Gordon closing in on Darlington win records
The retro red and white paint decorating the outside retaining wall at Darlington Speedway did little to soften the Lady in Black's legend.
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Jeff Gordon, who qualified second on Friday for tonight's Southern 500, has done his best to tame her over the past 17 of her nearly 60 years. But a racer has to be wired a certain way to find success at Darlington.
"This is a nail-biter, white-knuckle experience qualifying here," Gordon said. "I knew in practice when I made my last qualifying run just how hard I was pushing it and on the edge. We made a couple of adjustments and then you see the lap times following and guys running faster than what you felt you couldn't have gone any faster with it in practice.
"I didn't run a second lap just because it took everything I could to run that one lap. I came in and very rarely are my hands shaking when I get out of the car. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. It was just that kind of experience."
The Kid was just 21 when he ran his first Darlington Cup race. In his fifth start on the 1.366-miler he won the pole for the 2005 spring race. When the Cup tour returned that summer, Gordon seized his first of five Southern 500s — a record he shares with local hero and three-time champion Cale Yarborough.