Only twice in Jeff Gordon’s full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career has the four-time champion finished outside the top 10 in the points standings. With a 21st-place ranking, the 85-time winner is in danger of missing it for a third time.
All is not lost for Gordon. He and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team just need a change of luck – of the kind teammates Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne have enjoyed over the past month.
Gordon admits qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ will come through trips to Victory Lane. He’s 94 points behind current 10th-place Clint Bowyer but a single point outside the top 20 and “wild card” territory.
Following the season’s 26th race on Sept. 8 at Richmond International Raceway, the Chase field will be set. The top 10 drivers in points automatically advance to the post season along with two competitors ranked 11th through 20th with the most wins.
Current “wild card” leaders are Brad Keselowski, 11th with two victories, and Ryan Newman, 13th with a single win. Kahne, who won the Coca-Cola 600, is 14th, a point behind Newman.
Eighth through 12th positions are separated by 17 points. A shake-up there would truly complicate the “wild card” picture. Three-time and defending champion Tony Stewart, eighth, counts two victories. Ninth-place Kyle Busch also has a win.
Gordon had lean years from 2008 through 2010, winning just once. But he bounced back last season with three victories and made the Chase for the seventh time. Given the circumstances, the 40-year-old California native must duplicate 2012 and has just 13 races to do so.
History is on Gordon’s side. Gordon has won on every track comprising the summer schedule save Kentucky Speedway, which was added to the NASCAR Sprint Cup lineup a year ago. He’s won both road races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen and is a five-time Indianapolis Brickyard 400 victor.
“We’ve had things out of our control this year,” said Gordon, whose season-to-date Driver Rating ranks 12th despite his 21st-place points position. “We don’t care about finishing top 15 or top 10 right now. That does nothing for us. We need wins.”