Martinsville: Pole winner interview

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, POLE WINNER: ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT: "Obviously I am very excited with that lap. We were, I don't know where we ended up in practice - fifth or so, the car was tight. I know we always say this, but I am...

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT IMPALA SS, POLE WINNER:

ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT:

"Obviously I am very excited with that lap. We were, I don't know where we ended up in practice - fifth or so, the car was tight. I know we always say this, but I am really really proud and excited about what Steve Letarte and this DuPont Chevrolet team did today because I felt like we got beat in practice. We just never gave up on it, made some adjustments for qualifying and they were certainly all the right ones. It allowed me to put two ends of this race track together, that I don't know if I have ever put together here. We have been on poles here before, we have been close to poles here before and in those runs, you will hit one end of the race track or one section of the race track really good. But, it is rare that you ever can put the whole lap together at both ends. With the way the car worked and the way I was able to hit the marks at both ends, that is where that gap was to be able to run that 66, pretty impressive. It impressed me, I will be honest with you, it impressed me to run that kind of lap time. Never thought we could. Just tells you that it was great work by the team."

ON WHAT HAS MORE VALUE, THE SKILL OF THE DRIVER OR THE PERFORMANCE OF THE VEHICLE:

"There is the debate. Now, we can talk about this for a while. I think sometimes it depends on what race track you are at. There are certain race tracks, road courses and short tracks, where I think the driver plays a bigger role. The team and car always plays a role, some tracks it plays more of a role. Like I said, had the team not made the right adjustments, Steve and the guys putting their heads together, we were a fifth or sixth place car today. I was the same one driving it in practice that drove it in qualifying. I fell like today was a perfect example of the best of those worlds all coming together at one time."

ON HOW MARTINSVILLE SUITS HIS DRIVING STYLE:

"This race track, even though the re-did the concrete and they changed the curb, it really didn't change that much. I went through a little bit of a transition when they first did that, but less of a transition from car to car. I think this is a track, I have been driving this track almost the same way since 1993, my first year in the Cup series. All those laps and that experience, when we finally hit on some things with the car in addition to the line and some things that I found driving, I have been able to fine tune each and every race we come back here. I think the fact that we finished all 500 laps of this race so many times, also really has paid off. All we have tried to do is get the new car to feel like the old car. On a track like this where down force really isn't an issue, the speeds that we are running, it is really about mechanical grip and getting the car to not roll too much through the corner, roll through the corner well but not roll over. I think this team has done a great job of giving me the same feel coming back here with this car."

ON WINNING THE POLE TURNING THINGS AROUND:

"Yes, turn things around, it has been terrible (SAID IN JEST). Like I said earlier (LAUGHS). I don't mind people saying hey, you are 14th in points, you aren't having the type of year you had last year. It bothers me when somebody says we aren't running good because we have been running great. It there is a big difference in my opinion between running good and finishing good. I think if we are at fault for anything, it is that we were off in Bristol. I'll take blame for the crash in Vegas. I think the team feels responsible for what happened to us in Daytona. We put those things aside, we have been running strong, we have been leading laps and running up front. But, the competition has stepped up and we have to step up along with it as well. We certainly need to be better. Being here on the pole, hopefully we can continue that on through the weekend. I know how it works, I can win this race and everybody will say Oh, he is back, everything is great, perfect, no problems. That is just the way the world works that we live in."

ON ANY CONCERNS ABOUT WEATHER EXPECTED TO BE MUCH COOLER ON SUNDAY:

"No, when it is concrete, it just doesn't change the characteristics and the balance of the cars as much as usual. It will take a little bit longer to get heat in the tires, we can run a little bit more tape. I feel more for the fans than I do for myself. Maybe the pit crew can get a little bit tight on pit road when it is cold. So keeping those guys muscles warmed up and stretched is necessary. But for us inside the car, we like it cool. The cooler the better. Plus, we get hot enough under our skin and inside the cars usually around this place anyhow so anything to keep us cool as well as the brakes. But I don't think it will change the characteristics of the race or the race track too much."

