In one night, racing went backwards 20 years for Jeff Gordon.
Prior to last year's Saturday night event in August at Bristol Motor Speedway, the top groove was "ground" in an attempt to take away that line at the high-banked track. Instead, that groove became the preferred line - a line five-time track winner Gordon remembers seeing in the early '90's.
"I remember seeing guys like Darrell (Waltrip) and Davey (Allison) run that high line back in 1991 or 1992," said Gordon, who joined NASCAR's premier series full-time in 1993. "I was watching them from the spotters' stand and it was so cool to see them running right up against the wall. It was hard to pass, so you would see 'slide jobs' when they got a run.
"That's essentially the same kind of racing we had here in August. I had so much fun racing that way that night."
That night, Gordon finished third - one of 16 top-fives and 22 top-10's he has at the 0.533-mile track. The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion also has five victories, five poles and 2,647 laps led in 40 starts. If he is to score another victory at the track in this Sunday's Food City 500, veteran Gordon may just have to go 'old school.'
"As soon as (tire) rubber was laid down in the top groove and there was more grip up there, we started putting all four tires up in that lane," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. "But with that lane being the preferred line, you had to make sure you completed the 'slide job' and gained the position.
"If not, you lost a lot of spots before you were able to work your way back in line."
Which could lead to higher frustration levels?
"Definitely," said Gordon, who is 13th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. "With guys probably lined up behind you ready to take advantage of any mistake you make, you have to be sure to complete the pass.
"I saw some fender rubbing - and some fired up driving - last August. I'm sure the fans would love to see that again this weekend."
Gordon would like to see that, as well. In his rear-view mirror.