Matt Sullivan

Jeff Gordon guides Chase Elliott through crucial Martinsville test

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jeff Gordon, a four-time series champion and nine-time race winner at Martinsville Speedway, spent time with driver Chase Elliott and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team here Tuesday during the opening day of a two-day organizational test for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams.

Gordon, who retired from full-time competition at the end of 2015, won 93 times in the Hendrick Motorsports entry in addition to his four titles. His final victory came here in ’15 at the tiny .526-mile track and earned him a berth in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“Just watching and hanging out with the guys,” Gordon told NASCAR.com during a lunch break that consisted of chicken tenders and waffle fries.

“(Chase) ran pretty good here at the last race … but it’s a tricky place. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and I were talking about them testing up here and he said ‘Hey, if you’re available, we’d love to have you up there.’ ”

Elliott, the son of 1988 series champion Bill Elliott, is one of 12 drivers still in contention for this year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title. While he has yet to score his first win in the series, Elliott has finished second in three of the four playoff races contested, and is fourth in the standings as the series prepares to head to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for Sunday’s Alabama 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR).

Gordon, 46, currently serves as a race analyst for FOX during its NASCAR broadcasts; he also continues to work for Hendrick Motorsports. Although he joked that there was “nothing” he could help Elliott or the team with at Martinsville, he did say that watching other cars and the lines different drivers were running could be helpful.

“See if there is something you can learn from that,” Gordon said. “This place, it takes discipline; there is a rhythm and a discipline and I’ve come here for many, many years and every time I came here for a race I had to find it again.”

Elliott, 21, will be making just his fifth career start at Martinsville when the track hosts the First Data 500 on Oct. 29. He finished third here in the spring race.

“It’s definitely helpful for us,” Elliott said during the lunch break. “We don’t have many opportunities to test in general so when you can come test at a track that you struggle at, we typically don’t get to do that.”

He said he hoped to “find some consistency in what I’m doing behind the wheel and really some of the things I did here in the spring. …

“Just trying to find that rhythm if it exists and if so find it and try to have our stuff prepared as much as we can for the race when we come back.”

While he is winless in 71 career starts, Elliott does have six runner-up finishes. His fifth came two weeks ago at Dover, when what seemed to be a breakthrough victory slipped from his grasp in the waning laps of the race.

MORE: Elliott dejected after chance at first win slips away

Gordon said he has been impressed with how Elliott bounced back the following week, finishing second at Charlotte.

“Man he rebounded unbelievably like it never even phased him,” Gordon said. “Even as hard as he is on himself I think the pretty cool thing is that he doesn’t allow that to affect him for long. I think that’s really important.

“All the second-place finishes, I mean you hate to finish second but finishing second is still pretty darn good.”

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