FONTANA, Calif. (March 22, 2011) – If the Drive to End Hunger team hits the correct setup combination underneath the No. 24 Chevrolet in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, it could mean another home run for Jeff Gordon at Auto Club Speedway.
In baseball terms, Gordon is batting .333 when it comes to top-two finishes at the two-mile track. In 21 starts, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has three wins (1997, 1999 and 2004) and four second-place finishes (seven of 21 or 0.333 percent). Overall, Gordon has posted 10 top-five finishes and 11 top-10s while also collecting two pole positions (1998 and 2007) at the track.
“Fontana is certainly a track I love and one that I look forward going to,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. “It’s also one that I’ve experienced success at over the years. This is a big and fast racetrack, and you’ve got to have good power down the straightaways. But you also need good ‘grip’ in the corners.”
Earlier this year at Phoenix International Raceway, Gordon collected his 83rd career win -- his first victory with new crew chief Alan Gustafson and a new supporting cast. In his 19th season, Gordon feels like it is a new beginning.
“To me, I look forward to going to every racetrack every weekend because it's kind of like starting over,” said Gordon, who is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. “When I think of Alan, his group and their history here, they’ve run well here so I’m excited to get to the racetrack to see what we have for the weekend.
“I feel like we're working well together, and we've got fast race cars.”
The first four races of 2011 have been on four very different tracks. The year started on the high-banked Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with car speeds reduced by restrictor plates. The second event was on the relatively flat one-mile Phoenix track and event No. 3 was on the intermediate Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Last weekend, the series visited the high-banked 0.533-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
While this weekend’s trip is the first visit to a two-mile track this year, information from the Las Vegas event could prove valuable in Southern California.
“We spend so much time in the offseason working on new bump-stops, shock packages, springs and sway bars that you hope the direction you’re working in is the right one,” said Gordon, who is a native of Vallejo, Calif.
“We learned a lot about that at Vegas, but we'll learn even more this weekend. It can be tricky when you get to a track like California. There's a lot of different combinations of setups that can make the car go faster.”
Hitting the right setup could improve Gordon’s average at his home-state track.