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California test provided answers, more questions for Gordon

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 19, 2008) -  Three-time California Speedway winner Jeff Gordon expects a “totally different challenge” this Sunday at the Fontana track.

Gordon, whose wins occurred in 1997 (inaugural event), 1999 and 2004 at the two-mile track, learned a lot during a test here in the “Car of Tomorrow” at the end of January. But many questions remain unanswered as the CoT makes its 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut on an intermediate track this weekend.

“There has always been somewhat of a draft here because of the long straightaways,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Impala SS. “To me, drafting at California Speedway has never really been that big of a deal. You could hang with someone down the straightaway, but it sort of evened itself out when you got into the corners.

“But with these cars, the change is significant. When you get up close to another car, these cars take off.

“During the test, we did a lot of single-car runs but would encounter a car or two. What we don’t know is how the car will react in a pack of cars here. Once you get the draft off several cars and get a run, will the car ‘stop’ because of the air hitting the nose? Or will you be able to carry that momentum and complete the pass?

“While these cars punch such a big hole in the air and it provides a great draft, it’s also doing that in the corners and that takes downforce away. I think that is going to cause everyone to really search for different lines in the corner.”

Team DuPont would have preferred to enter the second race of the season on a high note, but a broken suspension part relegated Gordon to a 39th-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 last Sunday.

“That was unfortunate because I was having a blast during the race,” said Gordon. “The car was driving great and I was just cruising, and then the handling just went away and we started wearing right front tires out.

“But we’ve put that behind us and the focus for us is putting together a strong run until the checkered flag waves this weekend.”

Along with three wins, Gordon has two poles and seven top-fives in 15 starts at the California track. But this is a new weekend with a new car.

“Tracks like California Speedway present a totally different challenge to us with the new car—and we’re looking forward to facing that challenge,” Gordon said. “I don’t think anyone knows what to expect until we actually get into race conditions.

“But, I do believe it will be an entertaining race for the fans.”