Gordon seeking to rebound at Martinsville

9:33 AM, Mar 29, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Jeff Gordon is having perhaps his worst start to a season in his illustrious 20-year career, but the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is hoping that will change this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

With five races completed so far this season, Gordon sits 25th in the point standings. He finished 40th in the Daytona 500 after suffering engine failure midway through the race. He rebounded somewhat with an eighth-place run the following week at Phoenix. But the 40-year-old driver has finished no better than 12th in the last three races.

Earlier this month at Bristol, Gordon crashed late in the race when he cut a tire after making contact with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. He ended up finishing 35th.

Gordon had a good run going through the first half of last Sunday's race at California, but on lap 107, Gordon was hit with a stop-and-go penalty on pit road for leaving his stall with the gas can still attached to his No. 24 car. He finished 26th after the race was called 71 laps short of its scheduled distance due to rain.

"We've had some good performances this year hurt by engine issues or accidents or pit road miscues," Gordon said. "But we've had fast race cars, and that is always encouraging. We just need to have a complete race. And then another one, and then another one. We have a team capable of stringing together a lot of good finishes."

Martinsville is indeed a racetrack where Gordon can turn his season around. He leads all active drivers with seven wins at the flat 0.526-mile track. Gordon has also posted 17 top-10 finishes in the last 18 races there. He placed 20th in the fall 2010 event.

"The one place on the schedule that has changed the least is Martinsville," he said. "I believe the track, the setups and the tires have changed the least here compared to other tracks over the course of 20 seasons. And that's where experience can really pay off."

When the series competed at Martinsville one year ago, Earnhardt Jr. was just a handful of laps away from finally ending his lengthy winless streak in the series. Earnhardt Jr., who started 26th, took the lead for the first time when he nudged Kyle Busch out of the way with 21 laps remaining. Busch had led 151 laps up to that point.

Most in the estimated crowd of 60,000 were jumping for joy when Earnhardt Jr. made it to the front, but Kevin Harvick crashed the party when he passed Earnhardt Jr. for the lead with four lap remaining. Harvick went on to win a Sprint Cup race at Martinsville for the first time.

"We've been fast at Martinsville a lot and to be able to put together a complete day like we did last [spring], at the end of the race, we were able to capitalize on a fast car and win the race. We had a lot of things to overcome on that particular day and were able to pull out a win."

Earnhardt Jr. has not won a Sprint Cup race since June 2008 at Michigan (134 races ago).

"I look forward to Martinsville and always have a lot of fun there," he said. "We've had some good success there, so I'm hoping to have a good race like we did last year, and maybe have an opportunity to try and battle for the win."

Greg Biffle heads to Martinsville with a seven-point lead over Harvick and 17 points ahead of Earnhardt Jr. After winning California, Stewart moved from seventh to fourth in the standings. He trails Biffle by 18 markers. Stewart won the most recent race at Martinsville last October.

Forty-five teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Goody's Fast Relief 500.

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, April 1. Race: Goody's Fast Relief 500. Site: Martinsville Speedway. Track: 0.526-mile oval. Start time: 1 p.m.(ET). Laps: 500. Miles: 263. 2011 Winner: Kevin Harvick. Television: FOX. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Satellite.

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