ROBBY GORDON, NO. 31 CINGULAR CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: HOW IMPORTANT WAS YOUR PIT STOP IN THE FIRST RACE? "We knew the pit stop would be everything. I figured the only shot I had of getting by Jeff Green was by out-braking him going into the pits.
ROBBY GORDON, NO. 31 CINGULAR CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
HOW IMPORTANT WAS YOUR PIT STOP IN THE FIRST RACE? "We knew the pit stop would be everything. I figured the only shot I had of getting by Jeff Green was by out-braking him going into the pits. The key was not to be speeding when I did it. The guys gave me a great pit stop. We got down off the jacks and Jeff kind of got blocked in a little bit. His guys might have beat our guys just a little bit because I was stopped before he was. He got going and he tried going to the fast lane, which then got me out with two tires in the grass. But, it was good enough to get out of pit lane first and I think that was the key to winning the first 125."
ON THE STRATEGY AT THE START OF THE RACE "One time I jumped Jeff Gordon at Bristol when I was on the outside of the front row, so there was no way that I was going to take a chance on jumping Jeff (Green) before the line. I figured that if Jeff got a good jump on the throttle when they threw the green and left a big enough hole I would duck down to his line, just because he is my teammate and that is the right thing to do. I got down into his line and he worked with me the first 32 laps. My car was a little bit tight and I asked Jeff to move two feet up off the racetrack, off the bottom, so I could get my nose down and get clean air on it, which he and that kept my right front tire alive - probably my left front tire alive, too, because we knew we were only going to change two tires, unless there was a caution. I made a deal with him that I wouldn't stick my nose in and try to come off the corner and get side by side with him if he would just move up a little bit so I don't grind the front tires off my car and we'd stay together and work as a team. The only deal we didn't have is if we positioned each other to be first back on to the racetrack. Either he was going to work with me or I was going to work with him. We were fortunate enough to out-brake him getting in and the guys gave me a great stop and we got out first, and Jeff stayed with me. I was really impressed that he got by Ricky Rudd because when I looked back I was like, 'Oh man, Rudd is going to split us here and we'll have Rudd in a sandwich.' Jeff did an awesome job getting around him. Coming off turn two I kind of moved up to Jeff's line to give him some turbulent air on his nose, and allowed him to suck up behind me and get by Rudd. Then we ducked back down and all three of us stayed in a line."
WHAT IS THE DISADVANTAGE OF PITTING ALONE? "There are a couple things that happen. If you pit alone you don't have anybody to draft with to get back up to speed. Let's say you decide to stay out an extra lap than everybody else. If you do that, your five to eight miles an hour slower than everybody else by yourself compared to the line and you can't just pull up in front of that line and block the people. If you do you're going to get turned. I was going to pit with Jeff. We were going to pit as a team. I was real excited when they said, 'I talked to the 21 car and he is coming with you, too.' I figured three cars was all we needed. On lap 32 when the three of us came in the key was just getting back out first. If Rudd would have beat us out, I don't know if we would have gotten by him, as well, either."
DOES THIS MAKE A STATEMENT IN YOUR CAREER? "I don't know what it really means, other than we have a fast race car. Perception is kind of reality in this garage. If people believe you have a fast race car I think that is going to help us on Sunday. I think that is something Dale Jr. and Michael Waltrip have going for them. Everybody understands those cars are really good, so everybody gets in line with them. Well, it's not that those cars are just. It's the help from somebody getting in line behind them and helping get by the next car. You can't do it by yourself. I think what this does is it might mentally help me with the other competitors because they understand that we have a fast race car. I'll duck out and hopefully they'll go with us. What's the saying in racing? 'Assume nothing and trust nobody,' so nobody will probably go with me when I pull out."
IS SUNDAY NOW RCR VERSUS DEI? "I don't know if it's RCR versus DEI or not. I just know that we've worked real hard. I know that the RAD program has dissolved, so we really don't have the information sharing going back and forth. I just know that our engine shop and our body shop and everybody have worked really hard over the winter. I don't think it's us against DEI. I think it's us against everybody. It just happens that DEI has dominated restrictor plate races lately and I'm just proud to be able to start to move RCR back toward the front, and I'm not doing it by myself. I'm doing it with a great group of guys."
