JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 3M CHEVROLET SS – Pole Winner:
THAT WAS A STOUT LAP:
“Well, I didn’t come off the throttle much, if any; I know I had to blip it just the tiniest, tiniest bit. The lap before, in the second session, I was a little conservative and the car just stuck so good, I thought when I heard some of the lap times that were up there, I knew that we were going to go get the pole. You’ve got to be fully committed and just go for it. So, I drove it down into (Turn) 1; I may have come off of it just a tiny bit, but it wasn’t much at all. And it stuck so good, I was like okay. Do I run wide open through (Turns) 3 and 4? I don’t know. It was real close. There was a lot of wide-open throttle there. It was fun. What an awesome 3M Chevrolet. What a turnaround from last week. I’m just so proud of this team and keeping their heads up. Last week was a tough one, and this is a great, great way to start our weekend here in Las Vegas.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 3M CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER
POST-QUALIFYING PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
THIS IS YOUR 79TH CAREER POLE AND FIRST AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY. THERE ARE ONLY TWO TRACKS WHERE YOU HAVE NOT WON A POLE. KENTUCKY IS ONE, AND THE OTHER IS KANSAS. ALSO, THIS WAS A TRACK QUALIFYING RECORD TODAY. CONGRATULATIONS. HERE YOU ARE ON THE POLE IN YOUR FINAL START AT LAS VEGAS. WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE?
“It feels amazing. I knew we had a strong car in practice, especially when we were in qualifying trim. I was a little bit nervous the first round. I went down into (Turn) 1 and I knew the conditions had cooled down slightly and I felt like there was going to be a little bit more grip. And I went down into (Turn) 1 and I don’t know if I missed my line or was just too aggressive, but I got into the bumps and the car moved around a lot and it just didn’t stick the way I had hoped it would. So, it wasn’t a very good lap, but good enough to get through. And then in Round 2, I was a little bit more conservative getting into (Turn) 1 and just got my line. Maybe the air pressure built up a little bit. The car flew through (Turns) 1 and 2. And then in (Turns) 3 and 4, I was maybe a little bit conservative. So, it was still a really solid lap. And then we went on to Round 3 and I saw some lap times that were up there before us and knew that if we were going to sit on the pole, we would have to be fully committed to trying to go as close to wide-open as possible. It was really, really close. But the car was just amazing. I came off Turn 4 and I felt pretty confident that it was going to be either close enough or good enough. And it was. So it was awesome. After last week and that whole mess, it was great to get out there and qualify and great to get some redemption for 3M and the team. This feels amazing to me. I can’t believe this is my first pole here at Las Vegas and it happens in my final race here. So, that’s pretty cool.”
WASN’T NASCAR SUPPOSED TO SLOW DOWN THE CARS THIS YEAR? HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE SPEEDS?
“It’s unbelievable. We talked to them about when you pull out power, you go faster through the middle of the corner and I think that the whole goal was to take downforce out to make up for that, and I think a lot of us would like to have seen a little bit more downforce taken out of it. But yet, I understand it happens in steps. And so, they took a step. But the teams are just so good at getting some of that back. When you can hold it wide-open like that it’s amazing at just how good the cars stick. What’s even crazier is the tire is harder than the one. That’s the downside I think, to this whole package is that the goal is to slow the cars down some through the middle of the corners so that we can get some softer tires in there and see more falloff and hope that you see a little bit more passing and side-by-side (racing). But because of the corner speeds being so fast, Goodyear has to make it harder. So, I think that they’ve taken a step and now they’re going to see how it works and I think the racing is going to be really good and the action is going to be really good, so from that standpoint, I like it. But it’s a learning experience and I think that NASCAR will gather that information and as the year goes on with some testing and see what we can do to maybe pull some more downforce out of the cars.”
AFTER TWO VERY SUCCESSFUL QUALIFYING SESSIONS TO START THE SEASON AND TODAY FAN’S WERE YELLING ‘RECONSIDER’ DOES THAT THOUGHT PROCESS EVEN ENTER YOUR MIND?
“I was thinking about just ending it right there like ‘I’m out of here, see ya’ (drops microphone on desk). (Laughing) I mean I’m not leaving because I don’t feel like I’m not competitive anymore or I’m not with the best team. I’m leaving because it just feels like the right time. The stars have aligned and the moment is here to do something different. I don’t think there is anything more exciting than the opportunity to go out there and win races and poles and maybe if we are fortunate enough to go battle for that championship. I can’t sit here and sit on one pole and go ‘okay we are going to win the championship’. But I think we are a very good race team. We haven’t shown all of it yet. There is nothing to me that is sweeter than to be able to go have that kind of experience in your final year. There is no reconsidering.”
WHAT WENT BETTER EITHER WITH THE INSPECTION PROCESS FROM THE NASCAR SIDE OR THE TEAM SIDE SO THAT ALL THAT BIZARRE STUFF DIDN’T HAPPEN AGAIN THIS WEEK?
