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Tough Bristol Ahead for Sore Gordon

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 24, 2004) – After experiencing one of the hardest hits of his racing career at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, a sore Jeff Gordon must now prepare for 500 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway, a track known to be physically demanding on drivers.

Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, collided with Andy Hillenburg on Lap 28 of last Sunday’s event at Darlington and finished 41st.  While he is a little sore now, he expects to feel worse after this Sunday’s Food City 500.

“The HANS (Head and Neck Support) device did its job,” Gordon said.  “That was one of the hardest hits I’ve ever had in a race car.  I’m still a little sore, but should be 100 percent by this weekend.

“I really look forward to the short-track events, especially Bristol.  I don’t look forward to the day after Bristol, though, because I’m usually really sore.  It’s a tough track that’s tough on a driver physically.”

Gordon also took a hit in the point standings last Sunday, falling from fifth to a tie for 12th.  While he may have lost seven positions, Gordon dropped only 30 points to leader Matt Kenseth, who finished 31st.  Gordon now trails Kenseth by 160 points.

Gordon will look to regain some of those lost points at Bristol.  In 22 starts at the .533-mile short track, he has five wins, three poles, 10 top-fives and 14 top-10 finishes.  He has led at least one lap in 17 events for a total of 2,270 laps.

Starting position may also be a key to Gordon’s success on Sunday.  He has started on the front row 10 times and in the top 10 in 19 of 22 races.

“I’m hoping we can start on the front row again this weekend,” Gordon said.  “The obvious advantage is a clear track ahead of you when the race begins, but that only lasts for a few laps before you begin to lap cars.

“The second advantage is an early pick of pit stalls.  Pit road is tight here, so any advantage you can gain on pit road will benefit you on the track.

“Entering pit road is a little confusing here.  Under caution, everyone enters pit road in Turn 2.  Under green flag conditions, however, you enter pit road in Turn 2 if you’re pitting on the backstretch and in Turn 4 if you’re pitting on the frontstretch.

“Unless you’re Jeff Gordon.  Then you enter pit road at the wrong location and lose a lap,” he joked, referring to last year’s race when he lost a lap while pitting under green-flag conditions.

Gordon enters the year’s first short-track event with some momentum. In six short-track races last year, he had two wins, three poles (his worst starting spot was sixth) and four top-10s.  He led 1,024 of a possible 2,793 laps, or 36.7 percent.

“Our short-track program is pretty strong right now,” Gordon said.  “A win would help erase the disappointment of Darlington.”

And the Monday morning aches and pains.

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