Note: HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS DRIVERS QUALIFY ONE-TWO-THREE: Jeff Gordon takes the pole, Brian Vickers qualified 2nd, and Jimmie Johnson was third BRIAN VICKERS , NO. 25 GMAC CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (Qualified 2nd): ON THE TALK OF MANDATORY...
Note: HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS DRIVERS QUALIFY ONE-TWO-THREE: Jeff Gordon takes the pole, Brian Vickers qualified 2nd, and Jimmie Johnson was third
BRIAN VICKERS , NO. 25 GMAC CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (Qualified 2nd):
ON THE TALK OF MANDATORY GREEN FLAG FINISHES
"One thing that NASCAR has done over the years that has made this sport so popular along with NFL and other major sports is keeping in mind (both) the entertainment side and the competition and having them be in balance. The entertainment has got to be there, or the fans won't be there. The competition has got to be there and keeps everybody in the garage happy along with everybody outside of the garage. As long as that balance stays the same, the sport will continue to grow."
ON THE NO. 25 TEAM COMING ON STRONG LATELY
"I think the whole team is just starting to come together. All year long I've said that Hendrick Motorsports builds a team slowly but solidly. We might not always come out of the box like a blazing bullet, but in the long run we're going to build a solid team that's more competitive week in and week out. It's taken time. Last year it took time. But when it's there, it stays there. Hopefully, we're starting to see the beginnings of that.
"Regarding qualifying, this No. 25 team as a whole has always qualified well. We had two seconds last year. It was weird. We qualified good at the beginning of the year and lost that a little bit when we started focusing on our race stuff, which needed a lot of improvement. Once we stepped that up, we've kind of come back to qualifying. You've got to find that balance. Sometimes when you're looking for one, you lose the other. And then you've got to step it back up."
WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT KEY TO SUCCESS FOR SUNDAY?
"There are so many things. Track position is going to be one of them. This is a big, fast race track. Aero is a large part of it. The dreaded aero push was there 50 years ago, they just didn't know what to call it. Air has always been there and it's always affected the way cars handle. Now, we know how to utilize it and we understand what happens when we lose it. You can't make it go away. You can't make air disappear. Track position is key to that.
"For us, ideally we're starting up front and we won't have to worry too much about the aero push. If we do lose track position, we're going to have to concentrate on making big changes on those pit stops to get the car freed up to get back to the front and then back to where it needs to be once we get there. And, we saw a lot of engines blow last week. We don't need to do that. More than anything, we just need to be there at the end."
AS THE TEAM HAS GROWN, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED THE MOST?
"I've learned the same thing I learned the most last year and 10 years ago and that's patience. Last year, I thought I learned a lot. And this year, I think I didn't learn nearly enough last year. Patience in myself and patience in my team and things take time sometimes. You have to accept that. I guess that comes along with being 20 and running wide-open. But the whole team has really come together, but we all have to have the patience to work together and work through the problems and get better. That's the biggest thing. There are things off the race track and behind the scenes."
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HAVE YOUR FINISHES MATCH YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORTS?
"We've got our qualifying where it needs to be. In the beginning process of building up our races, we qualified good and then fell back to 30th. Then we started falling back to 20th. Then 15th. Last week we fell back to second and third. We led for a little while.
"We were in the top three most of the day until all the pit stop mess happened. As far as the race car throughout the race, it really stayed with us. But we didn't adjust enough. We're learning what those adjustments are. Peter (Sospenzo, crew chief) is learning what I need out of the car and so am I. These races are very different from the Busch Series as far as how the cars handle at the beginning of the race, the end of the race, after Happy Hour and all that. I'm learning all that. The team is learning. We've stepped it up every week. We've just got to be patient and keep learning more and more every week."
ARE YOU CLOSE TO GETTING THAT CONSISTENCY ON RACE DAY?
"Yeah, I feel like we're getting there. We're definitely making progress. That's what I've told all the guys on the team. As long as I see forward progress, I'm happy. I'm never going to be ecstatic until we win. But as long as we're making improvements and not going backwards, I'm happy. You give it enough time and you'll win a race. We can't slack off. We've just got to continue. We're seeing it now. We're getting the cars better and everything better."