From California to New York, Michigan to Texas, Jeff Gordon has been victorious just about everywhere there is to win a Sprint Cup race. With one exception: Kentucky Speedway.
A victory Saturday night in the Quaker State 400 would make Gordon the only driver with wins at all active tracks that host NASCAR's top division. It's a record the four-time Cup champion covets.
"I mean I have thought about it a little bit, it would be very cool," Gordon said Friday. "It would be quite an accomplishment and it's something that I would love to say I have done."
That Gordon is winless on the 1.5-mile track just across the Ohio border is no surprise, given the few opportunities he's had. The speedway has only staged Cup races since 2011. And Gordon is not the lone former champion looking for a maiden Kentucky victory with Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart each 0-for-3.
A win for Johnson or Stewart would be equally meaningful for both -- Johnson is winless at four tracks in total (the others: Chicagoland, Homestead and Watkins Glen), while Stewart is shutout at just one other (Darlington).
"It would be great to go to Kentucky and win, to cross another track off our list," Johnson said. "We have run really well there, led a lot of laps but just haven't been able to score a win."
Besides a track that has vexed a trio of multi-time series champions, Kentucky owns a distinct characteristic that separates itself from the other similarly sized tracks that clutter the Sprint Cup schedule. By a wide margin, no track in NASCAR is bumpier.
Eschewing the rash of surface repaves that a multitude of other tracks have undergone, Kentucky still utilizes the original surface that was laid down when the facility began operation in 2000.
In stark contrast to the smoothness of the 1.5-mile Kansas and Las Vegas speedways, Kentucky features a prominent series of dips and bumps. Drivers say it makes their teeth chatter and that a lap around the oval takes a physical toll like few other tracks.
"The bumps make mistakes out of drivers," Johnson said. "They put us in situations where we blow it, and open a door to get passed or look for an opportunity to pass someone."
The roughness is most pronounced on the front stretch around the start/finish line and in Turn 2 towards the bottom groove. It's a challenge some drivers embrace while others question if improvements should be made.
Whether it's Kentucky or elsewhere, drivers are typically against tracks repaving since a multi-groove surface is often reduced to one lane and tire wear can become severe due to the increase in speed that comes with enhanced level of grip.
Calling himself a fan of the track, Gordon doesn't want a complete repave of Kentucky. But what he would like to see is some patching to smooth out some of the overt rough patches.
"This track is hard on everybody's back," said Gordon, who has a history of back injuries. "I love the corners. I love the challenges of the grip, the cracks, the bumps and the corners. Those don't bother us. That front straightaway is pretty absurd.
"Yeah, it's going to play a slight toll on my back."
If he can ignore the pain, Gordon is well positioned to finally win at Kentucky. He was the lone Hendrick Motorsports driver not to struggle in qualifying, clocking in the third-fastest time Friday. Teammates Kasey Kahne, Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all will start 20th or worse.
Further adding to Gordon's advantage is Hendrick having won the past five oval races. (Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing won a week ago on the Sonoma Raceway road course.) It's why Gordon is confident Saturday could be a record-breaking night.
"I feel like we have run solid here the last few times we have been here," Gordon said. "I feel like as good as our cars are this year that this is probably the most legitimate shot that we've had of crossing that one off the list. It would mean a lot."