd by what I accomplish on the racetrack."
ON KNOWING ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT "It took a lot because I really didn't know a lot about NASCAR until I was probably 18 years old. Everything that I looked at was midgets and sprint cars and then Indianapolis. It was a steep learning curve for me because I didn't know a lot about stock cars. I fell in love with them right away and wanted to learn more about, not only the mechanics of them, but also the names and people that are in the sport and who have made the sport what it is. Especially, as I started having success, winning races - at that time you figure out what you're accomplishing. At first, I don't know if even I could have appreciated or had the respect for it. But, over time, I certainly learned in a hurry of just how incredible it is to win a Daytona 500 or how unbelievable it is to win a championship. It's funny now when I'm around people that don't know much about the sport and I start talking and educating them. They say, 'How many championships do you have,' and I say, 'Four,' and it's like I'm saying it to myself: 'Four. Wow.' It blows me away, and then they say, 'Is that good?' Then, I get a good chuckle out of it and then I recognize just by educating other people just how incredible it is."
ON RACING AT DAYTONA "My very first Daytona 500, Hendrick Motorsports had their act together. We came down here, qualified well, won the 125 and with 10 to go (in the 500), I'm running second to the best guy I've drafted with, which is Dale Earnhardt. I got to learn from the best and I just picked up - I was like a sponge - I just picked up as much as I could from him. So, I fell in love with the place right from the beginning. Now, if the rules stayed the way they were a couple years ago with these roof rails and everything, I would never win another restrictor plate race. It just was not much fun out there. I like the rules the way they are now where the driver, the team - it brings everybody kind of back into it and I feel like I can use the air, I can use the other cars and teammates and all that to work my way to the front. If I get to the front, it's a lot harder to pass the guy that's out front. I guess luck also has a lot to do with it, but I've been with the right team at the right time down here at Daytona.
"It's been an enjoyable experience for me and allowed me to focus on my drafting and not have to focus on or sit back and think, 'Man, where is the speed going come from,' and, 'how are we going to do this,' and, 'how are we going to do that?' It never really seemed to be that deal for me. It's just like anything else that's happened to me. I've been handed everything on a golden platter."
DO YOU THINK YOU CAN EVER GET TO THE POINT WHERE YOU'VE MADE 25 APPEARANCES IN THE TOP 10 OF THE FINAL SEASON STANDINGS? "I don't know if I'm going to race 25 years in Winston Cup. If that's the way (the all-time top 10) is based, I don't know if I'll ever be at the top of that list. But, it is a sport that you can be in it a long time. It does seem like as the sport brings more younger, newer faces in - and also the amount of money being made - that you don't have to race as long as some of these other guys. I've always said I'm going to race as long as I'm healthy, and enjoying what I'm doing, I'm with a strong team and the desire is there to win and win championships. I don't want to be out there just to be getting a paycheck. I don't know when that would come, but I hope that until then I get a lot of top 10 points appearances racked up and see where we end up on the list."