Jeff Gordon’s path to 105 NASCAR wins starts with 1, and in qualifying

jutter@charlotteobserver.comOctober 9, 2013 

183156477

Jeff Gordon has 87 Cup victories, third all-time. He says the road to making the next one possible starts in qualifying, because a good start is key to a good finish, especially at Charlotte.

JARED C. TILTON — GETTY

  • Today at the Track 2-3:20 p.m.: Nationwide series practice 3 p.m.: Spectator gates open 3:30-5 p.m.: Sprint Cup series practice 6:10-7 p.m.: Nationwide series practice 7:10 p.m.: Sprint Cup qualifying (ESPN2) 8:30 p.m.: Whelen Southern Modified race

There are two goals Jeff Gordon continues to work on this season – one long-term and the other much more immediate.

Both require winning.

With six races left, Gordon is without a victory and in danger of going winless for the third time in six Cup seasons. His most recent winless season was 2010, when he finished ninth in points.

The larger goal is centered on whether Gordon can surpass the 105series victories of David Pearson, who is second all-time. Gordon is third, with 87.

There is a common denominator for success with both goals, however. Gordon believes each requires a better qualifying performance.

Qualifying for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be at 7:10 p.m. Thursday.

“The big challenge is qualifying,” said Gordon, who has five wins, 16 top-fives and 21 top-10 finishes in 41 Cup starts at CMS. “A lot can happen in 500 miles, but qualifying well, starting near the front and having a good pit stall selection make for a good start to the race and a good start to the weekend.”

Gordon has done it before, turning three poles at Charlotte into victories.

A win Saturday night certainly would help boost his fortunes in this season’s Chase. He is fourth in the standings and still with an outside chance at winning his fifthchampionship.

“We never stopped working and trying to get the cars to suit my liking. And when the cars are solid and giving me good feedback and I can get aggressive with it, then my confidence goes up,” said Gordon, who trails leader Matt Kenseth by 32 points.

“Right now my team has been bringing great race cars to the race track, not just in the Chase, but about three, four races, I think, prior to that. We just really started making some gains on some things, and it’s shown up week in and week out.

“I’m having a lot of fun right now.”

During recent seasons, he has talked more openly about the prospects of his retirement from NASCAR, but Gordon has not set a timetable.

Does he still think there is a chance he could supplant Pearson?

“I don’t know – 105 just seems so far away,” he said. “I never thought we would have this many wins, so you never know what could happen if we get a couple more wins under our belt.

“I am really looking forward to this weekend’s race, though. We ran well here in May, and we’ve had some great runs since the Chase started. I like how this team is performing and the effort they are putting in right now.”

While it took a directive from NASCAR chairman Brian France to get Gordon added to the Chase as an unprecedented 13th member, he certainly has lived up to the invitation.

During the first four Chase races, he has finished sixth, 15th, fourth and third. Gordon has not had a better four-race stretch all season.

“I’m excited because we ran really good at Charlotte earlier this year, and I think our mile-and-a-half program has gotten so much better since then,” he said.

“The big challenge is qualifying. We’ve got to qualify strong at Charlotte, and I know we’re going to race good there.”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service