Jeff Gordon enters Sunday’s Goody’s 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in fairly good position. The rest of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates? Not so much.
Since Gordon is the only HMS driver still in contention to win the Sprint Cup Series championship this season, his fifth-place qualifying effort is an excellent starting point for a chance at his ninth win at the track.
Carrying the flag for Hendrick Motorsports
His HMS teammates, however, will have a much tougher row to hoe.
Kasey Kahne wrecked in practice on Friday and will have to start Sunday’s race from the rear of the field. Jimmie Johnson will start 21st and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up 22nd.
“I don’t think anybody had a shot at Joey (Logano), really. He’s in a league of his own and he has been here, qualifying all year,” Gordon said after Logano won the pole for Sunday’s race. “But we wanted to make a big effort at it and I felt like we did.
It seems like no matter what changes in the sport, with the rules and the engine package, we always seem to be able to come here and find speed.
Jeff Gordon on Martinsville
“The first two rounds (of qualifying) went exactly as planned and it didn’t feel too bad there (Round 3), but just lacked a little bit of speed. When you go to three rounds it really changes things dramatically, trying to save tires and see how hard you can push it and keeping up with the balance.
“I thought we executed really well and came up a little bit short.”
Martinsville could be a boost
Gordon is counting on a strong performance – or even a victory – on arguably his best track to help continue his quest for an elusive fifth series championship in his final season as a fulltime NASCAR driver.
While Gordon and Johnson both have eight wins at the track, Gordon leads the series in average finish (6.9) and average running position (6.7) at Martinsville.
A win would automatically advance Gordon to into one of the four championship finalists berths at Homestead, Fla.
If we do everything right, that we have a really legitimate shot of not only winning this weekend, but moving on to Homestead
In 237 career starts at Martinsville for Hendrick drivers, they have come away with 22 wins – the most on any track in the series for the organization.
Last season, Gordon finished second at Martinsville to Earnhardt, a race in which he led a race-high 130 laps.
“It seems like no matter what changes in the sport, with the rules and the engine package, we always seem to be able to come here and find speed. So, we certainly have that kind of confidence within our program,” Gordon said.
“But at the same time, going over the debrief this week and the planning and all the things we’re looking at for this race, we are also reminded of how tough this place can be. And we were reminded of that earlier this year when we qualified fourth and we dropped back at the beginning and the track wasn’t taking rubber.”
It’s not always speed
So, in good times and bad, Gordon says there is still common denominators for Hendrick teams at Martinsville – patience and hard work.
“It takes a lot of patience here. I think that not only suited my style, but it also allowed me to communicate really well with the teams so that they could just fine-tune that set-up. It didn’t hurt that I’ve always had really good race cars here, as well,” Gordon said.
“It’s not just because it’s Martinsville that we’re going to come here and dominate; it’s not. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to grind it out like we have been. If we do everything right, that we have a really legitimate shot of not only winning this weekend, but moving on to Homestead.”
And a storybook ending to Gordon’s final NASCAR season would remain on track.