Jeff Gordon press release
TEAM DUPONT HEADS WEST INTO UNKNOWN
AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 8, 2011) - Phoenix International Raceway may have held races for more than 45 years and hosted 30 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but Jeff Gordon believes this trip out west is into an unknown frontier.
Gordon was first to the checkered flag here in the spring, and afterward he was first to dig up a section of the front straightaway to begin reconstruction on the one-mile layout. The new design includes a new surface, and changes to the first two turns and back straightaway.
"It's an unknown for all of us," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "It's a new surface and we're using a new tire. It's basically a whole new race track.
"(Turns) 1 and 2 have changed quite a bit. Turns 3 and 4 really did not change a whole lot, other than the surface. And the back straightaway is completely different - there is no comparison of that part of the track to anything we race on anywhere else. "It's going to be tricky - there's no doubt about that."
In 25 starts at the Arizona track, Gordon has two wins (2007 and 2011), three poles, 10 top-fives and 18 top-10's. But a new era on the track starts with this Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500.
"I hope we are able to get a second groove worked in," said Gordon. "I think that is going to be very important because you walk a fine line between having great track position and maintaining speed, and making it hard for other guys to pass. If you get a foot outside of the preferred groove, you might be in the wall or you could lose a lap. It takes that long to get back in the groove, clean the tires off and get back up to speed.
"That is what can make this race very interesting and very challenging." Gordon enters the penultimate race of the 2011 season eighth in the point standings. But the new-look track could alter the look of the standings.
"To me, Phoenix is the unknown with the new pavement," said Gordon. "I think we're all going to be anxious to see not only how the race goes, but how this championship unfolds. If you get a foot outside the groove, it could ruin your entire day - and those aren't variables a championship contender would like to factor in.
"These conditions could shake things up in a big way."