Jeff Gordon has had a week to forget. After getting dinged $10,000 by NASCAR and spending the past week explaining his actions to what must feel like the entire free world, Gordon is ready to move on. But don't expect a kinder, gentler version of...
Jeff Gordon has had a week to forget. After getting dinged $10,000 by NASCAR and spending the past week explaining his actions to what must feel like the entire free world, Gordon is ready to move on. But don't expect a kinder, gentler version of the four-time champion this weekend in Martinsville.
Putting back-to-back short track events on the calendar may seem like a good way for NASCAR to pad their charity funds through fines, but Gordon says that despite the bad blood that boiled over last week in Bristol, it is likely going to be left behind.
"Emotions were high last week, but I won't carry any of that into Martinsville," said Gordon, who bumped Martin Truex Jr. out of the way during the race and then shoved Matt Kenseth on pit road after it. "We have to race the same guys week in and week out, and you can't be concentrating on paybacks. I go into each race with no enemies, and I hope not to create any during the race."
Last week, Gordon was running in the top five before Kenseth got into the back of him in the closing laps, sending him to a disappointing 21st. This week, he is looking for his third straight Martinsville win in the DIRECTV 500 on Sunday (2:00 p.m. Eastern on FOX).
"Obviously we like Martinsville, and Martinsville seems to like us," Gordon said. "It's like any other track that you go to that you have a lot of success at. It's a combination from the team putting together a great racecar, the communication between the driver and the crew and crew chief of putting the right adjustments into the car throughout the weekend, having good luck or putting yourself in a position to have good luck, and then the driver just having a knack for that racetrack."
There is no question that Gordon has the 'knack' for Martinsville. He leads all active drivers with seven wins and five poles at the .526 mile oval. He has been dominant there during the past three years, winning four of the past six races. Jimmie Johnson and the recently retired Rusty Wallace are the only other drivers to visit Martinsville's victory lane since 2002.
"If you're in the top two or three, you've got a really good shot at winning that race," Gordon said earlier this week. "So you've got to survive, you've got to overcome a lot of obstacles, you've got to adjust on the car to get better and better, and I think that that's probably one of the things that has impressed me the most that we've been able to do seven times is really be in that position in a race that's very challenging just to get to the end because of the tight quarters."
It's not hard to understand why Gordon's emotions boiled over last week. After struggling through a frustrating season last year and missing the Chase for the Championship, Gordon is determined to return to championship contender status this year.
"I think that I kind of heard a lot last year that maybe I wasn't being aggressive enough on the racetrack and different things," said Gordon, who won four times last year but finished 11th in the standings. It was the first time since his rookie season in 1993 that he finished outside the top 10 in points.
"My team has done an awful lot this year to make our race cars better, to put me in better positions, better pit crew, better communication, and I'm giving them everything I possibly can out there on the racetrack because they deserve it. If that means I've got to be more aggressive, then I'm going to be more aggressive."