Gordon: Drivers may have best seat at Talladega
“I don’t know a single fan that has been to Talladega Superspeedway that doesn’t want to go back,” said Jeff Gordon in advance of this Sunday’s Aaron’s 499. “After the event, they are usually in awe of just how spectacular the race was. They should have been where I was sitting.”
The driver in that seat has performed quite well at the 2.66-mile track, collecting six wins, one pole, 13 top-fives and 16 top-10’s in 32 starts. But even a win at the track can takes its toll on a driver.
“I’ve had races here where my eyeballs hurt afterwards,” said Gordon, who will drive a specially painted No. 24 DuPont/Pepsi Chevrolet Impala SS during the 188-lap event. “Your head hurts just because of the high level of concentration you must have for the entire race.
“Mentally, you have to prepare yourself for this race. And, during the race, you have to know when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.”
Gordon, who leads the Sprint Cup point standings by 85 over teammate Jimmie Johnson, has won events here with differing strategies. In 2005, he led 139 of 194 laps en route to victory while in 2007, he led only one lap – the last one. While the outcome was the same, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion prefers one style of racing.
“I like to get to the front as fast as I can,” said Gordon, whose 12 restrictor-plate victories rank first all-time. “That way I can stay away from a lot of the jockeying for position.
“Even then you’re not out of harm’s way, because you can get shuffled out of the draft quickly. If you get shuffled out, you can lose 10, 20 or 30 positions in the blink of an eye.”
And one mistake in that tight pack of cars can lead to a multi-car accident.
“We put on spectacular races here, but one little mistake can lead to the ‘big one,’“ said Gordon. “From the driver’s perspective, you see a lot going on in the middle of those packs every single lap.
“And you’re absolutely amazed there is not a crash.”