KANSAS CITY, Kan. (May 31, 2011) – In his 11th NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Kansas Speedway, Jeff Gordon can win an “inaugural” event at the 1.5-mile track. Again.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first visited the Midwest track in 2001, and Gordon led the final 22 laps to secure the victory. He won again in 2002 and, along with those two victories, the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet has collected seven top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 10 annual visits to Kansas.
But 2011 marks the first time Kansas will host two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events during a season. With temperatures expected near 90 degrees, track conditions could be very different compared to past fall race dates.
“Weather conditions always play a role, but I think tires play a bigger role,” said Gordon, who is 16th in the point standings. “I think the tire Goodyear brings is probably going to mean more than the time of year. “This is a flatter racetrack, so grip is a premium. The tires wear quite a bit here, so tire management seems to be pretty important. And that falls back on the car, the team and your communication with them to get the car to work the way you want it to as the tires begin to wear.”
Gordon tops several statistical categories at Kansas Speedway. He has earned the most top-five finishes and top-10s in the track’s 10-year history and is tied for most victories. But while he has the best starting average (9.2) among drivers who have participated in all 10 events, the track remains one of three where he has never won a pole (Las Vegas and Miami being the other two).
“Qualifying well each week doesn’t mean you will run well during the race, but it sure does help,” Gordon said. “Last week at Charlotte (N.C.) for instance, our car wasn’t bad – it was just tough when you were racing back in heavy traffic. Once we got out front in clean air, it was a totally different story.”
While a late pit stop for fuel with six laps to go and a caution one lap later at Charlotte resulted in a 20th-place finish, Gordon is hoping for a different result to this week’s story.
“For whatever reason, this track suits my driving style,” Gordon said. “Even in June, it’s still a mile-and-a-half and it’s still an important racetrack. And it’s still a track we want to win at.”