GRAPEVINE, Texas – Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is a free man in the Chase for the Championship.
He started the Chase as one of the wild cards and then a stuck throttle sent him to the wall at Chicagoland Speedway and a 35th-place finish.
That left Gordon in scramble mode early, and he responded with finishes of third and second the past two weeks. Good finishes, but not good enough to move Gordon up past 10th in the point standings.
With seven races remaining and Gordon 48 points behind leader Brad Keselowski, Gordon has no choice but to go for broke. He’s fine with that.
“I’m excited about going to race this weekend,” said Gordon of the race at Talladega. “This is the first time I’ve been in a position at Talladega where I didn’t have to worry about point racing. Right now we’re really not. It’s either we come out of it gaining points or we come out of it where we’re kind of at. Big deal if we go back to 12th.”
Gordon was in Grapevine on Wednesday at the Legoland Discovery Center racing Legos against children fighting cancer. Gordon hopes that when he returns to the Metroplex for the AAA Texas 500 on Nov. 3 that he’ll be in the hunt for title No. 5.
The Chase normally has allowed one bad race for the winner. That wasn’t the case last year though as Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards kept one-upping each other before Stewart won the title.
Gordon isn’t sure how this year will play out, but he’s hoping to have a shot.
“If you look at statistics, most of the time there’s been one bad race,” he said. “For us we came into it already a little behind because we were a wild card. To me your thought process coming into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is I’m a wild card, I’ve got to be extraordinary. I’ve got to put together the best 10 races we can.”
That will include Talladega, which is always the wild card in the Chase. Sunday’s race is more about survival than anything else and Gordon knows it.
If he can do that and some of the Chase favorites get caught up in the inevitable Big One, then the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet team can shift its focus to the final six races. Gordon said he thinks he needs to be within 15 points by the time the Chase hits Texas to have a chance at another title.
Surviving Talladega would get Gordon to the tracks where he has a solid comfort level at and where Hendrick Motorsports has historically run well at.
But first he has to survive Talladega.
“We’ve got Talladaga coming up and I think this weekend is going to tell a lot,” said Gordon, whose best Chase finish was second in 2007. “It (a bad race) can happen to you anywhere but you know the chances of getting caught up in a big wreck and losing a lot of points can happen fairly easily at this race. We’ve got to be able to get through that. This is an opportunity for us to try to regain what we’ve lost.”