WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - A road course race couldn't come at a better time for Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.
The masters of Watkins Glen International - Stewart and Gordon have combined to win eight of the last 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup races on the twisting, 11-turn layout - are mired in season-long winless streaks heading into Sunday's Centurion Boats at The Glen.
A fifth win by either driver would put him in a league of his own. No driver in the track's storied 60-year history has ever won five races, and that includes Formula One, Indy cars, and sports cars.
"I feel that we're the guys that every time we go there that everybody has to pay attention to us in order to win," Stewart said. "Now, there are times we don't win, obviously, but we're still in the hunt every time and got a shot."
Being winless in early August isn't uncharted territory for Gordon, although the four-time Cup champion hasn't gone this deep into a season without a victory since 2002. It is for Stewart, though, who has had at least two wins every year since 1999, his rookie season, and customarily shines in the heat of summer.
Stewart hasn't won a Cup race since he bested Gordon here a year ago, a span of 35 races that represents the longest winless streak of his 10-year Sprint Cup career.
"It's not like we're not running well, because we are," said Stewart, who has won four of the past six races at The Glen and will be inducted today into the track's Legends of The Glen. "We've just had some circumstances that haven't gone our way. You'll have that."
Of Stewart's 32 career Cup victories, six have come at road courses.
"We're batting better than .400 at Watkins Glen," said Stewart, who finished second to Carl Edwards a week ago at Pocono. "In nine years, we've won four races. If you can't be counted as a factor after that, I don't know when they do count you as a factor."
Gordon, who has a NASCAR-record nine road course wins, won three straight at The Glen from 1997-99 and captured his fourth in 2001. He's had tough luck here since, especially a year ago.
Gordon led 51 of the race's 90 laps and was two car-lengths ahead of Stewart with just two laps remaining. But the classic battle between NASCAR's two most successful road racers that appeared to be looming disappeared in the blink of an eye when Gordon spun off the course on his own entering the first turn of lap 89.
Stewart zoomed past, held off a late charge from Edwards, and won for the third time in four races. Gordon recovered to finish a disappointing ninth.
After posting a series record 30 top-10 finishes in 2007 and finishing second to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the championship, Gordon's No. 24 team has struggled this season despite his sixth-place spot in the standings.
On the road course at Infineon Raceway in June, where Gordon has won five times, he finished third behind winner and series points leader Kyle Busch, but only out of pure luck. Timely caution flags, pit strategy, and a chain-reaction crash that took out contenders Stewart, Jamie McMurray, and Kevin Harvick with less than six laps remaining allowed Gordon to sneak past.
"I know what it should feel like to go fast," said Gordon, who has finishes of 10th, fifth, and 11th since Infineon. "We're working way, way too hard for these types of finishes."
Included in the field of 45 cars who will try to qualify today is Canadian road race star Ron Fellows. Fellows, who won last week's Nationwide race in the rain in Montreal, was runner-up at Watkins Glen to Gordon in 1999 and Stewart in 2004.
Joining Fellows will be road race standouts Boris Said, P.J. Jones, Brian Simo, Marcos Ambrose, and Max Papis. That is, if it doesn't rain. Qualifying has been rained out three times in the past four years, and there's a 30 percent chance of showers today.
Sunday's race also could have big implications for the Chase. Only five races remain in the so-called regular season, and the top 12 drivers in points after the first 26 events compete for the Cup title over the season's final 10 races. Denny Hamlin sits in 10th, but is only 46 points ahead of Matt Kenseth in 13th, with Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer in between.42.38091 -76.87364