Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Q&A's with the media after Wednesday's first practice session: "The guys have just done an incredible job preparing the DuPont Chevrolet for Daytona. I'm extremely excited. All the Hendrick cars...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Q&A's with the media after Wednesday's first practice session: "The guys have just done an incredible job preparing the DuPont Chevrolet for Daytona. I'm extremely excited. All the Hendrick cars are running well and we're looking forward to tomorrow. We really don't know what we're going to have until we get out there."
How much do you expect Jimmie Johnson to learn during speedweeks?
"Well, there's certainly a lot to learn - especially in the draft. With the way the draft is this year, there's probably more education going on than ever. It gets very frustrating when you've got that yellow stripe on your bumper and not too many guys want to go with you and help you out. But he's doing a great job. He has what it takes to get it done. We're looking forward to him getting a little more educated in that race tomorrow (Thursday)."
Do you want to see him race to win or just concentrate on seat time?
"I think they go hand-in-hand. I want him to race to win because I know that's how he does it. He's out there to win and that team is capable of it. So is Jimmie. There's a huge education that goes along with it. He's a humble guy. He knows he's going to be out there learning a lot. At the same time, that doesn't mean he can't win."
Is there still much of an education in the draft for you?
"I make mistakes every once in a while and I'm learning too. But these are the types of rules that play more to my way of driving. The two Daytona 500's that I've won were more like this. I like it a lot better. The things that I'm used to doing out there and the things that I learned from Dale Earnhardt are what's coming into play out there right now for me."
On his championship goals:
"Our goals are always to win the championship. Once you've won one, you've got to put that high on your list. We've got the team and the chemistry to do it. I think we're even a stronger team this year than we were last year. That doesn't mean that we're automatically going to win it. That means that I feel like we have as good a shot this year as we've ever had. There's some other teams out there that will be a real threat too."
How will this race compare to past years?
"It won't be like last year's. There won't be as many lead changes. But it's still going to be exciting. There will be a lot of great racing and side-by-side action. I don't think it'll be boring like 2000 was. It'll be more like 1999, '98, '97 race. I see Fords, Pontiacs, Dodges, Chevys out there battling and passing and leading and I think it will be a great race."
Has the rules change for Ford altered the balance of power on the racetrack?
"No, it hasn't changed much. In the draft, I don't even think you'll be able to see a difference there. You might see a little bit of speed that helps them, and that's fine. My whole thing was go to the wind tunnel. Don't go off of guys complaining and guys that are not running as good out there on the track as they should. They went to the wind tunnel and they got the facts and made the adjustments based on that and so I'm fine with it."
Will you be able to make a daring pass to win like you did three years ago?
"Well, not because of the yellow line (rule). I can still make some daring passes out there but I won't be able to go below that yellow line. So we'll see. I think it'll still be an exciting race and you'll see a lot of passing. It seems like passing for the lead is pretty tough. I'm going to be working real hard to try to figure out ways to make those passes if I'm not already the guy out front."
Is the 125's a good gauge for the Daytona 500?
"Oh yeah, and so was the Shootout. Seventy laps out there was a pretty good gauge. Fifty laps without a pit stop - well, there may be a pit stop if there's a caution - but to go out there and see what the handling is like is always good. There are some guys that know that they are going home. If they don't get to a certain place, they'll be making some moves to try to get there. A lot of us are just trying to figure out what our cars need - in handling, passing, and speed -- for the 500. Some guys are going to be taking big risks and some guys won't be taking big risks. They'll wait 'til the 500."