Gordon has quite a task to win at Charlotte By Shawn A. Akers CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 3, 1998) Sunday's UAW-GM Quality 500 will be a fairly new experience for Jeff Gordon. At Charlotte Motor Speedway, he simply isn't used to having to...
Gordon has quite a task to win at Charlotte By Shawn A. Akers
CONCORD, N.C. (Oct. 3, 1998) Sunday's UAW-GM Quality 500 will be a fairly new experience for Jeff Gordon.
At Charlotte Motor Speedway, he simply isn't used to having to come from the middle to the back of the pack to try and win a race.
That's exactly what the current NASCAR Winston Cup points leader will have do on Sunday, however, after one of his worst qualifying efforts ever at the 1.5-mile tri-oval on Wednesday night. Gordon, who leads Mark Martin by 199 points in the championship race with six races to go, will start from the 26th position, the outside of Row 13, when the green flag drops at approximately 12:35 p.m.
"We missed it a little bit in qualifying," said Gordon, who has three career victories at Charlotte, but all in the spring Coca-Cola 600. "We got loose, and I think we were expecting the track to tighten up a little bit more. We are trying a different combination here, hoping it's going to be a little bit better in the race than what we've been in the past.
"I'm going to have to be patient and try not to be in too much of a hurry (on Sunday). Five hundred miles is still a long way. I've got to rely on my pit crew at times and keep working on the car and get it up front and keep it clean. This is not what we were looking for, but we've got a much better car than we qualified, that's for sure."
Considering how he's performed this season (he has 10 victories and 14 straight top-five finishes), starting 26th won't exactly make Gordon nervous. Only more motivated.
"If I had my choice, I wouldn't want to be there, but I've come up through the field before," Gordon said. "It's not our normal deal, and I'm going to have to do things different. I'm going to have to be patient at the beginning of the race. I just hope we've got a good enough car to get it to the front. I feel like we do."
Although he dominates at Charlotte in the spring during The Winston and the Coca-Cola 500, Gordon's fortunes in the fall race at Charlotte have tended to take a turn for the worse since his NASCAR Winston Cup career began full-time in 1993. Gordon has finished no better than fifth in five fall races at CMS.
In 1994, he finished 28th in the fall race, followed by a 33rd-place finish in 1995 and a 31st-place finish in 1996. The latter proved to be costly for him in the race for the NASCAR Winston Cup championship when he lost a huge chunk of ground to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Terry Labonte, who eventually went on to win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship that season.
Martin, Gordon's closest rival this season, will start Sunday's race from the second position. Martin has six victories this year, but hasn't been able to make up any ground on Gordon in recent weeks due to Gordon's phenomenal streak of top-five finishes.
"I'd say right now they're in pretty good shape, but than can change with one race," Martin said of Gordon and the No. 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet team. "The race was on until Darlington for us, when we lost 140 points in one swipe, so if that happens to them, then we're right back where we were and the race is on.
"In the meantime, we have to race every point like it could be the difference in the championship because one race can make a difference right down to the end. Anything can happen. It happened to us at Darlington, and it can happen to them just the same."
Which is exactly what Martin is counting on either at Charlotte, Talladega, Daytona, Phoenix, Rockingham or Atlanta.
"I think right now we just need to continue what we've been doing," Gordon said. "We've got a lot of racing to go. It's way to early to tell what's going to happen. Six races is a lot of races and a lot of points can be gained or lost.
"We've got to pay attention to our own program and not get too caught up in the championship right now. We raced real hard to finish ahead of him (Martin) last week at Martinsville. We're going to have to work real hard to catch up to him here and extra hard if we're going to finish ahead of him."
Source: NASCAR Online