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At Las Vegas, Jeff Gordon Attempting to Start Season Like 1997

LAS VEGAS (March 6, 2007) – In this Sunday’s NEXTEL Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon will attempt to accomplish something he has done only once in 14 previous tries—begin a season with three consecutive top-10 finishes.

In 1997, Gordon won the first two events of the season at Daytona and Rockingham before finishing fourth at Richmond. In the fourth race at Atlanta, an engine failure resulted in a 42nd-place finish.

In 2002 and 2004,  the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion also began the year with top-10 finishes in his first two races. Both times that streak ended in the third race at the same venue—Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

While the site of the third race this year is the same, the track is completely different. Las Vegas Motor Speedway has undergone a facelift of sorts, including increased banking in the turns.

“I like the banking, the configuration and the transitions, but it certainly is rough,” Gordon said. “There can be good things and bad things from that.

“If it were perfectly smooth, you could have a one-line single-groove race, and that is not what any of us want. The bumps create challenges for the teams which I hope will make for better racing.

“There’s not much of an outside groove, but that should change this weekend. With more laps on the track plus a Busch race on Saturday, we should get more of an outside groove. And I think the groove will even widen out during our race.”

In nine races at LVMS, Gordon has visited Victory Lane once (2001) and has four top-five finishes, including his last two races here. But that was on the “old” configuration, and Gordon and team are set to tackle the new track with a proven chassis sporting a similar—but different—paint scheme.

The “fire and flames” design remains the same on a car that visited Winner’s Circle in Chicago, but this weekend it will be with “no smoke” on the specially-painted green DuPont/Nicorette Chevrolet.

“We’ve had two strong team efforts to begin the year, and we want it to continue this weekend in the DuPont/Nicorette Monte Carlo SS,” said Gordon. “At Daytona, we weren’t very good but we kept fighting and finished in the top 10.

“At California, we had a top-five car for much of the day and finished second.

“It’s extremely important to start the year strong. I know it’s early in the season, but we’re trying to build a championship right now—not just with points, but with our team.

“We’ve had two solid finishes and we’re looking to build on that.”


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