Gordon Will Win
June 23, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Tony Stewart did, and Stewart deserved every bit of the accolades he got by taking the checkered flag. It isn’t an easy task to win on a road course, especially one where Gordon had ruled the roost the previous three years.
But don’t consider Gordon a “has been” just yet at Infineon Raceway. In fact, he’ll win today’s Dodge/Save Mart 350 at the two-mile, 12-turn road course, and here’s why:
Gordon isn’t just a four-time Winston Cup Series champion and owner of 58 career Winston Cup victories. He’s a versatile driver, and he can win at any given track he goes to on any given weekend.
That’s no more evident than with the seven road course victories he owns during his illustrious Winston Cup career (three at Infineon and four at Watkins Glen). His seven road course victories are a Winston Cup record, including six in a row beginning at Watkins Glen in 1997.
No other Winston Cup Series driver has ever come close to Gordon’s efficiency on the road courses. Mark Martin has three road course triumphs, but all have come at Watkins Glen. He’s never been to victory lane at Infineon.
In fact, Gordon has won seven of the last nine Winston Cup Series road course races. Phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal.
Even Stewart is awe of Gordon’s success at Infineon and Watkins Glen.
“I think when Jeff walks through the garage area at road course races, we all felt like we were supposed to kneel on one knee,” Stewart said. I don't think anybody dethroned the man (last year at Infineon), by any means. He went back and won Watkins Glen, so he obviously showed that he is still on course there. But, it was just nice (for Stewart to win).”
“You’d be surprised at how many mistakes I made out there that you didn’t see (in last year’s race),” Gordon said. “I made mistakes in front of a couple of different guys and it cost me. Tony (Stewart) had a good car in 2000 and got knocked out and didn’t show what he was capable of, but he did last year and won the race.”
Believe it or not, Gordon won all seven of those races with the same car. Losing last year’s race, however, opened Gordon’s eyes and everyone on his team at Hendrick Motorsports.
“That’s why we decided to build a new car," said Gordon who has three poles and six top-five finishes to go along with his three victories in nine Winston Cup starts at Infineon. “We had one car that won all those races and was so good that we were afraid to change it – afraid to do anything different.
“As a matter of fact, I tested that car against a new car a couple of years ago and liked it better than the new car. So we stayed with that older car. But once we ran those races, we realized we didn’t have the best car. We won at Watkins Glen last year, but mainly because Robby (Gordon) fell out. So we built a brand new car and tested it at VIR (Virginia International Raceway). It was fast and we’re happy with it. We’re hoping to gain something with it.”
Another reason to bet on Gordon this Sunday at Infineon Raceway (man that's so difficult to say)? He hasn’t been to victory lane in 24 races (since Kansas Speedway last September), and he’s due. Way overdue.
It just stands to reason that he’ll get his first victory in almost nine months at a road course. Infineon Raceway just happens to be the place.
“To be where we are right now and not have any wins is amazing,” Gordon said. “We’ve been in position to win several races this year, but we’ve run into some bad luck and things haven’t fallen our way. But, we’ve still managed to get some good finishes and it shouldn’t be long until will roll into victory lane again.”
Shouldn’t be too long at all – a few hours, as a matter of fact.