Jeff Gordon -- ...
Jeff Gordon -- #24 DuPont Chevrolet -- 2nd position
THIS WILL BE EQUAL THE BEST START OF YOUR CAREER HERE
I'm extremely excited for Sunday. I don't think I've been able to say that on Friday at Texas in a while. These guys have been stepping it up. This is a new car and we came out here and tested. And I knew then that they built a really good race car. We never made a qualifying run, so to come here and be sitting up there like that, I'm really, really excited about Sunday and really the rest of the season. I'm at that point now where I'm looking forward to vacation but I'm not wanting things to end-things are going good for us right now.
RE: NEVER HAVING WON AT TEXAS
Well, a win is important anywhere you go. I think that we take a lot of pride in the fact that we have won at a lot of different race tracks, and most of them. I think that's what makes a championship-caliber team. But I don't think that winning just at Texas is high on our priority list, but the next race that we go to to try to win, is. So, we're at Texas, if it happens here, I'd love to check it off. And, we've got two more after this that I haven't won at either.
CAN YOU TAKE ANYTHING OUT OF THE FIRST RACE TO APPLY IT TO THE SECOND RACE?
Oh yeah. We can take from the first race that we were absolutely horrible and not to bring that car back or anything like it. When I left here (in the Spring), I felt like I had forgotten how to race a car. So, we're doing basically everything different from what we did here the first part of the season. The track conditions-they're not that much different. It's been great weather and clear skies. The conditions seem to be really well. The track's obviously fast and smooth. There are some bumps out there, but I can't say that it's a lot different so far from what it was when we were here earlier.
RE: WHAT IS YOUR THOUGHT IF YOU HAVE A GREAT FIRST LAP HERE? ID EST RYAN NEWMAN CRASHED AFTER CAPTURING THE POLE
Well, whether I have a great first one or not. To me, there are very few places that we actually go to where the second lap is better than the first lap. Now, Ryan is a rare breed. Ryan usually, not only gets the pole on the first lap, but he gets the pole on the second lap, too. And they've really found something for qualifying that doesn't exist for anybody else. They have just incredible detail to every aspect of the car when it comes to qualifying. Because they just get it every weekend. But yet they don't seem to have it for the race, which is interesting to me. He ran such a great lap the first lap, and yet typically a lot of the guys, especially the crew chiefs might come on and say, great lap, don't need to run a second one. But in Ryan's case, he runs a fast first lap and usually backs it up with a fast second lap, too, that it's not out of the ordinary for him. It would be extremely out of the ordinary for me to run a second lap.
COMMENT ON THE FACT THAT IF A GUY MOVES TO THE BACK DUE TO A CHANGE, THE LINE BASICALLY JUST MOVES UP
A rule is a rule. That's the way it's been and the #12 car ran that lap and the pole was taken, it's just that he's going to have to go to a backup car. As much as I'd like to be on the inside lane, because I think that's the preferred lane, I know what's going to happen.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS THE TEST SESSION HERE?
We did learn some things that I think did transfer over to Atlanta. Importantly, they built a car that is really spectacular. The car just has a lot of things from what we've learned throughout this year and we were able to incorporate into it to get it to travel. By doing that, creeping up on gaining speed, softening the front and going bigger in the rear. All the things that everybody's been doing all year long. We had a test where the first day was just mediocre. The second day we came here and were really good. It was a half day so we stopped at noon. But all morning we were just spectacular and it built confidence for me in the car and what they were doing. It just seemed that everything we threw at it, it just got better and better. So, we could take those theories and apply them to Atlanta and it seemed to pay off.
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE POINTS RACE WITH THREE RACES TO GO?
I think it's a three-person race between the top three. I think that Stewart has been very strong and really they haven't made many mistakes, if any. If that continues, it's going to be tough to beat him. If anyone can do it, the #48. And I said this before the Chase started, that Jimmie and Chad and that entire team-what I love so much about them is that you might go through a race and count them out but by the end of the race they've snuck back up there. They have a knack for digging deeper and finding more and puliing it out at the right times. I think that it's so tight right now that anything can happen, but I do believe that the championship is going to be won by a team making a big mistake, not just by a team that goes out there and winning by a couple of positions ahead of the other guy.
RE: IMPORTANCE OF BONUS POINTS
I think points in general are just important, so that anytime you can get the most points.I think that everybody goes out every weekend to at least try to lead a lap, try to lead as most laps as they can. That's your goal every single weekend, you want to accumulate the most bonus points in the season, especially in the Chase. Finishes. Bonus points are something that some guys definitely don't pay as much attention to as others. But I guarantee that the guys that are up there in the Chase, especially in the top 5 or 6, they pay a lot of attention to those bonus points.
YOU COULD POTENTIALLY BE THE CO-OWNER OF THE CHAMPION?
I'm pretty sure I pay taxes on some of that cut. I never even could have dreams of that scenario of a potential chance of winning the championship as a co-owner with Rick Hendrick on this team. When we went into it, I think Rick just wanted me to help pay some of the bills because I talked him into putting Jimmie in there. Every day I was calling him going, we need to do this, we need to do this, we need to do this. And I think he was like, alright, put you money where you mouth is. And I was like, alright you got it. And then all of a sudden this team just takes off and has been spectacular and now he's probably wishing he could take some of those things back. You know, I haven't even thought about, to be honest. Jimmie and that team have done such a great job. I'm just thrilled to be able to be a part of it. And it it makes me some extra money, great and that's an added bonus. And that's the way I look at it as a driver, too.