Four-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon was one of the many NASCAR drivers participating in the first of four days of testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in preparation for the 2003 season.  Gordon took time to speak with reporters during the lunch break to discuss his new 2003 Monte Carlo and their progress at the sun-drenched Las Vegas oval.

     "So far, so good," Gordon said.  "We're trying to get an idea of what it (the car) wants.  You go from one car that you've been working with for three-four years and you start to learn how that car reacts to certain things, and then you get a new car and all of a sudden it reacts different.  This car just doesn't seem to want to be in what we call 'yaw,' or sideways, much.  It's great when it's running straight, but don't get it sideways.  Where cars in the past maybe didn't have as good a downforce in the straight as these cars do, it had better in 'yaw,' where you could get it sideways.  These cars don't seem to have that.  I'm just learning, driving the cars.  The times aren't bad.  The track's got good grip.  The car's got good grip.

     "I think it's really interesting that this is the first time I can ever remember where all the manufacturers were this close, as far as wind tunnel numbers, templates, all that.

     "We had a lot of trouble with the old Monte Carlo when we first came out with it because it had so much rear downforce and so little front downforce.  We struggled quite a bit with that car at first but we massaged on it, worked with it, moved the bodies around and NASCAR helped us in some areas.  All of a sudden we got that car pretty well balanced by the end of it.  This car definitely has a much better balance from the beginning."

     Since NASCAR has restricted testing, why did his team choose to come to Las Vegas?

     "This is a great track.  You need a lot of downforce and your car goes through a lot of the same transitions and characteristics that you find at a lot of these mile-and-a-half racetracks.  And the weather -- I mean,  I think most of us would rather be in Kentucky -- testing at a non-Winston Cup track, so we won't be charged with a test -- if the weather was good.  And with all the snow and ice going on back east, you can't do it.

     "Going back to the mile-and-a-half tracks, the speeds are about the same.  You've got one end of the track that's tighter, a little bit flatter -- the car gets a lot of travel in that end of the racetrack and that could be similar to a Chicago, a Kansas or a lot of these new racetracks we go to.  There's a lot of things you can learn here that applies to a lot of tracks."

     Jeff was asked how serving as co-owner of Jimmie Johnson's team while also driving the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.

     "It's still not a lot different for me.  My role was when we were negotiating with the sponsors and bringing Jimmie on board.  Once we got everything in place, my role was just to be the best teammate that I could be to Jimmie -- just like I would Joe (Nemechek) or Terry (Labonte) -- and just be the best driver of the 24 car I could be.  The two teams have jelled together very well.  I like the way it works.  That's mainly just from a driver-teammate standpoint.  From an owner's standpoint, obviously it's been a good experience for me because he's fifth in points his first year out.  Sponsors are extremely happy.  They're renegotiating already to extend the contracts, so we're having a good time with it."     

     Testing continues through Thursday at LVMS.  Grandstand admission is free to the public.

Fastest Winston Cup car in qualifying trim:

Todd Bodine (No. 54 Army National Guard Chevrolet) 31.81 sec./169.800 mph.


Fastest Winston Cup cars in racing trim:

1.  Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) 32.112 sec./168.202 mph

2.  Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo) 32.304 sec./167.175 mph

3.  Ken Schrader (No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge) 32.420 sec./166.572 mph

4.  Greg Biffle (No. 16 Grainger Ford) 32.440 sec./166.401 mph

5.  Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford) 32.550 sec./165.812 mph


Fastest Busch Series car:

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford) 33.273 sec./162.247 mph