Before The Green Flag In Bristol

BRISTOL, TN.- - After qualifying on the front row for the fifth consecutive time at Bristol Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon participated in a media chat session. The evolution of Bristol Motor Speedway, the wreck last week at Darlington, field fillers, and the upcoming race at Texas were discussed.

Discuss the qualifying lap on Friday
"It was a heck of a lap for us. We got everything we could out of it. We may have tightened it up just a little bit too much. But I knew Ryan (Newman) put a good number up and I'm just happy to have a Chevy in the top five right now and have a front row starting position and get a good spot on pit road. I feel great. On Sunday I'll be 100 percent. Now on Monday, after Bristol, I don't know if I'll feel as good. Hopefully that'll be because we fought hard all day to get a victory here. I'd love to get back in Victory Lane. I'm happy to be second, but I really thought we had a shot at the pole. And we did. We were only three-thousandths off. Ryan put up a heck of a number up there. I knew it was going to take everything we had to beat that lap. We were working really hard in practice to run as strong as we could then. But this is a great way to come back from our stuff (crash) last week. Our qualifying has been incredible here at Bristol. I love to qualify here. I love to race here. It was a solid lap for us."

Does this help with the team morale after last week?
"It always helps. This team is so good at bouncing back. It think it's because we have a lot of depth and some talent there. But it certainly doesn't hurt to come here and run well. I know those guys wanted that pole really bad and I did too. So it's kind of bittersweet. It's nice to have that front row start and we've had several of those here. It's nice to have another one but we wanted that number one spot."

Are you still sore from last week's wreck at Darlington?
"Everything did its job (safety equipment) so I'm real happy with how I've felt this week. I'm a little bit sore, but it could have been a lot worse."

Discuss the upcoming race at Texas Motor Speedway
"I'm excited with the way we've run there the last couple of times. Hopefully we can carry something there out of Bristol this week. I used to dread going there, but now I kind of look forward to going there."

What do you expect from the new tire at Texas?
"I'll be honest. I don't know a lot about the tire in Texas. Some guys tested there and they ran pretty fast. I don't know if they just did construction or if they did compound and construction. I'm in favor of it as long as Goodyear feels secure with it. I'm in favor of the softer tires everywhere as long as we don't have tire issues or problems where we're abusing them too much- especially at a place like Texas. I've hit the wall there and it hurts. They don't have softer walls there and they need to have them. Let's hope we don't have an issue with tires."

What advice would you give a young racer like Kasey Kahne who has never been in a Cup race at Bristol?
"I don't think anybody needs to give him any advice. I think we're trying to learn from him right now. He's doing everything right. Bristol is a place where it doesn't matter if you're leading the pack or you're at the tail end of the field or in the middle. When it happens (crash), it's hard to stay out of it. You just hope that you have good luck on your side. You just hope you've got a car that's going forward. It's a place where everything has to really click for you. You can prevent certain things from happening by the way you race. If a guy is all over you and you don't give him a break, then you're going to frustrate him enough to where he might take it out on you. And vice-versa. You might have a guy who is frustrated with you because you're faster than him and he keeps chopping you off. You're going to get frustrated eventually. You've got to really have a lot of patience here even though it's not a real patient place. It's a real aggressive track."

How will the 'field fillers' play into the race at Bristol?
"They play a role. This is a tough place to pass. There's really only one groove. Darlington and Bristol are major factors with that issue."

Have you talked with NASCAR about field fillers?
"Any time I mention something to you guys (media), I mention it to them (NASCAR) too. At tracks like Darlington and Bristol, tracks that are fast and narrow, and hard for a slower car to get out of the way or to run a line that works for the faster cars, something else needs to be done. There needs to be a higher minimum speed (during the race) or maybe a minimum speed for qualifying. I'm not saying anything has to be done immediately. Yeah, we'd like that. It's hard to expect that. They have to evaluate things and take their time to think about it and make sure they make the right decisions."

On battling with Dale Jr for second place on the final lap at Texas last year
"It would have been a lot more fun battling for the win like that, but I enjoy racing with Junior. He fights you hard. He gives you just barely enough room to make the things happen. I could have pushed the issue on him there. I was pretty content with battling for second and trying to get that second spot. But I wanted to make sure I brought the car home in third. If I would have pushed the issue a little more, it's possible neither one of us would have come back with the car in one piece. You've got to make those choices and decisions. Had that been for the win, it might have had a little bit different outcome."

