Four-time Brickyard 400 winner, Jeff Gordon, made it an all Chevrolet front row by qualifying in second place in his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS. This was Gordon’s 11th top-10 start of 2014 and his 12th in 21 races at IMS.
Last year’s Brickyard champion Ryan Newman qualified his No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS in fourth position. Two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart, No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS, will start sixth while his Stewart Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch will start right behind him in seventh in his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet and Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS will start 10th and 11th respectively. Johnson also is a four-time winner of the event.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Jeff Gordon, also a three-time winner at NHMS, will start from the 11th position in his No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS. He will be joined alongside fellow Chevrolet driver Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS in 12th to round out the Chevrolet power leading the field to the green flag on Sunday.
Brad Keselowski (Ford) will start third and Brian Vickers (Toyota) was fifth to round out the top-five.
The Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday July 27th. Live coverage will be available on ESPN, PRN Radio, Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and NASCAR.com.
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 JIMMY JOHN’S CHEVROLET SS – POLE WINNER
KERRY THARP: Our pole winner for tomorrow's 21st annual Crown Royal presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com is Kevin Harvick with a track record out here today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kevin drives the No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet. Congratulations on your performance, and just talk about what it's going to be like to lead the group tomorrow afternoon here to the green.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, after the first lap I was probably more nervous than I have been in a while for qualifying. Just wasn't really expecting to have the car run that fast, and then from there, they're all looking at you, all right, if you screw this up, it's on you, buddy. It's great to have fast cars. They do a great job preparing the cars and just being able to come to the racetrack and know that the car is going to be fast just takes a huge burden off of everybody's shoulders just to get the balance right.
It's been a unique few hours of practice with the racetrack being green this morning. We concentrated on qualifying and felt our race stuff was in the ballpark yesterday and still kind of up in the air, but we made a lot of good decisions today to get the car right, and hopefully tonight we can talk through it and see where this Nationwide race goes and go from there.
It's been an interesting weekend so far, but everybody has done a good job in scrambling to get the balance right.
Q. I know you probably don't like to project these things, but with this being a place where track position is so important, do you think this is going to be yet another one of those races we've seen out of the 14 where the 14 is entirely capable of dominating this race except for the possibility, the luck y'all have had? Is it going to be one of those that you could dominate or get bitten? Is it one of those either or kind of races?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, whether something goes wrong or a mistake or whatever it may be, it's time to we've all talked about it, and it's time to get into Chase form, and this is where it all starts. Everything is capable and everybody has been working hard and making adjustments and doing the things they need to do to get better, and I feel good about where everything is at. Having the first pit stall is going to take some pressure off the guys for sure, and if we get behind, I think our car is fast enough to make up for it, but the track position is definitely important, and we just have to make good decisions throughout the day and as few mistakes as possible and see if it all falls our way, but the car is capable of doing what it needs to do.
Q. You feel confident that you can focus on eliminating those of those mistakes?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I just don't think we need to worry about the mistakes anymore. If you make a mistake, you just need to try to finish where you need to finish. You're going to have mistakes, and you're going to have mistakes happen in the last 10 weeks, and now is a good time to go through those exercises. We've been through some problems and feel like we've fixed all the problems with our cars, and the pit crew has been working hard, and I feel like that's kind of the last thing we have to overcome to put ourselves in 100 percent championship form.
I feel like they've done a great job with when you come here, you feel like you're racing against everybody's latest and greatest stuff, and they're progressing nicely. I'm ready. They're ready. We're ready to go.
Q. You talk about being in Chase mode. I know the other day you talked about making sure that you have good finishes and everything. Have you noticed anything different yesterday and today versus maybe the last four weeks as far as your team or your car or anything?
KEVIN HARVICK: No, we've always done a good job all year of if a car is off, adjusting the balance and doing the things we need to do, and feel like we've made a lot of good decisions throughout practices and overnight and what direction the balance needs to go. The overcast was not really what we expected today, and I think we're all kind of expecting a little bit of a greener racetrack in the morning, so we just have to go and be able to adapt to the track changing because I believe it's going to change if it rains tonight and they get the little air blowers out and blow the dust out of all the cracks. There's a little bit of a window to screw the balance up if you're not aware of the situations tonight.
Q. Following up on that latest and greatest thing you were talking about, Hendrick engines have been really strong. Have you been able to tell over the last two days or from qualifying today, are teams starting to close the gap a little bit?
KEVIN HARVICK: I mean, the engines are so good that we don't even think about them. It's like we don't even pay attention to where we are because 99 percent of the time you're going to be where you need to be down the straightaway. I feel good about it.
