Jeff Gordon's NASCAR School

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Level: 2

Jeff does a thorough job of telling us what's going to happen during these first two stints, which makes my job easier. ;)  


1). The first challenge has us following Jimmy Johnson's Chevy Impala, although it's not actually Jimmy behind the wheel. Instead, one of GT5's many generic Ai drivers is piloting. We are in Jeff Gordon's Impala. If you're using a manual transmission (MT) make sure you shift exactly when the car redlines, otherwise it'll soon lose speed as the engine hits its RPM limit.

2). Follow ("draft") Jimmie's Chevy as best you can. This helps gain speed, as Jeff has mentioned.

3). For you DS3/sixaxis users out there, notice steering input. Full steering lock will not create a spin, and to turn this beast, we are going to need to push the steering mushroom all the way left or right. I can only imagine the strength and concentration  that's needed for those that actually have wheel/pedal sets. 

*I've found that setting steering speed to +4 on the Sixaxis boosts steering speed to more acceptable levels. Highly recommended for getting quicker reactions when trying to hold a line or twitch the front-end..

4). If you've drafted Jimmie's car well, there should be no prob passing the finish line first. An easy 9,000 credits in our pockets.


Now we've got four cars to pass, and half a Daytona lap to do it. This one is much more difficult to succeed than the first challenge.

1). As the challenge starts, we're following two cars. Since Jimmy Johnson's Impala (with the Lowe's advertizement) is closest, I prefer to draft this car first. More speed gets created earlier. Truth is, it's possible to draft either car.  

2). You have a choice of squeezing between Jimmy's black Impala and Juan Montoya's red Impala, taking an outside line, or taking an inside line. Any of these three methods work. If you find one car pulling ahead of the other (in other words, if the red car pulls ahead of the black one) it's best to follow this guy for a longer draft which creates more speed overall.

Tip: notice that (unlike license tests or GT4's Missions) the Ai has some free will here. They don't always do the same exact thing drive after drive. Sometimes Jimmy's car gets ahead of Juan's, and sometimes Juan's car gets ahead of Jimmy's.

3). About halfway around the oval, you should hopefully be past Jimmy's and Juan's cars. If not, it'll be trickier to attain 1st place.

4). The rest is a given. Draft Tony Stewart's Impala (the other red Impala) as much as possible. This car will be drafted during most of the huge, banked turn. Just before the turn straightens, get behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s vehicle. as early as possible. The finish line is just ahead.



Level: 9

-Inside Driving - Daytona-

My time: 12.953

Now for a series of challenges that has us travelling thru artificially narrow areas of this wide track. Why is this important? It's important because NASCAR drivers often must guide their car thru such narrow areas. Instead of cones, they've got traffic on their inside or their outside, and they'll need to stay within a certain, steady line to avoid it.

1). The first challenge has us rushing towards Daytona's Turn 1. There's really not much to it. We are doing the entire first banked curve all the way around, and we're not supposed to knock over any cones. We also cannot step too far off the bank towards the bottom (where the yellow line is).

2). One of the toughest things about this test is at the very beginning it'll say START across most of the TV screen. And those cones come up fast. We're blind! This makes it hard to aim into this first bank. The idea is to nose the Impala somewhat towards the left.

3). Upshift into 4th gear at redline.

4). Once the car is aimed, simply keep the throttle planted the entire time. Do not release it even a little bit; this could be the difference between silver and gold, since there's not much of a window between bronze, silver, and gold. 

5). Steering must be twitched this way and that to keep the car rolling between its narrow path. Try not to jerk the steering too hard, keep it smooth as possible. Get into a "zone" where the steering is being micro-motioned this way and that.
You'll know when you've steeered too hard because those tires will start to squeal. Keep these squeals as short-lived as possible. Occasional twitches are almost unavoidable, but (again) the more jerks and twitches are made, the less chance gold will strike. 

An enormous amount of credits is dispensed just for doing this (and other) NASCAR Intermediate challenges. 57,000 are for whomever makes gold (actually, make that 70,000). When I first did the Intermediate level, I went literally from the working class (14,000 credits) to a rich man (242,000 credits). I might be wrong, but I don't think all of GT4's missions combined paid this much.

