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Making Up Ground: Gordon Looking to Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. (June 10, 2004) – Now 254 points out of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points lead, Jeff Gordon knows he will not make up that deficit with one strong performance.

It will take a stretch of strong performances; a streak he hopes will start this Sunday in the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.

Gordon, a four-time Cup Series champion, was 12th in the standings and 177 points back after the sixth race of the 2004 season.  Then he posted five consecutive finishes of sixth or better, including two wins, and moved up to third, trailing by only 62 markers.

Now, following two disappointing finishes of 30th or worse at Charlotte, N.C., and Dover, Del., Gordon has fallen to fifth and trails leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 254.

“These past two races have been disappointing,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolets.  “Things haven’t been going in our direction recently and we’ve taken a big hit in the points.  We just need to regroup, hopefully post a good finish at Pocono and carry some momentum into the next few races.

“We won’t be able to close the gap with one good finish, but we can start to chip away at the lead.”

In 22 career starts at Pocono, Gordon has captured three wins, two pole positions, 10 top-fives, 15 top-10s and has led 811 laps—the most of any driver.

And his record at the 2.5-mile speedway is even better when looking only at his June statistics.

In his first visit to the Pennsylvania track in 1993, Gordon led no laps and completed only 113 of 200.  Since then, he has completed every lap with two victories (1996 and 1997), two poles (1996 and 1998) and six top-fives in 10 races held here in June.  His average finish in the first Pocono race each year is 7.0.

“I’ve always enjoyed racing here, whether it’s in June or July,” Gordon said.  “It’s such a unique track with three or four different corners.  You may have to give up a little bit of handling in one corner to make sure you’re better in another.

“Track position will be important during Sunday’s race.  We usually don’t have many cautions here and we always seem to get ‘strung out.’  It’s difficult to make up a lot of positions in a few laps.

“In that aspect, I guess you can compare Pocono to the championship race.  If you’re behind, you can’t expect to make up the difference in a short period of time.”

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