A Victory For Gordon In Aaron's 499 Could Be Most Memorable of His Career
With 76 victories in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career, Jeff Gordon is tied for sixth place on the all-time win list with the late Dale Earnhardt. Gordon would pass the racing legend with a victory Sunday in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, which he said would be an appropriate location for the historic moment to take place. Because 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 (at Talladega Superspeedway), that would be really cool," said Gordon, who tied Earnhardt with a victory this past Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway. "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."
In addition to surpassing Earnhardt on the all-time win list, Gordon's victory could also accomplish two additional feats - he would tie Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with number of wins, five, most among active drivers at Talladega Superspeedway and place Rick Hendrick in a tie for first place with Richard Childress on the all-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series winning car owner list at Talladega Superspeedway.
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."
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.