Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are the odds on favorites headed into Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Gordon is coming off a win at Sonoma last weekend, and Earnhardt wiped the field in his Chevy in Friday's Busch...
Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are the odds on favorites headed into Saturday night's Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Gordon is coming off a win at Sonoma last weekend, and Earnhardt wiped the field in his Chevy in Friday's Busch race.
Gordon leads all active drivers with six wins in Cup events at DIS. Gordon fell out of the top ten after Dover but with his win last weekend in Sonoma he managed to climb back to eighth. The four-time champ needs a good finish at Daytona to help secure his spot in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
"Things can happen anywhere as we've proven this year," commented Gordon. "We're just really looking at the positives about being at a restrictor plate track. We're strong at the restrictor plate tracks and putting the best race car out there that we possibly can this weekend. Sure, things can happen. We've just got to do our best to make sure we stay far away from that if happens and make sure we have a solid race car all the way to the finish. The rest is going to take care of itself."
Earnhardt is enjoying a far more consistent season than last year. Seven top-ten finishes have helped him stay in the top ten for all but one race this season. Friday night he proved that DEI's restrictor plate days of dominance are not over. He led at times in that event by a 14-second advantage and there was not another car in the field that could hold a candle to his.
While Earnhardt's hopes are buoyed for a strong finish in the Pepsi 400 this weekend, he still realizes there is a lot of work to be done if DEI wants to regain their crown as the King of restrictor plate racing.
"There's not a lot to it," said Earnhardt of racing at Daytona and Talladega. "I just get in and tell the team whether it's slow or fast. I don't really know what they change to make it better. We've got some gains to make at the plate tracks. We're not as strong as we used to be, because we really started focusing on the intermediate speedways. We were losing a lot of points on those types of tracks, and we needed to improve.
"I think it's pretty obvious we've gotten a lot better at those tracks this year. Because of that, I don't think we're the dominant restrictor-plate team that we used to be, but we're still very competitive on the plate tracks. I think we're still in the top-three. We always take strong cars and strong motors. We're still capable of winning any of these restrictor- plate races."
Earnhardt qualified poorly in 35th, but the line-up at a track like DIS is pretty meaningless; the nature of a restrictor plate track is that the grid is shuffled constantly throughout the race.
Gordon will take the green flag from the fourth starting spot.