MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 19, 2010) – In this Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, can Jeff Gordon continue a streak of top-five finishes at the 0.526-mile track that began with one of his most memorable “drives” in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car?
AN EVEN DOZEN FOR GORDON AT MARTINSVILLE? Gordon, who will drive a specially-painted No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet Impala this weekend, has posted 11 consecutive top-five finishes at the Virginia track. To put that in perspective, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson was a no-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion when the streak began, and ESPN analysts Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace did not call the action that day – they were part of it. It all began with a win – a hard-earned win – in April of 2005.
Gordon, who started 16th that day, reported a vibration in the car less than 50 laps into the 500-lap race. The 82-time winner lost three laps to the leaders while repairs were made to damaged right-front wheel studs. While NASCAR’s “free pass” rule allows the first car scored one lap down back onto the lead lap if a caution waves, Gordon benefited from that rule only once. On two occasions, he “unlapped” himself by passing the leader of the race. Just past halfway, Gordon was back on the lead lap.
On lap 464, he maneuvered into the lead and paced the field the remaining distance.
“That was one of my more memorable drives in NASCAR,” said Gordon. “To be down that many laps, and then race our way back onto the lead lap and back into the lead is something I’ll never forget.
“And the ‘free pass’ may have been the hardest thing to earn. The leader kept lapping cars, so they kept telling me someone new that I had to go pass to stay in position to earn it.”
In 35 starts at the short track, Gordon has seven wins, seven poles, 23 top-fives and 29 top-10’s. In fact, he has finished outside the top-12 only three times – in the spring of 1994 and both events in 2002.
“I always love going to Martinsville – the track seems like a natural fit for my driving style,” said Gordon, who is fourth in the point standings and 156 behind leader Johnson.
“I just love the challenges of this race track and what it presents to a driver— how hard to drive into the corner without over driving the corner, what you have to tell the team to get the car to work through the corner and off the corner to try to go out there and win the race. It’s a fun track to tune the car on.
“Our race cars always seem to be fast here, so this is a track we carry a lot of confidence into.”
And confidence could help Gordon secure a dozen consecutive top-fives at Martinsville – and his 12th of the 2010 campaign.