Michigan: Qualifying Notes
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 2ND
IS THIS A MATTER THAT EVERY DEPARTMENT AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAS TO WORK HARD AND GET EVERYTHING OUT OF THESE CARS WHEN YOU ARE GOING THIS SPEED?
“Absolutely, you’ve got to get through the corners, but at this place you’ve got to get down these long straightaways and I think it’s just a full combination of all the hard work of the body, the chassis and the set-up as well as that great horsepower from Hendrick. Hendrick engine on the pole, obviously that is what it takes to be on the front row here today. We are pretty excited. We put up a heck of a lap that I thought was just another great effort by this Drive To End Hunger Chevy SS team. Just not enough to get Harvick those guys are really tough right now.”
YOUR CAR IS EXCEPTIONAL IN RACE TRIM, AND NOW ALSO IN QUALIFYING TRIM
“The car is just really solid. I’m really proud of all the guys and all the hard work they’ve put in as well as the engine shop. At a place like this, the only way that Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS is getting around here that fast is that you’ve got to have a lot of power under the hood. The engineers are doing a great job with the bodies and getting the cars through the corners as well. It’s been a fun day. I struggled here last year and boy, these last two weeks have just been phenomenal qualifying sessions and cars for us. You’ve got to take your hat off to (Kevin) Harvick and those guys. They are just superfast, especially when it comes to qualifying. We gave it a great effort but not quite enough to get those guys. But we’ll certainly take this second place and take it into Sunday with a lot of momentum and a lot of excitement.”
CERTAINLY A STRONG EFFORT TODAY BY THE FOLKS AT HENDRICK AND YOUR ARE RIGHT UP THERE KNOCKING ON THE DOOR FOR THE POLE. 203.776 MPH THAT IS PRETTY QUICK AROUND HERE. HOW DID IT FEEL OUT THERE IN THE CAR GOING THAT FAST?
“It has to feel pretty good if you are going to go that fast because the speed obviously comes from the long straightaways and the big sweeping corners and the amount of grip that we have. You have got to push it hard and as Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) mentioned the added downforce I think the combination of the spoiler and the downforce, but then what the teams have been able to do with those lower ride heights to maximize the amount of downforce as well as maintain the car down the straightaway for good straightaway speed. Then you take the horsepower on top of that and makes for a very fast race track and times there qualifying. That was a great session for us. The last two weeks have been great sessions for us. We have improved in the final session, made it to session three solidly in all three sessions and then actually made our best lap on the final run. It wasn’t enough for (Kevin) Harvick, he was strong. Even the first time out I thought my lap was pretty good, which it was, but nowhere near Kevin’s. That last time we actually got a little closer to him, had a good lap, but still not enough for Kevin (Harvick). Those guys are really tough especially in qualifying, but great effort by Hendrick engines and to have me and Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) right there second and third and I know Jimmie (Johnson) is not that far back either. Really am pretty excited, all day we have had a good car.”
DALE WAS SAYING HE DIDN’T EVEN REALLY NOTICE HOW FAST HE WAS GOING IT WAS JUST SO COMFORTABLE. 20 CARS ABOVE 200 MPH THAT USED TO BE A REAL DAUNTING NUMBER NOW IT SEEMS YOU GUYS HAVE GOTTEN ACCUSTOMED TO RUNNING THAT FAST HERE. IS IT COMFORTABLE TO BE ABOVE 200 HERE NOW?
“It’s daunting if something goes wrong I can tell you that. This weekend is going to be a real challenge for reliability. We are going so fast. From engines to just components on the car, tires, it’s concerning. I’m glad it’s 400 miles, but even 400 miles you are going to have to manage it. The cars are comfortable enough and stuck so well that is why you are not really noticing the speeds as a driver. As a driver, I don’t know how much faster we’ve gone this year than last year, but I feel like it’s quite a bit. My car was way more comfortable and those speeds were easier to handle this year than they were last year.”
HOW COMFORTABLE DO YOU THINK YOUR CAR WILL BE WHEN IT IS IN TRAFFIC?
“I mean we were really hoping that we would qualify well. We had some issues getting switched over into qualifying trim in practice and we only got to make one run and it was a pretty good run. I felt like I left quite a bit out on the track because I just wasn’t as aggressive as I could have been. Sometimes you only learn that by making a run that is why you like to make two or three runs in practice. Luckily I was able to learn a lot from that and then go apply that in qualifying the three sessions. I think that luckily we are starting up front, but we know we are going to get back in traffic at some point. I hope we don’t. It would be nice to keep the track position, but you’ve got to believe that you are going to be in it. You hope that by that time the groove is widened out a little bit more as Dale mentioned three and four is definitely a little bit wider so you have a few more options. But one and two there are really not a lot of options. The speeds that we are carrying even last week at Pocono we had some different strategies going on and I got back into about 15th or 18th at one time and it was like flipping a switche. The amount of grip that the car had went from awesome to none. It was very challenging. We are just seeing more and more of that as the cars become more aero dependent. I say that because we are maximizing the grip and downforce and so if you take any amount of that away it makes a bigger difference than it ever used to. You get back in traffic at a place like this in the corners for the length of time that we are in the corners it’s going to be a huge change. That is another part of the survival is surviving traffic and being prepared for it. There is nothing the team can do. There is very little the team can do. It’s you having to figure out what is going to happen when you drive into the corner and recognize that the car is buffeting around and there is probably not a lot of downforce on it.”
LAST YEAR IT BECAME KIND OF A TIRED STORY LINE PEOPLE STARTED TO ASK YOU TO LOOK TOWARDS THE END OF YOUR CAREER AT THIS POINT LAST YEAR AND HERE YOU ARE LEADING THE POINTS CAN YOU REFLECT ON THIS LAST YEAR WHERE YOU ARE AT NOW COMPARED TO MAYBE A YEAR AGO?
“Man, I’m just trying to go out on top. (Laughs) That is going to get me in as much trouble as what I said in January. Yeah, I have always said that the combinations are being healthy, being competitive and just enjoying myself out there. I felt like if those first two things are working for me then the last is going to come as well. As long as that is there then I want to keep doing it. Obviously, I’m enjoying myself a lot right now. I had a little health issue a couple of weeks ago, but that is subsided now and feeling pretty good. The race cars are just so good that I’m just enjoying every time we are on the track every weekend that we are racing and that has certainly brought back some fire in me and the team. I just feel like Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) has really worked hard to step things up to be a championship caliber team. I think that the performance this year is showing that hard work and effort paying off.”