News


The Last Word


DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.- - It's been an up and down week for Jeff Gordon at Daytona International Speedway. His car has been handling well in practice, but his results have been sub-par at best. A poor qualifying lap on Sunday was followed by a 21st place finish in the 125-mile qualifying race. As a result, he'll start 39th in the Daytona 500-- his worst starting spot ever at Daytona. Following the final practice session on Saturday, Gordon met with the media.


DISCUSS THE FINAL PRACTICE
"The weather is so much different than it was on Thursday. Tomorrow I think we're going to be in good shape. I feel good about the car. Everything seems to be OK and I'm looking forward to getting it all going. I'm ready to stop practicing and talking about it and trying things and just ready to get out there and go."

WILL YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS OUT THERE YOU CAN WORK WITH?
"When the handling goes away, you can make some moves by yourself. But for the most part, you've got to have some friends that want to go with you."

ON HAVING THE SUPERBOWL OF NASCAR AS THE FIRST RACE AND THEN GOING INTO THE REGULAR SEASON
"There is so much expectation and preparation that goes into this race. And, for good reason. It really is the event that we all want to win and we all want to be a part of. We do recognize it as our elite event, but we also know that points are the same here as they are next week in Rockingham as far as the championship goes. We try to recognize that and be aware of that. It's one of those things that when you win it, it's one of the highest highs and when you have a bad day it's the lowest of the lows. You have to really let both those emotions roll off your back when you leave here because you're heading to Rockingham and it's time to get focused on the championship.

WHAT WILL CHANGE WHEN YOU GO TO ROCKINGHAM?
"Well, the track changes so much. Everything changes. There are about one-eighth of you guys (media) that will be there. And an eight of the fans that will be there but the competition is just as tough. It's just back to racing without restrictor plates and checking out the new aero and tire package that we have. That's about the only thing that's different from a normal Rockingham. But to me, it's tracks like that that help you win championships."

ON THE TIRES FOR DAYTONA
"I think they're a little bit soft. They wear a little bit more than what we'd like to see them wear. I'm a little bit concerned if there is a big rain tonight and how green the track will be. That first set of tires will take some abuse. But in some ways, I'll like it better because it brings the driver and the team and the aerodynamics back into the picture a little bit more and gives a team like ours a little bit of an advantage over a lot of guys. I shouldn't say they're 'softer'. A lot of it is in the construction and the way they're built. They wear more and it gives you that sensation that they're softer. For whatever reason they're sliding across the track. All that matters to us is whether they wear or go away. And they certainly do that. They're chemists (Goodyear). They have a lot of ways to make these tires do different things. For us drivers and teams, we only know one thing and that's whether the grip level goes away or stays the same. And the grip level is definitely going away more than in the past."

WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST CONCERNS ABOUT THIS RACE?
"I don't want to be starting where I'm starting (provisionsal). But it's just like every Daytona 500 and whether you've got the speed and handling that it takes to get to the front and hold those guys off."

YOUR CREW DID A LOT OF WORK ON YOUR CAR YESTERDAY. IS IT WHERE YOU WANT IT NOW?
"The handling is really good on the car. I still think we need a bit more speed. There are times out there when I can get to the front and stay there and there are times when it's a little bit more difficult than others. When you're practicing, it's hard to gauge because you have so many cars pulling on the track and pulling off the track. The real test will be tomorrow. I'm looking forward to getting out there and going racing. It's time to stop talking about it and time to stop working on the car. We're going to put our best effort forward and hope that we have a little bit better luck than what we've had the last few races."

DID YOU PLAN ON PUTTING A NEW ENGINE IN THE CAR?
"It's pretty much mandatory. Everybody has to put a new engine in. I think I would have liked to keep the other one. I was pretty happy with that one even though we didn't qualify well. In the race on Thursday, the speed was really good. But this one seems to be good as well."

DOES THE HANDLING NOW COMPARE TO OTHER TIMES YOU'VE RACED IN THE DAYTONA 500?
"I'd compare it to 1993, 1994, and 1995. Maybe more like a day race in July when the handling was a big issue. I think we've got one of the best aero packages that we've ever had down here. I'm real happy with the restrictor plate and with the spoiler. With the spoiler being bigger, it's great for the draft but it makes it a little bit more difficult to get the cars to handle the way we need them to. We've worked on that. So I would say those races compare more than what we've had the last few years here."

HAS THIS PACKAGE BROUGHT THE DRIVER BACK INTO MIX? AND IF SO, DO YOU LIKE YOUR CHANCES?
"I think this helps a team like ours be more competitive and get to the front and stay there. It's a 500-mile race. We're going to take every mile of that and try to work our way to the front. We'll use the entire team aspect of it to win this race."

ARE THE DEI GUYS STILL THE ONES TO BEAT?
"Yeah, as far as speed goes. But they've got to handle. I think this tire is definitely changing how this race is going to be run and how it's going to be won. And I think that's the only thing keeping us in the game right now."

ON STARTING IN THE BACK OF THE FIELD
"I've never had to start this far back at Daytona, but I definitely know it doesn't matter where you start here. It can be done. I look forward to making it happen. Don't count us out yet."

HAS THIS BEEN A FRUSTRATING SPEEDWEEKS FOR YOU?
"Yeah, definitely. Anytime we put all that effort into a race and then we qualified as bad as we did and then we had the bad luck on Thursday in that race. The one good thing about Daytona if you do qualify bad, you have the 125 to fall back on. That didn't work out for us so it's very frustrating. I think we have a really good car and a team that's capable of getting to the front. But certainly that doesn't make it very easy on us to start where we're starting. It's a combination of being back that far and trying to stay out of trouble and not a very good pit selection."

ON DALE EARNHARDT JR'S COMMENT THAT NOBODY WANTS TO WORK WITH HIM
"You're joking, right? Number one, he doesn't need anybody to work with him. He can do it on his own. And number two, why would anybody work with somebody who is so much faster than everybody else? I mean he's the guy we're all trying to beat. So, you don't necessarily work with a guy you want to beat to win. You work with somebody that when it comes down to the end, you think you can beat them."




News Archives



Jeff Gordon Online




Copyright 2004 Jeff Gordon Online.
All rights reserved.