Last Saturday night at Charlotte, Jeff Gordon captured the win and also separated himself from second and third place title contenders a little bit more.
Gordon’s lead with five races to go has him up 68 points on teammate Jimmie Johnson and 78 on long shot Clint Bowyer. Gordon’s odds to win the Championship dropped from a plus money figure at most places to -140. Charlotte was supposed to be the one track he may have problems with based on his past and he aced it.
Gordon now takes his dominating tour to Martinsville this week with his series best "Car of Tomorrow" model. Based on the stats from races run this year, Gordon leads all drivers, not just chase drivers, with and average finish of 4.8. He still has Atlanta, Texas, and Miami to run with the old car and then Martinsville and Phoenix in the COT.
At Martinsville earlier this season Gordon took second place but left the track angry, at surprisingly, his own driver Jimmie Johnson who won the race. It was pretty cool seeing the two best cars on the track duel for several laps and not give an inch with total disregard for team rules.
Gordon, perhaps, thought that Johnson should have moved over and let the boss take the win. Up to that point early in the season Johnson already had two wins while Gordon none. At the time Gordon, hungry for a win, would have liked Johnson to give him more room, but he later changed his tune and basically admitted he was wrong and that Johnson was just racing hard like he’s paid to do. It’s all about winning!
The two teammates meet again this week with the stakes much higher, but with the early season Martinsville drama still in the back of their minds. Gordon is trying to hang on to win his fifth cup Championship while Johnson is attempting to go back to back and be the first driver to do so since Gordon in ’97 and ’98. Gordon has been the best COT driver this season and Johnson has been No. 2. Johnson has won three of the last six fall Martinsville races. Gordon won four of the last nine Martinsville races and is the track’s active leader with seven wins.
Because of their dominance, they both come in as considerable co-favorites at 4/1. The next top candidates to win are Gibbs teammates Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart at 8/1. After that, there are several top drivers that come in at high prices with hopes of attracting attention somewhere other than Johnson or Gordon, who have shown that there isn’t many better than them on the flat half-mile track.
In years past Martinsville was a track that you could always count on every year or so to have a big long shot come in. The track became more about the driver than the equipment. It was about who could get around the track fastest without wearing out their brakes and tires the best. Going fastest for the first 40 laps means nothing! Average it out over an 80 to 90 lap run and that’s where you’ll find the strongest car. Gordon has obviously shared some key driving secrets with Johnson, and oh yeah, they do have pretty good cars as well which helps.
This duel is likely to come down to the wire between the two and should be exciting as they battle all the way to Miami, a place where neither driver has won. Gordon has already checked Phoenix off his to do list of places to win at, now only Texas and Miami remain.
This week at Martinsville I’d love to take Denny Hamlin with the whole Virginia native theme worked in there, but how can you go against two drivers that have combined to win seven of the last nine races there? We’re talking five years of racing where only Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart have won besides the Dynamic Duo.
Perhaps 4/1 may be too cheap a price! Betting on each driver for an equal amount would lock yourself into a 2-to-1 profit.
We’ll go with the sweep and Jimmie this week just because Martinsville has had quite a few over the years, even though Gordon has done the sweeping in two of the instances.
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