Jeff Gordon admits that the #24 DuPont Chevrolet team may be forced to 'look outside the box' this weekend at Fontana in an effort to challenge in the Auto Club 500.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver heads to the second round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season on the back of a 13th place finish in the rain-shortened Daytona 500 last weekend but is a firm believer that Daytona isn't a good indicator of how a team is placed for the year ahead – with the famed Speedway being one of the few events on the calendar to use restrictor plates.
“Because [Daytonas] a restrictor-plate track, I don't think last Sunday's results have any meaning on what kind of year you're going to have,” he said. “I think you get a better understanding of how you stack up against the other teams after the races at California and Las Vegas.
“Without testing, I think the teams that were successful on the intermediate tracks last year will probably be strong again. But that's a double-edged sword. When you're successful, you're afraid to change too much. Teams that weren't strong may roll the dice and look outside the 'box,' and they may hit on something.
“We are one of those teams that haven't adapted to this new car as quickly as we would have liked, so we may have to change our thought process.”
Having taken no fewer than 30 top-ten finishes in 2007, Gordon managed to break into the top-ten on only 19 occasions last year following the full-time introduction of the Car of Tomorrow but he said you couldn't really compare the two-seasons because of the new machinery.
“We raced the 'old car' on intermediate tracks in 2007, and we had that car 'dialed in', he said. “This new car is a whole different animal.
“I think we made a lot gains as we progressed through last year, and it showed in our finishes. That's why I'm really looking forward to this weekend. I want to see if we have closed the gap even more.
“I feel we are a team that may have to look outside the box. If we do, we might just hit on something.”