Hendrick Motorsports

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Gordon believes race in Vegas starts on Friday

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 28, 2008) -  Qualifying well at Las Vegas on Friday has become high priority for Jeff Gordon and his No. 24 DuPont team after learning more about the way the new car (Car of Tomorrow) reacts on intermediate tracks.

Last weekend’s event at Auto Club Speedway, which started on Sunday and finished on Monday due to rain, was the first test under race conditions for the Chevrolet Impala SS on an intermediate track. Gordon, who started second and finished third at the California track, learned a lot about the performance of newer car.

“Since these cars punch a bigger hole in the air, I was anticipating the draft down the straightaways to play a bigger role,” said Gordon, who will drive a specially painted No. 24 DuPont/Nicorette Chevrolet at LVMS. “I thought the draft would be the equalizer if you weren’t handling as well as you’d like through the corners.

“But some teams are really hitting on something with this new car while others are not, and that spread the field out at California. And track position on the bigger tracks is extremely important.

“Going forward, we have to make sure we qualify well on Friday.”

In 10 starts at the 1.5-mile track, Gordon has one win (2001) and five top-five finishes including a current streak of three in a row. But he only has three top-10 starts and an average starting position of 14.5. Last year, he started 36th but led a race-high 111 laps en route to a second-place finish.

“I think that would be much tougher to do this year,” said Gordon, who jumped from 38th to 14th in the points standings after his third-place finish at California. “You may be able to recover from a bad qualifying effort, but it will probably take a gamble on pit strategy—fuel only or two tires when everyone else takes four—to get track position.

“But the longer we race with this car, the more we learn how it reacts to adjustments. Teams will get a better understanding of it and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ will close.”

One noticeable gap between the two cars is corner speeds.

“We looked at the telemetry during the Las Vegas test and the new car was 13 mph slower in the middle of the corner compared to the old car,” said Gordon.  “That’s a great comparison of the speed differential between the two, but we’re not racing against the older car.

“We’re racing against other teams. We don’t need to be faster than the older car—just faster than the other teams.”

And they’ll start by working to be faster than the other teams come Friday.