MARTINSVILLE, Va. - A lot has changed during Jeff Gordon's 20 seasons of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing, the least of which is Martinsville Speedway.
The seven-time track winner posted only one top-10 finish in his first four outings at the 0.526-mile Virginia track, but Gordon since has secured 30 top-10 results in 34 races. And that gives the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion confidence going into Sunday's NASCR Sprint Cup Series event.
"The one place on the schedule that has changed the least is Martinsville," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. "I believe the track, the setups and the tires have changed the least here compared to other tracks over the course of 20 seasons.
"And that's where experience can really pay off. At other tracks, sometimes you have to reinvent yourself - along with how we reinvent the setups and the aero package that we're racing - and that's tough to do. The longer you're in the sport, the tougher that is to do.
"Somebody like me - who has a lot of experience and who has also had success at a place like Martinsville - can continue to have that success because it's not all about aerodynamics. It's not about a spring and shock and sway bar combination that all of the sudden makes your car fly.
"I feel like Martinsville is that one place that I can go to every time and give good information back to the team to keep us fast throughout the race."
Along with seven wins, Gordon has seven pole positions, 25 top-five finishes (11 more than the next active driver) and 31 top-10s. He has led 3,094 laps, which is 1,417 more than any other active driver. Another strong run - and, maybe more importantly, a strong finish - is needed for Gordon who is currently 25th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.
"We've had some good performances this year hurt by engine issues or accidents or pit road miscues," Gordon said. "But we've had fast race cars, and that is always encouraging."We just need to have a 'complete' race. And then another one, and then another one.
"We have a team capable of stringing together a lot of good finishes."