Gordon Hopes Kansas City ‘Chief’ Leads to Win
- Sep 26, 2006
- 24 Team
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Sept. 26, 2006) – The Kansas City Chiefs will be playing at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, but Jeff Gordon hopes a rookie “chief” leads him to his third victory of the season—and third at Kansas Speedway—less than 25 miles away at the 1.5-mile track.
Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, has gained seven positions since the start of the “Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup” two races ago. After back-to-back third places finishes at New Hampshire and Dover, Gordon now sits second in the point standings and only six out of the lead held by Jeff Burton. And the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion credits a lot of Team DuPont’s resurgence to 27-year old rookie crew chief Steve Letarte.
Letarte, who was promoted to the position following race No. 26 in 2005, will call his 39th race on top of the box this Sunday. He has already led the team to three wins, 15 top- fives and 19 top-10’s.
“I’ve got a rookie crew chief that is acting like a veteran,” said Gordon. “He’s doing a great job back at the shop making sure we bring good cars to the track, and he’s making great calls during the races.
“He’s got a great attitude and he’s sharp.”
Letarte spearheaded an effort to improve their intermediate program—the one-and-a- half and two-mile tracks the No. 24 team struggled on much of last season. A test at Atlanta late in 2005 is where the team found hope—and the necessary changes to contend for their fifth championship.
“When we didn’t make the Chase last year, it allowed us to go in a different direction,” Gordon said. “We needed to try a different route with our intermediate program. We were using the same setups as our teammates, but we weren’t finding the same success. Steve and the guys came up with some different ideas that we wanted to try.
“We tested Atlanta during the Chase last year and tried some things that made the car more comfortable for me. They were different than the setups my teammates were using, but they were working for me and my driving style.
“We still gather information from our teammates, but we incorporate that into our own cars, our own team and my driving style.”
At Kansas, Gordon has posted two victories (2001 and 2002), three top-fives and four top-10s. He has led 169 laps—the most of any driver—and has a 6.0 average finishing position.
While those statistics should be enough to give him confidence at the track, a win earlier this year at “sister” Chicagoland Speedway has the team eyeing a strong run this weekend.
“The two tracks are similar, and it seems when we run well at one, we run well at the other,” said Gordon. “While we had a couple wins at Kansas, we just never could put it together for a win at Chicago until this year.
“As well as we ran at Chicago, we feel we should be close this weekend.”
Which could lead to a Kansas City “chief’s” victory orchestrated by Letarte.