Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Pop a top...again? How long has it been now since Jeff Gordon tasted NASCAR victory champagne?

   Jeff Gordon exudes confidence, and Sunday's Martinsville 500 could easily be his (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Give Jeff Gordon the champagne already, and let's get on down the road.
   That's the general feeling in the garage about Sunday's Martinsville 500.
   Notwithstanding the fact that Gordon hasn't won a tour event since October 2007. Notwithstanding the fact that Hendrick Motorsports is still winless this season. And notwithstanding the angst on teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team.
   In fact, conspiracy theorists might look at NASCAR's marketing dilemma – Earnhardt hasn't won much lately at all, hasn't even really been much of a factor, and TV ratings are still heading downward, and crowds are iffy – and suggest an Earnhardt win in the cards.
   That certainly would perk up ticket sales for next weekend's stop at Texas Motor Speedway and the following stop at Phoenix International Raceway.
   But the betting has to be on Gordon: "We've been looking forward to this one for a long time.
   "It's always been a great track for us. And as strong as the team is this year, and as well as things are going, we're probably even more  excited than usual."
   In Friday's limited practice, before rain washed out the rest of the day, Gordon was one of the strongest on the track: "I was happy to get some laps on the track, and the car felt good. They've got a little bit different right-side tire (softer), that definitely threw us for a loop. We're definitely glad we got some time on the track.
   "Even though I jumped up the board right away, it was only in the first three or four laps. The times fell off dramatically -- not so much that the grip of the tire was gone, it was just so loose I couldn't drive the car.
    "I don't know what exactly is in the tire that is making it do that. But we see pretty excessive wear on the right-sides, and also the left- rear.
   "We see that a lot of times just from the grip going away and you start spinning the rear tires.
   "That could be good for the race; I'm just not sure yet.
    "But this was the most (shed) rubber I've ever seen rolled up on the outside groove in 10 years. That was really excessive, and that tells you a lot about the tire."
   But precisely what is still up for debate.
   Hey, Jimmie: Jeff thinks he's got your number. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
   Gordon versus Johnson? That's a good line to bet.
   "He certainly has owned this place," Gordon concedes. "Jimmie is an incredible student. He reads the data, watches closely, and he's able to adapt and attack the track with his own style."
   And then there are guys like Matt Kenseth who would just as soon be anywhere Sunday but here.
   "It's just one of those unique, strange places that guys either love or they don't," Gordon says.
   "It's a very challenging track, because you can't be aggressive…yet at times you have to be.
    "It's just how you go about the aggression.
    "That's what surprises me -- because Matt is a very patient driver, so I would think he would do very well here.
   "I know a lot of guys come in here for the first time and just shake their head and just don't get it. I was one of those.
    "I feel sorry for the rookies like Joey Logano that don't get a chance to come test.
    "Aggressive means you might have to put the bumper to a guy, or you might have to drive in deep for one or two laps trying to pass some cars.
    "But as far as just driving the track, less aggression is actually much better.
    "And that's really the opposite of what we try to do.
    "Anybody that's really aggressive doesn't do really well here."
    So scratch Kyle Busch.
    Of course Gordon himself has to be careful too, not to overdrive just because it's been so long he's won.
   "We need wins," Gordon says.
    And Gordon says his big picture approach to this season is to try to mirror his 2007 season, where he 'won' the regular season by a landslide, before falling prey to a brilliant late-season charge by Johnson.
   That championship loss still sticks in Gordon's craw.
   So he's looking big picture: "We want to really focus on being better than we've been in those final 10 races.
   "We gave Jimmie as good a run as anybody in 2007. But there are tracks I felt personally I'm not 'at.' That's where we lost the championship. We didn't lose it because we got out-teamed; we just got beat at tracks we were less competitive on."
    Read Texas Motor Speedway.
   That's next week's stop, and that track has long been a hard one for Gordon.
   So he really wants a dominating victory here Sunday to take some momentum into Texas.
   Ironically, as hot as Gordon has been, his teammates have been as cold, particularly Mark Martin.
   Gordon says there's nothing to worry about on that side of the Hendrick camp: "Mark has run great. They just had the blown engine and a couple little things that happened.
   "But they've run great.
    "I don't think they're near as concerned as anybody else.
   "Now Junior has not been as strong as I thought he would be. They're working through some of those things. But I talked to him last week after the race, and he said 'Man, I just should have qualified better. My car was actually pretty good.'
   "It's little things that sometimes make all the difference in the world. It was really tough to pass in Bristol.
    "None of us has really been able to put our finger right on what they need to get up there in the top-12 in points (to make the playoffs.)
    "But I'm certainly not going to count them out. They have all the resources the rest of us have, and they work well together…even though sometimes it sounds like they don't, and people criticize them.
   "I believe they're going to get it together."
    Okay, Junior, time to step up your game and prove you belong on the team with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com