Gordon's team early leader in Talladega test TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 15, 1999) Ray Evernham agrees that no two race cars are alike. So when his Hendrick Motorsports team lost its primary restrictor-plate car earlier this season, his team didn't...
Gordon's team early leader in Talladega test
TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 15, 1999) Ray Evernham agrees that no two race cars are alike. So when his Hendrick Motorsports team lost its primary restrictor-plate car earlier this season, his team didn't try to build a car like the one it lost. It strived to build one better.
Evernham's driver Jeff Gordon won the Daytona 500, and the winning car was placed in the track's museum, DAYTONA USA, until next year's Daytona 500, putting Evernham and his team on a mission to build something better.
Hendrick's No. 24 team was one of 23 teams at Talladega Superspeedway on Wednesday participating in a General Motors test to prepare for the April 25 DieHard, and it appears the mission was accomplished.
With driver Bobby Hillin behind the wheel, Gordon's new car was the fastest during the morning session. His lap of 195.940 mph was more than a full mile per hour faster than Sterling Marlin. Hillin turned the second-fastest lap Tuesday.
"It makes you feel good when you can build a new car and it comes out of the box this fast," Evernham said. "The car that we won Daytona with was obviously a good car. We did a lot of measuring on that car before we gave it to the museum. We tried to build it as close as possible to the car we left in Daytona.
"You hate to lose a good car like that, but I think we've got a couple cars here that will be good when we come back to Talladega."
Gordon and Evernham have had a lot of success since joining the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1993, but they have never won a 500-mile race at Talladega.
Gordon's career wins include a 1996 victory at Talladega, but the event was shortened to 343 miles because of darkness.
The DieHard 500, as it was called in the summer in 1996, was late getting started because of rain, and then was red-flagged twice for 28 minutes. One red flag was because of rain, the other was for an incident involving the track's all-time winner, Dale Earnhardt, Marlin and a group of other drivers.
Gordon has won on every track on the current schedule with the exception of Las Vegas, Phoenix, Texas and Homstead, Fla. Two of the three tracks have been on the schedule less than three years and a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race hasn't been held at Homstead yet.
To go along with his rain-shortened Talladega victory, Gordon's average finish at the Alabama track is 15.6 in 12 starts. He has never had three consecutive top-10 finishes, and each time after scoring two consecutive top-10 finishes, he followed it with a finish of 33rd or worse. For the record, he finished 5th and 2nd in 1998.
"We've had some good race cars at Talladega," Evernham said. "And we've had some good cars torn up at Talladega, too. Talladega is a lot about playing the hand that is dealt you."
The dealing begins Friday, April 23 on Advance Auto Parts Qualifying Day when the first 25 positions are determined for the DieHard 500. Gordon will be extra busy Saturday, April 24 as he is one of 12 drivers entered in the True Value IROC Series event. Gordon will battle Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and nine other drivers from different forms of motorsports.
Reserved tower seats remain for Saturday's doubleheader which also features the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Touchstone Energy 300 event. For ticket information call (256) 362-RACE or visit www.DAYTONAUSA.com.
Source: NASCAR Online