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Martinsville Preview: Gordon’s House

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 31, 2006) – If Jeff Gordon feels at all sick that a seemingly certain top-five finish at Bristol, Tenn., quickly dissolved into a frustrating 21st-place result, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule provides him with the perfect cure: Martinsville Speedway.

Can you say performance? Since 1995, Gordon has completed all but six laps at Martinsville (10,850 of a possible 10,856 laps). Seven of those laps have been the final one, including last year, when he won both Martinsville races.

His most recent win tied Gordon with Rusty Wallace for third among all-time winners at the infamous .526-mile track. If history is any gauge, he could have that spot all to himself following this weekend.

“We like Martinsville, and Martinsville seems to like us,” says Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolets. “It takes a lot of things to be successful here: a great team, a great car, good communication throughout the weekend to make the right adjustments and a driver that has the ‘feel’ for the track.”

In addition to those seven wins, Gordon has five poles, 14 top-fives and 20 top-10s at Martinsville. He’s finished outside the top-12 only three times.

Gordon has had the most success of any Hendrick Motorsports driver at Martinsville, but Jimmie Johnson’s résumé isn’t so bad either: Since finishing 35th in his rookie year (2002), Johnson has carried the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolets to one win, three top-fives and three other top-10s. Still, he appreciates the difficulties the track provides.

“The place is mentally demanding,” Johnson says. “Really, you have to be able to stay calm and keep your emotions in check. When a guy is beating on your bumper or there is a car in front of you slowing you down, it is real easy to lose your patience or get mad. If you get too emotional you can use up your brakes too fast and it can make your day even worse.”

Between them, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers, drivers of the No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolets and the No. 25 GMAC Chevrolets respectively, have all of six Martinsville starts.  Regardless, they both know what they’re in for, especially coming so soon after Bristol.

“Running back-to-back short-tracks is really demanding,” says Busch. “You’re bound to make someone mad at a short track like Martinsville. It’s a tough place and someone is either all over you or you’re all over someone else.  We had a top-10 there last season and it felt like we won the race.”

If Busch notches another top-10 performance, he just might have some teammates to keep him company.