Gordon Riding High to Darlington
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 11, 2014 | 10:00 A.M. EST
"Darlington is just a cool, fast place – you get that sensation of speed there because you run right up next to the wall. And the track ‘drives’ you." (Photo: Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon leads the Sprint Cup Series point standings for the first time since 2009 into Saturday night's Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Gordon’s second place finish in Monday’s rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway pushed him to the top of the standings by four over defending Darlington race winner Matt Kenseth.
It marks the first time in 174 races Gordon holds the Sprint Cup Series points lead. His last lead came after the 2009 Coca-Cola 600, following a start to the season that saw a win and two runner-ups in the first seven races.
However although he’s climbed to the summit in the standings, Gordon is still winless over the first seven races of the 2014 season. He’s been consistent to say the least with three top five and five top 10 finishes, he’s still looking for his first trip to Victory Lane.
But Gordon isn’t worried about his current zero in the win column.
“I mean, the pressure's always there to win,” he said. “You always want to win. Winning benefits you whether it's this points system or any other points system. Winning is the ultimate. That's what we are all out there to do. It's important to be consistent because that helps get you in a position more often to win.”
The season has started with a streak of seven different winners in the first seven races and Gordon is confident he’ll join that group very soon.
“Every race that goes by that there's a different winner, the pressure gets more intense,” he said. “You just got to go look at that next opportunity and try to put yourself in that position to go win it.”
That next opportunity for victory comes in Saturday’s Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington where Gordon has been very successful throughout his Sprint Cup Series career.
Gordon has seven wins, 19 top fives, 22 top tens, 4 poles, has led 1,736 laps, has an average starting position of 6.8 and an average finishing position of 11.55 at the historic South Carolina track which he explains has always been one of his favorites.
“The first time I drove there, it reminded me of a couple of sprint car tracks – tracks like Winchester (Ind.) Speedway – that are super-fast but you have to respect it or it could ruin your day,” said Gordon. “Darlington is just a cool, fast place – you get that sensation of speed there because you run right up next to the wall. And the track ‘drives’ you.
“At other places, we are typically trying to put the car in specific spots on the track. At Darlington, the track naturally ‘feeds’ you to a certain area which is right up next to the wall.”
Gordon’s keys to a potential eighth career Darlington victory are a simple combination of man and machine.
“Success always starts with the race team and the race car, and I’ve had good ones here,” he said. “Another key to success at Darlington is being able to push the limits of the car and the track, and keeping it on that ‘edge’ without going over. At Darlington, it’s very easy to go over the edge.”
Gordon’s been knocking on the door of Victory Lane in the early going of the season and has consistently run upfront. The four-time series champion believes everything could come together this weekend for another win at “The Track Too Tough to Tame.”
Motor Racing Network will air live coverage of Saturday's Bojangles' Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway starting at 5:30 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.