Rattlesnake Speedway In The Arizona Desert

AVONDALE, AZ.- - Jeff Gordon tested at Phoenix International Raceway on Tuesday-Wednesday, October 21-22. Though he did score a win in the Busch series at the one-mile oval in 1999, he is winless in ten career Winston Cup starts at the track. The "short wall" in turn two and the crossover bridge in turn four were two unique aspects of the track. However, construction in June eliminated both. The turn two wall has been extended outward to create a significantly wider racing surface. Prior to the change, the outside wall used to pinch inward and narrow the racing surface from 60 feet wide to 48 feet. Although the dogleg along the back straightaway remains, it is not as pronounced with the new design. In addition, the construction of a pedestrian tunnel and removal of the crossover bridge necessitated new pavement in turn four.

Joining Gordon for the test was his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Brian Vickers, along with Greg Biffle and Robby Gordon. Speeds from the test session were not released by the teams. Following the session, Gordon participated in a media Q&A session.

Talk about your win last weekend at Martinsville?
JG: “We are on cloud nine right now. For some reason that has been our track this season. I wish I raced on more tracks like that. Our team really needed a win bad. We have fought through some things this season, and recently had some solid runs. It was about time for us to get back to winning.”

What about racing here at Phoenix?
JG: “This track is much like Martinsville but larger. It has tight corners and long straightaways. We decided we wanted to come here and test because of the new changes. PIR is one of my favorite places. I have been racing here for a long time. I won here early on driving USAC and fell in love with it. It is one of the few tracks I try to come to early and relax. I would love to win here. I have been to victory lane before, just not in a Cup car.”

What about the changes to the track?
JG: “Driving in I had a huge smile on my face seeing that tunnel. Then while I was driving in the tunnel I began to wonder what it would be like driving over it. To my delight it was equally nice. They have done a great job on the work here with the changes. I like what they did by moving the turn 2 wall out because it is safer and better for us drivers. I’m not sure what it will do as far as the passing goes. It might make it tougher to pass since we will be going faster. I guess we’ll find out next week.”

How do you feel about your season so far?
JG: "I feel like we haven’t shown our full potential. I feel like we have run into some obstacles especially during the late summer. It hasn’t been the year we had hoped for, but it hasn’t been a really bad year either. When you are a team like we are, you critique things to the smallest detail, and anything less than a championship is not necessarily satisfactory. I think that we are capable of getting to second in this race, since I believe we are just 100 or something from there. It's a fairly tall task but one that I believe that we're capable of. We have been running very good recently but so are all of the other guys in the points race.”

How do feel about the way NASCAR has grown? Do you believe that new stars need to emerge?
JG: “I think the sport is changing and the faces are changing. I think that's very important. Our sport needs new faces to step up and carry this on. We already have some-– Dale Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and others. But we also have some guys who win races but then never venture out in public or build on the win. Our sport has always been built on personalities, and for us to stay strong, that needs to continue.”

Is Brian Vickers one of those “new faces”?
JG: “I really think so. He has all the tools and a great personality. I know that he's 19 years old, but he's very serious about his racing, and very serious about being successful. When he is away from the car and just kicking back, you can tell that he's 19. This kid will be good and good for NASCAR. He has the youthfulness and aggressiveness, but a great head on his shoulders. To me, that makes a good race car driver. Heck, he took my car out today and ran it faster than I did.”

How much longer you plan to keep doing this?
JG: “I might not have had the season I figured we would at the beginning of the year, but I love racing and I'm having fun doing it. I guess when it's not fun anymore I'll step back and do something else, but for now, I'm focused on us finishing strong this year and going after it next year.”

You have done Saturday Night Live, Regis and Kelly, and some other TV shows, and now added a movie role to your resume. What can you tell us about the upcoming Looney Tunes: Back in Action movie?
JG: "First of all, if you blink, you'll miss me. The car is actually in the movie more than me. It was fun to be apart of the project and to see my car being driving through the streets of as Vegas is funny. I enjoy doing these different things and this is just another way that our sport some more attention. The movie should be a fun one for everyone to see.”

How do you feel about a second Cup race for PIR?
JG: “I have mixed emotions about that. I love this track, but I would be against it if it meant adding races to the schedule. If that's what it meant, I would be against it. However, if a race were moved from another track, this would be at the top of my list as a track to get a second date. I would enjoy coming out here twice a year.”

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