Jeff Gordon Scores Career Pole #73 & Sets New Track Record at Richmond
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS, POLE WINNER: QUALIFYING NOTES & PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
YOU RACED YOUR WAY INTO THE CHASE LAST YEAR WITH THAT LAP ARE YOU ON THE WAY TO DOING IT AGAIN?
"Well this is only part of it, but that's certainly a great run and we've had a really good AARP Drive To End Hunger, Hunger Action Month Chevy. I'm excited about the day that we've had. Our car has been good in race trim and certainly been good in qualifying trim. When those guys start laying down laps like they were laying you just don't know what it's going to take how much further you can push the car and whether it sticks. It did the things that I wanted it to do. The first lap was sort of a feel out lap and the second lap was going for it. It stuck good, turned good, and got off the corners good. I felt like it was capable of it and then they came over and said it was. The sun is going down and clouds are out anything can happen with these cars that are coming up, but all in all really nice day. It was a great moment for us to get this weekend started right."
CAN YOU COMPARE YOUR FEELINGS NOW TO HOW YOU FELT HERE LAST YEAR?
"Well we had a good qualifying run last year I believe. We actually had a good start to the race. Then it all went downhill from there. We really had some revelations when we were here testing a few weeks ago of some things that we had to work on. I'm so glad we did that test, because we have made some huge strides and not only from last year some of the issues that we had, but earlier this year when we didn't run very well here at all and I think they kind of came to the front of what was kind of maybe hiding underneath and we solved some issues and I think we made our car a lot better. It's been reacting really well so far this week. We still have a little more work to do."
FIRST POLE OF 2013 IS SIGNIFICANT FOR THE RECORD BOOKS HE NOW MOVES AHEAD OF DAVID PEARSON WITH 21 YEARS IN A ROW THAT HE HAS HAD AT LEAST ONE POLE. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
"That is amazing. I didn't think it was going to come this year I'll be honest. Qualifying has not been very good for me and for our team this year. Very proud of this one, boy, it comes at a great time. We know how important making this Chase is. We know how important that number one pit stall is and starting up front. 'Whoo' I can breathe now. Don't forget it is hunger action month so take action go to drivetoendhunger.org to help out this great cause. I'm so proud of this race team. That was huge. To have to go out there and beat the No. 78 you know what I mean there are just so many story lines you don't know where to begin. So many things that are going to happen in this race this is just step one. Very proud and happy that this moment came and that we are stepping it up when we need to."
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN:
"Obviously that was big - it was really big. Of course to address the record with (David) Pearson. It is not very often you get to break a record that David Pearson set. So that is really incredible. I'm pretty overwhelmed, and blown away by that record in itself and to be able to accomplish that. I didn't think it was going to happen this year. We just have not been qualifying well. I like to pride myself in my qualifying, and it has just been little things here and there that have kept us from getting it. Today just went really smooth. The car was good in the first practice in race runs. We swapped over for qualifying trim in the second one and went straight to the top of the board. The car was just driving well. I saw Kurt (Busch) put that great lap up at the beginning. Then I saw the cloud go away. I was a little bit nervous as to whether we had enough. On the first lap the car stuck good, and I knew I had a little bit more in me for the second lap. It did all the things I wanted it to do. That's huge to be able to do that at a crucial time. Get that number one pit stall, and set ourselves up to do what we are going to have to do tomorrow. It is going to be tough. It is going to be a hard fight. That little bit of confidence that we needed; this is what this gives us. The car just feels really good, and I am just excited to get the race going tomorrow."
HOW INTERESTING DO YOU EXPECT THE FIRST LAP TO BE WITH KURT STARTING ALONGSIDE YOU AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) STARTING RIGHT BEHIND YOU?
