NASCAR: Stewart, Gordon poised for victory
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. ó A road course race couldn’t come at a better time for Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.
The masters of Watkins Glen International ó Stewart and Gordon have combined to win eight of the past 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup races on the twisting, 11-turn layout ó are mired in season-long winless streaks heading into Sunday’s Centurion Boats at The Glen.
A fifth win by either driver would put him in a league of his own. No driver in the track’s storied 60-year history has ever won five races, and that includes Formula One, Indy cars, and sports cars.
“I feel that we’re the guys that every time we go there that everybody has to pay attention to us in order to win,” Stewart said. “Now, there are times we don’t win, obviously, but we’re still in the hunt every time and got a shot.”
Being winless in early August isn’t uncharted territory for Gordon, although the four-time Cup champion hasn’t gone this deep into a season without a victory since 2002. It is for Stewart, though, who has had at least two wins every year since 1999, his rookie season, and customarily shines in the heat of summer.
Stewart hasn’t won a Cup race since he bested Gordon here a year ago, a span of 35 races that represents the longest winless streak of his 10-year Sprint Cup career.
“It’s not like we’re not running well, because we are,” said Stewart, who has won four of the past six races at The Glen and will be inducted Friday into the track’s Legends of The Glen. “We’ve just had some circumstances that haven’t gone our way. You’ll have that.”
Of Stewart’s 32 career Cup victories, six have come at road courses.
“We’re batting better than .400 at Watkins Glen,” said Stewart, who finished second to Carl Edwards a week ago at Pocono. “In nine years, we’ve won four races. If you can’t be counted as a factor after that, I don’t know when they do count you as a factor.”
Gordon, who has a NASCAR-record nine road course wins, won three straight at The Glen from 1997-99 and captured his fourth in 2001. He’s had tough luck here since, especially a year ago.
Gordon led 51 of the race’s 90 laps and was two car-lengths ahead of Stewart with just two laps remaining. But the classic battle between NASCAR’s two most successful road racers that appeared to be looming disappeared in the blink of an eye when Gordon spun off course on his own entering the first turn of lap 89.
Stewart zoomed past, held off a late charge from Edwards, and won for the third time in four races. Gordon recovered to finish a disappointing ninth.
“When you have a day like we had last year at The Glen and the laps that we were ahead of Jeff we could drive away from him a little bit it makes you feel good,” said Stewart, who led 20 laps a year ago. “You know you’re outrunning the best that’s been.”
After posting a series record 30 top-10 finishes in 2007, Gordon’s No. 24 team has struggled this season despite his sixth-place spot in the standings.
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