Jeff Gordon set for Texas ‘checkmark’

October 30, 2007 5:00 AM
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ROBERTS Top 5
AT TEXAS
1. #24   Jeff Gordon 5/1
2. #17   Matt Kenseth 12/1 
3. #5   Kyle Busch 12/1
4. #48   Jimmie Johnson 5/1
5. #2   Kurt Busch 12/1

Coming into the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup season Jeff Gordon had not won on only three of the tracks on the Cup circuit. In all, Gordon has won on 21 of the 24 Cup tracks he’s raced on, of which only 19 are still active — North Wilkesboro and Rockingham are no longer stops on the tour.

Gordon’s first attempt at putting a check to one of those tracks occurred at Phoenix, a track that had Gordon with the biggest oh-fer at 0 wins in 16 attempts. Gordon took his new Car of Tomorrow and aced it giving him both his first win of the season and first Cup win ever on the track.

This week Gordon visits his next track on the list waiting for a check mark, Texas Motor Speedway. He’s has 14 Cup starts on the track with no victories which makes it his toughest opponent in the series. Homestead and Texas are the only remaining tracks on Gordon’s hit list of tracks that have conquered him more so than he has it. The feat is already incredible if he doesn’t win on those tracks because of how diversified he is as a driver. He’s come a long way and earned the respect of not only just his peers in the garage, but also the fans who have let him have it over the years.

When you think back to some of the greats in sports, of which Gordon definitely is, we tend to have the memories towards the end of their careers when everyone was in agreement that they were special to their sport. What many forget is how fans treated some of them early in their careers.

Who can forget the abuse Terry Bradshaw got during his time in Pittsburgh. It almost wasn’t until he retired that he was accepted by the Steeler fans as one of the greats. Dale Earnhardt was in the same boat himself. Lots of NASCAR fans hated him with a passion because of the way he raced against fan favorites.

It wasn’t until Gordon came onto the scene and started winning races without paying his dues, as many said was the case, that Earnhardt became popular in the public eye. He was standing up against the wonder boy and people liked it.

People still boo Gordon as a force of habit, but I do believe there is a certain level of respect there for him by those people that weren’t there a few years ago. He’s proved himself year after year and continues to be the best all-around driver year after year. He does it on all surfaces, all sizes, and shapes.

Here he is now going for his 5th title and he’s sitting in pretty good shape.

Only three races remain on the season as they roll into this weekend’s Texas race. Gordon currently has a slim 9-point lead over teammate Jimmie Johnson. Ironically, the last three races of the season happen to be the very same tracks that Gordon was winless on coming into the season. After Texas, they go to Phoenix and then close the season out at Homestead-Miami.

We’ll go with Gordon to finally conquer the track this week because he’s got everything in his corner to do so, beginning with the fact that he drives for Hendrick Motor Sports and this race is on a high banked fast 1.5 mile track. In those scenarios this season, including last week in Atlanta, a Hendrick driver has won five of six races. Add a little incentive like crossing off a track that has beat you forever and also that your teammate is nipping at your heels for the title and it’s not hard to choose the driver here with the most to gain by winning.

Texas Motor Speedway Outlook:

”¡ Five top fives, six top 10s

”¡ Average finish of 15.8

”¡ Finished fourth at Texas in April

”¡ Led five of 13 races for

306 laps

Season-to-Date Loop Data Highlight:

”¡ Series-best Average Running Position of 9.2

Jeff Gordon Season to date & life lifetime record at Texas

(No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
  The File:
    ”¡ 36 years old,
    ”¡ Vallejo, Calif.,
    ”¡ 81 career wins
    ”¡ Six wins, 20 top fives 27 top 10s this year
    ”¡ Seven poles
    ”¡ Average finish of 7.4
    ”¡ Led 22 of 33 races for 1,280 laps
    
TOP 5 rated Texas drivers based on NASCAR’s loop data
For point-paying races in current and past two years,
at this track (5 races).
Texas Motor Speedway
Rk. Car #   Driver  Average High Avg Driver
        Finish Rating Rating
1 20   Tony Stewart 13.2 149.7 113.6
2 17   Matt Kenseth