“Oh it happened. The same thing happened. So, I don’t know. Somehow they got the cars out there this time. The same thing. We had to go through twice. We are going through there and we go through and our camber is one thing one time, something different the next and we never touched a single thing. I don’t think that people realize how much weather, whether it’s humidity, temperature, just I don’t know what all, the environment can change. That can change those points that are there. But we know where we are trying to push the limits and we know where we haven’t touched anything. When you go through there and it’s not 100 percent consistent it makes you nervous. It makes those crew chiefs extremely nervous. We went through and had to go back through. There were a ton of cars that had to go through a second time. Luckily NASCAR shortened the practice by 10 minutes. I would like for them to add 10 minutes to the beginning of practice since we didn’t start until 11 or whatever it was. I think that maybe it’s going to take a little while. I don’t know, but it happened again and somehow all the cars got out there on pit road. That is all I know.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR. SAID HE DIDN'T HOLD IT WIDE OPEN, SO IF HE DIDN’T GET THE POLE TO BLAME HIM. DID YOU HOLD IT WIDE OPEN AROUND THE ENTIRE LAP?
“I mean I can’t say it was just flat. When it is flat you are pushing against it and it’s not moving. I think my brain wanted to or maybe my foot wanted to, but my brain didn’t. I don’t know. Some parts of me said don’t hold it wide open. I was having a little bit of issue when I got down to the center of the corner where the front tires were just sliding ever so slight. I was concerned if I just really ran it wide open I was going to push through those front tires and so I can’t wait to see the throttle trace, now that we have that data, which I love. Because I certainly don’t feel like I cracked out of it much. When I came off of Turn 4 I felt like that was enough throttle. But I’m also very fortunate Hendrick Motorsports makes great power. We have the ability to maybe just crack out of it the tiniest bit and still be able to carry that kind of speed. I look forward to comparing my throttle traces to see. I don’t feel like it was 100 percent wide open. There is 100 percent that it never changes, then there is 100 percent where it goes to 95, 93 percent. I think it would have done something like that. You can run wide open when you leave pit road and you get off (Turn) 2. You can run wide open all the way to Turn 1 really easy. To go wide open through those bumps in (Turns) 1 and 2 I think is a little bit risky. Down here probably closer to wide open.”
I LOVED YOUR LEONARDO DICAPRIO STORY. CAN YOU SHARE ANOTHER STORY LIKE THAT MAYBE FOR YOUR CAREER OR IN VEGAS?
WHERE HE (LEONARDO DICAPRIO) DIDN’T KNOW WHO YOU WERE AT A PARTY AND YOU HAD WANTED TO MEET HIM:
“Oh yeah, okay. I just saw him in December so I was making sure I didn’t tell a story about December. Yeah, it was a long time ago.”
NOT NECESSARILY THAT ONE DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER ONE FOR YOUR ENTIRE CAREER?
“Oh. Not that I can remember. (Laughs) Actually, Matthew McConaughey has a really good story. When he came to the Daytona 500, I think it was ’05 because I believe it was the year that we won it. I can’t tell that story here, but it’s a funny one. If you ever see him, ask him to tell it. It’s way better coming from him anyway.”
HOW CONFIDENT WERE YOU THAT YOU AND YOUR TEAM COULD SIT ON THE POLE TODAY?
“Well I mean we were second in practice so I felt pretty good about it. I wasn’t feeling as good after the first round I can tell you that. I ran about the same time as I ran in practice. We were 14th. I didn’t think that it was a clean lap, but at the same time I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make a clean lap after that. I was trying the first time and it didn’t work out. The second time it just kind of all came together. After the second round I thought we had a shot at it. I really did. That was a good lap. I felt like I had a little bit more that I could push the car. That sun went down the track temperature started getting cooler, a little bit more grip, I felt like I could push it hard enough to possibly get it. But those guys started putting some pretty fast lap times up there. I was like ‘man, I don’t know how I’m going to go much faster than I did earlier.’ Luckily we were able to.”
LOOKING AT THE QUALIFYING THERE ARE THREE HENDRICK CARS IN THE TOP FOUR AND FOUR IN THE TOP NINE. HAVE YOU GUYS REALLY KIND OF FOUND SOMETHING IN THIS 1.5-MILE SET-UP?
“That is a good question. It’s early still maybe too early to tell. Last week is a much different experience and race track than this one. This one you are a lot more wide open throttle. I think it’s probably a testament to our engine shop. They are making really good power. I think that certainly showed up today, but our cars are pretty darn good too. We work really hard. We have a lot of smart people. We work well together with our teammates gathering information and communicating. It seems to be paying off right now.”
HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU THAT YOU CAN CONVERT WHAT YOU DID TODAY INTO SOLID PRACTICE TOMORROW AND A REAL GOOD CHANCE TO WIN ON SUNDAY?
“I’m more confident now than I was earlier today. We did two practice runs that were sort of mock race runs. I didn’t run many laps and I was having some struggles over the bumps. Then we went over into qualifying trim and the car was really good. I was pretty confident for qualifying. We have a little bit of work to do for the race. But if we can get over the bumps in (Turns) 1 and 2 I feel very confident that we can be as strong as we were today in the race.”