Martinsville: Jeff Gordon preview

With first top five under his belt, Gordon focuses on Martinsville. MARTINSVILLE, VA - With the monkey off his back, Jeff Gordon shifts his focus to Martinsville and climbing up the point standings. Gordon scored his first top-five of the...

With first top five under his belt, Gordon focuses on Martinsville.

MARTINSVILLE, VA - With the monkey off his back, Jeff Gordon shifts his focus to Martinsville and climbing up the point standings.

Gordon scored his first top-five of the season with a second-place finish on Monday at Texas Motor Speedway. Not only was it his first top-five in 2002, but his first since winning the inaugural event at Kansas Speedway last season - a span of 15 races.

"It definitely felt good to get that first top-five," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "We've been competitive this year, but we've just had some bad luck fall our way."

That bad luck consists of accidents that took him out of contention to win at Daytona, Darlington and Bristol.

"When we wrecked in those races, we were either winning or in the top five," said Gordon. "That's something that may have happened only three times in all of 2001, but it's already bitten us three times so far this season."

After seven events in 2002, Gordon is sixth in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings, but he has no intention of staying there.

"I think Texas was a turning point for us," said Gordon. "We didn't qualify well, but we kept working hard all day and it paid off with a second-place finish. That is the kind of turnaround that the 24 team is known for and I think we can build from it."

What better place to continue the turnaround than Martinsville Speedway, where Gordon has 14 top-10 finishes in 18 career starts. He also has three poles here and has qualified inside the top five nine times.

"This may be the most important pole position of any of the tracks we visit simply because of pit stall choice," said Gordon. "Getting a stall where you can just drive straight out is a huge bonus. It's not hard to tear up a good race car here just by driving down pit road.

"You have to be very patient here because you're going to be working through heavy traffic all day. Being impatient will eventually put you behind the wall and it's pretty hard to pick up points and move up in the standings from there."

-hm/dupont-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon