BROOKLYN, Mich. – Points are awarded at the end of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but Jeff Gordon and Team DuPont believe that process begins much earlier. Like, on Friday.
Through 22 races in 2011, the 84-time race winner has one pole (Talladega, Ala.) but an average starting position of 14.5.
That average is the lowest of his 19 full seasons on the circuit, and it is something Gordon and the team are working hard to correct before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins after race No. 26.
“Qualifying better is something this team – including me – has to do better,” Gordon said. “It’s possible to not qualify well and still win like we did in Phoenix, but it’s much easier to have a strong finish after starting at or near the front.
“There are so many advantages gained by doing so like a better pit stall pick, less traffic to work through and cleaner air. I think the likelihood of getting collected in someone else’s wreck drops, as well. Improving our qualifying is definitely something we are focused on right now.”
Their next chance to make gains in that department is this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Michigan International Speedway. Gordon always has enjoyed racing at the wide two-mile track, and his statistics appear to echo that. In 37 starts, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has two wins, five pole positions, 18 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s. One more top-five finish ties him with Richard Petty for second all-time at MIS, two behind Cale Yarborough.
“I love racing here because of the wide corners where you can run from the bottom to the top,” said Gordon, who is seventh in the point standings with two wins in 2011. “This is a really fast track with a high average speed, and you are in the corners for a really long time each lap. Ideally, you want to be right on the edge of tight and loose in the corners.
“But even with all that room to run side-by-side down the straightaways and through the corners, qualifying well on Friday can make the race easier to manage on Sunday. This race is 400 miles, but it seems to go by quick.”