Chatting About A Track Record

BRISTOL, TN.- - After setting a new track record in winning the pole position for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon discussed the lap, his season so far, and what it will take to get back into the championship hunt.

Post-Qualifying Press Conference

Which line is preferred going into the first turn on the first lap?
"I think there is only one preferred line here whether it's on the start or 500 laps into the race and that is right around the bottom. There is no better place than around the bottom here. I think track position is going to be more important this time than it ever has been, especially with the pit road the way it is going to be. It makes it equal for everybody pitting, but it doesn't necessarily make it equal for guys that don't have track position. What's going to happen is that if you're 25th in line and you come in, the pace car is going to catch you so fast. Then you're going to have to go around that whole pit road to try to get back on the track. I'm really excited about having a good pit spot to have good pit stops and keep that track position. I'm excited about our starting position and how well the car is running because I think track position is going to be super important. I think I was saying earlier today that at a racetrack like Bristol, your race begins on Friday - how well you qualify, based on your track position and your pit location - it all begins today. Today we helped ourselves out a whole lot for Sunday's race."

Do you wish they'd run all the races here in the daytime?
"No, I just really wish we could figure out how to win at night. I like racing here at night. We've been good at times. We just seem to lose it at the end during the night race and I can't quite put my finger on it. That's why we came here and tested. I'm glad it was cool conditions today because that is more like night-time conditions. But, we have been real successful here during the day. This weekend is going to be different, though. If it stays cool like this, the conditions are going to be more like night conditions. We've been really successful here when it is hot and sunny and slick during the daytime. Managing tires in the past was a big thing. We hope we can find our way to win here whether it's day or night."

Did the cold weather contribute to the track record speeds?
"I think so. It's all about getting the heat into the tires. If you can get the heat into the tires, which we're doing a good job of with the air pressures we're running, the amount of downforce we've got in these cars, the horsepower that we're making. I was surprised how well the tires came in during the first couple of corners. But, I knew the second lap was going to be my best lap. I think the cooler conditions right now have got the track extremely fast, once you get that heat in the tires. I made a 75-lap run here when we tested here and it was amazing how fast this track was for that whole entire run and how little it dropped off. I think there are a couple different things there. I think the teams continue to get better. We're making really good horsepower - even with the one-engine rule - for qualifying. We're finding ways to get the cars to hook up better and just go faster. But, I think the cooler conditions certainly contributed to that."

Have you and Robby Gordon made up since Loudon?
"Robby Gordon? Robby and I are fine. I work hard at trying to put things like that behind me. We're going to race hard. We're going to bump, we're going to bang somewhere down the road. It comes and it goes, and you try not to hold any grudges because holding a grudge will usually get you in more trouble than anything else. We're starting on the front row and I've got the preferred line. We're going to go out there and we're going to run a race. Again, it doesn't matter what his name is or what the number on that car is. I'm going to race him the same way he races me. If we go out there and we race each other clean, then he'll get the same thing back from me. If he bumps and bangs on me, then the same thing will come back to him. I do that with everybody out there, not just him."

Is this gratifying to get a good start here after a tough start to the year?
"Absolutely. I think the team deserves it. I kind of laugh at things because we had a shot to win the Daytona 500 - we all know what happened there. We went to Rockingham. We went from the back to the front to the back, back to the front. We had a strong car and we got a decent finish out of it. I think our only performance that's not been up to par this year has been at Las Vegas. We tried a two-tire strategy that didn't work out for us. But really other than that, we've run well enough to get top fives. Last week at Darlington we ran well enough to win the race. We just haven't had any good fortune come our way. Sterling Marlin has had a lot of good fortune and that is why he is where he's at. We are just going to keep working hard and trying to qualify up front and lead laps and run up front. Eventually, we'll get to victory lane. Last weekend was a good qualifying run. This weekend is a good qualifying run. These are things that are only going to get confidence levels up and get momentum going. But by all means, it has not been a horrible start to a season, in our book."

Did the construction of the pedestrian tunnel in turn three change anything in the racing surface?
"It did a little bit. There is a little bit of a difference when you enter that corner, but it really isn't affecting anything. The track is still fast. The cars are riding over it pretty good. I'm very excited to have a tunnel here. It makes things really nice. It didn't change things much. There is a little bit of a bump there, but not enough to really upset the cars or anything."

On testing at Bristol in mid-March
"I think our testing here was more of an advantage just by getting laps and information that we haven't gotten here in a long, long time."

Do you think you'll pass your driver, Jimmie Johnson, in points this week?
"I'm just out there racing everybody the same. Jimmie has had a tremendous start to the season. I'm not looking to just pass Jimmie in the points. I'm looking to get up there and battle for the lead in the points. We've got a lot of guys to pass before we can start doing that. This is just a great way to get some momentum and get us going in the right direction. Hopefully, we can get a good, solid finish and maybe even a win out of this deal."

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