Saturday, October 16, 2021

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Gordon looks to regain that road course magic

By Brian Wiggins 

During the days of Gilligan’s Island, Thunderbirds and Winston, a team known as “The Rainbow Warriors” were the ones to beat on NASCAR’s road courses.

From 1997 through 2001, Gordon won seven races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, tying him with Richard Petty on all-time road course wins in NASCAR.

Since Gordon’s win at Watkins Glen in 2001, he’s only won a road course one time. That came in June, 2006 when he took the checkered flag at Sonoma, his most recent road course win in fact.

Shockingly, when Gordon crossed the finish line that day at Sonoma, it marked his most recent lap lead at the track.

That’s shocking given that for over a decade, when NASCAR went road course racing, you expected Gordon to be the driver in victory lane regardless of how his season to that point was going.

 “I feel a lot better than I did last year,” said Gordon. “But it doesn’t have anything to do with that second-place finish.  I feel like the second was a good finish for us, a very good finish, but it happened because of pit strategy.

“Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) called a really good race, the cautions came at the right time and we had great track position at the end of the race and we made it better, don’t get me wrong.

“We made the car better, but what we did that I felt like contributed to this year is we really missed the setup at the beginning of the race here last year and we were able to learn what not to do to come back this year.

“I feel like it has really given us a much better direction for this race this weekend plus Goodyear has a little different tire so I just feel like the team has done their homework and it’s paying off so far. ”

So far this weekend, Gordon has shown speed in each of the practice sessions, topping the charts in the final session Saturday afternoon.

With confidence flowing throughout the weekend for the No.24 team, Gordon can reassert himself as the one to beat on the road courses as well as begin to put himself in a wildcard position for the Chase.

Coming into Sunday’s Toyota/ Save Mart 350, Gordon is 20th in the standings, and oddly, that’s actually an improvement from where he was before last week.

While a win isn’t going to do wonders for Gordon in the point standings barring a complete debacle from the drivers ahead of him, it will give him a chance at a wildcard spot heading into the crucial stretch to the off week before the Brickyard.

But maybe a win could put it back into driver’s and fan’s minds who the “King of the Road” is in NASCAR.

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