Ahead of the 600-miler at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon has learned it's just best not to ask.
Gordon, a three-time winner of NASCAR's longest race, finished second to Dale Earnhardt in this event during his rookie year of 1993. That event was completed in four hours and seven minutes, and Gordon learned a valuable lesson that night.
"I thought we were getting close to the end of the race, and they told me we weren't even halfway yet," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. "That race felt a thousand miles. It just seemed so, so long.
"These days I've learned you don't ask until you know the end of the race is near."
The length of the race is not the only challenge facing the drivers on Sunday night.
"This track is very temperature-sensitive - it always has been," said Gordon, who has five wins, eight poles, 16 top-fives and 20 top-10's in 38 starts at the 1.5-mile track. "We'll start the race guessing what the balance (of the car) needs to be during the daytime. But when the sun goes down, it changes drastically.
"You have to be prepared for those changes without getting too far behind at the beginning, so it's a challenge.
"But the biggest challenge for me is just trying to manage my fluid intake and getting something in my stomach. You can get really dehydrated in this race if you're not careful."
Last Saturday night, Gordon finished 13th in the All-Star event here with a setup he considered "outside of the box."
"We experimented with some things last week, and we'll definitely explore more of that setup (we used in the All-Star event) this week," said Gordon, who maneuvered from 14th up to sixth during the third 20-lap segment on Saturday night. "It showed good speed at times. We just need to get the balance a little bit better.
"We need points and we need wins, so the 600 is far more important to us (than the All-Star race). It's a long race Sunday and a lot can happen. And I think that suits us.
"I think a long race is one of our strong points."
And points are what Gordon is after.
Are we there yet? Checkered flag 600 miles away for GordonWritten by Steven B. Wilson
Published in Sprint Cup Series NewsWednesday, 23 May 2012 06:58