Jeff Gordon preparing for last race at his best track – Martinsville

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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.

Mental fatigue, endurance are biggest challenges for drivers in Coca 600 (video)

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While you’d think they’re the same thing, mental fatigue and endurance are two entirely different animals when it comes to racing in NASCAR’s longest race of the season, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

On Friday’s Motorsports Special on NBCSN, NASCAR on NBC analyst and former NASCAR Cup crew chief Steve Letarte explained how drivers deal with both the mental and physical strain of the grueling race. Also giving their viewpoint were Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman.

Driving around isn’t grueling you say, eh? Tell that to Brad Keselowski, who lost an incredible 16 pounds racing in a 600 a few years back.

Drivers will make sure to stay hydrated with liquids — and even snacks like candy bars to keep their energy boosted — during the course of the race.

Check out Letarte’s analysis in the videos above and below.

 

Legendary announcer Ken Squier gets you ready for Sunday’s big day of racing (video)

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Sunday is the biggest day of the year in motorsports, starting in the morning with Formula One’s legendary Monaco Grand Prix.

Then, at Noon ET, it’s the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The final part of the tripleheader of racing is NASCAR’s longest race of the season, the 400 lap, 600 mile Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Newly-named NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 inductee Ken Squier gives you a great primer for what promises to be a memorable day around the world (see video above).

Roller coasters, bicycling & softball: How drivers spent their day off

Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
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With no track activity, NASCAR Cup drivers had a free day on Friday and some were able to get out and about.

Jimmie Johnson helped organize a 69-mile bike ride Friday morning for 2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden, who died May 22 at age 35 from injures suffered when he was hit by a car while cycling in Italy. The 69 miles ridden were for the number Hayden raced with in his career. Among drivers who joined him were Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez.

 

Others did other activities on their day off.

Ryan Blaney went to Carowinds amusement park just south of Charlotte, North Carolina, and took to periscope as he rode in the front row on the Fury 325 roller coaster, which reaches a peak height of 325 feet and then goes into an 81-degree drop.

The ride reaches speeds up to 95 mph. The coaster is North America’s longest steel coaster at 1.25 miles. The average ride time is 3 minutes, 25 seconds, and the ride crosses both the North Carolina and South Carolina border.

Brad Keselowski spent part of his team playing in the Team Penske softball game and provided proof of his hitting ability.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach settlement that includes sponsorship

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Friday that it has reached an agreement with Nature’s Bakery that will include the company serving as a sponsor for four Cup races split between Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick.

Those four races will be announced at a later date.

As part of the agreement, all lawsuits between Stewart-Haas Racing and Nature’s Bakery have been dropped.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

“It’s gratifying to see a difficult situation get resolved in a professional manner that suits all parties,” said Brett Frood, president, Stewart-Haas Racing. “Together, we worked diligently to find an equitable solution to our collective challenges.”

“I am a longtime motorsports fan and, particularly, a fan of NASCAR,” said Dave Marson, founder of Nature’s Bakery. “Our partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing began with direct, open conversations and that foundation allowed us to reach this agreement.”

Other parts of the agreement were not revealed.

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