CONCORD, N.C. – When you look back on Jeff Gordon's career, no track where he had success stands out quite like Martinsville Speedway. 

Perhaps that is because it was his winningest track with nine victories, tied for third in track history with longtime Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. Perhaps it is because of how much success Hendrick Motorsports, the organization Gordon drove his entire NASCAR Cup Series career for and is the team vice chairman for, has had at the Virginia venue with 28 wins. Perhaps it is because Gordon's final win in 2015 came at "The Paperclip," and his shouting "We're going to Homestead" is etched in the memory bank not just for the joyous celebration but for what it meant to be chasing one more championship in his last full-time season.


Two of Gordon's wins at Martinsville came with Alan Gustafson on the pit box and they are among the company's 28 wins at the 0.526-mile track.

"It's a special place," Gustafson said. "The history with Hendrick Motorsports goes without saying, right? I think everybody understands that. If you look back, Jeff (Gordon) was so good there. He built such a good foundation of success."

However, it wasn't always smooth sailing at the 0.526-mile track for Gordon. Excelling at Martinsville took some time for the NASCAR Hall of Famer.

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"Martinsville was a big challenge," Gordon told of his initial results. "It wasn't our best track and we couldn't find our way to victory lane. We went and tested there and just made lap after lap after lap. Change after change after change and the results seemed to be the same. The car was doing the same things. I just started trying to make some changes myself and boom, it started to click.

"I just needed to slow it all down and be more patient. The car started working and I wasn't fighting against the car. I was working with the car and the track. The adjustments that Ray (Evernham) was making started to really matter and we started to find chunks of speed. It all started there."

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Sunday's race at Martinsville will see Hendrick Motorsports celebrating the 40th anniversary of its first Cup Series win by Geoff Bodine in 1984. Both Bodine and Gordon will be grand marshals for the 400-lap event. All four cars from the team will run special ruby red paint schemes for this race. 

In addition to the nine wins, Gordon had 29 top-five finishes, 38 top-10s and 3,779 laps led in 47 starts at Martinsville. He had two season sweeps there (2003 and 2005) and won with a track-record five crew chiefs – all his crew chiefs on the No. 24 (Ray Evernham, Brian Whitesell, Robbie Loomis, Steve Letarte and Alan Gustafson). 

Gordon's most memorable win at Martinsville was also his last in 2015. On a day where he had a strong long-run car, he took advantage of a short-run to the finish and the erupting Matt Kenseth-Joey Logano feud to score the victory. Gordon led the final 22 laps, held on in a two-lap sprint to the finish for the victory and punched his ticket to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He became the first Hendrick Motorsports driver to reach the title round in the format that had debuted the previous season. Several weeks ago, track president Clay Campbell noted that Gordon's 2015 win in the twilight led to the facility adding lights for the following season.

RELATED: Gordon calls last Martinsville win 'greatest moment of my racing career'

"I can't think of a better place that could have happened," Gordon said of his final win. "To do that in my final year in 2015 was special. My family was there. Just the camaraderie I had with Alan (Gustafson), the team, with (team owner) Rick (Hendrick), that was an emotional win. To this day, it is my favorite win. The timing of it. Everything the way it came together and what it meant to that season and my career, I'll never forget it."

The win was also one of the four-time Cup Series champion's most emotional victory lanes due to the circumstances of his racing career nearing the end.

"When you feel the pressure and so much is riding on that moment. The build-up of the year was winding down to what was supposed to be my final race in Homestead," Gordon said. "Reminiscing about this career that I had that spanned almost 25 years in the Cup Series and even beyond that growing up as a young kid, dreaming about being a race car driver. Dreaming about winning at the elite level, competing against the best in the world and driving for the best owner and sponsors. 

"To see all that come together and then go to what was the favorite racetrack of my career and one of the tracks that I had the most success at. For it to be that moment in that final year and also put us in a position to have a shot at the championship, all of that culminated into that one moment and the emotions flowed from there."

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A win 10 years earlier at Martinsville stood out to him for the never-give-up attitude the No. 24 team showed. Gordon rallied from three laps down to take the lead for good with 36 laps to go, scoring his then-sixth win at "The Paperclip."

"We had an issue with some lug nuts being loose and a spacer on the right front wheel," Gordon recalled. "We had to fix that, so we went several laps down. We got that fixed and had a really fast race car. We had to make up all those laps, and I am pretty sure we did it under the old format, where there wasn't a 'lucky dog' or anything like that. 

"We were able to make up three laps that day and start at the rear of the field, drive up through there and win the race. That was one of the best cars I've ever had at Martinsville and one of the best races, even though it didn't look like it would be a day that ended in victory lane."

Martinsville is a crucial part of Hendrick Motorsports' legacy, and Gordon is one of the drivers instrumental in helping to build and add to that record excellence. None of that is lost on the four-time champion, who as vice chairman, is the second-ranking Hendrick Motorsports official to team owner Rick Hendrick. 

PHOTOS: See every Hendrick Motorsports winner at Martinsville

"There was no track I ever felt as comfortable or as confident at and enjoyed driving on, racing on and going to more than Martinsville," Gordon said. "The history of the track. The connection with the fans because they are so close to the racetrack and the action. The response and the rapport that I had with the fans there. The wins and those grandfather clocks don't hurt. 

"Hendrick Motorsports won its first race at Martinsville. I won my last race at Martinsville and contributed to the history and legacy at that particular track throughout my career. There are just so many things that have added to why Martinsville means so much to me and so much to Hendrick Motorsports."

Adrian Lauerman contributed to this story.