TITLE STILL WITHIN REACH FOR TEAM DUPONT HEADING INTO ATLANTA HAMPTON, Ga. (October 24, 2006) - After a shakeup in the point standings following the Martinsville race, "what could have been" might still be for Jeff Gordon and Team DuPont....
TITLE STILL WITHIN REACH FOR TEAM DUPONT HEADING INTO ATLANTA
HAMPTON, Ga. (October 24, 2006) - After a shakeup in the point standings following the Martinsville race, "what could have been" might still be for Jeff Gordon and Team DuPont. Gordon, who is ninth in the standings and 141 out of the lead entering this Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, gained 75 points on the leader last Sunday following his third top-five finish in six of 10 "Chase" races. While three DNF's during that span have hindered his effort to collect a fifth title this year, Gordon and the No. 24 team still have a chance to sit at the head table at the championship banquet in New York. "Things didn't look too good after our engine failure at Charlotte," said Gordon, who exited that race 10th in the standings, 216 out of the lead. "It changed our mind set for the remaining races, and I think that showed at Martinsville. "If we had been higher up in points, we probably would have made our final pit stop with the leaders. But we used a different pit strategy, stopped earlier, and we were able to come home with a top-five finish. "We can take those types of chances because of the position we're in."
Gordon, who made his debut in NASCAR's premier series here in 1992, has visited Victory Lane four times at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 28 starts. He has also collected one pole, 12 top-fives and 17 top-10's. The four-time Cup Series champion is the active leader in laps led at the 1.54-mile track, only 24 shy of 1,000 laps led. Much of Team DuPont's success this year can be attributed to this track. Last year, after struggling on the intermediate tracks and missing the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," Gordon, crew chief Steve Letarte and the No. 24 team tested here with new ideas. "When we came here and tested, we knew we needed to try a different route with our intermediate program," said Gordon. "We had been using the same setups as our teammates, but we weren't finding the same success. Steve and the guys came up with some different ideas that we wanted to try. "We tested here during the Chase last year and tried some things that made the car more comfortable for me. They were different than the setups my teammates were using, but they were working for me and my driving style."
Information gathered that day was incorporated into a new chassis Gordon raced for the first time earlier this year at Michigan. He led a race-high 50 laps but finished eighth in the rain-shortened event. In its second race, Gordon drove it to victory at Chicagoland Speedway. It has since been driven by Gordon to two more top-five finishes at California and Michigan. Two mechanical failures at Kansas (fuel pump failure) and Charlotte (engine) - both while Gordon was running in the top 10 - resulted in DNF's. "This car has performed well on the mile-and-a-half tracks this year," said Gordon. "Hopefully, we can put another strong race together and battle for the win. "That's all we can do at this point. We're not out of the championship hunt like I originally thought after Charlotte, but it's still going to be tough. "We're only 141 out of the lead, which is manageable. What's tough is the fact there are eight guys ahead of us in the standings and it will be difficult to leapfrog them with only four races remaining. "We can't control what they do, so we'll just focus on trying to win races."