Gordon hardly notices new SAFER barrier

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 30: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 30:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
MARTINSVILLE, VA – OCTOBER 30: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 30, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

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.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.