Gordon Looking To Change Daytona Luck

Jeff Gordon's 2014 Chevrolet SS at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)
Jeff Gordon’s 2014 Chevrolet SS at Daytona Int’l Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson Photo)

“I believe that for all those that are complaining about it and saying they don’t like it or will never watch another race, they’ll be tuned in, okay? It’s the ones that aren’t saying anything that you’re trying to grasp,” Gordon said. “I have a lot of friends like in New York that are casual fans, and they’re talking to me about it. I think they’ve already made an impact and I think there’s a lot of interest around the things that they’ve announced. I think that interest is only going to get greater once we go through a couple of those qualifying sessions and go through one year of this points system.”

Gordon also loves the new qualification format – one that is quite similar to both IndyCar and Formula One because it features knockout rounds.

“I’m a big fan of Formula One,” Gordon admitted. “I watch it, especially qualifying. I watch it very closely. One of the challenges that they have is trying not to block. They don’t always do it intentionally. It’s unintentional most of the time. Sometimes it’s, I’ll slowly get out of the way. There’s some judgment calls there. They only have 22 cars out there and we have 43.

“There’s going to be weekends like Martinsville where if the conditions are right, the sun is coming, there’s a cloud, everybody is going to want to be out there on the track and you’re not going to get a clean lap.

I think for somebody who’s young, it’s going to be respecting the competitors and knowing how to best make your lap happen and then not get in the way of somebody else’s lap. That’s going to be true for the veterans as well. I think we’re experienced at doing those qualifying runs in practice where we don’t pull up on the track in front of somebody.

“It’s not sometimes the drivers, it’s the spotters as well that are playing a big role in that.”

When it comes to the Chase, this year’s NASCAR season will feature five elimination rounds. The first will come at Richmond in the 26th race of the season that will finalize the 16 drivers on the Chase grid. After that, After the third Chase race, the Chase Grid will be left with 12 drivers. After the sixth Chase race, the field will drop to eight drivers, and following the ninth Chase race, only four drivers will remain in championship contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.

So for the driver that survives all of the elimination rounds it will be a very strong feeling of satisfaction to win that championship.

“If you’re leading the points, you’re going to move on, right? You don’t necessarily have to win a race, but you still have to compete at a high level,” Gordon explained. “I still think the best team is going to win this championship, just like they have back before they made the points change to the Chase and since they made the points change to the Chase. In the future, whatever points system is in place, I still think the best team is going to win.

“The best teams know how to put themselves in position to have things go their way. I’m a big believer in if you’re that talented, you’re that good, you communicate that well, you have the resources, you’re going to find a way, no matter what the system is, to rise to the top.”

Although this new points system puts greater emphasis on winning Gordon said it’s in a race driver’s DNA to win races so that part won’t change. But it may drastically change the strategy of each race.

“You have to understand the mentality of a race car driver is win – you don’t have to dangle a carrot out in front of us,” Gordon said. “With double-file restarts, closing laps, let’s say a guy is leading by two or three seconds when the caution comes out, you have this new life in you that, I can win this race. By the way, that win can lock me into the Chase pretty much.

“There’s guys that are going to have just that thought on their mind, and that’s going to make you take a few more risks and push just a little bit harder because a win now has become more important than it was before.

“So I don’t think you necessarily want to just say, I’m going to wreck it, it’s either a win or bring it back on the wrecker. I might not have that approach, but some guys might. You got to weigh that out.

“The risk versus reward is what it’s always been about. And the reward for being consistent was very high in previous points systems. The reward for taking more risk is now greater, so guys are going to take more risk.”

And one of the biggest risks may be with fuel mileage. If points are no longer the over-riding factor and wins have more impact then expect to see plenty of teams take the bold gamble to stretch their fuel mileage. For those that fail, look for cars to run out of gas on the track.

“You will see more people running out of fuel,” Gordon predicted. “You’ll see I think a little bit more bumping and banging on restarts and closing laps. The cars are still really stuck to the racetrack. That aspect is a little bit unknown.

“But definitely, this heightens things up a bit.”

It all begins with Sunday’s 56th Daytona 500 and if this is going to be Gordon’s championship season a fourth victory in the 500 could be the beginning of his “Farewell Tour” if he goes on to win the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.