Gordon(s) vs. Stewart at Dodge/Save Mart 350 SONOMA, Calif. - It could be billed as Gordon(s) vs. Stewart when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returns to Sears Point Raceway for the Dodge/Save Mart 350, June 20-23. Jeff Gordon entered last...
Gordon(s) vs. Stewart at Dodge/Save Mart 350
SONOMA, Calif. - It could be billed as Gordon(s) vs. Stewart when the NASCAR Winston Cup Series returns to Sears Point Raceway for the Dodge/Save Mart 350, June 20-23.
Jeff Gordon entered last year's event as the "King of the Road" with three successive victories on the twisting 12-turn, 2-mile circuit. He continued his dominance by setting the fast time in qualifying, and he even led the first 32 laps of the race. But it wasn't in the cards as some uncharacteristic mistakes cost Gordon dearly, and Tony Stewart took advantage to post the first NASCAR road-course victory of his career.
"You'd be surprised at how many mistakes I made out there that you didn't see. I made mistakes in front of a couple of different guys and it cost me," Gordon said. "Tony had a good car in 2000 and got knocked out and didn't show what he was capable of, but he did at this race."
Stewart qualified third-fast for the 112-lap feature and knew Gordon would be the man to beat.
"We didn't feel like he was invincible, we just felt like he was consistent and fast," Stewart said. "We were plenty quick to beat him (in 2000) but we just didn't make it there. I was sick in the car and when we crashed, it took the wind out of my sails."
While Gordon and Stewart will be the prohibitive favorites, there's another Gordon to keep an eye on: Robby Gordon. The native of Southern California - no relation to Jeff - should have won last year's race but allowed Stewart to sneak underneath him exiting the Chute with 10 laps remaining. Robby Gordon had led 18 laps.
Gordon has since signed a contract with Richard Childress Racing and will have premier equipment underneath him when he returns to the Sonoma Valley. Gordon has circled Sears Point on his calendar since last season's second-place effort. It was his best effort in Winston Cup racing.
"Everyone wants to play me as this Winston Cup road-race guy, but I've been on the front row for the Indianapolis 500 and I ran in the top five at Daytona in 2000," Gordon said. "Every time I get to showcase my driving, it helps out. I really felt we had the car to beat (at Sears Point last year)."
It will be Gordon(s) vs. Stewart II when the Winston Cup series makes its annual pilgrimage to the Sonoma Wine Country. In addition to exciting on-track action, competitors will find a much safer track with increased runoff at virtually every turn, plus there will be room for 43 pit stalls on pit road.
While the two Gordons and Stewart will be the favorites, there are a few veterans who could stir up some trouble. Rusty Wallace is a two-time champion at Sears Point, while Ricky Rudd has a track-record four poles at Sears Point. Rudd actually won the first-ever NASCAR Winston Cup race at Sears Point in 1989. Wallace placed fifth a year ago at Sears Point, while Rudd was fourth.
Other challengers should include road-race standouts Mark Martin and Ron Fellows, while Sterling Marlin has been competitive at every track during the 2002 season, with early-season wins at Las Vegas and Darlington. Marlin placed second at Sears Point in 2000 and is an underrated road-course racer.