Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Dupont Chevrolet Monte Carlo took time out from the pre-season thunder test to talk about the upcoming season.

Q:
How has the testing gone so far for the new season?

JG:
It's good to get back in the car, it's been a while. After a short pre-season it's still exciting to get back here [Daytona], it's an awesome place. It was a good day for us and the car was driving great. The speed wasn't awesome when we unloaded but we just gained on it all day long. By the end of the day I felt like we were pretty close to where we need to be.

Q:
What would you like to do better in 2004?

JG:
We need to work on our fuel mileage and our pit crew. We've got a lot of good guys on there but one was just sort of a fill in. We knew that was a position we needed to fill and we did. They've been awesome in practice and I think we'll be solid there.

We're always trying to improve performance of the race cars and the horsepower and try not to take away from that fuel mileage that was so important last year. The tires are going to help with that but I think fuel mileage and track position are still doing to be very important.

We've had a lot of good luck as a team for many years. Last year just wasn't our year. I'm hoping that the chemistry and hard work will make it our year.

Q:
What effect has the new testing policy and strategy had on you?

JG:
We made a test schedule and when we first started hearing about a possible point system change, I thought it was just something being considered. Everybody thought it was crazy and that it would never happen.

Now, we are re-evaluating our test schedule. Here [Daytona] and Vegas are for sure no matter what. But we've got some plans for the middle of the season on the off-weekends that we'll probably end up changing and making sure we have some saved for the later of the season. Those races have now turned into very important races. How you come out of those is going to determine the championship whether you're tenth in the points or first in the points. It's really anybody's game.

Q:
Are there any tracks you feel you need to test?

JG:
We weren't a top five car at Homestead last time out so it's definitely one we will consider. If you test at Homestead it might help you for Atlanta and Charlotte also so one of those three will probably be on our list.

Atlanta is a hit or miss track. One of the reasons I don't like to test at Atlanta is because the race is usually won in any number of those grooves. When you go there to test, it's right around the bottom. You can maybe work on your qualifying and I certainly need work on that at Atlanta.

Q:
What do you think of the changes to the aerodynamic rules?

JG:
Chicago, Kansas City, and fast smooth race tracks, they haven't gone far enough. It's still going to be tough to pass. Track position is still going to be important. On the flip side, at Darlington and Rockingham and tracks that are really worn out, it might be the opposite. We might not have as good racing because we don't have as much grip. I'm hoping it's just a step into it and hopefully they're open to what the drivers and teams and engineers have to say about it. And then we can grow from there and keep going in steps to maybe getting a little bit more downforce out of the car.

Q:
Will you look at things differently when the points system is revised?

JG:
The competition is still the competition. We're racing against the best guys and the best teams. You still have to do your job extremely well and better than everybody else to win it.

I don't think it should take away from the championship. But how you go about it will definitely change. What I do at a road course is maybe going to mean something toward getting in the top ten in points but it's not going to mean anything toward getting the championship in those last 10 races. That's the only problem that I have with it. There are certain race tracks that might lock you in the top ten but that takes away from what you did to win the championship if you win it or if you don't win it. I definitely think you're going to test different and race different. You're probably going to make sure you're in the top ten.

But in those last ten races, you're going to see a lot of risk-taking going on to win that deal.

 

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