Jeff Gordon certainly knows how to manage tracks that are new to the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule.
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Gordon will attempt to become the first Cup winner at Kentucky Speedway when the track hosts its inaugural series race Saturday night. It would be just the latest first for the four-time champ.
Gordon won the debut race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994, the initial Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in 1997 and the inaugural race at Kansas Speedway in 2001. Four other tracks have been added to the schedule since 1994, and no other Cup driver has won more than one of those events.
Can the Hendrick Motorsports driver pull off the feat once more?
"It may be our first race here, but a lot of drivers have logged a lot of miles here," Gordon said. "Some of the guys have run Nationwide events here and we used to test here all the time — this was one of the tracks we could test at before it became a Cup track. Going back to those old testing notes will give us some information, but (Hendrick Motorsports teammate) Mark Martin participated in the tire test here earlier this year. That’s the most current data we have with these cars and setups we’re running today.
"It’s been a while since I’ve tested here, so it’ll be interesting to see what has changed."
Gordon and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup field will begin testing at the track Thursday in preparation for Saturday night’s race. That will help teams address some of the unknown factors they are facing as they prepare to debut at the track.
"It could take two or three laps, or it could take 100 before you get comfortable on the track," he said. "We’ve got a lot of track time scheduled for Thursday, so that should give us a good opportunity to get close (with the setup).
"There are a lot of unknowns like where you can push the limits, where your car is going to handle the best and what characteristics the track will have as the race goes on. Does the track get looser or tighter in certain parts of the corner?"