Gordon Fine Tunes For Pennzoil 400 Weekend At Homestead-Miami Speedway Several Winston Cup, Busch Teams Conclude Two-Day Test in Miami MIAMI, FL (10/17/01) - Jeff Gordon wouldn't mind clinching his fourth Winston Cup Series title before the end...
Gordon Fine Tunes For Pennzoil 400 Weekend At Homestead-Miami Speedway
Several Winston Cup, Busch Teams Conclude Two-Day Test in Miami
MIAMI, FL (10/17/01) - Jeff Gordon wouldn't mind clinching his fourth Winston Cup Series title before the end of the season and a perfect time and place for him and the No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes team to hoist the championship trophy would be the Nov. 9-11 Pennzoil 400 weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
After the checkered flag waves for the Pennzoil 400, Gordon would need a 371-point lead to clinch the championship and pop the champagne. In the two previous Pennzoil 400s, both Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte were able to clinch their Winston Cup titles under the South Florida sunshine at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
On Wednesday, Gordon was among the throng of Winston Cup and Busch Series teams testing at the 1.5-mile facility. Jimmie Johnson, who will serve as Gordon's new teammate next year, posted one of the quicker times in qualifying trim with a 35.75 second lap, which translates to 151.048 mph. Most of the teams in the afternoon session focused on race setups and turned laps in the 37-second range, which translates to 145.945 mph.
Gordon was pleased with his team's progress at one of the few tracks he has yet to record a Winston Cup victory. He did win last year's Miami 300 Busch Series race and is upbeat about his chances in this year's Pennzoil 400.
"We seem to get it better and better each time we come here," said Gordon, who finished seventh last year's Pennzoil 400 and 10th in the inaugural running of the event. "We certainly made big gains last year, especially running and winning the Busch race. We were running a whole lot better in the Winston Cup race. We were about a third or fourth-place car.
"We had a little trouble and did get a lap down. It's hard to make up a lap at this place. Things are going well for us so far in this test. We feel pretty happy. It's hard to compare. Tony Stewart has been so good here in the past, we would like to have him here testing and see how we stack up. But so far with the competition that's here, we feel pretty good."
Gordon has been in championship form throughout this season. He has posted a season-high six victories, 18 top-five finishes and 21 top-10 finishes and leads Ricky Rudd by 334 points in the standings. But hestill believes that the title is not locked in.
"We still have a lot of races left to go," Gordon said. "We do have a good points lead, but we got Talladega coming up this weekend. We survived Martinsville and now we have to survive Talladega which is easier said then done. Things have been going well and it's been a great year."
Gordon does admit he's far enough ahead in the championship standings that his Hendrick Motorsports team can be conservative in certain areas while still trying everything they can to win races and attain points.
"I think that they're certain things that we can do that can be conservativ e but in a way that we still go out and perform well," Gordon said. "On the race track, I've got to still drive the same way I have all year long. When I see an opening that I feel like is going to advance me forward, I'm going to do it. When it comes down to two or four-tire stops, we're going to do things that are going to help us win the race.
"But we can maybe get not so aggressive with the engine or the gearing that would cause a failure. We can do certain things that will keep us more in a conservative play but still get us the finishes we need. Right now, I still think we need those top fives and top 10s."
Besides Gordon and Johnson, other drivers testing their Winston Cup machines at Homestead-Miami Speedway included Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jason Leffler, Sterling Marlin, Jerry Nadeau, Ryan Newman, Ken Schrader, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth. Those testing their Busch Series cars included Joe Nemechek, Elton Sawyer, Jamie McMurray, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Hank Parker Jr., David Green, Larry Foyt (assisted by Mark Green), Kevin Grubb, Ashton Lewis, Christian Elder and Randy Tolsma.
Remaining tickets for this year's NASCAR Winston Cup weekend, Nov. 9-11, at Homestead-Miami Speedway can be purchased by phone at (305) 230-RACE, online at homesteadmiamispeedway.com or at any Ticketmaster Outlet.