Jeff Gordon is looking to shrug off a wholly disappointing season to date by taking a seventh career Nextel Cup victory at the half-mile Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, giving new crew chief Steve Letarte a maiden win and helping to sooth the pain his Hendrick team will be feeling this weekend.

Gordon, who has 72 Nextel Cup wins in total, will secure his second Martinsville Speedway "sweep" in three years if he wins this Sunday's Subway 500. In 2003, he won both events from the pole, leading 503 of 1,000 laps in the process.

Overall at Martinsville, he has six victories, five poles, 13 top-fives and 19 top-10's. He has an 8.1 average finish, and has never posted a DNF (Did Not Finish).

"I definitely want another grandfather clock," said Gordon, referring to the clock presented to the winner of each Martinsville race. "And I'd like to get Steve (Letarte) his first win as a crew chief.

"We always seem to run well here, and a lot of the credit goes to the DuPont crew. They have given me great cars and haven't given up when we've faced some obstacles. Before every race in our team meeting, we discuss the need to overcome any obstacles or hurdles that we may face. And we've had several hurdles here recently."

During the Spring event here in 2004, Gordon led 180 laps before a piece of the concrete track became dislodged and damaged the right front fender on the #24 Chevrolet. After several visits to pit road to repair the damage, the four-time champion recovered to finish sixth.

Earlier this year, Gordon reported a vibration less than 50 laps into the 500-lap race and lost three laps to the leaders before the problem on the right front was corrected.

While NASCAR's "free pass" rule allows the first car one lap down onto the lead lap if a caution waves, Gordon benefited from that rule only once. On two occasions, he "unlapped" himself by passing the leader of the race.

Just past halfway, Gordon was back on the lead lap. He manoeuvred into the lead on lap 464, and led the remaining distance to notch his sixth victory at the 0.526-mile track.

That day also marked the first race at the Virginia track since the racing community lost 10 friends. In October of 2004 near Martinsville, an airplane crash claimed the lives of nine people associated with Hendrick Motorsports along with Tony Stewart's pilot.

"That was an emotional victory and an emotional day," Gordon said. "It was an honour to get the win for Hendrick Motorsports. Those we lost were definitely on our mind, and our thoughts of them are never going to go away."

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