Darlington: Jeff Gordon preview

Top-Five Finish In Store For Gordon At Darlington? DARLINGTON, S.C. - When in need of a top-five finish, not many drivers look to Darlington Raceway as the medicine to cure what ails them. In Jeff Gordon's case, this Sunday's Carolina Dodge ...

Top-Five Finish In Store For Gordon At Darlington?

DARLINGTON, S.C. - When in need of a top-five finish, not many drivers look to Darlington Raceway as the medicine to cure what ails them. In Jeff Gordon's case, this Sunday's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 might just be the pain reliever he needs.

Gordon, driver of the DuPont Chevrolet, has not scored a top five since winning the Protection One 400 at Kansas Speedway last September, a span of 12 races. While he began this season with two top 10's, the defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion has finished 17th and 16th in the last two races and is 11th in the points standings.

"Competition is so tough these days and we've been just a little off these past few races," Gordon said. "We've had some poor qualifying efforts and that has put us behind from the drop of the green flag.

"We need to focus on a good run in qualifying on Friday before we even begin to think about the race on Sunday."

Qualifying has been good to Gordon at Darlington -- or maybe he has been good at qualifying on the tricky egg-shaped track. He has started first four times and has qualified outside the top 10 only three times in 18 starts.

His race statistics may be even more impressive. Five of Gordon's 58 career Winston Cup victories have come at the "Track Too Tough To Tame." He has victories at 19 of the 23 tracks currently on the schedule, but no more than four victories occurred at one single track other than Darlington.

In his first three starts at the "Lady in Black," Gordon finished outside the top 20 each time. In 15 starts since, he has finished outside the top eight only three times. Overall, he has finished in the top three nine times, or 50 percent, and has led 998 laps.

"This has been a good track for us, even the first couple of races," Gordon said. "We ran competitive but I would get caught up in an accident or we would blow a motor. It wasn't until 1995 before everything came together and we won our first race here."

Gordon took on a new role late last year as part-owner of the No. 48 driven by Jimmie Johnson. Is there any advice he can give Johnson about the 1.366-mile layout?

"He's ahead of me in points, maybe I need to go ask him for some advice," Gordon joked. "We did talk about the different lines before his test and we picked each others' brains after the test.

"Before the race, I'll probably remind him that it will be a long race and he needs to save his tires.

"I'll probably also remind him that I'm part-owner of the car and that he doesn't need to tear it up. I don't need any extra headaches."

-pprplus-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson