MARTINSVILLE, Va. - If last week’s visit to the newly repaved Kansas track was a trip to the “unknown” for Jeff Gordon, this weekend’s trip is one to very familiar territory.
In 39 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville Speedway, Gordon has seven victories, seven pole positions, 25 top-five finishes, 31 top-10s and 3,423 laps led – all tops among active drivers at the 0.526-mile track. A lot has changed during Gordon’s 20 years in NASCAR’s premier series, the least of which is Martinsville.
“At the intermediate tracks, we’re skewing the rear ends now and doing all sorts of crazy things trying to push the limits for aerodynamics,” said Gordon, who will drive the No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet during Sunday’s race. “For whatever reason, things have changed the least amount here when you think of aerodynamics, the things that we are doing to these cars, the tires and the track conditions.
“That allows an old school guy like me to go to a place like Martinsville, have success and have things work for me that worked 10 years ago.”
And what a run it has been for Gordon the last 10 years at the Virginia track. Since 2003, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has four victories and 15 top-five finishes in 19 events. The strong performances are due in large part to good rhythm.
“Martinsville is just that kind of place where you get into a rhythm,” said Gordon. “And it’s important when you get into traffic to maintain that rhythm, or get back into it as fast as you possibly can.
“No other track demands the kind of rhythm needed at Martinsville.
“It’s very easy to ‘over drive’ the corners here. When you’re around other cars, you have to change your line and change what you’re doing in order to make a pass. It’s important to jump right back into that rhythm that you had.
“That’s part of the challenge that comes with Martinsville.”
A challenge the 86-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner eagerly awaits.
“I can’t wait for the race this weekend,” Gordon said. “It all comes down to preparation. Hendrick Motorsports gives me such great race cars that it allows me to just go focus on my line and my entry speed. I can focus on how we can make the car go faster, how I can get back to the throttle sooner and how I can make the tires last over long runs.
“I’m already dreaming about it.”