-Inside Driving - Indianapolis-

My Time: 10.641

This one is exponentially harder than the challenge at Daytona. It took me maybe four tries to gold Daytona. But at Indy, I was about to pull my hair out. Maybe 40 tries here.

1). The first trick is to leave the car in 3rd gear after the clock starts.

2). At first, try to be just inches from the cones as the car enters their lair. This is basically to gain some leverage as the curve tightens in a moment or two. Entering too far away from the cones (inwards), will cause a need to brake later on at some point, to keep from understeering.

3). No brakes! Instead, release the throttle just after passing the most inside line of cones. I'm talking about the cones that are the farthest inwards, closest to the car as you pass by. See diagram below.

^ <-release throttle here

4). With throttle released, nose inwards. This is tricky, of course. Too much steering and the Impala will roll off-course. Too little and it'll eat some cones. 

5). Let the car coast a couple seconds after throttle has been released. Start passing the rumble strip on the inside. It's okay to lightly run the inside tires on this strip, but don't clamber all over it. This would make the Impala harder to control.

6). At some point (this is really tough to gauge) start adding throttle. Full throttle, or partial throttle, it all depends on your exact cornering line, and how much leeway the Impala has as it's rushing out. There are a group of three red cones on the far inside of the turn (off-track). Sometimes, I find it's best to start adding throttle just before passing these inside cones.
It helps to get as much steering as possible done while the car is still deep into the turn, where the three red cones appear. As it leaves the turn, the idea is to have all turning-in done, so that NO steering is going on as the track straightens out. It's important to get a burst of speed going toward the end, and if the car is still steering as the test comes to a close ... that's not good.     

**As Jeff notes as we screw up again and again, "NASCAR requires a delicate touch". Too much throttle will make the front-end take a wider path, threatening cone knock-over syndrome. Throttle must be modulated for best results before it can be planted more firmly towards the end of the challenge.


-Outside Driving - Daytona-

My time: 13.199

Now we're tackling things from the "outside." In effect, we're tackling the curves from up high. Again, there's a very small window from bronze to silver to gold.

1). As the test starts, nose towards the right this time. The huge START on the HUD let's us know the test has started. As if we couldn't figure this out on our own. It also (again) creates an annoying blind spot, making it difficult to see where to aim exactly.

2). As the engine redlines, shift up to 4th gear.

3). The rest of the test is just a matter of maintaining full speed while not knocking any cones or grazing the wall. We won't get failed for grazing the wall, but we also won't make gold.

4). Steering must be kept somewhere in the middle during this challenge. No drastic moves of full-lock steering are needed...instead keep it steady, using micro-movements of steering.
Granted, you may need to steer more harshly at some points...what I'm getting at is that doing so scrubs away speed, and can mean the difference between silver and gold. Try to keep it steady.  


-Outside Driving - Indianapolis-

My Time: 10.909

Yah! The final test! Oddly, this one seems to be easier than the Inside line one.

1). Again, we're rolling and the huge START sign is displayed for those who can't figure out exactly when the test has started. Nose somewhat to the right to avoid that wall of cones that's coming up fast.

2). DO NOT shift up into 4th. Do NOT brake. Instead, release the throttle just after passing the inner grandstands (where all the people sit). Coast for about a second or two, try to gauge when it's safe to re-introduce throttle, then modulate it. Don't plant all the gas at once; doing so will guarantee some wall-crunchage.  

3). There are about seven or eight feet between those cones on the inside and the outer wall. One might get tempted to stay close to the wall since it won't fail if it's touched, but for gold it's better to stay inside (closer to the cones). 

4). Again, the idea is to be going full-bore as the turn straightens. If the car is still needing to be steered toward the end, say hello to yet another bronze or silver.  
 As a final note as to the ease of this one, I've actually grazed the wall a bit and still golded Intermediate test #4!


