JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "If you throw out the history, maybe people would say Daytona is the big race. I think when you talk to competitors and look at what this race means to a lot of people in this...
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo) "If you throw out the history, maybe people would say Daytona is the big race. I think when you talk to competitors and look at what this race means to a lot of people in this sport, I think the Southern 500 is probably the most prestigious, probably because it's the oldest running speedway race also. "There's not a lot of grip with the tires. It's just different. We've got a different combination to get the car to work good. We're having to really soften the cars up to get them to bite into the race track. Before, the tires would allow the car to grip and now it's not. They don't start out there to begin with, so there's nothing to go away. I think they might be a good tire for the race. It's going to be interesting to see. You don't really start out blazingly fast, but I don't know if you drop off as much, either. I think when we first started practice yesterday and practiced this morning, yes, but that's just because we're trying to run what we ran setup wise underneath the cars in the past and that just doesn't work with this tire. It takes a totally different package. Once we start figuring out what that is, I think we'll get pretty comfortable with it. It's a different compound on the right sides, a lot different compound. I don't know necessarily if there's anything wrong with it. I know there's probably a lot of guys saying it's taken them by surprise, but I think that's because it's so much different. When you take off this thing has unbelievable grip for two or three laps and then it just goes away. Now it just doesn't have that initial grip at the beginning. It seems like the wear stays a little bit better, but the grip is never there. You've got to find other ways to get the tire to grip. "This place can bite you in a second. It's one of those race tracks where you've got to be very careful, be on your toes at all times and not overdrive the race track. The grip is just not there. The track wears out tires very fast. You're on edge a lot, so you've got to be careful and you do have to run your own race. I think things have changed over the last years. Tires are better. They stay with you longer, and cars have more downforce. All these different things. The last time we were here at Darlington, I tried to drive the same race I have driven here in the past five years and it didn't work. If you didn't go hard right from the start and run as hard as you could the whole time and stay out of the wall, you weren't going to be in the top three or four positions and I wasn't. "We're constantly trying to do everything to improve our performance, to improve our team so that we can get back in championship contention. We hope by the end of this year and in the off season that we're ready to do that. It's just getting more consistency in the team and just getting everybody to work well together. I think our performance has been good lately. I've been real happy with how we've been running, but you've got to get it all working together, all that karma going together at the same time. I was talking to Benny Parsons. He said the law of averages has caught up with you. I said, 'I knew it was coming. I knew it would happen eventually. I just hope we don't stay on this average much longer and we get back to those other averages.' "Setups change because things change within the sport, tires, cars those types of things, competition. The setup we used to run here at Darlington is pretty much out the window. You've got to evolve. You've got to catch up. You've got to try new things that get you ahead of the game instead of the same old thing you used to run."
COMMENT ON SAFETY "Obviously something when you initially slam on the brakes that would shut the engine off, that's what they're working on and I think that's the answer. It's just how you do it and how do you make it where it works for everybody. We just don't understand why it's been happening so often (stuck throttles). It seems like it. It seems like every year you'll see one or two guys that'll have it happen. I remember Terry (Labonte) had it happen at Phoenix or maybe it was Rockingham, but you didn't really hear about it a whole lot. I think all of us have probably had it happen to us one time in our career. I have. I had it happen at Martinsville in the Busch car one time. It absolutely destroyed the race car, and I was lucky to walk away from it. For whatever reason, whether it's a vacuum issue or we're creating more horsepower and that's making it happen. I don't know what it is. It's crazy and it should never happen, but when it does happen it can be tragic. I think all of us want the safest possible conditions we can have. Usually when an issue comes up and somebody gets injured, we say, 'how can we prevent that from happening as teams?' I think NASCAR does the same thing. How can we prevent this from happening for the teams? It's kind of one of those things where maybe we don't come right out in the open and work together on it, but we're working behind the scenes on it. When we feel like we've got something good, we'll bring it out."
COMMENT ON SAFETY ISSUE AT NEW HAMPSHIRE "I will be disappointed. At that race track, I think we're so far away from the wall that the wall is not even an issue. There's no reason we can't do something to protect the walls. I don't know if this other thing we're talking about when we go to the brake pedal and keep the throttle from sticking is going to be in place by then, but I think that if New Hampshire doesn't do something to the race track whether it works or not, I think the effort to put something in there that hopefully does work, I think they're going to get a lot of backlash. I know a lot of drivers have said they think something should be done at a place like that. I agree that it's not the fault of the race track. If that fault does happen and let's say it's human error, I don't know what it could be, if it's a mechanical error, but if it happens at that race track injuries can be fatal. Why not put some extra protection out there when it's a race track that all of us agree we want something to be on the walls there that can absorb some more impact. It's not just an issue for the teams or drivers or NASCAR. It's a combination for everybody, and I think everybody should join in and try to prevent it from happening."