Jeff Gordon's strategy this week at Infineon Raceway is simple: "Attack, attack, attack."
The four-time NASCAR champion is still getting over last week's 38th-place finish at Michigan, where he led 81 of the first 88 laps before an engine failure ended his day.
And Gordon can't help thinking about finishing 30th at Charlotte, fourth at Pocono and 36th at Dover in the weeks leading up to the Michigan disappointment, leaving him sixth in the Nextel Cup standings heading into today's Dodge/Save Mart 350 in Sonoma, Calif.
"I'm definitely not happy with the inconsistency of our finishes recently," said Gordon, who will start from the pole on the scenic wine country road course.
"Except for Charlotte, we've been performing well as a team. We just don't have the finishes to show for it."
Instead of hanging his head, though, Gordon is more determined than ever to get things turned around right now.
He proved that with his spectacular qualifying effort Friday on the 1.99-mile, 10-turn circuit. Flinging his No. 24 Chevrolet through the turns, Gordon went off course twice but still set a track record while winning his fourth Sonoma pole.
Now Gordon, NASCAR's all-time leading road course winner, will go after his eighth career victory on the tracks with both left and right turns. In 22 career starts on road circuits, Gordon has 13 top fives and two of his three wins here have come from the pole.
In contrast, the other nine drivers in the top 10 in points going into Sunday's race have combined for two wins and 14 top five finishes in a total of 78 starts.
Gordon won six consecutive road course events -- another record -- beginning with the 1997 race at Watkins Glen, N.Y., and ending here in 2000. Since then, he has finished third, 37th and second here.
"Our road course program was strong during that stretch and it's still strong," he said. "But other teams have stepped up their programs. You can't throw away the two road course events if you expect to compete for the championship."
Some drivers who aren't necessarily thinking about winning the points title are strong contenders in Sunday's race.
Robby Gordon, who won both Cup road races last year, is still a threat even though a disappointing qualifying effort left him 24th in the 43-car field.
"It's going to be a little tougher coming from that far back, but it's a long race and we have a really good car," the defending race winner said. "The main thing is, you have to take care of your car, not knock the fenders off of it trying to get to the front."
That could be difficult for everyone on the newly paved track, where just about everyone has had trouble this week keeping the car on the racing surface.
"There's a lot more grip from the new pavement, but it's still pretty easy to get off track with all the momentum you carry around here," Jeff Gordon said. "Everybody is going to make some mistakes out there, but you have to try to not make any big mistakes."
Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, two of NASCAR's best road racers, start second and fourth, sandwiched around Kurt Busch.
* BUSCH SERIES: Ron Hornaday Jr. won the Alan Kulwicki 250 at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis. Wis., taking the lead with seven laps to go after rallying from a lap down.
Hornaday passed Shane Hmiel on the inside, ending Hmiel's chance for his first Busch Series victory.
Hornaday started in the 10th position and dropped a lap behind when the first caution flag came out while he was in the pits.
The two-time Craftsman Truck Series champion worked his way through the field and managed to steal the race from Hmiel and David Stremme, who exchanged the lead several times. They led a total of 170 laps before fading at the end.
In all, eight racers led the 250-lap event -- run under the lights for the first time -- on the 1.032-mile track. It was Hornaday's fourth career Busch Series victory and first this season.