MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO Note Blew a motor during Friday's qualifying attempt and will start from the rear of the field in Sunday's race. "We broke a motor yesterday. The car has had plenty of speed since we got here.
MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
Note Blew a motor during Friday's qualifying attempt and will start from the rear of the field in Sunday's race. "We broke a motor yesterday. The car has had plenty of speed since we got here. Prior to qualifying yesterday, we didn't have a chance to make a run because they had a caution right when we went out. So we didn't know what to expect from our qualifying run but it was going great and the car was running good and handling well. And then I've been really happy with it today.
"What's fun is that sometimes you'll come here and be happy with the way your car drives, but you'll be slow. And then you just scratch your head when that's the case. This time, I'm happy with the way it drives and it's got a lot of speed in it. And with this new pavement the car sticks better. We should be able to have a good day tomorrow."
ROBBY GORDON, NO. 31 CINGULAR WIRELESS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
"We've been working on a bunch of things during practice today. We continue to not change tires on the car and run tires as long as we could. I think that will definitely come into play when it comes time to go racing. A lot of people forget when that last pit stop is and how many laps you've got to run on tires. It's very hard to pass. So we're trying to make sure we have a car that doesn't completely boil the rear tires late on the runs. And looking at last year's note, we won the race but I still complained about it being a little too loose. So I think here, we're going to have to be on our game.
"I think we're as good as anybody. We're a lot better than it shows. We were good in qualifying. Just tire-hopped. If you look at all the segment times, we had Jeff (Gordon) beat in Turn 7 so it is what it is. I think we have a plan and we're sticking to it. The plan changed a little bit once we didn't qualify in the top five. Stay tuned. We have a plan. By lap 40, we'll lead"
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO (ON THE COMPETITION)
"I would imagine we'll be battling him (Robby Gordon). I think Rusty (Wallace) is going to be tough along with Boris Said. We're going to have a lot of fun. It's going to be exciting. It's hard to say who really is going to be the guy to beat, But I'm feeling very good about our program."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ROBBY GORDON AT ROAD COURSE RACES
"You have a different rival everywhere you go. When we go to a road course, your rival is the toughest competitor. And I think he's definitely one of the toughest competitors at the road courses. He's fast and he's aggressive and he doesn't really make a lot of mistakes. You've got to give credit where credit is due. On those road courses he would be a rival - not really anywhere else. You've got Tony Stewart in some places and Junior (Earnhardt) in other places and Jimmie Johnson in other places. When we come to a road course, Robby is definitely one of the guys to beat. He certainly got the best of us last year. But I felt like we had the best car and the best car doesn't always win. We've got to make sure that it does happen this year."
YOU'VE HAD THE TITLE OF ROAD COURSE KING FOR A LONG TIME. IS YOUR PRIDE ON THE LINE WHEN YOU COME TO A ROAD COURSE RACE?
"I just always think it's about taking advantage of opportunities. If the car is strong enough, and as strong as our cars have been here, if you don't win with it you're going to be disappointed. I was just as disappointed with finishing second here last year as I was with finishing wherever I finished (33rd) at Watkins Glen. It's all about taking a car that's fast and capable of winning to Victory Lane. Anything else is unacceptable."
WHEN THE CROWD BOOS YOU, DO YOU EVER ASK, 'WHY ME?'
"No, because it's nothing but good things for me. It just depends on who you are. There are some drivers out there that are boo'd for negative reasons. For me, the boo's have never come from anything negative. They've always come from things that are positive. So I encourage them if anything else. The more boo's there are and the more things they're throwing, it seems like the better things are going for me on the track."
WHAT ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT JR? IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYTHING HE DOES IS RIGHT AND THE CROWDS NEVER BOO HIM
"It's impossible not to recognize it and know how strong it is. He's worked himself into a position where his on track ability, his off-track personality, and his relationship with his father and that name have elevated him to a level that none of us can even touch. When you talk to him about his fame he says he was given it and asks what to do with it. And I think he's done a great job with it. He handles it well.
"It doesn't matter if you've been given a talent or what you were given, you've got to take advantage of it. He's done a great job with it. He's also a threat for the championship, which takes it to another level. As long as he's winning and running up front and running for championships, I don't think there is anyone who will ever compare in the fan base."
YOU OBVIOUSLY RESPECT DALE EARNHARDT JR. DO YOU THINK YOU GET THE SAME RESPECT FROM HIM?
"I hope so. We've had great times on the track. We've raced hard. I had the utmost respect for his father. I think he senses some of that relationship between Dale Earnhardt Sr. and myself."
ON WHERE HE IS IN THE POINTS CHASE RIGHT NOW AND WHAT HE THINKS OF THE CHASE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP "I still think it's too early. I've very thankful for the points system right now because as far behind as I am and with the problems that we've had, the points system is really what's keeping us in this championship. But for a guy like Jimmie (Johnson) or Dale Jr., to be up there and be as dominant and up at the front as much as they have this year, it's got to be disappointing to know that when you go to that 27th race, you'll have the opportunity to finish 10th when you've worked so hard. My feelings really haven't changed much.
"I think it's going to be interesting when we get to those last ten races. I think it's going to be exciting. I think it's anybody's championship. But I still think the guy who's leading at race 26 should be rewarded in some way - whether it's with bonus points or bonus money or something like that. I guarantee you that the points system will be looked at heavily if the guy who - let's say - is running 10th in points going into race #27 wins it (the championship)."
"If that means you can go from 20th to 18th, then you do that. I don't think that really changes. Obviously at the 24th, 25th, or 26th race, the guys who are in the top 10 with plenty of room might be a little bit more conservative. But I think if you're solidly in the top 10 or you're just outside of the top 10, you might be a little more aggressive because you want to win or you want to get into the top 10."
DOES THE NEW POINT SYSTEM HAVE ANY BEARING ON STRATEGY OR MAYBE SOME ADDED PRESSURE FOR A DRIVER IF HE'S OUTSIDE OR INSIDE THE TOP 10?
"Your strategy all year long and the pressure all year long is to be in the top 10. You're real strategy is that you want to win the championship. You can talk to anybody in this garage area and I think they'll tell you that it doesn't really matter. They're in their own battles for positions on the track and for positioning in the point system. As far as they're concerned, each position is like battling for the championship."
IS THERE ANY MORE EMPHASIS THIS YEAR ON PIT STOPS AND TRACK POSITION? "Not more so than last year. I think less so this year because Goodyear has softened the tires up and allowed us to really have fewer options as far as staying out on older tires."