DOVER, Del. – It has been four months since Jeff Gordon finished 17th at Dover International Speedway, but the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger team feels they have made monster improvements on concrete tracks since that day in May.
There are only two concrete tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule: Dover and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Earlier this year in Bristol, Gordon started seventh but led no laps en route to a 14th-place finish on the 0.533-mile track.
That event was in March, and Gordon and company followed that up with their 17th-place finish on the one-mile track in Delaware two months later. But the No. 24 team returned to Bristol in August with a vengeance, and Gordon led 206 laps in that 500-lap event before finishing third. Can the Alan Gustafson-led crew rebound similarly in Dover?
“I certainly hope so,” said Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 team. “We learned a lot from our first trip to our second at Bristol this year, and I’m hoping the success on that concrete track translates over to Dover this weekend.”
In 37 starts at The Monster Mile, Gordon has four wins, four pole positions, 14 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s. He has led 2,231 laps here, which ranks first among active drivers. But Gordon believes padding those statistics begins on Saturday.
“Qualifying well on Saturday will be important,” said the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who is fifth in the standings and 23 markers out of the lead. “This is a real fast track, so being in clean air makes your life that much easier during the race on Sunday.”
Another obstacle facing the drivers and teams will be the rubber-buildup on the racetrack.
“The rubber on the track will be a challenge, as usual,” Gordon said. “But this track is wide and the groove will usually widen out – so much so you can probably even run near the wall.
“But if there’s significant rubber-buildup, it can be challenging on the restarts and when trying to pass another car.”