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Gordon Looking to Improve at NHIS

LOUDON, N.H. (July 19, 2003) – In the 20-race stretch that ends the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, New Hampshire International Speedway could be considered a “weakness” for the No. 24 DuPont team this year.

Jeff Gordon thought so, until the team tested the flat 1.058-mile track recently in preparation for this Sunday’s New England 300.

In 16 career starts at NHIS, Gordon has three wins, three poles, eight top-fives, 10 top-10s, and has led 912 laps. Last year, though, he struggled through disappointing finishes of 29th and 14th.

“Prior to the test, I thought New Hampshire was our weakness in this stretch,” said Gordon, who will start second on Sunday. “I’m hoping what we learned will bring good results and we’ll be a factor again.

“I’m glad we tested because last year, during both races, we were probably a 15th-place car at best. It wasn’t just that the car was off last year, and it wasn’t just that I was off last year. It was a combination of the two that was off.

“That’s unheard of for us.”

Prior to last year’s race, NHIS officials opted to re-work the apron of the speedway in an effort to create a second racing groove. That change affected the setups of the cars and the driving lines used by competitors.

“You have to drive the track different now,” Gordon said. “You have to cut across the new, flatter part of the track and ‘diamond’ the corner. You’ve always had to diamond the corners, but now you are cutting across the flat part of the corner instead of the banked area.

“I turned a lot of laps during the test and it enabled me to get used to the setup that best compliments the new driving line.”

Gordon finished fourth at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday and now stands second in the driver standings, 165 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. He has one victory this season (Martinsville, Va.), one pole (Martinsville), and leads the Winston Cup circuit in laps led (764).

While his modern-era record of 13 wins is probably out of the question, Gordon would like to finish this season with the consistency he found in his 1998 championship run. That year, he finished the season with 19 top-fives in 20 races. The ‘poor’ finish was a seventh.

“That type of consistency is needed to win championships,” Gordon said. “We all strive to win, but you need to have a competitive car each week and finish in the top five or top 10.

“I still think it’s possible to win a bunch of races—maybe eight or nine—but 13 is next to impossible and I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Everything has to line up just right.

“The car has to be great, the team has to make all the right calls in the pits and the cautions need to fall in your favor. I’d say all of those lined up perfectly in six or seven of those wins that year. I’d say we just flat wore them out in the others because we had the best car.

“Today, it’s difficult to win, even with the best car.”

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