JEFF GORDON, ...
JEFF GORDON, #24 DUPONT CHEVROLET (on the pole)
ON HIS QUALIFYING LAPS:
"It was a little bit different today with the tires being a bit softer.
We had to make some adjustments to it. It wasn't where it needed to be. We tweaked on it. Right there towards the end of practice I felt like we hit on some things. If you have confidence in your driving and the team has confidence in setting up the car, it just makes the chemistry that much better and everybody's on the same page as far as communications goes. When we went into qualifying we made a few more adjustments. I was really happy. I took off and I did what I wanted to do. I couldn't ask for much more. I'm pretty confident. I'm sure somebody can beat it and it's hard to tell going out that early."
HOW DOES YOUR SUCCESS HERE HELP YOU?
"At certain tracks that we go to we have that kind of confidence and past success. It really can only work for a short track. The reason I say that is that the body of the car aerodynamically doesn't change that much. The horsepower doesn't change that much. The tires change maybe a little bit. But when you go to an Atlanta, the aero package can make and break you on how well you do there. When you're at a short track you have mechanical grips and aero grips so you're set up doesn't chance that much from race to race, year to year. It's that much easier to get back in the swing of things, get back in that groove. Things don't change that much. I know there's a certain line that I'm trying to make the car go on. There's a certain spot on the track I'm trying to hit. I just focus on that and then if the car isn't doing exactly what I want it to do to run that line, then I go to the guys and say this is where I need help. They make suggestions and say what they want to do. That's when you run with it. You keep altering it. Luckily for us we just have to do tiny bits of that throughout the day and we don't havve to do big major changes."
HOW MUCH OF ROLE DOES STRATEGY PLAY AND DOES THAT CHANGE YEAR TO YEAR?
"It changes as the race goes on. You're gonna have a better of an idea of how much these tires fall off. We know they're a notch softer. I don't think they're a lot softer. Actually tires are slower today than the last time we were here qualifying which is a shock to me. I expect them to go faster. We're just gonna have to see how much they fall off and based on how much they fall off is whether or not we come in or not. I think the last time we were here we ran almost 50 laps on that last set of tires. We're probably not going to do that this time. It depends on what position you're in. If you're leading, you don't want to come in. If you're running second or third, and the leader comes in, you might want to stay out. I think it all just all depends on how the cars are fallin' and I think the strategy changes every time we come here once we know how far the tires can go and how much they fall off."
ON WINNING HERE IN 1999 WITHOUT RAY AND THIS RACE TRACK:
"It was a big boost. It meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to the team that we are working for winning races. I think Ray was the first to call me and say you don't need me anyway. That's not necessarily true. He's the first one to tell you that. The team that was built was built a lot around him and by him leaving it should not have fallen apart. It should have continued to be competitive and it did. I think a lot of credit needs to be given to him for that. Anytime that you go through changes its important for yourself to know you're capable of doing your part of the job. Just as much as Robbie Lumas coming in and him being capable of putting the car in Victory Lane that particular weekend. That particular weekend we had Ron as the crew chief. Basically we're not sure what all is going to happen and transpire with the team at that point and we won back to back races. I think it was sign that we're gonna be OK and that this team stands on a lot more than just anyone. Just like if I left. I think if I left, which I won't be leaving this race team, but if I did it'd still be solid because of the depth of our organization."
ON SPENDING MORE TIME ON THE BRAKES AT THIS TRACK:
"I think it's 50/50. I would say that 50 percent of the time they're on the brakes, 50 percent of the time they're on the gas. Compare that to other tracks, I would stay 10-20 percent on braking and 80-90 percent on the gas. It's a huge difference and more than any other place we go to. It's completely different. Braking has a lot to do with it. A lot of guys don't want to go fast using the breaks. They want to go fast when they get on the throttle. These corners are tight. You gotta work that car all the way through the corners with braking and accelerating. You got to get in there and break the car down without getting out of control. When you go to the throttle you got to control in a way where it doesn't break the car loose."
HAS THE BRAKE TECHNOLOGY CHANGED THE WAY YOU RIDE THIS RACE TRACK?
"Brake technology has changed tremendously. We don't even really worry about brakes anymore over. We've got better cooling systems and brakes that are so much better than they used to be. You don't have to worry about wearing the pads out. It helps being out front, you're running a lot cooler air than when you are in the back and I still think it's a slight advantage. I think that one of the areas we have improved our Martinsville road course programs is through breaking. Some guys had got ahead of us in braking and now we've popped back up to them and have tremendous breaks."
ON KASEY KAHNE BEING EXASPERATED HERE AND (GORDON'S) FIRST IMPRESSIONS HERE:
"This was the number one hardest place to learn. It's just not very smooth, it's very flat. It's a lot of breaking and a lot of patience. This place just sends your mind spinning since you don't know what you are doing right or wrong. Until you find that one thing, that's when you can start relaying good information back to the team. I was very frustrated the first time I was here. My story on Martinsville success is that we came here to test and ran a lot of laps. The first day we were 3 or 4/10th off and we worked really hard and ran lap after lap. Without changing anything to the car, I kept picking up a tenth, then 2/10ths, then 3/10ths. It was just how I was driving the track and ever since then we have been one of the better cars at Martinsville. When you do stuff to find your rhythm here it's amazing how you get faster every time you come. He's doing a great job everywhere we go. If this is the most he has to worry about then he'll be in good shape."
HIS SECRET ON DOMINATING THIS TRACK:
"If I did have a secret, if I told you guys it wouldn't be one anymore. I try to watch tapes of qualifying and races. I do think I ride this track a little different than a lot of guys. It fits my driving style. I drive this track the same every single lap and we work the car around how I drive it. Other than being really consistent with my line, I don't know that there is any particular thing. In qualifying you don't have to be right on the curve. If you're in the curve it could slow you down. For the race being right up next to that curve through the middle of the corners is extremely important. We're going to work on that tomorrow. I think how you drive this track for the race and qualifying is a little bit different."
DO TEMPERS GET AS HOT HERE AS IN BRISTOL AND IF NOT HOW COME?
"Tempers are hot anywhere you go where it's tough to pass especially if you're on a short track. You can't get physically get to that guy and put your bumper to him. This track has been a lot better since they ground the track down and now you can run a lot more on the outside It's still very difficult to pass on. Any track we go to like that, the tempers are gonna to flare. Guys are gonna get upset. If a guy behind doesn't have much patience and bumps a guy out of the way, then that's what gets them going. In a place like Martinsville those are gonna happen. I don't know if it's quite as intense here as Bristol. It's harder to pass at Bristol than it is here. The pure physical ness of Bristol takes a more out of you and anytime exhaustion and heat set in your temper is gonna flare more."