HAMPTON, Ga. (March 16, 2006) – In his 14th NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season with four championships and 73 race wins on his résumé, Jeff Gordon is still learning. When he failed to make the 2005 “Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup,” several late-year tests may ultimately lead Gordon to the top of this year’s class. After missing the Chase, Team DuPont tested at the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway. The gains made during the test led to a second-place finish here in October, and provided a much-needed spark for the 2006 season. “The tests at the end of last year -- especially the one here -- were very valuable to us,” Gordon said. “During the season, there are too many people battling for points that you don’t want to make huge changes. “When we missed the Chase, it gave us the opportunity to try something major. If that change didn’t work, it wouldn’t hurt us in the points because we weren’t racing for a championship. “But we made gains toward the end of last year that have carried over to this year.” In 2005, the 1.5-mile and two-mile tracks were Team DuPont’s Achilles’ heel. After posting a 13th-place finish at the two-mile California Speedway on Feb. 26 and a fifth-place finish at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend, Gordon has a renewed confidence entering this Sunday’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “I was happy with how the car performed at California,” Gordon said. “We didn’t have the finish that we wanted, but we made adjustments during the race that made the car stronger and stronger. “We had a similar performance at Las Vegas -- with better results -- and it gives us a little bit of confidence heading into this weekend.” In 27 career starts at the Georgia track, the driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolets has four victories, 11 top-fives and 16 top-10s. Although he did not lead a lap in 2005, his 975 laps led at Atlanta tops the list among active drivers. “We’re still not where we need to be on these types of tracks, but it’s a learning process,” said Gordon, who secured his 200th career top-five last weekend in only 440 starts. “We’re learning from everything we’re trying with the cars -- whether it works or not. Not every adjustment we make will work, but it gives us more data to make better decisions.” And that decision to test here in 2005 may lead to another championship in 2006.