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Team DuPont hopes for breakthrough at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (April 29, 2008)—Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, site of this Saturday night’s Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400, always has been one of Jeff Gordon’s favorite tracks. But he has not won on the three-quarter mile layout since 2000. Could the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Impala SS capture a breakthrough victory this weekend?

Along with two victories, Gordon has collected five poles, 12 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s in 30 starts. But Team DuPont suffered through a difficult stretch during the 2005 and 2006 seasons at the Virginia track, posting four finishes of 30th or worse and failing to lead a lap during the four events.

The breaks were not going the team’s way.

“We’ve improved aerodynamics, horsepower and grip over the past few years that we’re going so much faster,” Gordon said. “Maintaining that speed, more so with me than other drivers, caused us to have brake issues. But it wasn’t running out of brakes, it was building up pad on the rotor that caused a vibration. Once that happened, the handling of the car was gone the rest of the night.

“We addressed that, made adjustments and had two top-five finishes last year. Hopefully, we can build on that and improve our finishing position this weekend.”

During the 2007 events, the brake adjustments made by the No. 24 team coincided with the introduction of the Car of Tomorrow at the short track—and the results improved. Gordon won the pole for the spring event and led a race-high 114 laps before finishing fourth. In the September race, he qualified second and led a race-high 191 laps en route to another fourth-place finish.

Crew chief Steve Letarte believes the team’s recent turnaround is two-fold.

“The spring race was the first time we raced the Chevrolet Impala SS here, and the Hendrick Motorsports CoT test program put us in a good position prior to that race,” Letarte said. “And when you don’t run well at a certain track, you put a little extra emphasis on turning things around. That showed in the results.

“I think another breakthrough was the braking package we used. In 2005 and 2006, we used what we thought was the best braking system. But it wasn’t the best system for our driver. Last year, we changed that package and it worked better for Jeff. It’s not the ‘best,’ but sometimes what works for us is not the best on paper.”

With the right breaks, Team DuPont could be celebrating its first win of 2008.

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