MARTINSVILLE, Va. – For Jeff Gordon, the effect of new SAFER Barriers added to the frontstretch and backstretch at Martinsville Speedway was as significant as the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion thought it might be.
“The funny thing is, I received a picture last night that came via NASCAR to my crew chief (Alan Gustafson), of that SAFER Barrier,” Gordon said on Friday after opening practice at Martinsville. “I looked at it and my eyes got pretty big. I was like ‘Wow, that’s a pretty big change.’
“And then, I’d kind of forgotten about it, and we started practice, and I didn’t even think about it. I almost didn’t even notice it. I came in and I was thinking about it and I told Alan that I had forgotten all about that SAFER Barrier. It wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be.”
But the new barrier turned out to be more of a factor than Gordon thought it was.
“One of my crew members came over and said, ‘Did you touch the wall?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ And then they said, ‘Well, there’s a scuff on the right side.’ So I guess I was a little closer than I thought I was.
“So yeah, it’s going to make it interesting. It didn’t change things as much as I was anticipating, though. I think I was also quite surprised at the speeds that we saw in practice for qualifying, based on the fact that we lost quite a few feet, if you think of coming off of Turn 2 and coming off of Turn 4, and putting those together.”
Gordon will start fifth Sunday.