WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – How has Jeff Gordon schooled other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers on road courses throughout his career?
By getting schooled himself.
Gordon boasts more Sprint Cup victories at road courses than any other driver in NASCAR history, having won five times at Sonoma Raceway and four times at Watkins Glen International, site of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
And though Gordon struggled in his first road course outing in a stock car, his background served him well.
“I remember going to Sonoma the first time and turning the car over on its side in the tire wall,” Gordon said on Friday after opening Sprint Cup practice at Watkins Glen. “I felt like I was pretty lost. The second year, I really felt a big progression, and then the third year, which I think is when I won my first road course race, I think in 1995 or 1996 (actually 1997 at Watkkins Glen), everything just started to click. We worked hard at it. There is no doubt we worked hard at it. That hard work paid off.”
Gordon also had a baseline of experience on which to build his resume as a road course racer.
“I went to enough driving schools to get a little bit of knowledge,” said Gordon, who on Sunday will race at WGI for the last time as a full-time Sprint Cup driver. “Prior to coming to NASCAR, I was pursuing everything. If somebody gave me an opportunity to get in a race car or to go to a driving school, then I was packing my helmet back and heading that way.
“I did it up at Mosport (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) in Canada. I did it with Skip Barber, and I think after I started NASCAR I did the one out in Sonoma and I also did the one in Phoenix with Bob Bondurant. I’ve done a lot of those schools, and then I drove a lot of different types of cars. I remember driving a Super Vee out at Indianapolis Raceway Park before I ever got into NASCAR.
“I did some go-kart racing too. I didn’t do any shifting, but I did some go kart racing on road courses. I mean I went to the IKF (International Kart Federation) Nationals and finished fourth in 1980 or something in a go-kart. It’s not like I didn’t have any road course experience whatsoever, but I never had it in a big car. I enjoyed the challenge. It was fun to do something different than ovals.”
Gordon hopes his return to a track with right turns will produce a 10th road course win and a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.