Gordon Likes Lowes

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CONCORD, N.C. - Three-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Jeff Gordon took to Lowe's Motor Speedway's renovated racing surface like the proverbial duck took to water Wednesday night as 17 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams made final preparations for the May 29 NASCAR All-Star Challenge and the May 29 Coca-Cola 600.

The unofficial stopwatches caught Gordon's No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet with a lap at 189.056 mph around the 1.5-mile superspeedway. The 28.563-second lap was a tick of the watch faster than the track record of 28.590 seconds, 188.877 mph, set last year by Ryan Newman.

Gordon's lap came as teams concentrated on long runs, searching for the proper chassis setup to complement the harder right-side tires Goodyear has manufactured for the track's May events. The tires performed flawlessly Wednesday and one veteran crew chief said tire issues that developed during Tuesday's testing were the result of teams "getting greedy with tire pressures and camber."

"They've certainly found something that works very well with this track," Gordon said about the renovated racing surface. "The corners are just fantastic. Some of the guys have been running more in the middle to higher lines, which is a positive thing. I think it's a good sign of things to come."

Defending NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr. showed he is ready for his Coca-Cola 600 debut with a lap at 186.464 mph in the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet. All three of the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. cars were on hand for Tuesday's portion of the two-day test, but teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip opted to skip the final day.

Greg Biffle posted the third fastest unofficial lap at 186.047 mph in the No. 16 National Guard/Subway Ford.

"I was so disappointed when they ground the track. I was like 'man that was a great race track, they shouldn't t have messed with it'. The bumps gave it character," Biffle said. "But now I'm just shocked. I've never seen grinding a race track do what it did here. It's just so fast.

"I'm driving in the second groove, or even the third groove," Biffle continued. "I'm not running on the bottom, so that tells you there will be side-by-side racing. This is going to be one of the best shows out of all 36 races."

Mike Bliss was fourth fastest at 185.637 mph in the NetZero/Best Buy Chevrolet while Casey Mears was just a tick slower at 185.631 mph in the No. 41 Target Dodge.

1988 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Bill Elliott participated in Wednesday's session and plans to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 as he runs a
limited schedule in Ray Evernham's No. 91 Stanley Tools Dodge.

"The track is quite a bit smoother and it has a lot of grip," Elliott said. "I think I'm in better shape because I haven't missed anything from not being here the last year. Now everyone has a clean slate with the changes to the race track. It was always hard to run a high groove here, but now you can run a higher line and still have a good time."

The six-hour testing session was run without incident. The only caution flags were for debris and oil from Mears' blown engine late in the session.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005, Jeff Gordon

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