Pole winner Gordon and Chevy drivers reflect on Talladega qualifying

Team Chevy Racing

Jeff Gordon, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET – POLE WINNER THIS IS YOUR 71ST CAREER POLE AND YOUR 20TH CONSECUTIVE YEAR OF WINNING A POLE POSITION, WHICH TIES YOU WITH DAVID PEARSON FOR THE LONGEST STREAK ALL-TIME “Thank you. That’s quite an accomplishment. I’m just so proud of this DuPont Chevrolet team. We needed something to boost our morale and something positive because we’ve had a rough year so far. This is a surprise. We did not expect to be sitting here right now talking to you about a pole. I think it’s so ironic that we’ve got the DuPont paint scheme, which is celebrating 20 years together this year and here we sit on the pole for 20 straight years. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of and it wouldn’t happen without Hendrick Motorsports and everybody on this DuPont Chevrolet team. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) is such a genius and the group he surrounds himself with for every race, but especially these restrictor-plate races when it comes to qualifying. So I got the joy of driving it today.”

AND YOU SAID YESTERDAY THAT YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN LUCK. YOU BELIEVE IN HARD WORK AND THAT’S WHERE WINS COME FROM. AND YET YOU’VE BEEN AMONG THE LAP LEADERS THIS YEAR, YOU JUST DON’T HAVE MUCH TO SHOW FOR IT YET “Yeah, you know I look at every situation of what I could have done and what we could have done as a team to change the results. If you blame it on luck, then you’re kind of putting the blame on something else that you can’t control. I think in this sport, you’ve got to control as much as you possibly can to control your own destiny and get those results. We’re running really good. We’ve got too good of a team and organization and in things like this; you’ve got to also keep the confidence. When you get torn down and torn down, it really puts you to the test as an individual and as a team. And let me tell you, we’ve been put to the test this year, but we’ve not wavered. We stay positive. Like I said, Alan is just a great leader and Rick (Hendrick) and all the messages; and this is a great boost. So, hopefully we can build on this. I know it’s not a win, but it’s still something good to show that this team’s efforts don’t go unnoticed and that we can get those results.”

20 CONSECUTIVE YEARS WITH A POLE IS IMPRESSIVE. CONGRATULATIONS AND GOOD LUCK ON GETTING WIN NO. 200 FOR RICK HENDRICK “Oh, thank you. We look forward to that and what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s going to be fun.”

YOU RAN A DIFFERENT LINE THAN EVERYBODY ELSE. “Yeah, we just wanted to try something a little bit different. We tried it yesterday on the one run that we made. This is a different monster than Daytona and you’ve got to treat it a little bit different; even in qualifying. So, man I’m proud of that lap for this DuPont Chevrolet. I just feel like you can get up to speed; you don’t have to run that big wide lap. It takes more time. We were all taking about heating and cooling and so we tried something different. So far it’s worked out. I did not expect that good of a lap. I knew we were going to be a threat for it (pole), but that’s pretty sporty.”

JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 19th ON HIS RUN: “I think that’s going to put us in the top 15 or top 20. We knew that we wouldn’t really have anything for the pole and this is the case. But we know we’re going to race great on Sunday. We are going to play it smart and be more focused on the race than on a good qualifying spot.”

WITH PRACTICE YESTERDAY, DO YOU HAVE A BETTER FEEL FOR THE TEMPERATURES IN THE CAR NOW AND THE HEAT WE’RE GOING TO DEAL WITH ON SUNDAY? “We didn’t do any practice yesterday for us. We just did some single car stuff. We just didn’t want to put the car at risk and the rules package hasn’t changed. So, we’re just kind of going in blind tomorrow. The heat is the heat. And we’re going to have to manage it for sure. So, it’s going to be tough to keep the cars cool with how hot it’s going to be.”

YOUR BLACK RACE SUIT HAS GOT TO BE HOT “We’re not sure what to really expect from our qualifying effort, but we knew we weren’t really going to have a shot for the pole today. We’re just playing it smart with the risk you can take with the engine and the heat that’s going to be going through these engines. We backed off in some areas and it’ll hurt us a little today, but it will make sure we stick around all race long tomorrow.”

DRIVERS WHO CONSERVE WILL PROBABLY DO WELL, NO MATTER WHAT THE DRAFTING IS LIKE, RIGHT? “It’s wide-open. I don’t think that any strategy is proven at this point. With the element of the heat and the cars wanting to overheat and blowing the PRV-valve off, it could be a pack, it could be a bunch of small packs; it just depends on cooling the cars and how it works. I do feel confident that we won’t see much, if any, of the tandem stuff (except) maybe for the win. So, we’re just going to go. We’re just going to race hard tomorrow and I know everybody else is too. So, we’ll just be out there, hammer down, and see what happens.”

DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD/DIET MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 18th WHAT KIND OF RACING ARE WE GOING TO SEE TOMORROW? WILL IT BE GOOD RACING? “Yeah, I hope so. I think it will be. We always have pretty good races. It’s really, really hot, so I don’t think we’ll see much tandem work.”

ON HIS LAP “I don’t know how good that’s going to be in qualifying; probably the middle of the field. We’ll just see where that ends up and go from there.

DID YOU GET EVERYTHING YOU COULD GET OUT THERE ON THE LAP? “You hold it on the mat. You just hold on and go; it’s pretty easy.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO QUALIFY UP FRONT HERE? DOES IT MATTER IF YOU’RE NOT ON THE POLE? “No, you can go from the front to the back in a couple of laps. The best thing about qualifying good is getting a good pit selection.”

PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/TURTLE WAX CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 17TH: HOW IS YOUR CAR FOR SUNDAY AND WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING THE CAR COOL IN THE RACE? “Oh, it’s going to be a struggle with the heat, for sure. If nothing changes, we’re just going to be playing the management game. We’re just going to have to play the management game and try not to overcook the engines. But the car drove good. It seemed to suck-up fine. It’s just a matter of being there at the end.

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS ON THE TANDEM RACING? WILL WE SEE ANY, PERHAPS AT THE END? “No, I don’t think you’ll see that until the last two laps of the race. It’s too hot.”

RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 14TH CLEAN & COOL AIR IS GOING TO BE AT A PREMIUM TOMORROW. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT RELATIVE TO THE HEAT FOR SUNDAY’S RACE? “We’ll search around and try to keep the noses in some cleaner air and cooler air. That’s a big part of it, obviously. But it hopefully doesn’t affect the race. I would hate for the fans to say the racing was not any good because of us trying to keep our engines cool.”

JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 23RD: ON QUALIFYING AND THE RACE TOMORROW: "We really put much emphasis in to that (qualifying) because we knew we weren't going to have a shot at the pole. Quite honestly, we are probably going to ride around in the back for the first 80 or 100 laps to try to avoid any accidents that could occur. I wish for qualifying we just drew pills. (LAUGHS) I only ran like maybe 10 laps, I don't know (how the car is in the draft). We'll just have to see. There's really not anything you can do, so we didn't risk our car in practice. We didn't think we would make it any better, so we just wanted to save the engine and avoid any wrecks."

REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 31ST: ON QUALIFYING AND HOW IS CAR IS FOR TOMORROW'S RACE: "It was a pretty simple lap. You just hold it wide open and point it straight and see where you end up. The car is decent. There were a couple of areas where I wanted it to do a little bit better at. I wanted it to suck-up a little bit better than it did and I wanted it to not get bogged down quite as much in some situations as it did. So, we worked on a few things overnight. We'll have to see if it works or not tomorrow. It is such a tough race here from a standpoint the cooling and everything else like that going into tomorrow. We're not really sure what type of race we are going to see yet. So, we'll just play it by ear and hopefully find the Furniture Row Chevy toward the front at the end of the day."

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 12TH: ON QUALIFYING AND TOMORROW'S RACE: "This Target Chevy is pretty good. Our main focus is the race, so I am actually surprised with the speed of the car in qualifying trim. We really didn't do anything to it. We're pretty good. It (racing at Talladega) is pretty tricky. We are going back to where I learned at the beginning. It's all about how you position yourself in the right places and see what happens. We don't know what our plan is yet. We have to give ourselves whatever is the best chance to be there at the end."

KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 5TH: ON QUALIFYING AND TOMORROW'S RACE: "That was a big improvement from where we were in Daytona. We wrecked, I think, every car we took as far as Farmers Insurance Chevrolets on the No. 5 side. Just got caught up in a lot of stuff there. The guys have done a really nice job preparing a better car than we had in Daytona. The engine runs great. The Hendrick engine runs awesome. That was a good lap. That was better than I expected."

KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION SERVICES INC. CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 33RD: ON QUALIFYING AND TOMORROW'S RACE: "We have good vibes this weekend coming to Talladega. James Finch is always pumped up for this race, and this team is, and I am. It's a good run to see where we stack up against the competition in a single car run. It's all about the draft. We have to manage our temperatures. As the race progresses, we want to make sure we are in position at the end. You don't win these races in the first half; you win it in the second half."

TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 8TH: ON HIS QUALIFYING AND SUNDAY'S RACE: "It's pretty warm here today. I will take it versus the cold weather we've had to deal with lately. Handling hasn't been an issue at Talladega for about 10 years. (Heat and a slick track) It would on a day like today if it was anywhere but here. Since they re-paved this track, handling hasn't been an issue. They did such a good job and the asphalt has a ton of grip in it. I wish I could say handling was going to be an issue, but unfortunately it's not."

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 29TH: ON QUALIFYING AND TOMORROW'S RACE: "We certainly want to qualify better than that. That is not what we need to be doing. It won't much matter tomorrow. It's a matter of getting yourself in the right position. Trying to get to the front. I think it's best to get to the front and stay in the front. I'm not a ride in the back kind of guy. That just doesn't seem to work very well for me. So, we'll just try to get to the front, and spend as much time up there as we can. I think (the heat) can be an issue tomorrow.

“We really didn't see any problems yesterday in practice, but we will have 25 more cars that's going to be on the race track at the same time tomorrow, and that does make a difference with cooling. It will be right on the edge. Some people will have to be taking care, and some people won't. It will be right on the edge."

KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 RHEEM CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 20TH: ON QUALIFYING AND TOMORROW'S RACE: "Qualifying was pretty uneventful here. It really doesn't matter where you start. Our biggest concern was just keeping all the water in the system, and we were able to do that with our Rheem Chevy. That was really what we were concerned about the most. The car seemed good yesterday in practice. It pulled up good. Obviously it drives good; but the temperatures is just going to be the biggest thing. And, putting yourself in the right position toward the end of the race so that you can get that last lap push, or lap-and-a-half at the most, push. You can manage the temperatures until then."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon
Teams Hendrick Motorsports
Tags chevrolet, earnhardt, gordon, johnson, mcmurray, menard, newman