Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo (pole-sitter - this is Gordon's third pole -- 6/95 & 6/99 -- at MIS "Our guys did a great job. We were a little tight during practice and we freed it up. I don't know what we could have done to...
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo (pole-sitter - this is Gordon's third pole -- 6/95 & 6/99 -- at MIS
"Our guys did a great job. We were a little tight during practice and we freed it up. I don't know what we could have done to make it much better. Of course it was pretty good under the hood getting down the straightaways too. That was an incredible lap for us. If we can run that fast, I'm sure somebody else can run faster. That was just a great effort by this race team. I'm so proud of them and the way they've stepped it up here. That's what we need to do - just go out there and keep performing like that."
After last week, that doesn't sound good for the competition.
"Well, what happened in the race last week doesn't happen very often. You've got to ride it while you can. This sport's pretty humbling. We're just going to keep focusing on our team and hope that we can just keep getting good racecars. That doesn't come along very often to dominate like that, so we're going to try to appreciate it as much as we can and go out there and have a good effort on Sunday."
Why did you only run one lap?
"Well, two laps around this place - it's a long racetrack - two laps isn't going to do you any good. We did the same thing at Charlotte. The Goodyear tires come in great right away, the way this car it set-up and the pressures that we run, and the tape that we run at the front of the car, one lap is really what we shoot for. Now if I'd made a big mistake on the first lap, we would have run another one."
Is the way your team coming together now feels like days of old?
"I'm seeing a team that is just incredible. The teamwork, the unit that they are right now certainly reminds me a lot of what we had - if not more so - maybe even better. I think these guys are working better together than they ever have and that's what's impressed me the most about this group."
Can you breakdown a championship season into critical time in the points and you definitely want to make a move?
"It's a long season. You've got to capitalize on the tracks you run good at and try to survive on the ones you don't. It's early enough in the season where you start thinking about the points, but it's not so early where you start worrying about points. What we've got to do it just go out there and do our job. When we get to that last 20-lap stretch - those last 20 laps are going to be the deciding factor in what teams are the strongest."
Mike Skinner, No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 3rd):
"I wasn't crazy enough to do it twice (take a second lap). I don't know what made the difference. I know that Royce McGee and this whole No. 31 team have really worked hard. We were 42nd on the sheets during practice this morning. The car was just tight, tight, tight and they were trying to help me with my lines and kept telling me to run higher and that I was too low on the racetrack. They were just trying to tell me different ways to do it. Finally, I just told them I just needed to run my own line. And that's what we did."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 7th):
"We were really uncomfortable in practice and we were kind of confused so I think this is really going to help these guys. They (the team) won't set-up for anything less than first, but I was pretty happy with this. We picked-up from practice. Goodyear's done a good job with the new tire. We go to different places and have to adjust our set-ups from last year, but at least we've got a consistent tire every week. That's something we didn't have last year."
Jeff Green, No. 30 AOL Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 17th):
"The AOL car has been awesome ever since we unloaded off the truck. I felt like I messed up a little bit getting into (turn) three and left a little bit out there. But that should put us in the top 15 and that's good enough for us. We ran sixth fastest during practice and it just got a little hotter (for qualifying). I was a little bit conservative."
More comments from Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo
What does it mean to win the pole at Michigan Speedway?
"It's great. This is a racetrack that demands a lot out of a race team. The car has to be aerodynamically good, the horsepower's got to be good, and then we have to set the car up right so communication is real good throughout the day. So it says a lot about our race team right now. We're excited to be able to come off a good run last weekend and back it up. The thing that we're real excited about is that this is the car that we damaged on pit road at Charlotte. These guys had to work pretty hard to get that fender not only back on track, but back where it needed to be to be competitive. Obviously they did a good job with that. And then to wait all that time and have Ricky Rudd come within two-thousands of a second of beating me was pretty amazing right there."
Come Sunday, the 43-car field will have a women, Shawna Robinson, in the line-up. What are your thoughts on that?
"Well, I think it's exciting for everybody. I've always said that it doesn't matter whether you're male or female or what color your skin is if you've got the talent to be out there and you can put a racecar under that is capable of it - this sport deals a lot with the team and the machine - then you deserve to be out there. She certainly proved that today. It was a good lap that she put out there. I'm excited for Shawna. She's been working hard at it. She seems to be the one right now in our sport that has not only the talent, but the desire to be out there. My hat's off to her."
With two or three grooves and lots of passing on this track, how important is it to start from the pole position?
"I always look at qualifying as being very important everywhere we go. But being able to have your first pick for your pit stall is probably the most crucial thing these days about qualifying up front. That's what I'm excited about. As long as I've got a starting position up somewhere towards the front, that's really all that matters to me to be able to stay in that lead group. Sometimes they can get strung out here and if they do, you want to be able to have them in your sight. I think that had a lot to do with last week's (Dover) win for us was being able to start on the front row. We didn't get to do it through qualifying (lined-up on points due to ran), so this week it's nice to be able to do it by qualifying."
What were your feelings while waiting for all the cars to qualify?
"In this sport, you can never say it's over until the last car goes. Too many times either I've been the one to knock somebody off, or I've been sitting there and had somebody else knock me off. And a lot of times it seems like it comes down to that last car. I knew Ricky (Rudd) had a strong car based on practice and so when we got down to that last car we were just watching the computer. When he (Rudd) came up there second I thought, 'Whoa, that was close.' And when he went for a second lap I thought, 'Boy, he's really going to make us sweat.' It was a good run for Ricky. It's never over until that last car is finished."
Is the difference in your team becoming more familiar with each other?
"What a difference a year makes. That's kind of our motto right now. We went through so many changes last year going into the season. We were behind from where our cars needed to be. We were in some ways, starting over. We started to see things coming together and the cars were improving as the year went on. The communication was improving. From the very beginning when I spoke to Robbie (Loomis, crew chief) over the phone, I knew that I liked him as a person and as a crew chief. I knew we'd get along. I knew he had the talent to be there. I knew it would just take some time. You go through times where it's frustrating and you start doubting yourself. You see the doubt in the team. We're fortunate that the last 10 races of the year we really improved. That gave us a lot to build over the off-season and to come out this year strong."
Between the driver and the crew chief and the crew, it's really a team effort, isn't it?
"Oh yeah. Somebody said something - it might have been DW, I don't want to say it was him - but somebody said that these days, especially at a track like Michigan, 80% of it is car and 20% of it is driver. You go to Martinsville or Bristol, and it might be the other way around. You've got to respect that. You've got to understand what it takes to put these cars out there week in and week out, and what it takes to repair one that gets damaged. There's no doubt that the reason I signed the contract I signed with Hendrick Motorsports is because I believe in the resources and the people that are there. No matter what happens to our team, personnel-wise, we're going to always be able to have a strong team."