Sunday, October 5, 2003

For Gordon, there's no place like Kansas

Driver can make history with win

The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Jeff Gordon welcomes the return to a track where he has done so well. He also understands it will count for little today when he goes for a bit of NASCAR history.

Gordon will try to become the first Winston Cup driver to win the first three races at a new venue - in this case, Kansas Speedway, site of the Banquet 400.

"Just because we won here the first two years, that doesn't mean anything," he said. "People are always making adjustments and trying to get better."

Gordon qualified seventh but gained a spot when polesitter Jimmie Johnson crashed Saturday. Johnson, who set a track qualifying record of 180.373 mph Friday, was not injured but will drop to the back of the pack before the race after switching to a backup car.

Kevin Harvick won the first two Winston Cup races at Chicagoland Speedway, which also opened in 2001, but finished 17th this year.

Ryan Newman finished second to Gordon in the first two Winston Cup races at Kansas Speedway.

"I don't feel like this track owes me anything," Newman said. "We've run good both times we were here, the first time in a backup car before my rookie season. We just need to get one spot better."

Newman leads the circuit with seven wins but has failed to finish five times.

"You can't let the frustrating parts get to you," Newman said. "You've just got to go on and try to make the next week better than the last."

Since finishing 23rd in the Southern 500 on Aug. 31, he has two wins and no finishes lower than ninth in four races.

"Ryan has certainly shown that he's capable of winning races and dominating races," Gordon said. "They're a very smart team. They've just got to figure out their failures."

Gordon, going after his second win this year, was second in the standings after the New England 300 on July 20. But his 24th-place finish in that race began a frustrating string. He finished 28th or worse in five of his next six races but enters today with fifth-place finishes in his last two outings, at Dover and Talladega.

Winston Cup leader breakdown

DriverPointsStartsWinsTop 5 Top 10Earnings
1. Matt Kenseth 4,2272911022$3,469,584
2. Kevin Harvick 3,8732911014$4,153,773
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3,8432911117$4,095,208
4. Jimmie Johnson 3,751293813$4,587,655
5. Ryan Newman 3,7382971217$3,948,992
6. Jeff Gordon 3,7072911014$4,067,826
7. Bobby Labonte 3,5282911013$3,782,462
8. Kurt Busch 3,527294812$4,413,020
9. Tony Stewart 3,456291812$4,101,557
10. Terry Labonte 3,39629148$3,041,900
NASCAR today

Race: Banquet 400, Kansas City, Kan.

Time/TV: 1 p.m./Ch. 5, 22.

Track: Kansas Speedway (tri-oval 1.5 miles).

Race distance: 400 miles, 267 laps.

Last year: Jeff Gordon won after pulling away from Ryan Newman after a restart with three laps remaining.

Next race: UAW-GM Quality 500, Oct. 11, Concord, N.C.

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