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Gordon Wants Another Big Win at Talladega

October 08, 2006|From the Associated Press

Jeff Gordon is coming off a bad race and could really use a quick turnaround today at Talladega Superspeedway.

The odds appear to be with the four-time NASCAR champion, winner of four races on the 2.66-mile oval, including two of the last five. And if Gordon does manage to pull off another win at the big Alabama track, it would be a milestone victory.

A win by Gordon would be the 76th of his career, matching the number of victories racked up by one of his heroes: the late Dale Earnhardt.

Moreover, a win in the UAW-Ford 500 would equal Earnhardt's record total of 11 victories in races in which NASCAR requires the use of horsepower-sapping carburetor restrictor plates to keep the cars under 200 mph.

To get that big win, Gordon probably will have to fend off teammate and protege Jimmie Johnson, winner of two plate races already this year -- the Daytona 500 and the Aaron's 499 at Talladega in April.

"Jimmie is a smart driver, and that is what it takes to win on these types of track," Gordon said. "He's learned from his mistakes and he's learned how to use the draft and the cars behind him to his advantage."

But even the best still make mistakes occasionally.

In that April race on the 2.66-mile, high-banked Talladega oval, Gordon tried to pass another Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Brian Vickers, for the lead only a lap from the finish. He wound up getting caught out of the draft and finished 15th.

Now, after a fuel pump failure translated into a 39th-place finish last week at Kansas, Gordon goes into the Talladega race -- the fourth of 10 events in the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship -- sixth in the standings, trailing leader Jeff Burton by 120 points.

A good race today could go a long way toward helping Gordon to a fifth title. But Talladega is always a dangerous place, and no one knows how the recent repaving will affect the race.

"We're all trying to miss the big wreck that usually happens here," Gordon said.

As for the new surface, "I don't think that will change the racing one bit," he said. "It will still be wild.

"In the past, we've been able to run from the white line [at the bottom of the banking] to the wall, and I think you're going to continue to see that. If guys are being more aggressive trying to get up front and I think it's getting too crazy, I may try to get out of that situation and just bide my time. We need to be there at the end of the race to have a chance to win."

*

Stat of the week: Tony Stewart, coming off a victory last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, never has won a race in 15 attempts at Talladega.

However, the two-time series champion has finished second six times, including each of the last three races. And Stewart does have two plate victories, having won the last two July races at Daytona.

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