Six Flags over Texas is located in nearby Arlington, but Jeff Gordon doesn't need to hustle over there for a roller-coaster ride. The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion says he gets a thrill every time he buckles up at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I like to relate this track to a roller coaster because certainly driving it is similar to a roller coaster," Gordon said after Friday's second/final Sprint Cup practice for Saturday night's Duck Commander 500 (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
"The transitions from the straightaway to the corners are more abrupt than any track we go to. When you look at the pace and the grip level, it goes up and down. You get new tires, you get a lot of grip and it sticks really good, then falls off a lot and you've got to move around the racetrack.
"As you're running the race, you're going to see a lot of cars going forward and going backward. It's definitely a roller-coaster ride -- a tough racetrack, a very technical racetrack."
Gordon stood 25th after the final practice with a hot lap at 187.370 mph in his No. 24 Chevrolet. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne topped the sheet at 190.975 mph in the No. 5 Chevrolet.
Gordon, who is competing in his 23rd and final full-time season for HMS, will make his 29th start on the TMS 1.5-mile quad-oval on Saturday -- five months after his now infamous post-race scuffle with 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski.
Gordon's shot at a fifth championship began to unravel during the AAA Texas 500 last Nov. 2 in the Eliminator 8 Round of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Gordon apparently was headed to victory with less than five laps to go when contact with Keselowski cut a tire on Gordon's car during a green-white-checkered flag restart. Gordon, who finished off the lead lap in 29th, angrily confronted Bad Brad on pit road post-race and ignited a brawl between the drivers and their teams. Both drivers emerged from the melee with bloodied faces.
Upon offseason review, Gordon said there was not much he could have done differently in a race won by Hendrick teammate/six-time NSCS champion Jimmie Johnson.
"A little better restart and I probably would have stayed on Jimmie's quarter panel a little bit stronger," Gordon said. "We come through the double dogleg (on the frontstretch), the second part I got close to him and then I opened up that gap to get my angle for the corner and that's when Keselowski took that middle lane. I probably would have done something to try to not give him that option. We had a pretty amazing race up until that point last year."
Gordon's TMS resume features a victory in the 2009 spring race, three poles, nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes, 688 laps led ... and scuffles with Jeff Burton in November 2010 and Keselowski last year.
Ironically, Gordon received the Texas Motor Speedway Sportsmanship Award during the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Gala at The Speedway Club on Thursday evening. Specifically, he was cited for his support of pediatric cancer research, treatment and patient support programs through the Jeff Gordon Children's
Foundation. Gordon, who has been under the weather here, accepted the award via a videotaped message.
"I'm still scratching my head," Gordon said with a laugh. "Last time I was in Texas I remember there being quite a brawl on pit road. I don't know if that was the best example of sportsmanship, but for those of you that voted -- thank you!"