Mike Skinner, No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 2nd): "At first, I thought we was going to be on the backstretch for sure. We really felt that our Lowe's Chevrolet was going to have to run somewhere in the .20's to be on the pole...
Mike Skinner, No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo (qualified 2nd): "At first, I thought we was going to be on the backstretch for sure. We really felt that our Lowe's Chevrolet was going to have to run somewhere in the .20's to be on the pole here today from the practice speeds we saw earlier and the pace that my teammate, Jeff Green, had set. We made some adjustments. I think he put a pound of air in the right front (tire) and took one out of the right rear. We probably should have put three in the right front and took two or three out of the right rear. The car spun the tires all the way up both straightaways. We really got through the corners well. It's always an eventful deal, qualifying here at Bristol. Eight out of ten times when you qualify at this place, if you're not out of breath at the end of those two laps, you're usually starting in the back. You've just got to run so hard here. You just can't leave nothing on the table here. I felt like I didn't leave anything on the table, but I didn't feel like our racecar was strong enough to start on the front row. Fortunately it did. Congratulations to Jeff (Green). I guess it was pretty good."
Is the job hunt on? "Yes, it is."
Does your performance help to encourage you in that effort? "No, I don't think so. People that understand racing that have watched this whole thing unfold don't have any doubt that I can drive a racecar and that I can put racecar up front and that I can win. The people that have been doubting that don't understand the sport very well. We'll be okay."
Since Bristol is a tough physical track, do you feel safe in your racecar? "Yes. The RCR cars, as we saw at Chicagoland, are real safe racecars. We took a hard hit there when that tire blew out, I didn't know if I was fixing to breathe my last breath or not. And here we are back here racing four or five weeks after it happened. So, yeah, I believe our cars are safe and my hat's off to NASCAR for doing everything they're doing to try to make things better. I think that's special. I think Chevrolet has done a great job. They're the ones that came to me and asked if I wanted to wear a HANS device. It feels good to have the manufacturers behind you like that."
Do you think that wearing the HANS device saved your life in that Chicago crash? "Personally, in my heart, yes I do." I just want to thank everybody for sticking with me. We've had a lot of phone calls since all this has unfolded. All our sponsors have been great. We've had lots of support. We really appreciate everything that everybody has done for us. I'm going to get healed up. I don't want to be driving in pain every week. We want to be 100% when February rolls around."
Jeff Green, No. 30 AOL Chevrolet Monte Carlo (first Winston Cup career pole): "I knew this Chevrolet was awesome all day long. I knew if I could pull a lap like I'd been doing all day and if the guys gave me a racecar like I'd had all day, that we had a shot at winning the pole. I just didn't think the track would be that slow. The track was a lot slicker. My car pushed on (turns) two, three, and four. It cost me a tenth or so down there. I never dreamed that it would hold up. I figured (Jeff) Gordon and those guys would be a little bit better. But we were the fastest and that's what matters. You know, this is my favorite race track. A lot of people ask me about that and Bristol is the first one that comes out of my mouth. I guess that's the way it's supposed to be. But it's all about the guys and this AOL Chevrolet. We were fast off the truck and that's what it takes to win poles and win races."
On this being a good weekend for Richard Childress Racing: "It's a credit to what Richard (Childress) does with his teams and to Mike Skinner for sitting on the outside front row like he is. Kevin Harvick would have been there with us if he hadn't of had a problem. That's why I chose to go with RCR for the next three years. It's a first-class operation from the guys he hires to the equipment we run. When you're sitting in great equipment and you've got good guys surrounding you, that's what makes results and wins championships. I'm very fortunate to have those guys. I've been racing Todd Barrier and Kevin Harvick on the Busch side and they've been beating my butt every week. I'm proud to be a part of them now. I've still got a job I've got to do for Nesquik and Ford and try to win races every week for the rest of the year in the Busch Series. But I'm really looking forward to next year and the years after that, hopefully with RCR, and then I can retire after that. I've got 10 or 12 years more, and hopefully I can stay there the rest of my career."
As a part-time effort and only 7 races with this team this year, did you think you'd have a shot at a pole this soon? "We're very fortunate that we've gotten to test everywhere we've raced. You get seven tests and we're racing seven races. That gives us a little bit of an advantage on the guys that didn't get to test. We've had opportunities in the first four races I think. I don't know if we'd sit on the pole, but to be in the top five or top 10. Going out the first two or three of them didn't help us. We didn't have the results we wanted in qualifying. We've had good races, we just haven't had the results there either. We've just got to put a whole weekend together and this is the first step toward it."
What does it mean to get your first Cup pole? "It means we get the first pick on pit road tomorrow night, that's about it. Hopefully this is the first of many. I'm very fortunate to have a great race team. It sure helps when you've got guys who put together a racecar like they do. They're a first class operation. When you get the tires on the ground and you can get the throttle down like I could today, it made my job a little easier. It made it kind of tough going back and forth between the Cup and the Busch car today, but I just had to set my mind right when I got in that AOL Chevy to make sure I did my job. I didn't want to let them down. I was really kind of disappointed with my lap, but it held up for us."
Do you feel comfortable and safe in your racecar? "Absolutely. We did some work on our seat this week. Brian Butler has come out with a new headrest and shoulder supports and we put that in our Chevrolet. It really makes me feel safer and I'm sure it is or we wouldn't have done it. What we've learned over the last six to eight months on seat and seatbelt and headrest technology is really making us feel safer. I feel safer now in my racecar than I ever have. Wearing the Hutchens devices adds to that and I'm very proud of that. You know, this track is fast but you're still not running 180 mph. You can still get hurt here. You can break stuff here. And we're just trying to make it as safe as we can. We're still not trying to hit anything either. We're just trying to make it safe, pull in those belts as tight as we can, and then after that it's in the good Lord's hands."
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We've run real well here in the daytime. We've had a couple of good runs at night, but just never put it all together. There's a definite difference between day and night. The track's faster and you've got to make the right adjustments. Hopefully this weekend we can put a great effort behind this Dupont Chevrolet. We've got a great car and a decent starting spot and hopefully we can put it all together here tomorrow night. Track position is extremely important anywhere we go. I always want a fast racecar and that's always my number one request to my guys. Without a fast racecar you don't have track position and that makes it a lot tougher."
How do you stay focused? "I just tell myself that all we can do is to keep working extremely hard and just fight for every position on every lap and get the best we can out of the car and run as well as we possibly can."
What is it like to sit in that racecar at Bristol with all the fans and all those camera flashbulbs going off? "It's really an awesome feeling to be out there - especially under the lights at nighttime. The fans are just awesome the way they support our sport of racing. The flashbulbs can be a little distracting at times, but you know when they're going off that the fans are excited. We want to put on a good show for them and put this Dupont Chevrolet up front."
Bobby Hamilton, No. 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo: "We were good here in the spring, and we unloaded with a decent set-up. And we had made a gear selection that we thought might be better, and then we decided to change gear for qualifying and I think that was the biggest thing between reality and consistency. The gear we had in it was making it hard to drive. In hindsight now, as loose as the track got, we needed a higher gear. So we made the right call on gear switching I think.
"I think the racetrack is going to get real slick for tomorrow. It's hot, for one thing. The Busch cars are going to lay a lot of rubber down. Tomorrow night, we'll lay a bunch of rubber down. For some reason at night, the track actually has more grip and tears the tires off. I think whoever has the best shock package will have the best car out there.
Do you think you'll have to adjust the car a lot at the beginning of the race? "I think what we learn in Happy Hour and what little time we had in practice before qualifying that we'll have it down so that we don't have to mess with it much during the race."