LONG POND, Pa. – In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event on Sunday, Jeff Gordon and Team DuPont are looking for the right shift – in momentum – at The Tricky Scalene.
Pocono Raceway’s nickname, “The Tricky Triangle,” is due to its three unique corners, and it proves to be a challenge to the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers each and every trip.
“The straightaways are so long but you have three distinct corners,” said Gordon, who has four wins, two pole positions, 16 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s in 36 starts at the 2.5-mile track. “Trying to get the car balanced to go through those three corners fast is a huge challenge.
“They call it ‘The Tricky Triangle?’ It’s definitely a very tricky scalene.”
Gordon’s fourth-place finish last Sunday at Kansas was his first top-10 since a third-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) in the middle of April. But while the finishing positions have not been indicative of how the No. 24 team has performed during that stretch, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion knows momentum can change quickly.
“We’ve had good runs, we just need to start getting the finishes to match,” Gordon said. “Whether it was getting caught up in a wreck (at Richmond, Va.) or a caution coming out right after we pitted (at Charlotte, N.C.) or whatever, we’ve been running much better than the finishes show.
“But that’s part of racing, and we just need to do whatever we can to learn from it and do our best – by qualifying better or doing this or doing that – so that we don’t put ourselves in those positions again.
“Hopefully, we can shift momentum the other way through the summer.”
And shifting of another sort will return to the Poconos this weekend.
“NASCAR is going to let us shift here again, so I’m pretty excited about that,” said Gordon, who is 13th in the point standings. “By allowing us to shift again, I think it’s going to make it more competitive and provide more opportunities to pass.
“You have to have good horsepower, and getting the gearing right and getting those shifts smooth is vital.”
A focus of No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson, as well.
“If you unload your car and you’re struggling with balance, the driver may not even shift,” Gustafson said. “But as you work through practice and get better, how you shift and where you shift changes.
“We may even see someone try to shift six times a lap – upshifting and downshifting along each straightaway.”
That would mean 1,200 shifts during the course of a 200-lap race. It could also mean a trip to “The Tricky Triangle’s” Victory Lane.