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Gordon Searching for ‘Groove’ at Rockingham

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18, 2004) – If one North Carolina Speedway race had to be taken off the schedule, Jeff Gordon is glad it was the fall date at the Rockingham-based track.

Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now NEXTEL Cup) champion, enters this Sunday’s Subway 400 with four victories, two poles, eight top-fives and 10 top-10s in 22 career starts at “The Rock.”

Three of those victories, both poles and six top-10s occurred in the spring race.  In addition, of the 945 laps he has led at the 1.017-mile speedway, 730 of those were accumulated in the spring.

“I’ve always enjoyed racing (at North Carolina Speedway) and I hate to see one of the events taken off the schedule,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.  “But I also understand the decision to move the race to a different market in an effort to grow the sport.

“While I enjoy racing here because you can run low, middle or high through the corners, it can be frustrating as well.  Tires fall off quickly which could mean a long day if your car isn’t handling just right.

“You can also have a frustrating day with a good car.”

Last November, Gordon battled back to regain a lap lost early in the race.  Later, he lost several laps to the leaders when a caution flag flew just after completing a green-flag pit stop.

He made up one of those laps before the same set of circumstances happened again.

“We had a good car, we just couldn’t catch a break,” Gordon said.  “Twice we pitted during the green flag only to have a caution come out a few laps later.

“That’s the gamble you take, though.  If you stop early during a sequence of green-flag pit stops, your lap times will be much quicker with new tires compared to those who haven’t pitted.  However, you’ll be running several laps down because of the stop and you just hope that a caution doesn’t come out before everyone has stopped.”

New, “softer” tires introduced this season could change the complexion of many events held this year compared to years past.

“The new tires won’t change the racing here,” Gordon said.  “Rockingham is tough on tires, so it’ll be the same sort of racing seen here for years.

“Lap times will fall off drastically during a run and we’ll be searching high and low for a groove that works best.”

Gordon found that groove in 1998 when he swept both Rockingham events en route to a 13-win season.

A victory this Sunday and he’ll “sweep” the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season at North Carolina Speedway.

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