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Gordon going for three-peat at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 22, 2008)—Attempting to win his third consecutive race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Jeff Gordon does not know yet what strategy he will use during the Aaron’s 499 on Sunday.

There is one strategy he prefers, though, and that is racing from the drop of the green flag. Gordon, whose 12 restrictor-plate wins are the most of any driver, swept both events in 2007 at the 2.66-mile track in very differing styles.

In the spring event last year, Gordon started from the pole and led a race-high 71 laps en route to victory. He was running in the top 15 for 161 of the 192 laps with an average running position of seventh.

When the series returned to the track last fall, it was during the “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint (formerly NEXTEL) Cup” with the debut of the Car of Tomorrow on a restrictor- plate track. Gordon started 34th, spent only 45 of the 188 laps in the top 15 and had an average running position of 28th during the event. He led only one lap –- the final one.

“We didn’t want to lay back during the fall race, but there were a lot of unknowns with the new car at the track,” said Gordon, who will drive a specially painted No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Chevrolet Impala SS this weekend. “Our qualifying position played the biggest part in determining our strategy. Starting so far back, we thought it would be best to play it safe and work our way into contention near the end of the race.

“As uneventful as it was in back, I was concerned every single moment of every single lap. I was concerned that we would wreck amongst ourselves. I was wondering if we were going to lose the draft.”

While the plan worked, it went against the “racer” in Gordon.

“I’ve never had to do that before, and it was difficult to get into that mindset,” said Gordon, who has six wins, 13 top-fives and 16 top-10’s in 30 starts at the Alabama track. “We talked about it before the race, and I said, ‘I can’t do it.’ It was tough because I don’t like riding around in back. I want to be up front, battling for the lead and leading laps from the drop of the green flag.”

That mindset has helped Gordon capture 81 victories -– sixth all-time, only two behind Cale Yarborough for fifth and only three behind Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for third -– and lead 19,647 laps during his 16-year career. But he may have to adjust again this weekend.

“Our plan right now is to have a good qualifying run on Saturday, start near the front and race with the leaders all day,” Gordon said. “We may have to rethink that plan if we don’t start up front, though.”