Darlington: Jeff Gordon preview

Avoiding Darlington Wall Could Lead to Seventh Win For Gordon DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 9, 2006) -- The key, according to six-time Darlington Raceway winner Jeff Gordon, to running well at the tight, egg-shaped track? "Run close to -- but not into...

Avoiding Darlington Wall Could Lead to Seventh Win For Gordon

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 9, 2006) -- The key, according to six-time Darlington Raceway winner Jeff Gordon, to running well at the tight, egg-shaped track? "Run close to -- but not into -- the wall." Along with those six wins, Gordon has three poles, 13 top-fives, 16 top-10's and has led 1,553 laps in 25 starts at the track "Too Tough To Tame." He is the active leader in wins -- twice as many as his nearest competitor -- and laps led, but the four-time NASCAR Cup champion knows past success does not guarantee "The Lady in Black" will go easy on him in this Saturday night's Dodge Charger 500.

"The second you let your guard down here, this place will bite you," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "I always look forward to Darlington races. It's one of my favorite tracks, and probably always will be. "Racing here is very mentally draining. Unless it's hot, it's not a real physical race track. You can't run fast enough and hard enough to really push yourself and your body.

"The tires wear out quick, so it requires a lot more finesse and patience than we use at most tracks we go to. You just have to be careful not to push too hard because the car is slipping and sliding at all times. We run so close to the wall every single lap that one slip could ruin your night.

"It's all about staying out of the wall." The addition of lights in 2004 at Darlington may have changed the track conditions and the chassis setups, but the layout remains treacherous.

"Racing at night has changed it some," said Gordon. "The track is so slick during the day. The conditions at night definitely suit it better. "At night, it's a little bit faster with a little bit more grip. The only thing that's really changed at Darlington is our setups and the amount of downforce we're able to generate. We have the cars working a lot better.

"Other than that, it's just the same old Darlington." Gordon, who currently sits ninth in the point standings, finished second in this race one year ago to move up to second in the points standings. Only 16 races later, he was 11th in the standings and on the outside looking in as the

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup?

"Sure, I'd like to be closer to the lead right now, but last year showed that doesn't guarantee you a spot in the Chase," Gordon said. "Last year, I think Tony (Stewart) proved that you need to peak at the right time. I think it was summer before that team really hit their stride, and they carried that to the championship.

"We made a lot of changes during the offseason, and I think we're constantly learning and improving. Every weekend, we're gradually getting better and getting closer. "We'll have some hiccups along the way, like we did last week at Richmond when we suffered electrical problems. But we need to limit those during the upcoming stretch to safely position ourselves in the top 10. "We're fully aware that the championship isn't won over the summer months, but it can be lost."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon