DOVER, Del. – Despite experience in NASCAR racing that spans more than two decades, Jeff Gordon says racing at Dover International Speedway these days is “just like starting over.”
According to the four-time Sprint Cup champion, the combination of lower horsepower and a new Dover tire has rendered the old Dover notebook virtually useless.
“We are kind of just throwing all of our notes out of what we had in the past that has worked,” Gordon said after Friday’s opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice. “It’s like starting all over again. We had some challenges today. We weren’t near as good as we were hoping to be. We’re working diligently to try to improve our qualifying effort. Then kind of go through our notes this evening to see what we can start with (on Saturday) to make some improvements.
“Just the fact that you are driving much deeper into the corners with less power makes a huge impact here because of the big dips and bumps going into (Turn) 3. It really loads the car up much more aggressively over there. It makes those bumps seem like they are even worse than what we have had in the past. That is just one of the little things that when you take 100 horsepower out of the cars how it can change your approach in your set-up and what you have to do to get around a race track such as Dover.”
The Monster Mile, of course, isn’t the first place differences in the 2015 rules package versus last year’s have shown up.
“When you do a combination of tire change and all the other changes it’s been pretty significant,” said Gordon, who will start 22nd for Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). “I tested Indianapolis (in a Goodyear tire test)… and we saw a big change there as well with the power. The downforce is not that big. I think the teams have gained a lot of the downforce that we lost. I think they have done a good job pushing forward and gaining a lot of that back.
“I don’t think the downforce is much different as the power change has been; then you throw in a different left-side tire. I was pretty shocked when we took off in practice just how I was able to flat-foot it from the middle of the corner off the corner and how much speed I was able to carry into the corner. At the same time the bumps into (Turn) 3, which are always pretty bad here, but, boy, they really get your attention when you are driving that deep into the corner.
“I think we have kind of expected it at most places these days. It is pretty significant here. I’ll be curious to see what kind of side-by-side racing that we get this weekend. Usually this groove moves up, and I hope that happens here. That would be nice—we’re going to need it.”