Gordon Set for Challenging Infineon
- Jun 23, 2005
- 24 Team
SONOMA, Calif. (June 23, 2005) – According to Jeff Gordon, Infineon Raceway offers some of the most challenging laps a driver will make in a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup car.
The four-time Cup champion has excelled at the challenge, winning four of his last seven starts at the 1.99-mile venue, and will attempt to increase his record of NASCAR road-course victories to nine this Sunday.
Gordon, a native of nearby Vallejo, Calif., has always enjoyed racing at Infineon and Watkins Glen, N.Y., the only two road-course events on the schedule. The success, though, did not come early—or easily.
“When I first raced at Sonoma and Watkins Glen in 1993, they were a lot of fun and challenging, but we didn’t have great results,” Gordon said. “It took me and the DuPont team a couple of years before we got everything where it needed to be.
“We worked hard on the gearing and the car, and I worked hard at understanding my weaknesses on the road courses and improving. It took me a while to figure out where I should attack the track and where I needed to be smooth.”
After finishes of 11th and 37th in his first two starts at the California road course, Gordon finished third in 1995. Since then, he has only one finish outside the top six and has posted four victories. He has led the most laps on six different occasions for a total of 361—exactly 200 more than Mark Martin, who is second.
A road course event could not have come at a better time for Gordon, who has fallen to 12th in the NEXTEL Cup standings, 406 points behind leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson. He must finish in the top 10, or be within 400 points of the lead, before the Chase for the Championship field is set after the 26th race. Gordon has 10 races to make up that deficit.
“Obviously, we aren’t where we want to be right now in the points,” Gordon said. “We have three wins so far this year, but we’ve encountered trouble or haven’t performed to our ability in other races. This weekend’s event offers a great opportunity for us to get back on track.
“While we’re excited about this weekend’s event, we can’t take anything for granted. We’re not guaranteed a win or a good finish at Sonoma, but we know we’re capable of it.”
The scenic Infineon track has 12 turns that require numerous gear changes every lap. One mistake in downshifting could ruin a corner—or your day.
“The biggest challenge is the downshifting,” Gordon said. “You are driving hard into the corners and braking very deep, all while downshifting the car.
“You’re downshifting to get the car slowed down and into the proper gear. You hear a lot of drivers talk about wheel-hopping in this situation. It’s easy to get the rear tires bouncing, and that can get the car out of control.
“Those same things are what’s fun about racing here: braking; downshifting; taking the car left and right through the corners; feeling the car swing both ways; driving up over the curbs; and the elevation changes. All of those things combine to make this race so much fun.
“It’s what also makes laps around here some of the most challenging you’ll ever make in these types of cars.”