Post Happy Hour comments from Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 28th, was 2nd and 1st, respectively in Saturday's two Happy Hour sessions) "The car is real strong. We're real happy with it. We weren't real happy with...
Post Happy Hour comments from Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 28th, was 2nd and 1st, respectively in Saturday's two Happy Hour sessions)
"The car is real strong. We're real happy with it. We weren't real happy with our performance yesterday (qualifying). I think we had a much better car than that, but that's just the way it goes. We've got our work cut out for us to get up through the field tomorrow. Hopefully we can do that and get a real strong finish."
What do you attribute your success to on new tracks?
"I think new tracks tell which teams are strong. You don't have anything to go on. You can't fall back on notes you have from previous races and go off of experience you have as a team and the communication you have between the team - the driver and the crew chief especially - and a good car. We have a real strong team and we've been able to put that out on new race tracks and be successful."
Can you comment on the condition of the racetrack?
"It's going to get better each and every time we go out on the track. The more laps are run, the better it'll get. I think that Busch race today is going to help a lot to work that groove in and make it a little wider. It looks like a lot of guys are having trouble keeping their cars right on the white line on the bottom and that's encouraging. If that happens, you will be able to see some passing tomorrow."
Once the groove gets in, what do you think in general of this track in Chicago?
"It's fast. It's got a lot of grip. The bumps going into the corners are a little bit challenging. But hey, we always like to have something that makes a track unique. And that's it here. It should be a great race. I'm looking forward to it."
What tracks do you compare Chicagoland with?
"It's between Las Vegas and Texas - I think it's more like Texas just because of the speeds that we're carrying. It's not quite as fast as Texas, but if I had to compare it with anything, I'd compare it to Texas. But it seems like it's a little more room to get underneath a guy here because of the D-shape. Right now there's not much of an outside groove, but that'll come with time."
How important is it to put on a good race at a new track?
"Oh, I think it's always important to put on a good race for the fans. It's our second race on NBC, our first time here in this area. We've got a lot of fans that want to see a good race. We always want to put on a good show. And I hope we do. Just because we only have a one-line groove doesn't mean it won't be an exciting race."
Starting in 28th, will you try to get to the front in a hurry or will you just be patient?
"We've got 400 miles to do it. We don't need to be in a hurry. What counts is that we're there at the end when it really matters. We need to just look at our pit strategy, our track position - that will be important. Hopefully I can pick up a few (positions) on the track and my guys can pick up some in the pits. In the end we'll be where we need to be."
How much can the track change between Happy Hour today, the Busch race this afternoon, and the Cup race on Sunday?
"This is about the same time that we'll be racing tomorrow. We really like having our Happy Hour practices before the Busch races. I think it's a little bit more of what the track is going to be like. Yeah, the Busch cars will put a little bit more rubber down, widen the track out a little bit, and it might be a little bit different. But all in all, what we learned today is going to give us a good indication of what it'll be like tomorrow."
Was qualifying any indication that the Fords have an aero advantage or is it just Yates engines?
"Yates engines are pretty strong. We made some mistakes. First, we drew an early number and that didn't help us. We had a good racecar. I just don't know why we couldn't get the speed out of it yesterday. When we went out to qualify, the track played a few tricks on us. But today, our car is as strong as anybody's out there. So I don't know. It's hard to say if it's the aerodynamics or just a lot of horsepower.
With 20 races in a row, what do you do to stay fresh with such a long stretch?
"You take advantage of being on the road. We might check out Chicago this afternoon. Any time you get a day off, you've got to take advantage of it and spend time with your family and friends. It's a hectic schedule, but you've got to find some time to get away."
Do you think Tony Stewart should have gotten a stiffer penalty from NASCAR for his reaction to being black-flagged at Daytona?
"Well, I think they recognized that they need him in the show. He brings a lot of excitement and he's a great racecar driver. He's a threat to win at every race we go to. It would be a shame not to have him out there in the race. I didn't expect a whole lot to be done. I didn't hear what words were said. From what I saw on TV, it wasn't as bad as they made it out to be. I'm sure he probably said some things he shouldn't have said. But sometimes we get very wound-up and intense with the competition out there. Sometimes we don't like what the calls are but we have to deal with them."
What do you think about the yellow line rule?
"I think the rule makes it safer and better for everybody. We don't need to be down there. I was only down there (years ago during his win at Daytona) because that was the only option. And as long as they allowed us to do it, I was going to take advantage of it. But now, it's a situation where you know you can't go down there. You can go down there - even if you're forced down there - but don't make the pass. That's what I got out of what happened last Saturday night. Now it's crystal clear to me to what my job is out there if I go below the yellow line. If you get forced down there, that's one thing. But don't continue on and make the pass."