Gordon set to tie another Earnhardt record
TALLADEGA, Ala. – A week after matching Dale Earnhardt’s total of 76 NASCAR Cup Series wins, Jeff Gordon now hopes to tie one of The Intimidator’s records – most restrictor-plate victories – in this Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Gordon, who paid tribute to Earnhardt following his victory at Phoenix by carrying a number “3" flag during his Victory Lap, is looking to capture his 11th career restrictor-plate win.
The driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet has six wins at Daytona International Speedway, including three Daytona 500 victories, and four wins at the 2.66-mile Alabama track. Along with those four wins, Gordon has posted 11 top-fives and 14 top-10's at Talladega but has never captured the pole position for a race here.
Earnhardt collected three wins at Daytona, including the 1998 Daytona 500 – a race that had eluded him for so many years. The seven-time Cup champion won 10 times at Talladega – eight times during the restrictor-plate era including win No. 76 in 2000.
“Obviously, last Saturday night’s win was special,” said Gordon. “Anytime you accomplish something that ‘Senior’ did, you’ve done something special. “But I also know that, if he were still with us, I’d still be chasing him. “He taught me a lot on and off the track, and some of the things he did on the track – especially restrictor-plate tracks – were simply amazing.
I learned so much just by following him in the draft. “And I was ‘schooled’ many other times by him when I thought I had the advantage.” Gordon, who currently leads the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings by 74, also leads the series in poles (3), top-fives (6), top-10's (7) and average finish (4.5) after eight races. (more) -2- “I have to give a lot of credit to my crew chief, Steve Letarte,” Gordon said. “He has done a great job of leading this team, building the team chemistry and preparing great race cars. “One of the things that impresses me the most is his ability to stay calm no matter what situation we’re facing. When I had problems with my helmet radio before the race at Phoenix, he calmly told me what hand signals I should use during the race to relay the car’s handling to him.
Luckily, we were able to replace the helmet, but I like the fact that that situation didn’t unnerve him. “During the race when I was on pit road for our final stop and the caution waved, I was prepared to drive through the pits without stopping. But he quickly surveyed the situation and figured we had enough time to stop and change four tires without losing a lap. “While the timing of the caution certainly was lucky for us, his ability to read the situation played a major role, as well.”