With a Win, Gordon Can Achieve Feat Not Accomplished Since 1990 TALLADEGA, Ala. - Earlier this year, Jeff Gordon achieved something he had never done in his 12-year career by winning two restrictor-plate races in one season. This Sunday in the...
With a Win, Gordon Can Achieve Feat Not Accomplished Since 1990
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Earlier this year, Jeff Gordon achieved something he had never done in his 12-year career by winning two restrictor-plate races in one season. This Sunday in the EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, he has a chance to accomplish something only the late Dale Earnhardt was able to do - win three restrictor-plate races during one season.
Earnhardt, a seven-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, won both races held at Talladega Superspeedway and one of two events held at Daytona International Speedway in 1990. After wins at Talladega and Daytona earlier this year, Gordon can match that feat with a win on Sunday.
However, Gordon is not preoccupied with tying a mark or making history as he is in the midst of Team DuPont's "Drive for Five," the team slogan as they chase their fifth NASCAR championship. He currently leads the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings by a one-point margin over Kurt Busch and a 157-point edge over 10th. With the "big one" - the term often used to describe accidents at the two restrictor-plate tracks where numerous cars are involved - always a real possibility, this Sunday's 500-mile race could drastically alter the point standings.
"I think every race in the final 10 is crucial," Gordon said. "To be honest, I think Martinsville is more of a wildcard than Talladega. That is, unless the 'big one' occurs.
"The best way to avoid the big wreck is to be out front or near the lead. Ideally, I'd like to be in the lead pack running single file with everyone else battling two and three-wide behind me.
"But that rarely happens here because there are 42 other drivers with the same goal, and that's to win."
In 23 starts at the 2.66-mile speedway, Gordon has three wins, 10 top-fives and 13 top-10's. He has led 489 laps - more than any driver entered in this weekend's event - and has led the most laps on three different occasions. To keep the competition in the rearview mirror, Gordon has worked extensively on the mirrors in his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.
"You can feel cars approaching a lot of times, but sometimes it's too late if they have a lot of momentum," Gordon said. "Spotters are important - I have one of the best in the business - and they can provide information about which lane is moving up fast. But mirrors are important as well.
"I try to 'mirror up' the car. We try to do everything possible so that I can see as much as possible out the rear and the sides of the car."
Another element of Talladega is your "friends," or your drafting help. Gordon knows how many friends he has on the track.
"I have some great teammates, and we'll work together as much as we can during the course of the race," Gordon said. "But they have a job to do, as well.
"With five laps to go, I'll have zero friends on the track."