If you’ve done something successfully nine times, you can do it again, right?
That’s the question that will be asked of Jeff Gordon this weekend.
The four-time Sprint Cup champion will be making what likely will be his final start on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
The semi-retired Gordon makes his eighth and last replacement start for sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr. and it comes at the track where he experienced the most success in his 23 full-time seasons of competition.
In 46 starts at the shortest and oldest track in NASCAR, Gordon went home with the checkered flag nine times. That’s 10.3 percent of his 93 Sprint Cup wins, the last of which came at Martinsville last October.
“You kind of like to leave a place with a win and I definitely don’t want to mess that up,” Gordon told hendrickmotorsports.com. “But it’s also a track that I like and feel confident at.”
Gordon began building his confidence at Martinsville when he won his first of nine poles at the track for the fall 1995 race. A year later, Gordon led 133 laps on the way to his first win there in the Hanes 500. That first win was so long ago, Martinsville still had two pit lanes at the time.
From 1993-2015, Gordon earned 29 top fives, 37 top 10s and an average finish of 6.8. He’s also led 3,779 laps at the short track, which is more than Joey Logano (3, 524), Jamie McMurray (1,867) and Clint Bowyer (2,338) have led in their entire Cup careers.
If he earns a top 10 on Sunday in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500, he will break a tie with Richard Petty for the most at Martinsville.
But can the 93-time Cup winner make it 94 in his last time in a Sprint Cup cockpit, almost a year after his original “last” race?
“I don’t see why we couldn’t go there and contend for a win,” Gordon said. “We won there last year and I don’t think a lot has changed. The question is, ‘Were we the best car there?’ To me, I think we’d have to be a little bit better than we were last year to be in that position.”
Gordon was put in a position to win when Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked race-leader Joey Logano on Lap 455. Logano, who has earned the pole in the last three Martinsville races, had led 207 laps until he was forced into the wall in Turn 1.
Gordon assumed the lead from AJ Allmendinger with 22 laps remaining and with darkness settling over the area, claimed the win.