Talladega: Jeff Gordon preview

Again, Gordon Not Racing For Third at Talladega, Eyeing First TALLADEGA, Ala. - Racing for third place? Jeff Gordon knows it will be tough to end the dominance of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. at restrictor-plate tracks this Sunday, but has no plans of...

Again, Gordon Not Racing For Third at Talladega, Eyeing First

TALLADEGA, Ala. - Racing for third place? Jeff Gordon knows it will be tough to end the dominance of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. at restrictor-plate tracks this Sunday, but has no plans of settling for third.

Last September at Talladega, Gordon was running third behind DEI teammates Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., on the final lap as the field entered turn three. Instead of staying in line to help ensure a third-place finish, Gordon pressed the issue in an attempt to win the race.

"I could have stayed in line and finished third, but I don't race to finish third," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. "I had some help behind me as we entered turn three and got a run on Dale. Michael pulled high to block me and I left too much room on the inside. Kevin (Harvick) pulled alongside and it just stopped my momentum.

"I just had to fight for the best finish possible after that, which was fifth."

DEI has solidified their position as the team to beat this weekend by posting 10 victories in the last 13 restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Four times in that span DEI has finished 1-2.

"DEI has hit on something in their restrictor-plate program and we're all playing catch up. But I have a lot of confidence in Hendrick Motorsports and we are continually making strides to improve our plate program as well."

Gordon struggled early in his career at Talladega, posting no top-10's and leading only 10 laps in his first four events at the 2.66-mile speedway. Since then, he has two victories (1996 and 2000), nine top-fives, 12 top-10's and has led 464 laps in 18 races. In fact, Gordon has led at least one lap in 17 of 22 career races.

However, he has never won a pole at the Alabama track. Gordon, a 47-time Bud Pole winner, has started first at 16 of the 23 tracks currently on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule. Of the seven where he has yet to win a pole, only Talladega hosts two races per year.

"I guess the good thing about that statistic is that it really doesn't matter where you start here," Gordon said. "I'd prefer to start up front, but we've started from the rear and won here before.

"If you're shuffled back, you work hard to gain one or two or three positions a lap. If you're shuffled out of the pack, you lose 10 or more positions in the blink of an eye.

"This track isn't physically demanding, but my eyeballs seem to hurt after each race. Your concentration level is so high for such an extended period of time, along with the fact that you're constantly looking in the mirrors to make sure you have drafting help."

And in his mirror is where he hopes Earnhardt, Jr., Waltrip and 40 other competitors are at the conclusion of Sunday's race.

-hm/pprplus-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Michael Waltrip