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Gordon going for eighth win at Darlington

DARLINGTON, S.C (May 6, 2008)—Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, site of this Saturday night’s Dodge Challenger 500, was repaved following last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race won by Jeff Gordon.

While the bumps may be gone and the speeds are considerably faster, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion says there is no need to worry.

“The Darlington we all love is still here,” Gordon said.

Gordon recently participated in a Goodyear tire test at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval, and he was impressed with the work done to the track.

“I’m really excited about the race this weekend,” Gordon said. “The track is smooth and super fast, but it’s the same Darlington. They did a fantastic job. The track is unreal, and I had a blast during the test. The bumps aren’t there, and you’re going much faster, but you run the same line you always have, and the track has the same characteristics.”

And Gordon knows the quick line around the South Carolina track. In 27 starts at Darlington, he has seven wins including five Southern 500 victories, three pole positions, 15 top- five finishes (56 percent) and 18 top-10s (67 percent).

“I’ve always enjoyed racing here, and I’ve had some memorable moments,” Gordon said. “Like winning my first Southern 500 or battling Jeff Burton on the last lap with a million-dollar bonus on the line for our team. Last year was pretty memorable too.”

In 2007, rain postponed the race until Mother’s Day. Gordon’s mother and sister were in attendance, as well as his wife, Ingrid Vandebosch.

“Ingrid was pregnant at the time, and that was her last race of traveling before giving birth to Ella,” Gordon said. “My mom and my sister were there, and my sister – in all these years – had never been to Victory Lane for one of my wins. With about 100 laps to go, the water temperature on the DuPont Chevrolet skyrocketed, and I thought we were done. My crew chief, Steve Letarte, made a great call to stay on the track while others pitted late in the race and that allowed me to run in clean air.

“We were fortunate to pull into Victory Lane with steam pouring out of the overflow vent. I didn’t think we’d make it to end of the race, and I guess neither did my stepfather, John Bickford. John, my mom, sister and nephew were already halfway home.”