Mix it up at the front of the pack? Race three-and-four wide in the middle of the pack? Try to avoid the “big one” by running behind the main pack? Jeff Gordon does not know which strategy to employ in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event. Nor does he know which one works best.
The six-time Talladega winner has used different strategies with varying degrees of success over the course of 20 years in the sport, but there is a reason Gordon does not have a set plan ahead of the final restrictor-plate race of the season.
“There is no set strategy that works best,” said the driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. “If there was, we all would be doing it.
“Drafting can be fun and the finish is usually exciting, but you don’t know when, where or if you’re going to be caught up in the ‘big one.’ I’ve raced up front and been caught up in a wreck. I’ve also been involved while running in the middle of the pack and also while running what I thought was a conservative distance back of the main pack.
“But I’ve also won using each of those strategies.
“You may have to use each at some point during the race. You just need to be willing to change and adjust if a different plan will put you in a better position to win.”
Along with six victories, Gordon has three poles, 14 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s in 39 starts at the 2.66-mile track. He also has paced the field for 832 laps, but his concentration is not on the road ahead in those instances.
“You rely on your spotter providing good information about which lane is doing what or who has a ‘run,’” said Gordon, whose 12 restrictor-plate victories are the most all-time. “But you’re constantly looking at the mirrors in your car in that situation.”
On the heels of two consecutive top-three finishes, Gordon has moved up two positions to 10th in the point standings. The
“Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup” wildcard recipient knows Sunday may be the wildcard race of NASCAR’s playoffs.
“If we’re going to have any shot at moving up the standings or having any shot at the championship, then things will need to go our way this weekend,” said Gordon. “Everybody knows they can win here, and we believe we can win as well. We always seem to have fast cars here.
“We look at this race as an opportunity.”
Opportunity has knocked at Talladega before for the No. 24 team. Will Gordon open the door for a seventh time?