What does a front row starting position mean for Sunday?
"A good starting position means a lot here and can make for a better result on Sunday. But it doesn't guarantee anything. These guys are working all the time to make these cars stick better and corner better and all those things to pick up speed. Those are small increments. The tires are really the key. It's really in Goodyear's hands. It's easy for them to control the speeds. We know this tire is a little bit different construction with a little bit softer compound. I think that's why more guys were in the .15's. I thought we were going to be a half a second faster. But we were really about the same speed as the last time we were here. I ran a 15.03 and was on the pole the last time we were here, so we picked it up almost a tenth."

How does the track differ from when you first came here?
"I can remember when we had to bring U-Hauls in and pit out of the back of a U-Haul. Those were interesting days. I remember when it was pavement here. My most memorable moment in early days was when is was leading the Busch race here and was about to lap Harry Gant when it started raining and they red-flagged the race. We went back racing and Harry won the race. He came back and killed us (laughs). But the physical part, none of this was here on the back straightaway- the tunnel, the motorhome lot, the grandstands. There used to be grass and signs. There were no suites wrapped around here. I flew in from Charlotte and it's an impressive sight from the air. It looks like a college football stadium sitting on top of a mountain. You can't help but be excited about coming here- especially when you run good like we do."

Is wading through slower cars more of an issue at Bristol?
"Yeah. Darlington is one of those tracks where it's so hard to stay out of the way even if you're just a little bit slower. You really have to let that faster car go by you on the straightaway. Here, it's similar. You run up on guys really quick. As long as they pick a lane, whether it's the bottom or the top, you can deal with it. At Darlington it's hard to do that. You can't really run the bottom because you can't stay on the bottom. You can't run high because that's where we all want to run. It's a little bit different issue here. But the concern that I have is there are cars out there that are 2.5 seconds off the pole. That, I don't like. That car is going to get lapped in five laps. He's got to let off to let everybody go by him, and there's going to be less the five laps the next time. That's certainly a concern we all have."

Have you talked to Andy Hillenburg since last week?
"Well first of all, I was in the ambulance with Andy last week and I was happy that he was even in the ambulance and feeling okay because I hit him a ton. He took a much bigger G-load than I did. I was lucky the front end of my car absorbed the impact. Where I hit him, it probably didn't. But that wasn't Andy's fault. He ran the minimum speed the lap before that. I did not blame Andy whatsoever. When I was talking about slower cars out there, I was talking about slower cars I had run with and passed and almost crashed trying to go around them. That was not Andy. I had not gotten to Andy all day. So I think there were some things misconstrued. And I know Andy. He's a great guy. He cares a lot about the competitors out there and the last thing he wants is for anybody to come down on him or to cause anything. I know he was very apologetic. I told Andy that as mad as I was about wrecking my car, I didn't blame him. I don't know what happened and I wasn't pointing any fingers. I know there's an issue with cars out there at Darlington, specifically at Darlington, that were in the way and didn't belong out there."

On Ryan Newman's qualifying success
"It's impressive. It's one of those things you look at and just shake your head. You want to knock him off so bad. You want to be the guy to beat him. I've been on the receiving and on the giving end. We've been on the front row quite a few times. He's beat me more times than I've bean him. But it's impressive. They've got their act together. I know Rusty (Wallace) came up here and tested and then Ryan is on the pole. Those guys are doing a great job utilizing their resources. Ryan does a great job of getting the most out of the car. You've certainly got to tip your hat to what those guys have accomplished."

What adjustments do you make for the first short track race of the season?
"I don't know if there is a big adjustment. We've run four or five races this season and we're pretty much set on go as far as just racing with the competitors and getting up to speed and preparing for each track as it comes along on the circuit. Bristol is a unique place and I guess you have to prepare yourself a little different. My first goal is to qualify up front. We've done that. My next goal is to focus on the race. We'll start doing that tomorrow. We'll just try to weave in and out of traffic and try to stay out of trouble and have a car that's there at the end. When we have a car at the end of this race, we're usually a contender for the win or for a top five. We'll work hard to make sure we do that."

Where and for how long did you hurt after the Darlington wreck?
"Everywhere. My feelings were hurt (laughs). I was probably the most sore on Tuesday and Wednesday. That pain was in my shoulders. There was some immediate pain on Sunday, but I'm not going to describe where it was. Let me just say I've made an adjustment in my belts this week (laughs). And on that note, I'm leaving."

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