700 FOR GORDON – Two decades. Seven hundred starts.
It’s been a long NASCAR road for Jeff Gordon. In Saturday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, he’ll mark his 700th Sprint Cup start – all consecutive.
"I've been fortunate to race this long and have the type of career I've had," Gordon said. "It's really cool to see that this will be my 700th start, but it's not something I really paid attention to. It's hard to believe I've run that many, especially consecutively."
Thirty-two of Gordon’s starts have come at Darlington, where he leads active drivers in wins (7), top fives (18) and laps led (1,720).
MICHIGAN TESTS SCHEDULED – Kurt Busch and Trevor Bayne are scheduled to run tests May 14-15 at Michigan International Speedway, where the new Gen-6 car could produce some rocket-like speeds.
Last year, Marcos Ambrose set a MIS qualifying record with a speed of 203.241 miles per hour for the Quicken Loans 400. That speed was the 11th-fastest pole-winning speed in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history and marked the first time the pole speed was faster than 200 mph at a track other than Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway.
STARTING 43rd? IT CAN WORK – It’s possible to start deep in the pack and win the Southern 500.
Johnny Mantz proved that in the very first 500 – in 1950. Mantz started 43rd and won the race with smart tire strategy, driving slower than many other contenders but preserving tires.
Darlington’s grid size has varied over the years, but no one has started deeper in the field and won than Mantz. The pole spot has produced the most winners – 19.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.