Jeff Gordon on a Hot Streak
When we last saw the four-time Cup champion (above), his team was celebrating its breakthrough win of the season, the win that would also get it a spot in the Chase.
Gordon is the only Cup driver to have a top-10 average finishing position (9.2) through the first 11 races of the 2014 season. And here’s a bit of history to go with that stat: In every year that Gordon has won the All-Star Race (1995, 1997 and 2001), he also has won the Series title that same season.
Who Has the Right Setup?
One can not overemphasize the importance of having a good setup for the 1.5-mile tracks. Team Penske won the first two (Las Vegas, Texas), but the Hendrick teams looked like they’re just a tick away from being on the sweet spot.
The Stewart-Haas teams are close, while the Joe Gibbs teams need to find more speed. Denny Hamlin said in his post-race interview at Kansas that it was “like bringing a knife to a gunfight.”
Recently, Kasey Kahne has nearly wrestled the key to the front door away from “Jimmie’s House” with four wins at Charlotte, including a sweep of both the All-Star Race and the Coke 600 in the same year (2008).
The All-Star Race is often used as a giant test session by the Cup garage, with teams using parts and setups for the first time. Sometimes it works and it’s easy to spot. It’s the team that performs above the rest.
“I would say it’s safe to say that the majority of the field will be experimenting with something on their cars,” said Jimmie Johnson during a media conference call this week.
For years, there’s been discussion about moving the location of the All-Star Race from Charlotte, where it originated, or rotating it around to several tracks across the country. While the idea sounds good to the track operators who would love to have the one-of-a-kind event at their facility, it’s usually a non-starter with the teams who love the idea of having a two-week homestand.
“Living it like we do week after week, man, it’s so nice for us to be home for a couple weekends,” said Johnson during a media conference call. “It’s nice to be in our own backyard. From a selfish standpoint, I’m happy with it being here in Charlotte so we get time at home and see our families and sleep in our own beds. That’s a nice perk.”
Racing at home for two weekends also means you’ve got your family and friends filling the grandstands—and the pressure of trying to be your best in front of them.
This is also the time of year when race shops hold their annual fan-fest activities, with most teams having open-house events and autograph sessions scheduled during the two weeks they are in the Charlotte area.
Tires a Nonissue
For the first time this season, tires should be a nonissue, as the Sprint Cup teams have been using the same left-right combination since 2012 with few problems. It’s a unique combination of a left-side tire only used at Charlotte and a right-side also in use at Darlington.
The tires will also carry a special “Support Our Troops” graphic on the sidewalls.