Road warrior: Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon tough at Infineon Raceway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 21, 2005) -- If it's late June, that means NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams are preparing for a curve in the road ahead -- quite a few, in ...
Road warrior: Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon tough at Infineon Raceway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 21, 2005) -- If it's late June, that means NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams are preparing for a curve in the road ahead -- quite a few, in fact.
This week marks the series' annual visit to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., a 1.99-mile road course which may function as a blender when it comes to shaking up the current point standings. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams annually tackle two road courses, once at Infineon and once in August at Watkins Glen International in New York, and the dips, twists and turns offer special challenges.
"They were tracks that I thought were a lot of fun and very challenging," says Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) of road courses, "but it took me a couple of years -- and the team a couple of years -- for us to really get everything where it needed to be gearing-wise, car-wise and driver-wise as far as how hard you can attack and where you need to be good, and where you need to be smooth."
As NASCAR's all-time leader with eight road-course wins, Gordon is the defending champion of Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350. He's also battling a recent skid that has bumped him out of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 and into a fight to make the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup." Currently he's 12th in the standings, 406 points behind leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet).
But four-time series champions don't rattle, and with the pressure building to make the "Chase," expect Gordon to use road-racing excellence to his advantage this week. And not only Gordon; a good road-course run is crucial for many teams.
Following race No. 26 at Richmond International Raceway, the top 10 and any driver within 400 points of the leader are eligible to compete for the championship in the "Chase" -- the season's final 10 races. Road-course performance -- or a lack of it -- could mean ground gained or lost in the standings.
Being able to master the moment has proven a key component for drivers trying to cement themselves in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10, or vault into it.
"The guys who are really good with throttle control are the guys who are good at Sonoma," said Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), the 2002 winner at Infineon. "Guys who are just used to mashing the gas struggle at Sonoma. It's one of those tracks that challenges you physically and mentally and makes you stay on top of your game all day."