Based on the competitiveness of the No. 24 car during the April event at Richmond International Raceway, should we expect Jeff Gordon and the Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet to be in contention during Saturday night’s Wonderful Pistachios 400? Could be a SAFE(R) assumption.
Gordon, who started sixth here earlier this year, ran in the top three for much of the event. But his night ended abruptly after contact with another car sent the DuPont Chevrolet spinning hard into the inside wall.
“I hit it a ton,” Gordon said. “And I always seem to find the spots without the SAFER barrier.
“I think Richmond was one of the first tracks to install them, and they’ve always worked hard to make this track as safe as possible. It’s good to hear they have addressed that area and added the softer walls.”
After that type of frightening accident, you might expect apprehension during the return trip. But that is not the case for the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion. “I cannot wait for this race,” said Gordon, who scored a historical 85th win at Atlanta on Tuesday. “I really think our short-track program is strong right now, and we were so competitive here in the spring.
“I hated how that race ended for us.
“I think this weekend offers us another great opportunity to earn the three bonus points for each win going into the Chase. Those points earned in September can be very valuable come November.”
Gordon, who has two wins, five poles, 14 top-fives and 23 top-10’s in 37 starts at the three-quarter mile track, has already clinched a spot in the 2011 “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.” But wildcard spots are still available, and that new wrinkle may make an already exciting race even more so.
“With the new wildcard rule, it could get crazy on the track – and off the track with some of the pit calls and strategies,” said Gordon. “On the track, I’m sure I’ll be made aware of drivers that are in a ‘must-win’ situation.
“With pit calls, we may see some stretch fuel mileage or stay out for track position or only take right-side tires.
“Some may be in a ‘must-win’ situation, but we’re in a ‘want-to-win-really-reallybad’ situation.”
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