Q. You kind of touched on this a little bit, before the season you weren't regarded as the greatest qualifier. This season, though, four poles. Is it because of the change in the qualifying format? Is it the new team? Or is it contributing other factors?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think some of that I think all of that comes down to the car. Obviously my confidence is a lot higher knowing that you don't have to over drive the car or hit a perfect lap to qualify well. The engine department and the effort that these guys put into the car is different than what I had in the past.
Q. Given this track being so narrow and being so flat, is there anything that can or should be done to maybe increase the amount of passing during the course of the 400 or anything that can be done to make it a better show on Sunday?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think you should argue with somebody to see if you can get anything changed around here. When you've got 100 years of history and you know that you don't have to have as good of anything when you come to the Brickyard just for the fact that it's the Brickyard and history is history, and it's a very unique racetrack. I think as you look through time you've had some you know what the circumstances are going to be here, so it's just a unique race from what we do on a week to week basis.
Q. With the format you've got here, is this one of the better tracks to get a clean lap?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I felt like I got too close to the 55 in the second session and hurt our lap a fair amount coming off of Turn 4. It's definitely one of those places where for us a clean lap was better than being too close to a guy in front of you.
Q. Rodney had said that part of the reason he ultimately decided to leave MWR and come to SHR is this race last year he saw Hendrick horsepower and what it was capable of doing. Do you talk to him at all about how meaningful this would be or is that kind of an unspoken thing with you guys?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, you come to the racetrack every week hoping you have a chance to win races, and I think we're both fortunate to put ourselves in a position to have great engines and great cars and great support and feel like everybody works together well and has escalated the cars and competition within the things that we have access to. So it's been great, but I don't know that we would ever have a conversation like that.
Q. If you were to win this race, how would you rank winning at Indianapolis on this track with other victories you've had?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, we've been fortunate to do that, and in our sport, the Daytona 500 is the biggest race that we go to from a NASCAR standpoint, but for me, I grew up in Bakersfield, California, and watched Rick Mears win four Indianapolis 500s, and that was my childhood hero. For me coming here and being able to have won and be on the pole a couple times now is something that's pretty special. It's not very often that you get to somewhat fulfill your childhood dreams and just really enjoy coming here and feel lucky just to be driving around the track.
KERRY THARP: Kevin, congratulations. That track record you set in the first round of qualifying today, 188.889 miles per hour. Congratulations, and good luck tomorrow.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS – QUALIFIED 2ND
KERRY THARP: Joining us now are our second and third fastest qualifiers for tomorrow's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at the Brickyard. Our second fastest is Jeff Gordon, and he drives the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, and our third fastest is Brad Keselowski, and he drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford.
I'll go to Jeff first. Jeff, obviously you won this first race 20 years ago, second fastest in qualifying. You've got to feel good about your chances out here tomorrow afternoon.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I feel extremely good, excited about it. I was in here yesterday and talking about how good our race team is and how good I thought our race car was going to be, and today kind of proves that. I mean, Kevin was certainly very, very quick, and it was nice to close that gap a little bit on him that third session, but I feel very confident about this weekend. Starting on the front row is an excellent place to start. Track position is extremely important, and I couldn't be more pleased with the efforts that we had today and in that qualifying session to get us that front row start.
Q. Jeff, you were talking about the other day the years when the winner of this race has gone on to win the championship and why. With the first three sitting there with Kevin, you and Brad, it's been some years since that happened, but is this shaping up as tomorrow could be back to being one of those indicators, whose pit crew does the best? The three of you especially, is it shaping up as it could be that sort of thing?
JEFF GORDON: I think so and I hope so. I think that there's certainly more than a handful of teams right now that could win this race as well as could be a real factor in the championship, and as I mentioned yesterday, I don't know if there's an absolute clear cut favorite. Brad, I think, over the last few weeks certainly has shown that. There's been times when Kevin has shown that. I think there's been times when we've shown that, times that Jimmie has shown that, and there's some others in there, as well.
But I think that I just I'm a big believer that this race in particular, the best team wins 90 percent of the time, and I think that that's also the case when it comes down to the championship is 90 percent, maybe even more of a percentage, it's the best team that wins the championship.
Q. Obviously you guys represent what everybody would consider the two best teams this year so far: Hendrick and Penske. This race has always been a place where people point to as a marker where you see teams roll out their best stuff. Have you guys seen any signs the last two days of other teams maybe closing the gap or is there any reason to think that story line of Hendrick and Penske won't continue for Sunday and forward?
JEFF GORDON: Well, you could also argue that we've opened up the gap because we brought our best stuff. I mean, I don't know. I think that we certainly look at all the Hendrick cars and the Stewart Haas cars having Hendrick chassis, Hendrick engines and just how good they've been, and then Penske to me is the team to beat outside of what we have, and at times they've been better than us, at times we've been better than them. I'm pretty sure all those groups have their best stuff here, and I wouldn't be surprised if you just keep going on down the list that everybody has brought their best stuff.
