Second short-track race of season comes at good time for Jeff Gordon DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 13, 2004) -- The man they call "four-time" yearns to have the nickname adjusted to "five-time," which means he needs to win for the first time in ...
Second short-track race of season comes at good time for Jeff Gordon
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 13, 2004) -- The man they call "four-time" yearns to have the nickname adjusted to "five-time," which means he needs to win for the first time in 2004.
Back in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 after a rare descent, Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is also back in serious contention for the series championship, even though he has yet to win this season. The fact that the series is back at Martinsville Speedway comes at a perfect time for Gordon. The four-time series champion was a two-time race champion last season at the .526-mile oval via a season sweep.
Gordon is ninth in the series standings this week; a third-place finish at Texas vaulted Gordon from an uncharacteristic 12th-place position. And while being outside the top 10 this early in the season isn't exactly a crisis, it's nonetheless disconcerting given the new Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup that will feature the top 10 in points after 26 races battling for the championship over the season's last 10 events. (Anyone within 400 points of the standings' leader after 26 races also will be eligible for the title.)
"We know that [after] Richmond (the 26th race) comes, we've got to be in the top 10 and when we are, we'd better be set on 'kill' to go out there and lead laps and win races," Gordon said.
"You're going to have to have top fives every single weekend and have a lot of luck in order to win that championship. So you're definitely looking at [the points] differently.
"I can't say there's a whole lot that has changed, but two or three months from now, that's when things are going to change tremendously for everybody."
Gordon wants to get ahead of that potentially treacherous curve, and climb in the standings this week.
There's every reason to expect that to happen.
In addition to sweeping Martinsville's 2003 events, he has three other victories at the paperclip-shaped oval.
"I love Martinsville because I run well there," Gordon said. "I grew up on the short tracks. I love the short tracks.
"We've seen what happens at [half-mile] Bristol [Motor Speedway], how exciting it is, how many people we pack into that place. And even though Martinsville isn't the same kind of short track, I think it still offers that short-track excitement that the fans love to see."