It's crunch time for Jeff Gordon
July 26, 2013, Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Jeff Gordon has a problem with the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- currently, he's not in it.
But Gordon also has a solution, and it doesn't necessarily involve winning a race before the Chase field is set after the Sept. 7 event at Richmond.
Gordon is tied for 11th in the series standings right now, and that's not quite good enough to make the 10-race Chase. The top-10 drivers in points after 26 races qualify automatically, along with the two Wild Card drivers from positions 11-20 with the most victories.
Gordon has no wins this year. Martin Truex Jr., tied with Gordon for 11th, has one victory. So does Tony Stewart, who is 13th in points. That makes Truex and Stewart the provisional Wild Cards and leaves Gordon on the outside looking in.
Gordon, however, would be in a better position if he could stop taking a step back for every two forward. After running third at Dover and 12th at Pocono, Gordon was wiped out in an early crash at Michigan and finished 39th.
A week later, he was second at Sonoma and followed that with an eight-place result at New Hampshire, only to crash out of the July 6 race at Daytona in 34th place. Throughout his up-and-down season, Gordon has maintained a flirtation with the top 10, but it has been a tumultuous, uncomfortable love affair.
On the other hand, it's nothing a string of strong finishes can't cure, and Gordon doesn't feel he can afford a cautious approach to the seven races that remain before the Chase field is set.
"That's the beauty of where I'm at in points," Gordon said Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard. "I don't have to dial back anything. We're in full-on aggressive mode. Do we have to win? No. But do we have to put seven really good races together? Yes. In order to put good races together, I'm talking top fives. You look at the guys we're racing against, and they can easily do that.
"We have to push and not pull back. I don't know of a time where I went into a race -- maybe I go back to the 1997 championship -- where we were really the whole time thinking about points. Every time I've thought about points, it's cost us more positions than we've gained."
That's the attitude the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and four-time Brickyard winner plans to bring to Sunday's race.
"That's what we're going to do this weekend, and that's what we're going to do every weekend."