JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (ON THE HARSH COMMENTS BY TONY STEWART AT DOVER LAST WEEKEND) "Hey, I was pretty harsh in my comments as well. But I recognize that we have to race week in and week out. We're trying to win a ...
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
(ON THE HARSH COMMENTS BY TONY STEWART AT DOVER LAST WEEKEND) "Hey, I was pretty harsh in my comments as well. But I recognize that we have to race week in and week out. We're trying to win a championship here. We're not trying to prove who can go out there and wreck one another. It's not about that. I want to move on and move past it and go racing. And we've had three rough weeks. The last thing I need to be doing is worrying about Tony Stewart."
(HAVE YOU TALKED OR ARE YOU PLANNING ON TALKING TO EACH OTHER?) "He called me this week and I called him back and left him a message."
(WHEN TEMPERS GET HOT IS IT PARTLY BECAUSE THE CARS AREN'T THAT FUN TO DRIVE ANYMORE?) "I definitely think the cars are a little bit more on edge. And that's the time when we've got to give and take a little bit more and not less. But you know that if you can keep that guy behind you that it's a huge advantage. It's tough. I don't know a solution for it. It's just hard because we've learned so much over the years and you can't take that knowledge that we've gained away from us. And so you can't go make these cars the way they were eight or 10 or 15 years ago because it's just not the same. We're dealing with a totally different amount of knowledge about aero and the mechanical grip and shocks and springs and all that stuff.
"But the track seemed to widen out. Once it widened out, it seemed to be a little bit better. But it's been hard to pass for a number of years. But maybe the cars are stuck a little bit better so guys and a little bit more control or it didn't take as much to get them turned around. I'm in favor of the rules. I'd like to see the tires even softer. We've gained back so much of the downforce, that I can't say that we've really lost that much as far as downforce."
(DO YOU THINK THE OTHER TEAMS ARE STARTING TO CATCH UP WITH ROUSH AND HENDRICK NOW?) "It's inevitable that as the season goes along. And we may have gotten ahead of them during the off-season and the beginning of the season, but over time the competition is going to close up and those guys are going to get closer to anybody who has an advantage. But we don't really know. I feel really good about our program and our whole organization and Roush has a strong one as well. And there are some other guys and teams out there who have shown signs of running really well. We'll just have to wait and see."
(ON THE GEAR RESTRICTIONS AT POCONO, DID IT FEEL ANY DIFFERENT IN PRACTICE?) "I'm really against what they've got here. I think it's really going to make the racing bad. With us not being able to shift and get up off the corners is not a good thing. I wish there were exceptions they had throughout the season and places where the gear rule didn't exist and this should be one of them in my opinion."
(WHERE ARE THE OTHERS?) "Obviously road courses; and Daytona and Talladega already really doesn't exist. But this track is so unique and so different than any one we go to, I think it should be one where they let it be."
(HOW CRUCIAL IS IT GETTING OFF TURN 3 WITH THE NEW GEAR?) "It's always crucial to get off Turn 3. But that's going to be a big focus because the rpms drop so much over there that you get the engine down to where it just doesn't want to pull up off there and you lose a lot of speed there. If you get your car working really well there, I think it's going to be the only place you can pass - especially because of the gear rule."
TONY STEWART, NO 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
(WILL WE SEE TIGHTER RACING - LESS STRUNG OUT -- HERE ON SUNDAY?) "By theory, it should be that way. But I think without having the gear to help you get off the corner - if you do lose your momentum through the corner - I think it's really going to hurt you. It's definitely going to put an emphasis on making sure you get your car right."
(ON THE ISSUE WITH JEFF GORDON AT DOVER..IS THERE A SITUATION BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU NOW?) "There isn't. I've called him three times and left him messages to call me, but I've been out of town for the past couple of days, so I don't know if he's called me or not. But I don't think there is anything there. I know the stuff he said after the race was harsh, and then it kind of got me wound up too, but I think that's heat of the moment stuff. Jeff is a professional and I don't think Jeff would ever take anybody out intentionally anyway. So after I got home, I didn't think there was too much truth to that anyway."
(IS THE PRESSURE OF TRYING TO MAKE THE CHASE PUTTING DRIVERS ON THE EDGE?) "I don't think that's the case. Before, you had 36 races and all of them counted. Now, it's just important to make sure you're in the top 10 with 10 races to go. For guys like Jeff (Gordon) and myself, one week isn't going to hurt us because we both have good enough teams that we're going to be in the top 10."
(WHEN TEMPERS GET HOT IS IT PARTLY BECAUSE THE CARS AREN'T THAT FUN TO DRIVE ANYMORE?) "It's us as drivers behind the wheels. The set-ups aren't much fun anymore. They don't drive like cars anymore. They aren't quite like they used to be. But from where they started 50 years ago to where they are now isn't the same."
(SO ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF THE RULES PACKAGE RIGHT NOW?) "I'd like to see us get back to more conventional set-ups. These set-ups are strictly based around aerodynamics and how to hold the attitude of the car in a certain position to make it do what we need it to do. It's not about getting over bumps and things like that like it used to be. It's a lot less fun feeling in the car than what it used to be. It's more like a go-kart ride now."
(ARE YOU SURPRISED AT WHERE DRIVERS LIKE DALE EARNHARDT JR. AND JEFF GORDON ARE IN THE STANDINGS AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON?) "Jeff is definitely going to come up. He'll be back in the top 10 after this week, there's no doubt in my mind about that. There are guys who have struggled early in this year. That's what happens when technology and the rules packages change so much. Some teams stumble on the combination right away and some take a lot longer to get caught up on what packages we need to be on."
(WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT MESA MARIN RACEWAY IN BAKERSFIELD POSSIBLY SHUTTING DOWN?) "Yeah, Kevin (Harvick) has talked to about it - especially since he grew up in Bakersfield and raced there a lot. It's really sad that neighborhoods can go in there and run a race track out of business now. I feel very fortunate that I'm in the part of the country I'm in - out in the middle of nowhere."
(WILL THE IMPOUND RULE HAVE ANY IMPACT HERE?) "I don't know. We've never done it here before. I don't think it will. If anything, it'll probably help us. Most of the time we're having to waste our time doing set-ups for two hours for a two-lap qualifying run. And then we switch it over and do two 45-minute sessions the next day. Now, we've got more time to work on our race package. So I think it's a good thing."
(ON NOT SHIFTING AT POCONO) "It won't be much different. It's nice not to have to worry about shifting. It's one less variable that you have to worry about - braking because of the shifting back and forth or shifting in the wrong spots where you've seen guys get loose and wreck before. So I think it's a good thing all around."
MIKE BLISS, NO. 0 NETZERO BSTY BUY CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Note: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Brendan Gaughan will share driving duties Bliss, who underwent successful hernia surgery Monday morning, for this weekend's event at Pocono:
(HOW ARE YOU FEELING AND WHAT IS THE PLAN FOR THE WEEKEND?) "I'm feeling like a hundred bucks (laughs). The plan is that I'll practice here this afternoon, I'll qualify the car, and I'll start the car in the race and then Brendan will get in it at the first yellow. That's Plan A. Plan B is that I don't pit and I stay out there until I run out of fuel (laughs). If the car is good, I sure won't come in and say, 'Oh boy, this car is good.here you go!'
"Seriously, we just want to make sure that NetZero and Best Buy and all the team gets everything. And if half-way through the race I don't think I can do it, well that's not good for everybody. There are a lot of races in my career and one race isn't going to make or break me. If Brendan goes out and wins the race, that'll probably break me (laughs).
"I had the operation Monday morning and by Monday afternoon, I was in bed wondering what I did to myself. This hurts more than I thought it would. So we had to come up with a plan. Brendan is a good guy and I know he'll do a good job. We just had to have a backup plan if I just couldn't get in the car."
(ON THE GEAR RULE FOR POCONO) "I ran one lap in the first practice and Brendan has been doing all the testing up to this point. I'll do the second practice. Looking at lap times, I don't see where the speeds really fell off from when they were shifting. If you look at Turn 3 to the front stretch, that's where you have to carry the most speed. But I haven't been here since 2000. I was surprised how rough it's gotten since then. Over at the tunnel, they've got a speed bump out there - and I'm not too sure they didn't put it in there for a speed bump. It's a lot rougher than I remember. I don't think shifting is going to make the race any better or not better. It's the same for everybody. I don't like shifting in general because it's more work I have to do in the race car. No, I don't mind shifting. But it's something less to think about if we don't."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
(HOW WAS PRACTICE WITH THE NEW RULES?) "It's a lot different. There is a lot less going on. Believe me, you want to shift the way the car is pulling up off the corner, but you can't. There is just way too much rpm - way too big of a split. It's a different feeling out there and a different set-up with the smaller spoiler as well. So all in all, it's a much different Pocono that I've experienced so far."
(WOULD YOU FEEL MORE CONFIDENT IF THE RULES WERE THE SAME AS LAST YEAR?) "If we had last year's rules, I think our set-up would be a lot closer. We started with what we ran last year. We're fair. We're not bad. We're definitely solid in the field. A couple cars are a little better than us. Last year we had such an advantage and such a good race car. With this new package, we're aggressively working to try to change the car around to get it right and make it faster."
(WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF MESA MARIN CLOSING DOWN?) "I just read that on the way here this morning. I personally haven't raced there. I've watched my brother race there in the Late Model Truck division series. I've watched the Craftsman Truck Series there. It's sad to see it going away. It's a great short track for the west coast. They need even more race tracks out there because the sport is growing in popularity. There are more drivers and teams who want to be involved. I hate to see them lose such a great race track. But in reading the article, I guess I understand where the owners are coming from. I just wish that they'd be open to selling it - even to Kevin Harvick or somebody who was born in that area and raised on that race track. If you look at what Tony Stewart is doing with Eldora, it would be a great opportunity for a Kevin Harvick or a Ron Hornaday or somebody to take it over and keep it going."
(WOULD YOU EVER WANT TO BUY A LOCAL TRACK?) "I've had different thoughts. I don't really know what it takes or how much time it takes. But like any business, you really need to be hands-on to do the right things and have it be successful. So with that in mind and our limited schedule, I don't know how Tony Stewart is doing it. I'm sure he's having a good time, but I'm enjoying the little bit of free time I have right now."
(HOW DID YOU REACT TO TONY STEWART'S COMMENT AT DOVER ABOUT YOU AND RYAN NEWMAN AND JEFF GORDON BEING TAKERS AND NOT GIVERS?) "I was pretty shocked. I think the sport is changing and we've all noticed it through the years. His comments were based along the line that our sport is changing. You have to race every lap as hard as you can. The give-and-take game that he's really good at and other guys are good at, you can't do that anymore. You have to race for every position. I know that Tony works well with me and he gives me some help and cuts me some slack and I do that same thing back to him. Earlier in the race, I was going backwards and I pointed him and a few other cars by. But everybody is racing harder and everybody's style is changing right now."