Talladega II: Jeff Gordon preview

80 MILLION AND '3' REASONS FOR GORDON TO WIN AT TALLADEGA TALLADEGA, Ala. (October 3, 2006) Six years after his final victory, Dale Earnhardt's record of 11 restrictor-plate victories can be tied this weekend in the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega ...

80 MILLION AND '3' REASONS FOR GORDON TO WIN AT TALLADEGA

TALLADEGA, Ala. (October 3, 2006) Six years after his final victory, Dale Earnhardt's record of 11 restrictor-plate victories can be tied this weekend in the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. If that record is matched, Jeff Gordon has also tied "The Intimidator's" career total of 76 wins in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series; and eclipsed the $80 million mark for career race winnings. But 42 other drivers will also be attempting to win the 500-mile race, and Gordon's toughest challenge may come from a teammate; and a car prepared in the same shop as his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. Gordon's No. 24 team and Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 team share the same building at Hendrick Motorsports, and they have captured six of the last 10 restrictor-plate races. While Gordon won two restrictor-plate events in 2004 and again in 2005, Johnson has posted victories at Daytona and Talladega this season. "Jimmie is a smart driver, and that is what it takes to win on these types of tracks," said Gordon. "He's learned from his mistakes, and he's learned how to use the draft and the cars behind him to his advantage." Gordon has learned from his mistakes, too. In April, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion was attempting to pass teammate Brian Vickers for the lead with one lap to go. Only 2.66 miles later, he was crossing the finish line in 15th. "I learned a very valuable lesson earlier this year," joked Gordon. "And that's not to try to pass my teammate while he's leading with one lap to go and put myself in position to finish 15th."

In 27 starts at the newly repaved Alabama track, Gordon has four wins, 11 top-fives and 14 top-10's. Although he has captured 55 pole positions during his 14-year career, Talladega is one of only five tracks where he has yet to post the fastest time during the qualifying session. "It's nice to start up front at Talladega, but it's not that important," said Gordon, who is sixth in the standings, 120 out of the points lead. "We're all trying to miss the big wreck that usually happens here, but that can happen at the front of the pack, in the middle or at the back. "I haven't had the chance to drive on the new surface yet, but I heard they did a great job and that it's smooth as glass. But I don't think that will change the racing one bit; it will still be wild. "In the past, we've been able to run from the white line to the wall and I think you're going to continue to see that. If guys are being more aggressive trying to get up front and I think it's getting too crazy, I may try to get out of that situation and just bide my time. "We need to be there at the end of the race to have a chance to win." And being there at the end could pave the way to a record-tying performance for Gordon.

-credit: hm

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Brian Vickers
Teams Hendrick Motorsports