WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Jeff Gordon is fresh off his first Sprint Cup victory of the season and next up is today's race on the road course at Watkins Glen International, one of his most successful tracks.
Or is it?
For a great deal of Gordon's NASCAR career, he was known as the series' road warrior, racking up victories at the Glen and the road course in Sonoma, Calif.
That was then.
Gordon has four wins at Watkins Glen, but his last came in 2001. In fact, in the 10 races since that victory, he only has two top-10 finishes and a best finish of ninth in 2007 in upstate New York.
Where did Gordon's mojo go?
"We have not run very well at Watkins Glen in recent years, and it's been very disappointing to me and the team," he told the Charlotte Observer. "It was not from lack of effort. We've just not had the setup and grip that we've needed at that track."
Gordon saw improvements this season at Sonoma, where he started second and finished sixth — his seventh consecutive top-10 at that track.
"Sonoma is not Watkins Glen, so I'm optimistic. I think we've made improvement, but we won't really know until we get there," Gordon, 41, said. "I hope the things that we've learned we can apply there and see the results.
"I always love going to the road courses, and Watkins Glen is always one of my favorites. You've got to attack the race track in the braking zones, and the car has got to be there for you and (it has to) stick. If it's not, it makes for a long day."
MONTOYA ON POLE: This week, the pole was no surprise to Juan Montoya.
The unexpected pole-sitter last week at Pocono, Montoya made it two in a row Saturday at Watkins Glen, the 2.45-mile road course where he'll start first in today's Finger Lakes 355.
With seven wins in Formula One, Montoya expects to run well at road courses, and he did, setting a track record in 69.438 seconds (127.020 mph).
"It's about how well you can put it all together, and I think we did a pretty good job of that," Montoya said.
Montoya edged Kyle Busch (126.928 mph) by 0.05 seconds. Busch also broke the mark of 126.421 mph he set last year, as did third-place Jimmie Johnson (126.925 mph), No. 4 Brad Keselowski (126.626), and No. 5 Marcos Ambrose (126.524), the defending race winner.
AMBROSE'S DRIVE: A year ago, Ambrose outdueled Busch and Keselowski in a green-white-checkered finish at the Glen for his first and only Sprint Cup win.
Another victory today would vault Ambrose and Richard Petty Motorsports into the wild-card picture for the 10-race Chase for the Championship. He's somewhat far back in points (18th) but as it stands, only Kasey Kahne has two wins among the drivers ranked 11-20 in points. If he wins today, Ambrose would almost certainly need another win before the end of the regular season.
Ambrose, 35, has one win and four top-fives at Watkins Glen for an average finish of 2.3, tops in the series.
Though he's desperate for a victory on an oval, Ambrose likes what RPM has done. Ambrose has won his first two career poles this year and has five top-10s.
"We're proud of winning the race here last year, and we're pleased with how we've gone this year," Ambrose said. "We're not a super team, but we're a really strong two-car team, probably one of the strongest out there right now. We feel like we've had a good year, but not a great year, and we need to finish off really strong."