Take 22 full-time seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Add in four helpings of NASCAR championships.
Sprinkle in 88 career victories, ensuring eight of them are of the Martinsville variety.
Garnish with seven pole awards, 27 top-five finishes, 34 top 10s and an average finishing position of 6.8 at Martinsville.
The result: Jeff Gordon and his extraordinary ability to master the shortest track on the schedule.
With the series heading to Martinsville for Sunday’s STP 500 (1 p.m. on FOX), Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson are tied for first among active drivers with eight wins apiece.
Both Gordon and Johnson are among the drivers still seeking their first win of the season, almost guaranteeing them a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Gordon has won at all of the tracks on the 2014 schedule with the exception of Kentucky Speedway, however, his best chance to lock up a spot in the postseason might come this weekend at the .526-mile paperclip-shaped oval.
In 42 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts in Martinsville, Gordon has never posted a DNF. His four runner-up finishes and 27 top fives at the track are series-bests among all active drivers. He leads all active drivers in top 10s with 34, 13 more than the second driver on the list.
Gordon also leads all active drivers with 1,029 fastest laps run. His 6.8 average finishing position ranks second among active drivers, while his average starting position of 7.2 is tops, which includes a series-best seven poles among active drivers.
With all the success the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has experienced at Martinsville, it is easy to see that he knows the best way to manage the short track.
“You have to be aggressive, but you have to be patient,” Gordon said. “You really want to ‘roll’ into the corners, but it’s very easy to overdrive the entry and use too much brake. You also have to ‘roll’ into the corners while getting traction up off [the corners].”
In his most recent trip to the track in southwest Virginia last October, Gordon passed Matt Kenseth with 21 laps remaining. He led the rest of the way and beat Kenseth to the finish line by 0.605 seconds to win his eighth grandfather clock – Martinsville’s signature winner’s award.
“Martinsville is one of my favorite tracks, and the grandfather clock is one of my favorite trophies,” Gordon said.
In the spring 2013 event, Gordon finished third behind teammate Johnson and Clint Bowyer. Gordon and Johnson’s team, Hendrick Motorsports, leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Martinsville with 21.
With all the right ingredients in place at Martinsville, Gordon will be making a strong push to add his name to the Chase contenders this weekend.
WALLACE RETURNS TO SITE OF HISTORIC WIN
On October 26, 2013, Darrell Wallace Jr. led the final 50 laps on his way to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway, joining Wendell Scott of nearby Danville, Va., as the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series event almost 50 years after Scott’s victory.
This weekend, Wallace, a Drive for Diversity graduate, and the rest of the truck series return to the short track for Saturday’s Kroger 250 (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) for the first time since his historic win.
“This is an emotional win for me, especially to do it in Wendell Scott’s backyard,” Wallace said at the time of his victory in October. “I love coming here to Martinsville; it’s always good to me and it finally paid off.”
A win this weekend would make Wallace the first driver to win back-to-back truck races at the track. In Wallace’s only other truck start at Martinsville, which came last spring, he finished fifth after leading 34 laps. After two starts at the track, his driver rating is 115.9.
The truck series returns to action for the first time since its season opener at Daytona International Speedway on February 21. Kyle Busch won that event in which Wallace finished 26th after getting caught up in an accident 25 laps short of the finish line.