SONOMA, Calif. (IMMEDIATE RELEASE) - To say Jeff Gordon has dominated the Dodge/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Sears Point Raceway the last three years would be an understatement. He has literally owned the snaking 10-turn, 2-mile road...
SONOMA, Calif. (IMMEDIATE RELEASE) - To say Jeff Gordon has dominated the Dodge/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Sears Point Raceway the last three years would be an understatement. He has literally owned the snaking 10-turn, 2-mile road course nestled in the picturesque Sonoma Valley.
Gordon, driver of the DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet, is the three-time defending champion of the Dodge/Save Mart 350, and he's certainly a good bet to make it four in a row when the series visits Sears Point Raceway, June 21-24.
"It's difficult to win any race anymore," Gordon said. "With the way that the competition is in Winston Cup racing, it seems like everybody has a shot to win each week, so it's definitely not going to be easy to win a fourth consecutive race at Sears Point, but we're going to give it all we've got."
Gordon tied a NASCAR Winston Cup record in Sonoma in 2000 with his sixth consecutive road-course victory. Gordon also set a Sears Point Raceway record by becoming the first driver to win three races on the twisting circuit.
It may look easy on the track, but nothing could be further from the truth for Gordon, who placed a disappointing 37th in his second visit to Sears Point Raceway in 1994. Since that time, he has worked hard to become the "King of the Road." He has placed no lower than sixth at Sears Point Raceway since 1995. He has also sat on the pole two of the last three years.
"This is amazing to me because I remember the first time I started running on road courses and how lost I was," Gordon said. "I didn't know if I would ever get it. To get comfortable and get confidence in what I was doing out there and be able to give the proper feedback to the team and then for them to get the car the way we like it, it's been amazing."
Gordon's run at Sears Point Raceway began in 1998 when he started on the pole and led the final 10 laps for the victory, beating second-place Bobby Hamilton to the checkered flag by 2.748 seconds.
In 1999, he again qualified on the pole and dominated until the closing laps when he was challenged by Mark Martin (Valvoline/Cummins Ford). Gordon was able to hold off Martin, a 1997 winner at Sears Point Raceway, by .197 seconds.
Gordon had his worst starting position since 1996 last year when he rolled off the line in fifth place, but that didn't sour him. He wound up leading the most laps (43) and collected a record-purse of $143,025 for the win. Gordon won going away by more than four seconds over Sterling Marlin (Coors Light Chevrolet).
"I'm always nervous, but when you've got Jeff driving it makes it look a little bit easier," said Robbie Loomis, Gordon's crew chief. "When he's driving, he's pretty much got it under control if I can keep him out front. He doesn't like being behind."
And that's not a place Gordon has been at Sears Point Raceway the last three years. Even his competitors realize his skills on the road course.
"Jeff is awful tough on road courses, especially Sears Point," Marlin said. "You hardly ever see Jeff out of control on a road course."
Gordon will be at it again, June 21-24, against veteran road-course specialists Rusty Wallace (Miller Lite Ford), a two-time winner at Sears Point Raceway, Ricky Rudd (Texaco Havoline Ford), who won the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup race at Sears Point Raceway in 1989 and has sat on the pole a record four times, and Mark Martin (Pfizer/Viagra Ford), who has finished no lower than eighth at Sears Point Raceway since 1994.
"The first time you win a race at any track you tend to cherish that win the most," Gordon said. "However, when we won last year, it was our third consecutive at Sears Point and our sixth consecutive road-course win. If we win again this year, the 2001 win will be at the top of the list of most cherished Sears Point victories."
For tickets or more information on the Dodge/Save Mart 350, visit www.searspoint.com, www.tickets.com or call 800-870-RACE.