WHAT HAS THIS WEEK MEANT TO RCR AND DID YOU THINK YOU WERE GOING TO BE THIS STRONG? "Everybody thinks they're going to be strong. Until you show up at the racetrack you never really know. Then, when you go to qualify you never really know, as well. The key is we qualified well. The car raced real well. I'm excited to be starting in my best position ever in the Daytona 500 - third. I think that has now equaled my best start in the Indy 500. It would have been nice to be on the front row with my teammate. But, it's our best start here. I've got a great race team and the guys have worked real hard. They key is I can't make any mistakes. You saw what happened in the second race coming down pit lane. So many things can happen and you just have to be on top of your game the whole day.
"You look at it and say, 'Restrictor plate racing - what does the driver really have to do,' because it is a lot about the race car. The key is you have to put it in the right position. I'm going to work real good with my spotters. My crew chief Kevin Hamlin was on me this morning about not taking unnecessary risks and I think that is the same thing we're going to have to do on race day is not make any mistakes in the pits, on the racetrack, etc., to position ourselves to win the Daytona 500."
HOW PREMATURE DO YOU BELIEVE THE TALK OF A DEI VICTORY CELEBRATION IS? "I heard Junior say that he hopes he can sweep this deal. My goal is that he doesn't sweep the deal. He and Michael have been real strong in restrictor plate races. RCR has a great history at restrictor plate races, as well, and I'm going to do everything I can to give Richard his second Daytona 500 victory."
HOW MUCH MORE ARE YOU PREPARED TO RUN UP FRONT WEEK IN AND WEEK OUT THAN SAY THREE OR FOUR YEARS AGO? "Last year was my full consistent year in Winston Cup. I learned a lot and know what it takes, kind of for a championship. I know where we made mistakes last year. The key is not make those same mistakes this year. We've already got a lot of momentum going. We've got a lot of team momentum going and hopefully we'll be able to continue that. Our goal is obviously to win the Daytona 500. If we can't win the Daytona 500, I at least want to come out of here with a top 10 finish and try to score some points. We finished 20th last year. I want to do everything I can to try to slide into the top 10 into the championship this year."
WERE GUYS MAKING RISKIER MOVES TO TRY GET ON AND OFF PIT ROAD? "I kind of looked at the second 125 and saw what you saw. To be honest with you, that is where I knew I would have to capitalize was under braking and not lock up the left front tire. I knew I was going to change the right tires, but the key was not to lock up the lefts. Actually, Kurt Busch did an awesome job getting stopped for pit lane. He wasn't speeding when he got there. What I don't understand is why he didn't move to the left earlier if his pit was right there. The second thing was maybe why Kevin started to try to pass him because his pit was way on down pit lane. Kurt would have been in a position to win the race by getting in. I think he passed four cars under braking which was real impressive. The problem is either Kevin didn't know where he was or he didn't know where Kevin's pit was. Part of the equation here that I look for is where the other guys are on pit lane and then you can kind of understand when they're going to peel off, so you don't stick your nose in a position to get taken off like that."
DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE A LOT OF COMPLAINING ABOUT THE CHEVROLETS? "The only thing I can say is congratulations to all the Chevy engine shops. What's happened is we've raced cars that have had more drag than the Ford and the Dodge in the past and now we've got an equal package to them. It just shows how much we've complained about our straight-line speed. Now, when we have same or similar drag numbers...it just shows how hard the Chevrolet engine shops have worked.
"Our engine shop at RCR and obviously DEI's engine shop, once you come with an equal-bodied car, it shows that we might be up on them a little bit on horsepower. That is only that we had a lot more drag before."
ARE OTHER TEAMS STARTING TO EMULATE THE DEI TEAMMATES? "Obviously, they have worked real good together. I'm sure that was Dale Sr.'s plan when he put those programs together. He put them where they were in shops side by side working together. It's obviously paid off for them on restrictor plate races. They've worked together. They share information and I think that helps when you have two and three car teams."