Gordon ultimate road hog

Aug 10, 2004 4:48 AM

Six weeks ago the NASCAR road racing world was placed back right side up when Jeff Gordon won his eighth career event and fourth overall at Sonoma.

Prior to that win it had been four races in two NASCAR seasons since Gordon had last won a road race. That’s almost an eternity by the standards he has set for himself. Gordon is without question the greatest road course driver NASCAR has ever seen.

This week he comes in as a 9-5 favorite at Watkins Glen despite more competition on the roads than ever. This week’s race takes on a role in what is probably the most important event Watkins Glen has ever played in the championship chase.

There are only five races remaining before the final 10 drivers are set for the Championship chase. These points will be pivotal and could be the difference on one driver making it over another. True, all races are equally important and points are issued the same at each track, but there are a few drivers that definitely have an advantage.

Drivers that are on the cusp of making it into the playoffs are Bobby Labonte (25-1), Kevin Harvick (12-1), Kasey Kahne (25-1), Jeremy Mayfield (30-1), Mark Martin (10-1), Jamie McMurray (15-1), Dale Jarrett (30-1) and Casey Mears (20-1). As you can tell by their odds, some are expected to do better than others.

The driver that figures to make up the most ground chasing down those in front of him is Martin. He is Watkins Glen all-time money winner with 11 top 5 finishes in 16 starts, including three victories. Not only does he have an advantage over almost every driver this week, but he’s also one of the hottest drivers on any track. Martin is 123 points behind the 10th and final spot to join the chase.

The hired guns such as Ron Fellows (8-1), Boris Said (8-1) and Scott Pruett (10-1) all figure to do well. If those drivers finish near the top (like Said and Pruett did in Sonoma), they will take away pivotal points from the fringe competitors.

However, the race still runs through Jeff and Robby Gordon (4-1). Jeff will be attempting to do what Robby did last year and that’s sweep the season of roads, something he’s done himself twice already. The reality of this race is that the only one that can beat Gordon is Gordon’s equipment or another driver taking a cheap shot at him.

Drivers looking well in the last few years of road racing are Kurt Busch (10-1), Jamie McMurray (15-1), and Ryan Newman (10-1). Rusty Wallace (15-1) has been average in his last few outings after being one of the finest for the better part of his career. The Burton Brothers have done well at Watkins Glen of late, which is a major shock because of their racing roots. Jeff’s car has definitely looked better and the Hendrick horsepower of Ward’s car is more evident over the last few weeks.

IRL copies NASCAR

In another attempt by the Indy Racing League to model itself after NASCAR, they have scrapped their initial intention to run exclusively on ovals and signed on to run on the same roads NASCAR does. Beginning next season, the IRL will run at both Infineon Raceway in Sonoma and Watkins Glen in New York.

Free Champ tests

In an effort to get a better read on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Champ Car World Series drivers will have a free test session here Wednesday, Aug. 18 from 2 to 10 pm. The late testing times are set to mirror the conditions they will see for their Sept. 25 race at LVMS.

Futures time is now!

Now is the time to jump on some drivers to win the championship while the field is still open from seventh place on down. Even the favorite, particularly Jeff Gordon at anything over 2-1 is excellent value. The last two times Gordon won the Brickyard 400, he won the championship.