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Lower 'seeded' Gordon hopes to advance at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 28, 2008) -  It could hardly be considered an upset if a No. 14 “seed” wins this weekend.

Jeff Gordon, who is currently 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, has a great track record at Martinsville Speedway—site of this Sunday’s Goody’s Cool Orange 500. In 30 starts at the Virginia short track, Gordon has seven victories, six poles, 18 top-fives and 24 top-10s. In fact, Gordon has never posted a DNF at the .526-mile track and has finished outside the top 12 only three times.

And his success can be attributed to a test here early in his career.

“I don’t even remember what year it was—maybe 1994,” Gordon said. “We made a ton of laps but nothing was working for us. I couldn’t get the car to turn the middle of the corner.

“So I tried some different things—the way I drove the car, the way I attacked the track—and we hit on something. Ever since then, my focus has been giving the DuPont team good information so that we can get the car to turn the middle of the corner.”

But there is a balance required to run well at the “paper-clip” track, and it presents a challenge to the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion.

“You can’t overdrive the corners here,” said Gordon. “And you must be smooth on the gas. If you drive the corner too easy and you don’t get in the gas hard enough off the corners, you’re not going to be fast.”

With so much success at the track, you would expect Gordon to be immediately fast when practice starts on Friday.

“That’s what’s funny,” Gordon said. “Every time I come here it takes me about eight or 10 laps to find that rhythm again. The first couple of laps here during a race weekend, I tend to overdrive the car. I have to tell myself, ‘slow it down, slow it down.’

“Then, boom, the lap times start falling.

“It’s a fine line to find the balance to go fast here.”

If Team DuPont finds the balance this weekend, a No. 14 seed could advance further up the standings.