Watkins Glen Notebook: Jeff Gordon Drew On School Experience For Road Courses

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Jeff Gordon (Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Gordon (Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for NASCAR)

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.


With a second-place finish last Saturday at Iowa Speedway, Regan Smith moved closer to the top of the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings.

Fourth in points, Smith trails series leader Chris Buescher by 39 points, but Smith feels the next four events could be critical to his chances for a championship.

In a four-week stretch, the XFINITY Series races on three road courses — Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America — with a trip to Bristol’s high-banked short track between the latter two events. The way Smith sees it, no other series of races has as much potential to scramble the standings.

“These three road courses are going to be a wild card,” Smith told the NASCAR Wire Service before practice for Saturday’s Zippo 200 at The Glen (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “I think we all were prepared for that, we knew that. The interesting part is how the schedule’s laid out this year a little bit differently, with ‘em being back-to-back and almost back-to-back (in the case of Road America).

“You throw Bristol there in the middle there… Bristol’s always entertaining and a lot of crazy things can happen there. I think, after last weekend with some of the emotions getting a little high with guys, and coming into this stretch, it could be the most interesting stretch of our schedule, and it certainly could be an opportunity for someone like ourselves to gain a big chunk of points.”


Early in Friday’s opening NASCAR XFINITY Series practice at Watkins Glen, on his third lap of the session but his first at full speed, Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner Daniel Suarez’s No. 18 Toyota spun out of control near the entrance to Turn 5.

The car nosed into a tire barrier with such force that it lifted the rear tires more than a foot off the pavement. With the Camry beyond repair, the No. 18 crew rolled out a backup car.

“I’m very disappointed because it was my first lap — my first real lap,” said Suarez, unhurt but chagrined. “The first two were just to warm up and feel the brakes, to feel the shifter and everything.

“I just went a little bit too hard for the car for the first lap, and it was 100 percent my mistake. I will try to fix it for the next car.”

Suarez made it through final practice without incident and was 11th on the speed chart at 120.620 mph. Kyle Larson paced the Happy Hour session at 123.623 mph.

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