Gordon expects chaos on Sunday
Five-time Infineon Raceway winner Jeff Gordon expects the new double-file restart rule to create interesting scenarios on and off the track Sunday in the Toyota/SaveMart 350. Gordon, a native of nearby Vallejo, has finished fourth and second in the first two races since NASCAR introduced double-file restarts to its top division. But those two races did not feature a late-race restart, the outcome instead decided by fuel mileage. This weekend, the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet does not know what to expect – except havoc.
“I’m anxious to get through it and see how it works out,” said Gordon. “I think Pocono and Michigan were two good tracks for NASCAR to try out the double-file restart rule, but I think it’s going to create some havoc here. “The drivers may need to rethink how we’ve raced in the past. We’re going to need to figure out how to get through the first set of corners on each double- file restart. But, at the same time, we’re going to be battling even harder and more intense for each position. And sometimes that leads to more mistakes and more accidents. “Then off the track, our crew chiefs are also going to have work through some interesting scenarios with pit strategy.”
Along with his record five wins at the California track, Gordon has a record five poles and has led 437 laps – 276 more than his nearest competitor. He has also posted 10 top-fives and 12 top-10’s in 16 starts. “This is always a fun weekend for me personally,” said Gordon. “It’s always good to see family and friends, and this is always close to my daughter Ella’s birthday. And this year, it’s also Father’s Day.”
“But it’s also a track where we have performed well in the past and we’re hoping for another strong run this weekend.” Gordon, who is NASCAR’s all-time winningest road course driver with nine victories, is not the only one expecting a crazy weekend. Crew chief Steve Letarte expects the double-file rule to cause havoc with pit strategy. “We typically see teams pit before their fuel window, and they’re banking on caution flag laps to get to the end,” said Letarte.
“Last year, we stopped early and we were fortunate when a yellow flag waved while Jeff was on pit road. If we had waited one more lap, that decision probably would have cost us 10 or 15 positions on the track.
“Now, let’s factor in the new double-file restart. With double-file restarts, will we see more cautions at the end of the race? If you’re betting we do, do you pit five laps before your window? Seven? 10? “That’s what will make this race so much fun – and so stressful.”