I don't know, today I was wondering what Kevin had because he had us all beat, and we've got the same stuff basically and all the data that we can tap into. And they had the field covered.
Q. Kevin talked a little bit earlier this week about being in Chase mode and that he has to kind of worry about finishes now and just can't throw caution to the wind and gamble every week because you need good finishes leading into the Chase to have that kind of confidence and be in that Chase rhythm. Would you guys subscribe to that theory over the next six, seven weeks?
JEFF GORDON: We're doing everything we can to win the race every weekend; that's all I know we're doing. I would say that at New Hampshire we took a little more risk with the fuel mileage that we would not have done in the Chase, so I think in our opinion these guys have more wins than we do, and we want to go into the Chase with as much momentum as possible, and to me that's about getting wins and just yeah, I think our team is very consistent, and that's why we're leading the points, but I think in those final 10 races that's going to be important, but I also think we're going to need to step it up a bit to lead more laps and be in position to win more races, as well, and that's what we're trying to do right now.
Q. Jeff, back when you won the first race, they were qualifying about 175 or so, and now they're almost at 190. Does this come from the experience that teams have learned over the years, and is 190 a possibility?
JEFF GORDON: Oh, yeah, it just depends on what NASCAR does allows us to do with the cars and what Goodyear does with the tires. I think we would have gone either a little bit faster. Tony blew a tire here, and they probably even went a little conservative on the left side because of that so I think we could have gone a little bit faster had that not happened. It's just technology. The aerodynamics of the cars are vastly improved. I laugh when I look at that '94 car and I've had a chance to look at it this week because we had it at our bowling tournament and it's around here, as well. It's so funny. You talk about stock cars, that thing looks pretty stock to me compared to what we have today. I mean, today these are really race cars in its purest form. I get a chance every once in a while to talk to people outside of our industry and other forms of motorsports and travel to other parts of the world and talk about racing, and people realize that our cars are no joke these days. They're making a lot of power, making a tremendous amount of downforce for what they are, and getting through the corners really fast and aren't easy to drive, either.
I mean, today qualifying the cars were stuck really, really good, so conditions were great, and from one lap it was awesome. It's going to be a whole different ballgame tomorrow in the race, but so much has changed. Yeah, you can't even compare anything we did in '94 to what we're doing today.
Q. Jeff, you've seen this race evolve certainly over the last 21 years. Is there anything that can or should be done to bring back some of the juice, some of the interest that we had here when this thing started and within the first five, ten years?
JEFF GORDON: Well, the thing that I do find so interesting is, I mean, we've got a big blade on the back, and you would think that all the things that NASCAR has tried to do to get them to suck up that they would. In '94, I mean, if you remember any part of that race, especially there at the end when me and Ernie were battling, you didn't want to be the leader. The leader just got so loose and the guy behind him would just suck up and draft and go right by him, and we just kept swapping the lead back and forth because we were trying to put ourselves in position to be leading basically off of Turn 4. You didn't want to be leading off of 2 because the guy was going to go by you and probably win the race.
And so that's changed a lot. It's aerodynamics, it's always going to come down to aerodynamics and drag and downforce. You would think we're smart enough to understand all that and how we could figure out how to come together with NASCAR and make the cars draft better. The IndyCars have done an excellent job here. The Indy 500 the last couple years has been amazing with the passing and the drafting. They're using technology to figure it out, and we've got to do the same. But I don't know what the answer is. I'm not an aerodynamicist. Brad is but I'm not. He's also an engine builder, too.
Q. You guys have had all sorts of different conditions. You had a morning practice, you had some sun, you had some overcast, you had the track washed clean. Given all that, do you really how comfortable are you that everybody really knows what they have as far as the race is concerned?
JEFF GORDON: He hit it. Other than just being in dirty air, that's going to be the biggest factor, but the track conditions won't be the same tomorrow. The race is you always think you know what you have and then they drop the green and all of a sudden you're like, whoa, where did this come from, and sometimes you nail it and sometimes you miss it and got to adjust.
Q. On a scale of challenge, where does Indianapolis Motor Speedway fit?
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it's definitely a very challenging track. I think the more corners that you have at a track the more challenging it is, and then if you throw shifting into that, then that makes a whole 'nother set of challenges.
I think the road courses are the most challenges I'd say, then Pocono which has three corners, not four, but three, and then you have shifting there, so it's a pretty challenging racetrack, and then I would say this would fall after those. So yeah, I'd say top four or five as one of the most challenging.
I love the challenge that this track has. It's difficult sometimes to pass aerodynamically, but you can do some things on how and where you pick your spots to pass at, and I love that challenge.
KERRY THARP: Jeff, thank you for a good qualifying effort. Good luck tomorrow