SPARTA, Ky. – The biggest obstacle for Jeff Gordon in the inaugural Kentucky Speedway event last year? Traffic.
“If you could have picked (the No. 24 car) up (from 20th-place in the running order) and placed it in the top seven or eight, we could have stayed there and maybe battled with the leaders,” said Gordon after last year’s event. “We just needed track position.”
Gordon finished 10th in that event, and the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger team will attempt to better that – and the competition – during Saturday night’s Quaker State 400.
“The track is very challenging,” said Gordon, who has gained four positions and moved up to 18th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings over the last two weekends. “It’s the same thing that makes it difficult to pass any race weekend – usually because it’s a one-groove racetrack.
“There are pretty severe bumps getting into Turn 3, so it’s hard to run side-by-side because you get really loose underneath somebody. And the pace is pretty fast – you carry good speed through the corners here.
“It’s just hard to get an edge on the competition.”
Since Gordon did not win the inaugural event, Kentucky Speedway joins Homestead-Miami Speedway as the only two tracks where Gordon has yet to visit Victory Lane. Kentucky is also one of four tracks where Gordon has yet to win a pole (Las Vegas, Kansas and Homestead-Miami being the others).
But while qualifying well would mean less traffic for Gordon at the start of the race, traffic outside the track is a major talking point heading into the weekend.
“(Traffic) certainly dominated the conversation on Twitter,” said Gordon. “I think (Speedway Motorsports, Inc., chairman) Bruton (Smith) and that group have a lot of pressure on them this year to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“I don’t know if you can fix it all at once, but I feel confident that they are going to make some huge strides.
“I think it is going to be a much better experience for all of the fans.”