JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET -- QUALIFIED 3RD: TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAP "Oh, man, I feel like I'm on the pole right now. It's been quite a while since we've qualified well; since like Darlington (when) I was in the top three or five, or...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET -- QUALIFIED 3RD:
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LAP
"Oh, man, I feel like I'm on the pole right now. It's been quite a while since we've qualified well; since like Darlington (when) I was in the top three or five, or three I guess, and then maybe Pocono since we were in the top five. We've just really, not that we haven't been trying hard; we've been trying really hard to qualify better. And I feel like it has been impacting our races. I feel like one thing that we do well is qualify well and we're used to qualifying up front and we race better when we qualify up front. And I don't feel like we've been doing a good enough job with that. So today is definitely a big plus and a big gain there. After that last run in practice I wasn't so optimistic but Steve (Letarte) and all the guys made some great adjustments. The car was balanced really well and the track obviously changed because the track seemed to slow down a little bit for most guys, but for us it picked up a little bit. So, here we are third. It's a great day."
SIX OF THE TOP 10 SPOTS WERE NON CHASE GUYS
"Yeah, if you look at practice and who was up in the top 10 or 15 spots, it just seems like the track threw a bunch of guys really far off because normally we pick up grip and we go faster in qualifying. It seemed like a lot of guys tried to push the cars to go faster and actually slowed down qualifying. And so I think that's kind of what threw it off and why there are so many non-Chase guys up there in the top 10 right now. But you've got to give a lot of credit to those teams too. Right now they have nothing to lose. They're out there trying to find something to finish their season off and something for next year, you know, to get their program going and stronger. And so a lot of times they just go for broke and sometimes they hit on something. And it's not unusual this time of year for that to happen."
EARLY ON IN SUNDAY'S RACE, WITH SO MANY CHASE GUYS FURTHER BACK IN THE PACK, DO YOU ANTICIPATE KIND OF HAIRY EARLY GOING?
"I'm just glad right now I'm not having to deal with that. I've been dealing with that every weekend for the last 10 or 12 weeks it seems like. It's not fun. It doesn't matter whether there are Chase guys or non-Chase guys, it's never fun starting mid-pack. The cars don't drive as good because of the aerodynamics and the turbulent air and everything. You're really not sure how to adjust the car because if you do get to the front, it's probably going to handle different and there's always more risk to get yourself caught up in something. So for a change, we got ourselves in a good spot and let those other guys deal with what we've been dealing with and I'm sure they'll make their way up there. I think when this race comes down to the end, you're still going to see the guys that are bound for the championship up front."
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO A STRETCH MOSTLY COMPRISED OF INTERMEDIATE TRACKS AND WILL WE LEARN WHO THE STRONGEST TEAMS ARE IN THIS CHASE FROM NOW UNTIL CHARLOTTE?
"Yeah, you know, it's funny because that's been our weakness the last couple few years in the Chase is the 1.5-miles. And it's something that we really went to work on last year at this time. I feel like it's something that we've been much better at this year. So we've gotten through these first two races and they didn't go exactly the way we were hoping and the whole time leading into the Chase we were saying our strength is our 1.5-mile program; let's get to Kansas. I couldn't help but get down a little bit from our finish last weekend at Dover but this is certainly given some spark back to our confidence. This is a track that we've run well at as well as it's a 1.5-mile. We've always heard, at least in the last few years, the guys who are strong on the 1.5-miles seem to be the guys that win the championship. And we certainly hope that that holds true this year as well because that's where we've put a lot of our focus. You've still got to be good at the other tracks but I think a lot of times the 1.5-miles, because there are four or five of them in there that they seem to be more of a determining factor."
WITH THE OLD CAR, IT WAS SO IMPORTANT TO GET A GOOD QUALIFYING POSITION BECAUSE THE CARS WERE SO AERO-SENSITIVE. IS IT THE SAME WITH THIS CAR? AND DOES IT QUALIFYING IN THE TOP 10 MEAN AS MUCH NOW AS WHEN YOU'D RUN THE TWISTED SISTER CAR?
THAT'S WHAT THEY CALL IT. SOMEBODY CAME UP WITH THAT, I DIDN'T MAKE THAT UP
"That's the first time I've ever heard it called that. But it's a good analogy. It's good. I like it (laughs). Qualifying is far more important now than it was then. And I'll tell you why. Aerodynamics are always playing a role in motorsports, all kinds of motorsports; and never more important than today. The difference is that these cars are aero-sensitive. The problem is that they're all so identical. The speed of the cars are all so close that it's so hard to get an edge on the competition It's so much harder to work your way through the field. And so in some ways to me, it makes the cars more aerodynamically sensitive in traffic. But, the nice thing is we're here at Kansas which is a nice wide race track with multiple grooves and that's an absolute must for this car. If you aren't allowed to get yourself in clean air here some way, based on a wide-groove race track, you're not going anywhere. You're not going to the front."
SO ARE YOU SAYING THERE IS MORE PARITY? "Far more parity today than there ever has been in my opinion. If you look at the times from qualifying today versus several years ago with the old car, you would have a much bigger gap with the old car versus the new. I think the same thing in the race. The pace in the race, sometimes you will be running 15th and only a tenth or two off in front of you but you just can't seem to find that gap until cleaner air. Then all of a sudden there it is. You can be off just the tiniest bit and it seems like you are off a mile. Where with the old car, you could be off a lot and never get it, and even if you got to the front, it might not have changed a whole lot of things. There was some more adjustment. I'm not putting down this car. I love this car. I think it has come a long way. I think the racing is fantastic. I struggle with it as a driver from time to time because I haven't been able to figure out some things with it, especially like at Dover. But when we come to a place like Kansas that I have confidence in and we put a good package together, we have a lot of fun with this car and run well and I love."
WHERE DO YOU STRUGGLE THE MOST WITH IT? ENTRY, CENTER?? "The thing about this car is it has a higher center of gravity. It doesn't have the downforce in the front that the old car had, so what happens is it is much harder to use the tools we have to get the car to do all of what you want. We used to be able to make a car comfortable getting in and if it was tight in the middle, we had some tools to free the car up in the middle that didn't affect the exit too much. Now the cars are running sideways down the straightaways just trying to get downforce and side force in them and it makes them not drive perfect. They are just broken up through the corner. Some guys have figured it out and some guys haven't. On our mile and a halfs, we seem to have done a good job with it. Still searching for some things with it on some short tracks."
-source: gm racing