"It depends on everybody's attitude and goals are. I think we all know Kurt is a very aggressive guy, so I would think he is probably going to try to fight pretty hard to get himself in position. Not only for track position, but it is important for him to lead a lap just like it is important for me to lead a lap. I would imagine that there will be a little bit of battling there. I have been in this sport a long time; the race is not won on the first lap. I will try to get the best start that I can and try to get the lead. If I feel like I'm not wearing the tires out too much to get it, or to keep it. Then we will try to stay up there. But, this is a long race. You have got to be smart. We found that out last year. Halfway through this race, we were done. We didn't give up on it, and look what happened. So we have to take that approach when the green flag drops tomorrow. You have to fight hard, and you have to be smart as well."
DID YOU GET EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU COULD GET OUT OF THE CAR ON THE LAP? OR WAS THERE MAYBE A LITTLE BIT LEFT? "There is always a little bit left Stan (Creekmore). You know that. Until a computer is driving the car, I don't know if it's going to be perfect. I felt like I got everything out of it. If you scan me, you know that when I cross the line, I make comments. When I crossed the line, please tell me that's it, because I thought it was. And, it was. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) was a little confused because he was on his stop-watch, and his stop-watch said a .70 so he knew it was really close. Then he came back and said it was a .67. I knew that was a great lap. Didn't know if that was going to hold up,
'"We got behind a cloud there, especially when the NO. 20 (Matt Kenseth) went. And it was really, really close. So, I knew it was a good lap though. The car has been good all day and I was really thrilled that we backed it up when we went to qualifying. When you qualify here, you pick up six-tenths from practice and/or half a second. When you push as hard as you can in practice, you just can't comprehend that the track has that much in it. And yet you go and push it and it does. Today it stuck and that was great."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU MADE A STATEMENT TODAY?
"We made a better statement than it we would have qualified 35th (laughter). If you think qualifying 35th meant something, then I think qualifying first means something as well.
"To me, it's just really about building momentum and confidence throughout the weekend to know that we're fune-tuning but we're not looking and searching for big things. That's the kind of day that we've had and specially since we've gone into qualifying trim. But that number one pit stall is big.
"Track position is big. So, did we make a statement? Yeah. But so did Kurt (Busch) and Brad (Keselowski). I find it so fascinating. You come into this race and there's all these guys that are all in this bubble or whatever you want to call it to make the Chase. And all of a sudden, they all just step up to another level and I think that makes for a really interesting conversation of what's going to happen prior to the race, and when that green flag drops of what's going to happen throughout the whole race."
THIS IS THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW YOU'VE HAD TO RACE YOUR WAY INTO THE CHASE. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE MORE CONFIDENT KNOWING WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO ACCOMPLISH THAT? AND HOW IS STARTING AT THE FRONT GOING TO HELP YOU ACCOMPLISH THAT?
"I'm certainly a lot more comfortable. Last year I was really on edge and it was stressful. The entire weekend was stressful. And I've been a lot more calm this weekend. I don't know exactly why other than I think because we went through so much last year that it does help prepare you to deal with whatever is thrown at you and know that you're giving your best. This is only step one. We started pretty good here last year, if I remember correctly.
"This is a good track, qualifying-wise, for me. I thought we started pretty good but we faded fast. We did the same thing here earlier this year. That was our primary goal why we tested here, and our primary goal to learn today when we got here. And that's what I'm excied about. Not only did we qualify well and get the pole, but I think we have a much better car for the race in the long runs as well."
NORMALLY QUALIFYING SECOND WOULD BE A GOOD THING AND KURT BUSCH WAS. BUT THE FACT THAT YOU QUALIFIED FIRST DOESN'T MAKE IT AS GOOD FOR HIM ANYMORE. ARE YOU HAPPY HE IS THINKING ABOUT THAT AND WHAT HE COULD HAVE DONE AND THAT IT'S KIND OF IN HIS HEAD NOW?
"I think there's no doubt we all recognize what's on the line here. We all recognize the conversations that are going on about who is going to do it and who is going get in the top 10 and who is going to be the wild card. And I think that while I don't necessarily agree that we should be singling us out, it does seem like those were the questions I was getting asked about yesterday. I think there are too many other guys out there that we really have to race; not only to win this race, but also to make it in. But then, we go one-two in qualifying. So that's pretty ironic. At this point, I'll take every little boost and bit of confidence and little victory that we can, and today was a good one."
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