Level: 21
-Challenge One-
Now it is time to try Jeff's top challenges, and each of these three challenges puts us into a different scenario. This first one at Daytona has us pulling into the pits while the rest of the grid is on some sort of caution lap. We get new tires and some fuel, and then we're auto-launched back onto the track, as the race starts up again.
Now, our temptation might be to crank our steering all the way to the right early on, so that we wind up somewhere toward the front of the pack. But after doing this first challenge over and over many times, I have concluded that it's actually better to get about mid-pack; position 6 seems to be best. The reason?
It's all about the drafts. If we get ourselves to the front (let's say position 3) this might seem to be great. But in reality, those cars toward the front are already moving too fast to get a good draft from, and by pure mathematics, they'll already be too far ahead to catch up to. 
No, it's best to wind up in a situation which has us following somebody more immediately. I wound up about ten car-lengths behind the #11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Camry, which may seem too far back. But ten car-lengths is fine while going down the far straight (after the first big banked curve), and this became obvious as I picked up a lot of speed as the track straightened out. 
From this moment, it became all about finding that perfect draft, slipping by whatever car was in front of me carefully, sometimes on the inside, sometimes on the outside, and then concentrating on that next big draft. The thing is, finding that "perfect draft" is based somewhat on luck, since these cars we're up against do behave somewhat unpredictably.   
-Challenge Two-
Now we are in Indianapolis in the same situation, but this time without a pitstop. Instead, the game starts us in last place every time. Again, drafting is certainly important, but to win during this race, we'll also have to consider a few other factors.
1). DO NOT touch anybody. DO NOT even tap them. The game will most likely fail you right then and there if you do. Now, it is possible to unintentionally bump into somebody and nothing bad will happen, but in most cases, we should be doing our best to avoid touching anybody else.
2). Drafting is important, but so is cornering at this track, which features only slightly-banked turns. Notice that the AI in this race (and during most other races during A-spec) seems afraid to get really low into those turns too. This is where we'll want to be. In most situations, we can gain easy positions if we nose inwards early, give a push on those brakes, get on that inner curbing, and then do our best to avoid touching anybody as we pass them. It is possible to pass multiple cars as we get in there too, so be careful.
3). Unlike Daytona, gear-shifts come into play at Indy. Shift down into 3rd as you enter one of the turns which comes off one of the two long straights. Staying in 4th will cause a lot of lost speed, especially as the car's stupid stability control kicks in.
-Challenge Three-
Now it's time to wrap things up with Jeff Gordon. We're going to be using all of the lessons we've studied so far, in more of a real-life situation, which is an actual 2-lap race. We are starting dead last, of course.
1). I can't speak for the real-life guy, but in GT5, Juan Montoya is a loser. Or at least, the guy Juan has hired is a loser. That's who the red  car two places in front of us belongs to. Don't even bother to follow this one. Instead, stay behind Jimmie Johnson's Lowe's vehicle directly in front. As we catch a good draft down the first straight, notice that Juan's car actually slows for some reason. Goodbye, loser.  
2). Stay behind the Lowe's guy, getting high up on those banks as we follow its draft. Remember in one of the very first "cone" trials we did, the idea was to not let off the gas even a little bit. And that's how it is as we're following Jimmie's car.  
3). Chances are the Lowe's machine will get rather distant from us. This is okay. Just keep following its draft down the backstretch. Your car will approach 240 miles per hour as it nears the final banked turn.
4). Usually as we're leaving the final bank, notice how most cars are on the right side of the track, driving single-file, including the Lowe's driver. DO NOT follow these guys. They are cutting their throttle for some reason, as they follow each other. Why? I really don't know.
Instead, get behind whoever is on the left side of the track. This is the 'inside' line. Notice that there are less cars here? Yeah, we want that.
5). As we draft whoever is in the left lane, we'll probably pass that whole slew of drivers on the right as we approach the first huge banked turn. Stay on the inside. As the turn begins, nobody brakes, but everybody in that line cuts their throttle. It's easy to just pass them all on the inside.
6). Down the backstretch, again follow whoever is in front of us. By the point, I was in 4th position.
7). During the final banked curve, several options can be tried. I've golded this by getting up high on the bank, or getting down low, passing from the inside again.
8). You should pass at least two more cars during this turn, although it's possible to get by all three. Sometimes, the leader (usually in Kyle Busch's) will notice that we're sneaking up, and try to block our path. Which is okay. Just draft this idiot toward the finish line. Get on the inside if you can. Conversely, if it's you who is in the lead, do your best to cock-block anybody sneaking up behind you trying to steal your lead.
9). ... and at the end, listen to Gordon say "WOW" as you ace this one.   

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