ON HAVING THE ABILITY TO GET THE FIRST PIT STALL AND WHAT IS BENEFIT OF PITTING THERE:

"I think it is huge. I think it is very significant because if you have a hiccup, it can help you rebound so much quicker and easier. All you are worried about is getting to that line, not far off of pit road. You are driving straight; you don't have to go around anybody. Obviously, the biggest concern and goal being in that stall, is making sure you are ahead of the guy that is in the pit stall behind you, which is usually the case that good cars will pick that pit stall as well. We might not have always had that first pit stall, but we typically have had good pit stalls here and that makes a big difference. It doesn't necessarily speed up the pit stops, it just allows you to get in and out a lot easier and make up that time right there. It isn't about speed or momentum, it is just getting to that line and I just think, going back to what I was saying, you can have a bad of a pit stop and it won't be as bad. You can have an issue, whatever it may be and be back a little bit further on the track and make up three or four positions or more positions on pit road and not have to worry about trying to make them all up on the race track."

ON IF TEAM HAS SAT DOWN IN A MEETING TO DISCUSS WHERE TEAM IS NOW AND WHAT, IF ANYTHING, THEY NEED TO CHANGE TO IMPROVE:

"We didn't sit down, the No. 24. I couldn't tell you what all went on, because I was on vacation. I think Rick (Hendrick) was fishing so it was business as usual for all of us. We did go do that Darlington tire test, on Tuesday afternoon, but I honestly it is not time to panic, I am not concerned, I feel good about where our race team is, I still think we have a championship caliber team. I am more concerned about the way we ran at Bristol, really than anything else. If you look at our stats and stuff, you guys wouldn't even think about that one really, you are going to look at Daytona and Vegas. To me, those two races don't concern near as much because we were running really good at those races as Bristol does. So it is pretty much business as usual for us, I know that the No. 48 did some testing. I am not sure with the guys at the No. 5 car, the No. 88 is in pretty good shape, so as far as I know, it was business as usual."

ON IF FINISH THIS YEAR COMES DOWN LIKE LAST YEAR:

"I don't really think I could do anything different, I have run through it and certainly seen it plenty of times on TV. It is kind of hard to get away from it sometimes to try to figure out what we could do anything different. I really think it goes back to pit strategy and fine tuning the setup on the car. We got a little bit too tight there behind Jimmie (Johnson) late in the race, I felt like we were the faster car, just not fast enough to make the pass. I think if I did get inside of him, I might use him up a little bit more. I am not going to do anything to jeopardize or risk the relationships that we have within our organization as teammates, as well as risking me not finishing second or Jimmie, or any of my teammates. I am not going to go in there and just drive in to the back of them to win the race. Obviously I am going to use more caution if it is a teammate but I would use, I don't think I would do it a whole lot different, I know I have hit some guys along the way and have won some races. But that is not the way I like to win, hey who knows, heat of the moment in the race, it might be totally different, but sitting here right now, that is the way I would approach it."

ARIC ALMIROLA, NO. 8 U.S. ARMY IMPALA SS, QUALIFIED 3RD: ON HIS QUALIFYING EFFORT:

"We had a really good car in practice. Our Impala SS was pretty good. We just weren't great. We had a couple of issues we needed to work on and Tony Gibson (crew chief) and all the guys on the U.S. Army team fixed them. We were hoping to just back up what we did in practice and I think if we had done that we would have been somewhere around 15th to 20th. That was really what we were hoping for. We far exceeded our expectations. Just proud of all my guys on my team, they did an excellent job to give me a good car."

ON MARTINSVILLE TRACK AND IF HE WANTS THEM TO KEEP TWO RACES:

"I tell you what, I love this place. I raced here in my late model, the big late model race a couple of times. I really enjoy coming to this race track. We get to drive here, we don't have to fly, it is only a couple hours from home. It makes it nice to able to come up here and race. So I would disappointed, I think, a little bit, if they lost a date. I am not in charge, so I will do whatever NASCAR says. I am just happy to be playing on the same play ground as these guys."

ON HOW GOOD QUALIFYING EFFORTS HELPS HIS CONFIDENCE:

"It means a lot obviously, when you have good cars, it makes it easy. Having fun. All the guys on the U.S. Army team are a great group of guys and they work really hard. They have confidence in me and I have confidence in them. It makes it fun when I come to the race track, that is what it is all about."

ON WHAT HE LEARNED HERE AT MARTINSVILLE IN LAST YEAR'S RACE:

"I learned that I didn't want to catch on fire. That was bad. We didn't learn very much, we didn't have a very good car. We fought it the entire weekend that we were here. But, the No. 8 team, Tony (Gibson) and the guys on this team have notoriously run good here. They have had cars here and have a really good setup for this race track. We unloaded good today and didn't make my job that hectic from the time we unloaded, we were pretty close. We just worked on it and tweaked it and made it a little bit better. It was nice to unload that close."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Cup