Four-time NASCAR Cup champion Jeff Gordon is hoping last week's testing sessions at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway will help him conquer a similar track on Saturday night — Phoenix International Raceway.
Several Nextel Cup drivers spent their off-week testing at Richmond, one of only six NASCAR tracks they can test at this season under NASCAR's new testing restrictions.
Unable to test at PIR, Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team focused some of their three days of track time at Richmond working on car setups for Phoenix.
“We concentrated specifically on Richmond for only about 40 percent of that test,” crew chief Steve Letarte said. “The remaining 60 percent was spent on generic testing where we were gathering data that relates to Phoenix, New Hampshire International Speedway or other tracks.”
Gordon had tested the past few seasons at PIR (usually a couple weeks before a race there), one of four tracks where he never has posted one of his 73 Cup victories. He won the pole for last April's inaugural Subway Fresh 500, and he's had 11 top-10 finishes in 14 races at PIR.
Several other drivers also utilized their Richmond track time to test their Phoenix cars and setups.
ALL OR NOTHING
It's been feast or famine recently at PIR for 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford for Roush Racing.
Kenseth, who sits second in Nextel Cup points, won the Checker Auto Parts 500 at PIR in 2002. But one of his more memorable PIR moments came last April in the Subway Fresh 500. He lost a tire and his car dragged down the backstretch, supplying quite a display of sparks at Phoenix's first-ever night race. Kenseth finished 42nd.
“It seems like it's all or nothing for us at Phoenix,” he said. “We had a stretch of races a few years ago where we competed for the win each time and finished something like three top-10s in a row. But, the last few times at Phoenix, it's been almost the exact opposite. For the most part, it's just been bad luck or equipment failure or something like that. We usually have good race cars when we go to Phoenix and I enjoy racing there, so hopefully we can turn our luck around this weekend."
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Tony Stewart and J.J. Yeley will sign autographs from 6-8 p.m. today at the Home Depot at Baseline Road and Priest Drive in Tempe. The signing is limited to the first 700 fans, who must pick up a wristband (available at 3 p.m.) at the Home Depot in order to get an autograph.