FOR GORDON, '600' JUST OVER A MONTH AND LESS THAN A WEEK AWAY CONCORD, N.C. (May 25, 2010) - In a six week span, Jeff Gordon will experience two "600's." On July 10 in Chicago, Jeff Gordon is scheduled to make his 600th career NASCAR Sprint...
FOR GORDON, '600' JUST OVER A MONTH AND LESS THAN A WEEK AWAY
CONCORD, N.C. (May 25, 2010) - In a six week span, Jeff Gordon will experience two "600's."
On July 10 in Chicago, Jeff Gordon is scheduled to make his 600th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. But well before that occasion is Sunday's 600-miler at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Gordon is well aware that NASCAR's longest event is a setup nightmare.
"The '600' is tough because it's long," said Gordon, who will drive a specially painted No. 24 DuPont Stars & Stripes Chevrolet during the Memorial Day weekend event. "We start in the day and end at night, so your car is not going to be perfect.
"If the car is perfect during the day, you're going to have to make some big adjustments to be strong at night. Or to be perfect at night, you may be 'way off' during the day.
"There are so many challenges - like the length of the event and running day into night - that make it such a tough event."
Teams tested here with a spoiler in March during the day, and all of the practices last week occurred during daylight hours. Practices this week are also scheduled to occur during daytime, so only race conditions last Saturday night in the All-Star event mirror what teams expect to face as the race nears completion this Sunday.
"And I was able to give (crew chief) Steve (Letarte) about four corners worth of feedback," joked three-time All-Star event winner Gordon, referring to the contact he made with the turn 4 wall on the first lap of the first segment. "The team did a great job repairing the car during the breaks and we had actually gained on it before the wreck in the final segment.
"Hopefully, we learned enough to help us this weekend." In 34 points races at the 1.5-mile track, Gordon has five wins including his first series victory in 1994, seven poles including his series first in 1993, 16 top-fives and 19 top-10's. The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has three top-five finishes in his last five starts including a trip to Victory Lane in 2007. While a return trip is the goal, the end of the 400-lap race will not be on Gordon's mind when the event begins Sunday. "When they drop the green, I don't even try to think about how long the race is," said Gordon. "I try to take each run separately, whether it be to the caution, to a fuel stop or to when you need tires. I don't really ask how many laps there are to go until I feel like it's coming down to the win.
"When you get down to the last 150 laps or 150 miles, that's when the race is going to be won or lost. That's the point when I say, 'okay, how many laps to go and where are we at?'
"And that's when things start to heat up in a big way."