Gordon's Aaron's 499 Victory Would Be Both Historic And Honorable To A Past Racing Legend
With 75 victories in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career, Jeff Gordon is in seventh place on the all-time win list and trails the late Dale Earnhardt by only one. If Gordon manages to tie or even pass Earnhardt's mark within the next month, he said it would be appropriate for the historic victory to take place at Talladega Superspeedway in the Aaron's 499. Not only was the track one of Earnhardt's favorites, but the race will be held April 29, which would have been Earnhardt's 56th birthday.
"If it happened then, that would be really cool," Gordon said. "I have great memories of racing with Dale there. I feel like any win I have at Talladega, I attribute a lot to Dale, because I learned so much from racing with him."
Gordon made his Cup debut at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. That was the same year Earnhardt won the sixth of his record-tying seven series titles (he picked up No. 7 the following year). During the eight seasons that the two drivers raced against each other, Earnhardt won five Cup events at Talladega Superspeedway, along with two victories in the IROC Series and one Busch Series victory.
As a former open-wheel racer who had limited drafting experience early in his NASCAR career, Gordon said he carefully watched what Earnhardt did at Talladega Superspeedway and slowly learned how to handle the demanding restrictor-plate track. The visual lessons must have paid off, because Gordon has won four times at Talladega, including back-to-back victories in the Aaron's 499 in 2004 and 2005.
"(Earnhardt) was just a master at this place," Gordon said. "You'd watch him and see some of the things that he'd do, and you'd shake your head going, 'It's not possible. He must be cheating.' But years later I started to understand how he was able to do some of those things. That plays a big role in any win I've had there."
Many drivers who race at Talladega Superspeedway talk about how they are affected by the draft of cars directly in front of or behind them. But Gordon said one thing he learned from Earnhardt was the importance of utilizing the draft when cars are running side-by-side.
"It's just knowing, through feeling and experiencing it, what the air does around the cars when you're side-by-side, and how you can control the air on what it does to the other car versus what it does to your car," Gordon said. "If I'm side-by-side with another car off of Turn 4, I can almost guarantee you that nine times out of 10 I'll be ahead at the start-finish line, just because of the stuff that I learned from Dale."
"It's all air related. Knowing what the air does when it hits the spoiler and how it pulls cars back or pushes you forward. You can't explain it until you're out there. You can watch it on TV and go, 'Wow, that guy just got shot out of a cannon (for a pass).' What you don't realize is that the momentum came a half-lap back. It was all materializing based on who was behind the car, who was pushing them, how hard they were pushing them and what kind of hole opened up ahead."
It all adds up to a high-speed chess match that Gordon - just like Earnhardt before him - finds exhilarating. The result, he said, is some of the most exciting racing of the season for NASCAR fans.
"The racing at this place is spectacular," Gordon said. "If you come to this race and you don't leave an avid race fan, then there's something wrong with you. Because when you're four-wide, inches off of one another at 195 mph, I know it gets my adrenaline flowing, and I'm sure from a fan's standpoint it does as well."
Tickets for the 2007 UAW-Ford 500 weekend on Oct. 5-7 may be purchased by calling 1-877-Go2-DEGA (877-462-3342) or by logging onto www.racetickets.com. More information on reserving a spot in Talladega's overnight parks and reserved infield area is
also available online or by calling the Ticket Office.
The 2007 racing season at Talladega Superspeedway kicks off with Aaron's Dream Weekend set for April 27-29, featuring the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series practice and The Birmingham News Qualifying for the NASCAR Busch Series on Friday, April 27, The Birmingham News Qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday, April 28, and the Aaron's 499 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Sunday, April 29. To order tickets, call 1-877-Go2-DEGA (1-877-462-3342). For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). Tickets are also available online at www.racetickets.com, or in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. CDT, Monday - Friday. Kids age 11 and younger are admitted free of charge (Frontstretch Lower General Admission Grand Stands only) with a ticketed adult on Friday and Saturday of race weekend.