JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – POLE SITTER
"We definitely have a fast Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. I think we've shown that all weekend long. But you never know what you've got until you put it on the clock. I am so proud of this pole because we got the pole in Daytona, but it was a totally different format. I knew the car was fast there. For this team to bring another car, a different car here, and all the hard work from the engine shop and what they do with the bodies, and chassis and prep. A lot of hard work goes into this and Alan Gustafson (crew chief) takes a lot of pride in these. They should, this is awesome. And awesome for Hendrick Motorsports to be on the front row. This was all them. I played a small role at Daytona, but I played NO role today, but it was fun."
POST QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTS:
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER
THIS IS YOUR FOURTH POLE IN 45 RACES AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY. TALK ABOUT YOUR RUN AND COMING HOME WITH ANOTHER POLE THIS SEASON
“When you come to the restrictor plate races, you definitely give the team all the credit because of the prep work that goes into these cars and all the details and hard work, from the engine shop and the chassis shop, all the details of the body and aerodynamics and how you get the heat out of the engine and what things need to be done heated up and what things need to be cooled down. So there is a lot that goes into it from what the team has to do. My part is pretty easy. You release the clutch and get it up to speed and hit my shift points, and run a tidy line. The car showed a lot of speed yesterday and continued today. It’s just a great team effort and I’m very proud of those guys and very proud that they got me my 80th career pole. That’s pretty cool.”
YOU WON THE POLE AT DAYTONA AND DOMINATED THAT RACE AT LEAST TO THE HALFWAY POINT. HOW DO YOU AVOID A REPEAT OF THAT WHERE YOU ARE STILL IN CONTENTION IN THE END?
“It’s a different type of restrictor plate racing here with tapered spacers or whatever we have on them these days. And so, I think that at Daytona, track position means a little bit more than it does here. This place is so wide and fast and you can get multiple lanes that really work, and make some moves there. It’s always great to have a fast car and know you have a fast car and have track position and have that number one pit stall. So, we’ll try to take advantage of those things. I think at Daytona, a lot of what happened was restarts, really. So, it’s about not just you getting a good restart, but the car behind you and the car behind them all getting lined-up and getting some pushes and things on those restarts to maintain that lead. I think obviously with as good a race car as we have, if we can get out front I think we can stay out front. But to me, every time I come to Talladega since maybe the last eight to 10 years, it’s like an 80 percent chance you’re going to get caught-up in a wreck; and how do you avoid that? That, to me, is my first goal is just getting to the finish. And then hopefully we can find a way to put ourselves in position to win. If we can stay out front, that would make it a lot easier. Easier said than done.”
YOU’RE 10TH IN POINTS, BUT HAVEN’T LED A TON OF LAPS SINCE THAT RACE IN DAYTONA. HOW DESPERATE ARE YOU FOR A WIN? IS IT ALMOST CHECKERS OR WRECKERS FOR YOU IF YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN?
“Well, we came into this weekend and we planned on racing aggressively and not riding around in the back. So, this certainly helps that plan fall into place with a great qualifying effort. We have not performed as well as we had hoped as a team this year, mainly on the 1.5-miles. So, yeah, we have to take advantage of the tracks where we are strong and this is certainly one of them. The short tracks seem to be pretty good as well. We’ve got to get better on those intermediates and that’s what we’re working on. But desperate? I wouldn’t say we are desperate. We’re just trying to take advantage of opportunities when they come and continue to increase performance at other tracks to get our percentages better of getting that win.”
THIS IS A CEREMONIAL YEAR FOR YOU. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT GETTING THE POLE AND WHAT THAT MEANS IN THE BIGGER PICTURE?
“Well, I found the secret to getting the pole was going out to the boulevard last night for Mardi Gras. Austin Dillon, I saw him out there; and I was out there. So, that must have been the secret (laughs); and my team not being out there. No, it was so much fun. This whole year, all I’ve wanted to do was just enjoy the moments and take it all in. When they have my number painted out on the front straightaway or on a wall or on a sign or fans waving towels, or lap 24, or whatever it may be, it’s been a lot of fun. But I want to perform better than what we have. So, it’s a balance between enjoying the moment and having friends and family there, to sort of enjoying this final season. But at the same time, you want to win the race. So, I feel like we’ve done a good job of that with the scheduling and everything, and I’m having a ball. I haven’t been out there on the boulevard in like 10 years. And so it was worth it. It was a lot of fun out there. The fans are having a great time and it’s cool to interact with them like that and see what our sport truly offers from a fan experience. I don’t think any other sport has it quite like that. That was cool to be out there. I don’t know if I’m going to be doing more things like that, but I’m certainly going to be making the most of this season, hopefully on the track and off the track.”
AS A DRIVER, YOU COULD HAVE MADE EVEN ONE SIMPLE MISTAKE AND NOT BE ON THE POLE. HOW CLOSE TO PERFECTION DO YOU THINK YOU WERE OUT ON THE RACE TRACK?
“Well, I hear what you’re saying and I appreciate that. If we were talking about Las Vegas or Martinsville or something like that, I would say yes. Even at Daytona, the qualifying format there was totally different and I feel like I played more of a role there as a driver, and how you had to qualify there. But we also had a fast race car. Where here, yeah, can I mess up a shift or something like that? I guess I could (but) when the car’s that good you don’t need to be perfect. You just need to do your job and the car is going to do the rest. I think everybody would tell you that.”