NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Homestead-Miami Test: Day Two * Fifty NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers participating in season's final test session * Jeff Gordon busy at Homestead; ready for Martinsville renaissance DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 17, ...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Homestead-Miami Test: Day Two
* Fifty NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers participating in season's final test session
* Jeff Gordon busy at Homestead; ready for Martinsville renaissance
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 17, 2006) -- With half the 2006 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup a memory, drivers and teams are taking a somewhat circuitous route toward the sixth Chase event this Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
It includes this week's detour through South Florida, where NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams also are halfway through their final open test of the season -- at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The track will host the season-finale Ford 400 on Nov. 19, but with four races to be contested prior to Homestead, there is one driver who can't wait to head north to Martinsville, Va., site of this Sunday's running of the Subway 500 (NBC, 12:30 p.m.).
"The likelihood of having seven or eight guys in front of us have problems to get us back into the Chase I think is very unlikely," said four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), who trails standings leader Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) by 216 points. "So we're kind of more relaxed now where we're just going out there to win. Martinsville is a great place for us to do that."
Gordon leads all active drivers with seven Martinsville wins, and hopes momentum from a good Homestead test coupled with a good Sunday finish will re-invigorate his Chase hopes.
"Our goals are to go into these last five races just giving it everything we've got to win races and get as high up in the points as possible," said Gordon, who visited the Homestead-Miami media center prior to Tuesday's first test session.
Among the topics he addressed was Juan Pablo Montoya's 2007 series debut for Chip Ganassi Racing. Montoya, a former Indianapolis 500 champion and Formula 1 competitor, will drive the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge next season. He's participating in his first series test at Homestead, and took to the track for the first time Tuesday in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car.
"I think that's a great indication of the popularity of this sport, especially in America," Gordon said. "As far as motorsports go in America, this is the elite and the top level that you can get to. At one time, that was not necessarily the case. If you look at the Indy 500 and IndyCars back in the '80s, even maybe I guess late '80s, early '90s, it just seemed like the sport of NASCAR just started to take off.
"I was very fortunate to get involved with it in the early '90s and be a part of that. It's continued to take off among the American public. So you're seeing guys from other series that want to be in NASCAR." Gordon wants to be more of a Chase factor during the final five events, but he knows the past three weeks' poor finishes -- a fuel pump malfunction at Kansas Speedway, a wreck-marred finish at Talladega Superspeedway and last week's engine failure at Lowe's Motor Speedway -- have made it a more difficult task.
"Right now it's about experimenting as well as just putting solid races together," Gordon said, "going off of what we learned all year, what we know, and also incorporating some new things to just learn for this season and next year."
The Homestead-Miami test marks the final of six designated 2006 tests for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams. At the beginning of this year, NASCAR instituted a new testing policy to encourage a more level field of competition and help teams be more cost efficient, with these six tests (Daytona, Las Vegas, Richmond, Charlotte, Indianapolis, and Homestead-Miami) the only opportunities for teams to test at NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tracks.
The Homestead-Miami test began Monday and ends Wednesday. Teams may test on two of the three available days. All sessions begin at 1 p.m., and end at 9 p.m. (ET), weather permitting, with a dinner break from 5-6 p.m.