Martinsville: Jeff Gordon preview

Years are different, Gordon hopes Martinsville results are, too. MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jeff Gordon enters the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the ninth race of the NASCAR Winston Cup season, fifth in the series point standings with 1,011 ...

Years are different, Gordon hopes Martinsville results are, too.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jeff Gordon enters the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway, the ninth race of the NASCAR Winston Cup season, fifth in the series point standings with 1,011 points. Last year at this time, Gordon was eighth in the standings with 1,008 points, a difference of only three. However, when asked to compare 2002 to 2003, Gordon sees an overall improvement in the team.

"I like what this DuPont team has done at the start of this year," Gordon said. "We haven't won yet, but we've been in position. Sooner or later, it will all come together and we'll be celebrating in victory lane.

"I really think we are a better team this year. The team has prepared some great cars, our qualifying effort is better and the pit stops have been great. We seem to be more competitive and we're leading a lot of laps."

After the first eight races of 2003, Gordon leads the series with 414 laps led. After eight races in 2002, he had led only 345 laps. In fact, Gordon led only 429 laps through 23 events last season.

In addition, Gordon has become accustomed to leading at Martinsville. In 20 starts at the 0.526-mile speedway, he has three victories, 14 top 10's and has led 13 races for a total of 1,165 laps. In his first 18 races at the short track, he finished outside the top 12 only once - a 33rd-place finish in 1994. Last year, Gordon encountered trouble in both Martinsville events, posting finishes of 23rd and 36th.

"Last April was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in a race car," Gordon said. "I drove the second half of the race here without power steering and I didn't want to hand it over to a relief driver because the car was so good.

"In the fall, we overcame some loose lug nuts during a pit stop to run in the top five. Unfortunately, I got shoved into the outside wall off turn two later in the race which ruined our day.

"We've had a lot of good cars here in the past and I hope to have another good one this weekend. I learned how to drive this track early on in my career during a test session. I just ran lap, after lap, after lap and got into a rhythm. All of a sudden, it just 'clicked.'"

Gordon, who has posted four top 10's in the past five races this season, has climbed 15 positions in the point standings during that span and is 222 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. Patience is the key to a fifth NASCAR Winston Cup championship - and a Martinsville win.

"There are too many races left in the season to begin panicking," Gordon said. "We're not going to take the points lead this weekend, so we just need to keep chipping away, finish in the top five or grab the victory if it presents itself.

"To win here, you have to be patient and not overdrive the corners. It's probably one of the most difficult things to learn as a driver but 'slowing down' will actually make you quicker here."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth