With new challenges facing the teams this weekend, five-time Sonoma Raceway winner Jeff Gordon will rely on the past ahead of Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350.
To prepare for the first of two road course events on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series calendar, Gordon and the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger team tested at Road Atlanta a few weeks ago. But that test may prove more beneficial later this year.
"I don't think we have ever been able to find one track that simulates Sonoma the way we feel like we need one to," said Gordon, who is the all-time NASCAR leader in road course victories with nine. "There are a couple different corners that we try to compare 'characteristics' of some things we might be dealing with at Sonoma, but I think we learn more for Watkins Glen when we test at Road Atlanta.
"It's been nearly a year since we raced on a road course, so that test was just getting back on one - shifting, down-shifting, left turns, right turns. Sort of 'general' testing.
"And to recognize what we may be dealing with this weekend based on past experience."
Along with his record five victories in 20 starts, Gordon also tops these categories at the 1.99-mile track: poles (5), top-fives (12), top-10's (16) and laps led (450). But he has yet to race the new Generation-6 car at the serpentine track.
"The new car is something we've never raced at Sonoma," said Gordon, who fell to 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings after being collected in a lap-6 accident last weekend. "We ran pretty decent in the older generation car here last year, and we feel pretty confident we can tune the Chevrolet SS this weekend."
Another challenge facing the teams is a new qualifying procedure on the road courses. Instead of a single car, one-lap qualifying run on Friday, drivers will be sent out in groups on Saturday and can possibly complete multiple laps.
"I'm really anxious to try it out to see how it works," said the native of Vallejo. "In the past, we've seen drivers run a good lap in practice and then struggle to back it up in qualifying. It was difficult to get temperature in the brakes and the tires in the limited time we had to get up to speed before the qualifying lap began.
"Now, we're going to have as much time as we need to get the car ready for that lap."